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AirVenture Roadmap

AirVenture Roadmap

A report on the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, a recap of Oshkosh—and tips to help you plan your next trip.

Based on what I saw (and a lot of the things I didn’t have the energy or time to see this year), AirVenture is now officially on the aviation must-do map like it’s never been before. I have no doubt that whatever in aviation holds your interest, you’ll be able to find it, learn more about it or do it at AirVenture. 

The Gathering 

One of the many benefits of being a Piper Flyer Association member is The Gathering at Waupaca.

More than 70 PFA members started arriving early for The Gathering at the Waupaca Municipal Airport in Wisconsin (KPCZ) on Friday, July 20. The official welcome reception barbecue took place 24 hours later on Saturday afternoon, at a hangar at the airport. 

Waupaca is 29 nm northwest of Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh (KOSH), the site of AirVenture. Since most inbound traffic to AirVenture is over there, flying into Waupaca is stress-free (relatively speaking) compared to the infamous Fisk VFR arrival process onto the grounds at AirVenture. 

Waupaca has an RNAV approach to the runway down to 500 and a mile. It’s also so much easier to depart from Waupaca when it’s time to finally head home. There’s none of that 22-airplanes-ahead-of-you conga line action, and Waupaca’s Avgas price is quite reasonable ($4.10 per gallon when I was there). 

Jennifer and Kent arrange ground transportation for members landing at KPCZ to and from the event hotel, the Par 4 Resort. But that’s not all.

The cost of The Gathering this year was a measly $110 for early registrants and $125 for those that missed the early opportunity. Where I live—and it is expensive here in California—it’s pretty easy to spend that many dollars for a good meal with wine for two. The Gathering bucks are a prudent outlay, since they include three meals, bus transportation back and forth to AirVenture for the first three days of the show, and maintenance and product seminars all day Sunday.

The Gathering provides a great value and a convenient way for members to meet other Piper owners, trade flying stories, compare purchases and get to and from AirVenture. Oh, and Gathering members are automatically entered in the door prize raffle Sunday afternoon after the presentations. This year, every Gathering attendee took home at least one door prize. It’s a can’t-lose deal.

Hotel costs for PFA members in Waupaca average a little over $125 per night for a room with two beds at the Comfort Suites Foxfire. 

For the first three days of the show, members can eat a free breakfast at the hotel and then board a bus to be whisked to Oshkosh. Then in the afternoon, after adventuring, shopping, learning and getting together with old friends, everyone gets back on the bus for a no-stress ride back to the hotel in Waupaca. 

This arrangement is one of the most stress-free ways to “do” AirVenture and is so cost-effective that fly-in members who attend The Gathering can scratch the cost of car rental off their AirVenture budget sheet. 

One-day admission tickets to AirVenture in 2018 were $34 for EAA members and weekly passes were $125. Ticket costs were around 30 percent higher for non-members. 

The Gathering at Waupaca group poses with their raffle prizes. Each attendee went home with something.
Lunch on Sunday of the Gathering, one of three meals included for Gathering attendees.

 

A&P/IA Steve Ells discussed owner-performed maintenance at this year’s Gathering.
A little bit of weather

Despite weather cells that dumped buckets of rain in the Oshkosh area Friday and overcast skies Saturday that slowed AirVenture-bound arrivals to a trickle prior to the official start of the show Monday, over 10,000 airplanes eventually touched down and stayed for at least a day. 

The numbers and facts about AirVenture 2018 are getting close to hard-to-believe. Attendance increased again, as more than 601,000 folks from all corners of the United States and many foreign countries passed through the gates during the seven-day show. Campers in tents and motorhomes packed over 12,600 sites. The number of show planes reached 2,979, and there were 867 commercial exhibitors spread across the width and breadth of the grounds. 

I especially like the opportunities available at AirVenture to approach and get to know the vendors that provide information on everything from fuel cells to avionics, ADS-B options, Rajay turbocharger systems and whatever else could interest a pilot/owner. (For a list of the speakers at the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, see Page 52. —Ed.)

