Oct 29 2012

Makeing a Wobble Tester

This is a potential damage which could occur if you lose an exhaust valve. This is what is left of the head which was on my plane which caused me to do an emergency landing at Summerville Airport. I ended up with a cracked crank and had to do a complete engine overhaul.


The valve head broke off due to excessive clearance of the valve guide to the valve stem.


I decided to build the wobble tester, and check my valve clearances before I put the overhauled hydraulic lifters in. It took me a few hours I get a design I was happy with in AutoCAD. Actually making the tester only took me about two hours to build. The design is a bit different than the factory model as I mounted the dial indicator from the top down, between the rocker rod support columns (on the top part) which is opposite to the normal mounting (from the bottom up) which would require me to take off the exhaust system to test the wobble.

It allows me complete the test and not removed the exhaust system to do the testing.


The final result is made out of 1/2” aluminum plate.


Here it is being used on an old cylinder I had in the shop. Yah! I’ll be able to test the cylinders every year now to see how quickly the exhaust guides wear.


Oct 27 2012

Making a perfect bread machine loaf

Every saturday, I have a tradition of making fresh bread and have been doing so for at least 15 or 20 years. I just love waking up to the smell of fresh baked bread on Saturday mornings. I haven’t bought sliced bread at the store in YEARS. It is crazy to think that I purchase this bread maker prior to getting out of the navy in 1977 when I was enlisted. The machine is still working!

Each loaf now comes out PERFECT each and every time.


For years I tinkered with hundreds of recipes and combinations of ingredients, , trying everything I could find in the kitchen to experiment with. Garlic bread with oregano, banana bread, soy flour, vegetables, nut bread, seeds, yogurt, sour cream, raisin brand, oat meal, you name it and I have tired it.

I finally figure out what it takes to make a terrific loaf of bread. It is part regular flour and whole wheat flour, has a nice firm texture and is constant dense firmness top to bottom.


The Perfect Bread Recipe

You need to layer the ingredients so if you use a timer the yeast does not activate. Put the ingredients in the pan in this order.

1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp bread yeast
2 TBS instant cream of wheat
1 level cut of wheat flour
2 level cups of bread flour
Vegetable Oil (approx 1-2 table spoons)
1 1/8 C of water (Exactly)

Set the timer and your are done.


You must BE EXACT on your measurement. This is very important. Bread making is chemistry and your are only making one loaf so if you are off a bit with the ingredients the loaf will not come out perfect.

Here are two critical discoveries I found which impact the loaf quality.

  1. Cream of wheat for some reason helps improve the texture and density. It has made a world of difference in my results and works much better than gluten additives.
  2. The amount of water added is crucial successful results. Add one cup and the loaf will be dense and 2” shorter. Add 1 1/4 cut and it will be soft and smash itself against the glass top. WATER is how you control the size and density of the loaf.
  3. Don’t wash the bread pan. Just wipe it out and reuse. It keeps the non-stick surface working as it should.

Now that your perfect loft is made, eat the delicious first pieces with butter and coffee and store the remainder in a plastic store bag (like a grocery store bag). It is just right for keeping it fresh. The loaf will only keep on the shelf until 3-4 days and then it will need to be refrigerated. If I make my loaf on Saturday, by Wednesday, I’ll have to put it in the frig or it will develop mold.

You might also try the Land Of Lakes Lite Butter with canola oil. It spreads easily right from the frig, and was rated the best butter substitute by Consumer Reports and has a terrific taste.

Hint: Fresh bread is great for sandwiches, refrigerated bread is great for toast.

Oct 27 2012

Fuel Readout Frustrations

Today was a frustrating evening of my own making. Friday, UPS delivered my updated PMag (electronic ignition system) and a very interesting electronic readout from Aircraft Extras which will be used for my fuel probe system.

The PMag’s were tested and upgraded and they found there was NO problem with their operation, so they were not a factor in the vibration issue.

