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The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. IFA, nor any related parties to IFA, assume any responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information provided in these articles. It is suggested that you consult your own aircraft manuals and aircraft mechanic for any maintenance on your aircraft. You are proceeding at your own risk.

“As the Hangar Door Shuts” Blog - by Brooks Margolien, 4/19/13

Fuel Gauge Repair

So much goes into airplane maintenance, the range of emotion is best described as the “ups and downs of aviation”. The best way to get nitrogen put into your nose strut is not to approach three mechanics having a deep discussion about an engine, you don’t need to hear what’s being said, you’ll see what’s going on from across the hangar or ramp.

I used to say “Any attempt to economize will result in additional expenditure within six months” but it only took a few weeks for me to change that to: SIX MINUTES !”

Last week we were confronted with a fuel gauge inaccuracy on a plane in the shop. The first quote through the factory was $1,695 plus a $500 core charge. Man that will knock the sox off even a veteran aircraft owner, not to mention myself, a shop owner for over 20 yrs. After making a few (dozen) phone calls, the good news is that the gauges are now field repairable at a third of that price. The downside is you must send out your gauge and wait a few days plus the freight time in each direction. After conferring with the owners and seeing a chance to save over a $1,000 on one part we went with the overhaul. Seems like a no brainer...

Until I open the box, plug in the gauge and it doesn’t work! No wrench throwers allowed in my hangar, but let me say that if you don’t eat breakfast by 10:30 am when the UPS Red packages show up, your blood sugar is very low and that is not the best time to hear, we’ll see, then bad news.

That’s just the nature of the beast - lots of electronics, potentiometers, two needle gauge, a bunch of stuff packed into that gauge. Then I start second guessing my troubleshooting, get out the meter, check the sender units, looks good. Well, I guess Yogi Berra was right - “Them’s the breaks.” In this case, I’m chalking it up to the giant conveyor belt at the UPS depot in Springfield. I have heard it rivals any Disney ride. Have you ever seen a driver laugh when you put on the fragile sticker? I have.

So now our windfall of savings is blown in lost down time, unpaid freight charges and frayed emotion.

However, it is the GAS GAUGE and must be fixed. Forget to put the wheels down, that club is pretty big, run your plane out of gas, that’s not a club with cool hats and shirts.

You can’t get mad though. What makes these planes so great is all the great little parts built together that work so well for so many years. It really only takes about 3% of the purchase price per year to keep one in tippity top shape - that’s pretty amazing. If you left your 1976 Olds Cutlass on your tie down and drove it 50 hrs a year, could you count on it to work at full throttle every time you entered the highway about 5 minutes after leaving your tie down? Could you count on the range per tank specified in the owner’s manual within 30 minutes? Not a chance. We have Alclad aluminum, 100LL fuel which sheds water and lasts longer than anyone could imagine (thanks goodness it does) Lycoming and TCM to thank, the modern magneto( no transistors) along with all the guys in thick glasses with pocket protectors that built General Aviation after the war.

Until next time...

Brooks Margolien is president and chief technician of Aero Care, Inc., a state-of-the-art piston engine aircraft (13’6” H by 50’ W door opening) maintenance shop in Orange, MA. Brooks has been an aircraft mechanic for over 23 years. You can reach Brooks directly at aerocare.aero@gmail.com.