September 28, 2010

No fly zone…

Well last week-end was for me anyway. I had to paint the weatherboarding on our house this year come what may and although Saturday was a bit windy, it was a dry weather window that I couldn’t afford to miss. So painting came first and as Sunday was wet and windy yet again, there was no flying for me at all over the two days. So all I could do was think about past flying pleasures and it gave me the chance to finish off the movie clip that I mentioned in my last post.

I got 60 minutes of video but was disappointed to find that as the camcorder had been aimed too low, much of it was pretty boring. I was very pleased to discover that the sound, though, was excellent, as this is something that stumps many microlighters who either end up with completely silent movies or ones with occasional passages of voice from their comms or intercom interspersed with long periods of silence. I was delighted to find that my clip included an excellent mix of everything – background engine noise, radio transmissions and voice from the intercom. I had to edit out most of the radio transmissions, though, because of the appalling noises that most light aircraft comms systems seem to transmit! Just click on the pic below to see the movie (that’s a shot approaching Rye, by the way).

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I know I said that I wouldn’t put a direct link to it on the main blog, but after seeing it, I changed my mind. It’s not the most brilliant effort because of the problems I mentioned above, but I just had to include it in the Gallery as it’s the first in-flight movie I’ve done. Now I know about the aiming problem and if I can also do something about cleaning the screen plastic a bit as well, future videos should be a little bit more ‘polished’. Have to wait and see 😉

September 20, 2010

Flying with video

I had a really good day on Saturday but was too busy doing other stuff to write this up yesterday. A week ago I tried to link my camcorder into the comms system but without success because I’d connected a cable incorrectly. I’d planned a round trip out to Battle, Hastings and Rye passing overhead the Bewl reservoir and a return via Tenterden so on Saturday I made sure I connected the camcorder up properly this time. It was more in hope than expectation I have to admit, but in fact, I got 60 minutes-worth of video with excellent sound before the tape ran out just after Tenterden on my final leg back into Linton.

As this was the first attempt, I wasn’t wholly surprised to find that I’d aimed the camcorder a bit too low so although I’ve edited the 60 minutes down to about 10 and will be placing the video in the gallery (more for sentimental reasons than anything else really 🙂 ) I’ll not be including a direct link to it here on the main blog. But what I will show instead as a flavour of what I managed to get, is a short clip of the take off, so here’s the link to that. Just click on the pic to see the clip.

 Click Here To Watch Video

I’ve got my Canon camcorder mounted with a cheap plastic clamp from Ebay on a cross tube behind me in the cabin and I’m very happy with these initial results. Changing the aiming is not a problem but what I’m particularly pleased about is the nice sound balance between background sound (engine etc), comms system and intercom. I think it bodes very well for the future and I’m looking forward to making some more videos while the weather is good, especially including take offs and landings.

As the Autumn begins to approach, Bob announced at the week-end that Linton’s main runway will soon be closing and we’ll have to use the shorter Winter runway instead. To prepare myself, I thought I’d give it a go for both landing and take off on Saturday and had no problem with either. Partly it’s because I’ve been used to having trees at both ends of the runway and with Linton being so clear from both directions, it’s relatively easy I find to set your approach speed up pretty accurately making for very short landings. I’ll have to see how take offs go a bit later on when the ground becomes wetter and softer but as you can see from the YouTube clip, I got well away in plenty of time with runway to spare on Saturday. So solo at least, I don’t think there will be too much of a problem – I wonder if the faster Quik R boys will be thinking the same 😕

We’ll have to wait and see how we all do, I think, just as we will with my future video exploits…

September 12, 2010

Win some, lose some

So, today was the big day… the first day of official flying after MYRO had received its Permit to Fly. I wanted to do something to commemorate the event so I thought I’d set up my camcorder next to me in the cabin and see if I could record MYRO’s first official flight in my ownership. Here’s how the camcorder looked when mounted in position – pretty neat I thought.

