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Flying in California during the repairman course

26SEP - 13OCT 2019

I flew N5581M together with Leon during a Repairman course for Light Sport Aircraft

September 26th, 2019, 16 days after my last 140 flight, I took a commercial flight back from Buenos Aires via LAX to Sacramento. Arrived there noon, September 27th. Leon arrived a few hours later, he flew from Hamburg, via Frankfurt and LAX to Sacramento. Our booked accommodation was in Red Bluff, 120 miles north of SMF. We would have to commute daily to Corning, 20 miles south of Red Bluff, so we got us a. What we booked was a nice room in an airbnb run by a friendly couple, Natalie and Mike. Our home for the next 16 days.

The repairman course was to start the next day at 8 AM, but Leon and I wanted to fly before. So we drove the 25 minutes to Corning and finished the extended after storage pre-flight checks in the hangar, before sunrise. The hangar doors squeaked loudly, when we pushed and pulled them open. Just a few meters away, a few of our future course colleagues were tent camping. I guess, we woke them up. Sunrise. Winds are light, but low clouds and hazy. Corning doesn't have an AWOS and I guessed, we could do a quick local flight below the clouds. Starting the engine, drove the remaining campers out of their tents. All aviation enthusiasts, of course. A 140 triggers smiles, nobody complained. We took off and flew right back, flight time only 12 minutes. Visibility below the clouds was poor and I wasn't familiar enough with the area, couldn't exclude the existence of antennas or other hard-to-see obstacles. More colleagues arrived. Most of them stayed in local hotels. A few had trailers. 26 students, including Leon and me. We met our teachers Brian and Carol. We booked a 15-day course. Originally planned for 3 weeks, they squeezed it into 15 consecutive days, from Saturday, September 28th to Saturday, October 12th, without weekend in-between. Each day, Brian started the course at 7:40 by showing aviation fun videos for those who arrived early. His lecture started at 8 AM and run until 5 PM.

Every day we switched between classroom and workshop. Picture shows Leon assembling the flight control simulator. The curriculum had been negotiated some years ago between the Light Sport Aircraft lobby and the FAA. I am sure, you'll find it somewhere on the web. Besides, this page is about N5581M, not about becoming a repairman. But as you are probably wondering, why Leon and I are doing this, I give you some context.

I already mentioned that I wanted to be able to repair my plane. But I am not a licensed mechanic, only a licensed pilot (and an engineer, but this doesn't count). According to 14 CFR §43.3(g) and §43.7(f) the holder of an FAA issued private pilot license may perform preventive maintenance and approve the aircraft's return to service thereafter, on any aircraft owned or operated by that pilot as long as it is not used commercially. Preventive Maintenance tasks are listed in 14 CFR Part 43 Appendix A (c) and are usually simple tasks like changing oil, tires, filters, paint jobs and similar. If you want to do more, e.g. serious engine work or annual inspections, you need to be a licensed A&P (Aircraft and Powerplant) mechanic. An A&P can work on all aircraft, regardless of its type. On the other side, a licensed repairman can do everything an A&P is allowed to do, but only on Special Light Sport Aircraft. The Cessna 140 is not certified as a Light Sport Aircraft, so the course certificate wouldn't allow me to go beyond preventive maintenance. But I thought, I would learn stuff that enable me to find out what is wrong with my plane and to work under the supervision of an A&P to fix it. Leon joined me, because he is always eager to learn something new. It helped, that I paid.

Brian showed us everything. We weighted planes

Inspected fuel strainers within the carburetor

Learned how to do compression checks

Annihilated spark plug washers before re-installing them

We couldn't go flying as much as I thought. There was no homework, but the course took a full day each day. And Leon convinced me that going to the gym is important too. September 30th, we squeezed in a 30-minute flight during the lunch break.

October 1st, 4th and 11th, we flew in the evening. Nile had a drone ...

... which made nice pictures of N5581M.

We flew over a community called Paradise, which had suffered a severe fire, killing 85 people and destroying more than 18.000 buildings. It had happened less than a year ago and the memory was still fresh and hurting for many folks around.

One day, Andrew and Dennis joined us in Andrew's Flight Design CT, a modern SLSA. The kind of plane we were trained to fix.

Evening in Corning. The campers are preparing their dinner.

October 12th, we wrote the tests and got our certificates. Afterwards, we went flying one last time

Via Red Bluff (in the picture) we flew to Redding and back to Corning

The last of many beautiful Corning sunsets

October 13th, we drove to Roseville and visited aunt Lou. Later we returned the rental car in SMF. Leon flew via LAX and FRA to HAM, I via Houston to Buenos Aires.

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