I am an engineer who designs things with microprocessors and I have some strong thoughts about what, if anything, we should do to improve the performance of aircraft engines.
First of all, trying a new electronic contraption to make an engine work better is fine, but the back-up should be magnetos. In other words, replace the left mag with whatever kind of fancy thing you think might be better and hooray if it can save us some fuel. But leave the engine with something we know works; a right mag.
Think about this a little. In the Piper Tomahawk debacle, we had an unknown phenomena killing magnetos. If we make engines with a new ignition system, we dont want to start the program with both ignition systems subject to the same failure modes.
Theres no economic incentive to having a single engine control. The pilot is there anyway; you might as well let him have something to do. I see no incentive in reducing pilot workload. If a new device can save fuel, thus either increasing the payload or the range, then its worth trying.
If the new gadget is dependent on microprocessor technology, it has a couple of strikes against it. Engineers have the microprocessor of the month coming in and out of favor. If you design something based on an embedded computer, theres a clear and present danger that you may design it around a microprocessor which a manufacturer decides to stop producing.
If your new engine controller system has anything to do with fuel, it must be failsafe. You have to be able to shut off the power and have the engine still run, at least roughly, but run it absolutely must.
One other thought about engine controls: We have complicated systems that give us variable propeller control. This is silly. At the most, all we need is a two-speed prop, one that lets the engine get to its maximum power on takeoff and one that slows it down a bit. The present systems we have with a hydraulic governor that can dump all the engine oil could be simplified.
Oceanport, New Jersey
In response to Joseph Brignolos article on cleaners, I have used a Car Bright product called Blue Max. It was recommended by the detail men at the FBO and the auto garage where I trade. Car Bright makes a series of products primarily for auto detail shops.
Before the engine got changed in my Skylane last year, it was burning a quart of oil every two hours. Needless to say, there was a lot of bottom cleaning. The Blue Max is diluted 1 to 4 with water, sprayed on and scrubbed with a bug cleaning sponge. Then the gunk is wiped off with a towel. Unless I delay the cleaning for a month or so, one application works fine.
This all-purpose cleaner consists of ethylene glycol, mono butyl ether, sodium meta silicate and potassium hydroxide. The instructions say wiping it off is all that is necessary, although I do rinse when theres water available.
I enjoyed your article, but you missed my favorite: I bought an empty 99-cent spray bottle and put in a few ounces of Stoddard Solvent.
A few spritzes on the belly, wait two minutes. If you dont wait, you have to work harder! Next, wipe with a rag. I use a used rag for the first wipe, then a clean one for the final swipes.
I can clean the belly of my Cessna 210 after 50 hours/four months flying in about five minutes, including the wait time. The cheapy red rags sold by Costco and auto parts stores work fine, or I use whatever is available. I throw them out when done.
Peter van Schoonhoven
It was interesting to read A Stinkin Greasy Mess in the October issue of Aviation Consumer, since weve been on a similar quest ourselves.
The belly of our Glasair doesnt get very dirty (air/oil separator and tight cylinders), but we wash the airplane more frequently than most owners and anything to dissolve the oil faster while were trying to scrub upside down helps.
Even more interesting, was Mr. Brignolos findings for GUNK Engine Brite and Castrols Super Clean, which were the antithesis of our experience. We painted our Glasair with Sterling brand paint. This is a very hard, durable paint that is very resistant to a lot of chemicals-but apparently not all.
At one time, Sterling was used by aircraft manufacturers, too (Piper), so my comments might apply to many of your readers. We find absolutely no streaking when using Engine Brite on Sterling paint, but we do find that Super Clean etches /streaks the paint fiercely.
We have since reverted to using Super Clean only for the leading edges (bugs) and make it a point to dilute it almost immediately after application with a wet rag and then wash it off within a minute.
I guess the moral of the story is: Test these products on your airplane first or you may be in for a nasty surprise.
Joseph Brignolo did a commendable job in researching belly degreasers. Obviously, its impossible to research all possible products. Let me add to the product list, plus a few comments.
My son swears that Meguires Quick Detailer Mist and Wipe works well to remove bugs and light stains. A friend tells me that ordinary mineral spirits is the best material to remove exhaust stains and oil streaks.
Sportys Carbon-X Stain Remover: Another pilot friend says this stuff works great but I have found that it streaks and will not penetrate exhaust stains. I wonder if this is related to TR-1000.
I have had best results with Meguires or Mothers California Gold Carnuba Cleaner Wax. These combination cleaners and waxes do the best job for me and leave a surface that inhibits adherence of exhaust and oil.
Fort Pierce, Florida
I recently had some microphone problems with my almost 10-year-old and obviously out-of-warranty David Clark H10-20 Headset. I sent it back to the David Clark Co. with a request that they do whatever was needed and bill me. They replaced the mic and boom at no charge and returned the repaired headset UPS Blue. That type of post-warranty service cant be topped, although Ive heard that its normal with them.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Kennons Swell Service
The article Shade to Go in your October 1998 issue may be accurate as to differences in the products themselves. However, service is what we all care about when something goes wrong when the product doesnt live up to expectations, wrong product was shipped, etc.
If service counts, then Ron Kensey and the Kennon team deserve more credit than a simple product review could provide. Whether by phone or by e-mail, the Kennon staff has consistently been knowledgeable, pleasant and absolutely committed to customer satisfaction.
I made a mistake on my first order for an exterior cover from Kennon. I didnt specifically note that my Maule MT-7-235 has top-to-bottom Plexiglas observer doors. When I received the cover-it was shipped promptly-it didnt come far enough down the sides of the airplane to protect the doors.
I was willing to pay for a second cover that fit the way I wanted. Instead, Kennon re-made the cover and only asked that I return the first one. Experience with other orders has been just as good.
Your article concludes: Its a toss-up between Kennon and [other] products . . . but [the others] are the undeniable value; theyre cheaper. Id argue that long-term commitment to customer satisfaction is the highest standard for value. And on that, Kennon is a clear winner.