I received an email a few days ago asking if I was still around and flying since it has been so long since I last posted an article. I just looked and can’t believe it has been almost a year and a half. My apologies….
I did write an article during the first week in January but I never published it – I was concerned that the information I had put into it might encourage a non-mechanic Swift owner to take on a project that they were neither qualified nor capable of accomplishing correctly and would end up with an unairworthy airplane or worse.
That article was about my need to take at least one wing off my plane (I did both) to fix a main fuel tank leak. I had gone out to the airport to go flying and found a puddle of fuel on the hangar floor – not a good sign during your preflight.
It turns out that a crack had developed on the top rear of the right main fuel tank (my plane also has outer wing aux fuel tanks, an STC from Merlin Products). Fixing the leak required removing the outer wing panel, which in turn required disconnecting the aileron and removing the wing flap. That was followed by removing the end rib on the center section, disconnecting all of the fuel lines and vent lines to the tank and then removing the tank. Of course, draining all the fuel out of the tanks was the first step – and as expected, the tanks were full (52 gallons minus what was on the floor)
Since I only wanted to do this process once, I also removed the left main fuel tank using the same process – though that one included removing the fuel filler assembly.
I took both tanks to a fellow IA who had experience welding these tanks. He accomplished the repair and then we pressure tested both tanks to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I inspected the repair IAW AC 43.13 and wrote up the repair on an FAA Form 337 – Repairing fuel tanks is a major repair. (14 CFR Part 43, Appendix A (b)(xxviii))
I then reversed the process and put everything back together. I refilled the tanks over several days, checking each day for another puddle or leak but found none. I did a really thorough preflight and flight control check and made a successful test flight. I was back in business.
Of course, by then COVID was well established and the air quality here in Reno was absolutely terrible because of all the fires. That pretty much shut down my flying for the majority of the summer. I did manage to get in the air enough to complete a phase of the WINGS program which qualified as my Flight review.
Between the winter temperatures and the wild swings in weather we have been having I am just managing to keep my landing currency but not much else. The price of 100LL now isn’t helping either.
I managed to get into the air last Thursday for about an hour. The AWOS said the winds were variable at 4 kts but it sure wasn’t that at 8500′. My head hit the hatch twice as I flew around the area so I headed back to the airport, did a couple of patterns and called it a day. Turbulence in the mountains isn’t fun.
Today the AWOS says the winds are from 250 deg at 20G27 and tomorrow it is supposed to get windy with gusts in the 40-50 kt range, including LLWS, blowing dust, etc. Reasonable flying weather is supposed to be back in about 4 days.
The good news is the temperatures have been warm and we have no snow on the ground nor is there a forecast showing any appreciable snow or rain on the horizon. That is also the bad news. It looks like it could be another bad fire year out here in the west. The Reno-Stead tanker base is in operation waiting for their first call. With the forecasted dry winds I hope it’s not this weekend.