August 31, 2013

Right proper

Just like it ough’er be mate. Oh dear, sometimes I try a little bit too hard with this stuff, but just to say that 56NE’s prop is done, finished and is now cushtey (sorry again). Must stop watching those old re-runs of Only Fools and Horses ๐Ÿ™‚

As Russ said in his comment, perseverance usually pays off, and so it did on this occasion. But not without a heck of a lot of elbow grease and scraping. But in the end, it was worth it when all of the old varnish had been removed. I haven’t worked much with wood for some time and I’d forgotten what a delightful material it can be, the more so when it’s clean, smooth and with beautiful sensuous curves, just like 56NE’s prop when I eventually got it all cleaned up. Here’s a pic taken at that stage.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos before I started work to compare things with, but take it from me, this was a huge improvement on how it looked before. Where some areas of old varnish had flaked off, moisture had been in contact with the wood itself and although it hadn’t done any real damage, it had left some unsightly black marks, which I’d largely been able to eradicate by very careful sanding. Sure, there were some old repairs done with fibreglass, nothing serious, which I intended to tidy up a bit but at the end of the day this is a wooden prop from 1998, so it’s done pretty well to survive in the kind of condition it’s in, from what I’ve read on the internet. I doubt that it’s been regularly waxed and re-varnished every couple of years, which wooden props are supposed to be, let alone been mollycoddled and lovingly serviced on a regular basis!

I redid all of the old repairs using Isopon, which I swear by after watching a model builder using it with plywood to construct a scale model of the Queen Elizabeth, which eventually ended up as an exhibit at Thorpe Park (I won’t bore you with the details of what my connection was with that). Unfortunately, Isopon ends up being rather dark, so I had to think of some way to tone the repairs down a bit, which I decided I’d do by using a varnish with a bit of colour added. The prop originally had yellow painted tips, which incidentally, had been the hardest parts to clean off, and I also wanted to retain them on the finished article. But first I needed to apply a light coat of varnish to seal the surface. Many weeks ago, I’d bought a can of clear spray varnish and I decided that this would be ideal for the job. Here’s a shot that I took after I’d given the prop its sealing coat.

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Next I masked the tips and replaced the bright yellow tip ends using a can of furniture-type spray that I’d found at ‘Les Briconautes’. That was the last job I did yesterday and after I’d left them to dry for a short while, I carefully moved the prop into my ‘cave’ with the masking on for them to dry and harden overnight. When I got the prop out again this morning and removed the masking, they looked absolutely splendid. The decision I then took was, with hindsight, a mistake. The coloured varnish which I then wanted to apply a nice, thick, protective couple of coats of, I could only get in brush-on form. What I should have then done was mask up the yellow tips and varnish just the ‘bare’ wood, but I didn’t. I varnished over everything, including the new yellow tips. This isn’t a disaster as the next pic shows, but with hindsight, if I’d masked the tips, colour-varnished just the bare wood and then given the whole lot a final coat of spray-on clear varnish, as I did, the tips would have stayed brighter than they have done. But not to worry – if we keep it to ourselves, nobody will ever know ๐Ÿ˜‰

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I’m very pleased with the finished result. I’m glad that I ended up stripping the whole prop and refinishing it as I’d originally planned on just rubbing down the ‘bad’ bits and spraying them in by hand. I always knew that this would be a bodge-up and I don’t like bodge-ups at the best of times. The prop is now inside its cover in the back of my car, ready to be re-fitted tomorrow. After finding that the bolts were all a bit loose when I took the prop off, I’ve tried to find the correct torque-wrench settings on the internet. From the diameter of the bolts (8mm, 5/16″) I think that about 20 lb-ft should be about right, so that’s what I’ve decided to go with. I also found that with wooden props, bolt torque should be checked every 25 hours due to the wood ‘breathing’ with changes in atmosphere, so that’s what I’ll do in future. But for now, I can’t wait to get the prop back on again and hopefully get an hour or so’s flying in. The temperature tomorrow will about about 27 degrees Celsius with winds picking up in the afternoon. But the winds will be only light in the morning, so that will be the best time to go. Temperatures are forecast to increase to the lower/mid 30’s next week so it looks as though we can expect thermic daytime conditions, but I’ll have to see how it goes and play things by ear. But at least I’ll have a flyable aircraft back again ๐Ÿ™‚

August 28, 2013

Prop work

After all the delays, setbacks and other distractions of the past few days, I vowed that I had to get started today on 56NE’s prop. I need to strip off the varnish coat, which is damaged and flaking in places, clean it up, fill it where needed and and rub it down so I can give it a new, fresh coat. I had a small can of paint stripper that I’d brought with me from England but somehow I knew in the back of my mind that this wasn’t going to be a nice straightforward job.

