Badges of Honor

July 14th, 2010. Filed under: Ownership.

OMG! What's happening under this cowl?

I noticed some stuff streaking out of my engine. Was getting worried. I’m like… OMG what the heck is happening under the cowl. I doubled my oil checking frequency but, weirdly enough, consumption is at normal levels. Yet I have these long black streaks coming out of my engine compartment.

I’m about ready to find time to pull the cowl off and have a look when my A&P, Tom, shows up at the hangar next door. We chat and I show him the streaks with a worried look. He asks “Have you been flying in the rain?” I’ve been getting in some light IMC lately so I puff out my chest and proudly proclaim “YES I HAVE!”.

Streaks coming from the back of the cowling too!

He smiles, seeing the IMC newbie that I am, and explains what I’m seeing is aluminum dust being carried away by rain coming through the seams. Tom goes on to explain that when the plane is manufactured, all seams that rub like the cowling and the oil filler door, have special tape placed on the edges. Eventually that tape either dries up and falls off or wears off. The parts rub and create a fine dust. Then when you fly through the rain, it washes that dust out and leaves a aluminum residue streak.

I can stop this streaking if I simply re-tape the seams. Good ol’ masking tape will work if I choose.

Smoking Rivets

Tom then asked if I had any “smoking rivets”. Sure do! Same thing here. They’re rivets which are working themselves loose – vibrating in the holes. Nothing structural to worry about, but eventually they’ll need to be replaced.

So, I was psyched and relieved that nothing was wrong with my engine. In fact, now instead of being worried, I’m actually proud of my dark streaks. I consider them badges of honor from flying in IMC. Cool!!

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7 Comment to Badges of Honor

  1. Bill

    Interesting, indeed. I had an opportunity to fly in some very light rain yesterday – falling from some high clouds. There was a student in the pattern and visibility was very good. So I could have gone for the “streaked aluminum” effect. But, alas, I had the cockpit windows out – to paint the metal trim.

    Now, I can (and often do) fly the Coupe with the windows down (open) – but not likely to do that in the rain. :)

    Feel free to puff out your chest a bit and then go CLEAN YOUR AIRPLANE. LOL

  2. Keith

    That’s interesting, I’ve never seen that before. I guess since I don’t own the Cessna 182 I usually fly either someone else cleans it off or the joints are already taped. Now I won’t worry when I do find it.

  3. Adam

    Very Interesting indeed. I’m just starting in studying civilian aviation. I’ve been a mechanic on fighters for 15 years now. The airframe I’m currently on is the F-4 and it has streaking all over it. Unfortunately it’s actually hydraulic fluid, engine oil, fuel, etc. We have a saying that if it isn’t leaking it must be empty.

    This good info to keep in mind for when I do start my flying journey. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Bob

    “if it isn’t leaking it must be empty”
    I know cars and motorcycles like that!

  5. Adam


    LOL you and me both. I drive a truck like that as well, I hope it never runs out of oil on a road trip.

  6. Dan Katz

    Thanks for this post. It’s exactly what I was experiencing today during some IMC flying and had the same worry. Your post just explained the mystery (and worry).

  7. Mike B

    You need to pick this blog back up. Really great stuff up here.
    Let me know your status..

Your comments and questions are invited