June 11, 2019
It had only been 16.95 hours since the last oil change and I typically change it around 40 hours, but we were planning on putting around 40 hours in on our cross country trip so I went ahead and changed the oil last week. The ground run after the oil change looked good and didn’t show any leaks but I wanted to actually fly it (full power, adjust the prop and work the governor, etc…) as a last check before starting off across the country.
I work right next to the airport on Tuesdays so went in a little early and took it around the pattern once before work. After putting the plane back in the hangar I pulled the sides off the cowls, checked it with the black-light, and didn’t see anything, that’s promising. First check had passed, but I still wanted to take it for a longer flight, so after work I went back to the airport, did a pre-flight, and flew over to Torrance (KTOA) to pick up a friend for a short local flight. I haven’t ever flown into Torrance which made for good practice with the quick radio changes to request transition through Long Beach’s (KLBG) airspace, pick up the weather from KTOA, and call up the tower there for landing clearance.
Torrance has two runways. The north runway is 5001 x 150 and the south runway is 3000 x 75. There were a couple of planes working the pattern on the north runway and I had told the tower I was a full stop.
Tower: “Can you take the south runway?”
Me: “Sure can.”
Tower: “Mooney 78878, enter a four mile right base, 29 Left, cleared to land.”
Me: “4 mile right base, 29 Left, cleared to land, 878.”
My tablet will show an extended center-line and hash marks every mile out with a big arrow at 5 miles and 10 miles so it is easy to intercept a specific distance on final.
I wanted the south runway as it is a much shorter taxi to the terminal. I touched down near the numbers and easily rolled off the exit 1,600′ feet down, then taxied to the terminal after getting clearance from ground. I shut down, hopped out, greeted my friend, and then we climbed back in to go fly.
We decided to take the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) over LAX (another first for me) and then take a turn around downtown LA. Torrance tower gave us a right down-wind departure from 29 Right where we planned to climb up to the required 4,500′ over the bay and turn back north.
Me: (Before making a crosswind turn while on the upwind leg) “Torrance Tower, could we get straight out the to the coast and then turn left down the coast?”
Tower gave us the clearance and we enjoyed a much more beautiful flight climbing out over Ranchos Palos Verdes before turning north to intercept the 132 radial off the Santa Monica VOR. The SFRA allows VFR traffic to transition above LAX through the surface area of the Bravo airspace, northbound traffic is at 4,500′ and southbound traffic at 3,500′. Instead of squawking 1200, the pilot squawks 1201 and makes position calls on a preset frequency. Flying right over a major airport like LAX, without talking to Air Traffic Control still seems a bit odd, but it was fun to watch the big commercial jets taking off and landing right below you.
Once clear of the SFRA we began a slow descent to the east to get down under the 2,500′ shelf and make a turn over Dodger Stadium (no TFR because they were down in Orange County losing the the Angels) and around downtown LA before heading back to Torrance where I requested the south runway again. We talked about getting a bite to eat, but it was getting late, and that pesky oil leak had shown up again, so I dropped my friend off and then began to taxi back to 29 Right. I had been cleared to 29 Right via Foxtrot/Alpha/Juliet, but stopped at the intersection of Foxtrot/Alpha.
Me: “Torrance Ground, FYI there is a coyote here at the intersection of Foxtrot and Alpha.”
Ground: “Where exactly is it?”
Me: “In front of me and right at the intersection of Foxtrot and Alpha.”
At that point he crossed right in front of me.
Ground: “Roger, I see him crossing in front of you.”
I continued my taxi and heard ground advising other traffic to be aware of the coyote who was roaming around the taxiways. After a quick mag check I got my takeoff clearance and departed 29R, gave a wing wave to my friend, and headed back to Fullerton.
With the plane back in the hangar I pulled the sides off the cowl to look for the source of the oil that had again started getting on the windscreen during the flight. When I did the oil change I had added dye and when I shined the blacklight in it showed a significant leak coming from somewhere behind the engine. Oh boy…
It was late in the day but I sent a quick text to my mechanic. “Sorry to text late, not looking for an answer until the morning. Went on a little over an hour flight as a shakedown before our cross country. Still oil on the windscreen, I had put dye in again. Pulled the cowling and quite a bit behind the engine. Governor is pretty new, PCU5000, but maybe where it bolts up?” Although it was late he still answered that he could look at it in the morning. Hoping that he can figure out where it is coming from and get it fixed so we can begin our adventure.