Magneto drop?

Ever had to cancel a flight because of an excessive magneto drop? Most of us have. It’s probably the most common cause of going home instead of going flying, except perhaps for weather. I won’t insult your intelligence by going over the various causes of excessive mag drop. However, have you considered that maybe there is nothing wrong?

Check out this Lycoming Service Instruction. Drop-Off.pdf

Lycoming says that if you experience a higher than expected magneto drop at full mixture, to lean the mixture and try it again. They are not referring to the “burn off” procedure your instructor taught you. This is simply to improve the combustion efficiency and thereby reduce the effect of turning off half of the spark plugs.

“(d) If the RPM drop exceeds 175 RPM, slowly lean the mixture until the RPM peaks. Then retard the throttle to the RPM specified in step E.(1)(a) or E.(1)(b) for the magneto drop-off check and repeat the check. If the drop-off does not exceed 175 RPM, the difference between the drop-off values for both magnetos does not exceed 50 RPM, and the engine is running smoothly, then the ignition system is operating properly. Return the mixture to full rich.”

So next time, when you experience a higher than expected mag drop, but the engine still runs smoothly on the suspected mag, try this. Maybe it will result in going flying instead of going home.

Basics on Competition Aerobatics

Yes, there are many “types” of aerobatic (or interchangeably “acro”) flying.  What we call “gentleman’s aerobatics” is done purely for enjoyment and a bit of thrill.  That is probably the most common kind of acro, performed in anything legally capable of anything more than right-side-up flying.  It requires basic training, lots of altitude and has no real criteria.  Most people perform rolls, loops, hammerheads and other basic maneuvers with no real worry about how they would look from the ground.  Precision is not critical, but many pilots still like to make their figures feel and look nice.

Competition acro is very different.  The figures are basically combinations of the same lines and circles, but precision counts. Verticals must look vertical, as do 45 degree lines.  Loops and portions of loops must appear round.  Check out the video below and we shall reconvene on the other side.

Did you notice how my lines weren’t exactly vertical?  Notice I wrote “must look” and “appear” and not “be.” Fascinating thing about aerobatic competition is it only matters how it looks to the judges, not from inside the airplane!  My airplane has about 3 degrees of incidence.  That means that if the wings are perfectly vertical, the fuselage is 3 degrees positive.  The judges tend to look at the fuselage and not the wings.  Therefore to look vertical, I actually have to be slightly negative, or on my back.

Same goes for looping portions.  If they feel round in the airplane, they probably do not look round from the judges line.  The only way to learn what looks right is to practice with ground choaching or critique.

This sort blog only begins to scratch the surface.  There is so much more!  Most importantly: quality coaching, instruction, safe and legal area, well maintained airplane, parachutes and a good plan are absolutely necessary for safe aerobatics.cropped-b5701557-0d71-4528-adae-48102b160b53.jpeg

Why Fly?


Years of therapy couldn’t do what flying can do for your mental health.  Ever tried to meditate?  I have.  I read some books on Zen and tried to close my eyes and turn off my mind.  Try it.  Try to close your eyes and think about nothing.  Humor me….

How did it go?  Did your brain last a minute before it started drifting off and thinking about things, stuff, minutia?  Bet you can’t get it to stop either.  Monks go decades before they can do that.  They say that’s Nirvana.

Now, go fly an airplane.


How did that go?  I bet you didn’t think about anything but the moment for the duration of the flight.  Once you land and think back on it, it’s surreal how much your mind lives in the moment up there.  Nirvana.

Then there are the people. Airports attract the best people. There is no telling who you will meet. And contrary to popular belief, they won’t brag about who they are.  You could be talking to an astronaut, multi billionaire, celebrity, fighter pilot, or just a regular human who loves the same thing that you do: the sky and the machines.  I clearly remember talking to a gentleman for an hour to find out later he is the CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.  One great airport friend is a military pilot who has flown everything that starts with F in the Navy and Air Force.  This is not intended as some form of name dropping.  It is never about who is who in the zoo.  There is no competition or one-upmanship.  At the airport everyone is just an airport person.  Some just have incredible hangar stories to tell.


And finally, there are the airplanes.  The fantastic machines that mankind engineered to take us away from the cares of earthbound living.  Every one of them different.  Every one of them beautiful and full of their own character.   Every one of them a wonder of human ingenuity, craftsmanship and determination.

There is more.  Way more.  But by now, you are probably just thinking about flying.  So go.  See you up there.