Lancair Owners and Builders Organization

Deferred Maintenance

by bob pastusek

Notwithstanding the Lancair Corporation’s recent success in selling new Makos, the Lancair fleet is getting older, and our individual aircraft need a bit more attention than when they were new. This sounds pretty “common sense,” but is easy to ignore–until that uh oh moment.

There are many excellent resources available to help you maintain your Lancair, even though some needed parts may be scarce or expensive. The new owners of Lancair Inc. are getting up to speed quickly in both expertise and capability. It’s probably not economical or even good sense for them to stock every part for every model of aircraft, but they’ve so far been successful in finding suppliers for parts they don’t have in stock, and to “farm out” fabrication work they can’t do in-house. LancairTalk remains a widely-used and excellent source of information, and many have had good luck obtaining hard-to-find kit components there. As with all open forums, some of the recommendations and advice I read there is cringeworthy, but invariably someone steps in to offer good alternatives. Your task is to use good judgment–that state of mind that usually follows use of poor judgment…

One result of being a member of the LOBO Board–and still able to use my IV-P after ten years and 1600 hours of pure flying enjoyment–is that I get to talk to a lot of you about maintenance issues. Some are true head-scratchers for me and the owner/maintainer, but in almost all cases someone in our community has “seen it before,” and has the answer you need–but only if you ask the question. Not too subtle, but this is a hint: don’t guesstimate, or rely on an A&P mechanic who has no experience with Lancairs to guesstimate! If you have a question you can’t answer please contact me, another trusted Lancair owner, Lancair Inc., one of the growing group of skilled and knowledgeable vendors supporting our community, or post it on LancairTalk.

If you built your airplane you likely have good judgement about the criticality of a given maintenance issue. But builders now represent less than 50% of current owners; most of you purchased your aircraft, and your numbers are growing. That means many of you must rely on common sense–or the prickly hairs on the back of your neck–to tell you that things are not right with your airplane. I’d like to list a few things that should qualify.

Any shimmy of the landing gear (especially the nose wheel) during takeoff or landing is a serious issue. This will cause the gear/linkage to fail in very short order and dump the aircraft on the ground. Any installed instrumentation that whose indications are suspect is reason to carefully consider the implications. Instrument failures–usually the sensors/probes–are to be expected as your aircraft ages, but those instruments are your first signal of more serious problems, and you paid good money to have this information. And by the way, some, such as oil pressure and fuel quantity, are airworthiness requirements. What “common sense” reason could there be for ignoring or failing to repair your installed instrumentation?

Engine set-up/tuning is next on my list of “biggies.” Aircraft engines are remarkably reliable and almost bullet-proof as long as they are installed, set up and maintained with some diligence. Our big-bore Continentals and Lycomings are particularly sensitive to timing and fuel system calibration. Even slight errors in these can significantly affect engine operating temperatures, and can destroy the engine in short order if significantly out of spec.

Hopefully your already know that LOBO assembled and offers for loan specialized engine tune-up equipment. Our engine kits were specifically put together to set up the fuel system on big-bore Continentals, but they include other equipment, such as compression testers, borescopes, digital tachometers and prop balancers that help you maintain your engine in top condition. These kits include detailed instructions on their use, but I strongly recommend you get an experienced aircraft engine mechanic to help if you are not familiar with aircraft engine tuning. The kits contain calibrated gauges and test equipment that is very useful for calibrating/verifying your cockpit instrumentation. We now have a high-quality borescope specifically equipped for inspection of turbine hot-section components. We charge a small fee for use of these kits; click here, call or write to me and I’ll ship one to you ASAP.

I have recently seen significant instrument display errors when owners upgrade their panels without correctly calibrating their installed sensors to the new displays. This is easy to miss during system set-up, especially if you use your still-serviceable original sensors (such as oil and fuel pressure) with the new panel. If they work at all, these often show up as scaling errors on your cockpit display. The best way to confirm your instrument readings is with a calibrated, direct-reading gauge, such as those found in the LOBO maintenance kits.

This is already more than some of you will read, but if you’re still with me, the bottom line is that your Lancair can–and should–fly like a magic carpet. If it doesn’t, you owe it to yourself–and your family–to make it so. LOBO, other organizations and LOTS of current/past Lancair owners are available and willing to help.  You only need to ask…

For questions/comments on this post contact Bob via email: