March 30, 2010

Thwarted by the weather – again!

I’ve just checked the Met Office 5-day weather report for Linton and the following is what I found.

Easter Weather!

Rain, rain, high winds and more rain. I’ve also checked the Easter weekend forecast on one of my favourite weather sites (metcheck.com) and they say, ‘The main question we’re being asked now is will the weather improve for Easter. We’re afraid to report that it is looking unlikely as we’re expecting another Atlantic low to move in by Good Friday, bringing further heavy rain, showers and strong winds with it, and further snow is likely over northern hills. This low then looks set to spend Easter over our shores, keeping the unsettled theme going.

So it looks as though my plan to trailer MYRO down to Lynton and maybe even get the wings back on over the long weekend has already been prematurely dashed. I’m really disappointed as I’d hoped so much that this would be the weekend when I’d see MYRO at last move out of my garage, ready for the final push. But it looks as though it is not to be. I suppose I should be used to it my now but I’d very much hoped that this would be something of a special weekend. Oh well… 🙁

Not only that, but it looks as though microlight flyers over the length and breadth of the UK will have to sit it out for the whole of the weekend too. Bet there’ll be a few scowling faces by next Tuesday when most people return to work 😡

There is still a small glimmer of hope, though. Metcheck are suggesting that we in the South-East will be less badly affected by the incoming lows than other parts of the country and that we could get sunshine and dry weather on Easter Sunday and Monday. So I’ll have to monitor the situation closely, but as I will have to borrow both Rosie’s trailer and my stepson’s car (with tow-bar), it will become more tricky to arrange the shorter the notice that I can give 😕

March 29, 2010

G-MZEL Video

As mentioned in my last post on Saturday, the video’s now in the Video Gallery and below is a direct link to it.

MZEL Video

Thinking ahead to maybe trailering MYRO to Linton next weekend, which is the long four-day Easter weekend of course, I had hoped yesterday to do the last ‘big’ job that I could do at home, namely fit the auxiliary fuel tank. With the clocks going forward, I ‘lost’ an hour but managed to get out there by around lunch time. The first job I did when I got MYRO all those months ago was refit the fuel tank that had been removed. And what a horrible job it was because of limited access, tightness of the holding straps, tubes that stuck out and couldn’t be removed and other things like that. Well, now ironically, in order to do the last job, I had to begin by removing the original fuel tank!

This was because there is a tube that comes out of the bottom of the tank that connects to a fuel water test drain and you have to put a ‘T’ into this to connect to a similar tube on the bottom of the auxiliary tank, thus connecting the tanks in a ‘U-Tube’ arrangement. I decided that I would prefer to make this connection properly from scratch, as it is such an important one (after all, you don’t want fuel to be draining out of a full tank whether on the ground or in the air because of a dodgy connection, do you) which meant taking the tank right out again.

So that’s what I did. In fact, because I’d done the job before and knew what to expect, it wasn’t quite as bad this time around. I got the tank out OK, removed the old base tube and replaced it with one of slightly smaller diameter, which turned out to be much better than how I’d done it previously. I put the ‘T’ piece in very close to the tank outlet because space is very restricted down there and when the tank was replaced, the whole job was much better than what I’d done originally. I then connected a length of tube of the same diameter to the outlet on the other tank because my intention ultimately is join the tubes from each tank roughly at the mid-point of the fuselage behind the seats.

I then got going inserting the webbing straps that will support the auxiliary tank behind the pilot’s seat in the four slits in the seat cover that had already been cut previously by someone and wrapping them around the seat frame so they will hold the tank securely. Easier said than done. I got the two horizontal straps in and a wire in to pull one of the top straps through when, you’ve guessed it, down came the rain. The old enemy had struck again 😐

So that was that – back MYRO had to go into the garage before the downpour became to great and the job will have to be completed later. It’s not one I want to do on an open airfield, so ideally I’ll have to try and get it done sometime this week.

That may not be easy because yet again, the forecast is for a deep depression moving in from the south-west bringing high winds, lots of rain, low temperatures and possibly even a day of snow. Nice 😯

March 27, 2010

Solo at last!

