It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall in the 1980’s when design requirements for the Yak 55 were being drawn up at “the Bureau”
Its lines are so different from the sleek, curvy single-seat fighter appearance of its predecessor, the Yak 50.
But as the seventies turned into the eighties, the Yak 50’s were being found too sleek, too slippery for the slower style of world championship aerobatics that was emerging. It would slice its way through the aerobatic box too fast, denying advantage to Russian team pilots.
No, it was clear. A lighter airframe with more drag was needed. Nothing short of National prestige was at stake.
And so it was that one cold Friday night in January the three members of the Yakovlev 55 core design team made their way to Gorky Park, with pencil and paper, a bottle of Green Label Vodka and a Tab of acid - and the rest...is history.
The ugliest plane imaginable.
At least that’s what I thought too, until one spring morning several years ago when Vladimir let me degrease the belly of a customer’s 55/M.
You couldn’t have made this up.
Almost as though the 55 was infecting me with its subtle pheromones, by the time it was beginning to sparkle, I was already besotted with its ridiculously fat Vertical stabilizer, the bulbous shoulder wing, spindly model airplane gear and cool raked-back bubble canopy.
Just can’t explain it.
There are certain viewing angles from which the 55 can appear less than beautiful. Like saggy gear. You don’t want saggy gear - and your propeller tips certainly don’t want to be that close to the ground either. (Thank heaven for TYC’s gear extensions! )
But soon afterward I had the opportunity to join those few, those happy band of brothers who have taken a 55 aloft.
And that changes everything.
What an underrated, undiscovered plane this is!
Back at Gorky Park, they had been able to scrawl a few things down on the vodka-soaked notepad, before starting to notice their breath was now making technicolor ripples in the night air. One item on the ‘clean sheet of paper’, was to ditch the weight associated with retractable gear.
With fixed metal gear, you could toss the emergency system, get by with just one tiny air tank for engine start, even ground-fill it!. (“We won’t even hook that compressor up”).
It was to be the end of the line for air brakes too.
Hydraulic puck brakes!...Once more three re-filled shot glasses crashed together.
Head held high, tovarich Kondratiev announced with certainty that the electro-pneumatic start valve had outlived its usefulness. Always requiring perfect tank pressure and a fully charged battery - Bah! - so ‘Western’. “A push-button air start” he declared to the frosty stars.
About the same time, tovarich Drach had become aware of spiraling iridescent carousel horses, corkscrewing up into the shimmering night sky above their beloved Capitol, above the amusement park, above the three huddled designers, none of whom were now feeling any pain.
“Even your thumb cannot push against 50 bar of air pressure, Comrade” noted Sergei Yakovlev dryly.
There was a long pause. The beautiful Moskva river before them pulsated black and silver.
“We will have a lever” said Kondratiev with finality.
Today, you can’t actually see this lever, or the valve, since they got hidden behind the panel. The push button is by the Magneto switch where you’d expect it though, under its black metal guard.
50 and 52 owners anticipate a characteristically prompt motor start when the button is pressed in their planes.
In the 55, it’s different.
Here the mechanical push button slops around like some handmade key in a medieval lock, requiring half an inch of travel before you get any reaction.
That, unfortunately, is how it is with levers.
But let’s give the guys their due, they certainly condensed the air start operation down to one valve.
Full Air tank pressure bears down on the backside of a piston whose other side houses a rubber seal hard against a raised lip in the valve body, preventing air leakage.
The aforementioned starting lever ( via the push button) rocks against a convex nut on the end of a shaft, moving a shuttle forward against the metal center of the sealing piston, pushing it off that lip.
Full pressure air from the tank rushes forward and up the sidearm of the start valve, out to the air start spider, onward to join a well-timed shower of sparks above primed pistons.
But 50 bar of air pressure wants out of our little start valve in every direction.
They had to design in a rubber shaft seal on the downstream side of this air start valve to reduce lost air during the start. ( item 10 in the diagram)
Then, once the engine was running and the Pilot had released the push button, re-seating the piston, the downstream side of this air start valve was still pressurized. The push shaft ( item 9) had to be drilled to vent the post-start pressure to atmosphere.
High level simplicity had bred lower level complexity.
Maybe because this start valve is hidden behind the panel and not in your face, it’s easy to forget that the rubber face of this Main sealing Piston ( item 8) sees tank pressure 24/7 ( or for as long as there IS tank pressure) - because the guys decided to go without a main air valve too.
Yep, there isn’t one on a 55.
And just like PRV pistons, eventually the sealing rubber takes a set.
And starts to leak.
With only 3 liters of air on board, some 55 pilots get range anxiety for good reason.
Heard any air hissing from behind the left side of the panel on your 55 recently?
TYC is now overhauling these valves, pressure testing them for the absence of leaks before yours is returned to you.
Items 3,8 ( including its rubber insert, a rather tired one is shown above), 10,12,13 and 14 in the factory diagram above are replaced with new parts, sourced or made in the US.
(Item 13, the set screw is replaced with a Socket Head style and a suitable Allen key is included.)
This won’t fix the entire push button/lever linkage sloppiness, but it will return sobriety to your Air gauge while dialing down the pilot’s range anxiety.
