Monday, September 25, 2006

 

Cessna : "fuel to noise converter".

Hello Hans,

I do not fly very much at the moment, only 3 or 4 flights a week. In October we will have to change the prop. So there are always things to do. Police are mostly behaving. It seems that even the guys on the streets know me by now. From time to time they stop me, but without making trouble.

But, as promised, I will tell you a short story about the technical problems with the airplane. As you probably know the ALT/FLD circuit breaker popped from time to time in flight, but you could always reset it. It had happened to me twice. It did not worry me too much since Helmut had told me about it, when I arrived here. However, one morning I had 4 sisters in the plane : 2 for Bambari and 2 for Kembe. When I did the run-up check the circuit breaker popped and I could not reset it. I had to cancel the flight and with Minair we were trying to fix it.
We changed the alternator and the alternator control unit. Unfortunately to no avail. So we were trying to find any faulty connections. They found one right at the master switch. So I ordered one and it took two weeks before the new switch arrived. It seemed to work, but only for a flight to Boda and one to Mobaye.
The next flight was supposed to be to M’Boki with UNHCR. It was raining slightly in the morning as I taxied the aeroplane from the aeroclub to the main apron. I put fuel in and then boarded the passengers. As soon as I had started the engine, the circuit breaker popped again. So this flight was cancelled as well.The mechanics at Minair insisted that it was a problem with the alternator and that we needed to change it again. Although I am by no means a specialist on electronics, I had the feeling that there was something else causing the circuit breaker to pop.
So I sent Marc Westenberg a long email describing in detail what had happened so far and what work had been carried out. He sent me some instructions how to do proper trouble shooting. As it turned out it was the alternator control unit again. For reasons I do not yet understand it seems that the newly installed ACU was causing the trouble again. Anyway, after having it changed, I did a test flight and threw the plane a bit through the sky and everything was fine. So the next flight was going to be to Mobaye to fetch Ben. I took off at about 8 o’clock on RWY 17. With flaps retracted, I reduced the throttle to climb power and wanted to adjust the mixture accordingly. While doing that, the fuel flow indicator started to fluctuate violently and the sound of the engine was not very reassuring either. So I immediately informed the tower that I would do a 180 and land right back on RWY 35. At Minair we took the injection system apart and cleaned it as well as the fuel lines going there and since then, I have not had any more problems, at least not with the aeroplane.
The following flight was with two sisters to Kuango. The weather was not great : lots of cumulus and a few showers along the way. So from time to time, we would enter some cloud, but to my surprise the turbulence was basically non-existent. Only the last 20 miles were a bit rougher, since there were some heavy showers just short of Kuango. I tried to stay out of the yellow areas on the radar screen, as I had noticed already that the two passengers did not feel very comfortable. To stay out of turbulence you need to manoeuvre the plane a bit and that caused them to get even more uncomfortable. I finally found a nice hole in the clouds just above the river and descended through it, naturally not with a 300 ft/min rate of descent but slightly more, and then followed the river at about 400 feet AGL to remain below the cloud base.
While doing the obligatory flying over the field to check it, I noticed a lot of goats on the runway. The first time I saw goats instead of people on the runway there, that needed to be chased away. So I added a little bit of power to increase the noise level (you know what they say about those Cessna's : "the throttle is only there, to increase or decrease the level of noise") and put the nose down slightly to skim over the runway lower than usual, as goats seem to be less scared of aeroplanes than humans. That manoeuvre was ofcourse a bit too much for my passengers, although I had tried to do it as gently as possible. I would like to mention, that the plane stayed clean and no plastic bags had been used either. After we had landed though, they were happy to be on the ground and sat down immediately to regain their breath.
In the mean time I unloaded the heap of luggage and packages, that usually fills up the whole plane on every trip to Kuango.
On the way back to Bangui, I encountered slightly more turbulence and the first thunderstorms were starting to flash their lightning at me. I was happy to be alone in the plane. I enjoyed the clouds and rain because it makes for much more interesting views. I also enjoy closing in on clouds and then getting swallowed into the white or grey and after some time being spat out again into the sunshine. Those are unfortunately the joys of flying that are best not shared with your passengers, although there are some sturdier ones who like that too.
On my last flight to Bangassou, I had the pleasure of having two female passengers (one working for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the other being a newly arrived teacher for the Catholic school in Bangassou) who were not only good looking, but did not mind coming with me into the shaky whiteness of the sky.
These are the days I would never trade in for the cockpit of a Boeing.
I will send some more stories as soon as I have committed them to paper.

Blue skies and many happy landings,

Mario

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