Everyone knows that the Internet is an unbelievable source of all kinds of information. For the general aviation pilot who works on his own airplane or just wants to be able to converse intelligently with his mechanic, the Internet is a great source of free data. Of course, I have to start with AOPA's own Web site, where you can find more than 10 years of these "Airframe & Powerplant" articles by subject or date along with airworthiness directives, advisory circulars, and a host of subject reports on many maintenance subjects. A relatively new addition to the AOPA site is the member forums page, including the "mechanic's workbench" area where you can share information with fellow members about all things aviation and mechanical.
The care and feeding of piston-powered airplane engines is a favorite subject on the Internet and engine manufacturers such as Lycoming and Continental have jumped on the Web bandwagon.
The Textron Lycoming site provides visitors with access to a large selection of the most recent and most requested service publications including bulletins, letters, and instructions. Other for-free information from Lycoming includes the class schedule for Lycoming's piston-engine-service school, as well as a labor-allowance (flat rate) manual, a trouble-shooting guide, and other maintenance related information. Lycoming's well-known book of engine hints, Key Reprints, also is available free for download. There's even a video titled Care and Feeding of Your New or Overhauled Lycoming Engine that can be viewed online or downloaded to your computer.
Visitors to Teledyne Continental Motor's Web site can log on as visitors and gain access to engine specs, a library of publications outlining the care and feeding of TCM engines, and a full explanation and schedule of TCM's technician advanced training program at the factory in Mobile, Alabama. Training videos are available from the TCM Web site. The titles include Continental Engine Cylinder Installation and Continuous Flow Fuel Injection System Setup and Adjustment, to name a couple. The videos sell for $24.95 each and are worth every penny.
One of the aftermarket engine Web sites that is easy to use and chock-full of information is the Engine Components Inc. (ECi) site. The site is well engineered and the technical and reference button on the site opens a catalog of downloadable PDF files of ECi's class reference manual as well as in-house publications on engine break-in, oil management, and dynamic balancing.
A hidden treasure on the ECi Web site is at the service publications button. There are explanations of technical engine topics such as valve train removal and cylinder removal and replacement, as well as printed instructions for complying with continued airworthiness data requirements for ECi products.
Ever wonder what happens inside your cylinders if the mixture is leaned too rapidly? ECi Service Instruction 93-6-7 explains that rapid leaning causes phenomena called "cylinder-wall glazing" and uneven wear that's called "washboarding." That's just the tip of the iceberg for anyone interested in how an engine works.
The Superior Air Parts Web site has been improved within the past year. It contains volumes of reference information concerning its products. Toggling the technical support button displays pages on part numbers and parts applicability, but all of the company's service bulletins and service letters and some informative tech notes also are available.
Sacramento Sky Ranch Inc. founder John Schwaner is the author of the Sky Ranch Engineering Manual. It's a book that every airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician who works on reciprocating airplane engines should have in his library. For a taste of the kind of information printed in this book, go to the Web site and click on the knowledge base button. You'll be amazed at the quality and breadth of information offered up — again all for free — on this site.
Find the article titled "Zen and The Art of Engine Health — How to Be One With Your Engine" if all the talk about best-power mixture settings, upper deck pressures, and differential compression has your mind in a twist. There you will find easy-to-follow, non-technical tips for recognizing the signs regarding the health of your engine.
Because there are clear photographs and drawings accompanying almost every subject, Schwaner's site is a treat for those who must see to understand. Take a look online to see what I mean as Schwaner guides viewers through a camshaft inspection. This site has more detailed engine information than any other I've found.
AVweb was started more than 10 years ago as the first online aviation magazine. I like to read from the wide selection of columns that are archived on the site. It's worth the time to look and read the "Pelican Perch" series of hilarious stories by John Deakin. In between the belly laughs Deakin finds time to pass on engine management tips. Former AOPA Pilot editor Marc Cook also writes an AVweb column titled "Motor Head" that focuses on engine maintenance issues.
When questions about regulations arise, try the FAA's Web site. For instance, during an airplane's annual inspection all placards must be in place for the airplane to comply with the type certificate and be airworthy. It's easy to go to the FAA Web site, click on the type certificate data sheets button, and find a complete list of the required placards for your airplane. This site also contains a huge collection of advisory circulars (ACs), which are FAA publications that often contain many helpful hints on topics. One example is AC 43-11 titled Reciprocating Engine Overhaul Terminology and Standards. The number and subject matter contained within the AC library are mind-boggling. It's all there on almost every subject and again, it's free of charge.
All the big avionics manufacturers have Web sites that are laden with free guides. Look for buttons that say "manuals" or "technical publications." The Narco Avionics Web site is extremely forthcoming with free pin-out diagrams and manuals. There's even a pin-out diagram for the company's 1973 vintage UGR-2 glideslope receiver. The Honeywell Bendix/King Web site also has a full collection of product pilots guides and quick reference guides — go to the pilots guides button under quick links.
The Aircraft Electronics Association, which represents avionics manufacturers and shops, publishes a free book titled Pilot's Guide to Avionics. Articles from the past three editions are available online after clicking on the pilot resources button. In addition to describing the new avionics, the book contains articles that help with purchase decisions.
Got an alternator or generator problem? Click online for help. Zeftronics is a company that specializes in alternator and generator control units. Its Web site is full of short, simple explanations of aircraft electrical systems, Ohm's law, and generator and alternator systems. There are also step-by-step troubleshooting guides for both types of systems.
The Internet is a terrific tool that lets airplane owners, mechanics, and pilots gather information that once required lengthy phone calls or long delays by the mailbox. Start by entering helpful aviation Web sites in your favorites list on your Internet browser.
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