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Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Destination: Jackson, Mississippi

Whether you are passing through or planning a long weekend, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, can accommodate you and your aircraft quite nicely. 

Jackson, Mississippi, has been deemed the “City with Soul,” and I would agree with that. Yet Jackson is more than a great spot for Mississippi blues music; more significant than a locus in the Civil Rights movement; more than just a place to stop in search of authentic soul food. This state capital is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project to transform its downtown. 

If you haven’t visited in a while (or ever), you need to know that Jackson offers several compelling reasons to stop for an overnight or a long weekend. 

Airport information

Piper Flyer Association member and area pilot Felton Watkins was kind enough to share some details about four of the airports around Jackson. 

Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)

“Hawkins was established during World War II as a training base,” explained Watkins. “The facility was utilized by both American and Danish aviation training forces. A small Danish Air Force cemetery is located just east of the field where those who lost their lives while training at Hawkins are buried.” 

“Hawkins remains one of the major hubs for General Aviation in the area, providing fuel, training and aircraft maintenance support,” Watkins said. The two 150-foot-wide runways are 5,300 and 3,400 feet long, respectively. Airport operations are almost evenly split between military, transient and local GA. 

Hawkins Jet Center, an independent FBO, is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Full-service Avgas was $5.49/gallon when I checked in late September. The Jet Center is just 10 minutes from downtown Jackson, has a courtesy car and can arrange for a shuttle to hotels.

Alternates to Hawkins can be found in Madison, Mississippi, at Bruce Campbell Field (9 nm away); John Bell Williams Airport (10 nm away); and Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International (8 nm away).

 

Bruce Campbell Field (KMBO)

“Campbell Field, located just north of Jackson, is fast becoming the center for General Aviation in Jackson,” Watkins reported. “The field provides training, aircraft rental and maintenance support.” 

Campbell, too, is super GA-friendly with virtually no military traffic. The fuel price at Campbell was $4.97 per gallon for full-service Avgas as of Sept. 26, 2018. The single asphalt runway is 4,400 feet long.

Madison Air Center serves the field. “The people running the FBO are always friendly and willing to help you with any needs,” said Watkins. “There is a wing of the Commemorative Air Force located on the field, and they always have something going on at their hangar.” 

John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)

J.B. Williams Airport is west of Jackson, near the Natchez Trace Parkway. “Williams was also a World War II training field,” said Watkins. In the early 1940s, it served as an auxiliary field for Jackson Army Air Base (now Hawkins Field).

Today, this public airport is owned and managed by Hinds Community College. Williams serves GA almost exclusively, with 98 percent of its average of 126 daily aircraft operations credited to local or transient GA. 

Runway 12/30 is just shy of 5,500 feet long. A courtesy car is available, too, but if you’re depending on it, calling ahead is always a good idea. Self-serve Avgas is just $4.25 per gallon—no full-service option—and is available 24 hours with a credit card.

Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)

Jackson-Evers International is utilized mainly by commercial airlines and military aircraft, according to Felton Watkins. The National Guard has a C-17 unit located at this facility. 

“General Aviation aircraft avoid the Jackson-Evers airport because of high fees,” Watkins explained. “The last time I flew into [KJAN] was on a Saturday with great flying weather. We were conducting an Angel Flight and were the only General Aviation aircraft on the ramp.”

What to see and where to eat

As the largest city in the state, Jackson, Mississippi, has a lot going on. “Jackson has numerous outstanding restaurants and museums that are worth a visit,” said Watkins. 

Within the Jackson metro area, you can visit a children’s museum, a natural science museum, an art museum, the state capitol and governor’s mansion, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame…truly, too much to list here.

I have selected just a few of the attractions in Jackson and arranged the information in pairs, with a place to go and a place (or two) to eat. 

Eudora Welty House; Manship Kitchen 

If you appreciate Southern writers and literary fiction like I do, the Eudora Welty House is a must. I’m currently in the middle of “The Optimist’s Daughter,” Welty’s 1972 novel, and can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. An acclaimed photographer as well, Welty was a lifelong resident of Jackson and lived at the family home at 1119 Pinehurst St. until her death in 2001. 

Guided tours of Welty’s home in the Belhaven neighborhood are offered for a small fee Tuesday through Friday and on the second Saturday of every month at designated times. Reservations are recommended. 

