April 24, 2010

Yet more solo

I arrived at the field at about 8.45am. Rosie was already there and had fuelled up MZEL ready to go. Rosie’s idea was for me to go off by myself and build up a bit of solo time this morning, but first I had to do two things. The first was demonstrate that I could effectively carry out a practice forced landing and the second was demonstrate that my flying, and especially my landing, were up to scratch enough to be allowed to go off alone as we both knew that with the clear, sunny weather that we expected today, it would soon start to ‘bubble up’ a bit.

The first two missions were accomplished in about forty minutes, the second not without a minor hitch or two because when we returned to the field, the wind was swinging around quite a bit with some quite considerable gusts from the right on runway 02. So it was a bit tricky keeping the wheels straight on touchdown but although not one of my best I have to say, we both walked away from the landing and the aircraft was re-usable afterwards 🙂

So then I was let loose and I had a marvellous hour and fifteen minutes. I headed off towards Dover and there were the castle on the cliff-top and the harbour with the Cross-Channel Ferries on my right. Then I turned slightly left and headed for the coast which I crossed a few minutes later. The air was pretty calm and I maintained a steady altitude of 1250ft without too many problems. Damn – I had forgotten to get my camera back off Rosie again, so all of this and no shots possible! I carried on up the coastline over the sea until I got to Deal and then I turned left and headed towards the practice field where I had agreed to meet up again with Rosie. Sure enough there she was and I did a couple of practice touch-and-goes, the second of which she was on the ground viewing from next to the threshold.

After the second landing I decided to get a bit more familiar with the local area. The Manston TAF had warned of sea mist early in the day and it had been very noticeable to the north when I was flying out. In fact the first time I saw it I had decided that if it began thickening up and moving south, I’d head for home but in the event it hadn’t been necessary. So now I decided to head a bit further north as the mist and haze had cleared a bit. I had to be careful to keep clear of the Manston zone but that didn’t have to be a problem so long as I stayed south of Sandwich. The Pfizer buildings stuck out like a sore thumb and the wind farms were clearly visible in the sea way beyond them.

All good things have to come to an end though, and it was soon time to head back for home. By this time the conditions were becoming pretty thermic and I couldn’t help but notice how much more accomplished I am now at handling them. It just goes to show, even when you’re cursing and thinking that you’re not making progress because the conditions are thwarting you, in actual fact you are 😉

I had heard Rosie calling up for landing with her other student in the C42 some minutes before and pretty soon I was calling downwind and final. Compared to yesterday, as expected the approach and landing on 02 were much more tricky, but I didn’t manage too badly. I was nicely in balance and lined up over the threshold when I cut the power as usual. Then wham – there was a much larger gust of wind down the runway and swinging round to the right just as I was flaring. Nothing much I could do. I just had to use the controls to keep as straight as possible down the runway and at a good height without ballooning. I managed to do both but because the gust continued, I floated a lot further than I originally anticipated. But no harm done – the touchdown was actually a lot softer than I thought it might have been and as I slowed down and prepared to turn round, I couldn’t help laughing out loud to myself 😀

I had a very enjoyable de-brief with Rosie and we did the numbers. A tally up showed that I now have 5 minutes less than two hours solo, so five more to go if I’m to reach my target. Can I do it in time? We’ll see – only time will tell.

Sunday update. I forgot to mention when I wrote this yesterday that I also dropped into Linton on the way home to see what was happening. Answer – not a lot 🙂

Bob and Paul were sat out in the sun chatting over a brew, one of the many pleasures of microlight flying. Earlier in the day, Paul had flown down to Beachy Head in his QuikR to test out his new video cam which he’d had since Christmas but never used. His first video was pretty impressive and as he had flown over an area that was very similar to the one that I had also earlier in the day and been unable to take any pics, I thought I’d give it a target=”_blank”>LINK to give an idea of what I had been able to enjoy yesterday.

And by way of a compromise, here are a few pics of MZEL taken after I’d landed.

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The last pic also shows Rosie’s other steed, the C42 which I mentioned earlier. So far I’ve not had a wild urge to want to fly it, having been used to flying ‘spamcans’ before, but I guess I’ll get around to it sometime 😉

April 23, 2010

More solo

Today was quiet for business and as I’ve had a reasonably good week, I thought I’d ring Rosie and see how she was fixed for a flight this afternoon. After a thumbs-up I found myself down at the field at around 5.45pm. The weather was gorgeous with just a slight gusting cross-wind on runway 02 so while Rosie finished off with another student, I got MZEL out of the hangar and did a DI. Funny how my DIs have become more thorough and much more effective since my involvement with MYRO but I suppose that’s not surprising really as I’m now so much more familiar with the structure and design of the AX3.

