June 27, 2010

From bad to worse and back again

This has not been a very enjoyable week-end by any means as what I thought would be a day’s work to deal with the problem bolt eventually took both yesterday and today to complete. It also felt as though every step was beset with problems and I have to say that compared to all the work I’ve done on MYRO over the many months previously, including the ‘biggest’ and ‘worst’ jobs that I had to tackle in that time, the work over these last two days has been by far the worst.

I arrived at Linton yesterday at around 11.30am and with the prospect of a hot one ahead of me, the day was already beginning to warm up. I had a quick cuppa with Bob and Tony and an early lunch while my hands were still clean and then got cracking. The first job, which I needed a bit of help with, was to remove the left wing and this is how poor MYRO looked afterwards.

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So far, so good and by now it was beginning to get pretty hot. I had to keep working though, otherwise I would never get the job done. First I removed the aileron and then I pulled out all the wing battens and carefully laid them out in order to one side. Battens are lengths of aluminium tube that are curved at one end and pushed into tubes called batten pockets that are incorporated in the fabric of the wing covering. Much as weight-shift microlight wings in particular are referred to as sails, battens and batten pockets are another hangover from the world of sailing. The function of battens is to give the wing the profile that it needs to produce lift as it passes through the air.

Anyway, because of MYRO’s age and also because the wing fabric is Ultralam, a plastic/fibre laminate material that becomes a bit harder and brittle with age, ideally one would not want to remove the battens unless there was a special reason. Obviously on this occasion I had no choice because of the need to remove the wing covering to get to the bolt.

With the battens out and a strut that passes through the underside of the wing fabric released, I was able to pull the wing fabric down towards the wing tip until I got to the offending bolt. I then realised that in the process, the bolt had fallen out inside the wing, together with two essential plastic spacer washers. I managed to locate the bolt but I was never able to find the washers and that therefore presented me with a problem. Without the washers I couldn’t reassemble the joint that the bolt secured.

I looked around MYRO and decided that the best option was to remove two plastic washers from a rudder cable connector because I could replace them at any time as they are fully accessible. So I removed them and got back to the bolt. I put one washer into place but then found that the second one was too thick so I had no option but to try and thin it down a bit. All the while it was getting hotter and hotter and although I’d brought a flask of iced orange squash with me, I was rapidly working my way through it even by this stage. John the other AX3 owner at Linton, has a small bench in his hangar and I started rubbing the washer like mad on a sheet of wet-and-dry paper, which is all we had, on it. I’d been going for what seemed like ages but could only have been 10 or 15 minutes and the sweat was pouring off me. But worse, the amount of progress was negligible because the wet-and-dry was far too fine.

It was then that Bob had a look inside his tool box, never thinking he would have any plastic washers let alone any of the correct size, and found some. I was mighty relieved I can tell you. I gratefully took them and headed back out into the heat of the day to finish the job off. Or so I thought.

I got the bolt and joint secured and then had to refit the wing covering. That wasn’t too bad though, accompanied by regular swigs of my rapidly depleting orange squash, and I was constantly spurred on by the thought that everything I did brought the end of the job closer. I could even see myself getting the wing back on again by the end of the day, never for a moment realising how hopelessly optimistic this would prove to be.

With the wing covering back in place, all that remained was to replace the wing battens. The first one, followed by another and another…I was delighted how smoothly it was all going. And then, of course, it happened. The fourth from last, about five or six feet in from the wing root, didn’t slide in smoothly. I gave it a bit of a push, obviously too hard with hindsight, and there was an ominous ripping sound. I turned the wing over and although the main damage was inside the wing, there was the tip of the batten sticking out through a small hole that it had made in the underside of the wing. I was absolutely mortified and highly fearful of what might have happened inside the wing. John came down to see how I was getting on before he left and I told him what had happened. His excellent advice was very simple. ‘Roger, it’s late, you’re very hot and very tired. Put it away and come back to it tomorrow and it probably won’t look half as bad as you think’.