If you’re just dropping in, the exhibits at the Education Center located next door to the home can be seen weekdays during business hours at no charge. Currently, selected letters are on display—over 15,000 pieces of correspondence were in Welty’s home—and include notes to friends around the world expressing her fondness for her hometown.

After your tour, the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen off North State Street might be a good place to stop for a bite to eat. The restaurant has indoor and (some) outdoor dining, with Mediterranean dishes (Greek-style chicken) and classic Southern food (fried okra) on the menu. The Manship opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Brunch is available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as the restaurant is closed on Sunday.

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen has a menu that features classic Southern items, like shrimp, with a Mediterranean twist.
Puliter-prize-winning author Eudora Welty lived the majority of her life at 1119 Pinehurst St. in Jackson. Welty bequeathed the home to the State of Mississippi and it is now a National Historic Landmark.
Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum; Bully’s Restaurant, Brent’s Drugs

The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in the Eastover neighborhood of Jackson is like you’d expect it to be, with something extra: a nod to agplanes. 

In addition to exhibits like “Small Town Mississippi” and information about Mississippi’s lumber production at the turn of the 20th century, the museum also houses the National Agricultural Aviation Museum. 

In this 5,000-square-foot space, you can view a Stearman A75 biplane with a 450 hp engine, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub converted to a “Cutback Cub,” along with a Piper PA-25 Pawnee and a Grumman Ag Cat.

If you get hungry, one restaurant that gets rave reviews is Bully’s in the Fondren neighborhood west of I-55. At Bully’s, soul food (like oxtails) and plate lunches (like barbecue and fried chicken) can be enjoyed Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Plus, they have peach cobbler! 

If you’d prefer a milkshake and a burger, consider a stop at Brent’s Drugs, just off North State Street in the Mid North District. This old-fashioned soda fountain has been in operation since the 1940s. 

Several other popular restaurants near Brent’s include Walker’s Drive-In (upscale and “locavore”-friendly) and the Pig & Pint (great barbecue, with a beer list that’s beyond extensive).

Brent’s, a diner and soda fountain, has been a part of the Fondren neighborhood since 1946
The Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum includes an important component of agriculture in the American South: aviation. Visitors can see four agplanes inside at the National Agricultural Aviation Museum.
Many people consider Bully’s to have the best soul food in town. The Bully family opened the restaurant in 1982.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Museum of Mississippi History; Iron Horse Grill, Hal and Mal’s 

If you can make the time, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum deserves your full attention. The struggles of the civil rights era are arranged in eight different galleries for visitors. It’s an immersive experience that isn’t always comfortable to see.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $8; $6 for seniors age 60-plus. Youth admission (ages 4–18) is $5 and children 3 and under are admitted for free. 

The Museum of Mississippi History, which shares a lobby with the civil rights museum, tells the stories of Mississippians from 13,000 B.C. to today. Museum-goers will see artifacts from the slave trade, learn about the boll weevil and see how Hurricane Katrina affected Mississippi, plus much more.

Dual admission (both museums) is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for youth. Both the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History open their doors for free on the third Saturday of every month. The museums are located on North Street near the Eudora Welty Library and Old Capitol Inn.

West of the museums, on Pearl Street, you’ll find the Iron Horse Grill. The site of this restaurant began as the Armour Smokehouse in the early 1900s, experienced two fires, and was eventually abandoned. Biloxi shrimp fajitas, redfish tacos, the Iron Horse burger… all are prepared on a charcoal grill. The restaurant is open every day of the week at 11 a.m. (10:30 a.m. on Sundays).

Another spot, Hal and Mal’s, is just south of the museums on Commerce Street. Hal and Mal’s offers a great menu with soup, salads, sandwiches and seafood. It’s a favorite venue for local live music, with blues—the Central Mississippi Blues Society hosts a weekly event—along with jazz, singer-songwriters and country artists frequently on the bill. 

Planning your trip

Staying downtown in Jackson can be a great choice, as many of the hotels are new. The nine-story Westin Jackson is the most recent addition (it was completed in 2017), and three other hotels—a Hilton, a Marriott and the Old Capitol Inn boutique hotel—offer plenty of rooms within a few blocks of core downtown attractions. These four, and at least 10 other hotels, are within 7 miles of Hawkins Field. 

Downtown Jackson is currently benefiting from a massive improvement project, as developers are investing millions of dollars in revitalizing the city.

I’d suggest scheduling a long weekend for Thursday to Saturday, with a Sunday departure. The City with Soul has many things to enjoy—but several of them are not accessible on Sundays or Mondays. 

