Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: McCauley

Back in the Air Again

Prop re-installed on the Swift A couple of articles ago I mentioned that I was out of the air for a while because my prop was leaking fluid that should have been contained in the hub – red-dyed lubricating oil. The saga is now complete and I  thought you might like to hear how it all played out…

When I found the leak I placed a call to the IA (Mechanic with Inspection Authorization) who I work with and he recommended a shop in Stockton, CA. I had another mechanic who has a hanger around the corner from me recommend a different shop and I had worked with a third shop when I had a previous prop overhauled. I ruled out the mechanic’s recommendation because they did not provide pick-up/delivery service. For a two-bladed prop this might not be a factor, but a 3-bladed prop with a 74″ diameter is a bit unwieldy – even for a pick-up truck.

That left two options, so I called them both. I mentioned in the previous post that I asked each a few questions and then decided on the one.  I chose to go with American Propeller in Redding, CA. The only negative with them was that, though I called them on about the 12th of the month, they weren’t going to be able to pick up the prop until Monday the 22nd.

So, I took my time and got the prop off, did a visual inspection and placed it on a wooden pallet in the hangar and worked on other projects while I waited. The following Tuesday (16th) the prop shop called and said their schedule had changed. They would be able to pick it up that Friday (19th) – good news. They probably wouldn’t work on  it that weekend, but it would be ready to go in their shop early Monday morning. Picking up my propeller to take back to the shop for maintenance.

The driver arrived a little behind schedule Friday, but after I heard the route he had to take for other pick-ups I understood the delay. You can see my prop on the left rear of the truck in it’s special cradle. He is putting really tight rubber straps around each blade to hold the prop in place. I believe he said the one on the left rear was involved in a runway overrun that buried the airplane’s nose in the dirt – it’s now probably only good for some minor parts that may not have been damaged. I don’t think I’d even want that one on my wall.

On the following Tuesday (23rd) the shop called. They had dismantled the prop and inspected it and found no discrepancies and were going to replace all the seals in the hub rather than go through a complete overhaul – money saved. The blades had been stripped of paint and inspected and were being repainted the next day. They planned  to deliver the prop on Thursday (25th). I agreed and gave them a card for payment in full.

The only challenge was that I would be out of town that day. I arranged with a friend in a hangar around the corner to have him let the delivery driver into the hangar, set up a place for them to put the prop and called the shop back to give them my friend’s cell number so the driver could call him when he was about an hour away.

On Monday I arrived at the hangar to find a semi-new prop all encased in plastic waiting to be re-installed. Seven calendar days from pick-up to delivery. The package included all the paperwork associated with the re-seal operation – logbook entries and completed work orders. There was also a package with a tube of lubricant to be used during the installation. The maintenance instructions specify that the torque on the prop bolts is a ‘lubricated’ torque.

I got a helper from an adjacent hangar (with his newly calibrated torque wrench) and the process was started. It only took a few hours for me to get it all on, the nuts torqued and everything cleaned up – that lubricant did a job on everything it touched.

The next day the winds were forecast to gust to 40, so I limited myself to taking the plane out to the ramp and running it up to warm the oil and then cycling the prop fully through it’s operating range to get the hub pitch-change mechanism filled with engine oil.

The day after that I flew for a half hour and then re-inspected the prop. I had full rated RPM on takeoff, the prop held it’s set RPM in flight  and everything was still shiny and without a drop of oil anywhere it shouldn’t have been after the flight. It’s probably just wishful thinking, but it even seemed to run a little smoother. I did notice that the balance weights had been moved from their original position.

The day after that I flew down to California and had breakfast with a friend at the airport where I used to be based. Nice flight and the prop worked great. I’m completely satisfied with the service I received and the work that was performed. At this point I would not hesitate to recommend American Propeller in Redding (part of Ameritech Industries).

