May 30, 2009

3 down….

Remember how you used to feel when you ran all the way home from school to tell your Mum how well you had just done in your test? Well I feel a bit like that just now.

I went off to bed quite early last night after going through my revision notes for the Nth time, but I don’t think it did me that much good as I woke up even earlier than usual with my mind racing with stuff to do with air law and goodness knows what. So I got up, had breakfast, took the dog for a quick walk, read through my notes for the N+1th time and skipped through a few mock exams on the Internet. Then I left with plenty of time to spare looking forward to a serene drive down to the strip. After only a mile or so I drove slap bang into the traffic heading into the European Open Golf at the London Golf Club and although to start off with my heart sank, because it was still quite early there wasn’t too much of it and I soon got through. Made a mental note, though, to come back on the M2 rather than the M20 because it was bound to be much worse later.

When I arrived at the strip, Rosie was just about to take a lucky young chap on a 25th birthday jaunt in the Icarus so I had to wait for an hour before she returned. In the meantime got chatting with the young man’s girlfriend (lucky young man πŸ˜‰ ) and another guy called Mike who, it turned out was also there to do an exam. But just the one, though, Air Law. Mike didn’t know it then, but he had a bit of a shock in store. He only came to do Air Law but because I was doing three, Rosie ‘shamed’ him into doing three as well! Now that kind of thing can spoil your whole day, can’t it 😯

Any way, I rattled the three exams off and waited while Rosie got out her templates to mark them. She’s a devil – the first one she moved the template over so it looked as though I’d only got a few answers right. Now that’s just being unkind to an old pilot isn’t it πŸ™‚

So how’d I do? Not so bad – Air Law 85%, Human Performance 90% and Aircraft General 86%. So three not-too-bad passes. That’ll do me πŸ™‚

Just one thing though for any trainee pilots who might be reading this – I found Air Law a bit tricky mainly because I’d relied on an old edition of Cosgrove and hadn’t obtained enough more recent, up-to-date stuff. Consequently many of the questions were totally new to me. Now I’m not saying I guessed – some yes and those I got mainly wrong – but I had to struggle to remember snippets and things I’d read or come across that I hadn’t consciously tried to learn. That’s a risky approach and I think I was lucky to come out of it as well as I did.

Now what else? Well, for starters, Rosie gave me MYRO’s ignition key πŸ™‚ I said that with many people returning home after a week’s holiday, it would probably be very busy on the M2 this weekend, so it would probably be best if I picked up MYRO on an evening this coming week. So that’s how we left it. I mentioned in an earlier post that MYRO’s wings are hanging up on the wall of a hangar, and here they are.

MYRO's wings

MYRO's wings

I can’t wait to get them back on and be up in the air in MYRO again πŸ™‚

May 29, 2009

Gotta get going now

At last! My cheque has now cleared so MYRO is paid for and the next job is to get it moved up from Rosie’s to my garage. I’ve still got a few things I need to clear even after taking car load after car load down to the local waste disposal site, but I think there’s just about room now. Quite a few things I chucked away were ‘new’ especially stuff I cleared from a shop I used to have several years ago. But that’s the point – it was now out of date and obsolete so there was no use in keep hanging onto it. After all, it’s been in there for something over 10 years. Yes, I have to admit that a lot of the stuff I have got rid of was even older – just shows the extent of the problem doesn’t it, and I bet I’m far from unique πŸ˜•

Maybe it’s a generation thing – it’s still an awful wrench seeing perfectly good stuff going into the rubbish but I kept forcing myself to remember why I was doing it. Then it became a whole lot easier πŸ™‚

