My Comanche Travel Tool Kit
The Piper Comanches are an extremely well designed and dependable group of airplanes, but after flying a PA-30 for 18 years I have experienced several of the things that can go wrong with the airplane. I have had at least 6 breakdowns on the road. Luckily only one happened in the air when I lost an engine due to an exhaust valve breaking off, forcing me to land with one engine. More than once I found myself in a position where my airplane was broken at a remote or semi-isolated field, and there was nobody to fix it except me. This prompted me to take the advice of my mechanics and get my A & P license. Over the years I have gradually built up what I call my Travel Tool Kit, the contents of which are deeply influenced by my experiences. I must tell you that I have flown all over the US, Canada, Central America, Alaska, the Caribbean, and have flown the North Atlantic en route to Europe. Many places advertise that they have repair facilities, but when the truth is told, they don’t have many of the parts or tools you will need to repair your plane. The logistics of repairs on the road can be daunting.

Without giving you any more preamble, I am going to say that I think there are a number of tools and a few parts that you might consider taking with you in your Comanche. Even if you are not an A & P, it would greatly advance your cause if you had the things needed to repair your airplane on a strange field. In the past while I was on the road, I have had to replace a cylinder due to a broken exhaust valve, replace a cracked exhaust manifold, ream the guide in a stuck exhaust valve, replace spark plugs, and troubleshoot anomalies that might potentially ground the plane. When I had the stuck valve last fall in Colorado, I was in a town that was a three hour drive, one way, to the nearest source of tools to fix it. (According to Lycoming and Continental, stuck valves are a pretty common problem in light planes. I thought that I was doing everything that I could to avoid one, and I still had a valve stick on an engine with 450 hours since overhaul.) Luckily I was able to get a friend who is a mechanic to fly me the tools to fix it. Paying his way to Colorado was cheaper than the alternatives.

I have always carried a few tools with me as well as a few spare parts, but this new experience prompted me to rethink what I would need to handle most of the common breakdowns that were repairable without a shop. Many of the items on these lists are self-explanatory. I have tried to be a minimalist in my choices in terms of both bulk and weight. And since my Travel Tool Kit weighs in at about 14 pounds, it is not as heavy as a life raft and may save you some grief one day. There are a few items I have left out that I am reasonably sure of obtaining locally or borrowing from somebody on the field. As you will see, beside the basic tools, there are also two sub-sets of tools. One is for reaming the guide in a stuck valve, and the other is for actually changing a cylinder. “Swapping a jug” can be done on the flight line in 4 to 5 hours. The tools required are surprisingly small and light. I have written a separate article for the Flyer on the diagnosis and treatment of a sticky valve that will explain exactly how to use the tools mentioned below.

Figure 1 Canvas Tool Bag

Travel Tool Kit & Accessories

Basic Tools:

1. Combination wrenches, various sizes

2. ¼ inch drive sockets

3. ¼ inch drive socket wrench

4. Two ¼ inch drive extensions, 3 inch and 6 inch

5. Two 3/8 inch drive extensions, 3 inch and 6 inch

6. 3/8 inch drive socket wrench

7. Spark plug socket 3/8 drive

8. ½ inch size deep well (¼ inch drive) socket for removing fuel injector nozzle

9. 3/8 to ½ inch socket drive converter

10. Stubby blade screwdriver

11. Ratchet type convertible screwdriver

12. Stubby short Phillips screwdriver

13. Medium sized Channel Lock pliers

14. Needle nose pliers

15. ½ inch flexible socket (¼ inch drive) for exhaust manifold nuts

16. Voltmeter (small)

17. Mirror with flexible handle

18. Hemostat (surgical instrument)

19. Pocket knife

20. Scissors (telephone lineman type)

21. Mill file

22. Long Allen head wrench for removing King radios from rack

23. Canvas tool bag

Figure 2 Basic Tools

Valve Reaming Tools:

1. Hammer (small ball peen type)

2. Reamer wrench

3. Two valve guide reamers (one for exhaust, one for intake guide)

4. Valve spring compression tool

5. 10 feet of rope (for cylinder rope trick)

6. Mechanical fingers (sturdy Snap-On two prong flexible type)

7. Flexible flashlight (long spaghetti type to go in cylinder)

8. Strong pencil type magnet

9. Wire hook for supporting valve in cylinder

10. Spark plug socket and 3/8 inch socket wrench, extension, and ¾ inch open end wrench for removing spark plug (note: these are part of basic tool set)

11. Brass or aluminum punch (not pictured)

Figure 3 Valve Reaming Tools

Cylinder Change Tools:

1. Ring compressor kit (pliers and band size for your engine)

2. Ring expander tool

3. 2 Cylinder base wrenches (the sizes for your engine)

4. Thread chaser kit, small set to touch up exhaust studs or cylinder studs (not pictured)

5. Various tools from basic tool set as needed

Figure 4 Cylinder Change Tools

Tool Kit Accessories:

1. Prop seal

2. Brake O-Rings

3. Oil line hose

4. Hose clamps

5. Strut seals (landing gear strut rebuild kit)

6. 2 extra spark plugs

7. Extra valve keepers and end caps

8. Small can of screws, nuts, washers, cotter keys

9. Small amount of safety wire

10. Cylinder replacement gasket kit, exhaust & intake gaskets, push rod tube seals (not pictured)

11. Tie wraps

12. Miniature spray can of WD-40

13. Spare mirror for engine nacelle (to see if gear is down)

14. Piece of Scotch-Brite to polish valve stems

15. Nylon bristle to clean out fuel injector nozzle, if solvent doesn’t work.

Figure 5 Tool Kit Accessories

Travel Accessories Box:

1. Two quart bottles of engine oil

2. Small bottle of windshield cleaner

3. Small can of grease

4. Flashlight (light weight)

5. Roll of paper towels

6. Plastic oil bottle filler spout and on/off valve

7. Wide mouth plastic bottle with good sealing lid to keep hold oily filler spout after use

8. Jumper cables (Piper type adaptor)

9. Prop chain (mine is heavy duty bicycle locking cable with warning flag attached)

10. Fuel tank dipstick

11. Extra key to airplane and prop lock (hidden somewhere in plane)

12. Spare alternator belt

13. Kennon heat shields

14. Light-weight plastic chocks with bungee cord

15. Plastic box to hold everything

Figure 6 Airplane Accessories Box

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