So that’s what I did. By the time I’d moved MYRO back to its parking spot, tied it down and covered it and the loose wing with tarpaulins for the night, not only was I exhausted but I also felt physically sick. It was then that I realised that I’d probably got a touch of sunstroke.

After a surprisingly restful night, I awoke early this morning and after picking up a few things, like more orange squash to fill a much bigger flask, and some long-life milk for our tea, I headed off to the field. When I arrived, Lee who has a Quantum had flown out some time ago with a passenger so before getting started I opened up the hut to get some air into it as the day was already very hot. I decided that I wouldn’t make the same mistake as yesterday and that I’d stop for a long break when the sun was at its highest and for shorter ones when I began to feel really uncomfortable. I’d made a plan of how I’d proceed. I thought that with the wing laid out on the soft grass, I’d remove all of the battens along from the problem one up to the wing root, then carefully crawl inside the wing and inspect the internal damage. So that’s what I did and I was delighted to find that despite the horrendous ripping sound, all that there was was a batten sized hole in the batten pocket through which the batten passed every time it was inserted. With me inside the wing to guide it, if someone carefully pushed the batten in, once I’d got it over the small hole, then it would slide into place as usual.

Lee gave me a hand after he’d finished putting his Quantum away and the job only took a couple of minutes to do. I’d had to pull a pin out of a wing strut and turn it a bit, as I’d done yesterday, to free the wing covering up enough to do the job, but as this only took a few minutes to refit yesterday, I thought that I’d soon be finished. It didn’t take long to refit the aileron – only three bolts with wing nuts and safety rings. Then all I had to do was refit the aforementioned strut.

Now I don’t know whether it was due to the heat, which had been exceptional all day, or what, but lining up the holes and spacer washers and refitting the pin that holds it all together was a nightmare. The wing seemed to have twisted somehow taking the holes totally out of alignment. In fact what took minutes yesterday was almost impossible today. Bob said to go away and leave it for another day, but you can’t keep doing that or you’d get nothing done. I tried carefully lifting each corner to induce a kind of twist in the right direction and eventually succeeded. I guess what took a couple of minutes yesterday must have taken two hours or more today, and in the most intense heat as well. But at least the job was done.

I still, of course, have the little hole punched through by the batten in the underside of the wing, but this is not serious, just cosmetic. With a small patch on it will be almost unnoticeable. But the wing is at last ready to go back on, and I at least had that as a source of satisfaction as I pushed the wing over the soft grass back beside MYRO and covered it with a tarpaulin.

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Surely my misfortunes must now have come to an end? I’ve had enough of them since bringing MYRO to Linton, that’s for sure, and none of them of my own making. Whoever, banged that bolt up into the wing has caused me so much grief and so many problems. But now with a bit of luck, MYRO should come together completely next week-end. It’s still a two week delay, though, when I’d been hoping to be getting MYRO permitted while my licence paperwork was being processed. I’m very annoyed and disappointed by how such an apparently trivial thing escalated and escalated until it became a major problem. And all so needlessly.

June 24, 2010

Done and dusted

Today was the big day. I had an early night and felt much more refreshed this morning than I did yesterday. Rosie and I did a quick 40 minutes before the GST proper and apart from getting caught out on approach when returning to the field and having to go around (mind you, we did try cutting in very early from the downwind leg as an experiment and there was just too much lift around to get down), my flying was much better and tidier today than yesterday.

My Examiner Chris Childs flew in in a Quantum flexwing from Stoke and perish the thought that I’d ever mention that he got caught too by the same bit of lift for the same reason and also had to go around, so I won’t 😉 After a brief but thorough briefing off we went in MZEL.

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For me it was 1 hour 30 minutes of pure fun. Chris was great company and I really enjoyed myself. Learnt a lot too – shows how useful it is having sessions with different instructors. Chris used to own and train in an AX3 and knows what it can do. As a result he demanded 60 degree 2g turns that made your bum press hard into your seat and his extreme attitudes were – well – extreme! I won’t make any assumptions about my flying but all I can say is that after a very thorough session, I was told that I’d passed 🙂

Thanks to Rosie my instructor for preparing me for it, many thanks to Joan Walsh of Saxon Microlights in Essex for finding the change in the rules that allowed me to take my GST earlier than I might have previously expected and thanks to Chris again for taking me through the GST in such a professional yet enjoyable way.

