My 1998 Annual

(Posted September 1998)

Last year, I posted the sad tale of the first annual of my Fly Baby. Instead of the $10 annuals to which the old club Fly Baby had accustomed me to, a bad exhaust valve had run up the cost considerably. Added to having to replace the Fly Baby's radio soon after purchase then have to get it repaired after a voltage problem, that first year of ownership added up to being pricey indeed.

(Then again, some people seemed to consider my total fixed costs (including hangar, insurance, and all repairs) of $2500 for the year as being not too shabby. Some people just like to throw money away, I guess.)

I'm happy to report that this year's annual showed things were back to Fly-Baby normal.

I'd made the long trip to the Chapter 292 Fly-In at Independence Oregon in lieu of starting the preparation for the annual, so the next day (Sunday) I got into it bright and early. I'd washed the plane prior to the flight to Oregon, so I could go right into cleaning up the engine.

One thing I'd wanted to do was to replace some of the rubber bushings on the engine mount. The forward ones were a bit cracked. It looked like the front ones could come off one-by-one without using an engine hoist, and that's what I was after. I'd posted a question about the ability/sanity of just replacing the forward bushings, and got split responses. After talking to my A&P, I decided to do it that way.

Accordingly, I had made the trip to the local parts house and picked up a set of bushings. The price made me cringe: $12 each.

But after cleaning up the engine and comparing the (installed) bushings to the ones I'd bought, I'd decided the parts house had blown it. The new ones were designed to install with a cone, and the ones on the plane were definitely of smaller diameter, and didn't use a cone.

I tabled the mount bushings question and continued with the annual. Instead of using LPS III to lube the hinges, controls, and linkages, this year I'd bought a can of Boeshield T-9. Might as well flip a couple of bucks back to the ol' employer.

The throttle and carb heat cables are held in place using combinations of clamps, and the clamps that held the assemblies to the engine mount were loose. I replace those and got things tight again. The back of the cabin-heat muffler showed a bit of rubbing from a too-tight hole in the lower cowling, so I made the opening a bit larger.

Other than that, nothing much seemed to be wrong. With my evenings a bit busy that week, I called my A&P buddy and made an appointment for his inspection the following Saturday. Since I didn't build Moonraker, an A&P has to perform the annual. I've got a good buddy who does the annual for free, though I usually give him a nice Christmas present in appreciation. He's a retired engineer who got his degree after maintaining Constellations and DC-6s in the 1950s. It's interesting to see his hands buried in a C-85 while he talks about the problems they had with the compound turbo-pratt whatevers.

During the week, I dropped by the parts store with the incorrect bushings. They found what they considered the right set...which were certainly right by me, as they cost only $1.70 rather than $12 each.

Saturday came, and I arrived at the airport several hours earlier to finish my pre-inspection and try install the bushings. I took all the inspection panels off so the plane would be ready when the A&P arrived. I changed the oil, vacuumed the cockpit, and wiped up the last traces of grease under the cowl. But I couldn't put it off any had to try tackle the bushings.

I was a bit nervous. The new bushings looked too small. If I munged up the existing bushing and it turned out that the supply house had (again!) given me the wrong bushing, the plane wouldn't be airworthy for the inspection. I didn't want to make the A&P's trip a wasted one.

I got the first nut off and was contemplating the bushing when an unusual engine sound came from the taxiway. Nothing loath to interrupt my work, I stuck my head around the corner of the hangar to look. It was a Vari-Viggen owned by a fellow Chapter member. He was just taxiing slowly past the rows of hangars eyeing the planes inside (who here HASN'T done that?). I stepped out and waved, and he turned down my row and taxied up and shut down.

Turns out he was just puttering around that afternoon, killing some time with his airplane. After the ramp rats had admired his Viggen for the appropriate length of time, we wandered back over to my engine mount bushings.

With him turning the head of the bolt with a wrench while I shoved on the end of the shank with a screwdriver, the bolt slowly slid out. Finally, I was able to reach in with the screwdriver and pop out the old bushings.

Whew. I installed a new bushing, tightened up the bolt, and we started on the second one.

Just then, the A&P arrived. He'd never seen a Viggen in person before, so he and the owner soon were clustered around the cockpit discussing the finer details.

I replaced the second bushing. I took the nut off one of the lower mounts, and, working on a hunch, fiddled with the bushing without trying to withdraw the bolt. Took a bit of work, but I was able to worm the old bushing out. By the time I'd done the last one, the A&P was ready for his inspection.

Compression check, first. After my valve problems last year, I was kinda on tiptoes. The engine was running strong, but it had been *last* year, too. Not to worry...all four cylinders were in the mid '70s.

One other thing I'd been wondering about: Last year, the cylinder specialist suggested I run the engine on 100LL for 50 hours to get a good layer of lead on the new valve guides. What was the higher lead content doing to the plugs? As it turned out, very little. There wasn't any lead sticking to them, as far as I could see.

The rest was anti-climactic. He complained that my control hinges looked dry, but I pointed out that I'd used the Boeshield rather than the old yellow LPS III. He wiggled the surface and agreed it moved very smoothly. He felt the rudder cables were coming too close to the plastic pitot/static lines and the run of wires to the headset jacks. He wondered aloud how long it'd been since anyone had checked the torque on the prop bolts (metal prop, not wood) so I pulled the skull-cap off, cut off the safety wire, then checked the torque and re-safetied the bolts.

And that was it. As he signed the logbooks, I buttoned the airplane back up. Around the pattern a couple of times to see if the major components hung together, and the annual was done.

Total cost: $7 for the bushings, $2 for the clamps, $7 for a new Bracket filter, plus a bit of safety wire, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and Simple Green cleaner. Round it off at twenty bucks.

Looking back through the logs, things were still a bit higher than I'd been used to. The previously-reported problems with the generator system had ended up costing about $70 for the generator rebuild (plus $35 for the regulator another shop had diagnosed as the problem). I'd spent about $12 for a sheet of birch plywood for my new instrument panel, plus about $5 more for nylon fittings and plastic tubing. I'd had the airspeed indicator rebuilt at the same time; that cost me about $110.

So let's add up this year's fixed expenses:

Annual: $20

Instrument panel materials: 15

Rebuild Airspeed indicator: 110

Generator Rebuild: 70

Insurance: 750 (Full coverage...went up $120!)

Hangar: 798 (Share hangar with T-18)

State Registration: 25


Total Fixed Costs: $1788 (Last years' was $2500)

With the 40 hours I flew last year, my fixed expenses came to about $45/flight hour. I'm still flying on 100LL, so my direct cost is about $12/hour.

Anyway, my total ownership costs last year, including 40 hours of flight time, came to about $2300.

Less than $60 an hour, and I can fly anytime I want, as long as my rear end can stand it.

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