For Want of a Nail

Last week, (month? year? Things all run together for me this time of year) our jump plane had a chip detector light come on in flight. A chip detector is a small engine probe that can detect any metal that show up in the engine oil. It looks like a small spark plug and can detect even the tiniest amounts of metal in the oil.

There is supposed to be metal in the engine, NOT in the oil! Metal in the engine oil in an indication that something in the engine is coming apart. See: bad. The engine might continue to run for years or seconds. No way to know. But when that RBL (really bad light) comes on in a multi million dollar airplane full of squishy bodies the prudent pilot puts her on the ground, fast! The jumpers? They left the pilot to deal with the problem alone. That’s one of the advantages of being a skydiver.

” Anything I can do to help? No? Ok, well . . . See ya later. Good luck!”

So we got the Caravan on the ground and sent for the calvary. The man coming to the rescue in this case is Jorge “Horhay” Mechanic extrordonaire. We unbuttoned the plane and pulled the chip detector dreading what we might see.

We were hoping for a loose wire or something. What we really didn’t want to see was what Jorge called an “afro” An “Afro” in a chip detector that is full of metal and is generally considered “bad”

“We don’t likes bad, do we precious?”

We pulled the plug with baited breath and . . . . . nothing. Whew! Well, not exactly nothing. when I looked really close I could see just the smallest of black lines on the the plug.

You can’t see the metal hair because we wiped it off. Not sure you could’ve see it any any, it was that small.

There was just one tiny little hair of metal on the end of the plug. Matel. Bummer. But at least it wasn’t an afro. We reassembled the plane and ran the engine on the ground for 10 minutes and didn’t get another chip detector light so we test flew it. Still no light. The metal was probably just some tiny random sliver of metal that somehow worked it’s way loose after all these years. Probably.

So we filled the Caravan full of squishy bodies again the next day and hoped for the best.

Guess we’ll see.

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