Marc's Sportsman: The Second “Annual” Begins

I snuck out to the hangar in late February to make a simple modification to my Glastar Sportsman and inadvertently began the annual condition inspection. (OK. I know the proper term is "condition inspection" for Experimentals, and that it is required every 12 months; but I’m going to just call it the annual.)

The modification was straightforward. Sportsman aircraft of this vintage (circa 2006) have a simple fuel system; two inboard tanks of 15 gallons each and two outboard tanks right at the end of the wing holding 10 gallons each. Vents for both tanks terminate in tubes hanging below the wingtip at about mid chord. Works great.

Except for the tip tanks, which have a nasty tendency to urinate fuel when they’re full and you’ve made any kind of turn. The turning force sends the fuel outboard, and it’s just a short jump from the vent to the tarmac; the inboards will do the same thing, but it takes a Formula 1-like turn to do it.

There are many solutions out there, including rerouting the vents from end to end: That is, have the right tank’s vent line exit the right wing tip, and vice versa. Too big a job for an already flying airplane.

So I did what Cessna has done: Install check valves in the vent line. But not just any check valves, sorry to say. (Yet another day without having to go to the McMaster-Carr website...sigh.) These valves must admit air to the tank when it’s being emptied, not allow raw fuel to go back the other way (overboard), but must also have bleed orifices so that if you fill the tank, park in the sun, the fuel has somewhere to go when it heats up. Ballooning an aluminum tank is not desirable. I had also considered a DIY version of this valve, with a one-way valve tee'd into a secondary loop with some kind of restrictor. But with a ready-made solution in hand, I decided to go store-bought instead.

Andair makes valves specifically for this purpose, so out of the annual budget came $45 each, payable in full to Aircraft Spruce. The valves arrived a day or two later, and they’re beautiful, as is everything I’ve seen from Andair. They come in a variety of configurations, but I chose the ones with -4 nipples on each end. A few minutes with the 1/4-inch tubing, cutter and bender...and Bob’s your uncle. I tried to place the valve as level as possible, with as much of a run back to the tank as there was room in the wingtip.

Testing them out: On the next flight, I filled the tip tanks and made a number of sharp turns heading back out to the runway. While the vents will still dribble a bit of fuel like this, it’s nothing like the torrent of precious fuel that used to come out. I consider this a success, and to finish the testing I ran the airplane with just one of the valves installed and timed the transfer of fuel from outboards to inboards. They took within a minute of each other, which has proven to be typical of the airplane over the last 300-plus hours.

How does this relate to the annual? Well, while I was in there, I took a few minutes to poke around the tip, look for loose items, inspect the aileron counterweight, and commit a few more annual-checklist items. With the tips back on—in fact, installation of these check valves took place over two weekends—I was one step closer to having the annual done.

RANS Chaos and Sakota Aerobats Are Back

Due to popular demand, the RANS S-9 Chaos and S-10 Sakota midwing one- and two-place aerobatic kit aircraft are back in production, the company says. Deliveries will begin in June.

The two kits were discontinued about a year ago, and will be offered in their original form. “We are happy that the planes have commanded such strong response,” says Randy Schlitter, RANS CEO, “and will strive to supply the same top notch quality [customers] have come to expect in our kits.”

The original decision to discontinue production of the kits was made with mixed emotion, Schlitter says, because he has enjoyed many hours honing his aerobatic skills in the aircraft. “Bringing them back brings us great joy,” he said, “ and is a terrific testimony to the design and the loyalty of our customer base.”

For more information, visit RANS Aircraft.

FAA Issues Emergency AD on Precision Fuel Injection Systems—Experimental Pilots Should Check Anyway

The FAA on Wednesday announced an Emergency Airworthiness Directive on certain Precision Airmotive RSA-5 and RSA-10 fuel injection servos to be inspected before further flight. Two recent incidents have been blamed on a loose servo plug. According to the AD, the servo plug gasket is thought to have shrunk with engine heat, which causes it to lose torque against the servo housing. These plugs have been found loose as well as completely separated from their threaded housings. Loss of the plug could cause a lean condition.

The gasket part number is 365533, and has been used in new and factory overhauled servos since August 22, 2006. This plug-and-gasket combination is found in both the certified and Experimental-class SilverHawk injection system. Pilots are urged to check the security of the main hex by hand. If the hex moves at all, it is loose.

For more information, visit Precision Airmotive.

