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“Bold Warrior”: A New Pilot Buys a Piper PA-28-151 for Training & Traveling

“Bold Warrior”: A New Pilot Buys a Piper PA-28-151 for Training & Traveling

Photos by Mike Maez

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been obsessed with anything fast. Anytime a plane would fly overhead, I was—and still am—the boy that would stop everything to look up and watch it fly by. I spent a lot of my teenage years playing various flight simulator games. 

As I grew older, my obsession with speed and adrenaline obviously led me to cars. I started racing cars as soon as I could drive and did everything from drag racing to professional-level drifting. 

One of the things I was always fascinated with though, was aviation. I just never thought it was possible to get into it so early in life. Boy, was I wrong. 


The fast track

A little over a year ago, I came across a picture on social media of my friend Alex Luke flying a C-172. Having no idea that he was a pilot, I messaged him immediately to tell him how envious I was of him flying planes. I begged him to take me for a ride. 

As it turns out, Alex was building time for an instrument rating, and was constantly spending money to rent the C-172. He was excited to hear how into aviation I was, and agreed to take me up on one of his flights.

I knew this was going to be something special, but I could never foresee what would be coming next. 

We went on one airplane ride and the aviation bug hit me hard. Less than a month later, Alex and I bought a plane together, and my life changed forever. 

I picked up my PPL within two-and-a-half months: I scored 93 percent on my written and passed my checkride on the first try. 

We. Went. Everywhere. 

It seemed like Alex and I were in the air more than we were on the ground—and I was loving every minute of it. We managed to put 300 hours on the airframe in the first four months of ownership. By then, Alex had finished his IFR, and I bought out his share as we had planned from the beginning.


A shiny new panel

Once the plane belonged solely to me, I began researching ways to personalize it. I have always been a tech nerd of sorts, so the panel was definitely something I had my eye on upgrading. 

I started the upgrade by installing a PMA450 audio panel from PS Engineering. I had all the audio panel wiring redone with four-place headset jacks and panel-powered Bose LEMO plugs. I then installed a Garmin GTX 330ES transponder and GNS 430W GPS, and linked them all together for ADS-B compliance. 

I also did my own custom mount under the throttle quadrants for a Stratus 2S to receive ADS-B In, and had an AirGizmos’ iPad panel mount installed. Finally I bought a sheet of real carbon fiber that I had laser cut to complete the panel.


A custom interior

Next up, I really wanted to bring the interior of the Warrior back to life. All of the aviation interiors I was finding online seemed very standard and ordinary. I really wanted something different that wasn’t run-of-the-mill and would also be durable. 

Through my research, I found that Ron from Aviation Creations was the go-to guy to talk to about this. Working with Ron, I carefully crafted my own overall design and picked all of the colors and fabrics to make it a truly custom interior. 

I completely revamped the Warrior’s interior head-to-toe, replacing everything that was worn out or broken, mainly with new OEM Piper parts and all new hardware. This included the headliner, rear bulkhead, glareshield—all of it. I had most of the interior plastics, including the overhead panel, wrapped in aviation-grade Ultrasuede, a synthetic microfiber. 

Doing all of the installation work myself with the help of my friend Alex Simpson, we also replaced all the windows with new solar control windows from Great Lakes Aero Products. I just took my time, and tried to research how to do the stuff online. I also got a lot of advice from my A&P/IA at Falcon Executive.  

I do my own oil changes and my own tire/tube changes as well. Basically anything that I am allowed to do I prefer to do myself. I am a perfectionist, and have the mindset of “do it once, do it right,”—and the same mindset applies to the Warrior. When I am not allowed to do something I work with the staff at Falcon Executive at Falcon Field Airport (KFFZ) in Mesa, Ariz.


Speed mods and STCs

The Warrior already had various speed mods installed when Alex Luke and I bought it. These included upgraded wheel pants from Knots 2U; wing root seals; and Laminar Flow Systems’ flap gap seals, flap hinge fairings and aileron seals. I did replace the landing light with a Teledyne LED light since the OEM light doesn’t provide as much illumination for night ops.

In addition, N4402X had the 180 hp “Bold Warrior” STC applied to it back in 1998. According to the STC, #SA1842NM was issued to Auto-Air and includes installation of a Lycoming O-360-A4M engine and a Sensenich 76EM8-0-60 propeller and associated installation components. 

The STC helps with flying all year long in the hot Arizona desert with high density altitude airports such as Sedona and Flagstaff. Given the flexibility of the extra horsepower—it essentially turns the aircraft into an Archer—and the robustness of the O-360 platform which is known to run well over its 2,000-hour TBO, we managed to put 450 hours on in the first year with no major issues or unwanted downtime. 


