August 21, 2019

This Saturday – slight change of plan

I’ve now phoned Romorantin and it appears that their fuel system only accepts Total cards, so I’d be relying therefore on the aeroclub there to accept my payment. I’ve also just checked with Blois and the same goes for them and their fuel system which only accepts BP cards. I’d have to phone either club beforehand to let them know my ETA to make sure that someone would be there to do so and I surmise that as Blois is the bigger and the more prestigious of the two, that would probably be the better bet.

I’ve also rechecked my possible route going via Blois and it’s a bit more direct and a few kilometres shorter than via Romorantin so I’m now leaning towards routing via Blois rather than via Romorantin. However, I’ll need to check carefully to ensure that as the leg from Malbec to Blois is slightly longer I’ll be able to make it there safely with the prevailing wind on the day, which will probably be northerly.

Watch this space for future developments! Now I most go to Malbec and adjust 77ASY’s engine idle.

Well, I’m back from adjusting 77ASY’s idle and I was very pleased with the results. I don’t have a carb balancer but I did my best to equalise each carburettor by inserting a thin feeler gauge under each adjustment screw in turn until it was just being gripped and then opening both throttles slightly by turning each screw by an equal amount until I got the idle speed that I wanted.

At the end the engine was ticking over very smoothly but I forgot to take some Loctite with me to put on the adjustment screw threads. It doesn’t matter though as I’ve got to go back and give the aircraft a good clean as it was covered in mouse droppings and splats of bird poo.

I also enjoyed a very welcome bonus. My altimeter was noticeably out when I flew up to La Rochelle, and before that also when I checked in with Bergerac a few weeks ago and was able to compare my indicated altitude with the height shown on my transponder. There will always be a difference as the latter is calibrated at standard atmospheric pressure ie 1013.2Hp but the difference was much too great to be acceptable. The technician at La Rochelle also commented on it.

I was thinking that I’d have to apply a manual correction during my upcoming UK flight but today I learnt something that I’ve not known for all the many years that I’ve been involved and tinkering with aircraft.

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As the above image shows, to the left of the altimeter’s pressure indicator adjustment knob there’s a small screw that today I thought I’d investigate. When I unscrewed it, it didn’t come right out because it was evidently attached to some kind of spring inside the instrument. This set me thinking and I carefully tried turning the knob with the screw hanging out. No change, the pressure scale moved normally.

I then tried doing the same after gently pulling the knob, and success! The altimeter needle remained stationary but the pressure scale rotated! Previously, the altimeter was showing an elevation of 850 feet, which is about right for Malbec, at a pressure setting of 1018Hp. I checked the QNHs for Brive and Bergerac which were identical at 30.2InHg or 1023Hp and was then able to set my altimeter’s pressure scale to that figure.

So that was job done! Now I’ll be able to fly confident in the knowledge that my indicated altitude will be as it should be. Incidentally, while I was there I checked the Weedhopper’s altimeter and that was giving an elevation of 850 feet at 1028Hp, so it too is out by 5Hp, but in the other direction. I don’t think that there’s an adjustment screw on its altimeter but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it 😉

August 20, 2019

It’s all systems go!

It looks as though the long-awaited weather window for my flight up to the UK is at last about to materialise and that I’ll be taking off in my Savannah this coming Saturday morning. There’s no telling how long it’ll last though, at the UK end, and I recall how I had to make a dash for home the last time in 2016 as an unexpected period of nasty weather that was forecast to last for several days was about to roll in from the Atlantic.

This time it looks as though I’ll have at least a week and I’m planning to stay for around 7-10 days depending on how things work out, with friends, family and my dentist! I’m hoping that he’ll be able to fit me in because I need a little repair work that he usually does in a few minutes which the dentist here in Montignac wanted to turn into a major project that would have cost me several hundred euros. So that alone makes the trip well worthwhile. And while I’m there I’ll also be able to drop into Specsavers and get my glasses repaired and updated.

Since having my new radio and especially my new transponder installed, I’ve been able to completely revamp my flightplan. I can now fly more directly than I originally planned cutting across Class D airspace at Limoges, Chateauroux (although technically I should be above their upper limit) and Orléans. And also instead of having to fly up to Calais to file my outward flight plan and clear customs, I’ll be able to drop into Le Touquet which is inside Class D airspace, making a transponder necessary, directly on my route northwards and further south.

Although I would have liked to drop into Calais, as I’ve never landed there, that should save me a useful 15-30 minutes which will be very handy at that end of the flight as by then I’ll be starting to feel a bit tired. It’ll also be nice going into Le Touquet again where I’ve not been since the 1980s when we had our Cherokee 180, G-BGVU, and used to go there quite often for lunch and to collect the fuel tax drawback that more or less used to pay for the flight from Biggin or Rochester.

I’ve also changed my plans for the UK end of the flight. After checking in at Headcorn, I was originally going to land in a field at a private property in Kent owned by a friend of mine. That’s now not going to be possible because the field has been used by sheep and nobody is going to be there either before or when I arrive to ensure that it’s in a safe condition to land on. So instead I’ve decided on what I think will be a better solution anyway, which is to fly into a local farm strip at Laddingford.

This has two good size grass runways and is also closer to the home of my sister and brother-in-law, so it’s a win-win all round really. It has good approaches and is also secure as it’s located on an active farm on which the farmer and his family live, so I feel happy that if the Savannah is parked there for a week or so, it should be pretty safe and out of harm’s way.

Here are some shots showing my planned route. I’ve changed my planned first leg as originally I was probably going to land at Blois to take on fuel. However, it’s not clear from the published details whether the airfield is guaranteed to be open to make this possible. The automatic pump needs a BP card, which I don’t have and don’t intend to acquire and without it you need to pay at the aero club. If nobody’s there I’d be scuppered, so best not to take the chance.

Instead I’ll be going into LFYR, Romorantin Pruniers, which is slightly further east and a bit further south, but closer than Blois to my preferred track actually. There they have an automatic Total card system but which I think, much like that at La Rochelle, also accepts bank debit cards. But in any case, I’ll be giving them a ring beforehand to make absolutely sure.

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My second leg is direct Romorantin – LFAT Le Touquet, where there’ll be no problem as far as I’m aware buying fuel, although if everything goes as planned, I shouldn’t need to.

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And finally, my arrival into the UK. I’ve shown it as just a single leg although actually I’ll be landing initially at Headcorn to clear customs (not that there’s ever any ‘customs’ there to clear) and close my flightplan. Then I’ll have just a short final hop of a few minutes into Laddingford.

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I’ve got a bit to do before leaving, but not too much. Tonight I’m knackered after cutting my ‘grass’ and de-weeding it and several other areas. Tomorrow I really must get across to Malbec and adjust the idle speed of the Savannah which is too slow after I changed its carburettor rubbers and then hopefully it’ll just be domestic things to deal with.

Apart from that 77ASY should be all ready to go, so it’ll just be a matter of redoing my Schengen and GAR paperwork to take account of my new French departure and arrival points and editing my outward and inward flightplans. For one reason or another, I’ve not been getting as much flying in this year as I would have liked, so I have to say that I’m already quite excited by the prospect and really looking forward to the flight.

August 17, 2019

My new computer printer

I spent yesterday evening printing off a huge stack of photographs on my new Canon Pixma TS8150 that I’ve had waiting while making up my mind whether or not to buy a new printer. So many, in fact, that I used up three of the cartridges that Canon supplied with it. Here’s a shot of the printer in question.

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Everyone knows by now that even though they are really cheap, it’s a massive false economy to buy an inkjet printer with only two cartridges – black and colour. The reason is that you use the colours (basically cyan, magenta and yellow) in very different ratios and when you replace a ‘colour’ cartridge because one of them has run out, there will always be quite large quantities of the other two remaining. And when you throw the ’empty’ cartridge away, because of that it’s also not good for the environment.

My old Canon MP530 had five colour cartridges, cyan, magenta, yellow, black and a large volume black for printing mono documents. As I mentioned in my previous post, in it’s day it produced magnificent colour photo prints that I was exceedingly happy with, but as it got older, it began to fail to do so until finally it was impossible.

Things have moved on since then. Not only can my new Canon print in higher definition (I chose the TS8150 because it offered a print resolution of 4800 x 1200 dpi compared to 2400 x 1200 dpi for the next model down for only a modest increase in price – the next model up prints 4800 x 2400 dpi but I didn’t think that I really needed that) but it also comes with a six ink system. The additional one is ‘photo blue’ but please don’t ask me what it does compared to the normal cyan.

What I can say is that the only word to describe the results is stunning. The prints that I did last night are as good as the best A4 colour prints that I’ve ever seen. Evidently the printer ‘processes’ the images before printing so even shots that are dull and/or lacking in contrast come out beautifully. Images are sharp and colours vivid and vibrant and although this may not be to the taste of ‘professional’ photographers who like to control every aspect of their work up to and including printing, for what I do, the results are exactly what I’m looking for.

The new Canon prints shots taken on my little Nikon Coolpix camera and my new phone especially well and as it also connects wirelessly, so you only have a power cable running to it, other computers in the network, such as my laptop and even my phone and tablet, can also print directly to it. It has other features that I’ve not yet bothered to explore and probably don’t need, but so far I’m mightily impressed with it.

Unlike my old Canon that I just chucked away and still had unused cartridges for that I am now unable to use, my old Epson printer is still functioning and will be OK for general use until I’ve used up as many of the cartridges as possible that I still have for it. But until then I’ll be using my new Canon for ‘quality’ work and especially for shots that I’ve taken from the air.

So taken all round, yesterday was a rather satisfying day. Not only did I get my PC back unharmed after a spectacular explosion in its power supply but I also got my new Canon TS8150 printer up and running. But that wasn’t all. Without any form of fanfare or notification, after a full two weeks, my home phone and internet also came back. I’m hoping that that will be the end of all of the problems that I’ve suffered with it, but only time will tell. In the meantime, back to my printing 😉

August 16, 2019

Massive sigh of relief

My new PC power supply arrived today. Fantastic service by Amazon Prime to get it delivered within 24 hours – I’m very impressed. I’ve even watched several ‘free’ Prime videos when I’ve been at a loose end on the odd evening and have no regrets about becoming becoming a Prime member earlier this year.

I carefully installed the power supply in my PC and powered it up briefly with the disk drives disconnected. Nothing was amiss so I finished connecting all of the cables, put it back in place in my ‘computer corner’ and fully powered it up with all of its peripherals connected. To my great relief everything is working perfectly and as an added bonus, my machine is now running almost silently. Clearly it had been getting ready to go wrong for some time as before the old power supply failed it was very noisy.

I also got sick of messing around trying to get my old printers, a Canon MP530 and an Epson SX438W, both of which I brought with me from England, to produce perfect results. In its day, and it was at least 12-15 years old, the Canon was state-of-the-art and produced perfect photo prints. However, I’ve since gone through three print heads and even with new cartridges it was impossible to get a proper colour balance.

