Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mustang Delivery Experience

I picked up my much anticipated Mustang in Wichita, KS on October 5-8, 2009. This was a demo plane that was fully paid for (financially delivered) in March 2009. So for six months, Cessna has had my plane and my money, while paying me a modest monthly fee. Needless to say, I was eager to get back one or the other.

Since I had never taken delivery of a jet before, and was unsure of wear and tear from demo usage, I hired Cyrus Sigari of JetAviva to help with the acceptance. JetAviva is primarily a broker for light jets including Mustang, CJs, and Embraer Phenoms. Cyrus previously worked as and engineer and has a huge amount of experience with all of these light jets, though had never accepted a demo plane prior. We reviewed his very detailed pre-acceptance plan over breakfast that morning and added a few items (0 g maneuver, satphone, etc.)

Most deliveries are performed at the union-free factory in Independence, KS. Cyrus suggested that we take delivery there rather than at the Service Center in Wichita, KS because of higher likelihood of parts availability. Cessna wanted the plane to stay in Wichita where the post-demo refurbishment was done. Given what happened over the next few days, Cessna should have followed Cyrus’s suggestion.

The morning at Cessna started off well enough. Cessna had some kind gifts, including a scale model of the real plane with accurate colors and tail number, leather jacket, etc. This was a very nice gesture but I was ready to get to business with the plane inspection and test flight.

The plane was in immaculate condition. It was so clean, even deep into the wheel wells, that you would never know it had about 300 hours and 400 landings. The appearance was truly factory new.

There were only a few minor squawks, such the torque seals on the gears and tension on the outer door latch. The headliner had a tiny scratch in it and the pilot visor was a little loose. We were ready to go on the test flight.

Cyrus was in the pilot seat. A Cessna test pilot was in the right seat, while I was in back. The test flight proceeded smoothly and again only minor items were found, such as the standby attitude indicator was 3 degrees off pitch compared to the PFDs. Cyrus purposefully does a few 60 degree bank 360 degree turns to load up 2g of force, as his experience has shown that this will shake loose some marginal items. For the same reason, the zero g push over was interesting. In the cabin, we kept everything strapped down while the two tray tables started to levitate.

After the flight, Cyrus and I examined the plane literally from bottom to top, using a creeper to check for any sign of leaks or deformation.

When we returned, we asked for two additional inspections from Cessna. We wanted a full FADEC download history. The FADEC download showed that one engine had had an ITT exceedance soon after manufacture prior to entry in demo service, but was still within tolerance (less than 5 seconds between 830 and 865 dC – it was only for 1 second). Also, since Cessna themselves had not followed P&WC conservative compressor wash schedule during the demo period, I wanted to borescope both engines to check for corrosion.

The borescope turned out to be a huge problem in terms of logistics. Even with all of the Cessna Wichita resources, they could not find a decent borescope as the lone good one was in repair. P&WC’s local representative had a good borescope but insisted that I sign an onerous agreement disavowing them of any responsibility whatsoever. Since this agreement was only between me and P&WC and did not involve any responsibility on Cessna’s part, I refused to sign as Cessna had operational control during the demo period.

The borescope easily cost us ½ day of wasted effort. By the time extensive discussions and meetings occurred, the good Cessna borescope was repaired and we no longer had to wait for P&WC. Fortunately the borescope showed no detectable corrosion but that’s not to say there isn’t any lurking.

Neil Singer, my mentor pilot arrived from Boston and joined us in the waiting game. Neil and I took our Mustang initial training together at Flight Safety Orlando a few months ago.

With the borescope out of the way, we planned for an afternoon departure to Los Angeles to fly Cyrus back home. Taking into account potential fatigue, we set a 4pm wheels up cut off time. Cessna went off to do a final engine run up and check.

The final run up failed. The FADEC has three redundant inputs to determine whether the plane is on the ground or not. One of the three did not agree. After various continuity checks and board swapping, Cessna determined, with P&WC disagreement, that the FADEC was bad. FADECs are highly reliable pieces of equipment and fail very rarely. Consequently, they are not a stock item, even in a large Service Center like Wichita. Had we been in Independence, another would have been easily available at least to swap in and try. So now a FADEC had to be ordered from Michigan and would not arrive until 1pm the following day (Wednesday). This problem caused us to lose yet another day.

Cyrus had to return to Los Angeles, so he flew back commercially on Wednesday. Neil and I waited until the FADEC arrived Wednesday afternoon. Of course when it was swapped out, the problem did not go away. So Cessna spent the evening swapping out boards until a combination of new fuel controllers resolved the issue. Around 11pm Wednesday night we received notification that all the issues were resolved and we would be good to go the next day.

As a precaution, the subsequent overnight shift also re-tested the plane and did additional run ups. They gave their blessing as well.

We planned for a departure Thursday morning. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate as there were low ceilings, thunderstorms, and icing up to the top of the clouds around 25,000’.

We started up and did as many ground checks as we could do, while waiting for a final lightning cell to pass over the airport. The engine run up was fine. The FADECs worked well. Everything in plane seemed perfect. With the Mustang RADAR scanning into the clouds, the passage looked clear, so we took off.

Climbing steadily through 15,000’ I shook Neil’s hand and congratulated ourselves on our successful departure out of Wichita, a day and a half late. Unfortunately our satisfaction was short lived.

Climbing through 18,000’, a CABIN DOOR message appeared on the Crew Alerting System. This was just like the training in the simulators at Flight Safety - low ceilings, a new CAS message, and shooting approaches. The checklist action is “Land as soon as possible” so we diverted back to Wichita and our favorite Service Center.

Soon afterwards, another CAS message appeared that both PFDs were on Air Data Computer 2. Though the checklist suggested simply switching back, we did not want to risk losing both ADCs in the clouds.

Air Traffic Control asked we wanted to declare an emergency but this was not necessary, especially as we descended quickly and pressurization was holding well.

The Service Center got right on the problem. When they adjusted the stiff door on Monday, they had put the door out of specification, so the CAS message was valid. It had only manifested at high altitude not during any of the ground checks. The ADC problem was a known G1000 transient issue.

After another set of ground checks, we departed once again. This time, the plane worked flawlessly and a 140 kt tail wind carried us home non-stop in 3:15.

Since then, the plane has been a flawless joy and wonder. It’s been an amazing machine during subsequent trips to Montreal, Teterboro, Las Vegas, and Orlando. I’ve flown it over 30 hours in just this first month.


Thanks to Bill and Charlotte, the Cessna customer service reps who gave their personal best and tried whatever they could to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.

1 comment:

TRUTH & HONESTY said...

Both FADECs failed on SN 170 within a week of each other and had same problems - no replacements.