February 28, 2010

Yes, still about the weather

As I type this, rain is lashing down outside – again. We’re expecting buckets of rain and very high winds today as the result of a severe low that has been moving north-east from the Iberian peninsula and battering Northern Europe. We’ve had so much rain again this Winter and coupled with the snow, grass airfields over much of the country are pretty much waterlogged. Rosie said yesterday that flying has been impossible for the last few weeks for that reason even before you take into account the abysmal weather we’ve had down here in the South-East. In fact the South has probably fared worse than the North this Winter as although they have had snow in northern parts, they’ve still managed to get in quite a bit of flying because of the clear (but cold) periods they’ve had in between. That really hasn’t been the case down here where we’ve had so much more rain, low cloud, murk and gloom.

So I’ve been considering what to do about MYRO. Bob at Linton has suggested moving MYRO in there as soon as possible but as it will be standing outside, albeit covered by a tarpaulin, I wonder if that’s the best thing to do at present. Bearing in mind that the jobs I need to do from now on will all involve working outside in the open, I won’t be able to do anything all the while the weather is like this. And when you also consider that as soon as MYRO goes into Linton it will have to be insured for Ground Risks, I think it’s better to leave it where it is until we can see that there will be an upturn in the weather.

It has to happen some time, surely…….. doesn’t it? 😕

February 27, 2010

Just crept in…

I popped down to Rosie’s today to do my two outstanding exams – Meteorology and Navigation. I did Met first and ended up with 80 or 85% (can’t remember the figure – will have to check with Rosie) which I was very pleased and satisfied with. Can’t say the same about Nav though.

With that, I just scraped through with a pass of 70%. That meant I got 6 questions out of 20 wrong, which I don’t think is really a very good result. On the plus side, I have to admit that I didn’t do very much preparation for the exam and to be honest, I haven’t done any serious navigation for over 20 years. But the main reason why I’m disappointed with myself is that I threw away at least 4 questions because either I was stupid and put down the wrong answer when with a couple of moments more thought I actually knew the correct one or I failed to spot the information needed to answer the question in front of me on the chart used for the question or in the supporting AIP information supplied with it 🙁

Anyway, I’m through and it’s something I can now tick off the list. All I need to worry about now is the flying, the easy bit you might say. Rosie and I chatted afterwards. No effort wasted there, then, Rosie said about Nav and wasn’t she right. 🙂

We agreed that I must now press on with the flying at full speed, whenever the weather permits, so I can get to GST standard by the end of May and achieve my Restricted licence. So that’s what I’ll do and then I can upgrade it to a full Unrestricted licence at my leisure in the few weeks following, as I mentioned in my last post. I may have only just crept in as far as Nav is concerned, but the door is now open to press on just as I planned. 😉

February 24, 2010

Feel a Restricted coming on…

I got to thinking – I did my first three exams in May last year so if I don’t get my microlight licence by the end of May this year, I’ll have to sit them all again as they are only valid for 12 months! If I did have to sit them again, that would be the third time as, of course, I passed them all years ago when I got my original Private Pilot’s Licence. Apart from being really annoying this would be verging on the ridiculous. Having to cover the microlight syllabus completely from scratch is bad enough but this would be getting really stupid. 😯

What is it about the bureacracy in this country? In other countries you can buy a microlight and just fly it without any instruction or licencing if you want to. In this country, even though you are already a qualified pilot with several hundred hours under your belt, you have to go through the whole training gamut all over again as though you are a complete rookie.

I’ve arranged with Rosie to do my two outstanding exams, Meteorology and Navigation, this coming Saturday. It would be a fine thing if I failed either being as I used to regularly fly our Piper Cherokee down to Zurich! I’ve decided that I will then go for a Restricted NPPL(M) by the end of May. With it you can only fly solo (ie without a passenger) in good weather conditions to a distance of no more than 8 miles from your home airfield. This would not be anything like adequate for me in the long run, but the whole point is that it preserves the status of your exams. Then, after completing the necessary cross country flights at your convenience when the weather has improved, you can upgrade the Restricted to a Full NPPL(M) and enjoy the unrestricted privileges of the full licence.

