For the first couple of years it would use about a quart of oil an hour.
Then it crept up to two.
Stayed there for at least six months, then one day oil consumption jumped up to three. Was I measuring it properly? Rather than annoy Vladimir, my mechanic, I watched it over three flights and yep, it was definitely putting three quarts an hour on the belly. About 1100 hours total on the motor but with good compression numbers. Might be just the blower seals..?
We agreed the plane should be grounded. No engine fund saved up. Had to face the fact that some kind of investment was imminent.
I had heard stories about a legendary Yak 52 just one row over from my Hangar that had encountered some kind of unpleasant rash many years ago, and had just been sitting unloved, in the darkness, ever since.
I had got the owner's contact info from our Hangar Landlady a year earlier and then did...nothing. Suddenly it was time to find that Post-it note.
We met, he wanted to sell, talks started.
He was a one-sentence email, one-email-a-day kinda guy. No way around it. He was in control and patience is my only virtue. Eventually money changed hands and it was mine. I signed a paper for him saying it would never fly again. Along the lines of 'trust and verify' though, by the time I finally took possession, he had decided to cut out both control columns and both seat belts. Just to be on the safe side.
Oh well, the motor was all I wanted.
The unfortunate event, all those years ago, had been a gear-up, in the hangar. These things happen. The main jacks had been in place but somehow the nose jack had got overlooked.
Let's just retract the gear for fun.
Down it had come on the lower half of the cowling, making a nasty mess of Cylinders 5 and 6, smashing rocker covers and bending cooling fins. And in that same instant, like twanging a ruler over the edge of the counter, the cantilevered rear fuselage absorbed so much vibration energy, it produced nasty permanent creases behind the Instructor's cockpit.
Poor guy. What a day. I can picture it.
At least the propeller had been horizontal.
Creased fuselage sheet metal...that's a tall order to make right. Compromised longerons, had it twisted the tail feathers out of true? Plus, even today there's still some prevalent snobbery about Yak 52's with High or Low G spars. This airplane was a low G spar and desirable to perhaps a smaller audience because of it. On the plus side it was pretty much a stock 5g Yak 52 with Romanian factory everything, and with aftermarket Jill and Carl Hays fuel Bladders in the wings.
At some point after the incident, but still during the previous owner's tenure, he had commanded his mechanic to order and hang a new Series II motor on his damaged plane, still dreaming of fixing it maybe. Back then the importer in Arizona would sell you a new motor for thirteen grand.
In a crate, with spares and an English Language Manual.
I stood and looked at this classic grey-painted wooden Vedeneyev factory crate now wondering how many pieces I'd have to saw it into to get it to the trash. There were lots of other goodies that came along with cleaning out the hangar too. Like a 500lb hydraulic Dentists chair and 6 cases of fourteen year-old Aeroshell W100 oil.
I'm not the obsessed kind when it comes to wrenching. I guess as far as automobile experience goes, one rite of passage is changing an engine. So having that under my belt, I sorta had the confidence to tackle swapping this 9-cylinder radial. But it was clear this wasn't going to be a couple of evenings work.
I put it off for weeks until a Nanchang driver shamed me into getting on with it. 'What I tell my patients, who want to quit smoking', said my Cardiologist buddy,' is just... pick the day".
He had a point of course. Once I got stuck in, it really wasn't that tough. Having proper Yakovlev jacks and a cherry picker, (and something to support the tail, once the recipient Yak became lighter from the removed engine), suddenly I was halfway through.
And suddenly I realized, like some pink-lunged, new non-smoker somewhere, I was on the threshold of a new life, no more cleaning oil off the nose gear and belly, and down to just one quart of oil an hour.
Which is where we are today. 70 hours on the new motor. Two oil changes on Mineral oil and ten hours back on Aeroshell W100.
I think what I appreciate the most is how it doesn't sound like a bag of bolts anymore when its running. Yes, you notice a little more power. You don't need as much prop to stay in references on the outside of a formation turn.
And then there was the Donor Yak 52...what was to be done about that ?
Whatever the solution was, it needed to include mobility. I made a cradle for the wings, and Vladimir very kindly lent me the Factory training wheels, so that I could move the big parts around as I started the process of disemboweling it.
So I've got what I needed... a fresh motor.
Anything you need ?
John flies out of KSEE whenever he can scrape together a few bucks to fill the tanks