So that’s that milestone reached. I’m tired but happy after the most demanding just over two hours of flying that I’ve had in a day, for a very long time. Now I can focus my attention fully on MYRO and getting it finished, permitted and flyable, because then I’ll be able to fly as much as I want, whenever I want. That’s what the freedom of microlight flying is all about. You just need a bank account that can stretch as far as you need it to 😀

June 23, 2010

GST day -1

I’d arranged with Rosie to do another pre-GST in advance of the real thing and today was the day. Did an hour and ten minutes and quite honestly my flying was very scrappy. But I didn’t mind too much because I was tired after a late night finishing off some web site work and my legs were still stiff after last week-end. My main problem was rudder coordination and at least I have a reason why, although I didn’t make a thing of it at the time.

I say I don’t mind too much because I feel pretty confident that I will be physically on much better form tomorrow and as there were no major disasters today anyway, that can only bode well. Rosie said that although she agreed several exercises I did were more untidy than usual, I would still have got through. She suggested maybe another half hour getting into the swing of things before doing the GST. I agreed and I said I’d aim for 1.30-ish tomorrow afternoon, but I’ll have to see how work pans out before shutting shop early and just going off as there are a couple of things left un-done from today.

So this evening (what’s left of it anyway) I’ll spend some time just relaxing and then it’s early to bed so I awake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready for tomorrow’s exertions. I’ll do a post about it afterwards 😉

June 21, 2010

Dare I say it?

I phoned Rosie today. My GST is booked for Thursday at 3.00pm. I have to say that I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to get hotter over the rest of the week so there’s a possibility that it could get a little thermic by that time of the afternoon. That’s OK – I’m pretty much used to that now as I’ve mentioned on several occasions. But it will make accurate flying a bit more, let’s say, challenging 😀

I said that I’d like to get another pre-GST session in before then so that’s been arranged for either Wednesday morning or afternoon, depending on my circumstances at the time. Rosie said that she thought the morning would be better but I think I prefer the afternoon because then the conditions are likely to be more like what I might expect the same time the following day.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting ever closer – I just hope it isn’t attached to the front of an oncoming train 😆

June 20, 2010

A day of mixed fortunes

Today was the day for MYRO to start coming back together again. I haven’t seen MYRO with wings on since I last flew it back in Summer 2008 so I was really looking forward to achieving a real milestone today. I don’t have a key to Paul’s hangar so I had to make a late morning start and when I arrived a bit before Bob at around 11.00 am, Linton was totally deserted and looking absolutely stunning. The first pic was taken from the up-slope on the northern side of the field and the second was shot directly along the main runway looking towards the west.

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Bob does all the looking after of the field and I have to say that it’s an absolute credit to the work and effort he’s put in. The main runway looks a lot better than my back lawn actually 😉

I pulled MYRO out of Paul’s hangar and down to the other hangar where the wings have been stored. I decided it would be best to work down there because it’s close to where MYRO will be parked and at the end of the day when I would probably be pretty knackered I wouldn’t have far to move it before leaving for home.

I’d made a plan for re-rigging MYRO based on the instructions in the User Manual and my first task was to lay out the the various parts in the order that they’d be needed. I also had to replace an aileron bracket as I’d only done one previously because I needed the old pivot bush when I fitted the rudder and found one for that was missing all those weeks ago. Here are the parts all laid out – lucky I knew we could expect good weather today, eh 🙂

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As well as replacing the second bent aileron bracket, I also had to re-secure the wing tensioning cables. There are two diagonal cables on the underside of each wing that apply tension between the cross-strut in the middle of the wing and the wing root, crossing over each other in an ‘X’ roughly in the centre of the wing. There is absolutely no need to remove them when removing the wings but for some reason, someone had released the inner cable fastenings. Anyway, it was a simple enough job to re-fix them with the wings on the grass and I wanted to renew the rusty bolts anyway. It never occurred to me that, having released the inner fixings, anyone would ever, ever, think about undoing the nuts holding the outer fixings as although they screw onto bolts that protrude outside, the bolts and the cable fastenings are totally inaccessible inside the wing structure itself.