A variety of experiences

Over the first year of flying I have experienced a vacuum pump failure in flight, an alternator failure during runup, and got stuck on the taxiway of a very small airport due to a punctured tube. 

I’ve currently have amassed almost 200 hours of cross-country time in just over a year by doing trips all over the Southwestern United States with a lot of night cross-country stuff as well. I have also done numerous flights in and out of fairly busy airports like John Wayne-Orange County Airport (KSNA) in Santa Ana, Calif. and Tucson International (KTUS). 

Most of my flying these days consists of cross-country trips with my girlfriend to some of our favorite stops including San Diego, Orange County and Las Vegas. 

My future plans include adding an instrument rating—and likely upgrading to a larger single, so that I can haul more people to the beach.

After a little over one year of flying, I feel like I have seen a lot already. One of the things that I love about aviation is no matter how much you do, there is always so much more to learn.


Special thanks to Bruce and Brad at Falcon Executive Aviation; Ron Matta at Aviation Creations; and Alex Luke, Alex Simpson and Dax Rodriguez. Justin Derendal is a 34-year-old pilot residing in Peoria, Ariz., and an avid aviation enthusiast. He is a former race car driver and Honorary Commander of the USAF 607th Air Control Squadron at Luke AFB. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>> Upgrades and modifications – PFA supporters

Aviation Creations 
Bose Corp.
Garmin Ltd.
Great Lakes Aero Products, Inc.
Knots 2U, Ltd.
PS Engineering, Inc.
Stratus 2S
Teledyne Technologies Inc.

Other upgrades and modifications 

Laminar Flow Systems
FAA certified repair stations
Arizona Aircraft Accessories, LLC
Falcon Executive Aviation
Keep Those Old Cubs Rolling & Stopping

Keep Those Old Cubs Rolling & Stopping



Upsizing your vintage Piper wheels and tires. 

A cub is a young bear as well as the mascot for early Piper airplanes. Today, up to 79 years from their birth, many of these once-youthful Cubs (and Cruisers, Clippers, Pacers and Vagabonds) are getting a bit grizzly. 

After decades of landings, good and bad, an old Cub’s legs may be in need of some renewal. Vintage drum brakes, which never were the best, may have lost their grip with age; wheels can become corroded and wobbly; classic fat 8.00-4 tires are increasingly hard to find and painful to afford.

Supply and demand has changed

Decades ago, when the time for a tire change came, most Cub owners just asked their local mechanic to pull a tire off the pile and put ‘er on. Tires for Cubs and Clippers were readily available, made by various manufacturers, and reasonably priced. 

But today, Goodyear is only manufacturer of 8.00-4 tires, and they cost more than $300 a tire. If you need a tube for that tire, add another $140 to $150. 

Faced with the possibility of a $900 tire change, many vintage Piper owners are spending a few extra dollars up front to upgrade the landing gear to accept more reasonably priced 6.00-6 tires. 

The upgrade doesn’t only save money on future tire changes; the installation of new tires, wheels and brakes offers owners many benefits in increased safety, durability
and reliability.

A note about tire sizes

On tires with a Type III size classification (for example, “8.00-4,” or “6.00-6,”), the first number is the tire’s section width—that’s the widest point of its outer sidewall to the widest point of its inner sidewall when mounted on a wheel. The second number is the wheel rim diameter that the tire fits. 

With Type III tires, there is no indication of the overall diameter (i.e., how “big” the tire is); you have to look that up in the specifications for your aircraft.

To complicate matters, tires and wheels use different designations. A four-inch wheel for a vintage Cub is an 800x4 wheel, while the tire is an 8.00-4. Maybe the tire and wheel manufacturers should have communicated way back when it all started?

Classic Cubs, early Super Cubs, and various vintage Piper aircraft use tires that are 8.00-4, so that means they are about eight inches wide and fit on a four-inch wheel. The precise size depends on the weight of the plane, the rim, and the inflation, and may vary by about half an inch. 

For aircraft owners who want to change from the classic 8.00-4 tire to today’s more common 6.00-6, it means you’re changing from a four-inch rim to a six-inch rim, and the tire is two inches narrower. 

Reasons to consider a change

The first Piper equipped with the 6.00-6 tires and six-inch wheels was the Piper Tri-Pacer introduced in 1951.In part due to the popularity of training aircraft with tires in this size, numerous tire manufacturers offer a selection of tires with different treads, different numbers of plies, and various prices. 