Jackson is ready for you 

November can be a great time to visit Jackson, Mississippi. The average high is 68 F and autumn is typically dry. 

Spring is another great time, according to Felton Watkins. “Do not miss the St. Paddy’s Day parade!” he told me. (Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival will take place March 23, 2019. —Ed.) 

Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade and Festival is a Jackson tradition. “Mississippi’s green Mardi Gras” is scheduled for March 23, 2019.

Seems to me that whatever time of year you visit, Jackson, Mississippi, will be ready for you.

Sources: Downtown-jackson.com, VisitJackson.com, Wikipedia.com.

Heather Skumatz is production coordinator for Piper Flyer. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

PILOT INFORMATION
Bruce Campbell Field Airport (KMBO)
Hawkins Field Airport (KHKS)
Hawkins Jet Center
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport (KJAN)
John Bell Williams Airport (KJVW)
VISITOR INFORMATION
Visit Jackson
ATTRACTIONS
Eudora Welty House and Garden
Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
Museum of Mississippi History
DINING
Brent’s Drugs
Bully’s Restaurant
Hal and Mal’s 
The Iron Horse Grill
The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen

 

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Piper PA-32: The Unsung Hero of Southwest Alaska

Piper PA-32: The Unsung Hero of Southwest Alaska

“King Salmon Tower, Cherokee N32785 is a Cherokee Six, 8 miles east of the field; inbound for landing Runway 18; got Echo.”
“Good morning, Lydia; King Salmon Tower. Traffic is Justin in the Katmai Beaver, at your 2 o’clock, 3 miles, for the river.”
The nonchalant and personal interaction with the tower in this small frontier town is part of the reason why I love it so much. The tower controllers at King Salmon Airport (PAKN) know our names, our airplanes and where we are from. They know everyone and talk to us like friends.

In no time, I was on a short approach for a long landing on Runway 18. I watched Justin cruise smoothly down to the river. My long landing brought me almost all the way to the southeast ramp, where I would offload some of the cargo from my company’s Cherokee Six. 

I cleared the runway and started shutting down my avionics and recording my times. I parked in the same corner I always parked in and reached over my copilot to unlatch the door. Once out on the wing of the Cherokee, I did a quick scan of the ramp. 

Behind me, an unmistakable paint job taxied into view. The orange and yellow Andrew Airways Saratoga, also from Kodiak Island, parked behind my bird. In front of us, a brown and gold Cherokee Six, painted identical to another one in our fleet (both from an air taxi in Skagway), taxied out for departure. 

Sitting on the ramp in Karluk, Alaska (PAKY), the shortest and one of the most challenging airstrips we fly into.
Approaching to land at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak/Kodiak Airport (PADQ).

As I looked around more, I realized the ramp was cluttered with these Piper heroes; private and commercial aircraft alike. I quickly offloaded some of my freight and pressed on to Naknek, a small community 12 miles further west of King.

The Naknek Airport (5NK) is a quaint one; two narrow gravel runways form an “L” shape. There isn’t really a ramp; instead, the intersection of the runways served as a cluttered parking lot. You sort of just roll out to the end and shut down wherever your plane stops. 

On each side of the runway, there were Piper Cubs and Cessna 180s tied down in the brush. I maneuvered my Cherokee around a Cessna 206 and “nosed in” to a group of three other Cherokees. I shook my head as I jumped off the wing of the little plane. The population of Sixes and Saratogas in this region was amazing. I had never seen so many in one place. 

Due to the surrounding terrain, the wind has a tendency to get extremely turbulent and cause a tailwind regardless of the direction you land.

 

When I first started growing in my aviation career, I worked on the ramp for a small air taxi on the coast of Maine. Penobscot Island Air exclusively flew Cessna 206s and 207s, servicing several remote islands. For two years, I threw bags and fueled their planes. I took every opportunity to ride along, in total awe of these workhorses. They seemed to take all the abuse we could give them, from icy runways to 90-degree days. Mail and freight and lobster would weigh the planes down daily, but they never faltered. They were trusty and sturdy and unrelenting.

Island Air Cherokee Sixes on the ramp in Old Harbor (6R7), one of the villages on Kodiak Island.

Upon moving to Anchorage, I found the story to be quite similar: many of the operators flew strictly Cessna 206s and 207s. There wasn’t a Cherokee to be found. 

