We now own (until 2 June) two airplanes. $Mechanic called me about a week and a half ago and said there’s an old Apache in good condition in Florida for $cheap. So we decided to send a deposit and $mechanic went to check it out. He called me last week and said “send the money!” So I wired the money to the seller, and now the Mrs. and I own a 1956 Piper PA-23-150 Apache.
I took the red-eye to Ft. Lauderdale Friday (18 May) night. $Mechanic met me at the airport, and we drove up to a town called Avon Park (near Sebring). Mechanically, the airplane is sound, and has some nice features. Cosmetically, not so much, but fixing up a few things here and there will help tremendously. The previous owner hadn’t flown much in the past year or so due to illness, so there are a couple items that need fixing, but aside from one issue we fixed Saturday morning, nothing that affects safety of flight.
The issue Saturday was, even though $mechanic and $seller had flown it twice just two days before with no problems, when we went to take off Saturday morning, the right engine wouldn’t develop power. Nothing was obviously wrong, and checking all the obvious things didn’t improve it. We got it narrowed down to a problem with the right magneto on the right engine, but couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the mag. We did a test to make sure the mag marked as the right mag was indeed the right mag, and it appeared that the left and right mags were shorted together. However, this turned out to be due to a resistor box connected between them to reduce electrical noise from the mags. When we ran the engine again to verify the mags weren’t shorted together, it ran fine. We ran it up several times with no problems, so we launched. Talking about it on the way home, our best guess is, since we removed all the leads, one of them must have managed to work loose, and taking them off and reconnecting them fixed that.
As a result of the delay, we only made Pascagoula, MS, the first day, after 3.5 in the air. On Sunday, we got airborne at 5:15am PDT, and after stops for fuel in Junction, TX, and Wilcox, AZ, arrived at Fullerton at 9pm PDT. Sunday was 13.6 hours of flying, which is really a testament to how comfortable the airplane is to fly. The Mooney is about 6-8 hours per day max, and then you’re seriously hurting through the next day. Other than a headache from wearing a headset all day, and almost total exhaustion, I was physically in good shape after spending more than half of the preceding 36 hours in the airplane. The Apache has a far longer comfort range than the Mooney, despite being about 10 knots slower.
The right engine has noticeably higher fuel consumption than the left. $Mechanic says the float on that side is mal-adjusted, so that’s likely one of the first things to fix. Hopefully at the same time we can repair or replace the fuel totalizer sender on the right side, it’s currently inop. Also to be done is clean the mixture and propeller controls for the right side, they’re very stiff, especially the mixture, it almost takes two hands to move it.
Some of you who have flown light twins may scoff at the Apache, but it’s hard to beat as an economical way to build multi-engine time. This is certainly another interim airplane, we still plan on upgrading to a 310 in the future. However, buying a 310 now would mean much higher insurance premiums, if it could be had at all, and waiting a few years for the 310 should mean we can get a relatively newer and nicer 310 than we could hope to get now. As it is, I have to spend 15 hours with a CFI ($mechanic let his CFI lapse a few years ago) before insurance will cover me in the Apache.
A friend at work is buying the Mooney. It will be his first airplane, and he’ll use it to commute back and forth from Colorado (where he lives – he’s a consultant). It’s sad to sell little bitty, but with our hopefully soon adoption we definitely need a larger airplane, and the Mooney is a perfect fit for him and his intended use. I may even still get to fly it occasionally.
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