The Aircraft Extras electronic programable display is very cool. It is a tiny display (1”x1”)with the ability to monitor 6 inputs. It be using it to monitor Left and Right fuel level, the main and standby batteries, voltage output of the MAP ( the manifold pressure sensor) which according to Klaus is the best way to monitor power output when used for drag reduction testing and one left over for a spare which I’ll eventually hook up to something to be decided later..? I think after I finish with drag reduction, I’ll connect #5 and #6 inputs to the fuel probes too. This way one can not only get fuel display (my primary use), but I can also use #5,6 to display a RED flashing screen to display LOW FUEL. If that doesn’t get my attention, nothing will! This little display and monitor anything with a voltage output and has LOTS of different display screens to chose from. I may use it to monitor belly board position, oil pressure or ??

wpid-FuelGauge-300-2012-10-27-20-58.jpg wpid-PastedGraphic-2012-10-27-20-582.tiff

A very small system. I only wish it could monitor more inputs (like 16 or 24) instead of just 6. It could be used to monitor anything electrical in the plane. Very cool little device.

wpid-PastedGraphic3-2012-10-27-20-582.tiff wpid-PastedGraphic2-2012-10-27-20-582.tiff wpid-PastedGraphic1-2012-10-27-20-582.tiff

Naturally, after receiving the AG6, I wanted to test it at home, get comfortable with the programing and operation before installing it in the plane. Ended staying up past midnight last night messing with the display to set it up for my needs. The AG6 VERY easy to configure and program once you get past how the software programing functions.


Low and behold I couldn’t get it to work quite like it should. I could tell it was alarming and functioning but there was no backlight color when it was alarmed. A red flashing display is very important to me for the intended use in the plane. The Princeton electronics in the test cell fuel calibrated and worked perfectly but not the readout.


This morning it was up early for more testing, more calls to the designer and finally sending him the data settings for evaluation.

Overall it is my goal is to develop a small, complete package of a fuel probe and a readout system for those canard flyers who don’t, won’t, or can’t upgrade their planes to latest Glass Panel type displays. Something that can be easily installed in any canard even if one has very limited panel space (like my plane).

Overall, this is no different from developmental pains of designing the probes. It took almost a year of going back and forth with Princeton Electronics to get the level sensing electronics module working properly. I really like the small foot print of the readout and can’t wait to get it calibrated and working in the plane. It is just a matter of figuring out what is wrong with my setup. After the proper configuration for the fuel level alarms (1/4 tank, 1/8 tank) is determined, the designer will configured and saved the program file so when a canard owner buys one of his readouts for my probes, it will be pre-programed to my specifications so it can be used right out of the box with no fiddling.

After a morning of frustration, it was off to the airport to modify the instrument panel for the readout, wiring and mounting of the electronics which will ultimately occur when the display is working properly. I want to do as much tomorrow as I can as on Tuesday (after install my hydraulic lifters delivery on monday) as it is going to be COLD here (high in the 50’s) which is the result of the Hurricane Sandy which is moving through the area today.

NOTE: After returning the display and getting a new one, I found out that the original display was working perfectly and it was my fault the backlighting (alarms) were not working…. I DIDNT hook up a small jumper wire which powers the light of the display. No backlight power, no colored alarms! Sometimes I am amazed at my ability to frustrate myself.

After reviewing the installation instructions I found my mistake, hooked up the jumper and all the backlight functions of the display worked as designed. The good part of the story is I found the designer was very helpful at trying to solve my self induced problem, and I learned a lot about how to use and program the display.

Watched 3 episodes of a new show on CW called “Arrow”. It is taken from the comics and is about a man who is fighting crime in the city with a bow and Arrow. Sort of like batman with a bow. Actually, it is nicely done.

Oct 21 2012


After cleaning the house, I took a short 5 mile bide ride which ended up at the end of my block to watch the sunset. It was beautiful tonight! This is the most delightful time of the year in Charleston. Great weather and lots to look forward to in the fall.


Oct 20 2012

Bike Riding Downtown

owntown Charleston is a wonderful place to bike. Rusty and I biked about 14 miles today riding all over the city and across the Arthur Ravenel Jr.bridge.



It is hard for me to imagine, but when the bridges were being built, I flew between the two vertical supports which are 1500 ft apart. There was no decking, just two poles sticking out of the water. Duh…can you say stupid?


Normally when I fly around the city, I fly over the bridge at 700 ft and dip down over the harbor to about 300 ft or so which seems level with the walkers on the bridge (186 ft above the harbor). It is perfectly legal as you can fly at any altitude over the water, 500 ft above sparsely populated areas and 1000 ft over densely populated areas.

Anyway, we had a great time traveling the city streets, then it was off to the airport.

I finished sanding and buffing the areas I worked on the strakes when the fuel probes were installed.


Naturally the stbd side came out perfect


and the port side (which is right in my face all the time) was just a little low by .020 or.030”. As always, if I had to do it again… blah, blah.


Overall, I am very pleased with the results and will not further repair or paint the area. I like seeing the access points on the probes at they will certainly be a conversation item at the next air show I attend.

Oct 19 2012

Fuel probes in!

