Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

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haykinson
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Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by haykinson »

This is mostly a rant. Maybe there's some useful content here?

So, in late November, I am checking my airplane the day before participating in a Young Eagles flight, and — lo and behold — find what looks like a giant (to me) indentation in one of the propeller blades. Right at the edge of the blade, there is what looks like a bump from something strong that had forced not only the different layers at the tip to come apart but also for the metal leading edge of that blade to bend out. Eek. Well, the Young Eagles flight got canceled, and a local prop shop was consulted. Their opinion? Well, maybe it's fixable, but it's a big enough deal and by the way when did you last overhaul the prop?

It takes a bit of time to get someone to take the prop off and give it to the prop shop, and then for them to take a look at it and send it off somewhere else to get fixed. The other shop ran into some trouble too, then there was shipping, and getting someone to put the prop back on, and between everything it's not till late February that the propeller is on the airplane. Except that's past Jan 1 and I don't have ADS-B (was scheduled for before that but airplane was grounded). And it's Feb 26th and my annual is due in two days.

So then it's off to the annual at another airport, with a ADAPT waiver. They finish in record time! But — lo and behold again — there are squawks galore. We line item everything and call Diamond when necessary and figure out what's airworthiness related and what's not, but the shop has a new director of maintenance and he's attentive to detail and so what worked for the previous guy doesn't work for this one. It's all fixed in late March and..... Covid! My state goes on lockdown, and it's definitely not an essential thing to go somehow travel to the airport to pick up my plane.

We keep the airplane in the hangar for a month till it seems like it's fine to pick it up. It's early May and I pick up the airplane, test flight it around the pattern (with an ADAPT waiver), and it's off to the third airport for the ADS-B install. One thing leads to another, the shop has other people in line before me, and Covid means that not everyone there can work as effectively, so... it's now June 25th, and I finally have my airplane in its normal tie down spot.

I am not sure if this is a normal thing in the life of airplanes, or if I'd done something wrong. Certainly the stay-at-home aspect added to the pain, and maybe could have been circumvented, but for the rest I thought I was pretty much on top of the shops. We communicated every week or two, the explanations were always logical and made sense. But it's painful nonetheless: the pocketbook gets hit for both maintenance as well as all the normal stuff (tie down, insurance, various subscriptions), skills deteriorate, IFR currency goes away, etc.

Does anyone have any advice in general on how to deal with these kinds of situations? I am happy to call this an odd combination of weird problems, but also I wonder if I shouldn't think that it's my fault and that I could have managed this better somehow.
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Chris B
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by Chris B »

haykinson wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:46 am
Does anyone have any advice in general on how to deal with these kinds of situations? I am happy to call this an odd combination of weird problems, but also I wonder if I shouldn't think that it's my fault and that I could have managed this better somehow.
Hi Ilya -

Sorry to hear about your travails. That was not much fun. :(

"Stuff" happens, and when the issues involve long lead times it gets painful. Last year we attempted a relatively straightforward cylinder replacement that went horribly sideways. We converted an airworthy-but-consuming-oil-engine to an *un*airworthy-and-need-a-new-engine in about an hour. :cry:

That took >3 months to resolve, so I feel your pain.

In your case, suggestions that might be helpful:
  1. You cut it a bit close on ADS-B. FWIW, we set a one year cut-off due to expectations for overloaded avionics shops & a rush for the exits as the deadline approached.
  2. Developing a good relationship with your A&P/IA is crucial to a happy ownership experience. Mike Busch talks about this often, and emphasizes the importance of owners being involved in decisions about what is (or is not) an airworthiness issue. As you relate, this is often not black and white. If the new DOM is (in your judgment) being unreasonable or overly picky, you always have the alternative to find a different shop.
  3. Savvy's maintenance program also might be worth considering as a sanity check on picky mechanics spending other people's (your) money.
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Rich
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by Rich »

Well, you got a bunch of bad news strung together. But Over the years I've found it common to be grounded for weeks at a time for some issue or another:

- prop ding: 5 weeks
- bird strike: 6 weeks
- prop lube problem: 100 days:
- major engine work: 2 months
- ice/snow bound hangar - happens every year. worst was 10 weeks.

