E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby Wm.Ince » Mon May 04, 2015 2:19 pm

drdehave wrote:Bottleworks asked: "Has the factory/distributor been anymore helpful?"

To be completely fair, I won't comment further until some more time--a reasonable amount more--has passed. However, at some point I may really "go off" and they aren't gonna like that.

Very interested.
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby MrMorden » Mon May 04, 2015 2:31 pm

drdehave wrote:Bottleworks asked: "Has the factory/distributor been anymore helpful?"

To be completely fair, I won't comment further until some more time--a reasonable amount more--has passed. However, at some point I may really "go off" and they aren't gonna like that.


This thread just got real. 8)
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Mon May 25, 2015 6:48 pm

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Well folks, the repairs to my fuel tank are done and I expect to turn the key for the first test flight on Wednesday May 27, 2015. Actually, I could do it today, but opted for prudence. Hopefully, by adding a few extra days of resin cure-time, I will ensure that the MGS L285 epoxy used for the repairs develops its full resistance to fuel.

Make no mistake, I was pretty darned upset and angry when I found this mess and saw how difficult and time-consuming any “fix” was going to be. Adding to that was the frustration of knowing we were pretty much “on our own” in executing this repair, inasmuch as I am presently the only Sting owner we know of to embark on the journey (although two or three other early-model Stings have now also been found with fuel-tank issues and are being assessed for repair).

But now that the job is done and I’m about to get my airplane back, I’m becoming mellower. The difficulty I perceived at the beginning was mostly due to my unfamiliarity with fiberglass repairs, especially the vacuum-bagging process. However, I was able to turn that lack of knowledge into a very satisfying learning experience! In fact, although rather costly and physically demanding (working inside that little tank) this all was actually rather fun (though not something I would choose to do again)! In addition, I am now more of a pragmatist: Despite every attempt to make them perfect, all airplanes, including factory-built ones, will invariably have “stuff” that fails or goes wrong. Why should I let one bad event sour my perception of my airplane and its manufacturer–-a craft that’s provided me almost 1,500 hours of sheer joy–-and reliability–-up to now? What I intend to do instead is to help them (i.e., the manufacturer and US distributor) develop appropriate service bulletins for dealing with this issue, however widespread (or limited) in scope and severity it proves to be.

A final reason for mellowing out from my initial “attack mode” over this issue is that fault and blame are going to be difficult, if not impossible, to assign in this case. Was it the E10 gas (i.e., the 10% ethanol), which was supposedly okay to use? Or was it manufacturing defect(s)? Actually, both could be involved. But what about the other “wild cards” in the game, such as all the “additives” that gasoline refineries (especially here in California) put into auto-gas, including MEK (methyl ethyl ketone), with its known composite-dissolving ability? Was repeated ingestion of one of these additives the real smoking gun? And what role did those original owners of my airplane play (such as allowing E10 to sit for long periods in the tank, possibly until phase-separation occurred) during those first 2 years, including while it sat for an extended period in the dealer’s hangar? Or did those stiffeners delaminate (or crack, leading to delamination) during some out-of-bounds G-pulling maneuver by me or the earlier owners, whilst carrying a heavy, tank-load of fuel? There are so many possibilities, but scant hard evidence as yet pointing to the primary culprit.

So now I’m going to refrain from blaming. Nevertheless, I will be minimizing my risks going forward. Most of my flying will be done on the Pure-Gas (alcohol-free, unleaded, auto-gas) I haul in with my little 108-gal fuel trailer. When that’s not available, such as on long trips, I’ll of course be turning to Av-gas. And if and when I do have to use more E10, I’ll be sure to test it first, to ensure it doesn’t exceed 10% ethanol; and I will also ensure it doesn’t sit in the tank for long periods (more than a few days) when the airplane is inactive. (I should reiterate here, that if my fuel tanks were metal, not composite, I wouldn’t be worried about all this and would likely just be running the E10.) Another form of mitigation will be to keep G-forces to a minimum when the fuel tank is loaded with significant weight from fuel.

Anyway, now back to what we did to effect the repair on my main fuel tank (the rarely used wing tanks, which lack stiffeners, were just fine). (But first, just to reiterate: There was no fuel leakage anywhere, yet; the problem was (a) beads and flakes of resin which were being observed in fuel-sump samples, and (b) the tank possibly not being structurally sound with a full load of fuel.) The tank has two laminated honeycomb (Nomex) “stiffeners,” one to the right and one to the left side along the bottom and sides of the tank. The glass surface of the right one was completely delaminated and the Nomex inside was fuel-saturated; we dried and sanded it out, then laminated (i.e., vacuum-bagged) in a new honeycomb stiffener. The original left stiffener was not delaminated, but did appear thin and brittle (with possibly some initial fuel “weeping”), so we dried and dressed up that surface, too, then vacuum-bagged on a new surface-covering of glass. Next, the filler neck was sanded and touched-up as needed, using the L285 epoxy thickened with micro-balloons; no new fiberglass cloth was added and the neck was not leaking (although the initial fiberglass work had been very “sloppy,” at best). Finally, the whole tank was given another sanding, followed by a final over-coating with the L285 epoxy. Then the tank lid, which is the floor underneath my legs, was laminated back in place, with L285 epoxy.