Today wrapped up the installation of the fuel probes. I have been taking my time and documenting every step along the way to be able to apply this installation experience to improving and updating the installation instructions.



I have already found a few issues that I need to address such as probe length and size of the base plate.

wpid-CIMG1565-2012-10-19-21-59.jpg I have also discovered some new techniques for easing the installation process. Simple tools to make. I wish I had more opportunities to install the probes (more than just Pat’s and mine) as it would only get easier to do with practice.


When finally installed I wanted to leave the square installation hole cut in the strakes to be highly visible. I’ll paint epoxy line black and
label the cover “Probes” just as a conversation piece. It would be easy to fill and finish the open and no one would every know the work was done, but why hide what I want to share with others. Electronic fuel probes… If you can’t be smart, be audacious! Free advertising!

Can’t wait install the electronics (maybe next week) and calibrate the electronics.

FEDEX delivered my pool liner today. Hopefully, next week will be the last I’ll be on the plane issue and can start back on my pool and deck. Its a great time of the year to be working outside and I want to take advantage of the mild weather.

USP delivered my Trio Pro Autopilot head and vertical servo today. I was having issues with the vertical servo which wasn’t isn’t too surprising since it was installed in maybe 2002? when I started as a Beta tester for Trio. Mine was one of the earliest (second maybe) EZ’s to have a Trio Altitude hold system installation. It was still in development, which gave me an opportunity to make improvement suggestions and find bugs. Trio really impressed me by listening to suggestions for features improvements and was from the beginning was extremely customer focused. I know because I have dealt with them since the beginning.

I remember seeing my first Trio product at Sun and Fun in ?????? year. They just developed a replacement for the NAVAID wing leveler which I purchased as it had more bells and whistles then the old system I had. Over time I developed a relationship with Chuck, Sid and Jerry (the tress amigos, the Musketeers, , the TRIO of Trio Avionics). I kept bugging the boys to develop an Altitude Hold system and when it became a reality, I was honored to be chosen as a Beta tester. Enough of traveling down memory lane.

During my Western Tour trip the vertical servo started acting flakey. Sometimes it had a hard time engaging, but always could be coxed into working (about like me). Fortunately, I didn’t have any major issues with it as it would have been absolutely, cave man primitive to have to hand fly the plane for the 44 hrs trip.

Chuck found for some reason the spring was longer than design and some rollers were sticking. Probably due to being a prototype as it was one of the first lot made. It was fixed, the software in the brain up upgraded, and I had it back in a 1.5 weeks shipped ground to California and ground back. I think it was only in the shop one day. What a great company.

Speaking of a good company, I never really considered using the USPS (post office for you unenlightened) to ship all my crap. I sent the hydraulic lifters to Oklahoma on Wed and it arrive today! Talk about amazing transportation service.

The box from Trio shipped UPS on Monday from San Diego, via ground and it arrived today (5 working days). I use a Click and Ship flat rate box (the small one) which only costs $5.15 and it shipped to Tulsa in 2 days. Freaken Amazing!

I have been using flat rate to send anything I could which is small, but this is the first time I clicked the “Track Shipment” button. This service is free. Today a delivery email showed up with the following tracking information.

Delivered                 TULSA OK 74115                          10/19/12 10:19am

Arrival at Post Office Facility    TULSA OK 74115                          10/19/12  6:34am
Processed through USPS Facility TULSA OK 74141                     10/19/12  2:03am
Depart USPS Sort          CHARLESTON SC 29423                     10/17/12
Processed at USPS Origin Sort Facility        CHARLESTON SC 29423                     10/17/12  5:51pm
Dispatched to Sort  Facility      NORTH CHARLESTON SC 29405        10/17/12  5:15pm

Acceptance                NORTH CHARLESTON SC 29405        10/17/12 12:14pm

If you follow the time line (bottom up), you see I generated the label at 12:41 on Wednesday, made it to the post office and departed Charleston sort at 5:51 that evening. The box arrived in Tulsa sort at 2:03 AM on Friday morning and was delivered at 10:19 am that morning.


I would be freaking amazed if it was ground because just the drive there would be 12 or 18 hrs? The package must have gone by air. So for $5.15 you can ship something (ANY weight, if it fits it ships) by air across the country? No way! If so Wow what a deal. Now that know this little trick, I’ll always click “Tracking” to see how fast it is delivered. Should be interesting.

BTW, Shipping via USPS is so easy to do. You order boxes on line and have them delivered to your house for free. You create, pay for and print the shipping labels from your home computer, and walk out to your mail box in your bare feet with a mug of coffee in your hand. and shazam , it is picked up that day and jetted across the country for a third of the cost of messing with UPS or FEDEX. I don’t even have to start car!

