May 21, 2007

Nothing Doing …… (Almost)

Well, something like 10 days have slipped by and we’ve been able to get very little accomplished in that time. But not quite nothing!

Managed to make contact with our local BMAA Inspector who will have the job of giving our trike a thorough look-over and deciding whether she’ll get her Permit To Fly or not. Anyway, that’s still a few weeks down the line. His name’s Jim and he sounds like a very nice chap indeed. Obviously safety must always remain the top-most priority but already the differences between microlights and Group A light aircraft, that we’ve been used to in the past, are becoming apparent. With the former, you’re discouraged from touching anything on your aircraft whereas the opposite seems to apply with microlights.

The policy seems to be to positively encourage you to do things yourself (on the assumption you do have some idea what you’re doing, of course) and I think this is a very good thing. The more you get to know about your aircraft, how it’s made, what the various parts do, how it goes together and, more importantly, the condition it’s in, surely the safer it will be for both you and your passengers. Not even a complete fool would risk flying something they know to be unsafe, and how can they know that unless they’ve been all over it with their own eyes and hands, touching, feeling, removing and replacing bits, tightening nuts, checking cables, fabric, components and so on. Luckily I’m pretty experienced in those things, but for other less experienced owners who have yet to learn, that surely is why at the end of it all you have an experienced inspector go over it with a fine tooth comb just to make sure you haven’t done anything silly. Anyway, in my book, it’s a good system.

What else have we done? Well, not much unfortunately. I got hold of some excellent 4-core multi-strand cable at the weekend but the FA Cup Final saw to it that the old cabling didn’t get replaced. After watching the match I almost wish I’d spent the time working on the trike instead!

A grudging ‘Well Done’ to Chelsea 😐

May 9, 2007

Getting Our Hands Dirty

Well, the Bank Holiday weekend came and went. The weather forecast for Sunday wasn’t good (in fact the weather turned out not too bad as it goes..) so Ken suggested going down to Popham on Saturday. I’d already told my son that I’d fit new brake pads on his car – how come sons nowadays don’t seem to be able to do half the things we had to at their age….. or are they just cleverer than we were and can always get their Dads to do things for them instead? So I couldn’t go and Ken went down by himself – said it was a terrific show and that he’s never seen so many microlights of all types and sizes, together in one place. Oh well, too bad that I had to miss it.

But come Monday I decided that come what may, we’d get our hands dirty. The day started alternately bright then overcast, but always breezy. We thought we’d nip down to Rochester Microlights to see if we could get any first hand advice on what we needed to do by way of stripping and inspection for the Permit to Fly.

On the way down it stayed breezy and there were a few spots of rain on the windscreen. It was great to get back to Rochester Airport. It’s where we kept the group Cherokee before we sold it back in the 80s and I don’t think I’ve been back since. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be driving onto an airfield – funny thing is although we’ve only got a microlight and it isn’t even flying yet, I’m already beginning to feel ‘part’ of it again.

Anyway, you’ve guessed it, because of the weather there was no flying going on at all, let alone of microlights, so the office was empty and locked up. So we nipped into the airfield restaurant. I just love how restaurants on small airfields all seem to have the same atmosphere – two cheery ladies behind the counter and bacon butties on the go the whole time. We had a mug of tea each and the largest sausage rolls you could ever see, with 3 big fat sausages inside.

On the way back the sky darkened and the heavens literally opened into the most intense deluge I’ve seen for a very long time. Even with the wipers on full speed, we could hardly see the road ahead and traffic had to slow right down. I’d hoped to start work on the Trike in the open air but that was impossible. Luckily the garage it’s in has pretty good lighting so we were able to get started anyway.

By the way, while we were getting going inside, Toddie, my Springer was outside in the rain. Like all Spaniels, he loves water and getting soaking wet and filthy dirty are doggie heaven for him. There are plenty of opportunities for him to do both at Ken’s so I suppose you could say that despite the weather, everyone was happy 🙂

Unlike most trikes, ours has got electric start which uses a small battery in a holder below the main tube just in front of the engine. So the first job was to disconnect it. We then started off by removing the mainwheel spats (quite easy) and then I thought it might be a good idea to remove the nose pod so we could get a good look at the nose gear. Bad idea – very bad. After removing all the mounting fixings and a lot more besides including a length of wire locking (that will now have to be replaced) between the pod and the main frame, we couldn’t see any way barring magic or a hacksaw to separate the pod from the frame. I think we’ll just have to hope that the engineer who does the inspection will be able to see enough with the pod in place, so when we’ve done all we can in the nose area, we’ll just refit everything and hope for the best, I think.

