AOPA's Win a Six in '06 Sweepstakes - Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

November 11, 2009

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August 30
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The Six's Tricks:
PS Engineering's PMA8000B

A casual glance at the PMA8000B would lead you to believe that it is "just" an audio selector panel. It's that all right, but much more. It has many feature and functions, and here are a few that I've found especially intriguing. Go to the Web site for a look at the 8000B's operating manual and a complete recounting of its capabilities.

First off, there's the IntelliVox automatic squelch feature, a PS Engineering innovation dating back to 1997. With IntelliVox, you don't have to manually set squelch levels. It happens automatically. This means that when you adjust the squelch, switch to a different headset, or when the background noise level changes, IntelliVox is there, working in the background and requiring no pilot input.

Ever miss a radio call? I sure have. To play back the last radio messages instantly - up to 45 seconds' or 16 messages' worth - just press the associated Com receive button for a second. Now you can review the latest transmissions, both yours and ATC's.

A small jack to the right of the panel gives you even more capability. The jack will accept plugs from iPods, cell phones, or a Garmin 396 or 496. The latter function lets you listen to traffic or terrain warnings from these portable units, via your headset. If you have an XM music subscription for those units, then the music can play through the same connection. With a cell phone plugged in, press the TEL button and you are now connected to your phone. Depending upon the intercom mode, you can select who has access to the telephone. So party line calls involving all passengers - or private calls involving you alone - are all available with the PMA8000B. This phone capability is a terrific way to receive IFR clearances and releases at many smaller airports.

Then there is the Smart Function Key (SFK), with its customizable functions labeled A, B, and C. A lets you control the distribution of the inputs from the utility jack. Function B lets you customize how the intercom will function. For example, you can set up the PMA8000B so that the passengers will not hear the aircraft radio while everybody in the airplane can still speak with each other. However, when the aircraft radio becomes active, the audio from the aft-seat passengers is muted to the pilot and copilot. Function C sets up how the music #1 and #2 input jacks will distribute the entertainment (from PS Engineering's PAV80 entertainment unit, also installed on the Win-A-Six in the form of three LCD screens for viewing DVD movies).

Of course, while all this may be playing as you fly, sound is muted automatically when there's a transmission to or from ATC - or over the intercom; unless you press the Mute button to engage the "Karaoke Mode," as PS Engineering calls it. Then the music will no longer mute, keeping the music level at a continuous level.

Flying with the PMA8000B has been a great experience. PS Engineering has authored lots of audio innovations, and I can say it's not for innovation's sake, but to solve common audio problems that pilots face in the cockpit. - TAH

We've all heard that saying, haven't we? Well, nowhere is it more applicable than in the restoration of a 40-year-old airplane. At each stage of the Six in '06 restoration process, we've had the predictable share of surprises, disappointments, and other head-scratching moments. The latest turn of events started with a phone call from Dick Guenther, proprietor of our paint shop - Dial Eastern States Aircraft Painting, Inc. Desapi, for short.

But let's back up a bit and set the stage. Right after the EAA AirVenture (still known to most of us as simply "Oshkosh") I flew the Win-A-Six to Desapi's paint shop in Cadiz, Ohio. Desapi is located right on the Harrison County Airport (8G6), and its business presence fairly dominates the whole scene there. It was a three-hour flight made at 7,000 feet and 58-percent power; true airspeeds worked out to be 135 knots - even at this reduced power setting. It was only at this lower power setting that cylinder head temperatures stayed under control. The hot-CHT problem has been discussed before, but to be concise let me say that cowling changes to the original LoPresti cowl should improve CHT cooling and bring temperatures down to tolerable levels. The main cowling change is an enlargement of the cooling inlets, and new, tighter baffling seals immediately aft of these engine cooling inlets.

Oh, what a landing...
For the arrival at 8G6, the weather was 1,000 feet overcast with light winds. A late-morning mist was burning off, and visibilities were advertised as three miles - based on the nearest ASOS reporting site at the Wheeling, West Virginia airport..

Out came the approach charts, and I set up the panel for the VOR-A approach that would terminate with a circle-to-land to Harrison County's Runway 31. The Sandel SN3500 EHSI worked flawlessly, as did the Meggitt/S-Tec autopilot, and together with the situational awareness provided by the Avidyne EX500 multifunction display and the dual Garmin GNS 530/430 setup, the approach went very well indeed. Harrison County doesn't report surface weather, so the EX500's satellite datalink weather system picked up the nearest source of ASOS information - from Wheeling.

Harrison County is situated amidst fields and rolling hills - terrain that is actually reclaimed strip mines. On final for Runway 31, stabilized at 90 mph with flaps set at the second notch, the bottom suddenly dropped out at about 30 feet agl. Airspeed dropped 10 knots, the ship entered a high sink rate, and yawed to the right as it weathervaned into shifting winds. Obviously, those hills were creating wind shear and wind "shadows" that denied me what had been - up to that point - a tame, steady headwind.

