Otto the Owner

About Otto the Owner
Otto the Owner

I'm Otto. Friends call me Otto. As an avid owner of aircraft I know the costs and benefits of flying. I've had enough experience with planes to grow rust on my mustache. While I'm not the best at words, my buddy Skylar helps me write these posts so I can transfer any knowledge onto other aviators out there.

The Best Towbar in the Universal

“I gotta Bogi on my fender and I can’t shake it off!” Contrary to how that might sound, that is actually a good thing.

Planes, when stationed, sometimes need to be moved without a pilot revving up the engine and turning those propellers. Pushback may be useful while powerback is not often recommended. Depending on type of aircraft and where the engine is located, these procedures may introduce sand, dirt and other damaging agents into the engine or to local structures.

But you still need your stationary aircraft moved.

Unfortunately, not all of us have bodybuilders sitting around trying to test their strength, prepping for a load-carrying competition. In fact, NONE of us have bodybuilders just moseying around the hangar. Would that be nice? Perhaps. Is it realistic? No. True, you could pull a plane but not everyone is geared toward straining their muscles.

Light-weight aircraft is somewhat of a misnomer. A “light-weight” vehicle is still quite heavy. If you can’t lift or at least push or pull your vehicle with your bare hands without risking a hernia, then you need a tool to do the job for you.

Spend any amount of time in and around planes and you have definitely seen a towbar help transport an inactive plane from one place to another. It’s a great way to conserve energy and prevent frustration. It’s also less cumbersome than doing it yourself. And while a tractor and tug may not be necessary or even an option, a towbar might do the trick. Even if a tug is necessary, a towbar is often required. Now if you only had a dependable one…

There are many towbars on the market but really good ones come from Bogert Aviation. One of the best I’ve seen is the Universal Big Bogi. Watch this video demonstration and see why I feel this way:

The “universal” designation translates to versatility. This versatility is created by four interchangeable “feet” that allow for a multitude of configurations that will conform to pretty much any plane fit for flying. There are additional holes for additional feet as needed. The adding and subtracting of feet thus eliminates the need to have several towbars—now it is all-in-one. And that, my fellow owners, will save you money.

Besides satisfying my thrifty-nature, the Universal Big Bogi has a really convenient adjustment mechanism. Inside the main bar is yet another bar that extends; this extended bar has pre-cut holes in which a pin locks the adjusted length in place. If you hear a snap, the pin has securely locked the new length. Really cool.

Handles situated on the main bar and the extending bar also allow for hand pulling (if you want to unleash your inner bodybuilder). And if not, or if you decide you’d rather have a vehicle escort your plane, attachments are available (clevis or ring).

Is this blog post a shameful plug? No. Is it a promotion? Yes. Here’s the thing: we carefully track what sells well and what doesn’t. The reason is simple—we don’t want to stock items that will collect dust and we don’t want to offer products that don’t appeal to our customer base. Having monitored sales of this towbar, we know that it gets the job done. And that alone merits a mention on the blog.

So travel the world in your aircraft, but when you need a break, land. And when you want to move your inoperable bird to a desired position, seek out the Universal Big Bogi.

Anatomy of a MSDS: Sections XIII-XVI


Flatbed or flatline? Safely transporting a product is just as important as producing it and using it. A MSDS will keep you on the right path while avoiding a trip to the hospital.

We’ve reached the end. Part Four of this blog post series on the structure of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is ready to commence.

We’ve highlighted Dow Corning’s DC4 Electrical Insulating Compound in an attempt to dissect the sections (the basic structure) this type of document contains. This particular post will review the final block, Sections XIII-XVI. Are you ready for the grand finale? Let’s do this.

Section XIII: Disposal Considerations

Unlucky number 13? Possibly, but superstitions aside, in many ways Section XIII of a MSDS is the most critical. A product may or may not be used. Regardless, once its shelf life has expired or once its effectiveness has been compromised, it must be disposed of.

The first thing immediately mentioned is “RCRA Hazard Class (40 CFR 261)”. What is that? The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a U.S. law passed by Congress in 1976 to spell out a method for properly disposing of waste, especially those considered hazardous. The government agency responsible for setting RCRA guidelines and then enforcing them is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA’s website, regulations concerning hazardous waste are found under 40 CFR Part 260, which includes “waste identification, classification, generation, management and disposal.” CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations and the 40 refers to the 40th Title of such a codification; Title 40 covers “Protection of Environment”. This title is further divided into parts (chapters) and subparts, one of them being 261, or “Identification And Listing Of Hazardous Waste.”