To make the switch to 6.00-6 tires, you must change to six-inch wheels—and to do that, you must change the brakes, too. That could get expensive, but considering that 8.00-4 tires cost about $360 a pair more than 6.00-6 (without tubes), it might make financial sense. 

Do you use your plane for training and need tire changes often? Are you satisfied with your airplane’s braking ability? Does the aircraft hold in place during a runup? Are your wheels corroded or cracked? Do you need to replace any other landing gear parts? Are you thinking about flying into the backcountry and might need bush tires, or even tundra tires?

Besides addressing any specific issues with your particular aircraft, changing to six-inch wheels has numerous advantages. With any type of brake, disc or drum, a larger diameter provides better braking—and modern disc brakes are certainly a far more effective design than 1950s-era drum brakes.

If you get a flat tire away from home, you’ll be lucky to find a repair station with an 8.00-4 tire when you need it. With overnight shipping, that’s not quite the problem it was decades ago; however, there’s only one tire that’s approved for a four-inch wheel. 

If your favorite aviation parts supplier is out of stock on the tire, you’ll be calling around the country to locate one. And in years to come, there’s a real possibility that 8.00-4 tires will get harder to find, not easier. So why not upgrade all your landing gear parts, brakes, wheels and tires at once?

A bolt-on kit is available

The engineers at Grove Aircraft Landing Gear Systems, a family-owned business based in El Cajon, Calif., have developed a solution to the problems of aging four-inch wheels and brakes. 

Grove Aircraft offers a bolt-on conversion for vintage aircraft to upgrade to modern six-inch wheels and disc brakes for many vintage Pipers, from J-3s up to PA-20 aircraft. 

The price for Grove’s conversion, which includes two new wheels (either aluminum or magnesium), disc brakes, mounting hardware and brake line fittings, costs $1,689. 

If you add together a new pair of pricey 8.00-4 tires (research shows a single new tire and tube runs between $466 and $555), plus any extra repair, such as a new four-inch wheel at $450, or a standard brake job that can cost several hundred dollars, then the upgrade to six-inch wheels and tires may make good financial sense. 

For a one-time cost of $1,689 you get the option to use less expensive tires with the benefit of better braking.

The conversion kit from Grove is simple enough for the average pilot to install, with parts that bolt on to the existing landing gear attachment points. However, all work should be supervised by a licensed A&P mechanic, and must be inspected and approved.


Other wheel conversions

Even if you already have six-inch wheels, it’s important to note that not all systems are approved to take larger tires. 

The Grove six-inch wheels have STC approval to accept many tire sizes, including 6.00-6, 7.00-6, 8.00-6, 8.50-6 and 26x10.5-6 tires—and numerous tire manufacturers make them. With these wheels you can customize your tires to your flying—or more accurately, your landing—needs.

Several other companies, such as Cleveland Wheels and Brakes (a division of Parker Hannifin Corp.), offer STC’d six-inch wheel conversions for Piper airplanes, too. 

Each manufacturer comes with an approved tire size list, so be sure that the tire size you plan to use is listed before you buy a wheel conversion system.

Ease of installation

Rick Hannemann, of Sherwood, Wis. recently used the Grove wheel and conversion brake kit on his restoration of a 1954 Piper L21-B Super Cub, a military version of the basic Super Cub.


He reports that the installation was simple to perform. “Everything was in the kit and just bolted on,” Hannemann explained. He plans to mount 8.50-6 tires on his new wheels, a good choice for landing on grass airfields, his type of flying.

“I made this change for better braking and due to the lack of parts for old drum brakes,” Hannemann continued. “I know if I did have a problem [with the conversion kit], I could call up Robbie [Robbie Grove, owner of Grove Aircraft Landing Gear Systems] directly; he cares about airplanes and his customers.”

With new tires, modern wheels and brakes, vintage Piper aircraft can keep landing and rolling reliably as long as they can fly.

Dennis K. Johnson is a writer and a New York City-based travel photographer, shooting primarily for Getty Images and select clients. He spends months each year traveling, flies sailplanes whenever possible and is the owner of N105T, a newly restored Piper Super Cub Special.
Send questions or comments to .


Wheel and brake system upgrades

Grove Aircraft Landing Gear Systems Inc.

Parker Hannifin Corp.
 – PFA supporter

Wheels, tires and brakes
– PFA supporters

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.
Univair Aircraft Corp.
Lightning Detection: Technology & Tactics

Lightning Detection: Technology & Tactics

Onboard weather avoidance equipment, and techniques for using it.