If you seek face-to-face discussions with vendors of the products you use, or are planning to upgrade your airplane, interior, paint or avionics, the opportunity to confer with and compare information from vendors across the board is one of the biggest reasons I like AirVenture. 

An original Gloster Meteor came from the United Kingdom to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF at AirVenture.
AirVenture offers daily airshows. The Candian Harvard Aerobatic team performed for a record-setting crowd in 2018.

 

A walk around the grounds

Passes can be purchased online (and printed at home) or on-site near the main gate. You’ll take your ticket to a booth near the main gate in exchange for a wristband. An EAA staff member will put it on for you. It’s your gate pass for the day, days or week. Once you have a wristband, there are other show entry points. (A link to a map of the AirVenture grounds is in Resources.—Ed.)

Be sure to gather your group together for a photo under the big sign that marks the entrance. From there, the show spreads out as you walk east along Celebration Way toward Boeing Plaza where the really big and significant airplanes are parked. Most of the big companies (Piper, Lycoming, Continental, etc.) exhibit on or near Celebration Way. 

Four large buildings (A, B, C and D), located halfway to Boeing Square, are where you’ll find a tight concentration of vendors. After passing through Boeing Square, you’ll arrive at Wittman Way. A left turn will take you to the Homebuilt and Warbird areas; a right turn will lead to the Vintage and Ultralight display airplanes. 

The Piper Flyer Association booth had a new location in 2018: Hangar C, Booth 3126.
BendixKing announced its new product lines and subscription plan for avionics equipment.

 

The AirVenture app

Anyone attending AirVenture will benefit greatly by downloading the AirVenture app onto a smartphone. The app lists the location of all the vendors and provides information about buses (not the Gathering bus) that run regularly to the seaplane base and stores near the site.

The app helps users distill the event into manageable portions. There’s so much to do and so much to learn that I believe it’s impossible to take it all in during one week. 

Want to learn to weld; work wood, sheet metal and composites; tear down and reassemble a Lycoming engine; catch up on no-lead 100-octane Avgas progress; learn how to grow your EAA chapter; explore an ag pilot career; learn how to efficiently lean your engine or any of a thousand other topics and subjects? 

You’ll need a roadmap so the next shiny airplane or gadget doesn’t pull you off your path. That’s where the app comes in. Select the events, vendors or demonstrations that interest you, and they’re moved to a day-by-day calendar in the app. 

The app also provides information about the free shuttles that run often to different areas on the grounds. Unless you have the endurance of a triathlete, the shuttles are a must if for nothing more than touring the different reaches of all that is AirVenture. 

The latest in…ADS-B

Foreflight and Sporty’s introduced Sentry, an ADS-B In receiver that has it all. Features include a 12-hour battery life (so there’s no need to plug into a backup battery during a long cross-country), a pressure altitude sensor, weather replay, a backup attitude source (AHARS), a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm and a built-in WAAS GPS. Every Sentry is shipped with a RAM suction cup mount and will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network. Price is $499.

 

The Sentry ADS-B In receiver will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network.
…head-up displays

Head-up displays (HUD) got a lot of attention at AirVenture, and at least three companies had HUD products on display. While I’m not an active IFR pilot, I can see how a HUD would be a real asset while flying a low IFR approach.

The Epic Optix Epic Eagle 1 connects to all major electronic flight bag (EFB) apps from either an iOS or Android phone or tablet via Wi-Fi. The Epic Eagle 1 displays a wealth of flight data, including synthetic vision, onto an infinity-focused screen that is part of the 1.6-pound unit that mounts on the airplane glareshield. The unit measures 7.8 inches by 12.8 inches by 4.7 inches. The Epic Eagle 1 was sold at AirVenture for $1,699. (Currently, it’s listed for $1,799 on the Epic Optix website.—Ed.) 