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So after checking and fuelling MYRO up, I strapped myself in, fired up the engine, pressed the camcorder ‘start’ button and set off for the wide blue yonder. Luckily I took my little still camera too because when I got back after over an hour’s flying, I found that the camcorder hadn’t even started! But you win some and you lose some – no movie to show for it, but at least my still pics came out not too bad, and here they are 🙂

I took off on runway 29 and after climbing out, I turned to head east. This shot, taken shortly after take off, is looking northwards with Stoke airfield where MYRO was check-flown last week, although you can’t make it out, slap bang in the middle of the shot, on the farthest-most shoreline in the far distance.

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It’s too far to be very distinct, although you can see it pretty clearly if you click on the pic and then on the magnify link, but the beautiful Leeds Castle is just below the centre of the shot in the middle of its lake and surrounded by green fields. The next shot is of the City of Canterbury with its famous cathedral in its centre and was taken just after I’d turned onto a north-easterly heading.

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I’ve never yet managed to get a good shot of Canterbury because I’ve always been just too far away but I’ll do it one day soon. The next picture is of the town of Whitstable which is on the Thames Estuary. You can clearly see the wind farm that has been built some way off-shore out in the estuary itself.

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I had originally intended to fly right up to Whitstable before turning west to head back along the North Kent coast. However, there was a brisk wind today and the northerly component was obviously stronger than I’d allowed for. As a consequence this leg of my flight took quite a bit longer than I’d allowed for, so I decided to turn onto a westerly heading before Whitstable just in case my fuel level might start to get a bit low later on. I shot this next pic at about the time I did the first part of my turn.

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You can see the Essex coast in the distance on the far side of the Thames Estuary and the pic shows the Isle of Sheppey just coming into view on the left. The next pic is a much closer view of the eastern end of the Isle of Sheppey with Essex in the distance beyond. Southend Airport is somewhere in that direction.

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As I headed west towards Sittingbourne, I passed abeam the small town of Faversham which I’ve shown viewed from the north in the next shot.

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I then decided to save some fuel by turning to the south of Sittingbourne to intersect my originally planned track to head back to Linton. As I did so I took my last picture of the day, the beautiful Leeds Castle.

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I want to get some much closer shots of the castle and there will be other days, but for the time being, this one will suffice.

I returned to Linton and landed without incident in quite a brisk, gusting cross-wind actully, after spotting the field from some way out. I’m already beginning to recognise the local features I’m pleased to say that will allow me to do that even more easily in the future. The day wasn’t over by any means. After a chat and a cuppa with Bob and Lee I decided to go off for one more short flight to make the most of the day as it was a rather special one. This time I went off to the west as far as West Malling and then returned flying along the ridge over Coxheath and then round Linton and down to Staplehurst in the south.

I was flying at about 1500ft and could see Headcorn quite clearly in the distance. Although I was on the very much extended runway 29 centre line some way outside the airfield zone, an extraordinary thing happened. The air over Kent is pretty busy so you have to keep your eyes open and I’d seen several other aircraft during the day, including a tug towing a glider out of the Kent Gliding Club at Challock earlier in the day, which I’d watched climbing out and passing some way behind me. But I was amazed to see a yellow and white Robin aircraft that had obviously just taken of from Headcorn pass about 500ft directly below me on a track that intersected mine at 90 degrees. I saw him come and go, but I don’t think he saw me. He passed directly over Staplehurst and at about 1000ft, was a bit low in my book.

So the day came to an end. It gave me immense satisfaction after having put the work into MYRO that I did and it’s not easy to explain the pleasure of being able to take to the air in your own aircraft more or less whenever you want to without having to ask permission or being beholden to anyone. Other microlighters I’ve spoken to have said the same and I’m proud to be able to join them and be a part of that privileged group.

September 4, 2010

Job done, properly this time…. yes, really!