We took off and headed for the practice strip where I did a powered approach and landing on runway 03. Rosie then decided to get out straight away and told me to go off and do a few circuits. So I did 🙂

I started with two left hand circuit, powered approaches and ended with a right hand before pulling up for a quick chat with Rosie. Everything was fine so she said that I should go off immediately and do a couple of solo glide approaches. So again, I did 😀

They both went off pretty well and I threw in a bit of side-slipping for good measure, just for practise and old times’ sake you understand 😉 I got a total of 30 minutes solo in and then it was time to head back to the home field. But now it all got a bit more tricky because we were flying back straight into the gradually setting sun. However, I located the field OK and we made it without incident. I was looking forward to the landing because almost every time we’ve flown in the past, we’ve used runway 20 because of the prevailing wind. This time we were on 02 and I clearly remember the last time we landed on it. The wind was gusting badly and rolling over the trees on the left and the tractor was out right next to the threshold cutting the grass. It was early on in my AX3 flying and things were so tricky that just before we landed I handed over to Rosie’s more experienced hands. So this time landing meant quite a lot to me, and what did I do? I approached too high of course. The runway has trees at both ends and as I wasn’t about to touch down much before the mid point, I elected to go-around. This was my first go-around in the AX3 and Rosie commended me for it. I also think it was good experience to do it dual with an experienced pilot sitting next to me. Anyway, the next approach was fine and this time I nailed it I’m glad to say.

I discussed with Rosie what I need to do in order to get a GST in by the end of May. It doesn’t look good, I have to say. I need to get in a minimum of 7 hours solo and after today, my total stands at only 40 minutes! I phoned Rosie when I got home because I forgot to take my camera back off her and after a brief chat, I decided to fly again tomorrow at 9.00am. Desperate measures are called for! I’d better go off and set the alarm clock 😉

April 18, 2010

Excellent day

And it most certainly was! We had wall-to-wall non-stop sunshine all day today with a little bit of Icelandic volcanic ash thrown in for good measure and I also managed several more big steps towards getting MYRO completed.

It was early-to-bed and early-to-rise for me because I wanted to get down to the airfield as early as possible to take advantage of the gorgeous weather forecast. So I was up before 7.00am and out early to finish removing MYRO’s old registration letters from the fin. After all my faffing around yesterday I managed it surprisingly quickly and ended up by giving the fin a wash and applying the new letters. They are a bit bigger than the old ones but they really do sharpen up the image by quite a lot!

Then I had to load everything into (and onto) the car for transportation to Linton. I press-ganged a passing neighbour into helping me tie the horizontal stabiliser directly onto the roof of my car supported by foam rubber pads and with the wing struts, rudder fin, all the necessary nuts, bolts, rigging pins, tools etc that I needed all loaded inside, I was able to shift everything in one load. The following two pics show that it looked a little bit weird but the arrangement worked perfectly and I made the journey to Linton without incident.

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I took a packed lunch and a cold drink with me and I decided to eat my lunch before my hands got too dirty. Then I got started with a vengeance. I can hardly remember a day when everything seemed to go so easily and so well. I want to take my time now that large-scale assembly and rigging is involved because safety is all about attention to detail. So I kept consulting the parts list and assembly diagrams to make sure that I assembled things in the correct order and as a result, things went together quite quickly and very smoothly. At one point I found that whoever had removed MYRO’s tail fin had lost one of the rudder pivot bushes and that could have meant stopping at that point until I’d obtained a replacement. But luckily, I’d ordered two new replacement aileron brackets which each came with new bushes and I had the idea of using one from an old bracket as they appeared to be identical. And so they were and it worked perfectly. What a bit of luck!

I got the horizontal stabiliser on and connected the elevator for the first time since I disconnected it when I got MYRO way back last June. It was a very nice feeling I can tell you 🙂

I needed a hand to connect the elevator trim cables because they seemed rather tight. John was there this afternoon and I compared the tension of MYRO’s trim cables with those on his AX3 and sure enough, his were a lot less taught. Robert helped me to connect MYRO’s and after they’d been connected for an hour or two, they did appear to slacken off a little so I think they will be OK. They must have been the same before because there’s nothing for them to snag on inside the fuselage and there was never any problem that I’m aware of.