The Yak 55 - possibly the last in a grand tradition of Yakovlev competition monoplanes - and almost certainly designed using a Slide Rule.
Before the “big nineties”, before the sun rose on the Sukhoi Designers with their computer graphics, exotic blends of titanium for this, carbon fiber for that, their constantly irritated red eyes and permanently itchy noses.
Love your 55 - it's an exotic masterpiece which asks only that it be viewed correctly-through the hangar doors of perception.
Nobody likes to be taken for granted.
Especially not the fuel & oil hoses in your engine compartment. You’d definitely want to change them before they decided to fail during a cross-country.
Although they are ‘on condition’ at your annual inspection, it would be good to have a rule of thumb for hose life - because they are mission critical, so - how many years should you expect to get out of your Yak 52’s hoses?
Here’s a document pertaining to DOSAAF operations ( lots of short student flights, multiple landings & power changes) that the total life of Yak 52 hoses, including storage is 9 Years
The design bureau used three or four-digit hose numbers as shown below, to describe Yak hoses:
We've prepared pictures and descriptions to help you identify the hoses you need.
Certain airframe-specific hoses would be prefixed by “52” then follow a different designation if the hose had a banjo end fitting, for example.
And if you've got a hose in one hand but the other hand is scratching your head, take a minute to check this out.
Anyway, whenever it’s new hose time, TYC is ready for you. On December 1st 2019 a customer used the website to order 7 Fuel and Oil hoses, which were shipped out to him on December 3rd.
Fast enough for you ?
No parking on the dance floor, Baby.
New Russian hose material will be assembled with used, but serviceable, Metric Hose end fittings including Firesleeve where appropriate. When your shipment arrives, remove your old hose and fit the new one.
Too easy !
But it doesn’t stop there.
Cut the hose fittings off your old hose ( about 4" from the ends please - to give us something to grab on as we disassemble it), ship them back to us, and if they meet our ‘accept’ criteria ( see below) we’ll electronically refund you up to $15 per hose fitting upon receipt & inspection.
No need to send us modified, welded, chewed up or damaged fittings that you wouldn’t want on your plane. The two criteria we care about are:
We really need your core fittings - and we need them in good shape because your formation Wingman might be our next hose customer.
As usual, your satisfaction is guaranteed.
Please note that only stock Yakovlev hose sizes are on sale here. If you have inserted a fuel totalizer, an aftermarket Oil Filter in an existing line or switched to Aeroquip, the part numbers shown on the website are not guaranteed to fit - but we can still reproduce what you need, so email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619 933-2571 and talk to us.
An informal TYC survey suggests that as few as 1 in 8 Yaks still use Russian plugs and the factory ignition harness.
At some point it's a foregone conclusion that the insulation on one or more of those eighteen tightly bundled plug leads will break down, inside that curved metal Factory shroud, and start sharing its life story with a neighboring wire. There may be radio noise, engine misfiring at high power settings or other mayhem.
But when the time does come to switch to Auto plugs, be sure of this:
First, nobody makes the switch until they have to. Russian plugs work great even though they are more costly than the NGK’s you will fit next.
Second, nobody fixes failing Russian Ignition harnesses. Not even DOSAAF mechanics did. Too time consuming and ambiguous to troubleshoot- they would toss it & fit a new harness.
Today, thanks to Modern Auto plug wire technology, you have another option.
Third, once you get to actually installing these Automotive Ignition leads on your Yak, you’ll experience a whole new level of frustration while trying to make a sound connection between the Distributor cap and the new conductor core.
The Russian plug wire is the most basic stranded conductor imaginable. Once the pointed metal screw in the red mica Magneto distributor cap pierces the black rubber insulation, a metal to metal contact is assured. Screw that baby home & go flying.
By contrast, Auto plug wire yields to external penetration in a more nuanced way.
After one half-turn of the pointed screw, your continuity meter will be beeping, (usually indicating 4 to 7 ohms between its ends depending on the plug wire length) ...but turn the screw in another half turn and continuity is suddenly lost!
Here's why. The core resembles a hollow Nylon guitar string. Around this flexible base a ceramic spiral conductor is laid. Someone determined the physics of this spiral transfers High Tension better than the Russian stranded stuff. It's efficient, but fragile - easy to break with a pointed screw. (Outside the spiral will be a thick layer of fibrous insulation then the colored plastic outer sheath, perhaps with an extra layer of RF shielding braid.)
One recipe for installation success is to strip the outer layers for quarter of an inch - being careful not to cut the guitar string or the spiral conductor. Once this delicate ceramic layer is visible, take the barrel of a crimp style automotive connector- trimmed to match the stripped length - and, using suitable pliers, close it firmly around the carbon spiral. Now the tip of the pointed screw will sink into the soft aluminum of the crimp, making a more reliable contact.
Simply ( As they say in the instruction manuals) repeat 17 more times, checking continuity & noting end-to-end resistance as you go.
Since you’ll have purchased Auto plug wires with molded-on plug caps, remember to thread ignition leads through their respective holes in the Magneto cover plate before terminating them at the Distributor cap.