I was up at about 6.30am and rushing around right from the outset to try to get everything done before today’s planned Check Flight. I hadn’t wanted to tempt fate by planning my route last night so that was the first job after having breakfast. Maidstone and Rochester are slap bang between Linton and Stoke, so because of the need to go around them, it gave me a legitimate reason to go up to Stoke on one side of them and back on the other and get a bit of flying time in even though MYRO isn’t permitted. Cunning eh 😉

Later I was off to the car accessory shop to be there as soon as they opened at 8.30am and after a false start, having to return home and pick up MYRO’s key which I’d forgotten, I was then down at the field and ready to replace the fuel pump vacuum hose. I started by ground running MYRO’s engine and there was fuel pressure there, more than yesterday after having had a chance to ‘rest’, which is what I found previously, but I still had a decision to make. I decided to go for it and swap the hose.

All went well until I got to the plastic ‘T’ piece that splits the hose from the crankcase between the upper and lower Mikunis – its diameter is slightly larger than the ID of the new tubing and it was a heck of a job to get the tubing on enough to make it secure. I thought it only right to give Chris a ring to let him know I’d be delayed and I did so again later, getting through to his wife Karen it transpired, to keep him and Martyn, who would be doing the Check Flight, in the picture. I ground ran the engine again after I’d finished and as there was pressure there, although still not as much as I expected based on my experience with MZEL, I decided to give it a go anyway. As it happens, the decision proved to be right because once airborne and in the cruise, the pressure rose to a fairly respectable 0.3 bar (the maximum specified is 0.4 bar) which I was happy with. Here’s the route I took.

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My first leg took me up to the east of Maidstone via Leeds Castle and Sittingbourne. The castle looked magnificent and one of my first flights when MYRO is permitted will be to return for some photographs because I didn’t think that today would be a good day for taking pictures. I skirted the western edge of the Isle of Sheppey and then turned left to head for Stoke across the Medway estuary. What a great area this is for taking pictures, with all kinds of sea traffic in view and the large container ships in the Thamesport docks on the Isle of Grain. I can’t wait!

I could see Stoke quite clearly from some way off – being next to the shoreline it’s very easy to find anyway – so as nobody was on the radio, I just called in blind as other traffic was doing, joined downwind right hand for runway 06 and landed. I found Chris straight away and as Martyn was already prepared, he was pretty soon straight off for the Check Flight. I’m very pleased to say that after the usual rude banter you get about AX3s (I can’t think why.. 😕 ) he reported back afterwards that in fact MYRO flew very well indeed. That made me very happy after all the hard work I’ve put in 🙂

I had a cuppa and a cheese scone while I was waiting for Martyn to return. We had a brief chat as we’ll be meeting again tomorrow to complete the formalities and pretty soon after I was ready to go for the return leg to Linton. I’d taken 10 litres or so of fuel with me so I put that into the tank and off I went. This time I took a route to the west of Rochester that would take me back via the M20/M26 junction at Wrotham. The view of Rochester Marina and Rochester Castle was spectacular and again I vowed to come back again soon to take some photographs. I switched to Rochester’s frequency because the airfield was clearly visible not that far off to my left and I wanted to keep a listening watch out and monitor traffic. The airfield looked amazingly like a Rochester Flight Simulator scenery I started but have never finished which made me think that I must get back onto that sometime.

Although I was skirting around the edge of Rochester’s zone, I was amazed by the size of the circuits those GA boys were flying! There seemed to be aircraft flying below me (I was at about 2000ft) and not that far off to my left on several occasions and I was actually outside the boundary of the published airfield zone! I began to descend after Rochester and pretty soon I was at my intended turn point at the M20/M26 junction. A turn to the left and soon I was above the golf course at Wrotham Heath and then over the river to the west of Teston and Wateringbury.