One of the reasons for that is that, quite frankly, modern paint strippers just don’t work, at least they don’t work anything like as well as they did ‘when I was a lad’. The reason for this is that environmental concerns, backed up by new laws for all I know, mean that the good-old strippers that we had and that used to due the job a treat are no longer sold. Time was when you could apply a bit of paint stripper to the paint or whatever on the item that you wanted to strip and literally see it start to bubble up within a few seconds, or minutes at most. Then all you had to do was give it a bit of a go with a scraper, sometimes just give it a wipe even, and the job was done with maybe a need for a second coat in places to make it really clean.

That’s now all gone by the board and is just a distant memory for people like me who used to strip and repaint old motorbikes and cars in our youth as though it was going out of fashion. Sure, the blurb on the tins nowadays promises the earth – ‘Strip up to 10 coats with just one application’ – but the trouble is, it just doesn’t deliver. I found it was so when I needed to strip the paint off the second-hand pod that I acquired when I did the repair on MYRO. I never succeeded however much I tried and in the end had to compromise and do the best job possible with much more paint left on than I would have liked. And so it was with that background that I set to on 56NE’s prop today.

I’d like to say that this time it was different – I slapped the stripper on according to the instructions, the varnish cooperated by bubbling up and it was just a matter of removing it with a plastic scraper. But I can’t. It was a bloody awful job – no matter how much stripper I applied, the varnish would just wrinkle a bit around the edges and then when I began scraping, it was hard varnish that I was scraping off, no matter how long I’d left it for the stripper to ‘penetrate’ and soften it, as the tin said it would. So naturally, after a few hours, as it was only a 300 ml tin, I ran out and had to go and buy some more. So it was off to ‘Les Briconautes’ in Montignac to seek out a can of ‘Dรฉcapant universel’. I found it all right, and the tin made the same old claims, except this time in French.

The can design made it appear that this stripper was a real baddie – watch out or it would strip the hair off your cat if you weren’t looking – but actually it was the stripper itself that turned out to be the pussy. It didn’t even seem to work as well as the stuff I’d brought from England, but maybe that was just because by now I was losing the will to live. I applied the gel, left it and then began scraping only to find that once again, once the frilly edge bits had gone, I was scraping off hard varnish. So much for 10 coats! And as for the yellow paint on the prop tips, that has defied my every attempt to get it off – not even hardly being softened by this stuff that’s supposed to remove ‘all types of paint, varnish etc’ with ease.

I ended up earlier more or less getting all of the varnish off – at least, enough probably for me to rub the prop down and apply a new, fresh coat – but I’ve still got a lot of yellow paint to get off the prop tips. I’m thinking that I might gingerly try a heat gun tomorrow but I fear that it’s going to be a long, hard slog to get all of it off and the whole prop clean enough for me to be happy enough to go onto the next stage ๐Ÿ™

August 27, 2013

EDF. In the nick of time

As I’ve mentioned on several previous occasions, I’ve found EDF here in France to be the most inefficient, badly managed, uncommunicative and generally bloody awful organisation that I’ve ever had to deal with. They’ve been a thorn in my side ever since I came to France, for over 15 months at the time of writing, and still my problems with them grind on and on ๐Ÿ™

I talked about what happened when 400 volts was fed into my house in a previous post HERE which is something I still hold EDF responsible for. But despite my sending EDF several detailed letters containing a number of pertinent questions about that incident, events prior to it and what I view as their responsibility for it, after more than 4 months I have still not received any kind of substantive reply from them. In fact after much delay I recently did receive a reply from their ‘customer service’ department but it was totally bland and made no reference to any of my previous correspondence.

I made a financial claim in respect of my possessions that were destroyed by the electrical overload, which EDF have never acknowledged. After the incident during which my house could easily have caught fire and been destroyed I insisted on EDF switching my electrical supply from 400 volts 3-phase to 220 volts single. Afterwards, they imposed a charge for having done so which I have refused to pay on the grounds that if they had told me my house was connected to a 3-phase 400 volt system in advance of my taking out a supply contract, I would have declined and they would have had to switch it over to 220 volts, a job that only took an engineer about 25 minutes when it was done.