Right underneath is perhaps one of the most important questions and answers posed in the entire document: is this product classified as hazardous material? Luckily, DC4 does not fall under this designation. And this brings up a great point. Contrary to what some may misperceive, not all products with a MSDS are hazmat.

But let’s say an item was hazmat, what then? This section would not only verify this fact but it would also provide you with information as to any particular procedures that an item calls for when disposing of it. The DC4 MSDS, like many, states that you should abide by regulations established by federal, state, local, or any other applicable governing area where you use the product. A phone number is listed in order to gather additional information.

Section XIV: Transport Information



From manufacturer to retailer to end-user, all products obviously need to travel from place to place. Whether from land, water, or air, travel accommodations of sorts need to be met. That is where and when the Department of Transportation (DOT) and others get involved.

Similar to the previous section, a specific subpart of a CFR is mentioned, 49 CFR 172.101. You guessed it: Title 49 deals with “Transportation.” For those who just love legalese in all its glory you can read 49 CFR 172.101. DC4 is not subject to DOT. Thus, this product does not have any special requirements “for shipping papers, package marking, labeling, and transport vehicle placarding applicable to the shipment and transportation of those hazard materials.”

If a shipment of DC4 is on an ocean liner, there are no worries since the product is not subject to IMDG code. This code operates through the United Nations’ funded agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code is used similar to the DOT’s CFR but on an international scale that covers services and industries relating to shipping.

Just as DC4 is not subject to other regulations, this product is not subject to IATA, or the International Air Transport Association. Periodically, the IATA publishes a set of Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). The most current version (as of this writing), is the 54th edition. You can view the most important changes to DGR 54 or simply check the IATA website from time to time.

Once again, Section XIV includes a contact number to make further inquiries and get more information.

Section XV: Regulatory Information



More regulations and more acronyms. Take a deep breath, this section’s a long one.

Back in Section III we mentioned OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health) involvement in a MSDS. For Section XV they make one final appearance, this time with a “Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200.” CFR Title 29 deals with “Labor.” As for 1910.1200, this is the standard number of Title 29’s regulation. The purpose of it is to “ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.” The specifics of the standard is a mound of text that could put Mt. Kilimanjaro to shame. If you want to take that trek, you can read 1910.1200.

TSCA refers to the Toxic Substances Control Act, a piece of legislation passed by the U.S. in 1976. While it regulates the use of new and pre-existing chemicals, it specifically targets use of products with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). In addition, its subchapters address dangerous substances that, prior to the 1970s, were left unchecked while being applied residentially or industrially. This includes asbestos, radon, and lead in particular. DC4 is free from such substances and that fact is affirmed in “TSCA Status.”

The EPA has also compiled a list of chemicals under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA Title III) of 1986. This is also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986. What follows under “EPA SARA Title III Chemical Listings” is a breakdown of the EPCRA’s four sections, i.e. 302, 304, 311/312, 313, 314; the chemical ingredients within each section; as well as the different parts of CFR Title 40 they correspond to:




DC4 has no ingredients mentioned in this area of Section XV. However, it is important to see just how complex and how closely monitored products are when they contain anything threatening to users.

The other subsection, “Supplemental State Compliance Information” lists certain states that have passed their own legislation that may pertain to the product in question. California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are mentioned. The contents of DC4 are not considered toxic or otherwise harmful under California State Law. Worth noting is New Jersey and Pennsylvania: both states require manufacturers to list the chemical ingredients, including their name, CAS number, and percentage by weight. This is basically what Section III (or any section that deals with composition) of a MSDS would contain. Why this information is not found in DC4’s Section III is puzzling. It could be an error that may be corrected in a revised edition.

Section XVI: Other Information



There’s not much to say, here. Any other pertinent information, perhaps any special considerations that must be made according to a product’s specific design, would be mentioned in Section XVI. But honestly, in most cases all relevant details are listed in preceding sections.