The cap for the left mag has 10 holes (because of the Shower of sparks lead), the one with 9 holes is destined for the right Magneto.
4 fixing Screws per Magneto cover, drilled for safety wire, are included in the kit.
These covers are drilled for 8mm diameter Auto Ignition Leads but can be enlarged to suit larger diameter plug wires. Note the middle lower pair of Ignition Lead holes are splayed outward on purpose to guide those two conductors towards their corresponding receptors on the distributor cap.
As the fog rolled in you dimmed the cockpit lights
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Joining Victor 107 sealed your fate
Checked in at Golden Gate
Then you got too close to the ground.
Did you feel like Jesus?
Did you realize
You were just a Target in their eyes
Oakland Center started pushing tin for real
You shoulda seen the zeal
Everyone stopped to stare at your ADS-B suicide
Northern Tracon had your number on the wall
You must have had it all
You'd head for Hayward on a dare
then you'd just go around
Could you live forever?
Could you see the day
Could you feel your Licence crumple up and fade away
Walk it off, walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Your insurers have all left you in the red
You spend the days in bed
Life can be very strange
Flight School Cessnas that would never paint a trace
They've joined the human race
On the Magenta Line
Son you were mistaken
They just want your pelt
Look at all the white men here to help
Walk it off, walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Fix this squitter else we'll all end up in jail
The third time that it’s failed
since I turned on the strobe
Is there gas in the Champ?
Yes, there's gas in the Champ
I’m staying outta Mode C veil
from now on
Careful what you transmit
'Cause the man is wise
and he’s got extinction in his eyes
Walk it off, walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Walk it off Kid Charlemagne
Five weeks left
And instead of doing something about it, i’m writing embittered parodies on why I have to spend a quarter, maybe a third of my year’s flying fuel money on bullshit Avionics that’s going to strip me of my privacy in return for some Little Bo Peep weather product.
Going to be a initial flood of airspace violations in early 2020? You know it - but that’s not the real taste it leaves in your mouth.
Here’s a clue. If all the gallons of 100LL made in a year were compared to all the gallons of Jet A, the refineries could make all the 100LL in one day out of the 365. And ask your FBO what a money spinner 100LL is for them.
The point ?- if the FAA woke up tomorrow & discovered GA had died in the night, you get the feeling there wouldn’t be too much handwringing about it.
Ten thousand Asian students in Cherokees bouncing off each other in the pattern won’t change that.
Nor will AOPA opening its doors to Drone pilots so the pink button-down shirts at Frederick can still afford to keep Buffy at Annandale.
Start here, then marginalize us further with skyrocketing insurance premiums.
(Oh - and ADS-B out needs to be on while you’re taxiing too.)
Boomers like me though can get the bus driver’s attention and just get off at THIS stop right here - having had the best ride ever, whether that’s the environment, the art of conversation, GA or affordable Healthcare.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Not sure where this bus goes next but enjoy the ride!
Rant over. ( in the background: gets checkbook out)
TYC is proud to be part of the Long Tail.
No big ticket items like motors or carburetors here, but plenty of smaller, equally essential parts to keep your Yak airborne.
No high-volume market dominators but lots of small-run useful, winning products. And if you’ve read about the economics of the Long Tail, you’ll know the further you care to go down this Yak rabbit hole, the more low-volume, niche parts remain to be built for our Vibrant community.
Even for the best-established names in this field, the economics of serving the Yak community are precarious at best. Most people flying Yaks in the US would agree that the minute 100LL were to reach $8 a gallon, THIS particular hobby would lose its spot to Hiking, at which point the few trusted businesses committed to keeping our Vperod paddle blades thumping, would quickly curl up and die.
Happily, as of Fall 2019, that doomsday scenario is nowhere to be seen.
The basic economics of TYC's Yak reproduction parts goes like this. If you were unlucky enough to have had a fuel cover fly off during the last flight in your 52, you’re faced with a choice that will drop you neatly into one of two categories.
Either you're already one of our beloved customers, who just wants a nicely turned-out replacement fuel door to show up, a couple of days after they order it online - or you’re type 2.
If you’re type 2, we share a common bond, you and I, because you thought to yourself “that doesn’t look too hard- I’ll just fab one up”
And within that cavernous range of talent & opportunity, some will start with tin snips, some with Waterjet. Some will already have the correct length and size of Dzus fasteners arranged within carefully husbanded plastic trays, some will spend a morning learning the ontology of the quarter-turn fastener market.
Some will determine how to measure & roll the sheet metal curvature accurately, how to achieve rivet Head uniformity, some will settle for less and be proud of their handiwork.
At TYC we use the Type 2 model to price our goods. If you’re the rugged individualist who won’t be stopped by lack of planning, previous experience or hunger as the day wears on in the shop, you’re already lost to us as a customer- because nothing will stop you.
But if you’re driving home from the hangar wondering where THAT day went, then there IS a chance we’ll have you as a customer one day. Trust us when we tell you the products in these pages did not turn out right the first time for us either.
We get business from owner-pilots who rationalize that the costs of TYC’s repro products are measured in fractions of a Yak fillup. How much flying time is that Fuel Cover going to cost me ?