So we reached an impasse and if EDF employed sensible people in customer facing roles, you’d have thought that they would have been in touch to see what could be done about it. But of course, this has not happened as the only language that EDF understands under such circumstances consists of bullying and threats. And so it was that on Friday of last week, I received a message saying that unless I paid the disputed charge, they would send along an engineer to cut off my supply. I immediately phoned customer services who told me that if I had a dispute with EDF, I should pay the disputed sum and then claim it back off them. I was gobsmacked and just laughed back in their face – if they would not communicate with me when I ‘owed’ them money, what would be the chance of their doing so if I paid it and the boot was on the other foot? I also said that as this ridiculous situation had now gone on for so long and EDF obviously had no intention of acting in good faith to resolve it, I now had no choice but to refer it to the ‘le mรฉdiateur national de l’energie’, which I would do as soon as possible.

‘Le mรฉdiateur’ acts when there is a dispute between an energy supplier and one of its customers to independently consider all aspects of the dispute, including legal, and make a recommendation that can be binding on both parties. It can be ignored if either party still wishes to continue with eg a legal claim, but usually it is in the interests of both parties to accept it and act accordingly. The thing about ‘le mรฉdiateur’ is that once a matter has been referred, it is automatically frozen and actions on both sides, including punitive ones by the energy company, must be frozen.

I didn’t have this in mind particularly when I spent hours yesterday writing yet another letter to EDF and then preparing the detailed dossier of correspondence etc in relation to my claim that ‘le mรฉdiateur’ requires. As EDF customer services had told me on Friday that there was no date set for my disconnection, I had originally intended to prepare the dossier for submission over the next couple of days, but I decided that I might as well get it out of the way so I could at last turn my full attention back to the 56NE. And lucky that I did!

The first thing this morning I got a call on my mobile, which was fortunately switched on, from EDF, or more precisely, an engineer from ERDF, asking me if I would be at home this morning. I said that I would and in the meantime, after I’d breakfasted, took the opportunity to pop down to Plazac to send both my latest letter to EDF and the dossier to ‘le mรฉdiateur’. On my return, there was a ERDF van waiting outside with, as it turned out, the engineer inside who had previously carried out my change-over from 3-phase to single phase. He was highly apologetic as he said that as there was an unpaid bill, he’d come to disconnect my supply. I asked him about the outstanding amount and told him that it related to the work he’d done to switch over my electrical supply, which I had no intention of paying and as EDF had failed to provide me with an effective response over a period of more than 4 months (‘le mรฉdiateur’ actually specifies a period of 2 months) I had now referred the matter to ‘le mรฉdiateur’. This turned out to be my trump card! The engineer is a very nice chap and he looked quite relieved as he typed this information into his hand-held and said that in that case, he would take no further action. We chatted for a few more minutes before we shook hands and he drove off.

So like all bullies, EDF have shown themselves to be nasty and spiteful as well. Having told me that no date had been set for disconnecting my electricity, this turned out to be a lie. It was already in train and was set to happen immediately. They didn’t care about my personal situation, the food in my fridge and freezer or anything else. All they were concerned about was achieving their own objectives by whatever means, whether they are in the right or wrong, with absolutely no consideration for their customer and no recognition whatsoever of their customer’s rights. What an appalling organisation they are and it’s about time that something was done about it. My own campaign against them may be insignificant in itself, but if that’s what everyone thought and did nothing, then nothing would ever change. And that’s why I’m keeping on keeping on ๐Ÿ˜

August 24, 2013

So now what?

With all the problems of the last few days firmly behind me, I can now get back to thinking about some more constructive things. For one, I can turn my attention to getting hold of and adapting a replacement 5″ ‘cheap Chinese satnav’ for use as a nav GPS down here. I’ll keep readers posted on that one because I’ll have good things happening with it. The pic in my ‘Cavarc’ posting shows what can be done with the freely available, current and up-to-date VFR chart that’s officially posted on the Internet and updated in March every year. It’s provided for flight planning purposes, a bit like SkyDemon Light is in the UK, and shows airspace, metars and notams. But there the similarity ends. You can create a route on the chart on your screen but cannot save it or use it for navigational purposes in the aircraft. For that you are expected to purchase a paper one from the official source. I’ve solved that last problem, turning it into a ‘free’ and really useful practical navigational tool that will make it possible to spread my wings much further afield than the local area in 56NE without any of the usual navigational hassles that affect you in France.