To summarize, a product’s MSDS includes a lot of ingredients, a lot of acronyms, a lot of protocol, procedures, regulations….basically a lot of information. It’s ultimately the responsibility of the reader, the end-user of the product, to be aware of any issues concerning safety.

The MSDS for DC4 is indicative of Dow Corning’s approach to disseminating the appropriate information necessary to safely interact with their extensive product line. It follows a sleek and pleasant design that clearly delineates the different sections. This is in contrast to many MSDS from other manufacturers that have an almost haphazard layout. These kinds of MSDS are often confusing (in addition to the content), lack any depth, are incomplete, and are otherwise presented in a way that further dissuades any one from reading it let alone understanding it.



In an effort to make it easier to read, many companies are issuing a “Plain Language Hazard Summary” at the beginning of their MSDS. One great example is found when buying LPS® Hardcoat Corrosion Inhibitor. In the accompanying image, you see this new section admits to the confusing and technical nature of the MSDS and how it will just frustrate a “non-professional.” It’s good to see manufacturer’s writing with the audience in mind. Hopefully, this will become a standard carried out by all businesses in the near future.

So there you have it. I hope this was informative, educational, and a help to all who read. It may seem like a waste of time to read a MSDS, but at least it is peace of mind knowing the lengths that governments and related organizations are willing to go through to ensure the welfare of users. While it certainly would be nice to have a streamlined version, when you think about it a MSDS must be thorough, even at the risk of boring readers to death.

As always, until we meet again, stay safe out there…

***UPDATE*** Read other parts in the “ANATOMY OF A MSDS” blog post series

Part One – Sections I-IV
Part Two – Sections V-VIII
Part Three – Sections IX-XII

Anatomy of a MSDS: Sections IX-XII


What lies beneath is danger if you don’t know the risks associated with the physical and chemical properties of a product. A MSDS will provide closer inspection.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) accompanies many items, including Dow Corning’s DC4 Electrical Insulating Compound. We have been using this product throughout in order to deconstruct the layout and sections normally found within this type of document. Part Three of “Anatomy of a MSDS Sheet” will explore Sections IX-XII. Let’s dive into it.

Section IX: Physical And Chemical Properties

As the heading indicates, this section reveals a list of physical properties as well as chemical properties the product contains. DC4 is a grease with a translucent white hue that emits a mild odor.

Section IX also repeats information found originally in Section V, i.e. the flash point, autoignition temperature, and flammability limits in air.

In addition, there are nine chemical properties listed in DC4’s MSDS, most of which are deemed “Not determined.” Many are self-explanatory: Freezing/Melting/Boiling points as well as viscosity, vapor density, solubility in water and pH.

“Specific gravity” is a reference to the ratio of a compound’s density as compared to another. Since water has a specific gravity equal to one, it is most often used as the reference point (at least when comparing liquids; gases get compared with air). For DC4, the specific gravity is greater than (>) 1, so it is denser than water. The “@25°C” is used because that is the upper limit value that falls within room temperature range.



As you can see the “Vapor Pressure” at room temperature (25°C) is not determined; this term is important if you want to know a product’s evaporation rate as well as its volatility. The more volatility, the higher vapor pressure it possesses. Speaking of which, DC4 has no known volatile content, i.e. ingredients that rapidly evaporate or tend to explode violently (at least not of this writing).

Knowing these properties not only leads to safer use but also to better and smarter applications of the product.

Section X: Stability And Reactivity

Based on the previous section’s claim that DC4 is not volatile, Section X verifies this by stating the product is chemically stable. However, DC4 should not be placed near any oxidizing material, otherwise the combustion of the product may result; this is found in the “Materials to Avoid” sub-section. Fortunately, there are no other conditions to avoid.



A somewhat confusing sub-section is “Hazardous Polymerization,” known also as autoacceleration. What is that? Don’t worry, we were confused at first, too. Polymerization occurs when individual molecules (monomers) react to form a chain (polymer). If this process occurs at a fast rate, that’s when it becomes dangerous. Polymerization involves the release of heat and if that escalates too fast, a fire or explosion may result.

Finally, the sub-section “Hazardous Decomposition Products” warns that high heat may lead to thermal breakdown. During this decomposition, “carbon oxides and traces of incompletely burned carbon compounds,” silicone dioxide, and formaldehyde may evolve. Knowing the by-products from such an event allows you to take the proper precautions when disposing of it.

