August 30, 2010

Another job done

The Bank Holiday week-end has come and gone with barely any flyable weather at all here in the South-East. I was lucky to have got the short flight in from Headcorn to Linton on Friday because I think that’s more than many other microligt pilots got over the whole week-end in these parts. And lucky too that because of John’s help, I didn’t have to leave it until Saturday because if I had done, I doubt that I’d have got it done.

The reason, of course, were the old enemies, rain and high winds, but this time with a real vengeance. I’ll tell more later, but I was working outside on MYRO on the field yesterday and the wind was so strong it was hard to do things and stand still in one place, the wind was blowing so hard. As I type this, of course, it’s now sunny and almost calm, but a bit too late once again for all of the microlighters here in the South-East who just wanted to get a bit of relaxing time in the air.

It didn’t worry me in that respect, of course, because without my Permit I still can’t fly MYRO, so knowing that I should have it this week, hopefully by Wednesday, I thought after my recent experiences I’d better get my comms setup installed. I’ve actually had an aerial for quite a long time. It’s one I bought on Ebay – brand new, ex MOD and very good quality as you might expect. I trimmed the whip down to the correct length ages ago and have been waiting for the right time to fit it. Well, that was this week-end.

There was only one small problem, well not a problem really, just something that I had to deal with. The aerial was intended to be installed onto somewhere like the roof of a vehicle so the cable connections had been left exposed. They couldn’t be left like that because they would then have been totally open to the weather on MYRO so before I could fit the aerial, I had to carefully encase the connections in silicone. Dave Smith had advised on the BMAA forum that your common-or-garden kitchen or bathroom sealant wouldn’t do because it makes acetic acid while it cures which then begins to corrode the connections. To prevent this, you must use a special non-corrosive silicone sealant. So Saturday saw me nipping across to Maplins to buy a tube of Servisol red cap which is commonly used on printed circuit boards to do exactly what I wanted, albeit on a slightly smaller scale 🙂

So Sunday saw me out on the otherwise deserted field installing MYRO’s aerial and as I mentioned earlier, was it blowing a real hooley! I got the job done though, including stripping out the old aerial cable Rosie had left in (but sans-aerial) and running the new cable right up to the panel. I even temporarily fitted the radio aerial connector and was able to try it out before calling it a day and leaving for home, and I’m glad to say that I could hear Headcorn and traffic in the circuit there very clearly (not that there was much of the latter given the conditions) although they could not hear me when I tried a test transmission. But that was not too surprising.

Today I went over to finish the job. The wind was still blowing everything around including MYRO’s doors and I noticed this evening when I shut up shop that as a result, there is now a crack in the door plastic beginning from one of the pop rivets on the pilot’s-side door. This is so annoying when I’ve hardly even had a chance to fly MYRO because I think I’ll have to find a way to catch it before it spreads too far.

All I had to do today was shorten the aerial cable, clip it neatly behind the panel so it couldn’t come into contact with any controls (eg rudder cables) and try it out. So that’s what I did. When I’d finished and put the whole system in, I could here Heathrow Approach and the traffic going into runway 27R as clear as a bell and when Bob arrived a bit later, I was able to do a proper test with the engine running. I think there’s a tiny bit of noise, from a plug cap probably, but before I dash off and buy four new ones I’ll wait to see how the system performs in the air. So for now I’m more or less ready to go, and here’s what the panel and comms setup looks like.

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I wasn’t going to, but I just can’t resist showing just one of the original old pics from when I first flew MYRO back in July 2008 which shows MYRO’s panel as it then was, and I hope you’ll agree it’s really quite an improvement 🙂

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On the top right hand side of the panel I’ve mounted my GPS system. This isn’t any old GPS system – it’s actually an aviation system hacked onto a cheap car sat-nav. I’ll explain a bit more about that sometime in another post but for the time being, I’m just glad that this little job is now done.

