EAA Sport Aviation Magazine

Don’t Go Overboard

Suppressing the urge to overreact to and overkill problems. The Bonanza owner encountered an engine problem 11 hours after his aircraft came out of annual. He had crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains VFR at 12,500 feet westbound enroute to the Bay Area, and was descending through 11,000 feet when he felt a bit of engine […]

Backdoor Rulemaking?

Cessna gets caught with its hand in the FAA’s cookie jar. On February 10, 2014, the Cessna Aircraft Company did something quite unprecedented in the history of piston GA: It published a revision to the service manual for cantilever-wing Cessna 210-series airplanes that added three new pages to the manual. Those three pages constituted a […]

Discrepancy Discretion

Who decides whether or not your aircraft is airworthy? By Mike Busch My column in the May 2015 issue of EAA Sport Aviation, titled “Fix It Now…Or Fix It Later,” discussed how to deal with mechanical problems on the road. It offered some specific advice about how pilots and aircraft owners can decide whether a […]

Why I Hate Pulling Jugs

It’s riskier business than most owners or A&Ps realize. Regular readers of this column know how I feel about changing cylinders in the field. I hate it. Especially when several cylinders are changed at one time; this is risky business. Changing them all (the so-called “top overhaul”) is even riskier. In my column in the […]


Clearing up confusion about aircraft mods. You want to modify your certificated aircraft. Let’s say it’s something simple like adding an extra cigarette lighter socket to power your portable GPS or cellphone charger. Or installing an external mirror so you can verify your landing gear is down. Or tweaking your engine cooling baffles to get […]

Fix It Now…Or Fix It Later?

You’re on a trip when a mechanical arises. First you mutter the obligatory expletives, and then you must decide: Should you get the problem fixed now, or live with it until you get home? Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with mechanical problems on the road. It’s always uncomfortable when you’re far away from your […]


Oleopneumatic shock struts use hydraulic fluid, compressed gas, and darn clever engineering to improve our landings. If every one of our landings were a “greaser” and if runways never had bumps or potholes, then the landing gear on our airplanes could be dead simple. Wheel assemblies rigidly attached to the airframe would work fine, just […]

150 Year-Old Technology

Most of us are still flying (and driving) behind powerplant technology that dates from the 19th century. The original four-stroke Otto-cycle internal-combustion engine was patented in 1862 by a Frenchman named Alphonse Beau de Rochas. More scientist than engineer, de Rochas never actually built an operational engine. The first working prototype was built by a […]

The Perfect Mechanic

What to look for when choosing an A&P to work on your aircraft. Over the past 45 years, I’ve had the opportunity—and often the privilege—of  working with hundreds of aircraft mechanics. At first it was as a naïve aircraft owner having them perform inspections and repairs on my airplane. Later it was as a student […]

Silent Killer

If you think CO-related accidents are rare, think again… On January 17, 1997, a Piper Dakota departed Farmingdale, New York, on a planned two-hour VFR flight to Saranac Lake, New York. The pilot was experienced and instrument-rated; his 71-year-old mother, a low-time private pilot, occupied the right seat. Just over a half-hour into the flight, […]

Prebuy Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re buying an aircraft, here’s how to structure the prebuy.  Over the past six months, my company’s prebuy activity has gone right through the roof. We’ve been responding to 30 to 50 prebuy requests a month, perhaps four times as many as we were seeing a year ago.  I’m not quite sure what this […]

Energy and Efficiency

Why are our piston aircraft engines so @#$%*! inefficient? Our piston aircraft engines convert chemical energy into mechanical work, but they don’t do it very efficiently. It turns out that only about one-third of the energy contained in the 100LL we burn winds up getting to the propeller and doing useful work to propel us […]

Human Error

“To err is human…” but when humans make mistakes working on aircraft, bad things can happen. During the century since the Wright Brothers first flew, the predominant perpetrator in aircraft accidents has shifted dramatically from machine to human. Today, human error is responsible for about 90% of aircraft accidents and incidents. It’s not that people […]

A Mechanic’s Liability

If your mechanic seems over-cautious and self-protective in his approach to maintaining your airplane, he has good reason. Mechanics have always been subject to FAA sanctions: certificate suspension or revocation, fines, warning notices, letters of correction, and remedial training. But during the 1960s and 1970s—the heyday of piston general aviation—such enforcement actions against GA mechanics […]

A Highly Modified Skyhawk

How does an IA deal with a situation like this? The maintenance officer of a small flying club asked if my company would be willing to manage the maintenance of the club’s 1976 Cessna 172M. The airplane had been flying about 200 hours a year, and had faced a number of maintenance challenges. After trying […]

Cylinder Work: Be Afraid

It is nearly impossible to install a cylinder properly when the engine is on the airplane. Here’s why. I suppose it comes as no surprise to readers of this column that I’m not exactly a fan of top overhauls. I never like to see any cylinder removed from any piston aircraft engine unless there’s absolutely […]

Scuzzy Skyhawk

Why a thorough, independent prebuy examination is so essential, even for a simple 172. The prospective buyer was looking for a Lycoming-powered Cessna 172 Skyhawk, and had a budget of $35,000. He searched online and found one being offered with an asking price in the high 20s, a price that left some room in his […]

Ferry Permits

If your aircraft isn’t airworthy but you need to fly it anyway, here’s how. As every pilot knows, it’s strictly against the rules to fly an unairworthy aircraft: §91.7   Civil aircraft airworthiness. (a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition. (b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft […]

Not-So-Plain Bearings

There’s a lot more to engine bearings than meets the eye. According to Miriam-Webster, a bearing is “a machine part in which another part turns.” Most aircraft have lots of them.  Wheels spin on their axles with the help of tapered roller bearings. Magnetos, alternators, generators and starter motors incorporate ball bearings to support their […]

High Oil Consumption

Don’t do anything rash until you’re sure where the oil is going. A fellow named Ted phoned me to say that his 1984 Cessna T210 was in the shop for its annual inspection, and his mechanic was suggesting a $14,000 top overhaul. “Mike, I’ve read a lot of your articles and I know you’re not […]

Mechanic, Heal Thyself

All airplanes occasionally get sick. Even mine. Every year, I take my airplane on a big summer trip around the U.S., speaking at various aviation events and culminating with a week at EAA AirVenture. This year’s trip was 50 days long—June 17th to August 5th—and covered 6,500 nautical miles, put 40 hours on the Hobbs, […]

Damage History

The term “damage history” is not well-defined. Here are some thoughts on the subject. One of my clients just had a fancy digital engine monitor installed in his airplane. During the installation, the shop hired to do the work drilled a half-inch hole in a non-structural area of the cabin sidewall to accommodate the OAT […]

FAA’s War on Jugs: An Update

Yikes! It’s far worse than I expected, and it must be stopped. By Mike Busch I must be losing my touch. When I last wrote about this subject 9 months ago—in the February 2013 issue of EAA Sport Aviation—I reported that in 2009 the FAA effectively legislated out of existence Superior Millennium-brand investment-cast cylinders (that […]

Rough Engine

Understanding the underlying causes of engine roughness is the key to eliminating it. One of the most common squawks reported by pilots and aircraft owners is a rough-running engine. If the roughness can be duplicated during a ground runup, then the mechanic might have a chance to troubleshoot it systematically.  Most of the time, however, […]
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