Section XI: Toxicological Information



What a bummer. DC4’s Section XI is pretty much empty, except with a statement saying that no information regarding the subject is known. That’s all right. We can still enlighten you.

Toxicology of course deals with poison. Thus, anything relating to the nature of poison, including its harmful effects and subsequent treatment once exposed, would be included here.

A good example of this section can be found in the MSDS for Mobilgrease 28. In this MSDS, you will see this section broken into two general parts, “Acute Toxicity” and “Chronic/Other Effects,” i.e. short-term and long-term effects.

Acute toxicity is presented in a convenient chart. The chart’s left column, ‘Route of Exposure’ shows the area in which the product can affect your body, e.g. breathing it, eating it, or getting it in your eye or on your skin. A particularly puzzling aspect of this column is the use of LC50 and LD50. What do they mean? LC stands for “Lethal Concentration” and the 50 refers to the fact that half (50%) of the tested animals were killed. LD stands for “Lethal Dose” and the 50 refers to the same as above. Since humans cannot be tested on, groups of animals must be exposed to concentrated levels of the product either in the air or in water. The right-hand column ‘Conclusion/Remark’ simply states the degree of toxicity based on how the lab animals were exposed to the product.

As for chronic effects, Mobil Grease 28 contains ingredients (synthetic base oils and Phenyl-alpha-napthylamine) that have not been deemed significantly harmful based on laboratory studies. Of course that is assuming you are using the product as normally intended.

Section XII: Ecological Information



Up to this point, most MSDS sections have discussed how the product affects you, the end-user. Section XII instead places the focus on the environmental impact a product possesses. For DC4, “Environmental Fate and Distribution,” “Environmental Effects,” and “Fate and Effects in Waste Water Treatment Plants,” are all followed by the statement “Complete information is not yet available.” This may be because not enough studies have been conducted and tests have not been run and analyzed with any certainty. However, if DC4 did lead to adverse effects on ecosystems, Dow Corning would not hesitate to transfer that knowledge to users.

Still, this section has an “Ecotoxicity Classification Criteria” table underneath the aforesaid sub-sections. That way if there are measured levels of toxicity from the product, you can use this table as a basis for comparison. In relation to the previous section, ecotoxicity has LC, but you will notice it also has EC; this stands for “effective concentration” and indicates toxicity as it relates to the environment. The table uses criteria considered low, medium, and high hazard. Directly below each parameter is the numerical value for aquatic and terrestrial levels of ecotoxicity. This table is derived from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and their guidelines for “Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment.”

There you go. The finish line is within reach. Come back for Part Four as we conclude the “Anatomy of a MSDS” blog post series. As always, stay safe out there…

***UPDATE*** Read other parts in the “ANATOMY OF A MSDS” blog post series

Part One – Sections I-IV
Part Two – Sections V-VIII
Part Four – Sections XIII-XVI

Anatomy of a MSDS: Sections V-VIII


Don’t be fooled by package size. The safe handling and storage of a product is in proportion to the health risk it imposes…at least that’s what an MSDS would suggest. Image courtesy of

A material safety data sheet—aka MSDS—comes with certain products that are purchased. In Part One of our “Anatomy of a MSDS” blog post series we defined what a MSDS was and went into detail about the sections typically found within the document’s structure. We used Dow Corning’s DC4 Electrical Insulating Compound for illustrative purposes.

Part One discussed Sections I-IV. As Part Two, this post will delve into Sections V-VIII. Let’s get started.

Section V – Fire Fighting Measures

If a fire should occur—you will usually find the product’s flammability rating in an earlier part of the MSDS—this section explains how to resolve such a situation. The term “flashpoint” refers to the lowest temperature where the vapor of a compound ignites in the air. DC4 has a flashpoint of greater than 572°F (300°C). But since the flashpoint is based on empirical measurements (that may vary according to different testing conditions and equipment) and is not an absolute law of physics, the number is not 100% accurate. Still, it is a highly reliable approximation.

Underneath flashpoint is “Autoignition Temperature,” aka the fire point. While this term may seem like another word for flashpoint it isn’t. The autoignition temperature is the temperature at which a compound continues to burn; it does not require and is thus independent of an ignition source. DC4 ‘s autoignition temperature has not been determined.