Then it was time to fit the rudder. It went on surprisingly easily and this was the first time it had been attached to MYRO’s fuselage since August 2008. How satisfying – another major milestone – and when I’d finished connecting the rudder cables, it meant that two of MYRO’s three primary controls were connected. Only the ailerons to go now 😀

With the rudder on it was time to finish up and push MYRO back into Paul’s hangar which I’m very grateful for while the wings are still off, with all this volcanic ash debris in the air and now dropping down, as we could see on our cars. And not before time for me too, because what with the early start, by this time at the end of the afternoon, I was feeling pretty tired. But it was well worth it as the following pics show.

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So this now only leaves the wings to go on. John mentioned that compared to today’s jobs, putting the wings back on is a doddle and I can well believe him. I replaced one aileron bracket today when I pinched the bush off the old one so there’s just the other one to do. The other fixings are then nearly all clevis pins with safety rings which only take a few moments to insert, so with a helper it shouldn’t take too long at all to get the wings back on and the ailerons reconnected. And that will more or less be it!

So that’s what’s planned for next weekend. In the meantime I’ll check what’s left of the last batch of nuts and bolts that I ordered to make sure that I didn’t miss anything or have used a new one to replace an old component that I originally hadn’t planned for. After all, I don’t want to let any little silly hiccups like that bring things to a halt just as I’m about to finish the job, do I 😉

April 17, 2010

Finishing line in view

Borrowed my stepson’s car and returned Rosie’s trailer yesterday evening, so that cleared the decks ready for the final couple of laps. I only have to think about getting MYRO finished now. The weather today was glorious. I phoned Rosie first thing to let her know her trailer was back and all she wanted to do was dash off and go flying, and who could blame her. I would like to have done the same myself but unfortunately I had to be strict with myself and press on with my jobs 🙁

The final nuts, bolts and other sundry items that I need to finish off MYRO and get it all back together again arrived this morning from P & M, so my first job was smashing the dandelions down on my back lawn with the Flymo so I could get all the struts and the tailplane assemblies out and do the work that I needed to do on them.

First out were the struts. Bucket of water, cleaning materials, elbow grease – pretty soon they were all standing there white and glistening in the sun. Very satisfying. Considering MYRO is over 15 years old and has been used for training for much of that time, I was pleasantly surprised at how few knocks and scratches there are on them. I didn’t bother touching in any spots today as I had other things to do, but I may do eventually when everything is finished.

Next onto the lawn was the horizontal stabiliser. The work needed here was purely cosmetic – just gave it a bit of a clean and replaced several nuts and bolts that although still safe, were a bit rusty and a bit of an eye-sore. I was very pleased with the results 🙂

Last job was the rudder. I was rather sad to see when I took it off the garage wall where it had been hanging safely since last June, that there were several indentations on the fabric on the side that had been against the wall and had therefore not been visible. There was nothing on the wall that could have caused them and I can only conclude that as the rudder had been placed in the rear of MYRO’s fuselage when I acquired it, something inside had been responsible. I suspect it was the coiled up aileron cables. Two of the indentations were not too bad but one higher up on the fin had slightly perforated. Fortunately the damage is not too severe – there are many AX3s flying with much, much worse – and I think that a spot of VinylWeld will do the job. The tube I have is now far too old and I have to buy another anyway to sort out the little nick that was caused to the fabric on one wing leading edge when we transported them last week.

The very last job for today was the one I’d been least looking forward to – removing the old, tatty registration letters from MYRO’s fin. My reservations proved to be well founded and the job turned out to be a total stinker. The old letters came off no problem but when they did so, they left behind the old glue residue. Shifting this was a horrible job – I tried all kinds of solvents and cleaning materials but there was no easy way to do it. In the end I found that the best way was to very carefully heat the old glue up with a hair dryer and rub it when soft with a pad of dry kitchen roll. Then it was just a matter of cleaning the gunge that was left off in any way possible 😯

I finished off one side and made a good start on the other but in the end I had to call it a day. So that’s a job to be finished off tomorrow. I loaded all the struts into my car ready to go off to Linton tomorrow but I’ll try to finish the fin off first before I do anything else. Otherwise I’ll be side-tracked and it would be very tricky doing the lettering if the fin was on the aircraft.