As I type this we’re enjoying what is probably the best day of the year so far here in South-East England. When I took the dog out earlier the sky was blue and cloudless and it looked as though it was developing into a scorcher. Now I notice that we’ve got broken cumulus and a light breeze but the sun is really hot when it comes out from behind a cloud. But in any case, there’s no flying for me just now. I’ve arranged with Rosie to sit three of the five exams I have to do for my NPPL tomorrow morning, Air Law, Human Performance and Aircraft General. In a post on a forum I belong to I said that having passed them before when I was a lot younger in many ways, the fear of failure is greater than the fear of the exams themselves. If I do badly maybe it would turn on a light bulb in my brain that I am getting older and ‘past it’ and that’s a bit scary 😯

This is the first time since starting on Our Trike that I’ve really had to face up to that thought and how things go tomorrow will in some ways be an ‘acid test’. I’ve probably done more work for the exams this time round than when I got my PPL over 30 years ago but when you’re young you’re still used to being in exam mode and it’s a bit harder when you’re older. Anyway, time to sign off this post and get my notes out again. Gotta get going if I’m going to do as well as I want to πŸ˜‰

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my Mum – she’s 90 today, God bless her.

May 16, 2009

Weather…. oh dear

The winds are back. I won’t be flying for a little while for obvious reasons and Rosie’s on hols anyway. But I have great sympathy for all the other microlight flyers right now.

Remember this. It’s a 5-day weather forecast that I put into a post last September. Well, we seem to be drifting into the same sort of weather cycle as we had last Autumn. Take a look at the forecast below that I’ve just obtained from the Met Office for the same area, Canterbury, where I usually fly from.

Eerily similar isn’t it. Last Autumn the winds just went on and on (and on πŸ˜• ) for day after day – it seemed more like weeks actually. Just hope that doesn’t happen again. Microlighters need, and are due, a good Summer, especially after the last couple, so let’s hope the cycle breaks soon and we move into weather that’s a bit more summery and settled.

May 13, 2009

Joined up

It’s been 2 years since we got hold of Our Trike and although Ken was, and still is, a member of the BMAA, for all that time up until yesterday I still wasn’t. Well, I thought it was about time I joined that elite circle ( πŸ˜€ sarcasm never was my forte) so I flashed the Mastercard and pretty soon the deed was done. I don’t feel any differentΒ  – but just wait until my Captain’s cap and wings arrive in the post. 😎

What …….. they don’t?Β Β Β  πŸ™

May 12, 2009

Blog theme – again

I mentioned in an earlier post at the turn of the year that I was changing the theme – or appearance – of the Our Trike blog and for several months up until just recently I was using a bright green theme called Apples.

Well, it seems there was something not quite right about Apples. It appears that the designer had included some hidden code linking to another web site and a few days ago, because that site had gone down, it prevented Apples from loading. So anyone visiting Our Trike would find that the progress bar in the bottom right of their browser would stop half way and Our Trike would never actually come up.

So obviously I had to do something about it. I changed very quickly to another theme that worked but as it was one that I’d previously rejected, I didn’t want to stay with it. Since then I’ve installed and tried over twenty different ones. Some I just didn’t like but several that I did like either didn’t have features that I wanted or just didn’t work as they were supposed to. Β  πŸ˜•

I installed a theme called Refresh which I liked better than any that I’d seen, including Apples. But dang me, there was something funny about some of the headings that were coming out too big and too dark. So I had to discard it and try something else that I wasn’t really happy with. But I just couldn’t let it drop. I thought I’d try to find Refresh on a different download site, which I did. I installed it and for some weird reason the layout was all over the place, so I deactivated it yet again. But while I was messing around trying to adapt the colours of another theme, I happened to activate Refresh again, and this time it was perfect. And now you see it!Β  πŸ˜€

It just goes to show – persistence pays off in the end – and you must never take second best if you don’t really like it. A good lesson for everyone, I think. πŸ˜‰

May 9, 2009

Doesn’t look like much

But it’s just about everything that’s needed to get G-MYRO back into the air. Here are a few pics of the stuff I picked up on Thursday from Galaxy Microlights.

null

In the left foreground (the small square unit with the blue label on) you can see the electric fuel pump. It’s only used for priming the system before you start the engine and should never need to be used in flight unless there’s some sort of problem with the fuel system. Once the system has been brought up to pressure (about 0.2 bar) the electric pump is switched off and the engine started. Then the mechanical pump (the round unit next to the electric pump in the picture) takes over. There’s actually a manual primer incorporated in the system (the black rubber bulb in the pic) but although the electric pump adds extra weight, AX3 owners seem to prefer the electric pump option.