Yet another print head plus more cartridges would have been throwing more good money after bad so the other day I stole myself and dropped it off at the déchetterie with a tear in my eye. I shall also probably end up doing the same with my little Epson. I bought it just before I came to France so it’s just over 7 years old. It was a low cost printer at the time and it has done sterling service and is still OK for ‘general’ mono and colour printing.

However, it too cannot produce high quality photo prints, which I like to do as an extension of my aerial photographic exploits. So I splashed some cash and ordered myself another new Canon, a brand that I know and trust.

The model was a Pixma TS8150 and I expected it to be delivered on Monday as yesterday was a holiday here in France. However, to my great surprise, when I returned from a quick shopping trip I found that the delivery man had left it together with the new power supply outside my back door.

So kudos to him as it would have been a pain in the backside having to slope off to the nearest ‘relais’ point to pick them both up. Having got my computer back working again, I’ve now unpacked the Canon and it’s waiting beside me as I type this to be plugged in and tested. I’m rarin’ to go with it and I’ll let you know what the verdict is when I’ve given it a good test run.

August 15, 2019

Instant chastisement!

Wow, I can hardly believe it. France Telecom, or possibly even M. Macron himself, must have contacts in very high places. I went to bed last night feeling quite confident that I was getting on top of the issues and problems that had been plaguing me for so long – like the Kia, my ride-on mower belt, my leaky plumbing fittings, stuff like that – and somewhat self-satisfied that I’d discovered that I could get 4G on my new mobile phone here in my house.

But it wasn’t to last – not even through the next day. I’d just got up this morning and was enjoying watching a video on Youtube about a group in a DC3 crossing the Atlantic to join this year’s 75th D-Day anniversary celebrations when there was a small explosion followed by a smell of burning and my computer went dead. I later established that it was down to my computer power supply blowing up.

In all my years of being involved with computers, and that involves a period looking after hardware and software for clients, I’ve never known a power supply behave in this way. I’ve got another on order that will be arriving from Amazon, who offer a reasonable price but the quickest guaranteed delivery, on Saturday and in the meantime have configured my backup PC for use up until then.

Fortunately, although it’s spec is now pretty old, it always comes to my rescue when I need it so I’m glad that I’ve never disposed of it. What I am worried about, though, is what my main PC’s power supply self-destructing so violently might have done to my hard disk or even its motherboard. I won’t know until the new power supply arrives so there’s no point speculating, but I’ll be devastated if I’ve lost emails, photographs and videos yet again, the way I did last time when my hard drive failed.

And even more annoying is that when the power supply exploded, it took out the fuse in the main fuse box and after I’d replaced it, the power socket was up and running again straight away. However, when I tested the unit after I’d removed it from the computer it blew the system again. This time, however, all the fuses are intact so it looks as though somehow it’s managed to take out the socket itself and that might be much more difficult to sort out.

And not only that, but in my hour of need while I was desperately trying to find and purchase a new power supply on the internet, my new-found 4G data connection disappeared – in fact my phone’s data connection kept appearing and disappearing as though it had a mind of its own. That’s why I think the French infrastructure gods might be punishing me for calling their system down her ‘flaky’. I’ve learnt my lesson now and I’ll hesitate before doing it again, that’s for sure 🙁

August 14, 2019

My dilemma

I got my Kia Sportage back on Monday and yesterday gave it a thorough clean inside and out. It came up pretty well, a couple of issues to be dealt with but nothing that I can’t do. It also drives well – better than before actually and using less fuel too – more than the C-Max but less than it was before it broke down.

My dilemma is that much as I’d like to keep both vehicles because they both have strong features that the other lacks, I don’t think that I can really justify having two cars even though some of my friends have said that I should. I don’t really have the space for two and, like my two aircraft, both will need ‘looking after’. Although I often end up with a vehicle that’s grubby and mud splattered, I don’t actually like having a dirty car and having two means that I’d have to be regularly cleaning both.

It’s nice to think that if either goes wrong I’d have another to fall back on, but both are money tied-up and both are depreciating in value whether they’re being used or not. I don’t have to make an instant decision but it’s something that I’m going to be thinking hard about over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been driving the Sportage locally and while I was out and about today I took a few shots of it.

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It’s a difficult one – I like driving both cars and having spent so much (an arm and a leg…) getting the Sportage back on the road again and in such good mechanical condition, in a way it would be a shame to let it go for a new owner to get the benefit… of my mechanic’s hard work and my money!

Changing the subject, my home phone and internet have still not been restored having gone down last Friday week. I was told on Monday that my service provider, Free’s, ‘partner’ had made an ‘intervention’ on Monday evening and that I could imminently expect them to contact me and resolve the problem. The ‘partner’ is obviously Orange, or France Telecom the state owned monopoly, so I’m not holding my breath waiting for the issue to be resolved quickly and efficiently – quite the opposite actually.

I suspect that as most of France goes on holiday in August and many organisations shut down for the whole, or at least most, of the month, Free are just stringing me along until an engineer comes back from holiday and deals with my problem. So why am I not foaming at the mouth, you might ask? It’s because there’s a silver lining.

I was in the Intermarché car park yesterday and I unlocked my phone to check on an incoming email. There’s 4G in Montignac and I was amazed at how fast it ran in data mode – my web browser was jet-propelled, email ran like the clappers, my on line newspapers were a joy to read and even Youtube ran in high def without buffering.

These are all things that I don’t experience at home – usually. While my home internet has been down I’ve been running my computer’s internet connection through a WiFi hotspot on my mobile phone (it’s called tethering). Usually I’m lucky to get a 3G data service as the mobile phone signal is very poor where I live.

But today after setting up my WiFi hotspot with my phone facing towards Montignac, as usual, I was amazed to see that it was registering a 4G signal. This translated into an ultra-fast internet connection, much faster than my usual home service, making browsing and everything else a complete pleasure rather than an infuriating chore. Internet, email, my newspapers, even uploading the photographs for this post, all jet-propelled.

Unbelievable, amazing, fantastic… what can I say. With a service like this I wouldn’t need a home phone or internet connected by fixed line. But will it last? Ah, that’s the question. With most (all?) of the infrastructure so flaky down here, it’s ofter here today, gone tomorrow. So I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed and wait and see 😉

August 12, 2019

In limbo

We’re passing through a period of much cooler weather than we’ve been experiencing for the past few weeks – 20s rather than 30s degrees Celsius – with a occasional light rain to water the plants and get the grass and weeds growing like mad again. But still fairly settled and with some good flying days thrown in that I’ve not capitalised on for one reason or another.

But not so in the UK, where a series of deep low pressure fronts have kept thundering in from the Atlantic bringing with them lashing rain and storm force winds. So no possibilty of my flying there as even if I could find a brief weather window, there would be no point in then having the Savannah tied down outside for days in such conditions with the possibilty even of it potentially suffering damage. Plus I’d not know when I’d be able to get out again and escape back to France.

So I’ve been back to busying myself with other matters and continuing to get things ship-shape at home. Like the Kia. I’m expecting to get it back this afternoon at long last. While it’s been laid up someone has managed to damage the driver-side (left-hand) seat belt, probably by slamming it in the door catch. It’s really annoying because when it broke down (over a year ago) it was only a week out of its CT (French bi-annual MOT) and it would never have got through it with a cut in the side of its seat belt, so it must have been done since then.

It’s cost me a further £50 odd to find a replacement on UK Ebay and get it shipped over, so after my mechanic has checked all the work that he’s done, as I asked him to (all nuts, bolts, clips, brackets, fastenings etc tight and in place, stuff like that), we’re going to fit it later this afternoon. And then I should be able to bring the Kia home again and start dealing with several other little issues that I’ve been getting myself ready for.

I also got back to sorting out my ‘atelier’ some more. I acquired four storage racks a few weeks ago but only initially assembled two of them which I then filled up with stuff that up to then had been all over the floor. The other two I hadn’t finished assembling, until this week end, so yesterday I was able to put those in place and get even more stuff off the floor and onto their shelves.

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I originally found assembling the racks very fiddly and tedious as they’re made from thin metal that bends very easily making slotting the various components together quite difficult. The problem is keeping tabs aligned so they slot in properly without popping out and not locking as they should. I’ve now find that by slightly bending them ‘inwards’ and treating them very gently the job became much easier and I’ve even found that I can do it much quicker than I could originally.

In fact, I’m so pleased that I’ve ordered four more to go along the back wall. I won’t have much to put on them right away but they’ll allow me to get stuff that are hidden in boxes on the other shelves out in plain view where I’ll be able to find things more easily.

The next things I’ll do is add some more lighting and clear out all the old mouse poo. Whether that’ll deter the little rotters from coming back again I don’t know, but if not I’ll have to think about taking the battle to them and if I have to do that, none of us will like it very much 😐

August 4, 2019

Today’s flight

Low and slow around the area in my Weedhopper, 28AAD. Not my cuppa tea so much since I acquired 77ASY, my Savannah, which is so much more capable. Low and slow is OK if all you want to do is while away an hour or so flying over the same old ground but nowadays I prefer to be able to hop into the Savannah and go somewhere, preferably somewhere new if I can.

I lost two years due to illness and I won’t be able to keep doing longer flights for ever as they are more physically demanding even in an aircraft like the Savannah, so I need to do them while I still can. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop doing little local flights, even when I’ve sold the Weedhopper, which I’ve advertised for sale, but no takers for the moment at least.

I planned to do a flight of just over an hour or so of the kind that I used to do when I first arrived here to become familiar with the area. The first leg was to be out to the west taking me to Vergt, from where I’d head south to a tiny little commune, just a few houses and a church on a small hill, called Clermont-de-Beauregard.

From there I’d continue southwards to Lalinde, a town that’s popular with Brits on the river Dordogne. Then I’d head eastwards to Le-Buisson-de-Cadouin and St-Cyprien before turning north to Les-Eyzies (Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in full) and continuing on for a landing back at Malbec. Here’s a picture of the route based on an old chart from 2015 which shows the place names.

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I took quite a few photographs along the way but unfortunately they were all taken through 28AAD’s plastic screen and doors so leave a lot to be desired for quality, even after doing everything possible to improve them by editing. My best aircraft for photography was 56NE, my old X-Air now sold, because it had no doors on. I was thinking about removing 28AAD’s doors today but decided against it and now I wish I had done.

Here’s the first shot climbing out past Fleurac with the chateau passing below.

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Now a couple of general shots heading westwards towards Vergt.

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Approaching Vergt, which is famous for its strawberries.

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Three shots of Vergt itself as I passed overhead and began my turn towards the south.

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A couple of shots of the tiny commune of Clermont. Not very good I’m afraid but the best that I could do with them.

