Engine Overhaul Complete
That was the longest 10 weeks of my life, but the overhaul of my Cessna’s Continental powerplant is finally done! And it looks fantastic!
The ferry flight from California happed a week after the sale was finalized. The weather didn’t want to cooperate in California, and some rerouting was necessary, but after escaping the weather over the mountains, Vince (the ferry pilot) was able to make the 1,863 mile journey in just about 19 hours, with 2 fuel stops and an overnight stay in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I was standing there when the plane finally touched down in Louisville, Georgia. What a sight! Seeing that plane appear over the trees and cross the runway threshold was an amazing feeling. The engine was being overhauled by James Watson at Watson Aero and James went out of his way to come in on a Saturday to take in the plane and get her in the hangar, out of the elements.
Just two short days later, I got the first picture of the overhaul being started. Then engine was removed from the airframe and all parts were disassembled and sent off to be refurbished.
Now the waiting begins… Lots and lots of waiting. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the silence when you are overhauling an engine is actually quite welcome. When the phone rings, you have a tendency to hold your breath and brace yourself for bad news.
And there was some bad news. I had already planned on replacing the cylinders and the camshaft, but there were now a few unexpected surprises. One of those surprises came when the propeller and prop governor was being overhauled. When measured, both blades of the propeller came out too short for the certification process, so the decision had to be made to order a new propeller. That was a tough pill to swallow.
Then, we were able to determine what was making metal in the oil filter. When the oil pump was removed from the engine and split open to overhaul, it was painfully obvious what the problem was. The internals of the oil pump had been grinding away at the oil pump’s casing. It was going to be an absolute necessity to find a new oil pump for the new engine. It was a terrifying site!
Fast forward a few weeks, all of the components had finally arrived and the reassembly process was about to get underway. Within a few short days, all of these parts would be reassembled, tested, and then mounted back up the airframe.
Seeing the completed engine mounted back up to the airplane was amazing. James has an attention to detail that most engine shops would have just overlooked. The final result looks amazing!
Before I arrived to pick the plane up, James spent about an hour test running the engine on the ground. It was now time to get it in the air to verify that everything was working as expected. This was my first time being a “test pilot”, so you can imagine the butterflies in my stomach as we taxied out to the runway. After a 2-hour test flight over the airport to run the engine and to verify that all temperatures were within their operating limits, we landed again for a final ground inspection. The upper and lower cowlings were removed and then entire engine was inspected and no leaks were found.
She’s done! Finally done! Now I get to fly her home. Total bliss…