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March 28, 2008
By Ian J. Twombly
By Ian J. Twombly
When it comes to the business up front, most owners only consider the engine. But engine accessories and other peripheral components have a major impact on aircraft safety, efficiency, and general cost. So this week we’re going to take a step back from the work currently being done on the panel, and instead focus on the unsung heroes under the cowling—the accessories.
Starting at square one, a pilot has to consider how well the airplane starts. This of course involves a number of different parts, but the starter and battery are two of the most important. For battery power, we turned to Concorde Battery Corporation in West Covina, Calif. Aircraft batteries are high-failure items, but Concorde has a solid reputation for producing a long-lasting battery. The starter is also new, thanks to Sky-Tec’s lightweight starter. Designed as a replacement for the factory part, Sky-Tec excels at producing a starter that is lighter and more reliable than the original airplane equipment. In fact, Sky-Tec’s starters are now factory equipment on all new Lycoming and Superior engines.
Next on the list was the alternator. Aircraft alternators, like the battery, are high-failure items. Sure they don’t fail as much as vacuum pumps, but they do fail. Part of the reason is because they were originally made for cars. When someone refers to an aircraft alternator as a Chrysler part, that’s because it is a Chrysler part. It was time to upgrade. We went with Plane-power, the most well known source for aftermarket alternators. The folks from Granbury, Texas, have helped us with sweepstakes projects in the past, and the company’s parts have never given us trouble. As an added bonus this year, Plane-power also donated a new PMA’d solid-state voltage regulator. Since this is the first time we’ve used Plane-power’s voltage regulator, we’ll be watching it closely throughout the year. But when you trust a company’s other products, it almost always makes sense to go back to them for other offerings. And with the sweepstakes airplane transitioning to glass this year, the alternator and voltage regulator are key components.
A thanks is also due to Pacific Oil Cooler Service, the company that supplied the sweepstakes airplane’s new oil cooler. Pacific is the world’s largest distributor of Aero-Classics Oil Coolers, and we’re pleased the company agreed to be a part of the project for the first time this year.
To round out the accessories, N208GG also has new magnetos, a new carburetor, and a new fuel pump, all thanks to Penn Yan Aero’s overhaul. We did not get a new vacuum pump for reasons that will be revealed later. Here’s a hint though—we’re going glass baby!
Although maybe not technically defined as accessories, there are other components to review that play just as vital of a role. For example, the new baffle seals from Gee Bee Baffle Seals are a nice addition. They add aesthetic value, while also lending a big hand to cooling. What a beautiful thing when a part can make an airplane look better while also aiding cooling and, theoretically, increasing engine life.
Helping the project again this year is Kosola and Associates, the “engine mount people.” Say the name Kosola and most people automatically think engine mount refurbishment. They’ve done excellent work for us in the past, and we are pleased they agreed to help us again this year. The mount looks excellent.
We also turned to a past contributor for a new set of engine hoses. Hoses are an inexpensive easy way to add longevity and safety to your aircraft. The staff at Precision Hose Technology offers hundreds of complete hose kits ready to ship within just a day or two. They can also make hoses to spec.
It’s been mentioned before, but the refurbished exhaust system is thanks to Aerospace Welding Minneapolis. AWM accepted our old system, refurbished many of the existing parts, supplied its PMA’d mufflers, and shipped it back. Sure it’s not tuned, but that’s not always an option. Take the sweepstakes Archer II for example. Although there may be other sources out there, Power Flow for one, doesn’t offer a system. So when AWM reached out, we gladly accepted the offer and gave them a go at refurbishing the old system. We were surprised with the results. The new system looks great, a very fitting part of a sweepstakes airplane.
Finally, there’s just no way we could have done so much work without the help of the manufacturer. Piper’s parts staff in Vero Beach, Fla., was more than eager to send out things on short notice, and we thank them for providing many critical components. Everything from the fuel drain to the cowl plugs are new, all thanks to Piper. And despite the aircraft being more than 30 years old, all but one or two parts were in stock.
No discussion of engine accessories would be complete without acknowledging the dedicated technicians who actually worked to install all the parts. We thank all our contributors, but a special thanks goes out to Greg Monette and his staff at Oxford Aviation. Monette is Oxford’s head of maintenance, and a dedicated employee who spent countless weekends at the shop to make sure the Archer was ready when his boss promised it would be. Thanks to him and all the staff at Oxford Aviation for working so hard to deliver on what were some pretty ambitious goals. They created what we think will be a world-class airplane when all is said and done.
Next week: Airframe modifications
E-mail the author at email@example.com
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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