I also took 56NE’s prop off at the beginning of the week with the intention of re-varnishing it. The varnish was a bit ‘flaky’ when I purchased the aircraft but I made things worse over the winter. I left the prop on after starting the engine for the first time and covered it by wrapping part of MYRO’s old covers around it. I thought that this would protect it from the elements but instead all it seems to have done is retain the moisture and hold it against the prop’s varnish covering, causing more damage. It’s not too bad, though, but I thought I’d better do the job before I started to fly 56NE regularly. I should add that when I took the prop off, I had a rather salutary experience. I hadn’t checked the tightness of the prop securing bolts since I re-attached the prop several months ago. This was a mistake because when I came to unscrew them at the beginning of this week, all of them were very loose. Not ‘finger-tight’ loose, but still much looser than they should have been from a safety point of view.

The final thing that I need to get back onto is completing 56NE’s outdoor covers. The parts of MYRO’s old covers that I’ve used (wings, rear fuselage) are not waterproof and I need to finish off the wings and rear fuselage covers that I started to make from the heavy black tarpaulin that I bought especially, but haven’t yet done so. With the other priorities that I have (woodburner stove installation, roof work and kitchen installation) there’s no way that I’ll be able to put up a hangar for 56NE at Galinat this side of the new year, so it’s essential that the covers it does have are strong and weatherproof.

And there’s one last thing that I have mentioned several time previously and that I still have to deal with. My dispute with EDF is still rumbling on well into its second year. From my experience, EDF is the most awful, badly managed company that I’ve ever come across. It could never survive in the real world against proper competition and quite frankly is a reflection of the very worst side of France. They ignore letters and attempt to bully and steamroller their clients to get what they want even when they are in the wrong and have caused the problems themselves in the first place. But I am not just going to pay up and give in as many people do. It’s been and still is a gruelling and debilitating battle but it’s one that I’m determined to see through to the end. And I’m determined to win it ๐Ÿ˜

August 23, 2013

2 day rollercoaster ride!

And what a ride it’s been! At one point during it, it looked as though My Trike might disappear for ever but then there was a break-through and the web site came back from the dead. And finally it looks as though the day has been saved after all, but not without a great deal of time and effort. And quite a bit of bloody-minded persistence from me, too, as I’ll go on to explain.

So what’s been going on? Well, it’s all been to do with how My Trike is ‘hosted’. It needs special hardware and software for a web site to actually appear on the Internet and these are provided by what are called hosting companies who provide all kinds of hosting packages of different sizes and with different functions. While I was running an Internet-based e-commerce business, I needed a commercial package that was quite powerful and naturally cost a bit more. I was able to include My Trike in it at no additional cost, so in some ways my business subsidised the My Trike web site.

When I sold off my business and retired, I was still left with the hosting package and it was problematic terminating it because of the difficulties involved in moving My Trike, even within the same hosting company. However, it eventually became more pressing because at the end of the day, there was no way that I could justify the monthly expenditure involved just for My Trike. And so I set wheels in motion a couple of days ago to make the necessary changes, never knowing what would transpire.

Whenever you make any significant changes to any software that’s installed on any computer hardware, or even to the hardware itself, the golden rule is that you make back ups of anything that’s important that you don’t want to get lost or damaged. My Trike consists of a whole bunch of ‘fixed data’, such as images and video files, other ‘mobile data’ in the form of blog postings and comments going back over many years, and the software necessary to bring it all together, WordPress. In order to bring it all together, WordPress creates and employs what is referred to as a MySQL database, and it’s this which is absolutely key to making the whole shebang operate in a user-friendly and seamless way. The fixed data can always be recreated if lost so long as you have kept copies of it, which I have, on my own PC, but if the database is lost or corrupted, the web site is gone forever.

Luckily my hosting company, Heart Internet based in the UK, provide two back up tools, one for a ‘total web site’ backup and the other for backing up your database, so using those was the first stage in the transfer process. Both take an inordinate amount of time to operate down here in France because Internet speed here is dire and both involve creating back up files that are then downloaded onto your PC. Now, it seems that the only way that you can move a web site from one package to another is to create the second package on the necessarily new server, delete the web site from the original package on the old server and then recreate it again using your backed up files on the second. Critically, once you have deleted it from the original package, you are then wholly reliant on your backed up files, and if they are corrupt, damaged or don’t work for any reason, then you are right up the creek. You can probably see where this is leading…

So having arrived at the stage in the game where the second package had been created and the original one deleted, the moment came to apply the ‘total web site’ backup that I’d made earlier. In theory, this should have put all of the folders and files of the web site back into place on the new server, except that it didn’t. So then I did what I should have done originally and checked what the back up contained – easy enough because it was in the form of a Zip file – only to find that a huge amount of stuff wasn’t present.