Isn’t it great when a plan comes together exactly as you intended 🙂

Rosie and I agreed yesterday that I’d give her a call at 7.30am this morning and if everything looked good, we’d aim to get airborne by about 9.00am and try to grab what could be the best part of the day. So I did and we actually took off at 9.20. Rosie said that she’d shut up (I was sorely tempted… :grin:) and leave it to me to fly over to our exercise area. Everything went pretty smoothly until the time came to land. For some reason I couldn’t get my feet right on the rudder pedals and although we had a landing that we could walk away from, it was a bit ugly.

Rosie asked what the problem was and when I told her about my feet on the pedals, she gave me a little bit of advice that, after I’d thought about things a bit more myself, proved to be pretty invaluable. So we came round again and this time everything worked out fine and we had a pretty good landing. We did it again and this time we had a greaser. Before I could take off again, Rosie said to slow down and asked if she could get out now. For a minute I thought she meant, ‘Could she take off (ie get out) on the shortish length of runway remaining’ but when she said to turn round and taxi back, I realised that she meant she would get out of MZEL and for me to do it over again by myself.

I was really pleased about this and after she’d got out, I made sure I did a proper full set of pre-take off checks and got MZEL rolling. I was amazed at how different MZEL flew with just one on board. She shot off the ground and whereas before we were turning onto our crosswind leg at around 400 or 500 feet, this time I was at the circuit height of 800 feet. Strangely enough, flying alone I found that it was easier to talk myself around the circuit and do the required actions properly in the correct order. Power-attitude-trim when ascending, attitude-power-trim when descending, power and trim to maintain circuit height and correct airspeed and downwind checks in an unhurried, relaxed way.

On our previous approaches, we’d experienced the usual lift-followed-by-sink and variable crosswinds, sometimes from the right where it was supposed to be coming from and sometimes from the left. Now I don’t know whether I had the same again and just coped with it all without realising or whether the conditions actually were better, but this time I remained totally in control the whole way down. I even tagged the approach speed to within 5 mph for the whole of the approach and that alone felt good. The reward for all this effort was a greaser of a landing that I was really proud of and after not having flown and landed an aircraft alone for more than 25 years the good thing was that it felt natural.

I turned and taxied back to Rosie and she beamed back and congratulated me. I said that she seemed as delighted as I was and not only am I sure she was, but after all these years as an Instructor, I bet she feels the same whenever one of her students solos. In fact I’m sure she does. What a lovely lady she is.

We then had to fly back to the airfield as another student was booked for MZEL. I found my way back and to top an absolutely brilliant day, even though I had to do the usual jiggling over the trees on approach which always throws you off your chosen line, I managed yet another smooth landing.

Rosie said afterwards that she’d been thinking about putting me solo the last time we flew but I said that I hadn’t been pushing for it and anyway, I thought probably the gap after the previous time I had flown was probably a bit too long. She agreed and said that was why she hadn’t – a wise call I think. I was very happy for today to be the day. The other good thing as far as I’m concerned, is that by soloing today, so long as the weather remains reasonable during April and May, I think that my target of doing enough to get at least a Restricted Licence by the end of May should now be quite easily attainable. I just hope that I don’t regret making a statement like that 😕

I couldn’t let the day pass without commemorating it in some way, so I took a couple of shots of MZEL after I’d landed back at the field. These show Glenn, the other student who usually flies Rosie’s C42, getting ready for his flight.

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I also took a short movie of MZEL taking off and when I’ve had a chance to load that onto my PC and edit it, I’ll show that as well.

I don’t know how Glenn found MZEL compared to the Ikarus, but one thing’s for sure. An AX3 is a totally different animal to a C42 and I bet he found it a lot harder work to fly 🙂

March 25, 2010

Weather……. hmmmm…….