The pictures below show the process as the repairs were made and the plane was slowly brought back to life. One word of caution, however: Do not employ the heat lamps you see in the photos unless they are kept well back and/or used with strategically-placed fans. Otherwise, the foam-core decking (and/or tank lid) will overheat, soften and warp.

Stay tuned. I’ll be providing a follow-up report after I fly a few tanks of Pure-Gas through her. Now, let's just hope that everything works when I hit that starter button!

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Last edited by drdehave on Wed May 27, 2015 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Mon May 25, 2015 6:52 pm

Pictures continued...
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Mon May 25, 2015 6:53 pm

And the last two pictures...
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Wish me luck...
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby MrMorden » Mon May 25, 2015 7:39 pm

That looks like quality work!
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby Merlinspop » Thu May 28, 2015 10:26 am

Looking forward to your post test flight review.

If you would, outline your flight tests and post-flight inspection plans. This is all very interesting.

B
- Bruce

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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Tue Jun 23, 2015 6:08 pm

Well, folks, it's finally time to put this baby to bed--I think...

After a thorough dismantling and sitting in the hangar for 7 long weeks, I was afraid my baby might have issues, when we tried to bring her back to life. My fears were well-founded, although the "shoes that dropped" were relatively minor:

1. Initially, she refused to start and was flooding. It appears the throttle cables got stretched or pulled, such that the idle was now down around 1400. That was an easy enough fix.

2. Then, she was running rough. A carburetor synchronisation fixed that.

3. Next up was a oil leak between the oil cooler and oil pump (Isn't it interesting how such problems crop up, after a lengthy period of just "sitting?"). That took a little longer to fix and of course involved an oil purge afterwards.

4. After that, I observed the glass gascolator "weeping" slightly during a pre-flight. So I opted (ill-advisedly, it turns out) for another half-turn of the retainer nut. Pop! That was the end of that 1700-hr piece of glass! Lucky for me, I had the approved aluminum replacement gascolator (also highly recommended by Sportair and TL) sitting on the shelf. Putting it on was not a 1-hr job, though.

Other than those four items, and a minor fuel-gauge issue we are still dealing with, the biggest issue and threat in returning my airplane to service was debris in the gas. Despite very thorough fuel-tank vacuuming and flushing (with gasoline) after all the work, a lot of sanding debris came out of there (in the sump) and for a very long time. Obviously, this necessitated diligence cleaning the gascolator every hour or so and frequent "sumpings."

However, I am happy to report that now, after running 110 gallons of Pure-gas (unleaded, non-alcohol 92 Octane) through her, since the fuel-tank repairs, everything appears clean, sound and stable. In fact, yesterday I made my longest 1-day flight of my 1500-hr career: A run to the top of Mount Shasta (14,179') and back, logging 400 nmi, 4.5 hours and 16 gallons consumed. Life is good, again!

Anyway, here's a brief video capping the fuel-tank repair story
:[/b] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fl5ueNP7Eg

Rich
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby roger lee » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:02 pm

Hi Rich,

While you had this all apart did you coat the inside of the fuel tanks to withstand the ethanol?
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:18 pm

"Did you coat the inside of the fuel tanks to withstand the ethanol?"

Hi Roger. No, I choose not to use any additional coating, other than the epoxy resin the airplane and original fuel tanks were built of: MGS L285 (German) epoxy and hardener. This epoxy is widely used for airplanes, including their fiberglass fuel tanks and it should withstand the ethanol. But I do not intend to test the theory by trying. I'll just stick to non-ethanol during whatever remaining time I have the airplane.

Rich

(PS/ I guess I'll go ahead and include the "why," here: Because it is looking more and more like it was an original construction defect--and not just the E10 gas, although the E10 may have contributed, after that right-side-of-tank "stiffener" failed.)
Last edited by drdehave on Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby Jack Tyler » Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:09 pm

"Isn't it interesting how such problems crop up, after a lengthy period of just "sitting?"

Indeed! As you already know, Rich, planes are not unlike boats. Use 'em and they love it. Ignore them and they punish you. But usually, boats won't sink with disuse...or look at all the plastic that would be at the bottom of marina slips. Airplanes OTOH have a way of not going up or unintentionally coming down if they feel like an abandoned Mistress. Really glad to hear the repairs are completed and you are back in the air. Enjoyed your Mt. Shasta visit, too.
Jack
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drseti » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:43 pm

Jack, boats very seldom fall out of the sky, no matter how badly abused.
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby MrMorden » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:48 am

drseti wrote:Jack, boats very seldom fall out of the sky, no matter how badly abused.


This is actually true of airplanes too, but it happens *just* enough to keep us on our toes. :D
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drdehave » Wed Dec 16, 2015 12:59 pm

Well folks, it was a while coming, but TL has now formally taken the alcohol OUT of gasoline used in our Sting and Sting Sport S-LSAs. Click here to review the Service Bulletin, which just arrived in USA-owners emails, this morning...
https://www.dropbox.com/s/mnva2xwglp0i4 ... 5.pdf?dl=0
Rich
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Re: E10 Unleaded Auto-Gas: My Big Mistake as LSA Owner!

Postby drseti » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:41 pm

Do me a favor, Rich. I'm unable to access the document in Dropbox. Any chance you can email the PDF to fly@avsport.org?
Thanks.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
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