But although this was a bit of a setback, it wasn’t in any way terminal. So long as I still had my database, I could recreate the whole of the rest of the web site over time by installing WordPress on the new server, uploading all of the other missing stuff again (a huge amount of data that would take hours and hours due to the speed of the Internet) and then recovering my database that would tell WordPress how to configure itself and put in place all of the hundreds of postings and comments that My Trike contains. So that’s what I began to do two days ago and continued with, through into the early hours of yesterday. First I had to set up a new copy of WordPress, then I had to change its ‘theme’ to the one that I’d used for My Trike and finally I had to re-install the WordPress ‘plug-ins’ that I’d used to perform the special functions like showing images and videos, running slide-shows and so on. I got to the point several times where I’d done all of that and all that was needed was to recover the database from the back up file that I’d kept safely stored on my PC, only to find that when I did that, WordPress immediately fell over and refused to run due to an ‘internal server error’. This usually means that something, somewhere isn’t configured correctly, and as it occurred as soon as the database back up was applied, it pointed a finger towards that as being the culprit.

So time to contact Heart Internet’s customer services. Now, I’ve been a Heart customer for many years during which time they have grown from being quite small to quite large, and in all that time I’ve enjoyed a very positive and cordial relationship with them. In the early days, you always got the same people in customer services who you got to know by name, because it was only small, but now the list of names seems almost endless. My gripe was that I’d used the Heart Internet back up tools that I’d trusted to do the job they were intended to do, but which apparently had let me down and placed me in a very difficult position. I know from my IT past that companies like Heart take regular server back ups of their own in case of a system breakdown, and I suggested that one way I could get out of trouble would be if under the circumstances, after I’d gone to the lengths of recreating my ‘total web site’ myself by hand, they could provide me with a copy of my database from their server back up. They said that they could – but at a cost.

I ‘stepped back in amazement’! How could they do that, when I was only in the position I was because I had used the tools that they had provided in good faith, and they hadn’t worked! I pointed out that I had already paid for those tools within the total cost of my package, indeed, over many years, and as I’d used them in the manner intended, I didn’t then expect to pay again to obtain the same results that the tools should have produced for me, but in a different way. I suggested that it was Heart’s responsibility to provide the data that I needed from their server back up as I’d only lost it because of the failure of their back up tools.

But they were adamant that they would charge for a copy of my database back up which they said would solve the problems I was experiencing. Without being over-dramatic, I saw this as being a form of blackmail. I also thought that my own database back up file appeared to be clean, complete and usable from what I could see by opening it in an editor, which would mean that if it were, their server copy wouldn’t actually be necessary. We were evidently in an impasse, so I decided that I’d leave things in abeyance for the time being and concentrate on rebuilding the rest of the web site. Then I would apply pressure onto Heart to insist on their demonstrating what I needed to do to apply my own database file, and if it didn’t work because their tool with which it had been created hadn’t performed properly, see what they were prepared to do about it. See what I mean by bloody-minded persistence!

It was at this stage when I’d added a single post talking about the situation to the then otherwise empty new copy of My Trike, that my old mate Bruce in Australia dropped by. He saw the post and added a comment saying that he agreed with me entirely and although I don’t know whether the post or Bruce’s comment had any effect, last thing yesterday evening things changed. A new guy came on duty in customer services who clearly had some sympathy with my position. He dropped a copy of the server database back up into the root file of My Trike at no charge and then set out to look for the reason why I was experiencing such problems. His name was Nick Lingard and I owe him a personal debt of gratitude. Nick suggested that I might like to make a copy of my own database back up available to them so they could take a look at it, which I did, and after a couple of messages between us, I left My Trike with its ‘internal server error’ and went to bed.

He and his colleague Nicholas Brown decided that overnight they’d find out the real reasons for my difficulties instead of treating them in a merely superficial way and trying to sell more Heart services on the back of them – ie the server database backup that was in fact unnecessary and wouldn’t actually have solved the problem anyway. This is all their colleagues with whom I’d been in contact during the day had apparently wanted to do but thankfully for me, the two Nicks approached things in a thoroughly much more professional way. When I got up this morning, My Trike still wasn’t working but Nicholas Brown confirmed that I’d been applying my database back up correctly in a way that should have worked but that subsequently Worpress was throwing up a configuration error that was not directly related to the database back up itself. Instead, it pointed towards a missing file in one of the plug-ins that I’d reinstalled. So I had to upload a new copy of the plug-in, back out of the database back up that I’d applied so I could get into the WordPress dashboard and re-activate the plug-in and then re-apply the database back up. Voila! To my relief, this time My Trike came up on the screen in front of me when I opened it in my browser!