When my summer season in Anchorage came to a close and I began to look for a new job, I was referred to Island Air Service in Kodiak, Alaska. I remember speaking with the chief pilot on the phone and asking questions about the operation. I was standing on the dock looking out over Lake Hood when he mentioned their wheelplane fleet consisted of mostly Cherokee Sixes. 

I almost choked. Cherokees? On short gravel runways? In the middle of nowhere? What?

An Island Air Cherokee on the slushy ramp at Ouzinkie Airport (4K5). Ouzinkie is a village on Spruce Island just north of Kodiak Island.

Oh, how ignorant I was. Later that year I was sitting wide-eyed in the pilot’s seat for three weeks of training, every day learning something new that the little low-wing Piper could do. 

There wasn’t much it couldn’t do. Its sturdy gear absorbed stiff crosswind landings with ease. It cruised anywhere from 120 to 135 knots but slowed to a mere 75 to 80 knots on short final—an ideal airspeed for the shorter fields we landed on. 

The empty weight of the Cherokee Six averages about 1,700 pounds. The useful load of that same plane sits at a little over 1,600 pounds. The plane can almost carry its own weight in fuel, gear and/or passengers. When loading an airplane in the remote villages I fly to, weight and balance is a huge factor. 

With short runways, gusty winds and unpredictable weather, I want to know that I am getting optimal performance out of my airplane in every given aspect. If I’m taking 1,000 pounds of gear and hunters out of a short one-way airstrip with a 15-plus knot tailwind in marginal weather, the last thing I want to think about is an airplane out of CG. 

That’s the magic of the PA-32’s center of gravity. The Six can be loaded in just about any manner to maximum gross weight and still be in the center of gravity envelope. Of course, every airplane has its limits, but the overall maneuverability of the airplane seems unchanged. 

The PA-32 is comparable to the Cessna 207. If you were to place a 207 and a Cherokee Six side by side, performance is nearly identical. At an average empty weight of 2,000 pounds and a useful load of 1,800 pounds, the 207 has an equally generous CG.  

On Kodiak Island, the average village airstrip is about 2,000 to 2,500 feet long with at least one approach over water (no obstacles) and every strip is within a few hundred feet of sea level. The performance, useful load and overall stability of a Cherokee Six in this environment makes this underrated and underappreciated aircraft a huge part of Island Air Service’s fleet. It’s the same story for many other air operators in this region of the state. 

Kodiak, Alaska, looking south.

 

Chilliwack, British Columbia, right before a test flight after getting sheet metal work and a paint job at Upper Valley Aviation.

Each of these planes have survived decades of use. My favorite Cherokee in our fleet has over 16,000 hours on the airframe, with its entire life here in Alaska, operating as a cargo-hauling, Part 135-flying beast. It still flies straight and true, as if fresh from the factory.

Lydia Jacobs is a line pilot for Island Air Service in Kodiak, Alaska. Originally from Corinth, Maine, Jacobs bought a Cessna 150 at age 18. In the spring of 2017, Jacobs sold her car and used the money for fuel to fly her 150 solo from Maine to Anchorage, Alaska. The trip took over 60 flight hours, and she often slept in her plane or in a tent. Jacobs currently has a little over 1,500 hours. Send questions or comments to .

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Engine Mounts Explained

Engine Mounts Explained

The engine mount represents a crucial link between your engine and airframe, and it should be treated as a mission-critical accessory. STEVE ELLS visited Loree Air, an FAA-certified repair station, for insight into the engine mount repair process.

I have found no evidence that my engine mount—that web of steel tubes that supports the engine and nosegear on my 1960 Piper PA-24 Comanche airframe—had ever been overhauled or recertified.

It seems a bit hard to believe. After all, it’s been bolted onto my airplane for 57 years. You’d think one mechanic or owner along the way would question whether the mount had suffered the ravages of time or had any issues. But like I said, when I started digging in the logs, I found no maintenance record entry that showed me it had ever received specific attention.

I recently discovered a cracked tube, and when I scrubbed it with a wire brush, I found a gaping hole—the tube had rusted through from the inside. I removed the welded steel mount in order to send it in for repair and recertification. 

As it turned out, the tube with the rusted spot was only one of seven tubes that had to be replaced. I had no idea the mount was in such bad shape!

What engine mounts are made of

SAE grade 4130 steel, also known as chrome-moly, is a through-hardened chromium-molybdenum steel alloy that is used in the light airplane industry where light, strong tubing is needed. It’s strong for its weight, easy to work, easy to weld and provides a good cost-to-strength ratio. 

