Maintenance and Expense. Performance comes with a price.
In the years that I've owned Rapid Transit I have accumulated some level of experience with maintenance and the expenses required to keep her aloft. Owning this plane has been both easier and more difficult than the certified Cardinal RG I owned prior to this plane.
HANGARING: I used to keep my plane in a large community hangar shared by up to 11 other planes. During the winter, when it was packed, it was an origami challenge to move things around get your plane in and out. The Glasair is somewhat more "delicate" than an old Cessna. I "upgraded" to the jet hangar (Bullock) at KFIT which has only 3 piston planes generally and I am usually towards the front. The downside is that my door is on the north side of the hangar that does not get much sun, so there can be a large patch of persistent ice. This is a $340/month expense.
FUEL: Obviously that IO540 is thirsty. For doinking around I burn about 16 GPH. That is about $96.00 per hour at $6/gallon - Nearly twice as much as the Cardinal per hour. In terms of actual miles per gallon, I am quite a bit better at 16SM/gallon versus 14.5 SM/gallon in the Cardinal. Running 50LOP gets me 18SM/gallon. On the whole I spend more. A joyride or afternoon flight for me would be about the same elapsed time for the Cardinal OR the Glasair.
INSURANCE: The first 2 years I purchased full hull insurance for a $120K ship value. Above that hull value the cost went up non-linearly. The actual hull value was probably closer to $150K. That cost me roughly $3500/year through AIG, which was by far my lowest quote. This year I dropped to liability only and that dropped it to about $550/year, also through AIG. I figure early pilot risk is far lower at this point. Plus, with the covered hull value lower than the actual, sorting out that mess in the event of a real incident would be a pain.
ANNUALS: I am not the builder or repairman for this aircraft, so I have to have an A&P do the condition inspection. I can, and do, perform a lot more of the little stuff myself and prep for the annuals. Base cost for the annual is running $3K and was as high as $6K.
On Purchase (2006)
I knew coming into this that there would be a bunch of small things that the previous owner let go, knowing a sale was coming. Battery, seat repairs, new weight & balance, light bulbs, brake caliper and shoes
The previous owner regularly changed the oil, but DIDN'T clean the screen. Plenty of gunk and some metal shavings found. I dropped the change interval to 25 hours to monitor this. Thankfully nothing continued to show over time (5 years).
A number of buttons and lights did not work. I actually did this one myself. Took it apart, cleaned the switches and found small bulbs at Radio Shack (of all places) that fit perfectly. Cleaned and repainted the faceplate. Looks and works great now. I did have to break into the pitot static system for this repair. I discovered that ANY panel work in this pig is a real bear. I feel like Zlata the contortionist.
Don't know the exact cost since it was in the annual, but the mechanics found a cracks in the welds at the top of both main gear legs and a very slight bend to the rear. I found that this is common to Glasair and Phoenix Composites offers new, upgraded struts for $5K apiece (yikes). Instead, we cleaned them, rewelded, and are measuring/watching from year to year to see if it gets worse. It hasn't, so I haven't replaced them yet. Every year since then we have stripped the paint and inspected the welds and bends. So far no more cracks, and no further bending, so I feel better about the quality of my landings.
Starter Contactor $50 In Philadelphia I had the starter contactor fail. It didn't disengage once I released the button and cranked as soon as the master was energized thereafter. A very helpful man drove me to NAPA and I drove them nuts looking for a starter solenoid. Found one from a early 90's Ford truck that was a near perfect match (after having them open up a couple dozen for me). I planned on replacing it when I returned home, but it has worked perfectly since and has similar specs to the aircraft part, so I'll keep this one in.
This was a job! The original hoses (rubber with fabric covering) were old, chafed, and clearly hardening. No leaks, but it was time to replace them. This is where foresight in building would have paid off. The lines were glassed in (!!!) to a number of bulkheads which had to be artfully dug out and cleaned up.
Aileron Trim Servo
I replaced the aileron trim servo and cleaned up some of the wiring. Again, a connector at the servo would have been nice. Instead, I had splices and basically zero slack to work with, so this turned into more of a job than it needed to be.
Glasair special titanium spring to hang the tailpipes. The slip joint had frozen on one of the pipes and I guess the vibration cracked the hanger. Glasair-specific parts are very expensive.
Wow. Cheapest tire I could have imagined. I think it's originally off a wheelbarrow. Aircraft Spruce item.
I had a coil go bad in flight (noticed the slight increase in vibration, which was very evident at the next runup). Replaced one of the coils. Had another go bad within 2 months after and replaced it too. Then I replaced the third for good measure (2 cylinders fed per coil with the Lightspeed ignition). I called Klaus Savier at Lightspeed and he was surprised they made it this long (2000 hours). He recommends they be changed every 500 hours (which seems really short to me).
In the cold weather, the backlight does not start up. It had also been complaining about a low internal battery, but that should not have stopped the backlight. Sometimes it works, then drops off shortly into the flight. I first want to pull it out, update the firmware, and see if I can replace the battery myself.
Main tires were a little worn. Discovered that Glasair recommends 10ply tires and I only had 5 ply items on the mains. Obviously this wasn't huge problem, but might as well replace them with the correct item. Big difference between the two types. Goodyear Flight Eagles.
All engine hoses.
All the engine hoses were beyond their recommended time/life limits. They all had to be removed and new ones custom made. Sign of the times. The bird is almost 20 years old, after all.
The original pipes were corroded and eroded, almost through. Minor treasure hunt to find replacements. Glasair Aviation does't stock them. Sky Dynamics in Virginia had the last pair from the last production run for Glasair. Once procured, they had to be fitted and rewelded onto slip joints.
Garmin 430 Batteries
The second GNS430 had been complaining about a dead internal battery for a long time. Decided to take both apart and replace them. The batteries are soldered on to the main PCB. Garmin wants $800 for this job so did it myself. Now COM2 works, but COM1 is now complaining about the battery, so I will have to redo it.
For 3 years now the D10A had not been working. I pulled the unit and, after discussing it with Dynon, discovered that the internal battery has a finite life. With a dead internal battery the internal power supply may not have the schpank to power up the unit. Replaced the battery, updated the firmware and the unit is functioning like new. The real complexity of this project lie with the/ pitot/static. The hoses are all vinyl tubing which was old and hard and did not want to be refit. Had to graft on extensions, which was a royal pain. Many scaled knuckles and contorted back from lying upside down with my head wedged under the panel.