So that’s how the day was saved. At the time of writing, I’m still uploading a large number of replacement image and video files that will take several more hours, but it will be successful. I have passed on my thanks to Nick Lingard and Nicholas Brown at Heart who in my book, did an excellent job. I can’t say the same about some of their colleagues, though. Compared to them, the two Nicks showed a proper understanding of how to support customers instead of just trying to fob them off or wring a bit more money out of them. And it’s thanks to them that my relationship with Heart Internet, although shaken by events, is still intact.

August 17, 2013

Come on, own up!

Who nicked Cavarc? I flew all the way down there, as planned, only to find that when I got there, I couldn’t see the airfield! So who nicked it? It was a bit frustrating but I decided that under the circumstances, I’d just head back to Galinat, which is what I did.

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I phoned Victor when I got back and he said that I more or less flew over the windsock at Cavarc, which didn’t surprise me in the least. There’s a lake just north of the airfield and having found that, I flew out over it and then turned onto the various legs for a circuit, and as I’d remembered the features from a few weeks ago, I was on the button. But when I was on the downwind leg, which Victor confirmed I had been, I was danged if I could see the runway. So at that point I decided to head for home. My thinking was that even though I’d started with over 40 litres in the tanks, this was the best thing to do in an unfamiliar aircraft with unknown fuel consumption and endurance.

The flight had only taken about 35/40 minutes from Galinat as expected, but I thought that as this was the first time I’d ventured farther afield, I’d prefer to have time in hand at the Galinat end in order to find the field again and land rather than burn fuel over Cavarc in what might have been a fruitless search. I was also relying on my 7″ GPS which I’d mounted at high level to avoid reflections, but its performance still left a great deal to be desired and I must replace it soon with another 5″ model with a nice bright screen to make cross-countries like this a lot easier.

I’d started the morning off by checking 56NE over and doing two jobs on it. First, I re-tensioned the wing covers by tightening up the webbing straps that link them. I knew that I’d probably have to do that because it says in the X-Air manual to re-tension them if the wings have been re-rigged, after one flight. I also adjusted my brake cables to make my toe brakes more effective. Not enough, as it happened, so I’ll need to pull some more cable through the adjusters next time. While I was working, Regis turned up with his ‘debroussailleuse’ to trim the weeds inside his old hangar framework and also we had a couple of landings, the first by a CT variant (I think) and the second by an old Sky Ranger. I introduced myself to the CT crew who, after chatting with Christian for a bit, who had also arrived, took off again before I did so myself at 11:45 am.

The flight down to Cavarc was great fun after I’d settled down and relaxed as my confidence in 56NE steadily grows. The scenery was beautiful but as by now the air was already beginning to get pretty bumpy with a temperature of around 25/26 degrees Celsius, once again I didn’t think it wise to be turning my attention to taking pictures. I stayed more or less dead on track according to my GPS history and returned to Galinat after my short but fruitless search for the airfield on the reciprocal of the outbound track so I was able to recognise many key features along the way. I’m pretty sure that Wim’s water tower that pin-points the location of Galinat was visible from some way out but I decided that rather than just locate the airfield and land, I’d do a few minutes over the local area. I quite easily recognised the road out of Les Eyzies going up to the village of Thonac and quickly found Thonac itself. After circling around a few times so I can get to recognise the local features, I turned my attention to finding Galinat, spotting it quite quickly and setting myself up for a straight-in approach.

When I landed, there was nobody else there, mainly because it was 1:15 pm and therefore lunch time. So my flight time was exactly 1 hours 30 minutes and when I checked the tank contents, I estimate that there was the best part of 20 litres remaining. So that gave a consumption of only 20/22 litres approx in 1.5 hours, or around 15 litres an hour, which I was very happy with. I had been up to just under 2000 feet on the QNH but had spent most of my time at around 1500 feet. I’d passed over some gorgeous scenery and some lovely villages and had been able to watch the canoeists on the Dordogne and the Vรฉzรจre in the beautiful bright sunlight that had made the water sparkle. I’d also ventured quite a way from home and landed back safely again, so apart from not landing at Cavarc (having found it, darn it), I rated the flight as a success. A landing at Cavarc can come on another day and with a bit of luck, when I’m a bit more confident and organised, I’ll be able to take a few pictures too, eh Russ ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 15, 2013

