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Buyer Beware!

By Eric Cobb

After receiving a conference call from a member of the Camarillo EAA and the buyer of a used VariEze with some engine heating problems, I made arrangements to fly to Mojave to lend some of my experience with the new owner.  Before I arrived on the weekend I suggested he check the accuracy of the CHT probes by heating oil in a pan and checking the temperature against a candy thermometer which he did.  I’ve been told by a reputable engine shop that the temperature between a spark plug probe and a bayonet type is that the spark plug type is typically sixty degrees hotter.

 When I arrived and took a look at the engine I didn’t see any of the tattletale signs of over heating.  Like black spark plug or burnt oil on the cylinders.  This pretty much looked normal but after looking at the baffles I immediately saw some places where improvement could be made on the inner baffles.  Nothing that would explain the four hundred twenty plus temperatures he was seeing on the gauge.   I made some suggestions on how to change it to make it better and started looking at the rest of the plane.

 

Missing inner baffles and seeing plumbers tape always makes me suspicious.

The next thing very obvious problem was large amount of blue streaking under the right strake.  I informed the owner that he had a fuel leak and he told me that it just started when he first put fuel in it.  The next obvious problem and the one that got my attention the most was the visible cracks all around the wing attach.  I went out to the end of the wing and rocked the plane back and forth to see if I could see any movement between the wing and strake.  None was noticed.  After inspection the other wing attachment both top and bottom of both wings they were all the same.  With great remorse I told him his airplane was unsafe and called a friend VariEze builder to see if he could offer his expertise’s and he confirmed what I just told the owner.   Sort of dampened the rest of my day not to mention how the owner must have felt.  Like throwing $15k out the window.

I asked the owner if he didn’t see this when he first looked at the plane.  He told me that the plane was recently painted and none of the cracking was visible nor was there any fuel in the right strake.  He has made several attempts to contact the person who sold him the plane but he never returns his call. 

I personally believe the seller in this case cleaned up this plane to sell it without disclosing all the problems.  After thirty flights the problems poked their heads out.  This really upsets me and I hope the owner can recoup some of his losses.  After a fast paint job making the plane look good it would be hard for any expert to find this type of problem.  Get to know the person you buy from and his friends to see what type of person he is.    I’ve always had the highest respect for pilots but after seeing this I will move with more caution and less trust.

 
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