August 27, 2010

Back home again

Thanks to a very kind offer of a lift out to Headcorn from John, the other AX3 owner at Linton, I managed to complete my ferry flight this afternoon and get MYRO back to Linton from Headcorn. No time for any pics because time was tight but it’s good to know that that’s another problem out of the way, and it’s a very big THANK YOU to John for getting me out of trouble.

It was brakes off at 16.05 at Headcorn and brakes on at Linton at 16.20, so it took hardly any time at all. And in today’s better conditions, I now know that I had been within sight of the field on Wednesday, and that it was Linton village that I had flown over while trying to spot the airfield. So my dead-reckoning navigation hadn’t been too bad after all, I’m pleased to say. But it was still the right decision to divert to Headcorn given the conditions I was flying in and my lack of familiarity with the area. Now I’m really looking forward to some local exploring to get to know all the key features that let you find the field from whichever direction you’re coming.

But it won’t be this week-end, I’m afraid. I checked with the BMAA this morning and although they have my Permit paperwork, it’s in a queue and hasn’t been processed yet. So I won’t get it until next week, after the Bank Holiday, and MYRO must remain grounded until it’s actually in my hand. So I’ve been caught out by the Delay Gremlins yet again!

Oh well, nothing I can do about it. Maybe now MYRO’s back home again I’ll be able to do a few jobs that need doing, like fitting the comms kit, so when I do get the Permit through, I’ll be all ready to go 🙂

August 26, 2010

Quite a day!

Remember the old saying, ‘Better to be down here wishing you were up there than the other way round…’

I’d been waiting for nearly two weeks for a weather window (yes, in August :shock:) to get MYRO check flown for Permit and according to the weather forecast on Tuesday, there would be enough of a break in the weather yesterday for a half hour or so ferry flight from Linton to down near Canterbury, the check flight, and a flight back before more weather arrived.

In fact the forecast on the day suggested that the weather would be arriving by about mid-day and I was ready to call it off again, but I decided to go to the field anyway and check things out. Local conditions at Linton were good and Grant said that the most recent forecast was that the weather window had moved back again to about 4.00pm – plenty of time. So off I went.

I know the strip I was flying to very well and the flight was totally uneventful and it was great to be back up for the first time since my GST in June. These are a few shots I took along the way. The first is looking out towards the north-east and the Thames Estuary shortly after I took off.

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This one is a view showing the Kent Gliding Club site at Challock in the distance where a bit of gliding was going on.

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Here’s a shot looking east again with Canterbury and the coast in the far distance.

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But then things began to happen. Before the check flight, we found that the cooling cowl on the engine had come loose and there was a delay while I sorted that out. Then Rosie got away.

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The check flight was successful and it was then just a matter of doing the paperwork, which took a few minutes. Here are a coule of shots of MYRO parked up while Rosie was doing that.

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You can see that already the weather was beginning to worsen. After the check flight I found that the top of the screen was tucking under because of the air pressure it had been subjected to and my first thought was that I’d need to put some extra cable ties in after I’d got back to give it more support. Trouble was, when I went to take off to return to Linton, it did it again as soon as I put on full power, so I aborted, taxied back to where someone was working on their aircraft, borrowed a drill and did the job there and then. But it was another half hour lost.

By the time I was ready to go it was spitting a bit at Canterbury but vis was still very good and the wind very light. I phoned Linton and was told it was bright with a good cloud base and vis in occasional very light showers, so I decided to go for it.

I could see the weather coming in a wide front ahead of me so there was no way of dodging around it. I guess by that time the base was down to about 1800ft and by Ashford I was in pretty steady light rain but with fair vis and good sight of the surface. I got to abeam Headcorn where not unsurpisingly there was no flying going on and knew that Linton was only a few minutes further on. But remember, this was my first flight out of there so I haven’t had a chance yet to get to know the local features and after doing one orbit where I expected Linton to be, the base was down to about 1500ft, the rain was still light but steady and I still had no real idea where the strip was. I thought there was little point in flying around in those conditions looking for a needle in a haystack in the hope I might find it when I could head back and land safely at Headcorn.