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A shot approaching Lalinde.

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Three shots of Lalinde which is somewhat strangely located as a strip on just the one side, the northern bank, of the river Dordogne, I think because the southern side slopes up quite steeply from the river.

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Three shots of Le-Buisson, which is a small town of little renown except it has a railway station in the centre from which you can connect to cities in the north and south of France. I left from here by train when I went to pick up my Kia Sportage when I bought it back in 2013. Or was it 2014, I can’t remember?

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Now some shots of St-Cyprien. It has a big old building on its hilltop that I think used at one time to be an abbey. Now it’s been converted into appartments.

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And the final aerial shot, passing overhead Les-Eyzies.

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And to finish off, three shots that I took with my new phone after landing back at Malbec.

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The flight lasted 1 hour 10 minutes from brakes off to brakes on, so just about what I’d planned for. It was good fun and it was certainly good to be back in the air again. I took off at 10.10am to miss the forecast increase in temperature and hence turbulence and was back at 11.20 am, so that worked out well.

I’m hoping that with a bit of luck I might get another couple of flights at least in this coming week, but this time in the Savannah, getting myself prepared for flying up to the UK, but I’ll just have to see how things turn out.

August 3, 2019

Flying tomorrow!

Tricky post to write, this one. Our infrastructure is crumbling even more than usual down here. My home phone and internet went down late yesterday morning and although I reported it today, it’s still down. And of course, no technicians work after mid-day on Saturday so it’ll be down until at least Monday, so I’m connected to the internet through my new mobile phone that I’ve just received from China.

Trouble is the mobile network is even slower than the fixed internet… Also my water went off yesterday evening but luckily there was enough of a trickle getting through to have a wash and brush my teeth before going to bed. It stayed off all night and came back on again at about 9.30 am this morning so thank goodness for that.

Anyway, I mentioned to Wim a couple of days ago that I need to fly. I haven’t flown since my trip up to La Rochelle which was something like 6 weeks ago, so getting airborne again is well overdue, especially as I want to get away to the UK in the next week or so.

I planned to get the Weedhopper back out again and after Wim flew over my house this morning I went over to Malbec to get it ready to fly tomorrow. This involved changing the two aircraft around in the barn but not before I’d refuelled the Weedhopper, pumped its tyres up and cleaned its screen ready for an earlyish take off tomorrow before the air warms up and becomes turbulent.

Here are some shots that I took after I’d finished with the Weedhopper all ready to be pulled straight out and go in the morning.

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I took the pics on my new phone and I have to say that I’m really impressed by their quality. It’s one of these new-fangled ones with two (or three?) cameras built in and I rate the quality better than my Nikon Coolpix actually. Only thing is, though, that I can hang the Nikon around my neck and use it one-handed while flying and that wouldn’t be possible with the phone. Not without the risk of dropping it overboard, anyway 😐

July 31, 2019

Great news!

My Kia Sportage broke down in June 2018 and was recovered here to the Dordogne almost exactly a year ago. Since then I have obtained a replacement lower mileage engine for it from San Sebastian in Spain which a local mechanic has fitted together with a host of new parts including three sets of remanufactured fuel injectors after the first two sets from a German supplier (they ‘replaced’ the first faulty set) were found to be total rubbish with false paperwork.

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It has been a tortuous (and expensive) process which came to a head a few weeks ago when the third good set of fuel injectors, which I sourced from Korea, were fitted and the engine was found to be still suffering from a smoking problem which my mechanic couldn’t fathom.

The original engine was destroyed when its Bosch high pressure fuel pump failed and flooded the engine with diesel fuel that entered the lubrication system, which was why the engine’s bearings ran, together with the fuel inlet and engine exhaust systems. I’m from the twin SU carburettor era so am far from knowledgeable on fuel injected engines but I suggested from what I’ve gleaned over the years that maybe the problem was to do with the engine’s diesel particulate filter (DPF).

This extracts most of the harmful particulates from the exhaust gases before the latter pass through the catalytic converter and are released into the atmosphere. Fuel is then fed into the DPF and when the exhaust gets hot enough, this ignites and burns at a high enough temperature to destroy the captured particulates.

What was happening was when the engine was started from cold and even run for a few minutes, the exhaust would be smoke free. However, if the car was then taken onto the road, after a few minutes driving it would start to emit increasing clouds of smoke which would then gradually disappear if the car was brought back to the workshop and allowed to stand idling for a few minutes.

My reasoning was that this could be explained as follows. I suggested that following the original incident, the DPF, which has a ceramic inner, still contained a certain volume of unburnt fuel residue. When the engine and exhaust were cool, the temperature was not high enough to start burning this off, but became high enough as the car was being driven, which is why the clouds of smoke began to be emitted. On returning to the workshop and allowing the engine to idle, the temperature then fell back to a level too low to burn the fuel off so the smoke clouds then gradually disappeared.

I’d been wanting to test this out for a week or so but was unable to do so because of other matters that I needed to attend to, up until today when I was able to initially take the car for a more extended drive on local country roads and subsequently on a longer high speed drive on the péage to Brive. It soon became evident while driving locally that the main smoking problem had disappeared after a few minutes of driving. However, it was still present when the engine was ‘gunned’, for hard acceleration for example, and when kicking down the auto gearbox, and also especially when climbing hills.

That’s when I decided to do the extended high speed drive to Brive, as I’d read that that’s how to ‘reset’ DPF filters. And I’m delighted to say that it worked. Initially the problem persisted but only for a very short while. After I’d managed to get the car up to 130/140 kmh for a few kilometres it had disappeared completely, so as far as I’m concerned, my Kia is back in action and not before time.

My mechanic will be giving everything a final once over during the next few days, and he’ll be delighted to see the back of the car after all this time. Once I get it back, probably early next week, I’ll have several things to deal with (the driver’s seatbelt has been nicked somehow so will have to be changed plus the engine bay will have to be thoroughly cleaned down just for starters) and then I’ll have to start thinking about car choices as I won’t really be able to justify keeping both the Kia and the C-Max. Pity really as both have their strong points, but such is life I suppose.

July 26, 2019

Floral finale

The additional moss that I ordered from the UK to finish off my new hanging baskets arrived a few days ago but as we were still in the middle of a run of 40 degrees Celsius hot days, I put it to one side until the temperature moderated a bit.

The days have been so hot that it’s been almost impossible to do anything and even though it’s been around 10 degrees cooler today with some thunderstorms and rain, the inside of my house is still like an oven. This is the problem at this time of year of having 50 cm thick stone walls.

I still didn’t manage to get much done again, but this time because of the rain, and it wasn’t until early evening that I decided that I might as well finish putting together the final three floral baskets and hanging them up. Chantal, my neighbour, planted all the flowers up to now but as she’s away for a few days, it was up to me to complete the job. I hope that she’ll approve when she gets back 😉

It didn’t take long to finish the three baskets off and although I took a few shots of them afterwards, it was a bit too late and the evening was a bit dull. But anyway, here are a couple showing the two I’ve hung on the south-facing bedroom end and the one on the north-east corner.

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The two on the bedroom end will get more sun so the plants we selected for them are more sun-resistant eg geraniums than those on the north-east corner, which include the last of the three fuschias we bought. I’ve just been over to feed Chantal’s cat and let her in for the night (she stayed out last night as it was still very warm) and as I returned light rain began to fall.

It’s been a problem keeping all my plants alive and watered during the punishing heat of the past days and I hope I won’t now face the problem of them all being washed away…

July 23, 2019

Just my luck

I’m trying to sort out all of the outstanding items on my ‘to-do’ list so I can get away to the UK in my Savannah and know that I don’t have any unwelcome surprises waiting for me when I return home again. At the top of the list was moving my washing machine from the kitchen into the bathroom. This became more urgent after I installed a new dishwasher in the place where the washing machine had been leaving the latter standing afterwards in the middle of the room and my having to walk around it the whole time.

Basically, the plumbing involved was quite simple. I installed a ‘stéatite’ hot water tank in the bathroom when I came to France. It has worked very well over the past seven years and I would only replace it if, for example, I installed a new central heating system in my house. The system has a cold water inlet and a hot water outlet and as I wanted to place the washing machine under the hot water tank, all I needed to do was break into the cold water supply and fit a washing machine valve and then break into the bathroom waste system to allow the washing machine to pump out its used water.

The latter, though fiddly, wasn’t as difficult as it might be because of a special unit that’s attached to the underside of the hot water tank, as shown in the following two pictures.

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It’s called a ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ and it has several functions. The first, and probably the most important, is that it acts as a pressure relief valve should the thermostat malfunction and the water in the tank start to boil. The second is to act as a drain-off valve should it be necessary to evacuate the whole system and the third is to act as an expansion relief valve because when the water in the tank is heated, it expands.

If all of the hot taps are closed, the extra volume needs somewhere to go, and the answer is out through this valve. What you then need is a method of disposing of the excess water and this is done by incorporating a ‘syphon-type’ arrangement in the system that’s connected into the bathroom’s waste outlet. So, although a bit fiddly as I said above, tapping into this gives a way of connecting the washing machine outlet to the waste system.

Now I’ve said many times on My Trike that French plumbing supplies are appallingly bad and I stick to that assertion. Every plumbing job that I’ve done in France, and without being immodest as I’ve got quite a lot of experience that goes back to when I was at school and university and I’m pretty good, has taken at least twice as long as it need have and required at least twice the effort compared to a similar job in the UK. The reason is that French plumbing fittings leak.

I’ve got several brass stop cocks that I’ve fitted over time to my toilet inlet all of which have given up turning off after a couple of years. I’ve had many cone-type fittings that have leaked after being properly installed and threaded ones that would not, just not, give a seal. As I’ll go on to mention, this happened yet again with this job.

And due to the lousy standard design, all of the toilets that I’ve come across in France, including the brand new ones that I saw in Périgueux hospital, leak. Not over the floor, but because the flushing system uses a bell-type arrangement that is lifted to allow water into the flush pipe, and because that system soon becomes affected by hard water deposits, water starts to flow by into the toilet bowl eventually leaving unsightly, thick yellow lines of lime scale all around it. And yes, I’ve got that problem too.

But the first thing I found when I went to weigh this job up was that my old ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ that I installed seven years ago had developed a fault. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was leaking. It wasn’t stopping the ‘excess’ water which was flowing constantly into the waste system. The leak was only a trickle but it was noticeable and as all water here is metered, it plus the leaking toilet (which I have to turn off every time at the stop cock until I can deal with it) soon add up to a sizeable unnecessary extra on your water bill.

So as well as making the mods for the washing machine I first had to replace the old ‘Groupe de Sécurité’. I bought a new one yesterday from Brico Depot so that was the first job this morning. I wondered if I’d be able to do the swap without draining the hot water system and decided that so long as I shut off all of the valves associated with it, I’d probably be able to make the switch without losing much water. I allowed the water to cool overnight just in case I got sprayed in the process, but as I’d anticipated, the switch to the new ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ pretty much went without a hitch.

