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A Blessing in Disguise….

Today, Wednesday, September 14th, would have been the day my good friend Jimmy Culpepper and I would have been in the air with 49Bravo heading to Wichita, Kansas. The reason for the flight was to attend Captain John’s Bomb Group Reunion in his honor, and we both were looking very much to this time.

John and I had flown 49Bravo to his last four reunions, Omaha, NE, Dayton, OH, Dallas, TX, and his last one, Albuquerque, NM. Before these, he and his wife Barbara drove to most of them at different locations around the country.

John loved attending these reunions, and even though he had a heart attack in Albuquerque last year, we had planned on attending this reunion together in Kansas.

So here I am writing this story, and I am not in the air on my way to Kansas. The reason is certainly not the weather. The weather from here clear to Wichita today is ideal, and there was no morning fog, so an early departure before sunrise would have been perfect! My following story will lead up to the reason I am sitting here writing instead of in the air flying.

To start, I feel very honored that during the last three months, I have completed twelve Angel Flight Missions in 49Bravo, carrying on Captain John’s legacy. Each mission was safely completed, with me always having extreme confidence in the reliability of 49Bravo’s engine. Even though she was approaching 2000 hours on her engine (the recommended time between overhauls), she had been performing top-notch with excellent compression checks on each cylinder and no sign of any issues. When your engine reaches the recommended time by the manufacturer for overhaul (two thousand hours for 49Bravo), you can continue flying as long as your mechanic gives it a thumbs up to be airworthy. John and I (and now me) were counting on getting several more hundred hours of safe flying on her engine before the need for an overhaul, and the way she had been running, and the thumbs up from the mechanics each inspection time, made us feel there was a strong chance we would.

With the number of Angel Flights I completed since June, I have accumulated just a little over 50 hours on the engine since the last oil change, which was in April. It worked out perfectly because the oil gets changed every 50 hours, and my next flight scheduled was the flight for today heading to Kansas. The flight to and from Kansas would be sixteen to eighteen hours, so starting with new oil was perfect! Not only would 49Bravo have new oil for the flight, but I would also have the thumbs up from my mechanic that all was good, or so I thought!

One thing that gets done during an oil change on an airplane’s engine is the oil filter gets cut open, and the actual paper filter inside gets removed and examined for things that should not be there. Doing this tells a lot about what’s going on inside the engine before something more major can happen. Previous inspections of 49Bravo’s oil filters never revealed any concerns, which always boosted our hopes of getting more time. But this time was different. This time the oil filter gave a clue that something not so good was happening inside 49Bravo’s engine! Once the paper filter was removed and examined, it was evident there were many small pieces of metal attached to it, and the clue was letting us know that somewhere within the engine, something not so good was underway. Metal in your oil filter is something no aircraft owner ever wants to have found because what follows not only creates a lot of downtimes but is also very expensive. And if your engine is near its recommended overhaul, it’s saying now is the time.

So this is why I am sitting here composing this story instead of in the air flying to Kansas. 49Bravo is grounded and is in the process of being followed through with a complete engine overhaul. The process will include considerable downtime and quite a lot of expense.

Instead of letting this weigh on me like a heavy burden, I have concluded that it is, in reality, a blessing in disguise. Even though a catastrophic engine failure event would probably be unlikely, and the fact of surviving engine failures is very high, having any engine problem halfway across the country (or somewhere on an Angel Flight) would not have been good. On a positive thought, finding out this way, instead of hearing a big bang and a sudden shudder while in the air, makes me very thankful that this has happened!

So, from this point forward, my post related to flying will be focused on keeping everyone updated on the process of 49Bravo getting her very faithful engine rebuilt.

I have not mentioned until now how many actual hours are on 49Bravo’s engine (remember that the recommended overhaul time is 2,000 hours). She has 1,953 hours of faithful flying time that Captain John and I accumulated on her through many years of flying together, mostly doing Angel Flights!

I am looking ahead to my next flight in 49Bravo as I break in her newly overhauled engine!

Thank you so much for your time, and keep in mind that in the midst of what can seem to be overwhelmingly bad news, you may be able to find a blessing in disguise!