So that’s what I did and MYRO is now parked there, where I guess it’ll remain for a few days. A hangar guy showed me where some tie downs could be found and a very kind chap gave me a lift back to Linton to pick up my car and engine cover as an alternative to sitting in Control moaning about not being able to fly.

It’s an inconvenience because I’ll now have to make arrangements to pick MYRO up over the weekend or whatever. But I think it was the right decision because within 20/30 minutes of landing, vis closed in completely and a chap went off for some IMC training without needing a hood!

The upside as well was that because I diverted to Headcorn in an ’emergency’ because of the weather, I didn’t have to pay a landing fee. Silver linings and all that ….. 😉

I have put a little video clip taken on my Pentax digital still camera of MYRO’s check flight with Rosie HERE in the video section.

August 22, 2010

Thwarted yet again

I’d arranged with Rosie for me to fly MYRO down yesterday so she could do the check flight but the wind just blew and blew and blew. So the plan just went straight out of the window.

Today we’ve had a severe weather warning for ‘constant heavy’ rain here in the South-East but, surprise surprise, not only is there absolutely no sign of it, but this morning would have been perfect for me to have got the check flight done as it’s bright with medium-high broken cloud and practically calm out there. But I can’t because I’m expecting my mother to arrive any time now to visit for the day.

And thanks once again to the Met Office for a brilliant weather forecast – NOT! When will they ever start getting things right because even with all of the technology available to them, they can’t do forecasts with any accuracy at all apparently. And even while I was sitting here an hour ago with bright skies and broken cloud they were still trying to convince me when I checked the Met Office web site for the regional weather that I was actually experiencing heavy rain, as they’d forecast the day before 😕

The worrying thing is, of course, that the Met Office general analysis and forecast is used for the aviation forecasts as well, so they must be just as inaccurate. It seems to me that because of the embarrassment the Met Office has experienced over the past couple of years on account of their appallingly inaccurate ‘long range’ seasonal forecasts (Barbecue Summer and all that) now they have swung the other way and always make their forecasts highly pessimistic. This may be fine for the general population who might feel good when the forecast ‘bad weather’ doesn’t materialise, but not so good for people like pilots whose activities are highly linked to what the weather is actually doing. If I’d been planning some local flying this morning and had decided to do something else instead on account of the weather forecast, I’d be very annoyed indeed 😐

As it is, I’m just feeling a bit frustrated!

August 18, 2010

Hooray! Good news!

I caught up with Tech Office today. They have received my Permit and Mod paperwork and although they are returning the Permit paperwork to me ‘because it hasn’t been check-flown’ (when we’d agreed they would hold it until the check flight had been done 😕 ) everything is OK and will be processed in due course. So they gave me the go-ahead to arrange the check flight 🙂

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I phoned Rosie yesterday and she’s now on standby waiting for me to let her know when I will get MYRO down to her. I arranged with my Insurer to make sure I’m covered for ‘Full Flying’ as of last week-end (up to then I’d only been covered for Ground and Third-Party risks to save a bit of cash…) and now all I need is a weather window. As usual, it doesn’t look too good – unsettled and gusty winds when it is bright, so it’s the same old story. But I’ll get there, don’t worry … 😉

August 15, 2010

And finally…

Well almost…

Yesterday was completely out for the re-weighing because of the weather – rain, rain and more rain – but it gave me the chance to get down to the field and pump the fuel out of the tanks using the electric pump. Almost all of the fuel in the main tank came out but I noticed that about 3 inches of fuel still remained in the other. When I got home I weighed what I’d got out and it seemed to only come out to about 4 kg. This seemed to indicate that there was still quite a bit left in and I decided I’d try to get to the field before Tim, the Inspector, and take the second tank and the fuel it contained right out to get the best weight possible for MYRO.

