The last couple of summers I have had the opportunity to travel around the country looking at a number of Glasairs being offered for sale. The individuals I traveled with had previously owned or flown Glasairs and now wished to upgrade to a faster and better-equipped airplane. I was along by virtue of my many years of maintaining company airplanes and working technical support.
When looking at these Glasairs through the eyes of prospective buyers I had to look beyond just the mechanical aspect of the airplane. I became aware of some simple documentation issues on the Glasairs that when done well contribute to the maintainability and greatly enhance the marketability and value of their airplanes.
Some of the items of documentation I would like to talk about in this article are maintaining:
- A Service Bulletin folder
- An Options Instructions folder
- An Electrical Wiring Manual
Note: I have not included the Airframe and Engine Log books with this list since they more obvious and routinely kept documents on all airplanes. Maintaining good Airframe and Engine logbooks is also highly valuable but perhaps will be the source of another article.
The three items above involve written material that all builders should have received over the course of the aircraft construction and come as “loose papers”. I would like to make some suggestions on organizing and binding these documents so they can become part of a permanent set of records with the airplane. In fact in many cases these documents will likely be referred to more often than the Instruction Manuals once the kit is completed.
First, why this extra paperwork? After all, you have been intimate with this project for several years, and you know it better than anyone does. To most builders paper work is not nearly as much fun as building. First, from personal experience the years have a way of dimming the details. Keeping all documents organized will provide quick access and less head scratching. Second, if the airplane is ever sold these documents along with the Instruction Manual, are the only instructions available to the new owner and often the owners A&P mechanic as to how the airplane was constructed mechanically. Third, even if you plan to keep the airplane forever, we are all mortal and good documentation will make selling your pride and joy much easier for you or your family.
1. Service Bulletin Folder
Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft and NewGlasair has over the years produced a large number of Service Bulletins and Service Letters for the Glasair/GlaStar product line. The most complex task for a secondary Glasair/GlaStar purchaser or an A&P mechanic working on the aircraft is determining the applicability of the various Service Bulletins to this kit. The builder/mechanic must then try to determine if a Bulletin has been complied with.
Service Bulletins can be divided into three categories, those that do not apply, those that require one time compliance, and those requiring re-occurring inspection or part replacement.
Let’s say you are building a Glasair III. I suggest that paper copies of all bulletins that say G-III on them be kept in a 3-ring binder with the S/B master index in the front. The cover of the binder would say Service Bulletin Log for Glasair III kit # 3XXX. Write notes at the bottom of each Bulletin as to whether the Bulletin is applicable to your kit (and if not why not) and the status of compliance with that Bulletin. Describe in detail what was done to comply with that Bulletin. Bulletins that require a yearly inspection should have a visible flag placed on them. This flag will call attention to these Bulletins when doing the yearly “Condition” inspection.
A complete and well-documented Service Bulletin Log will show all concerned (FAA inspectors, prospective buyers, other builders) that you have taken great care to ensure accuracy and safety when building your kit.
2. Option Instruction Folder
It seems that no-one builds a stock airplane. NewGlasair knew you liked to customize and would want to add some more deluxe features to your kit and so Option kits were marketed almost as soon as the first kit was sold. NewGlasair prides itself in the completeness of the Option Instructions.
It is important that the Option Instructions be kept in a separate manual. Trying to insert them into a “appropriate” spot in the Instruction Manual is difficult and tends to hide them. In many cases the Option Instructions will supersede sections in the Instruction Manual. I suggest that the superseded pages of the Instruction Manual be marked as such and a notation on that page say refers to Section X of the Option Instructions Folder.
The Option Instructions should be kept in separate 3-Ring binder, with dividers located between the different Options Instructions.
In cases where an illustration in one of the Instructions is used as a full size template that page should be photocopied before use or at least a notation on the surrounding pages that the missing page was a template and was used for that purpose. It is surprising how many calls I have received over the years regarding missing pages, when in fact the builder had cut it up for a template. This is sometimes embarrassing for the original builder, however, missing pages can cause significant concern if the kit is being built or inspected by someone other than the original builder.
An Option Kit Parts list was included when the Option Kit was sent. This parts list should also be included with the Option Instructions. The parts list will provide the NewGlasair part number if replacement parts are needed.
In addition, I also suggest you keep other Servicing Instructions such as Landing Gear Strut Overhaul Instructions, and Hydraulic Actuator Overhaul Instructions in the Options Instruction Binder. These instructions should also have titled section dividers for easy reference.
3. Electrical Schematic Manual
The electrical system of the airplane is the key system in the operation of the airplane. This system can also be the system most individualized and customized. In the case of many Glasairs it can also be the most complex system.
I suggest again that a separate binder be used to store all the electrical schematics used in construction of the airplane. Furthermore this particular binder should be of a size that can conveniently accompany the airplane once flying (same idea as the Owner’s Manual). Individual electrical schematics are provided for many of the Option Instructions. Making copies of these and gathering them (do not take the original out of the Option Instructions) in this central location will be very useful during and after building the kit. Also include copies of all electrical schematics in the Instruction Manual (make sure that all upgrades and changes are noted).
Avionics wiring diagrams are of major importance in this manual. A quick way to spend a bunch of money is to have a Radio Shop try to troubleshoot an avionics squawk in a system that they have no schematics for, and especially in the Glasair, limited access to. Also, if you have a flying airplane and have maintenance or enhancements done to your system, get the shop to document and change your wiring schematics as necessary.
NOTE: Many builders now opt for a professional shop to wire the Avionics, if not the entire panel. Any shop doing a reputable job will also supply you with schematics for the work done. Insist on it!
I have had many calls from customers, often working with the local mechanic, who have had an electrical or system malfunction when traveling (Murphy’s Law #13). They are usually asking to have a schematic faxed out to help trouble shoot their aircraft. This was fine if during the business hours for NewGlasair, but not helpful on the weekend. The builder can do himself no better service than that of having an accurate, up to date, and complete (including Avionics Installation), electrical schematic on board. I know this from experience after having a total electrical failure flying in Texas while in a customer’s G-III.
Along with the keeping electrical schematics in the aircraft I suggest Photocopies of the landing gear electrical troubleshooting pages taken from the Final Assembly Section of the Instruction Manual. These pages are also very handy when trying to track down electrical glitches and landing gear malfunctions in the field.
In summary, the benefits of careful handling and organizing of all extra papers used during construction will pay off in improved maintainability and value.
I have started working on an article about the care and service of the Oildyne hydraulic pump. I suspect this article may extend into a couple in order to due justice to the subject.