This morning I was scheduled to go flying. The weather looked good (the weather advisories describing wind shear below 1400 feet and severe turbulence below 8000 had been rescinded), traffic in the area was scarce, and I was excited about going.
During the preflight, I noticed that the plane only had five quarts of oil in the sump. The POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook) for the Cessna 172 that I fly reads that the airplane is not supposed to be operated with less than six quarts for local flight, and not less than eight quarts for long distance flights. So, I added a quart of oil, bringing the total amount of oil up to six quarts. However, usually when I preflight the plane, it has seven quarts. Also, when I looked in the plane’s log, the people who had flown it the night before hadn’t added any oil, and they surely would not have gone up with less than seven for the 2.3 hours that they flew the plane. So, that meant that the plane consumed two gallons of oil during their flight or overnight. Also, the underside of the plane’s cowling was covered in oil that looked like it had been in the slip-stream, which made me think the oil was leaking out during flight. So, I had a plane with less than seven quarts of oil, with clear signs that it was leaking oil, and the question was, "Could I go up in this plane and expect to come down when and where I wanted or would I run out of oil at some point, suffer an engine seizure, and land in a field somewhere?"An aviation magazine I read carried an article one time which stated that if one even has to ask the question, "Is it safe to go flying because of the plane/weather/pilot?" then it probably isn’t safe to go flying. My own reasoning followed that no one ever crashed by leaving the plane on the ground, so I tied the plane back down, and didn’t go up today.
Working late tonight. I’ve got a surprise Y2K issue at work that needs to be resolved.