In the event, my plan was overtaken by events as I got a call from Tim just before 8.00am to tell me that he was already at the field and ready to go! We hadn’t managed to speak yesterday evening because Tim apparently had had car problems and I’d left a message saying that I’d be at the field anyway and if he could make it, I’d see him there. But his call came as a total surprise 😯

By the time I’d sorted out the dog and got there myself it was just after 9.00am and to my surprise, delight and I must say, relief, Tim said that he’d re-done the weighing already by levelling MYRO where it stood and that everything was now fine, both at the current weight with the single tank and at the new calculated weight with the second in place too. This was the best news I could possibly have received and I was so relieved that removing the weight represented by the excess fuel and carefully levelling MYRO before doing the weighing had done the trick. This means that with the two tanks when the mod for the second has been approved, I’ll be able to fly MYRO solo over quite reasonable distances without keep having to stop to refuel, which is what I’ve been hoping for all along 😉

The rest of the time was spent carefully sorting out MYRO’s paperwork for submission to the BMAA for the Permit to Fly. Nowadays you have to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed because otherwise the papers come back again and you waste time. Tim was a massive help because of his experience and attention to detail. He has really put himself out with this one and I’m so grateful for all of his considerable efforts because without his help and experience I doubt very much if it would have been possible to achieve the result that we have now succeeded in doing.

So the papers can now go off tomorrow but before I send them I’ll ask the Tech Office how long it will take for the Tank Mod to be approved. If it will only be a few days, I might as well get it done at the same time because Tim now has all the data we need. If it will take weeks as Tim thinks, then it’ll be better to do the mod separately after MYRO has been permitted and is flying. But in any event, once the TO have received the paperwork and has let me know that it’s OK and will be processed, then I’ll be able to go ahead and arrange with Rosie for a check flight.

So finally I’m almost there, but still not quite. But I now feel that I’m on a downhill run rather than still struggling up the mountain and that the end really is now coming into view. 🙂

August 10, 2010

Very interesting but….

There have been some interesting developments since MYRO’s Permit Inspection and weighing. For some reason MYRO’s CG position has come out a long way aft, so far so that although it’s OK with just the single standard tank, as soon as you do the calculations for adding the second tank, you find that it’s impossible to do so and still remain within the TADS aft limit.

But when I contacted the BMAA Tech Office, I found that there’s a Serial Mod for a twin tank set up using the AX2000 tanks, which are bigger than what I’m proposing and would therefore exacerbate the situation even more! So what’s happening 😯

Now I just happened to decide to do my own weighing on Sunday using a good set of digital bathroom scales, not to ‘check up’ on Tim’s results, which I didn’t have at the time, but just to see out of interest what I got MYRO’s empty weight out to. The reason was because when we did it on Saturday, I wasn’t very happy about the flimsy hardboard sheets that we had placed the scales on. I know from my own experiences of weighing myself on different surfaces that the results can vary hugely depending on the type of surface the scales are on and ideally you need something that’s firm and rigid.

I used a rigid sheet of thick plywood as a platform for the scales and placed a concrete paving slab under each of the wheels that were not being weighed. The outcome was that I got a weight that was slightly more than Tim’s figure but with a weight distribution between the wheels that was very different indeed. I got much more weight coming out on the nose wheel, to the extent that my numbers worked for both the official BMAA Serial Mod and, of course, for the tank mod that I want to do. Tech Office also found that there is some confusion with the official Serial Mod calculations and they are now very interested to see what happens because, of course, I will now have to pursue it to find out the true situation. Rob in the Tech Office said that they have done some important work recently which shows the great variations in weight distribution that can result from not having the aircraft totally level and he said that in fact they are now strongly suggesting that a spirit level is placed on the tail boom, or in MYRO’s case, the main tube, to ensure that it is dead level when the weighing is done.