Just looked at the weather forecast for the next few days. Next week looks as though it will become very unsettled and very COLD again with possible snow 😯

But Saturday could be the lull before the gathering storm (figuratively speaking) with temperatures not too low and winds not too high. Think I’ll have to give Rosie a ring tomorrow. If I don’t, I’m going to start falling too far behind with my hours 😉

March 21, 2010

Almost all finished…

… but not my best work I have to say. Anyway, after today I’ve almost finished all the work that I can do on MYRO before it’s moved to the airfield, so that’s a good thing 🙂

After yesterday’s rain, the weather forecast for today was good so I knew that this would be my first opportunity since last year to get MYRO out of the garage and do some of the ‘finishing-off’ work that I mentioned in a recent post (10th March). I wasted an hour or so by going out to buy a solderless nipple that I thought I would need to secure the end of the throttle cable. It seems these things are not so easy to find nowadays and after driving miles, I couldn’t get hold of one. Turned out that as usual, Ebay is the place to try first and save time and petrol but in the event somewhat ironically after all the wasted effort, I didn’t need one anyway 😕

The first job I did was drill holes in the new door plastics for the hinge nuts to go into when the doors are fully opened right back. I drilled small holes first to gauge the positions but even then the upper holes were still further out of position than I would ever have thought when the doors were opened right back and ended up larger than I would have liked after I’d adjusted them. The first pic shows the holes on the pilot’s side, which I did first, with the door closed and the following pic shows the door open.

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Like I said, the holes will do the job, but the finished article isn’t anywhere near as pretty as I would have liked. I suppose in a way I should have expected it as it’s been six months since I did any of this kind of work and I need to get my hand in again.

The passenger’s side came out a bit better although there was something else there to think about. It only needed three holes drilling because when that door is opened, one of the hinge nuts hits squarely on one of the pop rivets holding the door plastic to the door cross brace tube. Lucky it does actually, because if it missed and hit the door plastic on top of the cross brace tube, there would be no way to drill a hole for it to go into because it would mean drilling the tube. In time it would inevitably cause damage to the door plastic. Obviously the cross brace tube is in the wrong place but I didn’t know that before. I just hope that the weight of the door on the pop rivet against the hinge nut doesn’t fatigue the door plastic and cause little splits around the rivet head, but there’s not a lot I can do about it, so there’s no point losing sleep at this point in time.

Next the door bottom stiffening brackets. The doors didn’t have these before but I’ve seen similar ones on other AX3s (both MZEL and John’s at Linton) so that confirms in my mind that they are a good idea. MYRO didn’t have them before because the door bottoms seemed fairly stiff and the door plastics hadn’t suffered as a result in those areas. However, I’d cut the tube that I made up to replace the one I stupidly snapped in the pilot’s side door a tad short and I could see the plastic flexing as the door frame tube ends moved slightly away from each other every time the door was closed. And then back again when it was opened – so it was obvious that in time the flexing would cause splits in the plastics around the nearby rivet heads. I thought that the best way to deal with this would be to pop rivet a small aluminium bridging strap between the ends of the tubes and indeed that’s what I did today.

The passenger’s side bracket went on not too badly but the pilot’s side one didn’t. Obviously that would be the one that had to go wrong because that’s the one that needed the strap the most. The first rivet that I put in didn’t sit down tightly enough, which of course, defeated the whole object. So I had to drill and cut the rivet back out again, breaking several small drills in the process and scuffing the visible surface of the bracket up with the hacksaw blade. I became resigned at that point to the fact that everything would be a bit of a battle today 🙄

The passenger side bracket is shown in the following pic.

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By the way, the picture makes the edge of the door plastic look very jagged for some reason. It isn’t like that really but I’ll be taking another look at all the edges and giving them a light rub with wet and dry to make sure that they are smooth to help prevent cracks starting.

The next job was securing the throttle cable end onto the pilot’s side fuselage tube inside the cabin. This is essential as otherwise there’s no way the throttle would work when the throttle lever is activated. I was relieved when this job went smoothly and the following pic shows the finished result.

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The last thing I could do before it began to get dark was deal with the screen plastic slots where the fuselage tubes pass through to connect to the engine mount attachment points. I knew after I put the new screen on last year that it was a bit tight in a couple of points in those slots but I only got to thinking seriously about it after flying MZEL last weekend.

MYRO only really had one ‘bad’ crack in the screen I had removed and Rosie had dealt with it by drilling tiny holes in the ends of the small cracks that were branching out from it to stop them spreading. So the crack was more of an unsightly distraction than a structural problem. However, last Saturday I noticed that MZEL had already developed far more cracks than MYRO had and these almost all practically without exception had starting points where the screen touched against either a tube or some other small obstacle, even a cable tie. So today I resolved to make sure that my new screen had no touching points at all.