The shops around here never quit working during this pandemic. I had a Flight Stream installed during this time. It seems repair shops of all kinds were deemed essential. But they have been doing the "social distancing" thing. It's actually not too hard in the typical hangar situation. Nobody ever shut down the airspace. Flight schools are a different matter, and possibly rental operations.
2002 DA40: MT, PF, 530W/430W, KAP140, ext. baggage, 1090 ES out, 2646 MTOW, 40gal., Surefly, Flightstream 210.
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Steve
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by Steve »

Ilya:

I feel your pain, if somewhat less severely. In almost 19 years of ownership, I have had only 2 "long" maintenance unavailability periods. The first was when I had my MT prop overhauled during an Annual Inspection. Took it off and the prop shop picked it up the first day. They said 3 weeks to do it. Unfortunately, the hub had to have steel inserts installed, and they only do that at the MT factory in Germany, so it took 6 weeks instead of 3 (not really that bad considering that it had to be shipped to Germany and back).

The second instance was my engine repair: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6905

which took about 10 weeks. Some of that time was due to previously scheduled vacations (you remember vacations - before COVID) for me and my mech.

Unlike Rich, I don't worry much about snow in S. TX...

One good thing about my situation is that my mech is on-field, and the prop shop picks up and delivers to my hangar (no charge). I also get my altimeter/transponder checks done by a guy who comes to the hangar (he does charge a bit extra for that). So when my aircraft is having maintenance, it is always in my hangar (which is something both my mech and I like).

You didn't do anything wrong, just sounds like a run of bad luck. I will second Chris' ADS-B procrastination comment. I thought I delayed mine to the limit. I did it in June 2019, and I thought I was pushing it.

One other suggestion (on a purely human relations level): when things are taking longer than expected/anticipated/quoted, stop by the shop with lunch for the crew.

Enjoy being back in the air...

Steve
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perossichi
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by perossichi »

FYI, there is a propeller shop in Redding, American Propeller Service, that regularly sends trucks around CA to pick up props for overhaul and repair.
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smoss
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by smoss »

Well, knock on wood, nothing as bad as the others, but I have had a few things take significantly longer than quoted, for absolutely no other reason than slowness/shop too busy, including ADSB install (4 weeks instead of 1) and magneto inspections (3 weeks instead of 1). It is truly painful to be grounded with a plane or part that was supposed to be done weeks prior. A few things I learned from my experiences: it is usually worth it to pony up for faster shipping, even though the jump in price is often substantial from "ground" to 1 or 2 day. Seems even when ground is quoted as 2 day estimate, usually the weekend gets in the way, and ends up being another week lost. Next, new parts over sending in my own for repair/overhaul/inspection is much better for my psyche, even if substantially more cost. Sending parts in has always resulted in longer than I expected until final completion of the project, usually by a factor of at least 3. Finally, time moves more slowly once your airplane is actually grounded. So 1-2 week estimate before you lose your plane doesn't seem bad, but as soon as you actually lose your plane, and then have an itch or need to go somewhere, that time seems like forever.
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Chris B
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by Chris B »

smoss wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 2:00 pm
Sending parts in has always resulted in longer than I expected until final completion of the project, usually by a factor of at least 3.
IME not always. But often enough. :(

We've started accumulating spares for parts that need periodic replacement or overhaul, including:
  • Magnetos
  • Alternator
  • Fuel pump
  • Main tires & tubes
  • Power Flow insert
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by Chris »

Sorry to hear about all of the delays. Obviously things like COVID lockdowns are out of your control. In my experience, trips to a maintenance shop often result in the plane being AOG for 2x longer than expected, but you seem to have had quite the string of them. Chris B's point about developing a good relationship with your A&P can make a big difference in how much attention your plane gets while sitting in the shop.

Others have already commented on the ADS-B timing, so I'll just mention that you might have gotten some more useful advice from this forum (e.g. prop shop recommendations, prioritizing and managing the annual squawk list, etc) if you'd posted about them up front. It's sort of like talking to ATC, they can often help, but only if they know you need it.
Chris
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danno2000
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Re: Sighing the airplane ownership sigh

Post by danno2000 »

haykinson wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:46 am
Does anyone have any advice in general on how to deal with these kinds of situations? I am happy to call this an odd combination of weird problems, but also I wonder if I shouldn't think that it's my fault and that I could have managed this better somehow.
Thanks for the post. I've been feeling sorry for myself because my annual's taken a month-plus for the second year in a row and I'm wondering if I'm just a bad owner. Might still be, but at least I know my misery has some company.

No advice except to keep ranting here. Some of the most helpful comments I've gotten have come from random ramblings like this. Glad you're here with us!

best,
dan
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