Magazine Articles


Recently, a client with an older Cessna 182 Skylane reported that his nose landing gear strut was leaking fluid and repeatedly going flat. Inspection revealed that the original chrome strut piston had become badly pitted and was tearing up the nose strut seals. The owner’s shop checked the Textron Aviation parts system and found that […]

The Tale of Two Prebuys

My company manages a lot of prebuys. At any given point in time, we typically have a dozen of them in progress. We’ve managed thousands of them over the years, and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of the time, the aircraft turn out to be in decent shape and the outcome […]

Minimally Invasive

What we can learn from medicine about fixing things without taking them apart. A longtime friend who was suffering from extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure caused by aortic valve stenosis, and she required an aortic valve replacement. This was a very big deal that required open-heart surgery. […]

Savvy’s Borescope Initiative

Teaching owners (and mechanics) how to do borescope inspections right In my last column (“Ending the War on Jugs,” AOPA Pilot March 2024 issue), I talked at length about why we should use the borescope—not the compression tester—as the gold standard for assessing cylinder condition. Borescopes are now inexpensive (under $300) and capable of breathtaking […]

Monitor-Specific FAQs

Concerning E.I. UBG-16, MGL and GRT monitors How do I upload data from a UBG-16? Files that come from a UBG-16 do not contain “heading names” for each of the columns in the file (each column represents a data series, such as EGT1). As such, if you were to upload such a file to SavvyAviation, […]

Choosing and Upgrading Your Engine Monitor

Aircraft owners often ask us for advice about what kind of engine monitor equipment we recommend installing in their airplanes. Owners who already have engine monitors installed often seek advice about upgrading them with additional capabilities or replacing them with newer, more advanced equipment. Engine monitor technology has been a fast moving target. More and […]

In-Flight Diagnostics

The best way to diagnose an engine problem is usually in the air. Note to reader: The procedures discussed in this article for gathering flight test data are described more fully in the “Flight Test Profiles” document found under the “Learn More” or “Help” menu items. Pease refer to that document when performing the flight […]

Controlling the Combustion Event

Each time you change mixture, RPM or MP, it affects combustion timing. Understanding how is your best defense against harming your engine by doing something dumb. My last few columns focused on the physics of the combustion event in Otto-cycle engines. I’m sure this was fascinating to the two or three of you who are […]

Detonation and Pre-Ignition

Often confused and misunderstood, these two abnormal combustion phenomena are as different as night and day. Although we often hear people describe what goes on inside the cylinders of an Otto-cycle engine as being an explosion – i.e., a violent, nearly-instantaneous event – it’s not. The air-fuel charge does not explode when ignited by the […]

Understanding CHT and EGT

These two key measurements can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside our cylinders. My column last month talked about the fact that our piston aircraft engines convert only about one-third of the energy contained in avgas into useful energy to the propeller. About half the fuel’s energy goes out the exhaust pipe, […]

Interpreting Your Engine Monitor

The modern probe-per-cylinder digital engine monitor is a marvelous tool for keeping tabs on your engine’s health and troubleshooting its maladies. Here are some tips for figuring out what those bars and digits mean. This is embarrassing, but I might as well come clean: Up until 2003, I was still flying my Cessna T310R with […]

Ending the War on Jugs

Weak compression doesn’t always mean that the cylinder has to come off. For most of my nearly six decades as an aircraft owner and three decades as an A&P, the rule about cylinders was simple: If the compression reading was less than 60/80, the cylinder had to come off for repair or replacement, period. The […]

Unleaded Avgas—Cure or Curse?

Does unleaded fuel really cause exhaust valve seat recession? The October 27 announcement by the University of North Dakota (UND) flight school that it was terminating its year-long test of Swift UL94 unleaded avgas and returning to 100LL came as a shock and disappointment to many in the industry, me included. The school’s Director of […]

Time & Materials

Why is GA maintenance done on a T&M basis, which places all the risk on the aircraft owner and none on the shop? A successful surgeon put his Beechcraft Baron 58 in an Arkansas shop for a makeover. He wanted both engines overhauled, new paint and interior, and the steam gauges replaced with a modern […]

Deadly Switches

That ubiquitous key-operated ignition switch is fraught with peril On July 26, 2018, private pilot Lanny Steven Kramer of Sarasota, Florida, and his wife Fran flew to the Cleveland Regional Jetport (RZR) in Cleveland, Tennessee to run some errands, after which they returned to the airport to depart. Shortly before 5 p.m., Lanny was preflighting […]

Miracle in Sioux Falls

My hapless blunder en route to Oshkosh triggered a series of incredibly fortuitous events. It was mid-July and my annual pilgrimage to AirVenture Oshkosh was rapidly approaching. I’d finished preparing PowerPoint for the 11 different presentations I would be making. Now I started thinking about the upcoming flight. Flying from California to Wisconsin solo can […]

Fortunate Catch

A maintenance-aware owner is the last line of defense against maintenance errors Corey owns a 1978 Bonanza A36 and is quite involved in its maintenance. He does his own oil changes and other preventive maintenance. He even bought his own borescope and uses it to keep tabs on the health of his cylinders. He’s my […]

Legal interpretations

If you ask FAA lawyers what a regulation means, the answer might surprise you We’ve all studied the regs. If you’re a pilot, you’ve spent hours poring over Part 61 (pilot certification, ratings, currency) and Part 91 (operating rulese, owner responsibilities), both of which are voluminous. If you’re a mechanic, you’ve hopefully memorized Part 65 […]

Unbelievable Compression

How reliable and valid is the almighty compression test? Each annual inspection begins with a moment of terror when the IA removes the top spark plugs and takes a compression reading of each cylinder. We hold our breath awaiting the verdict. If the numbers are good, we exhale and relax. If not, we anticipate the […]

Here to Help?

When it comes to maintenance problems, the FAA might be able help you but only in very limited ways. My April column, titled “Booted Out of Annual,” related a true story of a Bonanza owner who put his plane in the shop for its annual inspection, got into a disagreement with the shop’s manager, and […]

Mechanic Crisis

THERE ARE NO LONGER ENOUGH A&PS TO MAINTAIN OUR GA AIRPLANES “The annual I scheduled more than a year ago got cancelled on a five-week notice,” read a recent post to the Beechcraft Bonanza Owners Facebook group. The unhappy owner went on to say that it was going to be impossible for him to find […]

Booted Out of an Annual

This unfortunate aircraft owner was placed in an untenable position by an unreasonable maintenance manager  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.  I’m going to change the names—I’ll call the aircraft owner “Oliver” and the A&P/IA “Isaac” and the shop manager “Maurice—and avoid geographical references. But I swear this really happened. The story started some months […]

Ethics of Misdiagnosis

Should you have to pay for work or parts that don’t fix the problem? “Mike, I have an ethical question for you: How should an aircraft owner determine fair compensation to a mechanic for parts and labor that were unnecessary?” The email was from a 1947 Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser owner—I’ll call him Don—who had […]

A Matter of Trust

How far does your IA have to go to verify that your aircraft is airworthy? The subject line of the email got my attention: “Annual gone wrong…please help!” The author—let’s call him Morrie—identified himself as a first-time airplane owner. “I have my Citabria in for annual now,” Morrie said, “and I feel like one of […]
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