Good show, you’re probably thinking, that’s another chore off the list. Ah, no. This is France don’t forget. What did I say about the quality of French plumbing supplies? Yup, you’ve guessed it, the new unit leaks more than the old one that I took off so it’ll have to come off again and be taken back for either replacement or refund. You can imagine that after my recent experiences with my mower belt saga, I’m furious about this.

I’m getting so fed up with always having to do a job two or three times before it’s right solely because of the lousy quality of the products that you buy over here. I can never remember having this problem in the UK – quite the reverse actually.

I eventually got the job done, but not before having to throw away the first washing machine valve that I bought because (a) it leaked and (b) I couldn’t get a seal on the thread that screwed it into the ‘T’ that I’d painstakingly inserted into the cold feed, and bought another better one that, thanks goodness, I managed to find locally. Here’s a shot of the washing machine in its new position.

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It’s only ‘temporary’ as the bathroom will be completely revamped with a walk-in shower etc as part of my redevelopment plans, but it’ll do for now. Tomorrow it’ll all become totally disorganised again when I take out the faulty new ‘Groupe de Sécurité’ but at least the washing machine is now where I wanted it to be even if I have to keep turning off the cold feed to the hot water system to stop the ruddy constant trickle of clean, fresh water down into the waste pipe 😐

July 17, 2019

Operation Flowerpower – phase 2

Like all well-planned campaigns, Operation Flowerpower has now moved from ground to aerial operations. We’ve had to call up some reinforcements to replace the handful of troops who have been lost along the way (three plants have succumbed during phase 1) but nevertheless have been able to move on swiftly to the planned next phase. Which is hanging baskets.

I had to source some from the UK because I wanted metal ones that seem to be impossible to obtain here in France. I also sourced some live Welsh moss to line them with as the only ‘moss’ you can get over here is that nasty plastic artificial stuff, proving the old saw once again that when it comes to gardening, the Brits leave the French streets behind.

I put the hanging baskets up yesterday, once again in scorching hot sunshine, so this morning Chantal, my next door neighbour, and I were up and out with the lark to yet again head for the local nursery. We had to go early because she has a busy day today and as before, she wants to be the one to place the plants into position 🙂

Unfortunately, because we’re late in the season, our choice of plants was rather limited. Usually in the UK, we used to make our hanging baskets right at the beginning of the spring and now in mid-July, plants like Fuschias are all a bit ‘leggy’. But never mind, better late than never.

I ordered six hanging baskets but decided to put up only five (two on the front of the house, two on the south side where the bedrooms are and one on the corner of the north end) and the first thing we found is that I ordered much too little moss. I’ve already ordered some more, which will take about a week to arrive, so today we only managed to finish off two hanging baskets and for now I’ve had to put the plants that are waiting in reserve somewhere safe so they’ll be ready to go in as soon as the moss arrives.

In the meantime here are a few shots showing the result with the two new hanging baskets on the front of my house.

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I love them. They’re every bit is nice as I hoped they would be and now I’ll have to work hard to keep them in tip-top shape while it’s so hot. The problems will, of course, mainly arise when I eventually manage to get away to the UK, but Chantal has already said that she’ll look after them for me while I’m gone. And I’m sure she will because she’s already put so much effort into getting the whole display looking so gorgeous, bless her.

July 15, 2019

Got cracking with racking

I’ve missed my final preferred window to fly to the UK but if I’m ever going to be able to, I’ve still got to get a few things organised before I can go. After being delayed for several weeks waiting for a new cutting belt that actually fitted my mower and having got my plant pots sorted out, I’ve at last got my garden back into some kind of shape. Better than it’s ever been actually, although that’s not saying a lot!

I’ve now got to plumb in my washing machine that used to be where my new dishwasher now is, but is still standing in the middle of my kitchen. It has to be moved into my bathroom and until that’s done I can’t do any ‘big’ washes. That isn’t too much of a drawback while it’s so hot and not many clothes are needed but it will become increasingly so once the weather begins to cool.

The other outstanding job is to sort out my ‘atelier’. When I first came here just over seven years ago I brought with me several boxes of tools and other things from my garage back in England which I just dumped on the floor of my ‘atelier’ or ‘cave’. And that’s where most of them have stayed. Over time more stuff has been added until I reached the point a short while ago where I could hardly get in there, let alone move around without climbing and tripping over things.

So I had to do something. The problem was that I’ve never had any storage in there so putting in some racking would go a long way towards helping to solve the problem. And that’s why I placed an order for some on the internet a couple of weeks or so ago. The system that I went for was manufactured by Deuba in Germany and although ‘on sale’, seemed to be remarkably cheap for what it was.

My father wasn’t the wisest man in the world but during his lifetime, he passed a lot of useful advice on to me. One of these was that ‘things are cheap for a reason’ and on this occasion he couldn’t have been proven more right.

Two boxes containing the racking kits that I’d ordered arrived at the end of last week and I’d been waiting for an opportunity to start putting them together, which came yesterday. Here are some shots of what they contained.

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The parts of the racks are made out of very flimsy metal that slot together. The second shot above shows how the horizontal rails have two tabs on each end that slot into two corresponding loops on the vertical pieces.

In theory this should be a very straightforward process and it would be if the metal parts were up to the job. However, they’ve been manufactured from metal of the absolute minimum thickness for the finished racks to take the advertised weight (45kg per hardboard shelf) without collapsing and that means that the tabs are very flimsy and can be easily bent just by finger pressure.

So you can imagine that the stresses involved in lining up some quite long pieces of metal, holding them at right-angles to each other and then inserting the tabs end up causing the tabs to bend really easily, with the result that although you can get the tabs to enter the loops, it’s the Devil’s own job to get them to pass right through them cleanly.

Almost every time the tabs enter the loops on the ‘inside’ of the vertical pieces, as shown in the second shot above, but when you apply pressure to them, they bend so the leading edges of the tabs end up on the ‘outside’. You don’t want that, of course, because it would mean that the tabs aren’t properly locked in place.

Yesterday was another very hot day and as there wasn’t enough space to work inside my atelier anyway, I ended up doing the assembly of the first rack in my living room. It took an absolute age of sweat and tears plus a little blood but to be fair, the end result wasn’t that bad, especially for the money.

As the following picture shows, just having the one rack in place has already yielded the results that I’m looking for, namely that the floor is becoming clear so I can move around and stuff is going onto the shelves in some kind of order.

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I ordered two twin-packs so I’ll end up with four shelving racks like the one shown above. I think that that’ll solve my problem, especially if I load up my car with items that are rubbish, broken or just that I don’t need anymore (like some old MYRO stuff) and take them to the ‘déchetterie’. All I have to do is steel myself to put the final three together, so I’d better get a move on, have a quick bite to eat and get cracking again.

July 13, 2019

A pretty good week

Taken all round, a very satisfactory one. One of the main things was that I at last got my mower working again after a break of several weeks. Things can get pretty much out of hand down here at this time of year, which is what had happened after my mower cutter belt snapped and I had problems getting a replacement of the right length. The grass and weeds were knee-high by the time I managed to get hold of one yesterday and apart from making the place look a mess, the state of the garden also detracted mightily from the plants that my neighbour, Chantal, had helped me to fill the plant pots with that I’d brought with me from England.

Thankfully and to my great relief, that situation was resolved yesterday. It was hot, sweaty work running the mower all round cutting the grass and the weeds back to ground level. I had to go over some of the really tough weeds several times before they gave in but eventually got the job done by the early evening after several hours work. It was too late to take any shots of the results by then but here are some that I took this morning as the sun was climbing higher.

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It was a huge relief getting the place back into some kind of shape and it was also great to see the full effect of the newly-filled plant pots at last.

But I also had other reasons to be pleased. After updating my Savannah’s avionics, I put the items that I no longer required up for sale on Le Bon Coin. France doesn’t officially change over to 8.33 kHz radios until January 1st 2021 so there’s still some time left during which the old radios and the gear associated with them will retain some value. ‘Old’ radios can’t be used in new installations but they are, of course, still of interest to anyone whose radio has gone on the blink, for example. After that date they will be worthless in Western Europe so I wanted to rid myself of the old kit ASAP.

I put my old monojack headsets up for sale together with my old Icom A3E radio and the Alphatec intercom that interfaced with it and here are the pictures of them that I posted on the internet.

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The headsets and intercom were snapped up by a single buyer within minutes of my posting the ads and I sent those off to the buyer, who said he was delighted with them when he received them, several days ago.

That left just my old Icom radio and I was pleased when an interested potential buyer came back yesterday evening and confirmed that he’d like to buy it. He paid by Paypal and I got that off to him today, so that was all my old kit cleared.

I spoke to my good friend in England this morning, on whose field I want to land when I next fly to the UK in my Savannah. This week end was the final window for me to be there before he leaves to spend the rest of the summer in his house in Cyprus and I had to confirm that I won’t be able to make it until after he and his wife have left. That was sad as I haven’t seen them since my illness and I really wanted to meet up before they left as they were both so supportive at that time.

But never mind, there are some things that are beyond our control and hopefully we’ll be able to get together when they return in early September. I still plan to fly to the UK though, but it’ll probably be in August as it was the last time I did so, in 2016. I might also be able to land on his field as his brother should still be around, but that’ll depend on the state of the grass and whether it’s been cut for hay. I guess, as usual, we’ll have to wait and see 😉

July 12, 2019

More French bizarreness

I didn’t have a ride-on mower in the UK. I didn’t need one – all of the lawns on our estate except for private back garden ones were managed and I only needed a Flymo to keep my back lawn in trim – so I don’t know if what I’m about to talk about also applies in the UK. Somehow I doubt it.

The cutting belt on my Jonsered mower, which is made by Husqvarna, snapped several weeks ago and it’s been the Devil’s only job to get hold of a replacement. The belts for sale on the internet with the part reference shown in my mower’s user manual are all, without exception, of totally the wrong length so I don’t know what’s going on there. The trouble is that that leaves you in the tricky position of having to order the belt just by length alone which then opens up all sorts of cans of worms, as I’ve found.

The problem wasn’t helped by my making a mistake when I measured the length of the old one. I did a quick measuring job and wrote the external length down as 2255mm. The trouble was that when I placed my initial internet orders I misread this as 2235mm.

This meant that when the first order arrived the belts were bound to be too short. However, it was even worse than that because when I measured them they were a further 20mm or so shorter than what I’d ordered. This came to light after I’d fitted one which I thought was very tight to get on and which burnt out and snapped in a cloud of smoke within minutes.