I think that this is the source of the problem. Earlier in the day I spoke to Joan Walsh of Saxon Microlights about their AX3, G-MYHM, which has the same Arplast prop as MYRO and differs only in not having an electric fuel pump. That comes out slightly heavier than MYRO but the weight on the nose wheel is far greater and there would be no problem whatsoever with fitting an extra fuel tank because its empty CG position is far further forward than MYRO’s. I phoned Tim this evening to tell him about my conversations and to ask if he will be available for a re-weighing at the week-end under stricter conditions. Hopefully he will be and we’ll be able to get to the bottom of the mystery. This is a further complication that I could have well done without but I might as well try to get everything sorted out in one go now so I can have a more quiet life in the future. There can be no reason for MYRO to be so different from other AX3s and I can’t let this rest if I am to have my twin tanks – and I would like them if it’s at all possible 😉

August 7, 2010

Almost, but not quite

So MYRO had its Permit Inspection today and I had to nip behind the inspector doing/redoing little bits of wire locking, replacing dodgy cable ties that might chafe, stuff like that. I also had to slacken off the front suspension bolts that I’d tightened up too much and move the safety tie on the exhaust. Not surprisingly I thought, the fabric being Ultralam sailed through its Betts Test and at the end of the day MYRO would have been signed off.

However, as I thought might happen, I hadn’t received my Mod paperwork back for the prop and the aux 12V electrical sockets, and I also discovered that whereas I’d assumed that the ‘Trading Fuel for Weight’ rules would encompass the extra tank that is needed to contain the additional fuel that can be traded off against the weight being carried, this is not so. The tank itself also has to be treated as a Mod in its own right which is never stated in the documentation. Stupid of me, but I hadn’t realised 😐

So at the end of the day I’ve been frustrated by administration and paperwork. If I’m lucky I’ll get all the paperwork for all three Mods sorted out by next week-end, otherwise I’ll be delayed and prevented from flying for even longer.

I also have to replace a few clevis pin safety rings but doing that pales into insignificance compared to having all of the paperwork sorted. Frankly I am becoming bemused by it all, especially as I have spent almost the whole of the last three days or so getting it organised and still haven’t succeeded. It wouldn’t have hurt the author of the Trade Fuel for Weight Rules to have spelt out the requirement to get the extra tankage separately approved, but such simple common sense is apparently a bit too much to ask 😕

August 5, 2010

Nearly all done

I nipped down to the field this afternoon and managed to get more or less everything done that I wanted to. I started by sticking all the principal cockpit placards on – I made them yesterday using an old hand Dymo machine that I had in the cupboard. Then I put the new tyres on the main wheels, which took me much longer than expected because I couldn’t get the second wheel back on properly. Somehow it had grown while changing its tyre and was too wide on the axle. I had to strip it apart again just in case I’d trapped a bit of the tube or valve between the rim halves but that didn’t solve it. After struggling for the best part of an hour, even longer possibly, Bob suggested taking the other wheel off and swapping them over. Sure enough that did it – who would believe that two seemingly identical wheels could be that different 😯

Then I took the nose wheel off because I have to bring that home for the local tyre fitter to do the tyre swap. After the struggle he had on Saturday I bet he won’t like seeing me come through the door again :o:

And finally, just before I cleared up to come home, I remade the dodgy electrical connection that pulled apart on Sunday and that I’d done a hasty repair on. So that was it. With the new tyre on the nose wheel, MYRO will be all ready for its Permit Inspection. I just hope all my paperwork comes through and that I haven’t forgotten anything 😉

August 4, 2010

Getting things organised

MYRO’s Permit Inspection has been arranged for 7.00am on Saturday morning, so I’ve been getting everything ready. One of the important things is the paperwork and although I’m pretty sure that I’ll have the log books and cockpit placards (which are a legal requirement) all in order, I’m not so certain about some of the other stuff.

My biggest concern is to do with the paperwork for the prop. Although I dealt with everything to ensure the prop would be approved last year, I only got round to doing the paperwork for it this week. I may have left it too late because I had to submit a form to the BMAA Tech Office and they then send another back which has to be filled in by the Inspector. To get the latter in time, the Tech Office would need to turn round my form and also get the Inspector’s form out the same day, and the Post Office would then need to deliver it to me the next. It might be too much to ask 😐

Since changing the tyres over last week-end, I’ve been agonising about what to do, as the replacements are themselves old and although they have good side-walls, they show signs of age-related cracking in the tread grooves. I’d hate for MYRO’s permit to be declined because of it so I eventually decided to bite the bullet and buy new ones, which arrived today. I was thinking about nipping down to the field later this afternoon to get MYRO’s wheels so I could do another tyre change-over but I had to abandon the idea because a couple of storms came through with thunder and some quite heavy rain, so hopefully I’ll be able to do it tomorrow.