Anyone who has listened to an AM radio in thunderstorm country knows that lightning creates a lot of static on the radio. Likewise, readers of aviation stories have probably come across the mention of how an ADF will, at times, point to a lightning strike.

Out of this commonly observed phenomenon, airborne lightning detection equipment was born over 40 years ago. Christened the “Stormscope” by its inventor, Paul Ryan, the unit married radio frequency (RF) detection with a cathode ray tube (CRT) screen in order to plot lightning strikes.

One of the beauties of the Stormscope was that it didn’t require the large antenna needed by an onboard radar system. At that time, radar was largely limited to twins which had the room in the nose for the antenna; a few radar installations used a large pod under the wing.

The Stormscope used an ADF-sized antenna, so it was feasible to mount the equipment in most single engine aircraft and any twins that would not easily be outfitted with a radome in the nose. Thunderstorm detection came to the masses.

The term “Stormscope” has been appropriated to refer to all lighting detection equipment, but it is only technically correct when applied to the original line of products.

There are currently three providers of airborne lightning detection equipment (ALDE).

Insight Avionics manufactures a unit called the Strike Finder that analyzes individual strike signal properties to determine the bearing, range and severity. This data is plotted on an LED display as single orange dots. A stabilization module (not a rotating gyroscope) is available as a factory installed option; no field configuration or calibration of the module is required.


Avidyne makes the TWX670 Color Tactical Lightning Detection System which displays on its MFD, as well as some third-party displays. Color-contoured mapping of the electrical activity from the TWX670 sensor is often used as a complement with satellite-based datalink weather.

I’ll deal mostly with the Stormscope in this article, but the operating principles are the same—they all use radio detection to find lightning activity.

Evolution of the Stormscope

Over the years, the patents and trademark for Stormscope passed from Ryan International, to 3M, to B.F. Goodrich, and Stormscope is today owned and produced by L-3 Technologies’ avionics division.

The Stormscope can be thought of as having three generations, though this is a bit of a simplification. The Stormscope WX-7 was the first generation. In 1981, the second generation consisting of the WX-8, WX-9, WX-10/10A and WX-11 came out.


The WX-8 was a simplified unit that displayed a 135-degree forward-looking arc divided up into radial segments with three pseudo range rings that lit up green, orange or red depending on the intensity of the strikes detected.

The red segment was the innermost range/ring and the green was the outermost. WX-8s are still commonly found in General Aviation aircraft, though the unit has been out of production for many years—as have all of the second-generation units.

Another common second generation unit was the WX-10/10A. The units are almost identical, with the WX-10A having an improved processor. WX-10 series units display a 360 view with four range settings: 25 nm, 50 nm, 100 nm and 200 nm. There is also an option to select forward 180 degrees, which can provide better resolution as the unit’s memory only has to store those ahead, and not behind, the aircraft.

The WX-11 was essentially the same as the WX-10, but with the added feature of being gyrostabilized so that display would sync with the aircraft’s heading changes.

The third generation was dubbed by 3M the Series II Stormscope, and the WX-500 and WX-1000 are the two products on the market today. A Stormscope WX-500 will display information on many of the common MFD units, while the WX-1000 has its own display. These third-generation units have improved algorithms to provide more sensitivity and increased accuracy.


How it works

Any of the airborne lightning detection systems use well established radio detection principles and equipment to figure out what direction a lightning strike is coming from. In this, the units are quite accurate.

Ground units can use triangulation to obtain distance to the strike; airborne units do not have that luxury. Instead, the airborne units guess at the distance by comparing the strength of the RF signal made by the lightning strike to an average. The dot is then placed on the display on the measured radial and at the calculated distance relative to the distance ring depending on the range selected by the pilot.

If all lightning strikes were of the average strength, the distance displayed would likely be quite accurate. However, Mother Nature is never that cooperative. Hence a roughly circular cell will paint as an ellipse or sometimes in a stingray-shaped blob with the tail pointing at the aircraft in the center of the screen; this phenomenon is referred to as radial spread.

Usage and risk assessment

With the characteristics of a lightning detection system in mind, some techniques are helpful to interpret what the unit is telling you. The two primary pieces of information that a pilot needs to know when flying in the vicinity of thunderstorms are location and strength.

Determining strength is where the Stormscope is the most helpful. Onboard radar is better for location, but doesn’t tell you as much about the strength.

As lightning strikes more closely correlate with turbulence, and turbulence is more closely associated with inflight breakups, a few tips on determining the strength of a cell are in order.

It seems common sense that the more closely the strikes are displayed on the screen, the stronger the cell. That is true; however, there are other considerations. One of the most important is how fast the strikes are occurring.