Unfortunately, what I hadn’t realised was that when I’d been forcing the belt over the pulleys, it had also bent a tag of metal that keeps the belt aligned with the tensioning pulley when it’s slack and this, of course, damaged the next belt that I fitted and would have done the same with all subsequent belts until I removed the cutting deck, found the problem and corrected it.

By now I was getting wiser. I remeasured the old belt and found that actually it was 2260mm long and so I began to proceed on the path of redemption, or so I thought. Not a bit of it, as I’ll explain. A more careful internet search revealed that what I was looking for was a 4L890, as the following picture shows.

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What could be easier, you ask, than to find a supplier selling such a belt, place an order, wait for it to arrive, fit it and get mowing. I thought the same but it was then that my problems really began to start.

All of the 4L890 belts that I’ve ordered from several suppliers have been too short in the order of 3cm or so and I’ve ended up having to pay for them to go back for refund. Why this should be so I do not know, but the difference between the length shown on their web sites and the actual lengths has been pretty consistent from all of them.

There was one exception that arrived last Friday and my hopes rose, only to be dashed again after it too self-destructed after a few minutes’ use, probably because after waiting so long to receive it, as deliveries here take at least 2-4 days from date of order, my grass/weeds were so long and the quality of the belt was so poor, that it just wasn’t up to the job.

I complained vociferously to one supplier from whom I’d ordered two belts that were supposed to be of the right length but in fact were too short and they sent me a replacement of the right length off their own bat. Unfortunately, when I received it I hadn’t discovered the bent metal tag so it also only lasted a few minutes before being destroyed.

But aha, I thought, at least I’ve now got a supplier who knows what length belt I need. But I was being too hasty. I ordered two more from them, which arrived today, and surprise surprise, they were also too short.

I sent them an email earlier as nobody ever, or hardly ever, answers phone numbers given on internet sites here, telling them how they’d cocked up yet again, that I wasn’t prepared to return the belts at my expense but that I wanted the problem resolved. They replied saying that they will do so and I now wait yet again to see what action they will take.

But in the meantime I had to do something as my garden was getting into a worse and worse state. I went down to my local garden products man in Thonac last week in the hope of getting a belt locally that I could check before I paid for it, knowing that I’d end up paying through the nose but being prepared to pay anything by that time. However, he was closed as his wife had just had a baby so that’s when I placed my last internet order that arrived today. But I knew he’d be open today so went back and explained my problem to him.

He blithely said that sure, he had a 4L890 in stock and voilà, here it is. I said whoa, slow down, let me measure it, and he gave me his steel rule. And guess what… the label said that it was 2260mm long, but in fact to his surprise (but not mine) it was only 2240mm, so also too short!

He scratched his head and said that all he could do was offer me a 4L900 which would be too long, but I said OK, let’s have a look at it. Here’s the label on the packaging showing quite clearly that it should be 2286mm long, so too long by 26mm making it totally unsuitable for my machine.

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But when I measured it, again guess what… it was actually 2260mm long, just the length that I was looking for, so I bought it. It cost three times what I’d been paying for belts on the internet but if I’d got it originally, I’d not be anything like out of pocket to the extent that I am having paid to send so many back. He was sceptical that it would work on my machine and kindly offered to take it back so long as after fitting it I didn’t start the machine up.

But he needn’t have worried. It went straight on and this afternoon I’ve got my whole garden back into shape using it totally without incident, so that was a relief. But how bizarre that all of these so-called specialist internet suppliers (and even my local man) apparently have no idea that what they are selling in no way conforms to the descriptions that they are providing to their customers.

My concern now is that I’m going to end up with a whole lot of belts all of the correct dimensions that I’ll end up storing for years in my garden shed as from my experience to date with my machine, the one I’ve now fitted will last for years so long as I don’t abuse it. Probably longer, in fact, than I’ll be around to do so 😉

July 12, 2019

More lighting stuff

My next door neighbour has, or rather had, a motion detecting security light over her patio outside her door. It had stopped working so she asked me if I’d take a look at it.

Well, it seems whoever had fitted it had left the wires coming out of the wall exposed and going downwards as they entered the side of the light. The result was that on some rainy night, water had run down the wires into the light itself so when the passive detected movement on the patio and the light came on, it self destructed.

I gave her the bad news the other day and she said (very optimistically) that if she popped down to les Briconautes and bought another one for 10€ or so, would I put it up for her? I said that of course I would but that she shouldn’t be too hasty.

Her old light was one of those awful square ones on a thin metal bracket with a motion detector below the light itself the bulb of which was one of those thin tubular very high wattage ones. So not only did it look as though it should be outside some factory somewhere, but it was also very much old technology.

I said that things have moved on a bit and she now had two alternatives. She could either go for a solar powered light that would have the advantage of coming on every night at low intensity but then switching to high intensity if it detected movement, or she could stay with a mains operated one which would be LED and consume much less power than her old one.

I also said that although I hadn’t tried them myself, I’d heard of LED bulbs that contain movement detectors and that maybe we should look at those together before making too quick a decision.

OK, so that’s what I did a few days ago. I found that there are indeed such bulbs so you can in theory turn any light into a security light at not a very great cost. But what caught my eye was one I found on Amazon that is even more sophisticated in a way that particularly appealed to me.

The bulb is sold under the name ‘Sengled’ and it’s special characteristic is that not only does it detect movement and switch itself on if left in passive mode, but it can also be used as a normal bulb if you switch it on twice.

I loved this idea because my lights have always had ‘ordinary’ bulbs in them so unless I switch them on before I go out, if I arrive home late I have to find my way to my door in the dark and then fumble to unlock it.

Having movement detecting bulbs would be a godsend! So I told Chantal, my neighbour to hold on while I bought three bulbs to replace the ‘ordinary’ ones in the outside lights on the front of my house and then saw how they performed. Here are a couple of shots of the bulbs that I’m talking about.

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Well, I’m sad to say that my initial findings were disappointing. My outside lights, front and rear, are of a lantern design with thick glass. The glass evidently prevented the motion detectors built into the bulbs from functioning so I had no ‘security light’ feature, just the ‘normal bulb’ operating mode.

I found this out after we’d returned from our restaurant night-out yesterday but before calling it a night I had to look into things a little bit more. This I did by removing the glass from the forward and side-facing sections of one of the lights at which time the bulb functioned perfectly.

The last thing I did was to grab some left-over ULM windscreen plastic that I have in my atelier and quickly make up some replacement plastic panels for the glass that I’d removed and guess what. Even placing a 1mm thick transparent plastic barrier around the bulb that I’d chosen to experiment with prevented it from detecting any movement.

I continued with my experiments today. I was able to because I found that unlike ‘real’ security lights, these bulbs detect movement and keep functioning during daylight. I suppose that it is a bit too much to expect them to work in a fully sophisticated way for what they cost (approx 7€ each inc delivery) and it’s no big deal really as even if they do switch on during the day, being LED they burn very little electricity during the 90seconds that they remain on. And you don’t keep marching up and down making them do so anyway, do you.

My idea was that if you take into account the ‘detection angle’ of the detector built into the head of the bulb, you needn’t remove the whole plastic sections in the forward and side-facing elements of the light if you could drill a suitable size hole of the right diameter in exactly the right place in each face. And sure enough, it worked. Here are some shots of the finished articles.

First, a couple of shots with all three lights switched on. The lights aren’t quite as bright in reality as the photographs appear to show them to be, but the level of illumination is ample for my purposes.

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Now a couple of shots of one of the lights showing the holes that I drilled in the forward and side-facing plastic panels that I replaced the glass with. I left the glass in the two rear ones, by the way.

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I’m very pleased with the results that more than meet my expectations. The motion detection feature works just as I wanted it to and it’ll be a boon in the future when I get out of my car and make my way to my door with the lights switching on in turn as I do.

The only downside is the holes in the panels. The lights are under the eaves of my house so water ingress shouldn’t be a problem and even if any does get in, there are drain holes in the bottoms of the lights to let it out.

Insects may be more of a problem because we have a heck of a lot of them down here and they all love (a) light and (b) holes. But when I took the lights apart the bottoms were full of dead insects anyway, so I doubt that they’ll pose too much of a problem. But I’ll just have to wait and see 😉

July 5, 2019

Another job off the list

Shortly after I got here, in October 2012 actually, I installed some outside lights on the front of my house. As well as making it easier to find my way to the door when I arrive home in darkness, they also considerably enhanced its appearance.

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As there was a light bulb in a bare fitting hanging down outside the door on the back of my house, I thought that it would be a good idea to put lights up there as well and bought two more of the same design with that in mind. Well, I have to confess to my deep shame that they have never been put up and the pair of them have remained on the floor of my ‘atelier’ ever since – nearly seven years.

As I recently ordered some racking to go in there, I thought that I’d better make some sort of effort to get what I could off the floor and these two lights were therefore leading candidates. So today I took on the job of putting them up.

Quite honestly, I couldn’t really have chosen a worse day. The temperature here reached around 36 degrees Celsius this afternoon and although I started before it began to get really hot (OK, as usual I started late…) I was still working outside in the peak sun between 4.00 and 5.00 pm.

It was scorching and I was dripping, and although the job itself was slow, as most are in an old house like mine with walls not being flat etc, it became even slower because of my need to keep stopping and taking on water. But I got the job done in the end and here are a few shots after I’d finished.

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I’d forgotten that these lights have screw-in bulb fittings and I only had one spare such bulb. I’ll buy some more tomorrow and with both bulbs in, I’ll take some more shots in the evening as dusk approaches.

I like them a lot and I’m glad that I at last got around to doing the job after all this time. I’ve got some more house-appearance enhancements up my sleeve that I’ll be getting onto very shortly, but for now I’ll keep those under wraps 😉

June 30, 2019

Destination La Rochelle

As I mentioned in some previous posts, after installing the new 8.33 kHz radio and transponder in 77ASY, my Savannah, I had to get the new equipment officially signed off. As the nearest station to me is at La Rochelle in the Charente Maritime, I had to make the flight up there as I described a couple of posts ago.

Having waited quite a while for a suitable opportunity on account of the weather, I headed off on 19th June. The forecast was for 18th June to be marginal because of winds but for 19th June to be perfect. It couldn’t have been more wrong. The 18th, which I’d rejected, was the perfect day whereas on the 19th half of the flight was over solid low-level cloud. I also arrived and left La Rochelle in rain.

As I mentioned in the post of the flight, I made a video recording and as I also mentioned, although I’d wanted to record the whole flight, I only got an hour or so because the backup battery pack didn’t work. The video starts just before Périgueux with the cloud bank in view on the horizon and ends still over cloud to the north-west of the military airfield at Cognac.

June 27, 2019

Flower power

When I came to France just over seven years ago, I brought with me a collection of garden plant pots. Since then, due either to laziness, or I would say, lack of incentive, they have stood empty and forlorn outside my house.

