Our lovely Bearcat flew forty-six hours last year on a zero-time (i.e., freshly overhauled) engine. Normally a Pratt & Whitney engine will give seamless service for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hours. We’ve had that experience with Beaver and Staggerwing engines, and the T-6 engine has not found its way to the list of that plane’s shortcomings (“opportunities for improvement”). But after one year of air show service, our Bearcat produced somewhat lower compression readings from four of its eighteen cylinders. This condition might go unnoticed by the pilot for quite some time as the plane is so powerful relative to its weight. However, it can portend more serious travails so we ordered new cylinders. Normally that would have gotten us to the end of the annual inspection. However, a leaky blower seal allowed oil into the wrong places. Now what to do? The Centennial of Naval Aviation celebrations in this area plan to feature the Bearcat as the last of the Navy’s piston fighters and the first demonstration aircraft of the Blue Angels. I decided to remove the engine so it could be torn down at the overhaul shop for inspection and testing. This required a first-class effort by the overhaul facility staff and our volunteers. The engine was removed in two days (you can imagine that a few bits also must be removed to gain access… come have a look) and will be through the diagnostic phase of teardown by tomorrow. I have not mentioned the name of the overhaul shop to avoid any inference of inadequacy. We expect a rebuilt engine in three weeks, in time to practice before the first “CONA” (Centennial of Naval Aviation) event.
So in the case of this engine, two strikes and it’s out! The Mariners get three but they remain at field elevation.