Beach vacation on the rocks…
Each spring Jean and I look forward to flying to our annual beach retreat with friends in southern California. That was still a few weeks away when I arrived at the airport one chilly morning for a local flight. Having preheated the engine overnight, I primed it as usual and turned the key.
The Flying Carpet, an older Cessna 182, has always been a terrific starter, rarely requiring more than half a turn to waken the engine. But this morning the engine barely cranked – it just groaned to first compression, and stopped. I wasn’t particularly alarmed as today’s mission was minor, and starting problems are usually easily resolved. I first suspected a weak battery. However, the voltmeter showed the battery fully charged to 24 volts, indicating outstanding health and plenty of power to start the engine.
This airplane’s battery is located back behind the baggage compartment. Thinking there might be a faulty connection or ground between it and the starter, I requested a GPU (ground power unit) start from Flagstaff’s Wiseman Aviation. However their battery cart fared no better. That the engine turned at all absolved the ignition switch and starter solenoid. “Obviously,” the problem must be the starter itself…
Mechanics Rory Goforth and Mike Clever towed the airplane to Wiseman Aviation, checked connections, and installed a new starter. But to everyone’s surprise, the engine still wouldn’t crank adequately to start.
Rory explained that the only possible remaining culprit in this simple system was the “starter adaptor.” This clutch-like device mechanically connects the starter to turn the engine, and then disconnects it when the engine starts.
I’d heard of starter adaptors occasionally failing to disengage so the engine drags and burns out the starter, but never one that wouldn’t start the engine. However mine was apparently slipping internally so the spinning starter wouldn’t fully engage the engine…
READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, “BAD START.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)
Top photo: Hitching a ride down the ILS to Prescott, Arizona, with instrument student Patrick Shiels and flight instructor Fred Gibbs. Lower photo: Arizona Air-Craftsman mechanic Leroy Dufresne examines the Flying Carpet after releasing it back to service.
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2015 Gregory N.Brown