One technique that I use is to hit the CLR button from time to time on my WX-10A so that I can watch a particular cell repopulate. A strong cell may add a dot on the display every few seconds so that it pretty much redisplays the cell is a minute or so.


Another technique is to change the range setting. If one is detecting a cell on the outer ring of the 100 nm range setting, I will change to 200 nm and see if more is shown. If so, it may indicate that what I am seeing at first is just a few strong hits and that on the longer range, I can see the outline of a larger cell. Any cell that paints well on the 200 nm range is one to be taken seriously.

Changing to the 50 nm range may show you whether a few of the strikes are strong enough to show on that setting. Tightness of the dots and the rapidity which they will repopulate tell you much about strength of the cell.

It is also good to keep in mind the overall atmospheric conditions when assessing the risk. If the storms are growing, as they typically are through the day with the peak solar energy in early to midafternoon, then the cells are likely getting stronger and extra caution is warranted.

At night, they are typically dissipating and what you see is what you get. I have gone through cells that painted only a strike or two, but painted ominously on the weather radar. Since it was after midnight, I was confident that the air mass cell was just collapsing and dropping water—and it was. (Always be alert to the potential for rapidly changing conditions, and don’t violate your personal margin of safety. —Ed.)

My strategy for using my WX-10A is to leave it set at the 100 nm range. Anything showing up in this range is worthy of the pilot’s attention. As a cell starts to populate on the outer edge, I can watch it move closer.

Once it is clear that I am not looking at a few random discharges that occasionally come and go, I will consider changing course. I have had good success with changing the heading so that no cell is in the 50 nm range within 30 degrees of the nose. That should give 25 nm of clearance from the storm.

To me 25 nm is adequate for the typical air mass thunderstorms, but ones associated with a strong frontal system may need a wider berth. Here is where knowing the overall weather conditions and having recent information on the tops of the cells can assist with the big picture decision-making.

As one changes course, it is important to hit the CLR button (unless the unit has a gyrostabilizer) so that you keep a clear idea of where the storm is relative to the aircraft.

An ALDE makes a nice accompaniment to onboard Nexrad by providing some real-time input, and to better allow the pilot to assess the strength of a thunderstorm and circumnavigate the worst of the cells.

With a little experience, onboard strike detection equipment can be the difference between taking a flight knowing some deviations may be necessary, and keeping the aircraft in the hangar for fear of blundering into a life-altering situation.

Kristin Winter has been an airport rat for almost four decades. She holds an ATP-SE/ME rating and is a CFIAIM, AGI, IGI. In addition, Winter is an A&P/IA. She has over 8,000 hours, and owns and operates a 1969 C model Twinkie affectionately known as Maggie. Send questions or comments to .


Weather avoidance equipment

– PFA supporters

Strike Finder Insight Instrument Corp.


L-3 Technologies, Inc.
Other lightning detection products
TWX670 Tactical Weather Detection System
Avidyne Corp.
Accumulating Knowledge: De-Ice Boots

Accumulating Knowledge: De-Ice Boots

A brief history of pneumatic boots, their operation and proper care.

AS Jimmy Doolittle was demonstrating the technique of blind flying in 1929, work was being done by B.F. Goodrich and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to address airframe icing. 

William C. Geer, Ph.D., a retired chemist from the B.F. Goodrich Company, became interested in the problem of airframe icing when it caused a number of crashes of airmail planes. With IMC flight in its infancy at the time, airframe icing was seen as a barrier to progress.

In the early 1930s, work by Geer and B.F. Goodrich focused on rubber coatings to inhibit the development of ice. How to get rid of the ice that did accumulate, despite the rubber boot and the concoction that was smeared on them to prevent the buildup, led to the idea of having inflatable tubes to knock off the ice. The de-ice boot was born.


Structure, activation and various types

The boots themselves are generally constructed with five or more spanwise tubes. These are created by layers of rubber laid up in such a way as to create the channels which expand when system pressure is applied to them. The inflation pressure is typically around 18 psi.

Once the concept of inflating tubes in the boots was proven to be effective, complete de-ice systems were soon developed. In addition to the boots themselves, a timer, valves and a pressure source were necessary. 

The researchers also discovered that in normal, non-icing flight, the aerodynamic pressure differentials around the wing could allow the boots to expand somewhat without activation of the system. The solution was to apply a small amount of suction to the boots during the times when the boots were not being operated by the pilot.

Modern systems use a pressure pump driven by the engine(s) which in normal operation discharges through a venturi, which supplies the suction to the boots to keep them tight to the airfoils when the boots are not in use. 