Chrome-moly steel is available from aviation parts suppliers such as PFA supporters Acorn Welding, Aircraft Spruce and Airparts Inc. Wicks Aircraft also supplies this tubing. (Another PFA supporter, Wilco Inc., carries SAE 4130 in sheets. —Ed.)

The seven tubes that were replaced on my engine mount consisted of one 1/2-inch diameter tube, two 5/8-inch diameter tubes and four 3/4-inch diameter tubes. 

Chrome-moly tubing is purchased by specifying the outside diameter (OD) in 1/16-inch steps and the wall thickness. The wall thickness of the 5/8-inch OD tubes in my engine mount is 0.035 inch, which is close to the thickness of a credit card. The wall thickness of the 1/2-inch OD tubes is 0.049 inch, which is approximately the thickness of a CD. 

The 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch tubes sell for $4.35 per foot at Aircraft Spruce; the 3/4-inch tube is $3.35 per foot. 

I needed 4 feet of 5/8-inch tube and 68 inches of 3/4-inch tube to repair my mount before it could be recertified as airworthy. The materials cost was less than $50 at retail prices. 

A chrome-moly steel mount is a sweet piece of engineering. My refurbished engine mount (as delivered to me) weighs 15 pounds, 11 ounces; yet it is strong enough to support the Comanche’s Lycoming O-360 engine (258 pounds), a Hartzell two-bladed propeller (51 pounds) and support and endure the shocks suffered by my retractable nosegear.

The refurbished engine mount of the author’s 1960 PA-24 Comanche weighs 15 pounds, 11 ounces. It is strong enough to support a 258-pound Lycoming O-360 engine and a 51-pound Hartzell two-bladed propeller, and will also endure the shocks suffered by the retractable nosegear.
Removing and sending the mount out for repairs

After I found the hole in the lower right tube, I removed the engine and nose landing gear assembly. Removing parts, like the demolition phase of a room remodel, always goes quickly. In this case, I knew I needed to label and sort the parts and engine accessories because it was going to be almost two months before I was going to be reinstalling the engine and nosegear. 

One trick I’ve used for years when removing an engine or other assembly is to take photos of everything before picking up the wrenches. When I first heard of this photo trick, shops were using Polaroid cameras. Today, a cell phone and/or tablet is more than sufficient. 

One of the decisions that I pored over was where to send the mount for repair and recertification. I wanted an FAA-certified repair station that had the capabilities to repair and recertify my mount. My favorite internet search engine turned up four options. They were, in alphabetical order: Acorn Welding Ltd., Aero Fabricators (a division of Wag-Aero), Aerospace Welding Minneapolis and Loree Air Inc. and I have no doubt that there are others. 

I also searched for a used, serviceable mount. I found one on the East Coast and negotiated what I thought was a good price—but after learning that it would take more than $500 to ship it to me on the West Coast, the deal fell through.

Obviously, the cost of shipping a mount, as well as how to ship a mount, must be considered. Companies told me that the most common method is to bolt the mount to a piece of stout plywood, then either build a wooden or cardboard box around it for shipping by UPS or FedEx; or to bolt the mount to a pallet and ship it as truck freight. Since the repair facility has no control over handling after it leaves their possession, it’s critical to create a shipping container that protects the mount during shipping. 

PFA supporter Aero Fabricators quoted me $1,400, which included changing up to 10 tubes, and told me the turnaround time was two to three weeks. Aerospace Welding quoted a price of more than $2,500. 

Another PFA supporter, Acorn Welding, was unable to estimate their cost over the phone, but Paul Gyrko, head of sales, took the time to answer my questions and explain the full process when I called for information. 

Steve Loree Jr. at Loree Air told me that the cost to inspect, repair, normalize, paint and certify my mount would be $1,700 if it only required cleaning, inspecting, repainting and certification; and a maximum of $2,100 if work was needed. Loree also warned me the company had a five-week backlog. 

Given that Loree Air was only 278 road miles away from my home base—while the other three were all over 1,800 road miles away—and that I had good reports from friends that had used them, I decided to use the five-week window for other tasks and took my mount to Loree.

After another PA-24 owner offered to fly me up to Placerville to drop off the mount, I packed my sad old mount in the back of my buddy’s Comanche and flew it up to the Placerville, California airport (KPVF) where I left it with Nicole, who runs the office. 

