Portable Radios, Carb Heat, Backseat Drivers & More!

by Pete Schoeninger
© Copyright 2022. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine June/July 2022 Digital Issue

Q: What do you hear about the current airplane market?
A: My spies ALL tell me the market is still strong, especially for middle-aged singles, as I write this in mid-April 2022. Prices for the piston twin market are starting to move up as well. As an example, year 2000 model 58 Beech Barons are up to $530K vs $440K a year ago.

Q: What do you know about portable radios? Are they a good idea, how much range, cost, etc.?
A: For almost all pilots, I think they are a good idea. They can be used for backup in flight communications, some offer navigation displays, and all can be used for getting information before engine start, and even sitting at home listening and learning about aviation activities at your local airport. Radios range in price from $200.00, up to $800.00, depending on features.
In my experience, expect a range between 5 to 10 miles with a whip antenna inside the cockpit, but if you or your radio shop can connect you to an external antenna, you may get much more. After you get your radio, try it out and see how far away you can talk to your favorite tower, unicom, etc.
If you are counting on your portable radio to be your primary emergency-only radio, then I suggest you keep it very simple and buy one for a few hundred bucks. My suggestion for something very simple is because if you need to talk urgently and quickly, simple is better, especially if you have not used that radio in a while.
A good video with more information can be found by doing an internet search for “Portable Aviation Radios – How to Choose the Right One” by Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

Q: I am finishing up my private pilot certificate in a 1980 Cessna 172. Because it is over 40 years old, I can accept the ancient engine technology, including the need for carb heat, engine preheat when cold, etc. A friend has a 2015 C172, and that engine has fuel injection, eliminating carb ice, but it is sometimes difficult to start, especially when hot. Just like my old engine, it requires preheating during many winter days. When are the engine manufacturers going to catch up with current technology used in cars, motorcycles, etc.?
A: They could, but the cost would be astronomical because of the very small numbers of potential sales. Perhaps diesels or electric motors may come into the mainstream in a few years, and I think that is part of the reluctance to replace many legacy engines at this time.

Q: An old guy told me the glut of airplanes, called “the classics,” made right after World War II (J-3 Cubs, Champs, Taylorcrafts, Cessna 120s and 140s, Luscombes, etc.) rarely nose over by too much braking, but slightly newer taildraggers can nose over much easier with heavy braking? Also is it true that in general, taildraggers are more likely to nose over at low speeds?
A: Yes, the classics had pretty marginal brakes, which could barely hold the airplane still at a 1700 RPM mag check. Newer taildraggers have much better brakes, but too much braking at low speed can result in a nose-over. Nose-overs at low speed are more common than at faster speeds because at low speed, there is very little elevator airflow to stop a tip over once started. Nose damage is a massively expensive proposition, usually requiring a new prop, engine removal and tear down, possibly a new firewall, etc.

Q: At an antique airplane fly-in, I saw a guy turn a crank for about 20 seconds on an old low-wing airplane, and then his friend inside the cockpit of the airplane did something and the engine turned over and then started. What was that?
A: An inertia starter. They were fairly common in the 1930s and 1940s in airplanes without electric systems. You turned a crank faster and faster to get a flywheel spinning fast and then engage a clutch to have the inertia of the flywheel spin the engine over a few revolutions.

Q: Is there anything I can put on my airplane’s wheel pants to prevent staining from when 100LL fuel dribbles on it? Last summer, I had to have my main gear wheel pants repainted.
A: May I offer a different approach? If your fuel drain is leaking, have your mechanic fix it. More likely, you are venting fuel in warm temps as fuel expands in a full tank and it has to go somewhere, so if your tank is full, it vents overboard. I won’t comment on the brilliance of putting a fuel vent directly above a landing gear.
My simple suggestion would be to leave the fuel level down an inch or so from full when refueling your tanks. This will allow some room for heated fuel to expand without going overboard. If you need max fuel capacity, top off the tanks just before takeoff and fly a few minutes out of each one to give a little room for expansion.

Q: Recently in a rented 1983 Cessna 172, I experienced nose wheel shimmy on landing for the first time. I happened to be with an instructor who stopped me from slamming on the brakes – my first reaction to this surprise. What do you know about nose wheel shimmies?
A: When your nose wheel shimmies, something is not right that should be fixed, as the problem will almost always get worse. It is possible for a violent shimmy to cause an expensive nose collapse, with firewall damage, prop damage, and requiring an engine teardown.
There are many causes of nose gear shimmy, and most are fixed relatively easy. If the nose tire is very low on air, or cupped or otherwise damaged, that’s an easy fix. Getting a little more complex, if the airplane has a shimmy dampener (your C172 has one), perhaps that dampener needs servicing, rebuild, or replacement. (Hint: There are good replacement products available at less cost than OEM stuff.) The cause of a nosewheel shimmy should be addressed promptly and corrected to save massive problems later.

Q: At an airshow last summer, a guy parachuted out of a Piper J-3 Cub. When the airplane landed, I noted the pilot was flying from the front seat. I was certain all J-3 Cubs are placarded “solo, rear seat only” or something to that effect. Was the guy legal? Have you ever flown a J-3 Cub from the front seat solo?
A: You are correct about the placard. The type certificate for the last J-3 Cub built (there are three versions) is the model J-3 C-65 (Continental 65). Stated in the notes section of the aircraft’s operating manual, the airplane may be flown from the front seat IF weight and balance limitations are met. Remember, the fuel tank is in the nose of the airplane. In my experience with a fairly light pilot and fairly light fuel load, you might be OK. Yes, I have done it. I much prefer the way the airplane handles from the rear seat when solo, and there’s lots more room as well.
As far as legality of a type certificate vs a placard, I asked two different FAA inspectors many years ago and got two different answers. My advice is to always sit in the backseat when flying solo.

Q: I am considering buying an airplane, perhaps 30 years old, that could carry my family (me, my wife, and our three kids, ages 10, 12, and 15). Thus, I need more than a four-seater. I am looking at the Piper PA32 series, the Cessna 206 and 210s, and the Beech A36. I recently rode in an A36. It seemed quieter, more comfortable, and better built, compared to the others. What’s your opinion of them?
A: I think they are all very good airplanes, and very worthy of your consideration. They do fall short in that there is not a separate baggage compartment beyond the area which holds seats 5 and 6. If that is not a concern for you, go for it with the usual precautions of ALWAYS having a prepurchase inspection done by a mechanic who is knowledgeable of the make and model, and ALWAYS having a title search done. 1992 models are bringing around $300K for a good one in this current hot market.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger 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. He welcomes questions and comments via email at PeterSchoeningerLLC@gmail.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.

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