June 12, 2019
Two years in the making, and it is finally here. My AP/IA was fixing the oil leaks that were discovered yesterday along with a couple other things. After looking it over he said if I was okay with it, he wanted to pull everything off the accessory case and start over with all new gaskets/seals. He was fairly certain the biggest leak was the gasket from the governor drive adapter, which the shop that replaced the governor hadn’t changed. It looked like there might be some other smaller leaks to go along with it. On top of that, one of the mags the same shop had replaced had the timing off by a couple degrees. The engine driven fuel pump had to come off to replace that gasket and because of it’s age I opted to just replace the pump while everything was apart as it looked like there was some oil seeping out from between the diaphragms. The plan is to leave late afternoon and fly to Phoenix to stay with my parents to get a head start on the trip and not get trapped by the “June Gloom,” assuming the plane will be done by then.
I sent him a text about 1:30pm to see how it was going. “Checking in on the progress, not asking you to hurry. Just trying to figure out if we’re leaving today or tomorrow.” He replied back that it would be done by 4pm.
Austin and I left work at 3:30pm and stopped by home to get Jarom and say goodbye to my wife, then we headed to the airport. The plane was back in the hangar, just like my AP/IA had said it would be. After completing all the work, he had done a ground run for 20 minutes and then looked over it with the blacklight. There wasn’t any leaks showing up so it looked like we were good to go. He also told me that he had done all the work himself instead of having his mechanics work on it. The attention to detail that he puts into his work is comforting after the work done by the previous shop. Before putting the cowling back on I carefully looked over everything.
Jarom weighed all the bags so I could figure out what to put in the luggage area and what needed to go in the back seat next to him to stay within the center of gravity limits, then we loaded it up. After a very long and thorough pre-flight I had the fuel truck come by to top us off (cheaper fuel than Mesa), we climbed in and started up. I had been hoping to be in the air by 5pm but with the extra time spent on pre-flight and figuring the weight and balance it was a lot closer to 6pm when we took runway 24 and pushed the throttle forward.
Climbing out we made the usual left turn to heading 120 and switched over to SoCal Approach. The engine was running well, and with the timing fixed on the one mag (it was off by 2 degrees) the cylinder head temps were about 20 degrees cooler. We were initially cleared to 9,500′ but just west of March AFB we were told to stop our climb at 7,000 for a C-17 that was passing overhead on a converging course. Sometimes it is hard to pick out the traffic that ATC calls out to you, picking out a C-17 in the sky was easy… Once he passed over us we continued our climb to our cruising altitude of 9,500′ and Austin got his first of many naps while enroute.
It was a nice smooth flight with beautiful views of the desert as the setting sun cast long shadows from the hills across the ground. We approached and descended over the Estrella Mountains through the haze, and with the sun already gone behind the horizon we could clearly see the fires burning East of the valley in the Superstition Mountains. Descending through 7,000′ we were reminded that it was summer in The Valley of the Sun, and it just got warmer the lower we went until the outside air temp was over 100 degrees. Even after living in the Phoenix Valley for years I don’t think I will ever get used to it still feeling like a blast furnace after the sun goes down…
The winds were coming from the north-west and for the first time in my trips into Mesa Gateway (KIWA) I got to land on 12L instead of 30R. One of my sisters picked us up at the airport and we had a late dinner with her and my parents and visited about the upcoming adventure. I checked the weather forecast and made plans for a couple different fuel stops and final destinations for the next day (dependent on weather) and then retired to try and get some sleep.
I still can’t believe we are going to fly all the way across the country.