First flight from Galinat

If someone were to ask me what most distinguishes flying in the Dordogne from flying where I was before, say, in south-east England, I’d say that it’s the variety and shear number of insects that are attacking you continuously while you’re preparing and pre-flighting your aircraft. And they really mean business. They are constantly going for your eyes, mouth and ears and only take your arms and legs as second choice. And some of them are such hardy little whotsits that even when you swat em really hard against your skin, they just shrug it off and come back for more, even more determined than they were before ๐Ÿ˜

So that’s what I faced this afternoon when I was getting 56NE ready to go at around 5.00 pm. I would have liked to have flown at around 9.30 am because the air was so cool, fresh and still, but I’d promised to give Regis a hand to try to sort out a brake problem on his Zenair this morning. Wim was there too because although he had planned to fly early, he’d encountered a problem that sounds like either fuel starvation or possibly a split carb rubber, that had prevented him taking off. We finished off at Regis’s at about lunch time, so after I’d returned home and had a light meal, I got myself ready to fly later in the afternoon, when it was becoming cooler (30 degrees Celsius today, 33 degrees tomorrow) and a bit less thermic than it undoubtedly was in the full heat of the day.

So there I was sitting on the runway at about 5.20 pm with a small audience who had noticed 56NE taxying as they were driving past. Not having taken off from Galinat before, as I’d had plenty of time, I had walked the whole length of the runway to make sure that there were no potholes or any other surprises. In the dry weather we’ve been having, the ground is like concrete but I learnt my lesson with the MYRO incident and don’t aim to have a repeat performance if I can avoid it. I need to adjust my wheel brakes because the toe brake levers are travelling too far for the brakes to hold properly, and with the slight down-slope at Galinat, I couldn’t do a proper mag check at 3000 rpm without beginning to accelerate down the runway. I’d done one previously after starting the engine, though, so no real problem, but it’s something that I need to fix.

Because of the problem with my little 5″ GPS, I’d loaded the route I intended to fly into my 7″ one. The trouble is that the latter has a screen that’s far too dark and in the afternoon light, it appeared practically invisible when I checked it as I climbed away. So not a lot of good then, leaving me the option to do a circuit and land or do a more abbreviated local flight that would allow me to use local features to find my way back to the airfield. I chose the latter – what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound. I soon passed over my first planned feature, the Chateau de Belcayre on the north bank of the River Vรฉzรจre. It looked even more beautiful from the air than I’d expected, but I couldn’t take a photograph because my workload was already higher than I’d planned for and there was no need to make even more demands on myself.

Wim smiles when I say how useful my little GPS is, but he’s been flying locally for over 20 years, knows the area like the back of his hand and doesn’t even need a chart. I missed my little GPS but every now and again could just make out my position and heading on the 7″ one, although I could never have used it to fly down through France as I did with the other one. It was an experience all of its own flying here – one minute the valley was far below the aircraft and the next the trees felt as though they were only just under the wheels as I flew over a hill (they weren’t of course, they have to be more than 150 metres below to stay legal if there’s a house or structure on the hilltop ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

I had the lovely little village of St Leon sur Vรฉzรจre under my left wing so I knew where I was, and then decided that I’d turn to the right and see if I could find the airfield. Wim had told me about a hilltop water tower that is just to the west of Galinat and I soon spotted it, then sure enough, there was the airfield with its runway and hangar. The air was still a bit bumpy, so I decided that the best thing would be to return and land and try again tomorrow morning when it will hopefully be a repeat of today. So that’s what I did. Although there was a bit of a tail-wind, the landing was uneventful. I kept my speed up (normal approach speed is 80 kmh) just in case the sink/lift/windshear in the valley got a bit twitchy, but no problem and the touchdown was fine, if not exactly a greaser ๐Ÿ™‚

The flight was only 20 minutes, but it was new and exciting and I enjoyed it. A few more like that I and hopefully my familiarity with the local area and conditions will come on in leaps and bounds. Something I must be careful of is the sloping ground – I taxied to my tie-down spot and went too far up the hill and when I switched the engine off, 56NE tilted back onto its tail skid. No harm done of course, but something to avoid in the future. It was only a short flight, but it was a big leap forward for me. The trouble was that removing and replacing the covers took more than twice as long as the flight itself, so I need to go a bit further afield next time to make the effort worthwhile. I’ll have to see what I can come up with ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 14, 2013

Fixed it!

