Monday, January 02, 2006

2005: an odyssey to the Arizona desert/Part 1

With this I start relating the memories and reflections of the long travel through half mexico and half (kind of anyway) of the US in my T337, the trustworthy XB-IXP. Each part covers a flying day and I think you will find it interesting. I was planning to use this trip for several purposes. To get well acquainted with the plane before a planned trip to Europe in the 337, to get more experience flying in the flight levels weather, to fly the Grand Canyon and to eat and shop a little in San Antonio, TX.

December 23th, Mexico city to Monterrey, NL for the "posadas". A failed magneto in good weather.

Fortunately or not, the only problems I get on my trips occur in day one. Once I forgot to check in advance that the paperwork was on the plane (a 182 at the time), and of course my partner had forgotten the airworthiness certificate in a foreing airport the previous week. He had not even realized that and it took 2 hours and a dozen phone calls to get a new airworthiness certificate... But that is, like they say, another story.
Today I noticed a little bit more drop than usual on one of the front engine magnetos at runup, but almost none in the other one. Since I flight-tested the plane the previous afternoon, I suspected a dirty plug. Since there was no roughness when tested, I decided to continue the flight and keep an eye on the magneto and check that the plug cleared... It was not going to be that simple.
But we were climbing now, gear up... cycle complete... flaps up and power adjust. A quick check on the front magnetos and... Ah, no, no problem. But of course the mixture is rich for the turbochrged climb to 13,000 ft. Scan complete... a quick glance at the new electric backup attitude indicator and... Oh sh...!!!
I just installed an electric attitude indicator because part of the trip was probably going to be IFR in the US winter, and now I do not have a backup. There it is, new, blue and brown, no flag but obviously ten degrees tumbled to the right. Damn!!!
Half way into the flight to Monterrey, with the mixture leaned, I gave the magneto check another shot. Brrrrrrrr...brrrp... ...brrrrp... cogf, cof....brrrp.... Holy cow! Not good. Well, so much for the plug theory. I closely followed the magneto behavior and it appeared to worsen with time, though it did not show with both magnetos operating. I was halfway into the flight and with no intermediate suitable airports for repairs and VFR weather, I dedided to continue the flight all the way to Monterrey.
Murphy´s law --- 2, Me --- 0.
After sending my girl and 2 other passengers to the hotel, I spent the rest of the day close to the mechanic analyzing the front right magneto. A good thing that we were to spend the next two days in Monterrey for the Christmas festivities. There was no rush.
But the mechanic needed only two hours. Just after opening the cowling, the problem was evident. -There you have it- said the A&P. The right magneto was half opened, screws not tightened. -That´s it?!!- I asked incredously while dialing for a furious conversation with my mechanic back at home... -How (/&/)(/&"·$!/()=$$%"·%&/·$%!!·"$$%% this happened!!!!- I yelled over the phone.
The local mechanic suggested removing and inspecting the magneto to make sure nothing was damaged before tightening the screw which of course we did. I learned to dismantle and look for problems inside a magneto and tested the engine. Beautiful! Same small drop from both magnetos.
I went for Chistmas 150 bucks poorer but a thousand times more confident for the flight ahead.
Merry christmas.
The short 3 hour flight from Mexico city was otherwise uneventful, but you always learn a lot from this things. And of course, I enjoyed "las posadas"...


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