“That part will cost me a quarter of a fillup....Click” ( in the background; beer opening).
And when your part arrives, it’s even got that authentic-looking Dichromate coating that would have cost you a week’s wait and an $80 minimum plating charge.
But Long Tail economics also speak to the ills of traditional inventory.
When we gaze at parts on our TYC shelves, we don’t see the dollars invested in a short production run (where all the surprises have already been exorcised), but instead all the sunk R&D costs BEFORE we got it right.
In EAA circles it’s a rarely publicized truism that 85% of home builders do not finish their projects. Time, money and parenting usually conspire to confound an enthusiastically-launched project.
But the long tail is at work here too.
Overcoming whatever it was that stopped you, whether riveting a quick-build fuselage or some aspect of fabricating a Yak fuel cap cover, is just going to require MORE effort, more ingenuity, more favors, more investment and more R&D.
Thus it is that the beginning home builder announces to their partner they have a budget of $X, but six years in, find they must muzzle the fact they have actually spent $1.4X, partly because of chasing technology, partly through coveting their RV neighbor, (aka scope creep) or good old under-performance as in wasted time & material.
Among those unfortunate 85% of homebuilders, there were undoubtedly also those who thought they could out-engineer Mr VanGrunsven and expended the time, money and dissatisfaction to subsequently discover otherwise.
Into every Long Tail a little politics must fall. With a very few exceptions, here at TYC, we’re all about keeping your Yak STOCK.
While the 52 has a very few, well-documented shortcomings, TYC takes the view that the Yakovlev Design bureau had all necessary resources available to them to design, make and test this amazing airplane, ultimately ensuring it performed exactly as conceived.
With all those domed-head rivets, only unimaginable power will make it fly faster.
With all that new Glass instrumentation, you’ll still be doing Cessna 172 speeds through the air.
And once you make a switch from Metric to American threads (to use some more familiar local component), your endless adapter nightmare has only just begun and will, in time, snake across the entire firewall and beyond.
This is, perhaps, one major conceit that the EAA (and similar homebuilding bodies) allows to breed but does not counsel against.
It’s wonderful that we’re allowed to concoct aircraft of our own imagining, with only a wizened Tech Counselor to shepherd us back to the Lycoming Spam Can straight-and- narrow - but take a stroll around my homebuilding hangar neighbors, you'll overhear way too much “that should be strong enough” and hardly any “that should be light enough”.
In other words, homebuilders are being empowered to forge ahead oblivious to what they don’t know about Wagner Tension Fields, circular integral approximations to quantify stress around cutouts in stressed skin construction, material allowables or even the basic math required for weight and balance.
And in the end, after years of hangar flying and big talk, it’s no wonder they all end up looking like RV’s. Do you remember the movement a few years ago before “experimental” mysteriously morphed into “homebuilt”? You'd see Wet layup, even paper maché construction.
Not any more.
But for the US Yak owner, with an Experimental exhibition Airworthiness certificate, you can own a proven 7g machine, (descended from the same factory that produced an airplane about which Focke Wulf Pilots were told to ”avoid combat below five thousand meters”) ...AND you can work on it yourself...How awesome is that?
Surely only an 85 percenter would convince themselves they could out-design the Design Bureau?
Bring us your tired Snot Valves, your poor primer hoses - we’re ready to help!
TYC - way down the Yak Rabbit Hole, but still just a click away!
Doing a new panel for your Yak?
How about replacing those funky Russian instrument screws with a Phillips head?
An idea whose time has come !
These Russian panel screws have a 120, (rather than the more familiar 100, 90 or 82 degree) countersink, presumably to contact a greater area on the panel and resist backing out under vibration.
On the Russian original, two perpendicular slots on each screw’s head appear to be shallow arcs cut with a milling tool.
You could grind that arc on the tip of a flat screwdriver blade to try and get those original screws to budge - as long as someone hasn’t already chummed up one of the slots first.
Because then, a bit like Trotsky with an Ice Pick through one ear, and only good one left, the prognosis is not good.
History has shown that the Design Bureau got the applied math of the Yak 52 spot on, pretty much throughout - with fastener design included.
Indeed, larger diameter domed head screws with flat slots, found on wing structure, are not problematic to remove. Down at the M3.5 and M4 countersunk sizes however, you’ll encounter a lot of these screws where the slotted surface area simply got smeared by the torquing tool, often with a telltale gouge in nearby paintwork.
(Decoded: a Philips screwdriver was not the right tool to remove those particular Russian screws.)
Most Flight instruments in the Yak’s panel take M3.5 size while the Russian Tach takes an M4, but screws of both sizes, with these shallow cross-slotted heads, are to be found throughout the cockpit area.
Wherever you see a gauge surrounded by one slotted head screw and three cross heads, leave the slotted one in place.
The Tri-Gauge, Dual Needle Air gauge, Carb Temp and Manifold pressure gauge are like this - they are packaged as cylindrical cans without a front mounting flange. Undo the slotted screw a few turns and, behind the panel, a wedge moving on that thread is releasing a cylindrical clamp ring, held in the panel by the other three screws.
Instruments like this slide out forward.