Ready for pickup

Steve Jr. called on a Tuesday in late June to tell me that after cleaning and sandblasting all the paint off my mount, a thorough inspection revealed some surface damage to the exterior of a couple of tubes; bends in two tubes; and more tubes that showed evidence of internal rust. 

I asked him if it was OK if I drove to the shop once my mount was finished; I wanted to hang around and ask a lot of questions about mount damage and repairs. I figured this was an opportunity to pick up some hints and tips that a mechanic in the field could use to determine if a welded steel tube engine mount or landing gear support structure was airworthy. He said that would be fine.

Five weeks later I got the call; the repaired mount was ready. 

I arrived at Loree Air at 10:30 Monday morning. I met the entire staff: Steve Sr., Steve Jr. and Nicole (who is married to Steve Jr.). I was also sniffed up and down by Layla, the small four-legged office assistant and guard dog.

 

 Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Steve Sr.; Steve Jr.; Nicole; Layla (the hairy one).

Steve Sr. attained his welding certification at the San Diego shipyards and went to Sacramento City College for his A&P education at the suggestion of his flight instructor. He gained a wide range of reciprocating engine skills at the Sacramento Sky Ranch before spending 15 years working at the Sacramento Citation Center and at Aircraft Conversion Technology in Lincoln, California, with owner Bill Piper. 

Seeing the need for a certified aircraft welding shop in California and wishing to steer his own path, Steve Sr. opened Loree Air in 1992 in a small shop in the Swansboro Country neighborhood in the foothills east of Sacramento, near Placerville.

In 2011, Steve Jr. joined his father in the business. They decided that since the shop needed to grow in order to support two families, it was time to expand. To do so, Steve Jr. said, “I think we need a website,” but Steve Sr. wondered if it was necessary. Word-of-mouth advertising had been effective and the company had all the work it could handle. But Steve Sr. yielded, and today you can visit Loree Air online at LoreeAir.com. 

After consistent growth—thanks to the website—the Steves decided to move the company to a small warehouse and shop in Diamond Springs, another community near Placerville. 

With the help of many friends and family members, they planned and built a shop to fit the company’s needs. 

There had to be a large sandblast booth to clean mounts. There had to be a paint booth. There had to be an area for grinding and smoothing metal. The shop needed an area where mounts were put into jigs for alignment and buildup. A screened area was required for welding. A separate office and customer reception area were part of the plan as well.

There are also two lofts for storing parts and ready-to-ship mounts and nose strut welded tube support structures. 

While I had to take my mount to Loree Air to get in line due to the five-week backlog, the company does stock repaired and certified mounts for some popular aircraft. 

Problem areas

The Steves spent some time describing why my engine mount rusted out and passed on tips for determining if a welded steel engine mount is airworthy.

According to Steve Sr., “Piper mounts were not corrosion-proofed in the 1960s and early ‘70s.” He is referring to a practice of coating the inside of welded steel tube assemblies with a corrosion inhibitor. 

In the early days of aviation, linseed oil was used to inhibit corrosion. When I asked what else works, he replied that either LPS 2 or 3 heavy-duty lubricant works well and is readily available. 

The other Piper mount problem was the build sequence, which left small gaps at each firewall fitting around the bolt bushing boss. The gaps are small, but can allow moisture to get to the inside of the tubes. Loree has developed a build process that seals the mounts. 

Steve Sr. also pointed out that many Piper PA-28 Cherokee engine mount assemblies allow moisture to get into the tubes at the four engine support reinforcements, where the rubber vibration isolators—often called Lord mounts—are installed, because the two halves of the reinforcements are not sealed. This is also addressed when Loree repairs a PA-28 engine mount. 

Inspection tips and tricks

I asked the Steves for tips to help field mechanics determine if the welded steel mounts they inspect are airworthy. They said one test is to use an automatic center punch to put a small dent in the end of a tube that is believed to be unaffected by internal corrosion and compare that to the dent when the punch is used on the part of the tube that is suspected to be corroded. Usually this means comparing the dent at the highest part of the tube near a weld cluster to a dent in the lowest part of the tube. 

Any difference in the depths of the two dents is clear evidence the lower end of the tube has been weakened by internal corrosion.

Dents are repaired during the Loree Air rework. According to Steve Loree, the circular slot around the bolt hole is how moisture—a cornerstone of the rust process—enters the tubing in the mount. Loree seals this slot during rework.