Ken had to finish early but I pressed on and had a really productive few hours. I checked the plugs (nice and new, no wear) and found them to be very oily. Not surprising I guess being as it’s a two-stroke engine with inverted cylinders (still no new pics yet, I’m afraid – just too dark today). Compression seemed OK so enough oil must be able to drain down the cylinder walls and foul the plugs if it stands for a while. Must remember that for the future – might have to remove and clean the plugs as a pre-flight check before starting the engine if it’s been standing for several days, as it inevitably will do.

Here’s a pic taken by the previous owner showing the engine.

Our Trike's Fuji 2-Stroke Engine

I was then able to check every tube, nut, bolt, joint, mounting, cable, locking pin and locking ring from the rear of the Trike (including the engine) down to the cockpit. I was really happy with the progress made and glad to find, as far as I could see, no major problems. I did find a bit of abrasion damage that somehow looks to have been caused by a cable when the frame has been folded down, on the right hand main undercarriage strut. The integrity and strength of the strut do not look to have been impaired and hopefully this will not be regarded by the engineer as a serious problem.

So at the end of the day, we were able to make a good start on the pre-inspection work we need to do before the Inspector gets his hands on the machine. We now need to get hold of 2-3 metres of good quality 4-core cable to replace the telephone cable that’s been used to connect the instruments (incredible isn’t it!!), do the checks we need to on and around the front section of the Trike and that’ll just leave the wing. I reckon just another weekend should do it for the main frame, controls, engine and body. But the wing, ahhhh… that’s a whole new bag of worms. I doubt failure of a trike frame is ever responsible for an accident but wings can and do break if they are not in perfect condition.

We will need to get it assembled and thoroughly check the tubes, battens, joints, cables and fabric and as we don’t even know yet how to assemble it as mentioned in the previous post, we have a small mountain to climb in that direction. But we’ll press on undaunted and think about that in a week or so, when the time comes 😉

May 1, 2007

First Visual Check

Sorry, no pics for this posting.

We had our first fairly close look at things over the weekend. No major problems found. The engine gauge actually shows RPM and engine temperature and doesn’t seem to be working properly. Hardly surprising as someone looks to have used single strand household telephone cable, which is very fragile at the best of times, to connect it (!!) and the connections look very dodgy. The in-line fuse may have gone as well, but none of this matters as we will be renewing all electrical wiring (there’s not much) in any case.

More importantly, there’s no sign of any airframe damage or corrosion and all the cables look good as well. The airspeed indicator wasn’t connected (plastic tube from gauge was not connected to nose venturi) and when it was reconnected it tested fine. Left rear tyre was almost flat so it’ll probably need a new tube or maybe just a valve core. Add it to the list!

Laid the wing out for the first time. Have to confess that without having the manual with us, we couldn’t fully assemble it! Lots of tubes and battens have to be carefully inserted and secured in the right places and exactly how wasn’t immediately obvious. It has to be done right, of course. Bit of a learning curve there I think. One thing we did find was a tiny bit of abrasion damage – a small hole near the right wing tip caused by a metal stub on the wing leading edge tube being left unprotected and rubbing against the wing fabric during transit. Looks to have happened some time ago, but what a silly thing for someone to have allowed to happen. Otherwise the wing looks to be excellent, but it’ll have to have what’s called a Betts Test. The Permit to Fly Inspection Notes state that ‘major’ fabric damage has to be repaired. This probably wouldn’t be classed as that but we’ll still see what’s needed to get it fixed as we’d like to start with a ‘clean sheet’ so to speak.

I’ve been collecting info and advice on what we need to do next. I’ve been told that forms and other info are on the UK CAA and BMAA web sites so I’ll be checking those out soon. First thing will be to get the trike re-registered with the CAA and then we’ll need to make contact with a local BMAA Inspector. But we’ve decided that we’ll strip all the ancillaries, like the pod, side fabric and spats off first so we can get a good look at what’s underneath, as we’re sure he’ll want to do that.

We have May Day weekend coming up and a holiday on Monday 7th so we hope to get the stripping well underway. We’re probably going off to a Microlight show at Popham on the Sunday (good opportunity to see how the wing goes together eh 😉 ) so hope to return with bags of new-found knowledge.

That’s all for now.