The recommended or preferred method of quelling a fire caused by DC4 depends on the amount ignited. Quantities that lead to large fires can be treated with dry chemical, foam or water spray whereas smaller fires can be put out with CO2, dry chemical or water spray. This information is found in the “Extinguishing Media” sub-section.



The “Fire Fighting Measures” although a repeat of the section’s title, describes the best way to equip yourself to combat large fires. A means for putting out the fire (the above sub-section) as well as wearing protective clothes is recommended. Also, notice that a “local emergency” plan is mentioned. Buildings often include an “Emergency Action Plan” (EAP) complete with floor plans to aid occupants in exiting the building in event of a fire. Once again, the use of water to subdue burns and the heat of flames is mentioned.

Fortunately DC4 does not include any unusual fire hazards.

Section VI – Accidental Release Measures

All work environments using products that pose a risk to both work area and employee is a constant concern. Accidents happen. When dealing with potentially dangerous material people may be wary. It’s understandable. Spills, leaks, and misapplications may occur. Section VI explains how to treat an accident so that future accidents are avoided.



Accidental release measures involve being sure to use the two C’s: containment and clean up. To be safe, use protective gear such as goggles, plastic gloves, pants and long sleeve shirts—really whatever can serve as a reliable barrier between you and the mess in question. Once equipped, use a tool, device or any means of getting the material in a disposable container. For DC4 you could use an absorbent paper towel or a rag and then dispose of it in a plastic bag.

This section also refers to the proper disposal as it pertains to local, state, and federal regulations. Dow Corning and most other companies that include this clause are protecting themselves; they are essentially handing the responsibility onto the end-user in being aware of how to safely remove the dangerous substance so as not to incur fines or harm the surrounding environment.

For further information relating to this topic, Section VI has readers refer to sections V and VIII and also provides a phone number to contact for further inquiry.

Section VII – Handling and Storage

Special considerations as to what and where to place a product can be found in Section VII. If a material melts or its effectiveness is compromised in high or low temperatures, this section will or should provide that information.



When not in use, the product needs to be stored in a suitable place where no harm can be done to it or where it is not prone to accidents. Like many products, DC4 should be stored away from areas of high heat, near electrical areas—areas that could ignite it. In general you don’t want to place potentially dangerous material on an unstable shelf or a place that will lead to its unintended release. Thus, it is best to use common sense. So, for example, the size and dimensions of the package will determine the best way to stow the product away. Clearly you are not going to store a 55 gallon drum in a kitchen cupboard or a pull out desk drawer. But for DC4, the tube size is small enough to fit on most shelves and in most drawers.

Section VIII – Exposure Controls/Personal Protection



Section VIII works in conjunction with Section VI. And since it is an extension of Section VI it includes a more specific description of personal protective equipment to be worn either during routine handling or when a spill occurs. As mentioned, safety goggles and gloves are recommended as well as washing hands before and after use of material. DC4 is safe enough not to require any respiratory equipment. Of course as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s why there’s a sub-section titled: “Precautionary Measures.” You’ll want to avoid eye contact with DC4, advice that applies with most chemical substances.

Worth noting also are the sub-sections, “Component Exposure Limits” and “Engineering Controls.” ‘Engineering controls’ in this context relates to ventilation. In other words, when using the product indoors you want to make sure there is no accumulation of toxic fumes that will disrupt normal breathing…or any breathing for that matter; DC4 does not call for any special form of ventilation. As for “Component Exposure Limits,” there are none with DC4. These limits refer to the amount of acceptable concentrations of a chemical ingredient in the air without causing a health risk. Allowing for proper ventilation will often dispel any concern, otherwise the use of a respirator will be recommended.

There you have it. We’re now half way through. Tune in next time for Part Three of “Anatomy of a MSDS.” As always, stay safe out there…

***UPDATE*** Read other parts in the “ANATOMY OF A MSDS” blog post series

Part One – Sections I-IV
Part Three – Sections IX-XII
Part Four – Sections XIII-XVI

Anatomy of a MSDS: Sections I-IV


To be Hazmat or not to be Hazmat? That is the question a MSDS will answer. (Photo courtesy of

If you’ve ever perused our site chances are you have come across a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). On most of our product pages that require this document you will often find it below the price and above the “Add to Cart” button.