While at the Loree shop, I also saw tubes that were dented during installation and removal by sloppy tool handling, and tubes that had been scratched or scored by abrasion.

Since these tubes are so thin, what may at first appear to be negligible damage usually needs attention. “Our standard for repair is 10 percent of the tube thickness,” said Loree.

One thing Loree was adamant about is avoiding the use of plastic tie-wraps (i.e., zip ties) to secure anything to a welded steel mount. He has seen it again and again: plastic tie-wraps will wear a welded steel mount tube faster than a pilot heads to a restroom after a cross-country flight. It takes longer to install properly-sized Adel clamps, but they are the only clamping device Loree wants used on an engine mount. 

You and your mount

I was surprised to hear Steve Sr. say that in all his years repairing mounts he had seen very few engine mounts pass through his shop that needed no repairs. 

I was also surprised when my mount needed seven tubes replaced. 

Then I saw pictures of the inside of those tubes. They were all rusted to one degree or another. I believe good fortune was smiling on me when I found the crack that lead me to remove my mount to send it for repair. 

Rust was clearly present in seven of the author’s engine mount tubes. They were all replaced by Loree Air.

Based on what I learned and saw, I recommend that owners send their engine mounts to a certified mount repair shop to get inspected, repaired-as-necessary and recertified whenever their engine is removed for overhaul.

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .


RESOURCES >>>>>

SAE 4130 STEEL TUBING – PFA SUPPORTERS
Acorn Welding

Aircraft Spruce and Specialty Co.
aircraftspruce.com/catalog/mepages/4130tubing_un1.php

Airparts Inc.

SAE 4130 STEEL TUBING – OTHER SUPPLIERS

Wicks Aircraft and Motorsports
wicksaircraft.com/tubing.html

SAE 4130 STEEL SHEETS – PFA SUPPORTER

Wilco Inc.

ENGINE MOUNT REPAIR – PFA SUPPORTERS
Acorn Welding Ltd.
acornwelding.com/products/engine-mounts.html

Aero Fabricators
(a division of Wag-Aero)
wagaero.com/repair-station/engine-mount-repair.html

OTHER ENGINE MOUNT REPAIR FACILITIES
Aerospace Welding Minneapolis
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Preparing for a Renovation

Preparing for a Renovation

 

Identifying squawks and properly sequencing your Piper refurbishment projects can save you time, money and aggravation.

So you’re now the proud, new owner of a not-so-new airplane that you plan to own for a long time. Fortunately, you properly vetted this new-to-you airplane during a thorough pre-purchase inspection, and you’re looking forward to renovating it into your ideal machine. The most important component in successfully making your dream a reality is to develop a cost-efficient, thorough and well-planned renovation plan.

A very important first step is to get to know the airplane before moving forward with major renovations and upgrades. I highly recommend that an owner fly their newly acquired airplane for at least a year and get it through its first annual inspection. 

Even though a thorough pre-purchase inspection was done, be prepared for that first annual to possibly cost 10 percent of what you paid for the airplane. I’ve made this statement several times in the past during seminar presentations. Looking out at the audience, it’s interesting to observe the various reactions this comment generates in the expressions of those seated in front of me. Surprised or shocked looks indicate non-owners considering their first purchase. Nods of agreement come from seasoned airplane owners.

Why such an expensive first annual? Good question. It’s only natural for an owner who is planning to upgrade to a different airplane in the foreseeable future to defer maintenance issues that can be safely put off, passing the expense on to the next owner. 

As you fly the airplane for that first year, it’s a good idea to keep a notebook with you. While comfortably cruising along, make detailed notes about things you would like to change to improve your experience in the airplane, as well as maintenance issues that may only be apparent in flight. 

Note such items as cabin and instrument lighting, storage, passenger restraint issues, potential heating and ventilation improvements, seating comfort, instrument panel layout, etc. Over a year or so, you will be surprised to realize the number of details that you will want to include in your wish list that you weren’t at all aware of when you purchased the airplane. 

I also think it’s a good idea to keep a small camera in the airplane and use it to capture images of paint jobs or interiors that you see and like; this can help you make better choices later. Designing a custom interior or paint job involves a lot of thought and planning. Having images of what you like will help the professionals you partner with to design and execute a project that will meet or exceed your expectations with no details overlooked.

The following is a list of sequenced projects that will lead to a thorough and high-quality renovation. We will cover all of these topics in greater detail in future articles to help you and your inspector find issues that could have been missed in earlier inspections.

