Project update

Jon Swenson

As I am not the best at keeping in touch I am writing to update the group and reassure you all that I am still in the game and plugging along.  Thanks for the encouragement, knowledge and enthusiasm this group provides it is greatly needed as I am running out of some of those.I have been working on a TriQ  project since i bought it in 2002.  It has a Corvair engine and I achieved the initial airworthiness certs in 2015.  I have been working on a number of squawks since then and last fall  proceeded to what I hoped to be my first flight only to discover more problems that had to be dealt with. It has been a much longer haul than I ever anticipated. I am a low time pilot and as my next first flight looms in front of me I have more concern of the outcome than I did when I started this project.  Having said that to prepare for the first flight this fall I flew for ten hours with a flight instructor in a Cherokee 180.  My FI, Gary, was very helpful and allowed me to fly the Piper without flaps for T/O or landing.  This meant our T/O was around 85 knots,  downwind about 120, final at  100 and landing at about 85.  My home base (KLVN) has a 4000' runway and up here on the north plains we are blessed with lots of good crosswinds.  My instructor felt that I flew in the crosswinds as good or better than when it was calm.  I logged more than fifty takeoffs and landings in ten hours and felt pretty prepared for my first flight attempt.  

The day was clear and sunny with light winds and somewhat cool.  My ground crew arrived a little late but we were still ready to go by 0900.  I had taxied over to the fuel pumps and filled my header tank before they arrived. My engine was hot when I tried to start it for the flight and it would not start.  This was a problem I have subsequently fixed,  more on that later. In the process of trying to start the engine the battery wore down so we had to recharge it for an hour.  By 1030 I was ready to try again.  The run up was normal so I called runway 30 and taxied on and pushed the throttle full ahead.  I accelerated quickly and about 1500' down the runway the nose wheel  got light and suddenly started a strong shimmy.  I backed off the accelerator and it went away I applied full power again and received the same results.  By this point I was Way down the runway, too far but I decided  to abort anyway.  The brakes in my airplane have never impressed me as being overly adequate but I pushed as hard as I could.  The end of the runway came and went and I was still traveling 30 knots.  Out onto the grass we went the VASI posts were coming up so i steered to the right,  Beyond the lights there is a country road that is raised and so makes a pretty effective end barrier to the airport. I steered harder to the right and the plane rolled around in a half circle and stopped about twenty yards from this road.  I gave my ground crew a call that I was alright but by then they were barreling along the adjacent road and over to me.  I shut the engine down got out and we  inspected the airplane briefly and found no more damage than some grass stuck in the wheel pants.  I was quite impressed at how well the Q  performed on the grass which was mowed but somewhat uneven.  In all honesty I had never anticipated ever running it on grass so that was informative.  The engine being very hot wouldn't restart so we slung a tow strap around the front gear and pulled it back to the taxiway with the chase car where we hand pushed it back to the hanger.  I locked the bird up and we went home to think about all that had happened.  
When I got back to the hanger I removed the cowl and wheel pants and found no damage to anything so that was a relief.  Upon reflection of this first attempt I realized that I had expected the Q to "fly off" without much back pressure so when it didn't I was surprised.  I had done a lot of high speed taxi runs up to 65 knots and never had the nose wheel shimmy so that was my second surprise.  During these tests I thought that it felt  that it was close to lift off but didn't push it.  After a few days I called Kevin B (The Iowa crowd, Kevin, Paul and Terry have been my main source of information and support and I envy them their close knit friendships.  I greatly  appreciate all they have helped me with) and we had a good long talk where he straightened me  out about the need for firm back pressure.  He also reminded me to check the "Jesus" nut on the front gear for 14#'s of breakout pressure.   I found it was set at about four!  At one point in the building process after I had installed the new gear I had to move the plane around in my very tight work space and I had loosened it and forgot about it.  (I now know why there are large orange tags hanging off the airplanes at work with notes of tasks to be performed before the plane is inspected or released)   
The whole hard starting engine situation was very concerning so I had my friend Mike Hilger who is an RV pilot and tech counselor take a look at it.  After looking things over and doing some research  he told me that the serial number of my MS 3PA carb was for an 0300 not an 0200.  (This was entirely my own fault.  I had purchased this carb from a person who had advertised that it was for an 0200.  In my own naive way I didn't double check it.)  I reached out to the Q list and got some leads on a replacement.  Sam H had one available and after a few days of checking local sources I made a deal with him.   My next trip to the hanger I swapped out the carbs.  At some point in my building I had read that I needed to have a fuel pressure regulator inline. Mike Hilger pointed out that  that was wrong for this carburetor and also part of my fuel delivery problem.  I removed the regulator system and re-plumbed the fuel system accordingly. These modifications made a dramatic difference.  The engine starts on the first or second blade, cold or hot and CHT's are lower.  

By now fall had faded away  and winter had arrived which posed the next obstacle to my progress.  An idiosyncrasy of the Corvair engine is the fifth bearing.  This was not part of the program when I begin the project and decided on using a Corvair.  it came much later as a result of a tendency for the Corvair to break crankshafts.  I dutifully installed one as per the notam from the Corvair Guru.  After the fact I received a communication from the Fifth bearing manufacturer that the front seal of the bearing may fail if you try to start the engine below forty degrees.  I live in Minnesota.  Needless to say any thoughts of flying have been put off until the spring.  If I had it to do it over I would not use the Corvair.  It has been far more trouble than the lower expense it seemed to offer at the time.  Having said that I plan to get more transition training fix the inevitable squawks and give her another go this summer.


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