The Epic Eagle 2 connects to modern avionics equipment through both Wi-Fi and HDMI and is now set up for the Garmin G1000. The Epic Eagle 2 requires the installation of a GPU (3.7 inches by 2.8 inches by 1.5 inches). It has more capabilities and costs more than the Epic Eagle 1. The HUD is $1,999 and the GPU is $1,500. (This version is not yet listed on Epic Optix’s website.—Ed.)

According to the FAQs on the company website, approval is not needed to install or use the Epic Eagle. It is secured on the glareshield using a variety of mounts. Power (it draws less than 2 amps) is supplied through a cable to the airplane cigarette lighter. According to Epic Optix, a USB power port does not supply enough power for operation. 

Textron Aviation is listing the Epic Eagle on the options list for new Beech and Cessna aircraft. If it works at all well, it seems to be a bargain at $1,999. 

The MGF SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 was also featured at AirVenture. The system projector is mounted to the roof of the cabin; the screen is suspended from an arm that’s connected to the projector. Information from installed avionics is fed through a display processor before being sent as video to the projector. Certification is expected in late 2018. Prices start at around $15,000.

The SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 from MyGoFlight is expected to be certified in late 2018.

The Valkyrie HUD from Alpha System AOA is a glareshield-mounted “adjustable beam splitter” that provides a small head-up type display for either of the Alpha Systems angle-of-attack indicators. 

…com radios

I noticed a couple of new small-footprint com radios from Trig Avionics and TQ General Aviation. Both companies sell very capable coms that can be mounted in a round 2.25-inch hole—the small-sized instrument hole that’s often used for a clock. 

…electronic ignition systems

The team at Electroair announced two advances. First off, the company’s EA15000 ignition switch panel is now approved to replace all key-type magneto switches. The EA15000 can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Removal of the key switch system eliminates AD 93-05-06, a recurrent AD for certain Piper ignition switches. 

Electroair also announced it has obtained approval to install its electronic ignition system on turbocharged Lycoming engines (TIO-540, TIO-541 and TIGO-540 series) and on classic Continental engines (O-300, GO-300, E-165, E-185 and E-225).

…electronic flight instruments

Aspen Avionics introduced its low-cost building-block Evolution E5 Dual Electronic Flight Instrument (EFI), which takes the place of both the vacuum-driven artificial horizon and directional gyro instruments. The E5 Dual EFI has a backup battery to power the unit if aircraft power is lost and provides ARINC 429 and RS-232 busses that allow it to interface with some autopilots. 

In addition to a built-in air data computer and attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS), the E5 can be reconfigured and upgraded to include all the features of the Evolution 1000 Pro and further to the Pro Plus PFD, which features an angle-of-attack indicator and ADS-B and synthetic vision capabilities. Aspen also announced improvements to customers’ previously-installed Evolution flight display units. The E5 EFI is approved for installation under an STC and is priced at $4,995. 

...100-octane Avgas

Don’t expect PAFI to approve a new unleaded 100-octane Avgas soon.

The testing protocol administered by the Piston Aircraft Fuels Initiative (PAFI) was suspended in June 2018. Neither of the two candidate fuels—Shell and Swift—proved able to meet all the requirements. 

Consequently, the FAA invited other fuel providers to submit fuels. Phillips 66 and Afton Chemical announced that they had teamed up to create their version of an unleaded 100-octane Avgas. According to the presentation, the Phillips/Afton fuel will be almost identical to today’s 100LL except that a manganese additive (HiTec®3000) will be blended instead of lead. 

…Rajay turbocharger parts

If you’ve been looking for a source for new parts for your Rajay supercharger installation, look to Rajay Turbo Products. The company is also working to supply a hose kit that would terminate the repetitive five-year inspections required by AD 81-19-04.

I admit this is not a very comprehensive report, so I suggest you start saving now to get yourself to the 50th anniversary of AirVenture in 2019. I can guarantee EAA will be pulling out all the stops.