There’s no clear logic as to which instruments have flanges and which use this cylindrical clamp - but doesn’t your beautiful new cockpit deserve panel screws that look like they haven’t been butchered by an Ice Pick?
And being able to work on all instruments, modern or original, with just one Phillips screwdriver....?
..as they used to call it in the UK.
Or using Mr Bradshaw's railway line maps to get there, by air.
Even today, it's a pretty tempting proposition to ferry a plane from A to B. Maybe it sounds a cool way to see the country; a bucket list item perhaps. Plus the seller told you the plane is 'fresh out of its annual'.
So no problems there, right?...
Always remember, you never actually HAVE to take that flight....until you've told somebody you will.
For simple reciprocating engines and Yak ferrying, I reckon structuring the new owner's expectations is the key. If they have just bought it, they will want the plane in their hangar yesterday. So under-promise and over-perform when they ask "How far can you get, how quickly?"
Across the U.S. you are doing pretty well in a Yak if you burn through two sectionals in a day. If the new owner wants heroics, (one example might be flying Yaks by night), i'm not your guy. Start early and finish before you are tired. In Summer, be on the ground and tied down by early afternoon, before the convective stuff gets going.
Preparation, necessary paperwork in the plane, any insurance sign-off requirements, personal flight planning, CRM and whatever spares you take in your tool roll are just the best you can do before departure.
What actually happens with engine and airframe once you take off, is the unexpected. There's no point allowing more factors into your story, like weather, low fuel or physical exhaustion. So have a list of destination airports for the day but be flexible and land when the weather is not as briefed. Mother Nature always bats last. Plenty of times she will bat first, delaying your departure. Negotiating one day more than you need is always a great idea, no matter how disappointed the new owner is. If they want a hero they will get on the phone and find one.
You don't HAVE to take that flight.
Remind yourself of that now as you’re buzzing along at 2 miles a minute, into deteriorating weather, looking for that uncontrolled field through the mist. Lowering ceilings and reduced visibility are a bit like the Kardashians - as Jimmy Kimmel famously put it, a little goes a long way - so land before you spook yourself. Because spooked people miss checklist items like putting the gear down.
I don't book hotels ahead of time, but leave the flight plan nice and fluid instead. As the flight and the weather progress, combined with how trashed you feel, the end point of the day will become obvious. It always makes sense to push yourself, but not to the point that someone else's property is in jeopardy.
The sectional is a great tool. You find out, for example, that the smaller the airport, the cheaper the gas. But see that yellow blob on the map next to the airport indicating the size of the co-located town? The smaller it gets, the less likely it is that the airport fuel pump (or the credit card machine) is actually working....plus the town might be too small to have overnight accommodation.
The FAA prefers you keep your hands off their 30 minutes of Day VFR fuel for a very good reason. If you pushed the fuel reserves to get to THAT airport, you're hurting. Five minutes earlier, you passed up that Class Delta, right by a town that was almost bound to have a Hampton Inn, at least. But instead you're stopped by a pump that doesn’t work, you need more fuel than you have to start, warm up and climb back up to altitude to get there. There’s nobody around and it’s getting dark.
Once I ferried a Yak that didn't have a transponder, so picking a route that avoided controlled airspace ( requiring Mode C operations ) was the mandate. After that flight, I have always avoided controlled airspace unless completely necessary. I turn the radio down too, except for arriving and departing uncontrolled fields. Flight following is great, but choosing a route with lots of airports underneath you is better.
I would personally discourage taking a passenger ( such as the new owner) on a ferry flight. Apart from any legal aspect of FAR compliance, it’s just easier to have one director on your movie. “Hey, can we just drop in on my brother in Colorado?”. Joint decision-making can turn something very simple into something very complicated really quickly. On the other hand, if you’re legally qualified to sign off the new owner in their new plane, it’s a great opportunity.
AME Chuck Crinnian wrote an excellent piece in Red Alert Magazine (Spring 2017 page 38) about the importance of staying Hydrated and what happens when you don’t. Unfortunately a full bladder is not your friend as you strive for maximum distance traveled per unit time, so strike a balance. Pinch the skin on your forearm at the start of the day before you get in the cockpit to watch its suppleness. Later, once that same pinch of skin becomes slow to take back its shape, you are behind the hydration curve and your flight decision making may already be impaired.
Plan short hops until you build trust with the plane, because “right out of a fresh annual” is statistically the most dangerous flight of the year. If you are in the high country or very remote, don’t just jump in and take up a heading, instead take a few high power laps above the airport for loose connections and wrenches left in the engine compartment to show up, because now is definitely better than later. Maybe that first day you’ll only get half as far as you thought you would. Handing it back to the mechanic down there on the field 2000 feet below you, is an option you will no longer have as he’s wiping his hands and you are a dot on the horizon.
Several days of solitude & contemplation. Time to zero-in on a rock-steady compass heading and a motionless VSI.
First light and mists cover the Ohio river valley far below you, as most people are just barely switching on the ‘Today’ show and clasping their first cup of Joe.
Or indigo storm clouds bleeding into burning orange as you roll onto final with a New Mexico sunset signposting the end of this particular days flying.
But you don’t have to take that flight.