Behind the fuel system stuff in the pic is the exhaust, which is in very good condition – not far off new actually. That’s really good news because they cost Β£hundreds to replace! By the way, anything to do with aviation – and that includes microlights to a great extent – you decide what you think something is worth and put a ‘0’ on the end! Well OK, not literally, but it certainly feels that way πŸ™„

Here’s a more detailed pic of the engine.

null

The engine is a Rotax 503 twin cylinder, air-cooled 2-stroke developing about 52HP. That’s not a lot but it’s enough for the AX3. It has twin carburettors (one per cylinder) and dual ignition, which means that there are two spark plugs per cylinder. This is just a fail-safe design and is preferred to a single ignition system, although there are many single ignition Rotaxes around which perform very well. But which system would you prefer if you were the pilot, eh?

On the front of the engine is mounted a 2.58:1 reduction gearbox which you can see is quite a small unit. The propeller fits directly onto the round flanged plate that you can see on the front of the gearbox using bolts through the holes that are visible. The standard prop is a 2-blade wooden 64″ x 46″ (64″ diameter with 46″ pitch) but many AX3 owners have now gone for a plastic 3-blade unit which is lighter and more efficient, but much more expensive. At the moment, I don’t have a prop for MYRO so I’ll be looking out for one.

To the right of the engine is the electric starter unit. Usually this would be attached to the engine in that position but Mark at Galaxy had removed it before I phoned him.

Here’s a pic of the instrument panel that I got off Mark.

null

It’s actually in pretty good condition and should clean up pretty well. Mark had to remove the two twin temperature gauges (Cylinder Head and Exhaust Gas temperatures) that had been in the smaller holes on the right hand side because he had already sold them to someone else. However, the sensor units were left attached to the wiring loom which will be very handy when I start work on MYRO. I’m a bit worried about the fuel pressure gauge on the left because it’s showing a reading without being connected at all. I know that the one that was in MYRO is now in MZEL so that could be a problem. The other two large holes take an altimeter and a vertical speed indicator both of which I think are still in MYRO. The panel still has airspeed and RPM gauges in it and I think that those also are still in MYRO. If so, I’ll be able to choose which ones I prefer. So there you are then. I think this panel will considerably enhance MYRO’s cockpit compared to the one that’s presently in there.

I am sure that it will be a real challenge sorting MYRO out and getting the engine and all the other stuff installed and working. But I’m really looking forward to it and now can’t wait to get going.

Now then…. really must make a start on clearing my garage πŸ˜•

May 9, 2009

AX3 Photo Gallery

Just out of interest, I thought I’d see what I could find out about the Cyclone AX3. I found a database that shows that between 1992 and 1996, a total of 38 Cyclone AX3/503s were built in the UK. In fact the number is undoubtedly more as there are gaps in the serial numbers listed. There are 36 Cyclone AX3/503s in the ‘active’ G-INFO database although that number includes G-MYME which we know for sure has now been destroyed. There are 4 AX3/503s in the de-registered G-INFO database, which now brings the total manufactured to at least 40. Incidentally, G-MYMF and G-MYFY are both in the de-registered list although pics of them still appear in the Gallery. There are also a few AX3/582s with the larger water-cooled Rotax engine, but I’ve ignored those as really they are a different model.

The last AX3/503 appears to be S/No 7253 G-MZDS. That’s interesting – so it’s no surprise that Rosie’s new steed, G-MZEL is still looking so fresh, as it’s S/No 7250, one of the last built.

G-MYRO came along in 1994, in about the middle of the series, so by then any bugs in the design had been ironed out. It was also nearly the last in the old serial number range, being S/No C4043211. The highest old serial that I found was C4043215, G-MYSO.