This was in fact to prove my downfall, but more of that later. With the help of Paul who had arrived by now, and Bob I was able to get the wings and struts on with sufficient clevis pins to secure them. I was very, very happy when I stood back to see MYRO at last looking like more like a complete aircraft again, even if my satisfaction was somewhat dampened when I saw for the first time the several niggly little nicks and scuffs that the wing leading edges had suffered during their journey months before into Linton on the trailer.

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I was surprised just how difficult it was lining holes up to get clevis pins in and I have to say that I don’t think I’d have been able to do it without my two helpers. I think it would even have been difficult with just one, so I was very fortunate that Paul had decided to drop in to give his Quik a clean and polish. I think he managed to do it even with all the time he and Bob spared me, but it must have been a bit of a close run thing even so 🙂

I then pressed on and got the jury struts on the starboard side on and with the rate of progress I was making, I had high hopes of getting both wings on, the aileron cables fitted and the upper and lower central wings covers on before putting MYRO to bed for the night.

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And that’s when it all went pear-shaped. I was going around putting all the clevis pins and rings into place that I’d missed when we initially positioned the wings and struts. I’d finished the starboard side and was working on the port wing when I noticed a bolt hole in the centre underside of the port wing leading edge. When I checked I found that it was the hole that should have been filled by the cable securing bolt that I mentioned previously – the one that you can’t get access to because it’s up inside the structure of the wing.

Well it seemed that not only had someone removed the nut and washer, but they’d also tried to bang out the bolt that didn’t need to be removed anyway – into the wing. There was enough of the bolt in the hole (but only the tip) to hold the cable in tension so I didn’t notice when I secured the cable’s other end. But now it was too late. By looking through a hole in the fabric I could see the bolt standing up inside the wing but there was no way of getting access to it. Paul and I tried by removing the front strut and trying to work through the hole in the wing fabric that the bracket that the strut attaches to comes through, but there just wasn’t enough space to get at it. After Paul and Bob had left for home, I had another go by myself and actually succeeded in getting the bolt a good inch or so down. But it’s difficult enough getting three or four holes lined up to get a clevis pin to pass through when you have easy access, so I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to get this bolt to successfully pass through that number and a cable bracket besides, when access was totally impossible. It’s obvious that the wing will need to come off to do the job, but that’s not all. To get to the bolt, the wing cover will need to come off too and to do that the port aileron will also need to be removed. In fact it will require a total wing strip down, back to the frame, probably the best part of a days’ work. All because someone tried to remove a bolt that didn’t need to be removed at all really. I feel like the proverbial football manager – as sick as a parrot, although that’s actually an under-statement.

So that’s how the day eventually drew to a close – like a bit of a damp squib. More was yet to come, though. As I mentioned earlier, I had to move MYRO into it’s parking spot which also involved shifting the tie-downs to where they were needed. They are really heavy and I found that totally exhausting after all my efforts during the day. And then I had to get some tarpaulins on to cover the gap between MYRO’s wings and the cabin. I can tell you, doing that by myself was no fun with the gusty wind having a real old laugh at my expense 😕

I eventually succeeded but it needed the best part of an hour to get everything tied down so the wind couldn’t get under the tarps and possibly damage them while no-one was looking. Here’s how MYRO looked parked up and eventually tucked up snugly for bed just before I left – at around 8.00pm!

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I was thinking about the job to come during the drive home – which is to take two or three steps back, remove the port wing, strip the aileron off, remove the battens and cover and sort out this bolt. And then do the whole thing again in reverse. I can’t say that I relish the prospect at all 🙁

June 16, 2010

This week? Don’t think so..

Well, after last week-end’s success story and Rosie’s and my joint resolve to get a GST booked for this week with another practise session thrown-in in between, it looks as though our plans are going to be dashed yet again. Why? Same old story – high winds. Take a look at this weather forecast for the area.

