Tuesday, June 24, 2014
It was a pleasing sight. A shiny blue T-6 was cranking up. Just a few little checks and we would be headed to Reno. The engine started and seemed to run smoothly. Nothing sounded amiss. Chad shut down the engine and said the idle wasnít set exactly right. It would idle at 550 rpm sometimes and then idle 1,000 rpm at others. He asked had mine ever done that. He had his mechanic Keith Powers coming over to help with the problem.
Keith is a cropduster and aircraft mechanic. He came and we started naming things that could be wrong with the engine and the carburetor specifically. All of the things that we mentioned didnít quite make sense. Finally we put the panels back on the airplane and Chad did a test flight. The engine seemed to run okay. Keith and I watched from the ground.
We said that the engine did not sound like it was putting out full power. Something was wrong and it had to be inside the carburetor.
Nothing to do but take off the carburetor and see what could be wrong, that sounds like an easy job. Unfortunately, you have to take off the air induction box, remove oil lines, fuel lines, fuel pump, and get a special tool to loosen some difficult to find nuts. After that we have to take off another air box before the big ole carburetor will come off. Naturally, we have to discuss all the volumetric efficiencies of the racing engine, heat of the induction air, advancing the timing of the magnetos to get more power out of each individual cylinder, keeping positive pressure to the intake manifold and just getting the engine to put out more power. (Ladies, that just soft man porn talk when guys get together working on engines.)
On Sunday morning we would get a good start on the carburetor. We all met at the hangar about eight oíclock. Chad had gotten two of his farm helpers to come start cleaning the plane. Keith was already removing the hard to get to nuts that kept the carburetor in place.
Iíve got to say that this crew was definitely a bunch of working fools. Nobody was goofing off. The cleaning crew kept scrubbing, Keith kept removing parts and Chad went for parts. I was trying to keep up with Keith but Iím not sure if I was helping or hurting. About 12 oíclock, I asked if anyone would like something to drink. This crew had worked four straight hours without taking any kind of break. I went to the store for sodas. Nobody stopped working. We got the carburetor off and found signs of a birdís nest. We got the carburetor cleaned and reinstalled. Then we had to put on all the things that took three hours to take off.
Finally, at 4:30, Chadís wife brings us some hamburgers. Everybody take a 15-minute break and then itís back on the airplane. Three of us check and recheck the tightness of the bolts and nuts. We look at all the fittings and see if the routing is correct. We make sure that the air box and induction parts fit securely. Last we put on all the panels. The engine idles perfectly.
Now we make a little repair to the airspeed system. Chad test flies the plane and everything is in order. The airplane is fueled and put in a different hangar. Reno here we come!
Plan is a four-letter word. Monday morning brings bad weather in Texas. Itís not that Iím afraid of tennis ball sized hail. Iím just not going to fly in it. That goes for the large line of thunderstorms and high winds. The forecast is terrible. Thirty man-hours of mechanic work and 20 man-hours of cleaning, the weather makes us cancel the trip.
After all this, I did have a great time. Working on T-6 aircraft is certainly enjoyable for me. Being around fine people like Chad and Keith makes the day pass pleasantly. Now itís only a year until the next Pylon Racking School. This gives us plenty of time to get things in order and plan on leaving earlier in case of weather and mechanical problems. I canít wait.
Thatís the plan. Oh oh, thereís that four letter word in there; PLAN.