AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 24

SAFETY SPOTLIGHT

Decisions, decisions

BY RICHARD MCSPADDEN
Senior Vice President
AOPA Air Safety Institute

Accepting the risks-and consequences

AOPA Air Safety
Institute Senior
Vice President
RICHARD
MCSPADDEN

has flown more
than 5,000 hours
in a variety of
civilian and military
aircraft.

EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE at any point in our lives is
mostly a consequence of all the decisions-big and
small-that we've made leading up to that moment.
A simple observation that embraces the power of
personal ownership. No one more than each of us is
responsible for our current situation, and the outcome.
It's one of the fundamental principles that define aviation culture.
I reflected on that while ferrying a long-inactive
1993 Piper Super Cub out of Silver City, New Mexico
(94E). I've bought and sold a few airplanes and learned
that it's rare (or expensive) to find exactly what you
want, both getting all your preferences and avoiding all
your undesirables. There's usually an issue or two that
makes you pause and test your priorities. With this airplane, the good and the bad was that it had been flown
a total of 360 hours. Low time and low stress on the
airframe and engine-good, but long periods of inactivity-bad, because that can result in corrosion issues
inside the engine. The ideal used airplane has low time
but has been flown regularly recently.
I decided to accept the risk of a low-time engine
with recent periods of inactivity. I was delighted
with everything else about the airplane. Frame,
fabric, and interior were exactly as the seller
described-almost immaculate, thanks to the dry
southwest air where it rested. No damage and complete logbooks since it rolled off the factory floor.
This airplane had a great history and good "bones"
that I'd feel comfortable flying for a long time while
tinkering with upgrades.
My personal observation about the tough and reliable Lycoming O-320 engine on PA-18s is that if they
haven't flown a lot, they often need a top overhaul
about halfway to the 2,000-hour time between overhauls. I factored that into my offer, which meant I'd be
fine financially if it needed a "top" in the near future-
but if it needed a complete overhaul, I'd be behind the
value curve. That's how I assessed and managed the
financial risk.
The safety risk was a separate calculation. Even
though the airplane hadn't flown much, the owner
kept it in annual, and the cylinder compressions were
strong and consistent. He reported no oil burn and
clean oil filter inspections-all positive indicators.
Still, I'm wary of unused engines. I brought along

24 | AOPA PILOT December 2020

my borescope, just to have a look. Affordable and
easy to use, a borescope reveals a great deal about
the condition of the top of an engine. It's not helpful
in inspecting the bottom (crankshaft and other critical pieces), but it's great for finding cylinder cracks
and inspecting pistons, cylinder walls, and valves.
Lighted, flexible borescopes are one of the great
recent advances in aviation safety.
While the seller assisted, I borescoped the engine
and found a suspicious line along the top of a cylinder.
Three of four experts I sent the photos to assessed it as
carbon flaking, but one-the most experienced Super
Cub and Lycoming O-320 A&P I/A in the group-
thought it was a cylinder crack. I advised the seller.
He offered to pull the jug and if cracked, he'd replace it;
if not cracked, he'd reinstall it and I'd pay for the labor.
A fair approach. It would take the better part of a day
to do the work. I had plenty of time, so that wasn't a
factor, nor was the few hundred dollars it might cost
me to remove and replace the cylinder. My biggest
concern was the intrusive field maintenance of pulling a cylinder on an engine that showed no other signs
of duress and only one of four experts thought might
have a crack.
Maintenance actions add risk. Humans make
errors, and replacing a cylinder requires substantial work with small details that must be performed
to exact specifications. The choice before me was to
take the engine as is or take an engine with a cylinder
newly installed or replaced in the field by someone I
didn't know.
I decided that-despite the assessment of someone
I held a great deal of respect for-with confirmed compressions, no other signs of a crack, no indications of
engine duress, and three of four experts believing the
cylinder was fine, I would take the engine as is rather
than risk intrusive maintenance in the field.
So it was that, at 8,500 feet msl over inhospitable
terrain, I found myself reflecting on consequences.
Whatever happened, I would be exactly where the
confluence of my decisions put me. And I was perfectly
OK with that. Such is a part of owning our destiny that
is a beautiful imperative in flying.
Go fly.
AOPA
EMAIL richard.mcspadden@aopa.org



AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 12
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 13
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 14
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 16
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 21
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 22
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 23
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 24
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 25
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 26
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 27
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 28
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 29
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 30
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 31
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 32
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 33
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 34
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 35
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 36
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 37
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 38
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 39
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 40
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 41
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 42
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 43
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 44
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 45
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 46
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 47
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 48
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 49
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 50
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 51
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 53
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 54
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 55
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 56
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 57
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 58
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 59
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 60
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 61
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 62
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 63
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 64
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 65
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 66
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 67
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 69
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 70
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 71
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 73
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 77
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 78
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 79
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 112
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover4
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