I’d like to think that with the weather being so good, MYRO might be back together again by the end of tomorrow. However, it might be too big an ask and we’ll just have to wait and see 😉

April 10, 2010

MYRO moves house

I’d arranged to meet up with Bob at the airfield yesterday morning at 9.00 am and when I arrived, I found that as well as Robert, who Bob said had also kindly offered to help out, Scott, who I’d not met before, was also there. Robert flies a very pretty yellow Easy Raider and Scott a flex wing, a Flash II Alpha I think. I was really pleased that they were there because I didn’t really know what to expect when collecting MYRO’s wings from Canterbury and trailering them over the Maidstone except I knew that the more hands there were, the easier it would be.

Rosie’s trailer hadn’t moved from the spot where I left it back in June of last year so when we went to pull it out, I shouldn’t have been surprised when we found that one wheel was seized solid. Scott suggested that the problem was only a brake and after I’d found a large block of wood and given the wheel a few whacks with it, we did indeed hear the sound of the brake springing off.

If there had only been two of us, it would have been a tricky job to get MYRO’s wings down off the hangar wall where they had been hanging since August 2008 and onto the trailer, but with four of us it was easy. There are two wooden boxes fixed to the trailer top to take the AX3’s wheels and I thought that if the wings were stood on the trailer to the inside of these, tied together and tied down in an inverted ‘V’ with plenty of padding, they wouldn’t be able to move very much on the journey. This is how it looked with the wings loaded up.

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But as for the wings not shifting, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We stopped as we left the airfield and even with the small number of bumps we’d been over, there had already been some movement. So we adjusted and tightened the ropes, carried on and stopped again before we turned onto the A2. I watched the wings as we drove and was horrified to see how much they were being moved every time a large lorry or other vehicle overtook us as a result of the massive amount of air they displaced 😯

And it was just my luck that a ferry had obviously recently docked at Dover because they came past us one after another. We had to stop several times because I was very concerned about the padding moving so much that the wing fabric covering was damaged and I thought we had succeeded but unfortunately, after we’d turned off the M2 motorway on which we were unable to stop, and were able to check, I found that we had completely lost a couple of the large foam rubber pads and there was a small nick on one leading edge. This was such a pity because up to then, both wings had been perfect but fortunately the damage is not too bad and will be almost unnoticeable when I’ve had a chance to repair it.

One of the aileron edges also got a little nick on it when someone opened the tailgate without looking but as far as I could see when we unloaded the wings and temporarily put them into a hangar at Linton, those were the only two spots of damage on them, so that was not too bad. Pity though 😕

After that we all enjoyed a brew and one of Bob’s double fried egg rolls and we then left to pick up MYRO’s fuselage from my garage. This was a doddle compared to the nightmare of trailering the wings because with the main wheels in the two wheel boxes on the trailer, it was an easy matter to tie MYRO down really tightly, as you can see in the next two pics.

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I would imagine that these will be the last pictures that will ever be taken of MYRO outside my garage where it has lived for the past 10 months or so. This made for a rather nostalgic moment for me, but I have to say that I was glad that the time had finally arrived 🙂

It didn’t take long to get MYRO to Linton and it was a great moment for me when we lifted it off the trailer to see it back in its natural environment, on an airfield. It was so much more pleasing to see it standing outside a hangar rather than my garage as you can see from the last two pics for this post.

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By this time the day was beginning to take its toll on me and I have to confess that I was beginning to feel pretty tired. I was therefore very grateful indeed when Paul agreed to let me push MYRO into a back corner in his hangar where he said it could stay until I get it re-rigged and the wings back on. I had hoped that that would be tomorrow (Sunday) but earlier today I checked the box of rigging parts that were given to me with MYRO and I found that the four main wing fixing bolts are missing. So as I will have to order those from P & M on Monday, I may as well replace all of the rigging pins as well and do a proper job. This means that I won’t be able to do the re-rigging until next weekend and I’ll give Paul a ring tomorrow to let him know. I hope he’ll let me leave MYRO in his hangar in the meantime, but I think he will.

April 8, 2010

Time to leave home

It’s on. The plans have been made. I spoke to Bob today and it’s all set. MYRO will be leaving home to move to Linton tomorrow morning.