Sit down with a pad & pencil a few days beforehand and compose the questions you need the buyer & seller to answer to your satisfaction to be sure you’re not getting in the middle of something.
You could end up transporting an under-maintained piece of crap between someone who was too cheap to keep their Yak in good repair while they owned it ( but had a mechanic who agreed to pencil-whip an annual ) and somebody else who’s just dying to tell all their buddies what a steal they just made.
Because, for the Ferry Pilot in the middle of two such individuals, there’s rarely room for a successful outcome.
Also take a personal skills inventory if something mechanical or electrical does go wrong.
Welcome to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Population: You. The plane’s full of fuel again but now it won’t start.
Who ya gonna call?
Unscheduled landings due to engine or airframe issues just mean delays and extra costs. Was it discussed up front who’s going to pay for en Route maintenance issues ?
People who pass up the opportunity to bring their new plane home either have a very valid reason ( like they’re not checked out in type yet ) or a more expedient one, such as their time being too valuable or too tightly scheduled to be able to take a few days off to play with their newest toy.
Or as a Seller, they’ve got their money & they just want the plane gone. Be especially careful here to remember any items that were part of the deal ( logbooks, spare parts) because you might just be the last line of communication between two parties where the deal conducted was barely cordial at its conclusion. When relations have broken down, forget to collect what was promised and you could become the guilty party.
Remember, too, that responsibility for carrying the minimum legal paperwork (airworthiness, registration, POH, Weight & Balance plus proof of insurance) is on your shoulders while you’re PIC. Does the registration match the Tail number? Is there even an Airworthiness Certificate with the plane ?
You just flew all day as a commercial passenger to get here, Now you’re actually in front of the plane; are deteriorating weather or the Seller’s attitude making YOU want to bail outta there ASAP, instead of taking the time to be particular about these details?
Text somebody your progress, and send lots of photos. That’s how you’ll remember the difference between how you felt at the beginning of the journey, and that same pilot several days later.
It takes a solo flight across the US to realize what an amazing airspace system we have, both in the air and on the ground. Five clicks to bring up the airport lights at dusk, remote weather reporting at uncontrolled fields, and that tired (yet surprisingly comfortable) ex-Police Crown Victoria parked round the back of the deserted FBO somewhere with the keys up behind the drivers' sun visor. Left unlocked, you take it into town, (because there's no one around to ask), fill it up for the next person and drop it off the next morning.
And if you do take that flight, good or bad, you won’t forget it for a long time. So allow your best judgement to make sure they’re mostly good memories!
When the Air Gauge needles in either cockpit tell you your 52’s air tanks need a top up, with all that awesome pressure in your Scuba tank, it’s hard not to crank that knob right up and just take care of business, pronto.
(Maybe you’re channeling Burt Lancaster in ‘Run Silent, Run Deep” or blowing tanks on your private Varshavyanka Class fantasy sub. hiding just off the Indonesian coast...)
Your Air pressure gauges see things differently.
They’d much rather you crack that valve gently and pretend like you were filling from a pump dispensing “T Stoff” Rocket fuel.
E-E-Easy does it.
But why ?
Because if you ever hop up on the wing to watch your air gauge needles during a ground fill, you will notice the Emergency Tank indicates a charge more quickly than the Main.
The lines at the fill port split at a tee with a larger diameter line ( shown going left in this picture) spanning the short distance to the emergency tank. As a result it fills more quickly that the main, sending that right hand needle skyrocketing
OK, but so what ?
Well in 1849, Monsieur Eugène Bourdon knew exactly what.
After Dad had passed away, Eugène’s thoughts inexorably started straying away from his humdrum job at an optical business toward scientific instruments and cool steam engine stuff.
Knowing what the pressure was inside that boiler was a matter of genuine concern, so Eugène Bourdon came up with the idea of a flattened, rolled tube which would deform
(within its elastic limit) as pressure filled it from inside. Some elegant gears measured the deflection to drive an indicating needle and...
If you ever pick up a welding torch, his invention is telling you how much Gas is left in the cylinders. If you have Safety Fire Extinguishers around your house, some little flattened, round tube is telling you what’s going on inside that Red Extinguisher.
You go, Eugene !!
But if we abuse a Bourdon tube and it’s delicate internal mechanisms, what then?
Repeatedly slamming full Scuba tank pressure into your air system such that the PRV is audibly shuddering seconds later, (instead of cracking the valve open gently), can cause damage to the mechanism of your Yak 52 air gauges, resulting in a zero reading or a stuck needle.
These gauges are there to help you.
They’ll tell you, as you’re downwind after takeoff, whether or not you’re making air.
During pre-flight, they’ll show whether or not there’s enough air in the emergency tank should you need to blow the mains down, or whether you have enough in the Main Air tank, this morning, to even attempt an engine start.
When you think about them like that, they have as much to do with your upcoming flight as the fuel gauge.
So don’t shoot the messenger, (if you don’t like what you read on the Air gauge). These are delicate, sensitive instruments, worthy of your care & respect.
The best way to confirm both your gauges are reporting accurately is to vent the pneumatic system. Judiciously crack the B nut at both Air Tanks, (when they are removed for Hydro testing for example) - and if the gauges indicate zero in this condition, subsequently responding to rising pressure when the tanks are reconnected & refilled, then you are good to go.