But no longer! My neighbour, Chantal, who is a real sweetie, looked me in the eye the other day and asked what I was going to do about my empty pots. I mumbled a reply and she said, ‘Roger, you’ve got to buy some plants. You need some plants’. She was right of course, and she did nothing less than propose that we go together immediately to the nursery to pick up a goodly selection to fill the pots up.

And that’s why yesterday afternoon, in the full heat of the Sahara Heat Wave, we were outside in the garden doing precisely that. Rather Chantal was, because although I was there with her doing the heavy lifting, clipping back weeds, getting water and the more menial tasks, she was doing the really demanding stuff. Like choosing what plants were to go where in what combinations and gently packing the potting peat that we also bought, around them.

We finished off today after I’d ended up buying even more pots late yesterday afternoon to take all of the gorgeous flowers that we’d acquired the day before, and what a picture it has turned my house into.

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So there you are, when push comes to shove in the garden, you can’t beat the tender touch of a woman. As far as I’m concerned, you can keep your Alan Titchmarshes and Monty Dons. I’ll take Chantal, my sweetheart of a neighbour, any time 😉

June 19, 2019

The fickleness of the weather gods

Or maybe it’s just our weather forecasters who aren’t very good? I’ve been trying to get to La Rochelle for weeks now to get my Savannah’s new radio and transponder signed off but have been constantly thwarted by the weather. STAR at La Rochelle said that they could fit me in yesterday but on Monday I declined their offer as my fear, based on the weather forecast at the time, was that although I’d be able to get to La Rochelle OK, when I got back to Malbec I’d be trying to land with a dangerously strong tail wind.

So I said that instead I’d prefer to come to them today as the forecast looked to be for more or less perfect conditions. So what happened? Yesterday turned out to be perfect, and although hot (up to around 30 degrees Celsius), the winds at Malbec remained stubbornly calm. And today? I did the trip, as I’ll go on to describe, but conditions could hardly have been worse!

But before I start, here’s the route that I took. I flew north on a route out over Périgueux that took me to the north of Cognac and back on one that took me to its south. I planned to approach La Rochelle on a straight-in to runway 27 via reporting point Echo and to depart on a south-easterly heading via reporting point Sierra Alpha.

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Things didn’t go off too badly despite my needing to make an early start. I took off exactly on the dot of 7.15 am, which was my target departure time and the only thing that I failed to do was start my little camcorder that this time I’d mounted behind me in the roof of the cabin.

I seem to be jinxed as far as getting videos of my flights is concerned, because although I remembered just as I was approaching Périgueux and turned round to switch it on, yet again the battery pack that I’d attached to it to give me up to around 3 hours of video, possibly more, failed to activate and once again, I only got 1 hours worth before the camcorder’s internal battery was exhausted.

Here’s a shot that I took approaching Périgueux just after I’d turned the camcorder on. Look ahead and you can see an ominous cloud bank that extends left to right from horizon to horizon.

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Here’s a general view of Périgueux. It’s interesting because I don’t usually fly this close to the city.

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Here’s a view of a building in Périgueux that I unfortunately became quite well acquainted with – the main hospital. You can see the yellow paramedic helicopter standing in front of it on its landing pad.

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I took this shot as I was approaching the cloud bank that I mentioned earlier.

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This shot shows me passing over the edge of the cloud bank.

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The cloud cover started off being not too bad as the following two pictures show.

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However, within quite a short time it began to thicken considerably.

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Within a few minutes the cloud cover was total and it became impossible to see the ground. My little camcorder was recording at this time and pretty soon I’ll produce a short video of this part of the flight. In fact the whole of the recording, almost an hour’s worth, is just of me flying over solid cloud cover and the following image is of a screen grab taken from it showing just how thick the cover was.

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Now, I’ve mentioned previously on My Trike that it is up to each individual pilot to decide where their comfort zone is regarding flying over cloud cover and I would never presume to suggest that what I think is safe for me is also good for anyone else. On this occasion, I had plenty of fuel on board and I knew from the actual weather that I could turn around at almost any time and head back to a clear sky.

In fact what I also did was climb as soon as I could and keep calling up La Rochelle Approach, who I could hear talking with other aircraft, until they responded to my call and requested details of their weather to make sure that if I continued on, I’d be able to let down safely before arriving there. They told me that they were VMC with restricted, but legal, visibility due to rain and advised me to call again when I was closer to their area, which I did.

As it turned out, the low cloud cover did clear before then and was replaced by floating clumps of cumulus the closer that I got to the airport, as the following two pictures show.

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However, although the pictures show bright sunshine at the time, this was replaced by a gloomy bank of rain with reduced visibilty that came sweeping in from the north-west and persisted right up until I’d landed and beyond. The controller at La Rochelle was very accommodating. He allowed me any approach that I wanted and called me number 1 to land well before I was really on final.

As a result I allowed myself the amusing experience of hurtling down towards the runway on final for a flapless landing at 160 kmh. The controller probably thought that I was imagining that I was flying an Air France ‘Hop’ ATR like the one that came in shortly after I’d taxied up and parked outside the STAR hangar 🙂

Here’s a shot that I took there showing the ground covered in puddles from the rain that I’d just landed in.

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There’s a very interesting aircraft parked outside the STAR hangar. I couldn’t work out whether it’s still actually flyable or not as it has been stripped out like a jump aircraft with only a pilot’s seat inside. It looks to me as though it’s a Cessna Centurion, although I may be wrong, but with a turbo-prop engine fitted (with an extended nose) instead of its usual large piston engine.

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Here are a couple of general views of La Rochelle airport. I had taken a yellow ‘gilet’ with me just in case the regulations were being enforced but I needn’t have bothered.

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I was wandering around quite freely although I didn’t approach the main apron despite there being only a couple of red metal barriers that would have prevented me from doing so. Everyone that I met just kept saying, ‘Bonjour’ to me. Imagine what the security would have been like at a comparable British airport!

There’s a thriving aero club on the airport and here’s a shot that I took showing its club house and hangar.

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The checks on my new avionics only took a bit less than an hour, I think. The guy used a large item of test equipment, presumably for detecting spurious emissions, but no airborne check was required. I’m guessing that that was because I’d pre-programmed the transponder and all he had to do therefore, was check with the controller that it worked as it should, but I don’t know for sure.

I also found some weird squawk codes in it when I reset it for my departure, like 7776, so he must have done some kind of technical checks on it.

The whole exercise cost 210€ including a reduced landing fee at La Rochelle, and this I am entitled to add to the cost of the equipment plus any other installation charges before claiming the 20% rebate for changing from a 25 kHx radio to an 8.33 kHx one.

I then needed to top the Savannah’s tanks up because I’d used a bit more fuel than I’d planned for on account of there being a stronger headwind. The Avgas facility is self-service and accepts 24 hour bank or credit cards and works the same way as some petrol pumps do in France. You get your card authorised first then pump your gas and it provides you with a receipt once you’ve finished.

The only thing was that before I started, it began to rain again and I had to be careful not to allow water running off the wet nozzle to enter my tanks. And finally, having finished and secured the cabin, it was time to get start up clearance, a squawk code and taxi clearance from the Tower for take off.

The controller was very helpful and accommodating. I said that I’d take off from the mid-way intersection without back-tracking and he said that it would be fine for me to do a left turn-out to exit the CTR at Sierra Alpha. The same controller was working both Tower and Approach and as I left the CTR he bade me a cheery farewell, so not a painful experience at all. And all done in English.

My left turn-out took me over a port industrial area before I continued on parallel to the water’s edge and past La Rochelle itself. It was raining quite heavily by that time as the following pic that I shot at the time shows.

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Here’s another shot taken heading south-eastwards in the rain. Visibility wasn’t too bad though and I knew that the rain would clear as I got further away from the coast.

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Here’s a shot of the northern part of Rochefort, which is on the river Charente to the south of La Rochelle.

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Here’s a shot that I took at the same time looking ahead that appeared to show no immediate prospect of a great improvement in the weather.

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And here’s a shot of the southern part of Rochefort.

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These two shots are of Tonnay Charente. It’s to the south of Rochefort and is almost a suburb of it really.

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I spotted this interesting bridge at Tonnay Charente. I thought at first that it carried the railway over the river, but now I think that it’s a road bridge.

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This is the northern part of Saintes.

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This is a shot of the main area of the city.

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Saintes has an aerodrome of the same name to its west. It’s a bit strange because it’s in two parts – there’s a grass airfield for general aviation traffic and next to it there’s a hard runway that I think is used for military training. The shot is looking straight down the grass runway in the middle of the frame.

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Now a shot of the beautifully laid-out vineyards in the area. It’s surprising to me that the vines thrive in a maritime environment with its relative surfeit of rain, but they do.

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As I flew on, the cloud began to build up again, but nothing like as much as during the flight up.

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There was no possibilty that the ground would be covered but I decided that it would be a good idea to climb above it to avoid the bumps and the need to keep dodging around the floating clumps of cumulus.

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These next two shots were taken while above the main cloud layer although some of the clumps were quite high and there was still the need to dodge through gaps between them from time to time.

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I eventually arrived back at Malbec and it was time to let down for a landing in conditions that were quite thermic. In fact I ended up shoving on full flap (40 degrees) on final to give me enough drag to get down after being on the receiving end of a big lump of lift, but it all worked out fine and I was glad to be back after a successful mission.

My total distance flown was 444 kms. My logged time including taxying heading north from Malbec to La Rochelle was 2 hours and 5 minutes and my return time was 1 hour 45. I started with full tanks (70/72 litres 98 octane mogas) and added 27.49 litres of Avgas 100 at La Rochelle for the princely sum of 58.20€. That equates to 2.117€ per litre, so rather expensive juice. I estimate, but didn’t check closely, that I have just over half tanks remaining, so I got my usual approx. 15 litres/hour from the Savannah.

All in all I was very well pleased with the day’s results and greatly enjoyed the flight and the experience of landing at a new, large airport with all of its associated procedures. My only disappointment is that my guizmo that controls the Savannah’s hour meter is only working intermittently, so I guess that there’s a poor connection somewhere.

Oh well, it’s going to be bad weather for flying this week end, so maybe it’ll be a good time to pull the new panel out again to investigate. And also find out why my oil temperature gauge isn’t working. It never ends, does it 😕

June 18, 2019

La Rochelle here I come!

I phoned STAR this morning as requested and we agreed that as tomorrow will be the last weather window for several more days, they would squeeze me in. But there’s a sting in the tail. They want to do my check first thing in the morning which means my arriving at their workshop by 9.00 am.

I’ve checked the weather and it looks as though I’ll benefit from a light tail wind on the way up (and possibly one on the way back, even) but it means that I must take off from Malbec by at the latest 7.15 am tomorrow morning.