If I don’t do this, there is no chance that I’ll be able to complete the requirements for the Full NPPL(M) by May, and quite honestly, I may even have a problem completing the Restricted in this timescale unless the weather takes a considerable turn for the better. 😕

So that’s my plan. I’ll let you know how the exams go on Saturday and who knows, if the weather’s good enough, I might even be able to fit an hour or so’s flying in. 🙂

February 21, 2010

Old familiar feeling

Went down to the field yesterday and spent most of the day there. Not many there but you don’t need many, do you, to have a good chin-wag and a few laughs 🙂

Bloomin’ cold so not much flying going on. I was very pleased to meet the other AX3 owner, John, for the first time, so we had a lot to talk about. John hadn’t flown since December so he thought it was a good idea to get his aircraft warmed up and get current again with a short flight. I can tell you that I was somewhat envious to say the least when he taxied out and took off on the short winter runway 😕 Even though it was a bit soft and soggy, he still needed barely half of it.

By the time I departed in the late afternoon I have to say I was glad to get back in the car and get warm again. But the best bit was enjoying that old familiar feeling again of being back on an airfield and enjoying the company of fellow pilots. There’s nothing quite like it, trust me 😉

February 13, 2010

A place at last!

Brilliant news. A few days ago I placed an ad on AFORS (Aircraft For Sale web site) for hangar space or parking in Kent and got a call within a day or so from Bob at Linton near Maidstone. He invited me down to see the strip for myself and talk about it, which I did this morning.

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Very cold, but although the snow mentioned in my previous post below did hit East and South Kent, it didn’t affect where I live or, luckily, Linton. No flying going on but got a warm welcome and a cup of coffee straight away, so a great start. We chewed the fat for a couple of hours or so and I had a look round. It’s just what I want – very informal, only a few aircraft there, not much by way of ‘facilities’ (which suits me fine), the sort of place where you get stuck in and help each other out. I liked it immediately and we ended up by shaking hands on a deal.

So I’ve now got a space, outside parking only initially, for MYRO as from March and can start making some plans. It’ll be a good place to finish assembling MYRO and get everything done that’s necessary to get it permitted and back into the air. I can actually make arrangements to get MYRO’s wings there more or less as soon as possible as there’s space enough for them in a hangar so they’ll be there ready for me to press on.

So much now to do, including finishing off getting my licence! But at least now I’ve got a way forward and some more clear targets to aim at. I can hardly wait 🙂

By the way – anyone know a good bank to rob 😉

Oh yeah – didn’t mention….. it’s a double celebration today actually because it’s also my birthday. Best one I’ve had for a while 😀

February 8, 2010

Here we go again

For several days now, we’ve been bogged down in the awful murky, soggy weather that I mentioned in my last post, below. Well, it looks as though the ‘weather deadlock’ that I described is breaking down – but not, unfortunately, in the way that we might like. Take a look at the weather warning that has just been issued for South-East England (Kent, Medway and East Sussex).

Glum Weather Warning

I’m beginning to despair. This is so frustrating – will I ever get the chance to fly this new comms kit? 🙁

February 4, 2010

Very exciting new development!

Well, the intensely cold weather we had to endure for several weeks past now looks to be behind us, at least down here in South-East England. But in its place, we are on the receiving end of another kind of weather which is proving to be just as frustrating from a flying point of view.

For several days now we have had dull, depressing, misty, almost drizzle-like conditions with almost everything outside being dripping wet and with permanent puddles underfoot. Horrible. Apparently it’s because we have a warm front from the south-west coming up against a cold front from north-east and the collision point is not moving as neither will give-way to the other. And the collision point is a line that diagonally bisects the country, so it’s still cold up-north but mild and soggy down-south.

It’s totally unflyable in the South, of course, because of the low cloudbase and visibility problems, which are exacerbated because of the very light winds we have – practically zero actually. This is doubly frustrating for me because although I can’t do anything with MYRO, I desperately need to get up in the air, probably in MZEL. The reason for this is very exciting.

Since before Christmas I’ve had in my possession a complete, brand new comms kit. And not only is it brand new, it’s also brand new for the UK and isn’t on sale here – not yet, anyway. Heres a pic of what I’m talking about.