Next time you’re standing next to the fill port with your air whip in hand, ready to twist that bayonet and blast those tiny air lines for all they’re worth, instead, just close your eyes and embrace the Buddha.
With your careful hand controlling the Scuba valve, the air is simply passing from one universe to another.
The sound of happy Air Pressure Gauges at work.
Siri, which place in Russia has the lowest temperature ?
Oymyakon, Russia — already considered the world's coldest permanently inhabited town — sank to a mind-numbing 88 degrees below zero on Tuesday. That's even colder than the average temperature on Mars, which is 80 below zero, according to Space.com.Jan 17, 2018
Tough to match that kinda cold in the US.
And when it comes to Yak 52 flying in winter, don’t tolerate oil temperature needles in the low caution range when you fly - land and do something about it.
Remember, however chilly you feel on the ground, what matters is the temperature of colder air aloft, blasting across your Oil Radiator at 130 knots.
If you don’t already own a set of the factory Cold Weather blanking plates for the inlet to the Oil Cooler, TYC has a solution for you.
While the factory set included one full blank plate plus others with increasingly larger apertures (each printed with the design temperature for appropriate use), here at TYC, we wondered if perhaps just one would do for operations in more moderate climates ?
And here it is.
In combination with the radiator outlet door, this ground-adjustable Oil Radiator blanking plate will keep your Yak’s oil in the green in the coldest months of the South Western US winter.
Further East and into the Midwest, if your oil Temperature needle hasn’t moved into the green during the run up, you can shut down, remove the plate & flatten up to four of the flaps to block more cold air entering your Oil Radiator.
These plates do not appear to have been fitted to Yak 50’s...which is not to say you couldn’t fit one! (Need the catches and matching hinge halves that rivet to the radiator scoop? Give us a call.)
Just to get us all on the same page, this ground adjustable baffle plate is designed to be bent once - to find the sweet spot for your Winter conditions, rather than to be adjusted every flight.
How many times can you bend a flap before the material will crack?
And don’t forget to remove this baffle when warmer Springtime weather comes.
Offer not valid in Oymyakon.
Free shipping throughout the US during January. As usual, Customer satisfaction is guaranteed.
Anybody who's been around US-made machine tools, (lathes, mills and CNC machining centers) will recognise the big names like Bridgeport, Haas and FADAL.
And, if you're one of them, you probably know FADAL, the little giant from the San Fernando valley, stood for Francis, Adrian, Dave and Larry,
I met Larry today. (on the right)
His son-in-law, Mike (left) just took over the FBO at Ramona airport (KRNM) from the equally legendary Chuck Hall.
If machine tools and technology turn you on, being around Larry for a few minutes is to be able to listen to living history from California's era of unfettered progress.
The FADAL name is owned by others now, but Larry still lives in Chatsworth and says he has some five-axis tooling projects on the burner.
I found this piece on the iconic FADAL story at http://www.fadalvmcparts.com, originially written in 2001.
The Fadal family business is the perfect manifestation of the entrepreneurial spirit: vision + ambition = success.
Dave and Larry de Caussin started working in their father's garage shop in 1955 and in 1995 sold their family's multi-million-dollar business to Giddings and Lewis.
When Dave de Caussin took a trip to IMTS in 1974 to show off Fadal's new tool-changer, he had no idea that in five short years the company would be revolutionizing the machining-center market with its VMC45. Looking back, he said the trip was a pivotal event for the California machine tool builder. But, at the time, things didn't go all that smoothly.
"We put the milling machine with the toolchanger in the back of a rental truck, which had a top speed of 55 mph. Leaving from California, my wife and I made it to Bickerville, Calif., filled the truck's 25-gallon tank, giving us a traveling range of about 90 miles. We ran out of gas about 40 miles out-side of Las Vegas at 5 am. While sitting alongside the road, freezing, a guy comes by in an off-roading jeep. He drives me to a Stucky's to get five gallons of gas and I paid him and tossed in a fifth of scotch. When we finally got toChicago, it was at 5:30 pm and the height of rush hour traffic. As if that wasn't enough, I made a turn onto a street with an 8-ft bridge that the truck wouldn't fit under. My wife is in tears at this point, and it took me an hour to back the truck up. But we did finally make it to the show, and we met a lot of important people."
This story is just one example of the many ups and downs Fadal has experienced throughout its 40-year history. But the founding family members --Francis, Adrian, Dave, and Larry de Caussin -- attribute their company's success to constantly staying on the cutting edge of machine tool technology. As Larry de Caussin says, "We started in pioneering times, and pioneers take some arrows."
The foundation of what would become Fadal got its start in 1955 by Francis de Caussin, who was a toolmaker trained in the automotive industry with a dream to own his own machine shop. He purchased some equipment on time payments and his sons Larry and Dave, still in school and living at home, worked with him at the garage operation. The brothers learned a basic but important lesson in those early shop years. They realized that the faster they could remove metal, the more money they could make.