I had to do this by trimming parts of the plastic edges away with a Stanley knife and then smoothing the edges down again with a small file. Once again the gremlins got me and I managed to inflict small scratches in the plastic on both sides above the slots that the tubes pass through. I suppose after my earlier experiences I just had to expect that such a thing might happen. The final pic below shows the slot on the pilot’s side with it’s little scratch visible 😯

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And so the day ended. The next job will be to fit the second fuel tank. Then all I’ll need to do is fit the prop and refit the tail plane assembly before moving MYRO off to Linton. Can’t come soon enough I can tell you 😉

March 14, 2010

Feeling a little sheepish

Before doing a few practice landings yesterday in MZEL, we had to chase the sheep off as usual with a low pass. Then the idea was to land and taxi around a bit in their general direction to make sure that they got the message and kept over to the side of the field away from the runway. Sheep being a flock animal like to stick together in a group if there’s any danger about so with the main flock away over to the left of the runway, even the ones over to the right get the message and rush over to join their mates.

Except yesterday one porky little baa-lamb decided to be a bit different and give us both a shock. She was the one who was farthest away from us over to the right of the field and when she noticed that all of her friends had left her behind, her little legs were a blur as she raced across to catch up with them. She was about thirty or forty yards in front of us, racing from our right to left when suddenly just as she reached the runway, she turned sharp left and came racing straight towards us and the spinning prop. Apart from the fact that she was going to hurtle into the prop, if she had done she would then have ended up in our laps and my heart literally came into my mouth as I just couldn’t believe it. Then in the last fraction of a second just as she was about to hit the prop, she dodged to her right and ran down the left side of the aircraft just missing the wing struts. Then she promptly turned again and ran off to join the rest of the flock.

Believe you me, it was a real brown trousers moment let alone a bit of an eye opener because I’ve always been used to sheep running the other way and I never expected that they could ever be any kind of a threat. Now I know different I’ll be a bit more careful clearing them off in future 😯

March 13, 2010

90 minutes of pure fun

Watched the weather closely all week and by Thursday it looked as though Saturday would be a good day. Surprise! 😯

So I phoned Rosie on Friday and we agreed to touch base again this morning, which dawned slightly overcast with only a light wind in my neck of the woods. We decided to go for 2 o’ clock and by the time I left home it was warm and even a bit sunny. So I foolishly decided not to bother taking my fleecy jacket and gloves. I realised that this was a mistake as soon as I got out of the car at the airfield which, being closer to the coast, was still overcast and very chilly. Made a note to remember in future that if you take something, you can decide not to use it and just leave it in the car. But if you don’t take it……. 😕

Rosie was off flying and when she got back we had to fit a new battery on MZEL as the old one had died over the Winter. We eventually took off at 4.00pm and it was really great right from the start. Yes, it was chilly even though I’d added a couple of extra layers, but the flying was excellent. On almost every previous occasion that I’ve flown the AX3, conditions have been either cool and windy or hot and thermic. In either case it has been difficult to repeat training exercises in consistent conditions, as I’ve mentioned in previous postings. But today was completely different, in fact it was exactly as you might wish it to be. No nasty updrafts, cross-winds or roll-overs on approach, no excessive lift giving you an unwanted 200 foot climb on downwind, in fact nothing too nasty at all. Lovely 🙂

The result was that I was able to enjoy one and a half hours of total training pleasure. To start off with, I did a bit of general handling as I actually haven’t flown since April last year. Amazingly, I soon felt that I was ‘back in the groove’ much of which I put down to the benign weather conditions. Then we did circuits and landings (after clearing the sheep from the training strip), first with powered approaches and then with glides. And although not all of them were pretty, unlike when we had the more tricky conditions, this time my landings were more or less OK. Great 🙂

The time eventually came to return home and surprisingly, it was only then that I really began to feel the cold! It’s surprising how you can be distracted when you are concentrating and especially if you are having fun at the same time! By this time it was becoming a bit murky and lights were beginning to appear on cars and buildings below. Even so we soon found our way back and this time I just knew that my last landing of the day would be a good one. And so it was 😀