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The kit is for a fixed-wing aircraft although the pic shows a flexwing type PTT button. If I fit it into MYRO I’ll probably chop it and modify it with another button I already have that will fit into the top of the joystick. I really want to fly the kit because its spec is superb and I very much want to try it out. I’ll tell you a bit more about it. First the headsets.

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The kit designer and manufacturer is actually big in military equipment and they say that the level of noise reduction sets a new standard for this class of equipment. I can’t wait to find out. The headsets come with very well designed noise-reducing mics incorporating noise-cancelling elements, a noise chamber for even greater effectiveness and wind-resistant foam shields. The ear cups have very soft Nappa leather seals and there’s an individual sound level control on each headset. The left cup houses 4 x AAA Li-Ion batteries giving 120 hour life and to cap it all, each headset comes with a free fleece headset bag.

The headsets are fitted with RJ45 plugs to connect straight into the system’s interface, which I’ll tell more about in a moment, but with adaptors they are compatible with other systems, such as Lynx. So what about the interface?

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It’s called VxBox, and although it’s quite small, measuring only 73x50x25mm and weighing only 65 grams, it’s packed full of very desirable features. For a start it’s a superb intercom system with a beautiful noise-reduced ambiance. However, the last thing a pilot wants is for his passenger to start chatting just when a RT message comes in or when he needs to make a transmission, so there’s auto-passenger muting to deal with those situations. It’s switchable actually, so in a training environment, for example, an instructor could retain the ability to transmit as and when necessary. VxBox also comes with audio-in and audio-out. Audio-in is via a 3.5mm jack so an i-Pod, for example can be directly connected and played during flight. But what if a RT message comes in, you ask? Simple – there’s auto-muting when receiving and transmitting radio messages, and for 6 seconds afterwards to cover exactly that eventuality. And audio-out? One of the latest things that every pilot wants to do is be able to create videos of their flights to share with friends and family and put on YouTube. Up to now it’s been quite a complex thing to set up, but now that’s all over, because VxBox has an amplified RCA output that can connect to any camcorder with a RCA input (ie most modern ones). When connected, it sends everything – intercom chat, RT messages and even audio-in if it’s playing. Amazing – so now you can forget all those questions about leads, compatibility, and goodness knows what. It’s simple plug-and-play!

VxBox connects one or two headsets to either a Vertex VXA-220 transceiver or an Icom 6/24, 5/23 or 3/22. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve gone for the Vertex which I think is the best transceiver of its type on the market and the plug shown is for that model. However, the kit can also be supplied already fitted with the correct plug(s) for the Icom models I’ve mentioned above (but not the now obsolete 2/20).

And last but not least, the power supply. This is called the PowerBox stabilised power supply.

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Vertex transceivers have a very long battery life but the same cannot be said for the Icoms for which an external power supply is essential. Even with a Vertex, though, a separate power supply is advisable for peace of mind when touring or for anything much more than local hops. One of the problems, of course, is that different transceivers work at different voltages. The power supply I have is for the Vertex VXA-220 so it’s set to 9.6V and has a jack plug to match. The various Icom models all have different voltages and variations in plugs which I didn’t have to worry about. The PowerBox is of very advanced design and while again being small in size, only 73x50x25mm and 140 grams in weight, it incorporates a heavy-duty choke, voltage regulator and noise filter. It comes with a bare power lead to which you can fit a DIN plug, a car cigar lighter plug or another connector of choice. When I fit it into MYRO I’ll be fitting a DIN plug to use one of the new DIN sockets I put into the panel in the Summer.

The whole point of this kit is that like most of the other similar kits now being used in the UK, in order to conform to the rules (without going into more detail) it mustn’t be a permanent fit in the aircraft. This is why it comes ready for a plug to be connected to the power supply lead and some large strips of Velcro so it can be stuck onto the panel or wherever when in use and removed after the flight. A good thing for security and it’s certainly small enough to fit in even the smallest single-seat aircraft!

So that’s the latest news. I can’t wait to get into the air with this kit and hopefully I won’t have too much longer to wait. I’ll let you know how it performs when I do.