In order to keep the chips and the money flowing, the family made a lot of modifications to the machines they used to cut metal. Francis added a riser block to a small mill so that they could do bigger jobs. Larry added a temporary second motor to a main spindle of a lathe, and Dave made the handles longer so they could push harder. The family says this motivation to make better and faster machines was the beginning of a trend that would carry Fadal to prominence in the machine tool industry.
In 1961, after all the part-time experience in the garage shop, the family decided to work full time for themselves. They needed a little capital to get started and everyone turned to Larry for funding.
Dave says, "Larry was always the penny-pincher. He saved all his money. He had $2,500 in the bank. And his $2,500 financed a multi-million dollar company."
They rented an 800 ft 2 industrial unit in N. Hollywood, Calif., and bought a Siamp metal cutting lathe on Francis' good credit. Then in 1965 the shop fell on hard times when one of its largest customers, Summers Gyroscope, went into chapter 11 owing Fadal $17,000. But the shop soon recovered and started doing a lot of contracts for the "space race," including work for the Surveyor, Voyager, various satellites, aircraft landing gear, and eventually the space shuttle fuel systems.
But business really picked up for Fadal in 1969. That was the year they bought their first NC machine for $25,000 -- a Bridgeport mill with a Superior Electric control and a Spindle Wizard third axis. The machine did not, however, have an automatic toolchanger, and all the tools had to be changed using a wrench. Fadal, in accordance with their desire to do everything as quickly as possible, started designing better methods for changing tools on the new machine.
They started out designing a power draw bar and then began brainstorming on how to automate the entire toolchanging process. An aftermarket toolchanger, they believed, would be quite valuable to small machine tool builders and their customers. So Fadal set out with a new goal for the mass market -- manufacture an affordable toolchanger that could be attached to a mill.
Dave became consumed with the design and manufacture of a prototype, while Adrian designed the electrical work on the system. Due in part to Fadal's booth at IMTS in 1974, the toolchanger was a wild success. So successful, in fact, that there was a shortage of toolchangers to sell.
"The problem we had with the toolchanger is that we over marketed and then couldn't meet the demand," says Dave. "Because of that, the guy in England that we were marketing to, Matchmaker, copied our toolchanger. They apologized for doing it, but did it because we couldn't deliver to them."
That toolchanger also caught the eye of a company out of Bozeman, Montana, Summit Engineering, a division of Dana Corp. That firm offered to buy the toolchanger design and patents so they could package it with an inexpensive control. Summit paid Fadal $75,000 for the toolchanger, which was renamed the Bandit Quick Draw. Summit also gave Fadal the rights to manufacture the mechanical assemblies for the changer. That $75,000, plus the profits from manufacturing over 2,000 mechanical assemblies, made it possible for Fadal to start their biggest project ever -- the design of a complete CNC machining center.
Larry tells the story of what inspired the family to build their first machine.
"Being machinists and having some experience with controls, we realized there was a lot of fat in the Japanese equipment that was selling for up around $160,000. Our first machine was a geared head 45 taper, with a 4-speed gearbox. It was a high-end machine we were selling for $110,000. But in 1980, right when we came out with our first model, the Japanese dropped the prices on their $160,000 machines down to $90,000.
To counter this, Fadal decided to pursue a simpler design to appeal to a broader market. Dave sold Fadal's first redesigned machine to Columbia Machine, which was where Francis, Dave, and Larry had all worked before starting Fadal. As much of an accomplishment as that was, confidence was not always high. "We used to say, 'We'll have a nice auction someday when we go bankrupt,'" says Dave.
However, people loved the speed and the price of the simpler system, and each year the company sold more and more machines. By the 80s and 90s, Fadal's manufacturing plant was at peak efficiency -- building 10 machining centers per employee each year. By 1995, Fadal had sold 10,000 machining centers.
With success came a lot of important decisions, one of which was changing the machine's control. The company was being pressured to use a different control on the machine. Dave says the family decided against it to keep cost down.
"We stayed with our control because we could see that the competition, especially the American industry, had made a mistake by catering to special requests. They had too many special orders. 'I want my machine pink, I want it with this control, and I want it with this and that.' So you ended up not having a production line. We refused to do that."
Larry adds, "In addition, custom machines are a nightmare for service. Other builder's servicemen would have to go out and review the situation before they could fix the machine. With our machine, the servicemen were able to go out ready to do the job, get it done, and then get out of there."
This was the kind of common-sense customer service that helped drive Fadal to the top of its industry. And that success caught the attention of Giddings & Lewis when it came time for Fadal to sell its family business to the corporate giant. But selling the company was not an easy decision. Originally the brothers had planned on passing it down to the next generation of de Caussins, but there were some problems.
Fadal's cash was tied up in property, equipment, inventory, and accounts receivable, and the company was going to have to dip into profits to pay the 55% gift tax. That was an issue because profits were also being taxed 50%. Financial advisors told the brothers that $1 earned was going to be about $.25 cents in pocket once the transfer was complete.
So, fearing the company's demise in a forced "fire sale" if the succession was unsuccessful, Larry and Dave decided it was best to sell the business outright. Fadal sold to G&L in April of 1995, and the brothers are pleased with the new ownership.
John flies out of KSEE whenever he can scrape together a few bucks to fill the tanks