Known internationally as a safety data sheet (SDS), a MSDS is a document that basically tells you how to, well, safely use the product and how it may or may not harm you under certain conditions. I’ve decided to break down one of our top sellers– Dow Corning’s DC4 Electrical Insulating Compound— so you can see the anatomy or general structure of one.

Most MSDS are divided into sections so let’s explore briefly the first four. Other sections will be discussed in later posts. It’s important to note that not all MSDS contain every section but this will give you an idea of what usually is included.

The DC4 utilizes the European Union’s SDS format.

Section I – Identification of Product and Company



If something goes wrong, the first thing you want to do is be able to identify the product to the company’s emergency telephone number service operator. All of this information is included in the first section for this particular reason. Issues relating to the product can be addressed if the representatives on the other line know what you are referring to.

Also worth mentioning is the NFPA Profile, which is a rating system that indicates a product’s level of hazards as it relates to such areas as health, flammability, and reactivity. For an excellent breakdown of the rating system check out Northeastern University’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety page. For more information, also check out the National Fire Protection Association website.

Section II – Hazards Identification



This section refers to the health risks associated with exposure to the product in question. This means if you accidentally get it in your eyes or on your skin or ingest it, what side effects you can expect. DC4 compound is a mild irritant and offers no short-term harm. As you can see there are sub-sections pertaining to long-term exposure, signs and symptoms to look out for, and pre-existing medical conditions that the product may intensify. Fortunately, DC4 does not seem to have any as presently recorded.

(If you click on the picture to the right, you may not notice a portion of Section II as it has been cut off. Due to the PDF pagination I was unable to capture it in an image. Underneath the part “Medical Conditions Aggravated by Exposure,” there is a brief statement that reads: “The above listed effects of overexposure are based on actual data, results of studies performed upon similar compositions, component data and/or expert review of the product. Please refer to Section 11 for the detailed toxicology information.” This statement basically indicates that the product has been tested and the data has been verified by authorities in the appropriate field. Thus, the information can be trusted by readers.)

Section III – Composition/Information on Ingredients



For this item, this section is empty. DC4 does not contain any materials considered hazardous (Hazmat). Notice that this determination was made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency assigned to dealing with MSDS. This section usually includes the name of a hazardous material(s), the percentage of material the product contains, and a CASRN. The CASRN stands for Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Registry Number, which is a unique identification number established by the CAS; information pertaining to over 71 million organic and inorganic substances can be found using this system. For an example of a filled in Section III, check out the MSDS on another product we offer, the LPS Labs 01916 LST Penetrant.

Section IV – First Aid Measures



Should you inadvertently expose yourself to the harmful ingredients contained within a product, this section offers a quick set of instructions on how to alleviate the pain or discomfort. As hinted in Section II, Dow Corning DC4 does not pose any serious hazards to your health. Mild irritation may occur. But should exposure to it lead to an escalation of symptoms, this section recommends seeking medical help, either from a doctor or nurse or someone you trust. This particular MSDS even has a “Notes to Physician” sub-section in case you need to bring it to the hospital.

So there you have it: The first four sections of an MSDS. Be sure to check in soon for the second part in the “Anatomy of a MSDS” blog post series. As always, be safe out there…

***UPDATE*** Read other parts in the “ANATOMY OF A MSDS” blog post series

Part Two – Sections V-VIII
Part Three – Sections IX-XII
Part Four – Sections XIII-XVI

Attention Aviation Engine Oil: Lube It or Lose It!


Illustration by the talent engine known as Lauren Horgan©2013

An engine without oil is like a heart without blood: one does not function without the other. Imagine then what would happen if that heart was clogged with contaminants, or worse, deprived of nutrient-rich blood. Thump-thump. Thump. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. A heart attack is imminent with neglect.

Slurp. Slurp. Gulp. Choke. Hack. Wheeze. You hear that? That’s the cacophony of sounds your engine is making. Maybe it’s dying of thirst or screaming because of the unhealthy lube it’s being fed. If that’s the case then it’s time to refill or replace your oil. Just as a once healthy heart can reach critical condition without the proper blood supply so can an aircraft’s engine without fresh oil.