When activated, electrically controlled valves switch the pressure from the venturi to inflate some or all of the boots. The timer will keep the boots inflated for several seconds before switching back to the suction mode.

Many common installations will inflate all the boots simultaneously. One example is the Piper Aztec. 

With the certification requirements for approval for Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI)—which applies only with aircraft certified after 1973 or if the manufacturers chose to obtain FIKI certification—additional boots were added inboard of the engines, and boots were added to cover all tail surfaces. 

With these expanded systems, it is common for the timing system to inflate the wing boots and the tail boots separately. An example is the later Piper Navajo series after FIKI certification. This is likely due to the requirement that the de-ice system still function after the failure of one of the pneumatic pumps.

De-icing systems are available for aftermarket installation. As each aircraft will utilize differently sized boots, and testing is required to make sure that any installation does not hinder the flight characteristics of the aircraft, most aftermarket installations are by STC. B/E Aerospace and Goodrich hold many of these STCs, but not all.

Proper operation 

There is a certain amount of controversy over the proper operation of pneumatic de-ice boots. The common wisdom—which has come down from the early days of icing flight—is to wait until one-quarter to one-half of an inch of ice has accumulated before popping the boots. The concept has been enshrined in numerous aircraft Approved Flight Manuals and POHs. 

The NTSB has been at war against this mindset for a couple of decades. Based on its research, the NTSB, and to some degree the FAA, have been advocating turning the pneumatic wing de-icing system on at the first sign of icing.

Older-style boots (those dating before the 1960s), may have been prone to a condition called “ice bridging.” This is where ice would build to the point that it formed a bridge over the top of the boots. (Ernie Gann reported on this phenomenon on a DC-2 in his semi-autobiographical book “Fate is the Hunter.”) 

However, the NTSB is adamant that modern boots, (i.e., any that have been installed in the last 50 years or so) will not form an ice bridge. 

Against this, northern pilots do occasionally claim to have seen ice bridging occur in newer aircraft. 

After half a dozen years flying in the ice of the Great Lakes and in Southeast Alaska, I can say that I have never seen ice bridging—but that does not mean I am completely sold on the NTSB’s recommendation to activate the boots at the first sign of ice on the wings.

The other consideration is whether the boots leave less residual ice if they are operated continuously, or if they are cycled after a small buildup. 

I believe that this issue is a bit more nuanced than the NTSB is willing to recognize. When to operate the boots encompasses numerous factors, in my experience. 

It is a fact that the ice sheds better at higher speeds as the force of the airflow on the ice increases exponentially with airspeed. It is also beyond argument that some airfoils are much more sensitive to an accretion of ice than are others. Outside air temperature, the type of ice, and the condition of the boots all affect the ability of the boots to shed the ice. 

The NTSB guidelines seem to assume that all wing de-ice systems can be turned on and that they will then cycle at intervals. This is not the case on most aircraft where you have to individually activate each cycle. When flying single-pilot IFR, I rarely have time to sit and punch the wing de-ice button every few seconds. 

I tend to wait until I have a noticeable accumulation of ice before popping the boots. I don’t wait for one-quarter of an inch, and certainly not a full one-half inch; I generally try to activate them during a high speed descent, and again if I get into air that is at freezing or above. I also try to make a final activation after breaking out of the ice, or on final approach if I haven’t gotten out of the ice. (This is the author’s personal procedure in her own aircraft, and is for readers’ information only. Piper Flyer urges all pilots to read NTSB and FAA recommendations. —Ed.) 

Care for pneumatic boots

A set of de-ice boots is very expensive, so they should be cleaned and protection should be applied. 

There are three manufacturers of boot cleaning and sealant products. Goodrich Corp. makes ShineMaster for cleaning and AgeMaster for protecting boots. Jet Stream Aviation Products makes Pbs Boot Prep and Pbs Boot Sealant. Real Clean Aviation Products makes a similar de-ice boot care system called Real Shine. 

In my experience there is one product that needs to be on your shelf, and that is B.F.G’s Icex II. Even after cleaning and sealing, the application of a slippery coating before charging off in the ice is a very good thing. It makes a huge difference in the ability to shed ice. Icex II is expensive, but you won’t have regrets about the cost when the ice is being shed off the wings cleanly. Besides, a quart can last a couple of years for most pilots.