AIRWORTHINESS ITEMS

• Engine

– Overhaul or upgrade

– More horsepower, turbocharger conversion

– Converting carbureted to fuel-injected

• Improved baffles

• Alternator and starter upgrades

• Cowling modifications

• Replace old hoses

Speed-enhancing full nosegear fairing.

 

SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS 

• Shoulder harnesses and belts

– Four-point vs. three-point

 

Four-point BAS inertia-reel harness.

– Inertia-reel vs. fixed harness

– Airbag belts

– Adding harnesses to center and aft seats

• Fire extinguisher

• Ballistic parachute

• Lighting

– LED beacons, nav and landing lights

• Modern flameproofed interior materials

• De-icing systems

• Backup instrument systems

 

AVIONICS UPGRADES

• How much digital automation is right for me?

• Keeping some existing analog equipment?

• What brand of equipment is the best investment?

• Instrument panel options

– Dealing with plastic panel overlays

– Converting to all-metal panels

– Panel lighting options

– Old circuit breakers and switches

– Autopilot options

– Onboard weather detection

 

Custom instrument panel in a Piper Lance. 

AIRFRAME PERFORMANCE

• Gap seals

• Fixed and retractable landing gear   

• Clean-up mods

• Auxiliary fuel systems

 

WINDOWS

• Windshield conversions

– One-piece vs. two-piece

• Thicker windows vs. standard thickness

• Tint options

• UV-reflective glass vs. standard

• Windows with opening vents

 

EXTERIOR PAINT

• Stripping vs. topcoat over existing paint

• Stripping options

– Alkaline vs. acid-based strippers

– Media blasting

– Ice crystal blasting

• Getting the right design

– Design it yourself

– Use a professional

• Finishing products best for aluminum airplanes

• Best finishes for fabric-covered airplanes

 

A Saratoga in the painting process.

 

INTERIOR

• Aging airplane issues

– Leaking windows

– Corroded structural components

– Glue-covered and corroded inner cabin skins

• Approved seat modifications

– Taller seat backs

– Adding headrests to older seats

– Installing late-model seats in older airplanes

• Side panel and armrest design

– Factory configuration

– Modified or upgraded

• Storage options

• Insulation options

• Ventilation upgrades

• Lighting upgrades

• Materials

– All-leather seats and side panels

– Fabric and vinyl seats and side panels

– All-vinyl seats and side panels

– Headliners

– Carpet

– Flameproofed materials and Federal regulations

• How much interior installation can an owner legally do?

– Using kits

– Partnering with a local upholstery shop

• Typical warranty coverages for various projects

 

New interior in an Archer, with ergonomic seats and custom side panels.

This list is not all-inclusive or cast in stone, but these various projects are loosely sequenced based on issues that could compromise previously completed work. For instance, old fuel cells that require replacement every 15 to 20 years should definitely be taken care of before a new paint job is done. The same is true for most window installations. If either of these two items are showing signs of aging and are likely to fail before that paint is in need of being done again, do the glass or fuel cells first.

All of this probably sounds complicated, expensive and time-consuming, and it is. Most owners stage these projects when it’s most convenient in their schedules or when they’ve recovered from the expense and downtime of the previous project. Additionally, many of these tasks can be partially or fully completed by an owner, saving money and giving one a real sense of accomplishment. In subsequent articles, I will describe some tricks we’ve discovered over the years that will help the do-it-yourselfers.

These kinds of restoration ventures don’t happen overnight. Air Mod was involved in completing five AOPA sweepstakes airplanes between 1994 and 2013. The time it took to complete most of these spinner-to-tailcone total renovations was close to a year, and they were not undertaken by only one shop. The “Better Than New 172” project in 1994 was a bit of a timing exception. The investment of long work days and seven-day work weeks resulted in a complete renovation that included avionics, autopilot, custom instrument panel, windows, custom leather interior with highly modified side panels, four-point inertia-reel harnesses, super soundproofing and a custom paint job, all of which took about five months to finish, as opposed to the more common 10 to 12 months.

Be prepared to face the realities of the time it takes to transform your airplane into your dream machine. Until next time, fly safe!

Industrial designer and aviation enthusiast Dennis Wolter is well-known for giving countless seminars and contributing his expertise about all phases of aircraft renovation in various publications. Wolter founded Air Mod in 1973 in order to offer private aircraft owners the same professional, high-quality work then only offered to corporate jet operators. Send questions or comments to .

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