The result was a clumsy arrival. I plopped it on after rescuing the sink rate with a big gob of power from the 260-hp Lycoming O-540, and muscling the controls so that the nose pointed straight down the runway - well almost straight down the runway. It all goes to show that, big and bulky as the Six may be, it still can be remarkably nimble when handled aggressively in adverse wind conditions near the surface.

When you make a landing like that, someone's always watching. But this time I got away with no witnesses. I think. Desapi's Dick (father) and Rich (son) Guenther laughed when I fessed up about the wild approach. "That wind always screws everybody up," they said. "The trick is to land long." Which is feasible, owing to Runway 31's uphill slope.

Cowl and interior update
The Guenthers wasted no time in removing the LoPresti cowl and sending it back for the aforementioned modifications. The front baffling was also shipped. Within a week, the reworked cowl was back at Desapi. I'm certainly hoping for the promised, 20- to 30-degree drop in CHTs.

At the same time, the front seats were removed and shipped to Aircraft Interiors of Memphis, where Jimmy Jones and his crew will reupholster and recover them to match the aft and center seats. Jimmy reports that the new interior plastic components have been received from Vantage Plane Plastics. Thanks again to Vantage's Tyson Tucker for his help in providing this massive package of plastic trim - it includes much more than you'd think: fuel selector console, window reveals, and much, much more.

Meanwhile, Dick Russ of Aircraft Door Seals, LLC has shipped his door seals to Desapi. These tight-fitting seals keep out wind noise and do a great job of making a tight seal against the elements. Lexan strips at the doorsills prevent damage from people and cargo ingressing and egressing the cabin. The seal material bonds to the door frames - not the doors - and is made of a form-fitting composition originally designed for the space program. Anyone with an older Cherokee really ought to call Dick and check out his seals. Go to the Web site for more information.

Finally, Saircorp's custom center console is being finished. It's been painted to match the Six's new paint job, and sent to Aircraft Interiors. A field approval is still in the works, so we'll need a designated engineering representative (DER) to sign off the console in order to make it legal. (Center consoles weren't offered in early Cherokee Sixes).

Surprise, surprise...
Now, back to that phone call we talked about earlier. Actually, there were two in a row.

First, Dick Guenther called with a question: "Hey, have you been using the primer to start that thing?"

"Why, yes, Dick. Why do you ask?"

"Well, the primer lines are busted. You've been spraying raw gas into the engine compartment!"

"You gotta be kidding."

"No, buddy. But don't worry. I'll fix 'em."

Well, that was one more squawk up, and one more off the list. But Dick's next call made me think of that trip to Tahiti I've been putting off:

"Hey, someone drilled a hole in that stabilator! And there's hail damage on one side of the stabilator. And there's a whole bunch of putty, bondo, whatever, inside the stabilator."

As part of stripping the airframe of its old paint, Guenther discovered that the airplane's stabilator had been somehow damaged in the past. Whoever covered up the damage did a great job, but once the surface was stripped clean the evidence was plain as day. The hole was used to pull out a rather sizable dent in the stabilator's upper surface. The bondo smoothed out the damage.

Though the news was disappointing, I was glad to have Desapi's throughness and experience to help make sure we addressed all these issues in the right way.

Williams to the rescue
At this point, Roy Williams of Williams Airmotive stepped forward with yet another generous offering of help. Williams would reskin the stabilator, and also take care of an aileron that needed some hinge repair. Thanks, Roy!

Williams has been a key contributor to not just the Six in '06 (he's already provided a new rudder skin) but to 2004's Win-A-Twin Comanche sweepstakes project as well. Then, he provided new stabilator and aileron skins.

So all of you needing to reskin your airplanes, please call Williams. They have many, many skins in stock and ready to ship.

When Williams reskins the stabilator, it will be sent back to Desapi, which, in the meantime, will be stripping the old paint off the airframe, and replacing the old side windows with new ones - provided by LP Aero Plastics. LP Aero's George Mazarek is always willing to help us with our sweepstakes projects, including the Six's one-piece windshield modification as well as the side windows.

And for those contemplating a paint job, please bear this in mind: Don't do it unless you replace the windows at the same time. Old windows will stick out like a sore thumb. If you didn't install new windows, you'll wish you had!

Summing up
So at this point, the Win-A-Six is being readied for its brand-new paint scheme (designed by Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers), and we can expect to see more about the paint process in the next update. The seats will then be installed, and then I'll fly to Aircraft Interiors for completion sometime around late September.

By then (I'm knocking on wood right now) all the squawks will have been addressed, and we'll have a cooler - and cooler-running - Win-A-Six. It's all part of the saga of rebuilding an old airplane, a saga with many twists and turns. And a learning experience that can't be beat.

Looking to buy a used airplane? Then take our experiences to heart. Even the best pre-purchase inspections may not reveal the ugly truth. Substandard repairs, misrepresentations of damage history, and outright illegal fixes are out there, so beware. Much of the work performed on our Sweepstakes airplanes is focused on righting these wrongs.

Is there a silver lining? You bet! The best part of all: You, the winner, will get a pristine modern-classic airplane when the airplane rolls up on your ramp.

- Thomas A. Horne

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