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2004 Western Trip - Day 10

What I Planned:

Date: On or about July 21, 2004

Hopefully Al, Eric, anyone else with us, and I will leave Paine Field, WA (KPAE) and head over to Pangborn Memorial Airport in Wenatchee, WA (KEAT), the home of Jim White, a longtime COZY MKIV builder and mailing list member (8 years or so).

After a nice visit with Jim, we'll head up to Calgary, Alberta, in Canada (Springbank Airport - CYBW) skirting some MOA's that seem to cover the northeast portion of Washington (probably where they're hiding all the military's nuclear waste).

I've never flown into Canada, so this should be interesting. In Calgary, we'll visit with a few COZY builders, including Rui Lopes, Graham Neal, Trevor Howard, and Joe Toop (a couple of whom may fly down from Edmonton in a Spam Can for a BBQ).

What Actually Happened:

Date: July 21, 2004

Nick came back from the motel at which he was staying in the morning, and Chrissi made some tasty banana pancakes for the four of us. We then packed up some tools and headed out to the airport (Nick had a few minor adjustments he wanted to make to his L.E. as well).

I expected to just swap in the new magneto and remove the one Jim had given me.  Well, the first thing I discovered after removing the cowling is that the two nuts that held the left magneto on were loose, and the mag was rattling around just a tiny bit - the timing couldn't have been correct.  There was no damage to the gears, so we thought that we'd just tighten it up, adjust the timing, and everything would be fine - maybe I wouldn't need the mag that Ken Miller had overnighted to me. Well, the engine wouldn't start, and that was merely the first in a day long saga of failures that eventually culminated in my graduation from "Magneto Installation and Timing International University (and Carwash)". I replaced Jim's mag with Ken's mag - no start. I timed it again - no start. I called Ken to get instructions again - no start. Joe Rosa (a V.E. owner with a hangar on the field) wandered by to see what was up, and offered to let me work in his hangar, since it was about 100 F in the shade, and the heat index was about 110 F and we were getting pretty burnt. We pushed the plane into his hangar and hooked up a charger (the battery was getting depleted from the 43 start attempts).

Back to the battle - the short of it ended up being that timing an IMPULSE magneto is substantially different, and requires a very different technique, from timing a NON-Impulse magneto.  It took about 5 phone calls to Ken Miller, one from Nick Ugolini telling me to talk to Lee Devlin (who's got 2 impulses mags on his L.E. and just went through this exercise a couple of weeks ago), and the call to Lee to finally get the technique down.

  1. Install timing pin in "L" hole in back of magneto (there are a couple of false positions - make sure it goes in ALL the way
  2. Rotate the engine to 25 degrees BTDC on the #1 cylinder COMPRESSION/COMBUSTION STROKE (there are two strokes, remember - the compression/combustion stroke is mandatory)
  3. Install the magneto in the hole and finger tighten the two nuts
  5. Rotate the engine PAST TDC, so that you hear the impulse coupling "pop" - if you don't hear it pop, rotate the engine back to 60 degrees BTDC, and then past TDC so that you hear the impulse coupling "pop"
  6. Rotate the engine to 30 degrees BTDC (not more - you DON'T want to load the impulse coupling again) and then to 25 degrees BTDC
  7. You're NOW at the correct timing point, with the mag in the appropriate state - using the buzz box, rotate the mag until the buzzing just stops (or just begins, depending upon which way you rotate it)
  8. LOCK DOWN THE MAG with the two nuts
  9. Attach the P-Lead

This nightmare of a process took 5.5 hours to draw out of Ken and Lee via phone, with them trying to explain it to someone who, until today, really hadn't timed a mag (much less an impulse mag) in my life.  At any rate, at about 4:30 PM, after a full day of beating on the mags (and determining, amazingly enough, that the BRAND NEW REBUILT mag that Ken Miller had sent me, and had TESTED just the afternoon before had an inoperative impulse coupling - THAT took about 2 hours to figure out), the engine finally started right up.

Since Ken's new mag was inoperative, I was using Jim Sower's magneto (which I had incorrectly thought was inoperative, but in fact was just loose and timed incorrectly) and since I had used the correct technique, the RPM drop from mag to mag was within 10 RPM of one another, at about 50 - 75 RPM.  Finally - a working ignition system.  YEE-HAH!

The next step was to check out the "down" microswitch on the Wilhelmson Nose-Lift, which was for some reason not telling the gear mechanism to stop putting the gear down when it was.  This is akin to the ashtrays being full, in comparison to the other issues, so if I can't get this working, it's not a big deal since as soon as I hear the first "click" of the gear override, I turn off the gear motion switch and everything works fine. Before dinnertime, we couldn't debug this, so we decided to head back to the house, eat dinner, drink a bunch of Sangria, and then head back to the airport to try to debug the switch issue.  That we did.

When we got back to the airport, we found that Joe Rosa (he of the hangar ownership) had left a message on the plane saying that he had CLEANED MY PROPELLER for me - it was spotless!  What a guy - I couldn't even comprehend that.  There are SO many folks that I'll owe a bundle to at the end of this trip.  At any rate, Chrissi and I played with the gear system, determining that the motor was working fine and that the problem had to be in the wiring harness.  After about 1/2 hour, Chrissi found a loose connection in the auxiliary connector that goes to the AEX (automatic extend system, based on airspeed) that I don't even HAVE.  After fixing that, the system worked fine.

So, I now have a completely working airplane (with a laundry list of things to improve, fix and upgrade) during my conditional inspection in September.

I'll be off for KC and Colorado tomorrow morning.  I must profusely thank Chrissi and Randi (the "COZYGIRRLS") for putting up with me for two days, cooking wonderful dinners, hosting a BBQ with a bunch of folks, and spending ALL DAY with me at the airport supplying moral support for the magneto timing work - I'm quite sure that without them being there, I would have beaten the airplane to death with one of the larger wrenches.

As I said yesterday, Chrissi and Randi should be EXTREMELY proud of their handiwork - their aircraft is exquisite, with many features that I'm sure will be copied in the future.

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