by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2019 issue
The Misunderstood Master Switch
Q: I rode along with a pilot friend and his avionics technician while they were doing some inflight checking of avionics. I was horrified as they briefly turned off the master switch. I thought for sure the engine would die, but it did not. Can you explain?
A: You can sort of think of a master switch as a battery disconnect switch. Almost all aircraft engines get their “spark” from magnetos. Magnetos make electrical impulses and are thus independent of the airplane’s electrical system.
The 195 Versus 210 HP Hawk XP
Q: I own a 1979 Cessna Hawk XP. It has the standard 195 hp engine, which gives it good performance. A friend said I should consider the Isham STC conversion, upgrading the engine to 210 hp. What do you think?
A: If you’re happy with the current performance of your XP, I would stay with the 195 hp engine. The 210 hp conversion is not too involved, and is particularly desirable for seaplane operations. The extra 15 hp comes from allowing the engine to turn up 200 more RPMs by changing the prop stops, allowing a flatter pitch, thus more RPMs. Other changes include a new manifold pressure gauge/fuel flow, and prop governor rebuild, plus paperwork. I am told the whole package is about a day’s work.
Full or Partial Flaps On Landing?
Q: During my recent private pilot checkride, the examiner told me the FAA recommends that almost all landings be with flaps fully extended. Do you agree?
A: NO! During a strong crosswind, minimal flaps are preferred by many people for better aileron control, and at very slow speeds with full flaps, you might not have enough rudder input to keep the airplane aligned with the runway. Partial flaps allow a slightly faster touchdown. Another reason for not using full flaps is that if your flaps are electrically operated and if you have an electric failure or flap motor failure, you are now stuck with full flaps until you land. Sometime, at altitude, slow down and extend full flaps, and try and keep level flight. Not real pleasant, and very slow! Lastly, some airplanes (think middle-aged Cessnas with 40 degrees of flaps) will sometimes have a strong nose pitch-up attitude if you have full flaps extended and you have to suddenly apply power to go around (i.e. deer or other obstacle avoidance).
The XP Versus The 182
Q: If you had your choice between a $60,000 C-182 or a $60,000 Hawk XP, which would you buy?
A: If all else was equal, I would go with the C-182 because it has a wider cabin and greater fuel capacity. Also, there are thousands of them out there, parts are more readily available, and there are a lot of mechanics who have experience working on them, while there are less than 1,000 XPs around. But remember, condition matters most. A good Hawk XP is much better than a doggy C-182, and vice versa.
My Wife & The Incompatible CFI
Q: I have been strongly urging my wife to take some flying lessons so she could at least get our airplane to an airport and back on the ground should I have a medical emergency. She has finally started lessons at our local airport, but tells me she is uneasy with the instructor assigned to her. What do I do?
A: Two questions in your question. I suspect your wife does not want to take lessons and maybe her reluctance to fly with a certain instructor may be her way of telling you that. Or perhaps there is a personality or other issue that is causing friction in the cockpit with the instructor. In either case, I highly recommend that you do not continue to press your wife to fly with that CFI. But I have to commend you for trying to get the ball rolling by having a spouse with a little knowledge of piloting. She can also help you with in flight chores, looking out for other traffic, lend two more ears in listening to ATC, etc.
Differences In The Cessna 180 & 182
Q: I thought the Cessna 180 and 182 pretty much shared the same cabin, but of course different landing gear. But my friend’s C-180 sure seems to have less shoulder room than my 1971 C-182. Why?
A: When introduced in the 1950s, the cabins of C-180s and C-182s were about the same. But in the early 1960s, Cessna widened the C-182 cabin by about 4 inches, while the C-180 continued with the “skinny fuselage” throughout its production years (1953 thru 1981).
The Piper Built For Three
Q: Here’s a bet for you to settle. My friend insists that Piper made a Cub-type airplane certified to carry three people besides the PA-12. True?
A: Your friend is right! Do an internet search for the Piper J-5, which was the “Father” of the PA-12.