Kristin Winter has been an airport rat for almost four decades. She holds an ATP-SE/ME rating and is a CFIAIM, AGI, IGI. In addition, Winter is an A&P/IA. She has over 8,000 hours, of which about 1,000 are in the Twin Comanche and another 1,000 in the Navajo series. She owns and operates a 1969 C model Twinkie affectionately known as Maggie. She uses Maggie in furtherance of her aviation legal and consulting practice; she also assists would-be Comanche, Twin Comanche, and other Piper owners with training and pre-purchase consulting. Send questions or comments to .


De-icing equipment
– PFA supporters

B/E Aerospace, Inc.
Goodrich Deicer Service Center

De-ice boot care
– PFA supporter

ShineMaster, AgeMaster, Icex II

Goodrich Corp.
(UTC Aerospace Systems)

Other de-ice boot treatments and protectants

Jet Stream Aviation Products, Inc.
Real Clean Aircraft Detailing Products

Further reading

AMT Airframe Handbook

Volume 2, Chapter 15:
Ice and Rain Protection. 

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards Service, 2012.

Available at PiperFlyer.org/forum under “Magazine Extras”

Save your Starter

Save your Starter

Starter duty cycle and system troubleshooting tips

Show of hands if you’ve ever had anyone direct you in how to properly treat your airplane’s starter? Let’s see… one, two, three—you in the blue shirt: really? That’s what I thought.

The truth is, beyond a cursory glance at the POH, very few pilots have ever had, or considered, any formal starter-operations training. From the day you first set your butt in the left seat, it’s pretty much been, “Just turn the key and hold it until the engine starts—or the starter burns up—whichever comes first.”

No wonder so many of us have chronic problems with our starter’s performance and reliability. 

So what’s going on here, anyway? To get an answer, I went directly to a source of all things starter-related: Hartzell Engine Technologies (HET), makers of the Hartzell and Sky-Tec brands of aircraft starters. 

According to Tim Gauntt, Director, Product Support for Hartzell Engine Technologies, the main cause of most starter problems is most owners don’t really understand their aircraft’s starting system and the stresses the starter experiences when you turn the key. 

“One area that the majority of pilots I talk to have little understanding of is the importance of knowing and adhering to the duty cycle that pertains to their aircraft’s starter,” he said. “Knowing and following the duty cycle guidelines will go a long way toward maximizing your starter’s operational life.”

“But,” you ask, “What is a ‘duty cycle’?”  

“The starter’s duty cycle determines how well the starter can tolerate repeated starting attempts. Each unsuccessful attempt is meant to be followed by a specified starter cool down interval,” Gauntt explained. 

“Not following specified duty cycle procedures will cause the starter to overheat and severely damage the starter’s internal components, leading to premature starter failure.” 

Most pilots don’t understand that violating the duty cycle just a couple of times will do irreparable damage to the starter. In extreme cases, it can render the starter inoperable—then you’re stuck. Excessive cranking can also overheat the electrical supply system and cause accelerated wear to the contactor and elevated corrosion rates for connections in the circuit.

The folks at HET feel so strongly about the importance of following proper duty cycle procedures that they produced a short training video on the subject. (See Resources at the end of this article for the link. —Ed.) 

Not all duty cycles are the same.

As discussed in the informational video, every type of starter has its own particular duty cycle requirements. And it’s critically important for you to know which starter is in your airplane and how its duty cycle works.

So you don’t have to take notes, here are the duty cycles for the most popular starter types as described in Hartzell’s video.Typical duty cycle times for HET Sky-Tec starters:
• 10 seconds of engagement followed by 20 seconds of rest for up to six
start attempts;
• After that, allow 30 minutes of
cool down before beginning the next
start sequence.

Typical duty cycle times for HET E-Drive and X-Drive starters:
• 10 seconds of engagement followed by 20 seconds of rest for up to 20
start attempts;
• After that, allow 10 minutes of cool down before beginning the next start sequence.

Typical duty cycle times for HET PM-Series Continental starters:
• 15 seconds of engagement followed by 30 seconds of rest for up to six
start attempts;
• After that, allow 30 minutes of cool down time before beginning the next start sequence.

Typical duty cycle times for “legacy” starter models, including Prestolite and Electrosystems:
• 10 seconds of engagement flowed
by 60 seconds of rest;
• Then 10 seconds of engagement
followed by 60 seconds of rest;
• Then 10 seconds of engagement
followed by 15 minutes of cool down time before beginning the next start sequence.

“Following the duty cycle procedures may add a few minutes to your typical starting sequence, but understanding and following the procedures correctly will help your aircraft’s starter provide you with many years of reliable service,” Gauntt said.


Starting problems aren’t always starter problems.

