Breakfast blah blah blah. Today was gorgeous VFR weather - not a cloud in the sky. For Bill, not so great for IFR training, but it was OK by me. We planned a route to Keene, NH to practice the ILS and VOR approaches there, as well as do some holding practice. I filed a flight plan to Keene, and then we got the plane ready and took off. Something was funny with the engine, though - it seemed to be "missing" or running a bit rough. We climbed up to 7000 ft., and by the time we leveled off the engine was running just fine - no problems (hold that thought). After a leisurely flight in VFR conditions (with the "foggles" on so that I couldn't see a damn thing) we determined that I flew the plane a lot better, and held heading and altitude better, when it was turbulent and crappy, because I was concentrating more. I was all over the sky when it was dead smooth. Go figure.
We got to Keene and flew the ILS and VOR approaches with a few holds. Each time, on the "missed" climbout, we felt the "missing" or rough running of the engine. Hmmm. After a few of those, we headed over to Fitchburg to meet Deanie. I replaced a spinner screw that had disappeared due to a loose nutplate that will have to be replaced, and tightened all the spinner screws. We had a nice lunch at the diner at Fitchburg, and then Bill and I decided to fly back to Keene to practice partial panel Localizer approaches.
On takeoff from Fitchburg, I was NOT happy with the engine sound, so we went back and landed. I decided to pull the cowling and take a look at the engine to see if we could see something obvious (spark plug loose, frayed wires, whatever) that might explain the engine issue. Everything looked fine, so we took off again, and again, it sounded crappy - running on and off about 50 RPM low, and making just a touch less power than usual. No vibration, all CHT/EGT's looking decent (and even). Bill's also an A&P, so as we flew circles above Fitchburg to stay near the airport, we did some diagnostics, switching between the mag and the electronic ignition at various RPM's and Manifold Pressures.
We eventually determined that the mag seemed fine, and that the E-Mag Electronic Ignition was having issues, but only at MP's above 23". We decided that this was NOT a safety issue on a clear, VFR day, so we continued the flight. We did the partial panel localizer approach and missed into Keene, and then headed back to Schenectady. I called EMAG to ask about the issue, and they suggested switching the unit to "Magneto" mode, where it ignores the MP and just fires at 25 degrees BTDC no matter what - since it seemed to be dependent upon MP, we thought that might solve it. I removed the cowl, adjusted the setting, and then replaced the cowl.
After taking a break and looking at Bill's in-ground fish pond at his house (very impressive), we went up for one last flight for the day, up to Glens Falls to practice partial panel holds and Localizer approaches. The engine still ran crappy on takeoff until we reduced MP below 23" - after the flight tomorrow for the checkride I may be grounding the plane to figure out what the heck is going on with this thing. The holds/approaches went reasonably well, even in the smooth air, and we headed back to Schenectady. We gassed up, put the plane away, and then went out for dinner. Bill dropped me off at the motel, and I tried to get a decent night's sleep in preparation for the flight up to Messina, NY for some last day practice and then to Malone, NY for the checkride.
Whoo, hoo! (Stupid engine.....).
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