Bad Mag Check

It was a much warmer day than Thursday; highs in the mid to upper 80s. The weather was questionable. Broken clouds at 1800 feet and some double-digit crosswinds. It was going to get worse throughout the day, too. It was good enough for some pattern work, though, so we decided to go for it.

I was running a little late, and I got stuck behind a tractor on US 1 along with a dozen or more other cars. I arrived 15-20 minutes late, so Gene was already out at the plane cleaning the bugs off the windows.

The preflight went ok. We taxied to runway 21 (the first time I’d done that, though my very first flight was out of 21). It’s a loooong 1.25 miles at a slow jogging speed, so it takes some time.

I proceded with pre-takeoff check, which includes a magneto check. Throttle at 1700, the plane is shaking from the wind of the prop, two clicks to the left with the mag key, and sputter sputter spit. Not good. The RPMs dropped way down and the engine struggled to continue. Two clicks back to “both” mags and Gene showed me the procedure to try to clear the plugs of any buildup. Almost full throttle and as lean a mixture as possible for 30 seconds. Then, check the mags again. Still bad. Try to clear it again, but this time for a little longer. And… still bad. Twice is enough; it’s a no go. 🙁

Gene called on the radio that we would taxi out on the runway to the nearest exit (we had a plane behind us) and back to the ramp.

It was getting late (more than half over our allotted time), so getting another plane wasn’t worth it. Plus, the weather was getting progressively worse – higher winds, lower clouds – so we just called a good experience and a day. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pay for the 0.3 hours of plane rental time, but I did get to log it.

Paul Keller, one of the club mechanics, came out while I was packing up to leave and showed me the spark plugs and the one that was likely the cause of the problem. Apparently there was more to it, though, since I later found out that 40B was scheduled to be worked on all day Monday.

Even though it was a no fly, it was a good experience to have. With the short taxi work, I’m now at 12.1 total hours.