Then I spotted the water tower at Coxheath and to the right beyond that, Linton church. I knew that if I couldn’t spot Linton this time, I’d never live it down but then there was the airfield, still several miles ahead, but as plain as day. I knew that there wouldn’t be much flying going on so I decided to extend my flight for a little longer, skirt down towards the south and call up to join base leg for runway 11. And so my first flight out and back from Linton came to an end. The approaches to the field are so clear from both directions compared to where I did my training that you feel so much more in control. I crept in over the threshold and amazingly stopped within a few yards so I could turn off the runway and stop outside the hangar where MYRO is tied down. I was very pleased with that I have to say 😀

So that’s it – all I have to do now is send the Permit paperwork off again. It’s been a bit of an uphill struggle at times – not least over the last few weeks – but at last it’s ‘job done’ and hopefully I’ll have MYRO’s permit by next weekend. Just in time for the weather to change someone told me today 😐

I’m also pleased to say that the Arplast prop is a huge improvement over the original GSC wooden 2-blader that was originally on MYRO and is now on MZEL. It’s quieter and it also seems to me to be much more efficient. I’m surprised at how much better MYRO’s fuel consumption is compared to MZEL – I’ve not flown enough yet to get an accurate idea but it seems to be coming out at around 11 litres/hr which is much lower. Mind you, I’ve only been flying one up. I’ll start to keep more accurate records when I start flying MYRO regularly because I’m naturally very keen to find out.

Is this the end of this chapter? I think so. I hope so anyway 😉

I’ve now added a video to the Gallery HERE of the second check-flight.

September 3, 2010

Unbelievable…

I’m beginning to despair of ever getting MYRO permitted. I posted on the BMAA forum that the Permit system is so user-unfriendly and full of pitfalls that nobody tells you about until you fall into them that there must be a better way 😐

It seems that there’s a ‘rule’ that Rosie forgot about that says a Check Pilot who was the previous owner of an aircraft is not allowed to conduct a Check Flight on the aircraft – it must be done by a Check Pilot who is independent. So Rosie’s Check Flight has been deemed invalid and after all my hard work trying to work as closely as I could with the BMAA office and my Inspector so things were done right first time, my Permit paperwork was duly returned to me after sitting in the BMAA office for a week – yet another week lost. It’s now been the best part of two months since MYRO was finished for Permit and unbelievably it still isn’t 😯

I’m very miffed about this – it seems that the final choice on this should be mine, not Deddington’s. OK, they can make me aware of the fact, but surely it should be up to me as a grown-up adult if I’m prepared to accept the situation and risk buying a ‘dud’ from a total charlatan? And are they suggesting that a Check Pilot appointed by them would be prepared to falsify a Check Flight whether they previously owned the aircraft or not? If so, I find that astonishing!

I phoned Chris Draper (BMAA Council member and fixed wing Check Pilot) and I’ve arranged with permission from the BMAA Tech Office to conduct another solo ferry flight over to Stoke for him to do another Check Flight. I’d been thinking about my fuel pressure which is still low, in fact low enough for Rosie to have remarked on it, so I thought I’d nip down to the field this afternoon and see if servicing the second, lower Mikuni fuel pump solved the problem. The work went well and I was looking forward to starting up to see what the results would be, but I couldn’t have been more disappointed . Now not only was the fuel pressure low, it was also unpredictable – higher at lower revs and liable to drop when you increased revs up to flying power!

I just can’t believe the problems I’m having with this – nobody else seems to have ever experienced the difficulties that I’m having. As Ginge Sunley over at Saxon Microlights said, in the whole of his experience, Mikunis are bomb proof – you just fit em and forget em. The last link in the chain is the pipe connecting the Mikunis to the crankcase – all I can now do is replace that and hope that it’s leaking vacuum a bit because of age. I dashed away from the field in the hope of getting to an auto accessory shop before they closed but I was just too late. So now I’ll have to pick some up at 8.30am tomorrow morning and fit it before, hopefully, getting away to Stoke. It’ll probably make me a bit late so I’ll have to try phoning Chris first thing. Mind you, if the fuel pressure is still too low, the Check Flight will be off anyway and I’ll have what is becoming a rather intractible problem still to solve 😕