What a mess. Started two weeks ago….
Loaded the plane for the trip to Mayfield, Kentucky to deliver supplies that were asked for by locals at Mayfield….Another pilot had collected stuff from local businesses and we were gonna fly ’em down.
Now, the stuff was heavy…Extension cords, Generator oil, power strips, trash bags….and (empty) gas cans.
So we loaded the plane Monday morning, using a scale to weigh the items and paying careful attention to weight and balance…the plane had enough fuel to get there and an hour reserve and no more…leaving as much as possible for cargo (a 340 will carry 1812 lbs, ….fuel cargo and passengers. Filled the plane, got to gross weight, threw in an additional gas can and one each extension cord for luck, and taxiied to the end of the runway.
Now, this was the coldest day I had ever taxiied the plane at….and the taxiways were still somewhat slippery. Got to the end of the taxiway, started the “Before Takeoff” checklist. The plane kept sliding on the ice,, even with the parking brake set… so I throttled the engines back to the absolute minimum setting….started running the checklist and then the left engine died….I assumed it was just a combination of the cold and the throttle setting, so I restarted it.
And the left tachometer was dead……
So we taxiied back to the hangar, and called it a day and put the plane away.
(The next day we drove the stuff down and delivered it) The mechanic couldn’t look at the plane until Thursday anyway, so I had to wait.
He switched inputs on the tach to see if it was the instrument or the engine, and while doing the runup to check that, we suddenly had no indicated oil pressure on the left engine…shut it down quickly…..but we knew that the tach was working, it wasn’t getting a signal from the engine. Pulling the tach generator, it was obvious that it was hard to turn…. the shaft was nearly frozen in place. So we ordered the tach generator and the plane had to wait until he could get it into the heated shop for more investigation….the worry was that since the tach drive is a part of the oil pump drive, and it was obviously locked up, it may have sheared something in that geartrain.
In the heated shop, the next week, the plane moved oil when cranked, and once the tach generator arrived, since we could find nothing wrong, we took the plane out and ran it….no issues. a separate gauge placed on the engine showed 60 lbs of oil pressure
Being a very experienced mechanic, Mike deduced that there was condensation in the oil line from the engine to the pressure gauge….he pulled that line and cranked the engine and pumped about a quart of oil (and some water) out of the pressure line. Ice had apparently blocked the line and frozen…..so no indicated oil pressure. This plane had always lived in the south, and the 9 degree (F) temperature that day was likely the coldest ground temp it had ever encountered for any period of time (the hangar is unheated). Over the years, condensation had built up in the tiny line that led to the oil pressure gauge. (It is a 40 year old airplane, after all).
So, over the weekend, since it was a nice VFR day, I took the plane out and flew for an hour at 4500 feet over the airport….(Just in case) and made sure that the engine was gonna run right, and keep running…no hiccups with the oil pressure or the tach at any power settings. I wanted to be close to the airport if I needed to shut down one engine (the 340 flies very nicely on one engine, but still) and I preferred a VFR day if that was gonna happen, as while I CAN fly single engine approaches in IFR, I’d prefer not to if I can avoid it. (You either know what I mean, or you don’t).
So, all told, now the pane is ready in all respects for long distance flight again….
Ah, the pleasures of 40 year old planes. I don’t even wanna see the bill.