I am still conditioned to uses FEDEX for high value stuff and for detailed, butt kicking tracking, but I may have to looking into using USPS more of the time.

USPS. Amazing service!

Oct 16 2012

Has I discovered the answer?

Today started out thinking about my engine vibration issue while lying in bed. What could be causing it?

I have investigated everything I could think of during the last 2 months searching for an answer to a problem no one but me would notice.

I recalled starting the engine on Sunday and it seemed to have stared running smoothly, then a few moments later I noticed the sound had changed a bit. A sort of popping sound. Very light pop or harshness to the exhaust , but different then what I remember. Hum, this sound be could it be valve related? Recently I was thinking the sound had changed a bit from what I think is normal. Instead of a smooth sound it sounded like it had an exhaust leak or something (of coarse it doesn’t). What if the valves were not properly opening/closing at the proper time? Is it related to the heat up of the oil affecting it somehow?

The only components which would affect compressions (and thus the power pulses) would be a broken ring (doubtful), something particle trapped under a valve seat or a hydraulic lifter. The lifters use oil pressure to expand a tiny hydraulic cylinder which is used to “self adjust” the valve clearances. It is a much better system than I had with my old Lycoming 0-235 where periodically I would have to manual adjust the valves. Theoretically, the valves will never need to be adjusted and always be perfectly set. Think of the old days when you had to get your brakes adjusted on your car and now they are self adjusting.

Todays goals were to

First, remove my PMag electronic ignition and ship it back to the EMag Air for upgrade and testing to rule any possible ignitions issues out of my trouble shooting efforts. Brad will make sure they have the latest software and upgrades done on the PMag while the plane is down. I ordered new wires to replace my spark plug leads and a coil too.


Second was to remove all the lifters and carefully check them out according to the information I found on the web.

It is not hard to remove the lifters and only took a few hours. While cleaning them, I noticed #2 exhaust lifter was very sticky as compared to the others. All the other lifters have a smooth in/out and in rotation action and fit snug but not tightly.


#2 was sticky and tight going in and when rotated felt gritty or when a bearing hangs up when rotated. Strangely #2 cylinder is the same one I replaced due to scoring on the inside cylinder walls. Could it be related or did the lifter decide to score itself in sympathy with the cylinder? Doesn’t matter because the cylinder is gone and this little puppy will be gone too. I finish carefully examining the rest of the lifters and order any new ones I need tomorrow.

I also tested them for a “collapsed” lifter and all was good.


Thinking about it, a bad lifter does make some sort of perverse sense. If it is sticking it could respond to weird stimuli such as pressures or if the oil temperature is hot or cold causing it could hang up and work or not. Sticking would not affect my compression or engine power (to a great extent) but would affect when the valves opens or closes. The popping sound could be the valve opening at the wrong time (too soon or too late) in relation to the other cylinders.

Too bad it will be a while before I can test the plane again. I have to wait for my new lifter, an my ignition upgrade to arrive before I can assemble everything to fly again. Fortunately, both should both arrive about the same time.

While waiting for parts, I plan to start installing my fuel probe system in the plane in preparation for the arrival of the programable fuel gauge. It will be so nice to have an accurate readout on the dash of fuel levels.

After leaving Oshkosh this year and starting my trip, Lee and I flew to Denver together (flight of 2). The first leg ended up being longer than expected due to some bad weather and I started becoming concerned about the fuel level. Naturally some the junk in the back of the seat fell in front of my stbd fuel sight glass. Crap, I could just see the level before it dropped below my stuff. So I timed my tank based on usage to switch to the port side at the last minute and decided on a “gotta land point”. Naturally, everything was fine, but I decided then and there, this is the last trip I’ll fly without dashboard fuel readouts.

The whole reason I invented the probe and worked with Princeton Electronics who developed the electronics was to see the fuel level in MY plane and I don’t have them installed yet. Finally, I’ll have the fuel readouts I have dreamed of for so many years.

Oct 14 2012

Last flight of 29TM for awhile

Today was my last flight for the next few weeks.

I flew the bird over to Bob’s airport (JZI). The plane started and seemed to be normal, but I still had a same vibration. Just after flying past Cooper River bridge, I test the ignitions, and the PMag was running rough. One cylinder seemed to be missing. CRAP. What now? All had been good with the PMag until this point, then shortly after that, the cylinder picked back up and all was fine. WTF? It ran well for the rest of the day. I might have had a fowled plug, but I have reached my limit, and am now going to send the PMag back to the company for testing to make sure it is working as it should. The plane is grounded again.