Canterbury Weather Forecast

Just look at the strength of those gusts. And what’s also noticeable this year as the winds are predominantly northerly, is how chilly they are compared to previous years. But high winds are high winds whichever direction they come from, so the danger is that this year could go the same old way as previous ones have.

The forecast seems to indicate a small weather window on Friday but I don’t think I can really bank on that, not for what I want to do 🙁

But on the brighter side, if the winds are not too bad at the week-end, maybe I really will be able to think about getting MYRO’s wings on in readiness for its permit checks.

June 13, 2010

Almost there

Just back from a 50 minute GST refresher. Needed it too because when you’ve just been more or less flying around building up hours, as I have recently, you tend to neglect many aspects of flying technique. You also tend not to practise the kind of specific exercises that are examined in the GST.

It also didn’t help that it’s been a month since I last flew but taking that into account, things didn’t go too badly. My first steep turn was a bit scruffy but the ones that followed were pretty good. Same with stalling, especially steep into a turn, but they came together after a couple of goes or so. My forced landings were very good though, I’m glad to say, because funnily enough that’s something I’ve not practised a great deal. And my absolute piece-de-resistance was the landing at the end – a glide approach side slipping to lose height and finishing with a gentle greaser.

My conclusions at the end of it all were to constantly be more aware of the required attitude of the aircraft given the throttle position and the manoeuvre that’s intended, to do HASELL checks every time when a manoeuvre has been requested (and refuse to be hurried) and to shout out more that engine checks and lookout are being performed regularly.

Other than that, Rosie is trying to get a GST booked for this coming week and I’ve said when we know which day, let’s get another pre-GST in before if we can, if the weather is kind to us.

So I’m now drinking to that 😉

June 5, 2010

Grrrrrr!

I’m now becoming more than just frustrated. I’ve established that all I need to do is pass a GST to get microlights added to my lifetime PPL(A), right? So that should be OK, with a couple of hours of revision and consolidation work to get myself set up. Simple. Do that, book a GST.

So I phoned Rosie yesterday evening to crack on with the flying bit and …… she’s been away and has come back with a cold. So she doesn’t feel like flying today. And do you know what? That’ll be another week gone (at least) because this coming week is forecast as being disastrous yet again. More wind and rain.

How much longer have I got to be the owner of an aircraft that I’m having to pay out for to keep in a hangar while I’m perfectly capable of flying it, as I’ve proven in recent weeks, but be unable to do so because of Red Tape. I can now understand why some people just stick two fingers up to the system and do their own thing. Really. 😡

June 1, 2010

Chalk and Cheese

That’s the difference between last week-end and the one before that I mentioned in my previous posting, below. Should have known it because last week-end was a Bank Holiday one, of course, so what should you expect 😕

There was no chance of getting MYRO’s wings back on as I’d planned and maybe so long as Paul doesn’t mind having MYRO’s fuselage in his hangar, perhaps it’s the best place for it to stay until I can see a definite date when I’ll be able to get it into the air. I had to go down to Linton anyway to settle up for this year’s hangarage and when I got there I found Bob and Lee sitting gloomily inside the cabin while the wind blew a right hooley outside.

Lee had been there for quite a while and had been hoping to get a flight in his Quantum but it was pretty obvious that there was no chance of the wind dropping. So that knocked that on the head. We all took a stroll down to the hangar which had been opened up earlier and I had a chance to check MYRO’s wings out. Bob said that as the wings are standing on the floor, I have to be careful because of mice which have been known to chew almost anything. So I gave them a look-over and all seemed to be well. And that was that. Toddie was enjoying himself racing around chasing scents and he was a bit disappointed when we all decided to shut up shop and call it a day.

Yesterday (Monday) was even worse and we had gloomy skies and showers all day. And as for today, best not to talk about it as it’s like being back in October again with really thick cloud and showers for most of the day. Please, please don’t say that we’re getting back into the same old weather pattern that has plagued us in recent years, because we’d hoped that the exceptional weather that we endured last Winter had broken the trend.

I suppose all we can do is wait and see 😐