A weak or slow cranking starter is one of the leading causes of people exceeding a starter’s duty cycle. But those symptoms don’t always point directly at a dying starter.

“The starter is actually the last part of a sophisticated, multi-component starting system, and issues with any of the parts—whether environmental, mechanical or operator-induced—will show up as ‘starter problems,’” Gauntt said. “The health of the entire system must be well maintained in order to achieve consistent engine starting performance.”

In addition to individual performance issues with the system’s components, if the engine is improperly adjusted or has a poorly operating fuel system, the engine will also be difficult to start. 

Parts of the multi-component starting system include the following items.

Battery: Batteries can vary in size and mounting location, either of which can have an effect on the performance of the starting system. 

Electrical connectors: They serve as the termination points for the electrical conductors that interconnect all of the starting system’s various components. 

Electrical conductors: Typically these are highly flexible insulated copper or aluminum cables. The length and condition of each has a significant impact on the system’s performance. 

Switching devices: Their primary use is to control the flow of electrical power throughout the starting system. 

Starter: The starter is the actual unit that converts the electrical power to mechanical energy in the form of torque, which is used to physically rotate the engine to initiate the starting process. 

“No matter what the cause or reason, if any of the system’s components are not working properly,” Gauntt said, “the results can run from poor starter performance to outright damage to the starter itself.”


How is all works… and what to do if it doesn’t.

In its simplified form, the starter converts the battery’s electrical power to mechanical energy in the form of torque, which is used to crank the engine. 

Cranking requires a significant amount of current (typically ~400 amps in-rush; ~70 amps cranking). Voltage at the battery equals the potential (or “push”) in the system, but if the system has too much resistance along the path, the battery can’t flow enough current to the starter to do its job. That resistance comes in the form of corroded terminals, dirty or worn contactors and old wiring. And, since they suffer from lower potential already, older aircraft with original 12-volt systems are especially prone to problems. 

Also, take time to check the other components of the system to ensure good current flow including the aircraft’s switches, relays, and even the aircraft’s key or push-button starter device. 

Age-related and moisture-induced corrosion can attack the connecting terminals and erode the internal contacts slowing the flow of power. Even the smallest bit of corrosion on a wire or connection point could be the source of a problem.

Gauntt said that a commonly overlooked point of corrosion is the engine bonding strap. The ground system should be checked for electrical ground integrity using a volt ohmmeter. A maximum of 0.2 ohms of resistance at any bonding/ground connection is the borderline limit.

While you’re under the cowling, check the condition of the electrical conductors and insulation around the wires for chafing damage. Gaps in the insulation will allow moisture to corrode the wiring, increasing its resistance.

A weak battery will make even the cleanest system struggle. Low voltage will require the starter to turn slowly and remain engaged for a longer period of time. Extended engagement periods will lead to heat buildup in the starter motor and reduce its service life.

When it comes to battery troubleshooting, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for ongoing inspections, real-charge capacity testing and maintenance—including checking the terminals for corrosion. 

Keep in mind that even a well maintained battery will lose a percentage of its charge over time. Corrosion on the battery leads, older batteries, and batteries exposed to extreme temperatures or humidity will see a faster rate of discharge.


A quick word about kickbacks.

The dreaded kickback occurs when, during the starting process, the engine’s crankshaft abruptly changes rotational direction. 

A significant kickback can displace the crank as much as 90 degrees in 33 milliseconds and cause significant damage to the starter’s drive and gear engagement system. In extreme instances, kickback can actually break the starter’s mounting pad away from the engine.

Gauntt explained that kickback issues can often be resolved by adjustments to the engine’s ignition and fuel systems or through the pilot’s modification of engine starting techniques. Always follow the engine OEM’s instructions when making changes to the system’s settings or starting procedures. 

Show of hands for who would like reliable starting performance in their aircraft? Everyone? That’s what I thought. 

Though the functionality of starters hasn’t changed in decades, duty cycle guidelines do vary, and the stresses that a starter experiences during the aircraft startup process are immense. 

Know and follow the duty cycle for your starter, keep an eye on the condition of all of the components in the starting system, and you’ll be rewarded with reliability when you turn the key.

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work. Always get instruction and supervision from an A&P prior to attempting maintenance tasks.

Dale Smith has been an aviation journalist for 30 years. He has been a licensed pilot since 1974 and has flown 35 different types of General Aviation, business and World War II vintage aircraft.
Send questions or comments to .


Informational video

“Understanding Your Aircraft Starter’s Duty Cycle”

Starter suppliers – PFA supporters

Hartzell Engine Technologies

Tempest Plus


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