I’ve spoken to ATC who have given me permission to land at La Rochelle (as I’ll be flying an ULM) and they’ll be expecting me at around 8.45 am, so as 77ASY is fuelled up and ready to go, it’s now just a matter of seeing how everything works out. I must admit to being quite excited about the whole thing.

Changing the subject, on Saturday Wim and I noticed that 77ASY’s compass was well out (by around 30 degrees) on some headings and although this hasn’t worried me up to now as I always fly using my GPS, I thought that I ought to do something about it. So this afternoon I swung the compass.

I couldn’t see how to do it in the beginning but the two tiny screws securing a small panel on the face of the compass aren’t used to do the adjustments as I originally thought but instead allow you to pull the face off the unit when they’re removed, giving access to the adjustment screws.

I was quite surprised to find that the error on the N/S axis was actually quite small but that on the E/W axis was huge. Maybe this was something to do with my having removed the old panel top edging, which contained metal, and replaced it with a rubber type that contains none.

Anyway, I did the adjustments as best I could being as I can’t install a compass app on my phone and had to rely on a print out of the yard outside the barn that I took off Google Earth and on which I’d overlaid the N/S and E/W axes. I estimate that the compass error in any direction is now no more than 5 degrees and it’ll be interesting to see how it correlates with my calculated headings during tomorrow’s flight.

Oh well, it’s nearly 7.00 pm… best to think about getting to bed… 😉

June 16, 2019

Corrèze, Lot and Dordogne

Wim and I enjoyed a super flight together in the Savannah today. It came about because while on a walking break last week in The Corrèze, Wim met a gentleman who mentioned that there was a small airfield in his commune that needed visitors.

He said that as mayor of the commune, he would like to keep the airfield going but with fewer and fewer visitors arriving there, if there was local pressure to close it, he would find it difficult to resist if it remained virtually unused as it is at the moment.

So this morning Wim and I set off on a round-trip taking in LF1951 Les Chansèves, near Argentat in the Corrèze, Figeac-Livernon in the Lot and Sarlat-Domme in the Dordogne, a total distance of 193 kms and a flight time in the Savannah allowing for landings and take offs of around 2 hours.

We took off from Malbec at around 10.00 am in superb, almost calm conditions after the morning mist had burnt off in most places with small fluffy patches of broken cumulus with a base of about 2500 feet, the height at which we were flying. Here’s an image showing our route.

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It was almost possible to trim 77ASY and let it fly itself, although not quite, but nevertheless the flight to Les Chansèves was almost effortless and took almost dead-on 40 minutes by the time we’d joined and landed. Wim had been unable to get in touch with his contact to let him know we were coming so unsurprisingly the airfield, which has a 740 metre long hard runway, was deserted.

What a pity because it was a super little airfield with a very fine medium-size hangar that appeared to be empty as far as we could see through a crack in the locked door. Sadly, although there was a tractor there with a large mower on the back of it, the airfield grass was very long and unkempt although this failed to hide the huge potential that the airfield has. Here are some shots of the airfield environs and 77ASY parked at the top of the runway.

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We thought that what the airfield could do with to revitalise it would be a fly-in as all of the requisites are there, and Wim is going to suggest this to his friend when he can get in touch with him. If he doesn’t know how to go about doing it, we could maybe give him a hand, which would be good fun I think. After having a general look around, we climbed back into the Savannah and took off heading south for Figeac.

The route took us over Biars-sur-Cère, a small town on the east bank of the Dordogne and while Wim was piloting 77ASY I took a few shots out of my cabin window as we approached and flew overhead.

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A bit further on we flew close to St-Céré to the west of which there is a large chateau perched up on the top of a hill (Château de Castelnau Bretenoux). I took some shots of it as we flew past but they don’t do it justice and Wim said that it is actually a lot more impressive at ground level because then you get the full impression of its size.

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Shortly afterwards we landed at Figeac-Livernon and taxied in. As we’re finding is more and more usual in our part of France, there was very little going on there.

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There were two other ULMs, an old Skyranger and a Jabiru, on the parking and after we’d chatted for a few minutes, they left as there was nowhere that we could get a cup of coffee or any other refreshments and not long after they’d gone, we also took off for Sarlat-Domme. Here’s a shot of Gourdon off to our left as we flew by.

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And here are a couple of shots of 77ASY parked at Sarlat-Domme, not that I really needed any more as I have tons just like them already.

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Sadly for such a beautiful day, there wasn’t that much going on at Sarlat, even. In the nearly an hour that we were there, the parachute Piper Skyhawk took off and released a couple of tandem jumpers but aside fom a couple of other movements, that was about it. Luckily, although there was nothing doing in the flying club, where you can help yourself to a cold drink if you wish and leave the cash behind the bar, the Air Chateau outdoor café was open so we were able to grab a cup of coffee each.

Behind the bar there was a young English guy named Josh who apparently flies for Air Chateau and also does a bit of everything else apparently, including keeping bar if needed. He wasn’t overworked, though, because aside from us there was only a sprinkling of members of the public who’d come out with their children to enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s sad that we’re finding more and more that even quite large airfields in our corner of France are almost deserted when you go into them and you can but be concerned for their future if this continues.

After taking off on runway 28, we turned right to head back to Malbec and as Wim piloted 77ASY I took a few shots of the village of Domme perched on its hilltop. I’ve never actually visited it the whole of the time that I’ve been here and really must make the effort some time as it’s a very pretty little place.

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As we flew north, we could hear the jabber of pilots at Belvès flying circuits, as they had been doing during the whole of our flight, plus one or two more from longer distances. But really, the airwaves were not half as active as I’ve heard them in the past. Our landing at Malbec was uneventful despite conditions having becoming more turbulent as the temperature increased, to something like 24 or 25 degrees Celsius.

Later on I returned and topped 77ASY’s tanks up because the next few days are going to be fine and will present a good window for my flight to La Rochelle for the Savannah’s avionics check. I’m going to call the station up early tomorrow and, who knows, if they say that they can fit me in straight away, with full tanks I could get away immediately. I’ll have to see what they say 😉

June 14, 2019

More microelectronics

Here’s the latest incarnation of the little microelectronic guizmo that I installed in my Savannah to control its hour meter.

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The components were quite inexpensive. All of the inline components came in multi-packs (mostly 20s and 50s but just 5 for things like the transistor and diode) and as I bought two of the Arduino microprocessors, the second when I realised that the first one that I’d ordered was going to take weeks to come direct from China, I only had to order a second integrated circuit when it arrived to be able to make a second complete unit.

It occurred to me that this was quite a good idea. 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, uses G-MYRO’s old instrument panel which incorporates an hour meter that runs in the old-fashioned way from the charging circuit incorporating a very large capacitor, presumably so the meter only started running after a threshold voltage had been attained. You can see it in the following pic that I took way back when I was originally rebuilding MYRO.

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The problem was that the system has never worked correctly. When I initially got MYRO back in the air, the hour meter ran for a very short time and then stopped, never to go again. I didn’t bother finding out why and just recorded engine and airframe hours in the relevant log books from the figures that I took down at the time.

I thought that it was maybe down to just a bad connection, but now I don’t think that that was the reason, because exactly the same thing has happened again now that the panel is being used again in 28AAD. I suspect that the problem is down to the large capacitor deteriorating with age. It actually didn’t originally come from MYRO but instead from the AX3 whose panel I acquired to replace MYRO’s old one that was in a very bad state.

But in any case, it is now over 20 years old so is probably not working at all in the way that it is supposed to. So that gave me the idea that rather than waste the components for the second little microelectronic guizmo, I should instead use them to make a second unit to replace the capacitor in 28AAD’s hour meter circuit and get it working again, and that’s precisely what I’ve done.

Here’s a shot of the reverse of the unit showing the soldering – not very pretty maybe, but it works fine and won’t be visible and therefore won’t matter when the circuitry has been potted in clear silicone.

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And here’s a shot of the unit with its connector in place.

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My ‘Version 2’ is slightly shorter than my original because this time, on the advice of Sean in the UK who provided me with the circuit details and the programming, I’ve ‘hidden’ some components in the space under the Arduino microprocessor. Here are the details of the circuit and my layout.

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As 28AAD has a Rotax 503 2-stroke engine that runs at higher revs than my Savannah’s 912S, I’ve programmed the microprocessor differently, for the hour meter to begin reading at 4000 rpm and to stop at 2000 rpm. This is because the 503 engine typically warms up at 3000 rpm and the revs only then fall to 2000 when its being switched off after taxying in.

I’ll be finishing the unit off tomorrow, probably, while the weather is still unsettled and I’m looking forward to seeing how it then performs when installed in 28AAD.

June 8, 2019

28AAD local jolly

I realised the other day that the centre pin in the BNC connector on 28AAD’s antenna cable was missing and as this would mean that I couldn’t use my Vertex radio kit in it, I needed to order a new connector. In fact I ordered two, from a German supplier who, unlike those in France, realises that if you spend only a few euros to purchase some items on line, it doesn’t make sense to then quote 20-30€ in carriage.

In fact, because their delivery charge was so reasonable (under 6€ from Germany), I actually bought more than I was originally going to from their web site and have bookmarked it for future use. Read, mark and learn, French suppliers.

The parcel arrived today so late this afternoon I went to Malbec to fit one onto 28AAD’s antenna cable, and as the flying conditions were still very pleasant, decided to go off in it afterwoods for a little local jolly. It was about time too, because I haven’t flown 28AAD since September of last year and I therefore thought that it would be a good idea to do a few landings at the usual places, Galinat and Condat.

I didn’t bother planning a flight but instead just loaded an old one into my tablet, fired it up and off I went. I took a few shots along the way, and as there are only eight, thought that I wouldn’t bother choosing the best ones and to show them all below. The first two are of 28AAD at Galinat.

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Now one of 28AAD at Condat. There was some kind of party or function going on there and everyone watched me come into land, which was a bit disconcerting as the crosswind on the approach was playing some very weird little games.

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I then returned for a second landing at Galinat and here are some shots that I took as I approached and passed overhead Montignac.

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And finally, a couple of shots after I’d returned to Malbec of both of my aircraft in the barn there. I tried turning 28AAD round this time with its nose towards the back corner and it does seem to have given more room to push 77ASY further in.

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I put 28AAD up for sale on Le Bon Coin a few weeks ago but my asking price was a bit high and although there was some interest, there were no takers. Time to re-do the ad, I think, as it doesn’t make sense keeping two aircraft, and quite honestly, I don’t now enjoy flying the slow little Weedhopper half as much as I do the Savannah. It would be really nice to find a good home for her with an owner who will appreciate her more than I do.

June 4, 2019

Oh dear…

I spoke earlier to STAR, the organisation in La Rochelle who do the official avionics checks and sign installations off. It turns out that they can’t do anything for me before next week and certainly not this coming Thursday, which would look to be a good weather window to fly up there.

