Firewall Forward

July 28, 2012

Picked up my ENGINE!!

My oh my... what a couple of exciting weeks it's been around here lately. I have to tell you this story, because it's almost amusing. Our EAA Chapter 105 hosts a fly-in pancake breakfast once/month on the first Saturday each month. This month, it was on July 7th. It's at the Twin Oaks airport, just south of Hillsboro, southwest of Portland. Those of us who are chapter members take turns volunteering in the kitchen to work. My turn comes up roughly twice/year. This was one of those months. I don't mind this duty at all. It's a chance to rub elbows with someone new while flipping pancakes or frying bacon. Your breakfast is free, the food is great, and just being there makes it all worthwhile. Not to mention helping the chapter with the funds that are raised. Anyway, it seems there was this engine sitting on a pallet outside, with a "For Sale" sign on it. A number of people noticed this and looked it over, but I COMPLETELY MISSED IT. Maybe it was because I was on KP duty in the kitchen. Or perhaps it was because my name was drawn from the hat at the end of it all for a free ride in a Carbon Cub or a Cessna Skycatcher! I wrote up a page here about my experience flying in the Carbon Cub that day.

Fast forward nearly a week. I'm working in the office and a good friend of mine calls me on the phone (Bernie... you know who you are. I owe you one, Buddy, thanks a million!) and proceeds to tell me he heard about an airplane engine for sale. Now this is a guy, mind you, that isn't even involved in aviation. But he likes my project and has followed my work. So I'm curious what he heard. I've been on the lookout for months, so naturally I was curious. He tells me it was sitting on a pallet at Twin Oaks at a breakfast they have out there each month, and I about fell out of my chair. How did I miss it?? Anyway, he emails me some thumbnail pictures that he got from somewhere. The photos were so small and hard to make out, that I couldn't quite read the phone number on the For Sale sign, or see what it was. I could tell it was a Lycoming of some kind, that was about it. So I made a few phone calls and it didn't take long to find out who to call. Long story short, when I spoke to the guy and heard what he had and the price he was asking, I knew I better move fast and go check it out.

The only trouble is, I don't know much about these engines. I don't know what to look for, what to be wary of, or even the right questions to ask. So I started calling around to chapter members and friends to see if I could find someone knowledgeable to go with me to take a look at it. But it's July in Oregon. The weather is nice. You know what that means... people aren't home. They're traveling, on vacation, or just out flying. Finally, as my good fortune would have it, my friend and technical advisor, Dan Benua (you may know him from his award-winning RV's that he has built) agreed to meet me at Twin Oaks and take a look at it with me. So I drove over the next morning and met Dan as he and his wife flew in for fuel on their way on a flying adventure. The guy selling the engine met me and opened a hanger, and there it was. Here's the engine, still sitting on the pallet. This was my first glimpse of it. The For Sale sign is still stuck on, you can see the back side of it on the right side of this picture. I learned that someone else had called before me and I was second in line. By the time I left, I figured it was a lost cause. But he called me a few days later and told me the deal with the first guy fell through and I was on first base. Yes!!

It's a Lycoming O-360 A4A. I looked it up, and the only difference between it and the A1A is that it has a solid crankshaft. This was a bit of a disappointment because I wanted to at least have the option of going with a constant-speed prop. I was planning on fixed-pitch for a while, because of the much higher cost all-inclusive of constant speed, so this was a bit of a letdown. At first. But for this price, I'll fly fixed-pitch! The other difference between the A4A and the A1A is that the prop flange has longer bushings. The owner is an A & P mechanic, and he told me these bushings can be taken out and/or exchanged if I wish. So no worries there.