When I first started work on MYRO all those months ago I always knew that the time had to come eventually but now that it’s nearly here, I can hardly believe it. In some ways it’ll be a relief, knowing that the seemingly never-ending schedule of jobs has almost come to an end, but it doesn’t feel like that. Not quite yet anyway. After all, it’ll be no small task to safely load and shift the wings from Canterbury and the fuselage from my garage to be reunited at Linton. I’m more concerned about the wings than the fuselage because having already trailered the fuselage from Broadstairs to my home, I know how to do it. But the wings are an unknown quantity. I think I know how I’ll do it – I’ll stand them on the trailer leaning together in an inverted ‘V’ and hope that with sufficient padding they’ll make the journey unscathed. It would be terrible if at this late stage the wing fabric got damaged or some other awful event befell them, even though they’ll be insured from now on 😯

So this evening I made the final preparations. I wheeled MYRO’s fuselage out of the garage and vacuumed the cabin interior, scrubbed the vinyl seat backs, cushions and headrests, gave the floor a whipe-over and pumped the tyres up. Then I refitted the headrests and the interior Ultralam trim neither of which have been inside MYRO the whole of the time it’s been in my garage. I was very pleased with the final result. The pics are not very good because by the time I’d finished it was already pretty dark. But here they are by way of a momento more than anything else.

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If everything goes to plan, as I’m sure it will, the next pictures I post will show MYRO in it’s natural environment – on the airfield. I’m looking forward to that very much 🙂

April 4, 2010

MYRO work finished!

Well, to all intents and purposes, anyway. There will always be the odd job that will need doing, but all of the major work that I wanted to do at home has now been completed.

I popped out first thing to buy the parts that I needed from a car accessory shop to join the rubber tubes that connect the two tanks. I was very pleased to find exactly what I wanted and in no time at all, the job was done. Here’s how it looked.

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Quite tidy eh? 😉

There is an area of Ultralam around and under the fuel filler cap that over the years has been affected by spillage of fuel. This has resulted in the Ultralam surface lifting slightly from the underlying fabric and I had been wondering for some time how I should deal with it. In fact I already knew that to save mucking about, I’d cover it with some strips of that nice wide red gaffer tape that I have. So I did and it made a fine job too. The advantage is that the underlying surface is now fully protected against any further fuel spills and the elements and should I wish to replace the tape at any time, although it sticks like the proverbial 😆 it can be carefully removed without causing any damage.

Then I did a little more filing of the screen plastic around the fuselage tubes until I was totally happy that there is no contact and afterwards went around smoothing the cut edges of the plastic where necessary with some very fine wet-and-dry paper on a small wood block.

And that was it. Job done. Now all I have to do is remind Jeremy at LTS (who distributes Arplast props in the UK) that I still need the bolts for MYRO’s prop, get the tail plane back on and MYRO will be ready to go off to Linton. I was chatting to Bob on the phone today about that and he very kindly offered to help by towing the trailer and MYRO with his 4 x 4. This is a fantastic offer and I am so grateful as with the field being so wet, I wouldn’t be able to use my stepson’s estate for fear of bogging down and carving up the grass surface.

I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel and it really is so exciting after all the work I’ve done 😀

April 3, 2010

Tanked up

It was a fine flying day today on Good Friday here in the South East, despite what the forecast originally predicted. We had a couple of showery bursts first thing this morning but these cleared away and the rest of the day was fine and dry, albeit a little chilly. So that gave me the chance to finish the installation of the auxiliary tank. As I said last time, the tanks are connected via a ‘T’ piece in the water test drain in the main tank, and here’s a pic showing how the connection I put in ended up looking.

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Quite neat I thought – I’m very pleased with it 🙂 Here’s a pic of the corresponding connection into the bottom of the auxiliary tank.

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I had to finish threading the two vertical suspension straps around the seat frame today and after I’d done that I was able to drop the tank into position in the four webbing straps that support it and hold it in position. This is how it then looked.

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By this time the job was almost done, but not quite. The main tank has a breather that exits the fuselage under the wing on the passenger side and obviously the auxiliary tank has to have a breather too. It came with a long transparent plastic pipe for this purpose and I decided the neatest way to do it was to connect it into the main tank’s breather using a plastic ‘T’ piece. It worked very well and looked quite neat, as you can see below.

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Finally, here’s the finished job.

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With the outer sections of the belts repositioned on both sides so they passed over the tops of the tanks, in the end it looked a pretty good job. It’s a pity that the slits that had previously been cut in the pilot seat cover to take the straps for an auxiliary tank are a bit untidy. I’ll have to see whether I can make them a bit neater somehow 😉

April 2, 2010

Ronald Riley

I forgot to mention this before. Rosie told to me when we last flew together that Ron Riley, MYRO’s first owner, recently died. I didn’t know Ron and I wish I’d had the chance to meet him and share a few old stories and anecdotes about MYRO with him. Sadly that won’t be possible now.

RIP Ron and condolences and good wishes to his family and friends.