Today I was supposed to go flying. CFI Madeleine and I were going to take the Beech up around the patch a few times to finalize my rental checkout, which went well with the exception of the landing phase. You know, a minor thing.
The weather this morning was looking a little shaky. KPWK was reporting marginal VFR at best, with haze along Lake Michigan and ceilings right at pattern altitude. As the day wore on the ceiling lifted and the haze improved, and by the time I got to the airport at 3 the weather was solid VFR.
We went out to the ramp, preflighted the airplane, and got in. All systems were GO and I was feeling great. We began the startup sequence: master ON, beacon ON, boost pump ON, fuel pressure GREEN, mixture rich, a few shots of primer, engage the starter. I turned the key and the prop spun around to the growl of the starter, but the engine completely failed to turn over. The starter swung the prop through maybe a dozen rotations before I cut it off.
From the right seat: “Ah…this again. It hasn’t been starting up lately and we’re not sure why. Let it rest for five minutes and we’ll try it again.”
We passed the time with chit-chat, talking airplanes. Five minutes came and went. Master ON. Beacon ON. Boost ON. Fuel pressure GREEN. Mixture rich, no prime…
…no start. It rotated a few times, made some thumping noises, and quit. Damn.
With a mighty shrug we packed our bags, tied the airplane down, and walked inside. The owner met us upstairs and explained that he thought the problem was with the carburetor, then took me back outside to do an experiment. He modified the checklist, using no primer and a leaner mixture. As Murphy’s Law would have predicted the engine kicked over on the third rotation and purred happily away.
While we could have flown, it made more sense to me to get the carburetor adjusted before we took the plane into the sky. I’d rather fly with an engine that doesn’t require a modified checklist, especially since I’m brand-new in this type of plane. We canned the flight for the day and I went home.
It occurred to me later that the tail number for this airplane – N6664N – is perhaps a little ominous. Maybe for the month of November (4N) the airplane is cursed (666.) I’m not generally the superstitious type, but this airplane and I have not gotten along very well so far. Perhaps I’ll go try her out again in December, and if the curse isn’t lifted I’ll take the hint and go fly a 172 instead.