As I write this in mid-August 2018, there are only 49 weeks and one day before the show starts July 22, 2019. Attendees and show volunteers will begin arriving days and even weeks before the start date. 

At my age, I live by the rule, “The days seem long, but the years whiz by.” Now is the time to start making plans to attend AirVenture 2019. 

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 >>>>>

EAA AIRVENTURE INFO

AirVenture app
Along-the-route special offers for AirVenture-bound fliers
AirVenture grounds map

THE GATHERING

Piper Flyer Association
piperflyer.org

ADS-B 

ForeFlight, LLC. (Sentry)

HEAD-UP DISPLAYS

Epic Optix (Epic Eagle 1 and 2)
MGF (SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180)
Alpha Systems AOA (Valkyrie HUD)

COM RADIOS

Trig Avionics Limited
trig-avionics.com

TQ Systems GmbH/TQ General Aviation
tq-general-aviation.com

ELECTRONIC IGNITION

Electroair
electroair.net

ELECTRONIC FLIGHT INSTRUMENTS

Aspen Avionics Inc.
aspenavionics.com

TURBOCHARGER PARTS

Talco Aviation/Rajay Turbo Products
Q&A: PA-34 Leaky Door Seals & Bouncing Fuel Gauges, PA-28R Main Gear Sidebrace Studs

Q&A: PA-34 Leaky Door Seals & Bouncing Fuel Gauges, PA-28R Main Gear Sidebrace Studs

Q: Hi Steve,

Couple of questions for you. I own a 1975 Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II Turbo. I have air leaks through the pilot entrance door. We’ve put in a new seal and adjusted it, but it still leaks. We think if we replaced the windlace with a new, more supple one that it would take care of the problem. Can you tell me where I could purchase this product? 

I also have a fuel gauge problem on the right engine. It does not indicate accurately and will vary between full and empty and anywhere between. What would be the best way to repair this problem? I read in your October 2016 issue on the Seneca II that Michael has had problems with this also. (See Resources for a link to the story. —Ed.)

I live in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and fly out of Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport (KGWS). The runway is 3,300 feet by 50 feet, at 5,916 feet msl. The Seneca II operates very well here. Love this PA-34; it performs everything
I ask of it.

I appreciate any advice you can give me.

Darwin

 

A: Hi Darwin,

Glad you like your Seneca. I wish I had one. 

The two companies that sell a variety of door seals are Brown Aircraft in Jacksonville, Florida, and Aircraft Door Seals in Wisconsin. I don’t have enough experience with these companies to recommend one over the other, but I believe both will send you a sample of the seal they recommend for your airplane so you can take a look at it. (Aircraft Door Seals is a Piper Flyer supporter. —Ed.)

I do know that Dennis Wolter of Air Mod, who is now writing for Piper Flyer, sometimes has to “build up” the surface behind the seal to get the seal he wants. Wolter uses flat rubber sheets in different thicknesses. He and his staff trim and adjust to get the proper build up. That tells me that you can have a very good length of seal, but you may still have to spend time tuning the installation to get the sealing you want. 

As far as your bouncing fuel gauge, it can be a couple of things. 

It can be problems with the gauge itself. Remove the signal wire at the sender and, while watching the gauge, touch the signal wire to the body of the fuel sender assembly. If the gauge is good, the needle should move smoothly from empty to full. If there’s hesitation or nonlinear needle movement, it’s probably a malfunction in the gauge.

If that looks good, you can test the fuel level sender by flying until the fuel level is below half so you can look inside the tank to locate the sender float.

Remove the signal wire from the sender. Then, by reaching in through the filler, use a safe tool to move the float on the sender arm up and down while an ohmmeter is attached to the signal stud on the sender. The varying resistance seen on the meter should be smooth and linear as the float is moved. I’ve used a long, smooth wooden dowel to move the float.

Other than visually inspecting the signal wire for bare spots—which is impossible in some installations—if you can find no other explanation for the bouncy needle, replacing the wire is probably the best solution. 

