This long nosed Starduster Too was supposed to make the journey from it’s previous life in Michigan City, Indiana to it’s new home near Phoenix, Arizona. Engine troubles along the way caused trouble so the owner and I decided to finish the trip in Wichita. Luckily some old friends at the McMaster Gliderport were able to take great care of the airplane and help pull the wings off when the time came to do so.
After being purchased sight unseen, this Starduster Too was looking forward to its long journey West where more hours would be flown on the trip home than in the past 10 years! Couple these long periods of sitting with poorly noted annuals and we were sure to take extreme caution on this job.
After a short acceptance flight where low oil pressure was the primary red flag, the left Main went flat during the otherwise uneventful roll out. The tire was refilled and adequately held air so we moved on from that issue. As for the oil pressure, the gauge on this experimental plane was from a different aircraft running higher oil pressure. I was quickly educated about the differences and old Continental O-300 before being sent on my way!
The morning flights turned out great but it was soon realized that the engine was using more oil than it should; close to 1 quart per hour! Starting the trip with 4 extra quarts would not be enough so I picked up some more to keep in the tiny aft storage compartment. Luckily all of my personal items were in a backpack strapped into the passenger seat up front, that left just enough room in the back for tiedowns and oil.
After some creative funneling, we decided to continue the flight topping off the oil with each stop and keep pressing on. The evening ended with the goal of making it to Wichita but low oil pressure and high temperatures again had me uncomfortable so we called it early just outside of the Kansas boarder.
The next morning didn’t start off any better. The first flight of the day was an attempt to climb to altitude for better winds in cruise flight – strong headwinds had been holding us back from the start. The results was a performance ceiling of 4,000 ft MSL and diversion for low oil pressure. After talking things over with the owner (and along with previous issues), I explained that the plane was not fit for the journey. Next, I offered to take advantage of the wind and limp the airplane back to where we started, or push one more leg to Wichita. With friends in Wichita to store and disassemble the airplane, along with multiple diversion airports along the route there, we pressed on to shorten the inevitable drive to Phoenix the plane would be making from there.
We called it a trip in Wichita and I secured the airplane with the amazing people at the McMaster Gliderport. They were able to keep the airplane hangared for a few days before a big event and dozens of gliders coming into town. Scared about weather moving through, I made a Walmart run to pick up supplies and secure the plane incase it needed to be tied down outside. Luckily, the new owner was there in a few days and had the plane boxed up ready to drive home.
The airplane is now back in Phoenix and getting a newly overhauled higher performance engine. I’m interested to see how it looks the next time I’m out that way! I just hope they took my advice to go for an inverted system while they’re at it…