During the course of your travels among the clouds your aircraft’s engine works tirelessly to keep you afloat. During that time, the engine’s oil accumulates by-products as a result of the engine’s activity. These by-products include dirt, metallic wear particulates and carbonaceous materials. Constantly heating and cooling, the oil can also wear thin, so to speak, while also corroding parts that make up the internal structure (e.g. the combustion chamber) of the engine.

It’s inevitable that an oil change is required, in fact, many experts suggest every four months even if your plane has been idle. Planes that sit in hangars for long periods of time are subject to condensation and corrosive atmospheric elements. Just because the engine hasn’t been used doesn’t mean it is safe. And if you’re a frequent flyer, an oil change is even more crucial. In that case, a good rule of thumb is to change every 50 flight hours (without an oil filter, 25 hours). Otherwise, extending the interval between oil changes may reduce your engine’s life and may even void your engine’s warranty. So when it comes time, please service your engine.

SkyGeek puts the “serve” in service by offering a multitude of options so your engine can get its fill of oil. Search and find and select from our exhaustive list. Even if your plane’s engine is picky when it comes to petroleum that is not a problem: we’re serving you a pu pu platter of aviation oil.

Specials of the day include:

Mineral Oil – Has two distinct features: (1) it doesn’t conduct heat or electricity and (2) it keeps parts from corroding as it takes the place of air and water (known corrosive elements). In regards to aviation it is used in new engines or those that have just been overhauled. Famously used for engine break-ins.

Straight Piston Oil – Also known as straight-weight (grade). Provides effective lubricity and contains anti-rust and anti-corrosion properties. It doesn’t quite have the range as multi-weights. It would need to be changed depending on the season and the region where a plane normally operates. Good for cleaning, but tends not to offer the additives that multi-weights do. Most suitably used during break-in periods of either new or recently overhauled engines. Once break-in is achieved, an ashless dispersant (AD) oil, i.e. one with non-metallic additives, is often used. This dispersant suspends by-products in the oil.

Multigrade Piston Oil – Offers a wide range of viscosities (grades) across a broad range of temperatures. Advantages include working well during cold start-ups. Drawback: anti-corrosion properties not as good as single-grade due to the increased additives. The numbers on the bottles refer to the oil’s thickness; the higher numbers refer to thicker (higher viscosity) oils. Thus, an SAE 50 has higher viscosity and is thicker than, say, an SAE 20. When ordering, know the difference between the various grades (*Note: this link is used to give you an idea of what those numbers mean when choosing oil. Do NOT use automobile oil in place of aviation oil).

Turbine Oil – Not all planes carry a piston engine. This type of slippery synthetic oil lubricates for a long time. It is specially designed for use in turbine engines and is known for its endurance (i.e. long service life). Possesses the following additional benefits: sludge and varnish deposit prevention; rapid separation from water; foaming resistance; chemical stability.

Still not sure what to choose? Reading labels is important.

Perhaps established brands are a delicacy worth ordering. AeroShell is one of the top trusted brands with a variety of aviation oils, depending on your location of plane operation (See accompanying map). AeroShell Oil W 15W-50 is a particularly popular choice. As a semi-synthetic with mineral oil and AD additives, it offers versatility in composition as well as application.

Want more? If you wish to put on your dish another brand we have plenty of Phillips 66®, especially their X/C® 20W-50, a multiviscosity, all-weather condition AD-infused oil.

If you are still not satisfied and insist upon giving your engine that little extra boost in performance why not add to its effectiveness with some of the oil additives we stock. In addition we have a full inventory of oil filtersand filter can cutters.

Once you have your supplies, you’re ready for the main course of action. That’s right, an oil change. Not sure how to do it? Has it been a while? Check out SkyGeek’s helpful Online Guide to Oil Changes. In it, author Mike Berry answers such questions and address such issues as:

• You’re changing oil where now?
• Why gloves are more than a fashion statement during an oil change.
• I have a bottle of oil and an old bucket from KFC – what else do I need?
• Oil drains and oil stains need not coincide.
• How do I know that I did this right?

Oil inspection and oil changes should be a permanent fixture when it comes to maintenance and repair. Mechanics know this and so should do-it-yourself pilots. If said procedures are not routinely upheld and performed properly the life of your engine could be in jeopardy. Put another way: no oil, no running engine; no running engine, no flying.

