Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tail Number Change & Grounded

I am grounded this weekend for a bunch of reasons (weather, good maintenance  and bad maintenance) :-(

First we are having a snowstorm in the Northeast and Lisa doesn't want to go flying anywhere.  She is very much a fair weather flyer.

Second, the FAA finally approved my request to change tail numbers! ...  I know it is little vain... But for each plane I have owned, I changed the tail number so that it ends in "Tango Juliet" ...  The first was N514TJ, the SR20 that I got my instrument rating on and really learned to fly in.  N346TJ, which I spent ~ 900 hours in and explored the entire US and some of the Caribbean.  

Having done this 3 times, I have figured out the process pretty well:

  1. You need to find a tail # you want that has not been assigned to anyone else at this site: FAA N Number Inquiry database
  2. You must reserve your desired N Number at this site FAA N Number Registry site
  3. After you have received written confirmation that your number has been reserved for you, then you have to submit a written request that your reserved N Number be assigned to a specific aircraft and specify the current tail number and aircrafts' Make/Model/Serial #.
  4. Then you wait and wait and wait for the FAA to review your request and respond.
  5. After you have received the written authorization for assignment, then you can go to your favorite local A&P mechanic who can make the change.
  6. The change itself is more than just decals.  The ELT has to be reprogrammed.  The avionics have to be reprogrammed. The subscriptions to Garmin, Jeppessen and SiriusXM all have to be changed to the new tail number for everything to work.
  7. And of course you have to let your insurance company know...

But now, my latest plane has finally been christened as N547TJ !!

Unfortunately, I have not taken my first flight yet because I ran into an unusual maintenance problem.  Last weekend, when I started the plane, I heard a loud pop and then smoke came out of the front of the hood.  Naturally, I was a little panicked.  While I was fumbling around looking for Engine fire emergency checklist, the smoke stopped and the engine gauges were all in the green.  The only indication of anything wrong was a warning annunciator that said "Check Alt 2" ...

I decided to to scrub the flight, shut down to be safe and call my mechanic.  After describing the problem and showing him a couple of pics, he told me I had a dead Alt 2 and the plane was safe and legal to fly in VFR day conditions only as per the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) as long as everything else was working properly.  So I brought it to him to repair and do the tail number change at the same time.  When the cowling was removed, here is what we saw: 

A piece of the alternator somehow broke off and then shredded the belt!  (In my Cirrus, Alt 1 is gear driven and Alt 2 is belt driven.) After experiencing this first hand, I got to thinking "what if this happened while I was in flight?"  Luckily due to the brilliant redundant design, it would have been a safe outcome (of course other than the panic and terror of thinking you have an engine fire in flight) !!

So in the end, between maintenance and the snowstorm this weekend, I have been grounded.  Hopefully, I will get the bird back in time for first flight next weekend.

== T.J.==

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