This is the bird at Bob’s hangar.


Bob’s SQ 2000. He wanted some technical suggestions on how to work his inlet ducts into the cowl. I was happy to help as I enjoy spending time around this great guy.

Oct 05 2012

Whats my Name?

Today I was looking up the exact spelling of the word Eunuch and came across the my nick name on a web site which is “Unick”.

When I was in the navy, it is typical for everyone to call each other by their last names, such as Seaman Jones. My buddies started calling me Unick since they couldn’t easily pronounce my last name. My name was shorten to Nick U, then eventually became Unick.

Since then I just love the word Unick which is my way to shorten “unique”. Unick or unique seem to fit me as most everything I do is unique in some way. I think differently than most. An out of the box sort of individual.

I have a saying when someone points out I am really different: “I am a unique Unick, but certainly not eunuch!”

Anyway enough BS. While looking up the spelling of eunuch, I came a cross the Urbane Dictionary in which I found the more accepted usage of the name I love so dearly “UNick” . When I read it I was shocked!!

1. Unick (Americanized version of the word “Eunuch”. )

1. A man with his balls (testes) removed. Often used in royal courts to guard female royalty and concubines.
2. A man who is incapable of reproduction.
3. A guy who doesn’t seem to be interested in women, but also excluding homosexuality. They are just not the dating type.
3. A gutless wonder. 
4. The third sex. The Non-sex.

“Mike is such a Unick, he’s never dated a girl in his entire life!”


1. A male with no genetalia. Often characterized by a fondness for Oprah Winfrey.
2. A unicks genetalia can often be found in his wifes purse next to his money.

Sam waved to his woman as she drove away in his new truck. A tear rolled down his cheek as he realized he was now a unick.

1. The furthest extent of ridiculous. When something has become so absurd that there is no “dic” left in ridiculous, the absents of the genitalia in the word makes it Unick.

Blaming Obama for the current high oil prices is not just ridiculous, its down right Unick

Listen folks, I don’t make this shit up. Its on the internet!!

Some of it is BS like #4. “A gutless wonder” or ‘Non-sex’, but some of it is true, I do like Oprah. So, What am I really calling myself?

Crap, you know what is printed on my business card ?

UNique Composites

Airplane repair and custom design

I wonder if I would have made the same choice for a business name if I had known the accepted Urban usage of my name?

Nah…..probably not….

Oct 01 2012

Cold weather flying

While traveling around the country, I stopped in Santa Fe.  Leaving in the morning I noticed a unusual sound/shake to the plane…  kind of freaked me out as the just engine purred until that point.   Sort of a low rumbly noise/shake/vibration that I couldn’t quite put a finger on other than the vibration increased/decreased with RPM.  Almost more of a feeling that an actually noise.   Those who fly a lot know when something just isn’t right with their bird.   On reflection I remembered it was cool in the morning (not that cold) and I didn’t warm the engine as per my normal procedure.  It was a short taxi to an intersection departure.

After returning, I replaced the engine mount (a small crack was found) and rubber mounts as I thought it might be the problem…   This seemed to be resolved when just doing a few test flights around town.   Plenty of power, no increase in oil usage, good compression.   On the trip to RR I noticed it again only worst.  After returning to base, I decided to ground the plane again to find out what is going on.  

I think/HOPE I have finally found the problem today.   #2 cylinder was ringed with deep scratches top to bottom and AL build up on the cylinder wall.  After taking the cylinder off I found deep scratches on the piston too.  I’ll have to replace the cylinder.

I have read all about the piston damage to the cylinder from going to full power when the engine is not fully heated but in all my flying years, this is a first for me.  The AL piston expands faster than the steel cylinder when rapidly heated from cold.   Apparently the cylinder was gouged by the piston skirt because I didn’t allow enough time for engine to heat up. .  

It wasn’t that cold out (maybe 55 f), not that it mattered to the engine.  Maybe it was the change from a low compression pistons to higher compression pistons (more power and heat) which tipped the scales?  Who knows.  What pisses me off is I KNOW about this issue.  I have a Reiff engine per-heat system (http://www.reiffpreheat.com)  installed on the plane which heats the oil and band heater on all my cylinders to eliminate this issue IF I am at home with 110v available.  I just wasn’t paying attention to the conditions at the time and I must of just had a brain fart.  

So, the take away for those flying in cold weather is to properly warm the engine.  Do the research, to decide on your personal limits for oil/cylinder temps prior to going to full power for taking off.