The final thing I wanted to do, although it’s not essential, was remake the dodgy electrical connections from last week-end, but as they’re working and look fine from the outside, they can wait if necessary until later.

I realise all of this stuff is an unavoidable and necessary part of the process, but believe me, I’ll be glad when it’s all done and dusted 😉

August 1, 2010

There at last!

Sunday evening update – I put the main wheel back on and it was nice to see MYRO back on three wheels again! Then I replaced the starter switch. Along the way the soldered joint of the main 12V supply to the switch broke away from the fused side of the main fuse holder due to a dry joint and I thought I’d have to abandon the job yet again until I could bring a soldering iron down to the field. However, Colin asked whether it would be possible to fit a crimped spade connector instead and when I checked it was. So that got round that problem.

Then the big moment came to start up and I was disapponted to find that the magneto earthing problem (ie lack of..) still remained. Bob was there and I said I thought that the problem was therefore probably at the engine end. When I got out to show Bob the wiring I realised immediately that the magneto earth cables had not been connected properly! Somehow I’d mixed them up with the smaller yellow and black cables coming out of the generator and sure enough, when I switched them around, all was well. I don’t know how this can have happened – I can only assume that when I connected the engine wiring up last year I’d done it a bit quickly and then hadn’t properly checked, and the mistake had carried forward right up until now.

My big concern, though, is whether I’ve done any damage to the generator by earthing it through the starter switch. I doubt that I have because the only times both generator cables have been earthed have been when the engine was being switched off. There seem to be no ill effects, although I won’t know for sure until I can either check the generator voltage, or find the battery goes flat because of an absence of charge from the generator.

So it could be that the work I did on the switch may not have been necessary after all, but I’m glad I did it because the the internal contacts were not in good condition. The other thing was that it led me to the dry soldered joint in the 12V line which would have failed at some time in the future if I hadn’t dealt with it now and also, when I switched the mag earth and generator connections, a crimped connector in the latter, which I’d inherited, parted. I repaired it as best I could for now but I’ve resolved that I’ll remake all of the connections involved in this afternoon’s work to save electrical problems further down the line.

So that’s it for now! All of MYRO’s systems are now working as they should and to all intents and purposes, it’s flyable! When I arrived at the field around lunchtime, Bob gave Tim the Inspector a ring and said that all being well, MYRO would be ready for Permit Inspection next Sunday. I told him not to tempt fate, but it looks as though he was right after all 🙂

I’m typing this this evening feeling a lot happier than I did previously. I’m also feeling very tired and I’ll be having a shower and an early night tonight. The last couple of week-ends and the series of problems I’ve had to cope with have taken it out of me more than I realised, but I have a feeling it will all be worth it in the long run 😉

August 1, 2010

Expectation … or hope?

Sunday morning update – it was a dead loss looking for the lost spring in the dark yesterday evening so, so as not to be disappointed, I found a little spring in my odds-and-ends tin that I might be able to use instead. Before starting my search this morning, I modified it slightly to make it more suitable and it looked as though if necessary, it would work OK. I’d turned out half of the conservatory before finding the lost one on the dog’s bed, so either that’s where it flew to last night, or he found it during the night and placed it somewhere safe where I would find it this morning 🙂

Lucky I’ve got a sense of humour.

I also found a little grub screw in the tin and after shortening it this morning, it fitted perfectly. So I’m just off to replace the punctured tube in the main wheel that I brought home with me yesterday and hopefully I’ll report back later, at the end of the day to say that now everything is working as it should.

Surely that’s not too much to ask? 😕