Not Flying for a While

Last weekend I took my longest straight-line flight to date with the Swift I now own. Globe Swift parked at Livermore, CA airport.I logged roughly 1.5 hours each way and got to know the plane a little better. It definitely makes different sounds than my previous Swift. That is a function of the larger engine (Continental O-300 then vs. Continental IO-360 now) and a major difference in propellers ( Fixed pitch Sensenich then vs. McCauley 3-bladed constant-speed now).  The engine sounds much more powerful and the wind noise pulses are much different with the 3-bladed prop.

The flight was made to attend a Swift lunch date. The Northern California Swift group sets a date each month to meet somewhere for lunch. In the past the attendance has been great, but in recent years it has dropped off for some reason. I would imagine that it’s a combination of age, retirement budgets and fuel costs – the group isn’t getting any younger and although the Swift  seems to have a cult following the younger pilot crowd seems to be drawn to the high-tech shiny new planes over the proven classics.

I had a really good time visiting with the other Swift club members who attended the lunch gathering.  As we were leaving a group of five RVs landed and parked near our spot – probably taking advantage of the same restaurant we had used. As I made my way first to the fuel island and then the end of the runway a Curtiss P-40 took off,  made a low pass or two and then landed. He taxied right by me on the way back to his hangar as I accomplished my magneto check at the end of the runway.  Nice performance.

After that flight the Swift sat for 4 days while we hosted a house guest. When I finally got back to the hangar I opened the door and found a new liquid on the floor.

Preflight inspections of aircraft should always begin as you walk up to the plane. Does the  ‘big picture’ of the airplane look right? Is there anything parked or placed near the plane that will affect moving the plane from its parking spot? Is the area behind the plane clear? Is there anything under the plane that indicates something has leaked from where it should have been contained?

Hmmm. A new spot of red fluid under the nose – not just the nose, but out front – under the propeller.  No chance that it’s hydraulic fluid – there’s nothing that far out front that uses that type of hydraulics. However,  some constant-speed props have a hub filled with lubricating oil that has been dyed red – and mine is one of them. The manufacturers started doing that to allow easier identification of cracked propeller hubs. More investigation was needed.

Drips of propeller oil on the floor of the hangar.Notice of lubricating oil in the propeller hub.





Removal of the spinner provided a closer look. No leaks were obvious anywhere on the hub, but a few drops of red oil were found on the spinner backing plate. A closer look at the inside of the spinner showed an area of red fluid splatter around one of the propeller blade openings.

Oil splatter on the inside of the spinner.

Propeller with spinner removed.







I bought this plane from an estate around five years ago. The prop had been purchased new from McCauley and installed on the plane by the previous owner who then flew it for about 75 hours before he passed away. The family let the plane sit for about 5 more years without flying it before they decided to sell. I bought it and took another 5 years to get it in flyable condition as I worked between airline trips.  Letting any piece of mechanical equipment sit without using it or taking any preservative action is the worst thing you can do.  I had to rebuild most of the systems on the plane – especially anything that had a rubber seal in it.

I had been planning to send the prop out to a shop for inspection, hoping to have it done over the winter months when I wouldn’t be flying much anyway. This event has moved up the schedule to now. I called a couple of different shops in my general area and asked each a bunch of questions.

  • What would you recommend in this particular case?
  • What services would you provide?
  • How much will this cost?
  • Is pick-up and delivery included?
  • What is the time involved for getting it all done?

I decided on a shop in Northern California based upon all the work that they will do for a reasonable price. As an added benefit, they are an authorized McCauley Service Center. I had also used them to overhaul my Sensenich fixed-pitch prop on the other Swift, so I had a history working with them that had been positive.

Unfortunately they can’t pick up the prop for another week and will have it for a week before they deliver it back to my hangar. Guess I’ll have time to polish the bottom of the plane and get some work done in the cockpit area – making some pockets in the side panels for charts and checklists and installing an aux. power receptacle for a future ‘authorized electronic device.”

I’ll let you know how it all works out.

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