The PA-14 – Piper’s Long-Winged/Four-Place Airplane
Q: Second bet please: My friend also insists that Piper made a four-seat, long-winged airplane, before they made several thousand Pacers and Tri-Pacers with a short wing. True?
A: Yes, the PA-14 was made in limited numbers in the late 1940s and certified as a four-seat airplane. It had the same Cub 36 ft. wing, but was under powered with only a 115 hp engine. The few remaining airplanes (about 100 or so) are almost all converted to more horsepower.
Why Some Fuel Tanks May Require Switching On Takeoff & Landing
Q: Why, in some Piper high-wing models, it is recommended that the left tank be used for takeoff and landing, when both left and right tanks have the same fuel capacity?
A: There can be several answers, but the most common is that in some installations, there is fuel pickup from both the front and rear of one tank, but only from the rear on the other. So, if you are descending nose low with not much fuel in the tank, which only has a fuel port in the front, your engine could possibly die from fuel starvation. There’s lots more to this including header tanks, etc., but that’s the basic answer.
Traffic Patterns At Uncontrolled Airports
Q: While flying in and out of non-controlled airports, I see all kinds of traffic pattern entries. Isn’t there a “one size fits all” standard pattern?
A: Usually. While the most common traffic pattern is lefthand turns and 1,000 ft above the runway, this is not always the case. The best graphic I have seen is found by doing an internet search for Bold Method Traffic Pattern. The feds recently updated their advisory circular on this subject, see AC-90-66B. Do an internet search for Airport Facility Directory and you can find specific information for all public-use airports.
A Possible Safety Concern of Old Radios
Q: While doing my recent biennial flight review in my 1973 C-172, the CFI suggested I consider monitoring 121.5 MHz on my second com radio. That second radio is an original, and so old that it is not legal for me to transmit with, but I am told I can use it for receiving purposes. I rarely turn it on. On a recent trip I did listen on 121.5 for a while, but then the radio conked out. Why would that frequency cause my radio to quit?
A: The frequency selected is not the cause of your radio dying. Possibly the cooling fan has died, and the radio eventually overheated and shut itself down. But for safety reasons, I strongly urge you to have the radio checked at an avionics shop before you use it again. If it was my airplane, I would replace the radio because of its age. It’s good to have two radios, and it would likely be more cost- effective to buy something newer, such as a modern GPS navcom.
Logbook Entries On The Road
Q: What if I have unscheduled maintenance done on my airplane while on a trip? I don’t keep my maintenance logs in the airplane to avoid losing them, or in the event of an accident. I would also be uneasy mailing out my logbooks for the mechanic to make an entry and having him mail them back to me for the same reason. Any suggestions?
A: If you get work done on your airplane “on the road,” ask the mechanic to write and sign a brief description of work done, etc., on adhesive backed logbook entry paper or on a plain piece of paper. Then when you get home, permanently attach that to a page in either your aircraft or engine maintenance logbook, depending on the work completed.
What To Say If Your Best Friend Bought A Dog of An Airplane
Q: My friend rolled into our home airport with a new (to him) Cessna 175. He is very proud of it, said he got it for a real bargain, and wanted my opinion of it. On very brief inspection, it is a dog! What can I say?
A: I think you have an obligation to point out anything you notice that would make the airplane unsafe. But beyond that, find something –π anything – nice to say about it. All new airplane owners have just dished out a lot of money and are very hopeful their friends will compliment them, and that their first annual inspection will go smoothly.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger appraises airplanes for estates, divorces, and partnership buyouts. He is a 40-year general aviation veteran, starting out as a line technician as a teenager, advancing through the ranks to become the co-owner and manager of a fixed base operation, and manager of an airport in a major metropolitan community. For aircraft appraisals, contact Pete at PeterSchoeningerLLC@gmail.com or call 262-533-3056 (peterschoeningerllc.wordpress.com).
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others, and refer to aircraft owner manuals, manufacturer recommendations, the Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual and instructional materials for guidance on aeronautical matters.