G-MYSO was put up for sale recently on Ebay by Nic Stoneman. Unfortunately it had been through a few trials in recent times. Nic had pegged it out over at least one very wet Welsh winter and the pics he sent me showed a very wet cockpit interior. The tie-down ropes had also chafed very badly and caused quite a lot of damage to the edges of the wings and control surfaces and Nic also mentioned to me that the last time he flew it, he had had a rather heavy landing. None of these would be a bar to getting MYSO back in the air and I’m sure the new owner has done so, or is working towards that aim, but the work involved was a bit too much for me at the time.

I’ve tried to get together as many pics of these AX3s as I could find and they are now all in their own Photo Gallery which you can see by clicking on the link or by going to the Galleries page and choosing Other AX3s. The registrations of all of the aircraft are pretty clear, except for the first one in the Gallery, which I think is MYFI that was owned by Medway Air Sports (same aircraft as in second shot – they also flew MYFV but that I think had different colours) and the last two which are my own shots of Rosie’s G-MZEL.

May 8, 2009

Looking good

And it is, too πŸ™‚

Mark at Galaxy Microlights said that MYME’s former owner had told him that the engine was given a full service only a short time before the accident happened. However, when we checked the Engine Logbook, although the service was recorded, there were few other details. The service was done by none other than Bill Sherlock who is not only a very well-known figure in the microlight world but was also the original UK distributor for AX3s.

So I gave him a ring today. What a nice chap he is. I told him about the service that was done in July 2008 and he immediately turned the details up there and then from his records. These confirmed, as he remembered, that the gearbox was given a 100 hour service and that the engine was not only given a full 300 hour service but that a new crankshaft assembly was also fitted. This is extremely good news because that work alone sets you back something like Β£1500 for parts and labour. He also said that the engine was particularly well looked after because MYME’s former owner is a personal friend of his, but after talking with him my guess is that he looks after every customer’s engine in just the same way – ie very well πŸ˜‰

I asked Bill if he could send me over a copy of the Job Sheet so I could keep it with the Engine Logbook and he did no more than immediately whip me off an email with a copy of the Job Sheet attached that I received a few minutes later. In my short time in microlights I’ve met and been in touch with some amazing people but some people truly stand out, when I think of the help I received sorting out my Our Trike gauge and wiring problems and now with the start of my efforts to get MYRO back flying again. I hope I get the chance to make some sort of contribution of my own to the microlighting community in the future.

May 7, 2009

It’s an ill wind

Or rather it was, that blew so hard one night recently that G-MYME, a pretty little blue AX3 that originally looked a lot like G-MZEL that’s shown in my pics of a couple of posts ago, ended up in a tree! Yes seriously 😯

But it was that same ill wind that did me an enormous favour, because poor MYME then eventually ended up in the hands of Mark Jones, the great bloke who runs Galaxy Microlights down in Wiltshire. As well as being a BMAA Inspector and experienced microlight engineer, one of the things that Mark also does is break damaged microlights for spares. It was Mark’s ad that I saw on Monday that I mentioned in my last post.

And so it was that this morning I decided to take the rest of the day off and drive down to Mark’s workshop which is in the Warminster area. I had definitely reserved all of MYME’s engine stuff (engine, gearbox, exhaust etc) but I wanted to see what else there was that I might be interested in. Rosie said that she’d like to have a wheel as a spare but unfortunately both of those had already been snapped up.

After the usual chit-chat and gossip, we dragged MYME (or what was left of her) out of the open-sided barn where she was being kept and into Mark’s workshop where we could get a good look at her and remove the bits that I wanted.