AEA Advises FAA: Evolution Not Revolution on ADS-B

The Aircraft Electronics Association commented recently on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology. (ADS-B employs Mode S transponders and universal access transceivers to manage datalink-equipped aircraft, potentially improving use of airspace and overall safety.) While the AEA supports the requirement to adopt ADS-B, it does not support the FAA’s proposed regulation, because the proposal doesn’t include the total cost of Next Gen requirements, will cause the industry an excessive financial burden and will compromise safety claims. Further, AEA members will be unable to manufacture, install or service equipment with assurance that it will be viable for the duration of the equipment’s life, AEA says.

What’s worrisome in the NPRM, according to AEA, is the FAA’s “Vision of the Future,” which defines the Next Gen system as one that is “flexible enough to accommodate safely whatever number, type and mix of aircraft there will be in the U.S. skies by 2025.” Described as an “aircraft-centric system with performance-based requirements,” the future system will detail performance for communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS). The problem with that, as the AEA sees it, is that the ADS-B proposal is only the first element in broad changes to the CNS requirements for flying in U.S. airspace. AEA says that it is inappropriate for the FAA to propose sweeping changes, and then perform an economic analysis on only one element of a complete revamping of CNS requirements for Next Gen systems.

Per the FAA’s statements, AEA concludes that aircraft-centric requirements for Next Gen will be required in less than 17 years, and a complete new suite of avionics will be required only five years after the ADS-B proposal. While the FAA will publish the performance requirements of the equipment, it will not require that the equipment be FAA-approved.

Furthermore, AEA says the FAA is estimating the cost of equipment and installation for equipment that does not yet exist. For example, the FAA estimates that it will take one week for each installation of new equipment in GA light aircraft. With roughly 800 certified repair stations to work on about 160,000 light aircraft, each station could process an estimated 50 aircraft per year, or about 40,000 aircraft total per year, which would mean four years of constant production just to meet the implementation deadline. However, the TSO’d equipment doesn’t exist today, and installations cannot begin until it does, which could take five years or more. With an FAA deadline of January 1, 2020, 12 years hence, that would leave only seven years to equip the entire fleet.

AEA advocates adopting a proposal that uses existing avionics as much as possible rather than requiring wholesale replacement of equipment. The FAA proposal, AEA says, does not build upon the investment of thousands of owners of first generation ADS-B equipment. The proposed requirements make that equipment obsolete, says AEA.

Tool Tech: Does That Bolt Need a Washer?

Do all bolts need washers? Usually, only two factors are involved. Is the hole oversized, and is the bolt configured to work without the washer?

Turn the bolt over and look at the underside.

The first one on the left is simply flat. Number two is an AN bolt and has an area that acts as a washer. The third one has an enlarged surface, and the fourth has a separate, permanently attached washer. Only the first one must have a washer. The second one, does not require one, the third one has a washer built in, and that last one has a permanently attached washer.

Only the second one should be used on aircraft, though, as it’s the only one whose manufacture is fully pedigreed.

AC 43-13 section 7 allows you to skip the use of washer under an AN bolt. But a few AD's do, at times, require washers under both the bolt and the nut.

If you’d like to read further on this topic and don’t have a copy of AC 43-13 beside your bed, you can download it HERE.

Products: Castleberry Attitude Indicator

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty is now carrying the Castleberry Instruments & Avionics attitude indicator, which is an approved substitute for the previously mandated rate of turn indicators in Part 23 aircraft operating in Part 91 and less than 12,500 pounds. (This substitution is based upon the FAA Advisory Circular AC91-75, which promotes the installation of a backup attitude indicator.) But, even better, it's a suitable backup for Experimentals with glass panels.

The internally lighted electric attitude indicator replaces the turn and bank and is a straightforward installation in the same panel location, according to AC Spruce. It will fit a standard 3.125-inch instrument mount; the erecting knob passes through one of the mounting holes. The unit has a standard inclinometer and a failure warning flag to indicate loss of gyro rpm. When used with the Castleberry Emergency Power Unit (Model EPU 28-24RMT), this instrument offers a margin of insurance in case of an aircraft electrical power failure.

The Castleberry AI is available in either 14 volt (P/N 10-02823) or 28 volt (P/N 10-02824) and sells for $2095; the Emergency Power Supply (P/N 11-05822) is $1685. Both units may be purchased online at Aircraft Spruce & Specialty.