Next Monday is a national holiday in France, so that would be out and it looks as though the weather will be poor then anyway. It also looks as though the poor weather will continue for most of next week right up until Friday at the earliest with some days in between being quite stormy.

So it looks as though I’m entering yet another French marathon and I bet that it will be two or three weeks from now before I get my Savannah’s new radio and transponder signed off. If the weather’s poor I couldn’t fly anyway but if there are a few good days, I’d keep flying and using the kit in any case as nobody is going to check. Plus I always have the Weedhopper to fly if I want to.

But what it does do until the check has been completed is take away my own discretion as to when I’ll be able to fly to the UK and that’s what rankles. The last time I went, back in 2016, it was in August and I’d hoped to make it before then this time around. If things happened when you asked for them to it wouldn’t matter, but this bureaucracy when you have to hang around waiting for things at ‘their’ convenience is a damn nuisance 😐

June 2, 2019

Microelectronics update

I forget to mention after my flight on Friday, how the little microprocessor that I put in to control my hour meter performed.

I started the Savannah’s engine at 10.43 am and allowed the engine to warm up for 7 minutes during which time the hour meter did not run. I then taxied for take off at 10.50 am and switched off at Ste-Foy-la-Grande at 11.30 am, recording a flight time of 40 minutes. The hour meter showed an increase of 36 minutes, so just a bit less.

I switched on again at 11.43 am and began taxying, taking off shortly thereafter and switched off again at Sarlat-Domme at 12.35 am. This gave me a flight time of 52 minutes and the hour meter showed an increase of 49 minutes.

After enjoying a Coke at Sarlat, I taxied the short distance from the parking and took off at 13.00 pm. I switched off at Malbec at 13.20 pm giving a flight time of 20 minutes during which time the hour meter increased by 18 minutes.

I’m happy with that. The hour meter doesn’t start running now immediately the master is switched on and I don’t mind the recorded hours being a bit less than ‘actual’ to make up (a) for the times when the master has been left on inadvertently (well over an hour, if not more, for me alone) and (b) for when the meter was over-reading during every flight in the past.

So that’ll do me. If it keeps running reliably as from now, I’ll leave it alone to work away quietly behind the panel. All I have to do now is find out why the oil temperature gauge isn’t working and I’ll be a happy bunny 🙂

May 31, 2019

Check flight done

We have had a beautiful day today and are still enjoying it at the time of typing this, which is earlier than usual. The reason is that there’s a Marché Gormande at Plazac this evening which I’m going to as it’s the first one of the season.

They are great fun. The village has put out marquees for the attendees with trestle tables and chairs and on the evening, which starts at 7.00 pm, there will be lots of vendors of many different types of food and refreshments. Then you go around to see what’s on offer, choose what you want, buy some wine to go with it and sit down with your friends and enjoy it. Plazac usually has a little band as well providing music, so it’ll be good fun.

But that’s not the reason for this post, which is about the flight I did this morning in F-JHHP to check its new radio and transponder with Bergerac. Everything went just fine. I asked the controller for a radio and transponder check but he was a bit busy and just responded normally to my radio calls, so I assume that’s working OK. He also gave me a squawk code and there was no adverse response, so I’m assuming that’s OK too.

We had a QNH of 1025 today, so quite high. I seemed to detect quite a discrepancy between the transponder FL and my altimeter readout and I’ve been a bit concerned about the latter for a little while. It’s too early to say whether it’s inaccurate or not so for now I’ll just keep my eye on it.

The flight was from Malbec to Sainte-Foy-la-Grande via the Bergerac reporting points NE and NW to the north of the Bergerac zone and then from Ste Foy to Sarlat to the south. I wasn’t intending to take any pictures as that wasn’t the purpose of the flight, plus it became very thermic as the flight went on, but I did fire off a few shots.

Here’s a shot of Ste-Foy-la-Grande as I climbed out en route for Sarlat.

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A bit further on to the east of the town I noticed this newish golf or country club, presumably where the Ste Foy wine barons go to get their weekly exercise.

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Here’s a shot I took of the airfield at Belvès in the middle distance as I flew on my way.

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Here’s a shot of the old town of Belvès itself perched up on it’s promontory overlooking the surrounding farmland.

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To finish off, here’s a shot of the new panel actually in use. It shows the squawk code that Bergerac gave me which I was no longer using as I was by then back to squawking 7000. When I took the shot I was being thrown around quite a bit by the thermic bumps so I’m surprised how well it came out. As you can see, I’m not getting an oil temperature readout so I’ll have to find out why that is.

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So that was mission accomplished. I can now go ahead and arrange an appointment at La Rochelle to get the installation checked and signed off, which you have to do here with a brand-new set up and every 6 years thereafter. Sadly, the weather doesn’t look as though it’s going to play ball during the coming week so I’ll just have to remain patient and see how it turns out. Oh, and by the way, my second new headset arrived today so I’ll be well set up for it.

May 29, 2019

A satisfying day

The new Polini primer bulb arrived today for the Weedhopper. I think it should be called the Picollo Polini because it turned out to be the smallest primer bulb that I’ve ever seen! You couldn’t tell, of course, from the pictures on the internet but it is about half the size of the one it’s replacing, so a quarter of the volume! Here’s a shot of it after I’d fitted it.

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I didn’t start the Weedhopper’s engine today but I did try the primer out and, oh well, I guess I’ll just have to get used to giving it a few more pumps before every flight!

I had another little job that I wanted to do on the Weedhopper today. Way back in 2011 before I came to France, one of the feet on MYRO’s panel got damaged in the landing incident when I was flipped over by the wind. I repaired it at the time as the following pics show.

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MYRO’s panel is now being used in the Weedhopper, of course, and that repair has lasted all this time. However, I noticed a short time ago that it had snapped again, probably as a result of being stressed differently in a different aircraft and pod, so I did another, albeit rather poor, repair in-situ.

I realised a few days ago that that repair had failed again so did another yesterday using heavy duty 2-part epoxy compound that I hope will last forever. Today I went back to the repair and used the same epoxy soaked into fibreglass matting to add much needed strengthening to the rear surface and that I’m sure will do it.

Then onto the Savannah. I’m now on the final stretch of what has turned out to be a longer journey than I expected. When I replaced its screen a couple of years or so ago I also replaced the covering material on the top of its instrument panel. I couldn’t make up my mind what to use at the time and ended up buying two types, a foam backed leatherette that I eventually used, and a fuzzy black car-boot lining type of material.

The floor of the Savannah used to have some kind of covering which was removed before I acquired it and since redoing its panel top, I’ve always intended to use the left-over car-boot type material as interior carpet as it closely matches the material that’s used in the rest of the cabin.

So that’s what I also did today. I cut the pieces out that were needed and fixed them to the bare metal floor using two-sided carpet tape so they won’t move or lift and get under my feet, and here are some shots of the final result.

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So I’m very pleased with today’s results which bring me close to finishing the work that was needed on both aircraft. I’ll need to finish rubbing down the Weedhopper’s panel repair and put some colour onto it and then it’ll be all ready to be readvertised. Hopefully now that summer seems to be about to start (temperatures up around the 30 degrees Celsius mark in the next few days) there will be a heightened level of interest from potential buyers.

The Savannah is all ready to go now. Depending on what I have to do over the next couple of days I may fly tomorrow, which is a national holiday in France, or Friday and see if I can do my planned radio and transponder checks with Bergerac. It’ll also be great to get back up into the air in it again, both aircraft actually, and get a few landings in. I’m looking forward to it very much 😉

May 26, 2019

Wash and brush-up… and a warning!

Now that the Savannah’s new instrument panel is finished, I need to test the new avionics before I make an appointment to get the system signed off at La Rochelle. But before I can do that, I needed to give the aircraft a good clean. Both aircraft, actually, because while they’ve been standing in the barn they’d both acquired a thick coating of yellow pollen.

In the seven years that I’ve been here, I can’t recall seeing so much in such a short time, but maybe that was because only my old X-Air was in the barn for the last few years and it had plastic covers on it. Anyway, today was the day for both 77ASY (or F-JHHP if you like) and 28AAD to be wheeled out into the sun and given a good old wash and brush-up to get the pollen and other muck off (loads of mouse droppings on 28AAD’s port wing) and get them looking good again.

Here’s are some shots of my now-reduced (from three to two) fleet in the yard after I’d finished both aircraft.

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And even though there was nobody around today to give me a hand by being on the other end with my Vertex portable, I also managed to test the Savannah’s new radio with its engine running. I had concerns that there might be something going on when the engine was running to cause interference or even some kind of signal breakdown.

The reason for that was because the last time I flew to the UK and was flying around the Solent controlled airspace, they complained that due to my signal being so bad, they couldn’t read my callsign but said not to worry so long as I remained clear of their zone. So that was not at all satisfactory and it needed to be addressed.

I did the check by myself quite simply by setting my portable up in my car next to my phone which I put into sound record mode. Then I went off into the Savannah, started the engine up and made a few test transmissions.

One of my new headsets arrived on Saturday so I was using that for the test (incidentally, the headset is in fantastic condition – absolutely like new) and I’m delighted to say that I needn’t have worried. You can hear the hiss of the carrier wave but even with the Heath Robinson set up that I was using, the transmissions were clear as a bell and completely interference free.

So that was a great relief and now I just need to run a test on the transponder. I’ve decided that now I know that the radio is OK, I’ll do a flight this coming week just outside the Bergerac Class D airspace and give them a call to see if they’ll run a test of my transponder for me. They get so little traffic, I think that they’ll be pleased to give me a hand, so I’ll see how it goes.

Now a few more shots of my fleet standing in the sun – actually, it was beating down the whole time that I was washing them and then nipped behind a huge cloud just as I got my camera out.

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And now the warning. After I’d finished up I thought that as I haven’t flown it for a while, I’d do a short flight in the Weedhopper and take in a couple of landings. So having climbed in and got myself belted up, a gave the rubber primer bulb a couple of squeezes… and got showered with fuel!

The bulb had been eaten through by the alcohol in the fuel. I was absolutely shocked even though this is not the first time that this has happened with this aircraft. But what makes it shocking is that the failed bulb was only replaced with a brand new one a few months ago, in September of last year as I recall. This is clearly a serious potential hazard which, although I was aware of it as it happened previously, is evidently much worse than I originally thought.

I confess that the two bulbs that failed were inexpensive ones ie Chinese rubbish that were bought on Ebay and Amazon I think, and this time around I have ordered one which is a bit more expensive and branded Polini, the paramotor manufacturer. I hope that when it’s fitted, it lasts longer than the others because the last thing you want when flying at 2000 feet is to start being sprayed with fuel.

And to make it even worse, today I had to compress the fuel pipe with Mole grips to stop it because it was syphoning out of the three-quarters full tanks. Imagine having 30 or 40 litres of fuel being dumped over you while you look for a suitable field in which to land. Not very nice at all 🙁