I wanted the instrument panel because, as can be seen in the earlier cockpit pics, MYRO’s had had a large rectangular area cut out at some time, probably for a GPS or something like that. MYME’s was relatively undamaged and putting that in instead would save repairing MYRO’s which would probably not look right afterwards anyway. Mark wanted to keep a couple of engine temp gauges but he kindly left the others in. After consulting Rosie on the mobile I thought it would be a good idea to remove the panel complete with wiring so I decided that in fact I’d take the whole of MYME’s wiring loom. So instead of just cutting it out, Mark carefully removed it. I also wanted the electric fuel pump so we left all the plastic pipes attached to that as well. I’ll show some pics in the next post of all the stuff I got from Mark, but here are some shots of poor MYME after we’d finished.

null

null

null

null

In these shots, we’d already removed the rear fuselage cover, from the cockpit back to the tail. Before we took it off, MYME looked quite ‘healthy’, but after we’d removed it, it was obvious that in fact she would never have flown again because her main top tube was distinctly banana shaped. Also. it was amazing how many bolts that we removed had been bent by the extraordinary forces that she’d been subjected to by being blown up into the tree!

What will probably be the last pics of MYME look a bit sad, but there you are, that’s life if you’re a microlight I guess. But the other side of the coin is that it’s because of what happened to poor MYME, good ole MYRO will be back in the skies again in all its glory in a few weeks or months time.

And thanks again to Mark Jones at Galaxy Microlights.

May 5, 2009

Shhhhhh!

Look, don’t say this too loudly because whenever I decide to do something, something else that’s out of my control then usually happens to put the mockers on it. And I’m not just being paranoid either … or am I? πŸ˜•

Here’s what happened.

We’ve just enjoyed a very pleasant May Day Bank Holiday here in the UK. The weather was forecast to be fine and calm yesterday morning with the wind backing to WSW and freshening later in the day. So I decided on Sunday to see if Rosie could fit in a flight first thing, if it didn’t mess up her plans for the rest of the holiday. She said she’d see how she felt early in the morning because she was suffering from a painful knee which would make it difficult for her to fly. Anyway, she phoned first thing yesterday to say that she couldn’t do it, so that was the end of that.

So while finishing my breakfast and enjoying another cup of tea, I was browsing the microlight ads as I often do. And there near the top was a new ad – Breaking AX3, most parts available, POA. The ad said that a low hours, recently serviced Rotax 503 engine was available so I rang the number. Yup, it was a 503 DC/DI (dual carbs, dual ignition) and yes, there was also an electric start, and the gearbox, and a complete exhaust, and the carbs all in good condition. This is exactly what MYRO (yes, my old mate G-MYRO which I still have a great fondness for) needs to get back into the air. This was too good to miss.

I’m fed up with keep putting things on hold. I phoned Rosie and we agreed that I’d buy MYRO off her next month subject to getting the engine etc at the right price. Then I phoned the AX3 seller and did a deal.

So MYRO is now back on again and this time I’m committed. I’ll be going down to the West Country in a day or so to pick up the engine and see what else I might need. Rosie tells me that in addition to the items I’ve already mentioned I’ll need the battery and mount plus the cabling, as MZEL which now has the MYRO kit, was originally a pull-start machine. I’ll also need the fuel primer pump and pressure gauge and I’m thinking I might take a look at the screen and instrument panel too, as although not essential, MYRO’s ones had both seen better days and this might be a one-off chance to replace them economically.

This is really exciting. I was so sad that the MYRO thing fell through last Winter but hopefully this time it will all come together. I’ve got to start thinking about clearing my garage again (that was the only source of relief when MYRO fell through before) so I can get the space I need to work. The garage is very small, but I’ll manage. I have no idea what the timing will be and bear in mind that the priority will still be to see if we can sell Our Trike now the season has begun.

I doubt I’ll fly again this week because the weather forecasts are not good (the old enemy, high winds again) and Rosie is then going away on hols for a week. So I’ve got that time to get everything organised. I doubt I’ll be able to get MYRO sorted this Summer (but what the heck, who knows..) but at least I can look forward to flying my own aircraft next year.

But shhhhh ….. keep it quiet, will you? πŸ˜‰