One option if you determine it’s the sender is to order new senders from CiES. They are much better and more accurate than the original Piper senders, and are FAA approved for installation on your Seneca. The CiES fuel level senders rely on a magnetic connection between the float arm and the signal arm. This type of connection eliminates corrosion and wear problems in the senders and provides a very linear signal. CiES senders are compatible with a wide variety of gauges and engine monitors.

Happy flying,

Steve

Aircraft Door Seals, a PFA supporter, will send prospective customers a sample of the seal material best suited for their aircraft.

Q: Hi Steve, 

Every 500 hours, my 1971 PA-28R-200 Arrow requires a removal and inspection of the main sidebrace bracket assembly to comply with an AD. My time has come...and apparently, it’s a bit of a job to remove these brackets. 

My A&P mentioned that if the brackets are replaced by those from a PA-32, then they will not require inspection again. The part numbers he provided me are: Part No. 95643-06/-07/-08/-09. I’ve found some new, but they are over $2,000 each! Any assistance locating some reasonably-priced alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

Pete

 

A: Hi Pete,

Your mechanic is referring to AD 97-01-01 R1. The title is “Main Gear Sidebrace Stud.” It calls for removal and inspection of the sidebrace studs. 

The initial inspection does not require the purchase of anything.

I suggest you remove the sidebrace stud brackets. It’s an easy task in my PA-24 which is also affected by the same sidebrace stud inspection as your PA-28R. 

After you remove the sidebrace stud brackets, remove the stud from the brackets and get your mechanic to find a shop near where you live that can do the fluorescent penetrant inspection or the magnaflux inspections called for in the AD. I believe all aircraft engine shops have the tooling to perform the magnaflux inspections. 

If you don’t find any cracks, reinstall the stud in the brackets and reinstall the brackets in the aircraft. Fly for another 500 hours and repeat. When I did the inspection on my PA-24, there were no cracks in either of my studs. 

The AD provides two ways to comply if cracks are found in either of your sidebrace studs. 

First, since the original-sized stud is no longer available, owners have the option of installing a larger stud in the original bracket after installing a new bushing and machining the larger stud to work with the original bracket and new bushing. 

Piper Flyer Association member Jason Williams added this on the PiperFlyer.org forum: “You can buy the new 5/8-inch stud (Piper Part No. 78717-02) and bushing (Piper Part No. 67026-12), along with the washers, roll pin and nut for around $700. A good machine shop should be able to ream and chamfer your bracket to accept the new parts.”

Thanks, Jason, your help is appreciated.

The second option is to buy new brackets, studs and bushings, and install these parts. 

As far as buying less expensive parts, that’s not as easy as it once was. Piper now sells its parts through Aviall, a national parts house. 

You may find the parts you need through an internet search or used from a salvage yard (see Resources for more information on how to locate parts and parts suppliers —Ed.) but they will have to be inspected in accordance with the AD prior to installation.

Let me know what the inspection turned up.

Happy flying,

Steve

AD 97-01-01 R1 calls for removal and inspection of the sidebrace studs for Piper PA-24, PA-28R, PA-30, PA-32R, PA-34 and PA-39 series airplanes.

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work.

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 >>>>>

DOOR SEALS 

Aircraft Door Seals – PFA supporter
Brown Aircraft 

FUEL SENDERS 

CiES Inc. – PFA supporter

PIPER PARTS AND SPARES 

Piper Flyer Yellow Pages
Piper Flyer parts locating request form (must be logged in)

NEW PIPER PARTS

Aviall

FURTHER READING

“Life with a Seneca II” by Michael Leighton
Piper Flyer, October 2016
AD 97-01-01 R1, “Main Gear Sidebrace Stud”
Piper Flyer forum (must be logged in)
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
awi-ami.com

Loree Air Inc.
loreeair.com

ANTI-CORROSION SPRAY
ITW Pro Brands
lpslabs.com 

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