All in all, it was probably the most enjoyable and satisfying microlighting day that I’ve had. And the coldest too, but that didn’t matter one little bit 😆

March 10, 2010

6 months

I took the dog out this morning and came back freezing as the chill wind has a really cutting edge to it. I then got to thinking and realised that MYRO has been standing in my garage for 6 months now, just standing and doing nothing. And in fact not only have I done nothing at all to it in that whole time, I’ve also hardly even opened the garage door 🙁

When I think that it took less than 4 months to complete all the work I’ve done on it, this is a really frustrating situation. The reason, of course, is the old enemy – the weather. We didn’t really have that good a Summer, did we, so I think I did pretty well to get as much done on MYRO as I did. But to think that another 6 months have since vanished without trace is a bit shocking. First we had that awful stormy, wet spell in November (remember the tragedy of Cockermouth in Cumbria?) and since December we’ve had almost non-stop bitterly cold weather. That’s nearly a quarter of the year. I can’t remember a Winter that seems to have gone on for so long – and we are officially in Spring now too 😯

I’d like to get MYRO moved down to Linton but there’s no point until I’ve done the few remaining jobs that need to be done before it goes. These are to add little aluminium brackets to the bottoms of the door tubes to add stiffness and prevent the plastics flexing, drill 4 small holes in each of the door plastics for the hinge bolts to go through when the doors are fully opened and secure the end of the throttle cable to the fuselage tube inside the cabin. I might as well install the second tank as well as it’ll be easier and more convenient to do it at home rather than in the open on the airfield. And finally, the day before I move MYRO, I’ll also need to fit the tail plane assembly and the prop.

I think I’ll have to make a start this week end no matter how cold it is, and the forecast says it will be too. And there’s also a chance of some wintery showers to add to the overall delight, so that will be nice. But unless I do start to get things moving, the danger is that I’ll be looking back in a few weeks time and still saying the same things.

Oh, and don’t forget, I also need to fly and get my GST done by the end of May. Hey ho…. 😕

March 2, 2010

Latest bits

I advertised a short time ago for a set of outdoor covers for MYRO and although I wasn’t offered a full set, I did end up buying an engine cover, which arrived yesterday. I’m very pleased with it – it’s an original Cyclone one with a Cyclone badge on it, tailored to fit over the whole engine, carbs, gearbox and exhaust and incorporating blade covers for the original two-blade prop. It looks as though it will be very weather-proof. I’ll be fitting the three-blade Arplast prop and I think that the tailored blade covers should fit over two of the Arplast’s blades. If that is the case, I’ll have to think about having a separate cover made up for the third blade. It will be worth it because I’ve been advised that the Arplast is an excellent prop but with brittle blades, so as the blades on mine are in very good condition, they are worth protecting 🙂

The engine cover came with a second tank kit which I also bought off the same seller. This also looks to be in pretty good condition. Unlike MYRO’s original tank though, it’s rather black in colour and before I fit it, I’ll see if there’s anything inside it causing this that I can deal with. The tank is attached to the back of the left hand seat by webbing straps in a similar way to the original one. Unfortunately two are missing but I’ve already sourced suitable replacements from Ebay.

The other thing is that although there is an official Mod for fitting the second tank, I have no paperwork or ‘provenance’ for it. However, because ‘it is what it is’, I do not think this will be a problem and that it will be ultimately approved by inspection 😉

Having the twin tanks will be very useful. When carrying a passenger, it will not be possible to fill both up to the brim without exceeding the maximum permitted weight. However, when flying alone it will be possible to fill both up to give a total endurance of something between three and four hours. This will make MYRO much more capable of completing longer cross-country flights without stopping. Rather slow, yes, but without stopping, which will suit me I think. It will make it possible, for example, to fly to the Isle of Wight safely in one hop from Linton, so I will be able to look forward to joining the rest of the guys when they do the trip, as Bob has already mentioned.

Now all I need is for the weather to make a change for the better as I don’t want to be paying for my space at Linton for too long without being able to use it, do I 😕