Regardless of the issues, we have the answers that will lead to the proper lube. The products on our site are sure to have your engine feeling full and satisfied. So here’s a tip: when it comes to engine performance, it’s all about the oil. Bathe ol’ Betsy (or whatever nickname you give your plane) in the stuff that keeps you running smoothly on all cylinders. Have your engine run slick, look sleek, all because of the oil and related items we provide at SkyGeek.


Dehydrator Plugs

I suppose if dehydrator plugs were part of a secret club and they had a motto they recited out loud in unison it would be something like, “Don’t wet yourself!”

In order to understand what these plugs do, you have to know what they are and what they are used for. Like many products, name defines function. Dehydrator plugs are transparent plastic tubes that, well, de-hydrate. They have two ends; while one is sealed the other end is fixed with a threaded and perforated plug. By removing moisture, these plugs protect engines from the ill-effects of water-induced rust and corrosion while a plane is sitting in storage.

Hangars and other storage areas are like any other place—subject to humidity. Of course, like other atmospheric conditions, humidity affects not only the appearance of parts, but the performance of a vehicle as well. It seems strange that a plane’s engine can be harmed while inactive, but ‘tis the reality of owning an aircraft. Installing dehydrator plugs by screwing them into an engine’s spark plug holes will combat humidity.

A disassembled Military Standard MS27215-1 18mm dehydrator plug. Notice the blue silica gel beads; this indicates that they have not been exposed to moisture.

A disassembled Military Standard MS27215-2* 18mm dehydrator plug. Notice the blue silica gel beads; this indicates that they have not been exposed to moisture.

The magic involved in the prevention of rust and corrosion comes from the plugs’ composition. Dehydrator plugs contain silica gel—a desiccant (drying agent)—as well as an indicator such as cobalt chloride. The beauty or rather practicality of this gel and its corresponding indicator is that they change color as moisture is absorbed. Blue is the default color while pink shows the presence of moisture. The fact that dehydrator plugs contain substances that act as a sort of litmus paper is super convenient as that color change will catch the eye and alert you to when these plugs need changing…or fixing.

A common question that often arises when purchasing dehydrator plugs is whether or not they last. In a word or three: yeah, they last. But what’s more important to know is that they are reusable as well as refillable (at least some part numbers; outdated versions might not be refillable). Once the silica gel is soiled, more can be purchased in various sizes (e.g. 1/4 or 5 lb). Or if you prefer to reuse pre-existing crystals, try this: simply take out and spread out the moisture-compromised crystals and dry them in an oven (sources indicate that the recommended heating process should last 16 hours at a temperature of 250 degrees F). Bam, good as new! In this way, it’s plain to see that dehydrator plugs are a sound investment into proper maintenance.

Another common issue raised is whether or not four or eight dehydrator plugs should be used—i.e. four on the top, four on the bottom of an engine. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this. It really is a matter of preference. Some say it’s better to be safe and put eight in, especially if you are leaving them in and not planning on checking them. Others argue that four is plenty and won’t lower performance. Still others follow the old adage, “less is more.” Why? Because they find putting four additional at the bottom leaves the plugs susceptible to being filled with oil. While SkyGeek appreciates your business, we promise not to tell you yours. The choice is up to you. One of our goals on this site is providing service that will translate into your satisfaction and that doesn’t mean forcing you into a bad decision.

In terms of selecting an appropriate dehydrator plug, I’ve found that since many aircraft are for military purposes, dehydrator plugs that conform to military standards are a good choice. In this case, you would be looking for dehydrator plugs with a MS27215 or MS3396 designation. Of course, if you are interested in purchasing one or more, you can check here. But that might just be the inner SkyGeek inside me speaking. If there are any more dehydrator plugs that are just as effective, please feel free to mention them in the comments below.

And as always, if there is any aspect of dehydrator plugs that is unclear or you have some more suggestions on the topic, don’t hesitate to let us know.

*UPDATE (6/27/2013): The caption for the image has been changed. The item featured is in fact a MS27215-2 NOT a MS27215-1. Upon inspection we have found that the MS27215-1 is an outdated model that cannot be disassembled; the MS27215-2 can, however. Thanks to David Halmos for steering SkyGeek in the right direction.