So what's the story with this engine? This is where I really started getting excited. This engine was factory new in 1995 and installed in a Skybolt with a Sensenich prop and flown for only 219 hours. A gear leg collapsed, leading to a prop strike. This led, of course, to the engine being dismantled, completely overhauled and inspected/serviced, and put back together. So it's a zero-time engine, with only 219 hours TTSN! One of the most reputable shops here in the Pacific Northwest did the work, signed off by a guy with decades of experience, Mr. John E. Kendall. It's certified. I have the logbook and all the yellow tags. The engine was pre-oiled for storage and brought back to the hanger. And that's it. It's been sitting in storage. The guy eventually sold the Skybolt and now he's getting ready to sell his home and move out of state. So here it is, he put the engine up for sale.

My only big concern was that it had been in storage for quite some time, and I wondered about the insides. I know it's not good for these engines to sit around. I asked him about it, and he had another A & P bring a borescope over for a look inside. Between the borescope and their visual inspection of the insides, they could see that it's shiny and new and completely clean inside. Like it just came out of the shop! I believe it was the care taken when it was pre-oiled for storage, and the fact that it has never been run since overhaul, that leaves it in such good condition. So over the next couple of weeks, I pulled some strings and got some money together to close the deal. Saturday morning, July 28th, was the day arranged for picking it up. I borrowed my son's pickup and drove over to get it. I really enjoyed my visit to his shop. This guy is amazing. He's a very nice guy, very knowledgeable and experienced. He has been working on airplanes nearly his whole life. I could tell you amazing stories about the airplanes he builds. Van's wanted to hire him at one point, but the commute was just too long for him, so he passed on the offer.

He gently lowered the engine into the pickup with his forklift. We tied it down securely and I drove home. Here it is at home, moved to the back of the tailgate, while I'm waiting for some friends to come over and help me lift it off. Wow! What a beauty!

More details: He had some extras that he threw in, sweetening the deal even more. First, there's a brand-new-looking ring gear. I carefully examined this, and I can't find any signs of wear, of any kind. I think it's brand new, never used. I carefully counted the teeth, it's a 149-tooth ring gear.

Here's the ring gear, on the prop flange:

The engine is not carburated. It comes with an Ellison Throttle Body. I knew nothing about this, so I did some reading to get a crash course before making the purchase. The more I read about this system, the more impressed I am! It's designed for aerobatic use, and doesn't know if the airplane is right-side up or upside down. It's basically a fuel-injector, but it injects to the intake for all 4 cylinders instead of each one separately. It's very simple, very reliable, and gives instantaneous response. I also understand that you don't have any problems with a hot start, like you can have with a fuel-injected system. I can't wait to see how it works! If it turns out that I don't like it, I always have the option of installing a fuel injection system if I ever want to.

Oh! Then he mentioned to me that he had an exhaust system that he'd throw in. This doesn't look very pretty, but it's brand new, has never been installed or used. He said he thinks it was for an RV of some kind. I hope it works for me, but if not, there's value here and I can always sell it.

I think it assembles something like this:

It also came with a starter motor, but it's one of the big heavy clunkers. I don't want to use this. I think I'll see if I can sell this and put the money toward a lightweight starter. I hooked up some jumper cables and tested it. It spins like crazy when power is applied.

There is also an oil cooler that he gave me!

And finally, there is a big box of aluminum baffling parts and scraps and miscellaneous stuff. I probably won't use any of it, but there may be some use as patterns for making my own. I don't have a picture, but there are also several nice hoses. The braided stainless steel ones with fire sleeve on them. They may or may not fit, but once again, there's some value there.

Being a certified engine, it had 2 Slick magnetos when it was running. He said the left one needed some work but the right one was in perfect shape. He took the left one off and the right one remains on the engine. I'm probably going to get an E-mag or a P-mag for the left side. The only other thing I know I'm going to need is an alternator.

I can't believe my good fortune. Honestly, I was just plain lucky. If not for my friend calling me up, this would have slipped by and I would still be sitting here, wondering how I'm ever going to scrape up enough money to get an engine for this airplane. This was the major hurdle that I saw from the first day, and I still can't believe I now have a Lycoming sitting in my shop. It's more motivational than ever to get out there and kick some butt and get the work done that needs to be finished, before I hang this engine in place.

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