The starter mechanism on my ‘debroussailleuse’ that is, and frankly, I was rather surprised that I managed to. Trying to re-coil the recoil spring was like trying to teach a wild snake to dance the tango – every time I relaxed my concentration and/or eased my grip on it, it would find the tiniest gap and then leap out at me at high speed and try to hit me in the eye. I found that it was impossible to rewind it using just my fingers – I needed a former of about the right diameter to wrap it around. This came in the unlikely guise of a short cast-off length of white plastic tube left over from my toilet installation ๐Ÿ™‚

I managed to do it once and get it fitted back into the dome-shaped plastic cover that houses the pulley but then couldn’t see how to connect it to the pulley itself to get the recoil action to work. By the time I’d worked that out and tried to carefully bend the inner end of the spring to get it into the slot on the starter cord pulley, the spring had managed to sense my weakness and took the first opportunity afforded to it to leap out of the housing like a demented jack-in-the-box and wrap itself in knots.

The answer I found was to cut an angled slot in the end of the plastic pipe that then automatically lined the end of the spring up with the connecting slot in the pulley once it was released from the pipe and pushed into the pulley housing. OK, easier said than done, but by this time I knew that I’d sussed it and it knew it was heading for defeat. My ‘piece de resistance’ was adding a short length of wire to the pull cord so when it was pulled out of the housing and joined to the pull cord handle, there was already a small amount of tension on it. By then the starter mechanism knew that it had been beaten by a worthy adversary and all fight went out of it. I was triumphant as I re-attached it to the machine and gave it its first few pulls. Perfect. Pity the ruddy machine wouldn’t then start, though ๐Ÿ˜

August 13, 2013

Day of pure frustration

Yesterday I had to do a bit of shopping and some clearing up so it wasn’t worth trying to fit in doing anything at Galinat. But today I thought I’d go over there, do a bit of tidying up around 56NE and possibly even get in a short flight. As you can see, I’ve decided to stop referring to just ‘the X-Air’ and use its registration instead as I think that all aircraft have a personality of their own and their own unique identity.

I arrived at the field just after lunch and the strength of the wind ruled out a local ‘familiarity’ flight. Although it was straight down the runway, it wouldn’t have been worth flying in wind that strong as up to now I only have experience of one landing there and with far less wind than was blowing today, the lift, sink and wind shear over the valley on approach were already quite pronounced. So more practice in less demanding conditions will be called for before I start pushing the envelope too far in what is also an aircraft with which I’m still unfamiliar. But in any case, I’d decided that my time would be better spent tidying up around the aircraft to make it easier to prepare for flight and tie down and cover up again afterwards.

Regis and I had secured 56NE on Saturday within the metal framework that is all that remains of his old hangar, but even at the time, it was obvious that it would be far from ideal as a permanent arrangement. The ground inside was very uneven and thick with weeds and due to the slope of the land, the clearance beneath the ‘uphill’ wing was so low that getting around the aircraft was very difficult. There was also another problem. Regis turned over a large balk of old timber that was on the ground and underneath were gozillions of tiny ants. I happened to kneel down close to them in my shorts for a few moments because of the wing clearance problem that I just mentioned and a few got on my leg. In an instant I was being eaten alive! Shortly afterwards, Regis dropped a cover on the ground and when he picked it up, some fell on him, and I can tell you, he won’t be doing that again in a hurry ๐Ÿ˜†

But seriously, my nightmare was that they’d find their way into the aircraft cabin, so as the old hangar framework was providing absolutely no shelter, I’d already decided before going to Galinat that I’d move 56NE out of it onto a more suitable area. This decision was re-affirmed when I came to move the aircraft because with the downwards slope, it would have been easy to lose control of the aircraft manhandling it by myself and either knock a wing tip on one of the side supports or, even worse, have it roll uncontrollably out and down the hill. Here are a couple of shots that I took showing 56NE inside the hangar framework.

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They make things look worse than they actually were because of all the scrubby vegetation that they include, but in all honesty, the true situation wasn’t really a lot better than it looks in them ๐Ÿ˜

Here’s a shot I took of 56NE after I’d rolled it out of the hangar and parked it with wheel chocks into the wind.

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I decided that for the future, I’d park 56NE with its nose pointing north tied down between Regis’s hangar framework and the other hangar. The ground is fairly level there which would make getting the aircraft ready for flight and storing it away again afterwards pretty easy and by clearing a bit of undergrowth away behind its new position, I’d be able to push it back a bit towards a little bit of overhead shelter provided by a large tree. I’d taken my ‘debrousailleuse’ with me and was just about to get started when Christian, the owner of Galinat, turned up. We exchanged greetings and I told him what I planned to do. He said that that was OK and after a few more minutes conversation, he was off again.

I topped my machine’s fuel tank up, started the engine and got cracking. I’d only managed to clear a small area when in the blink of an eye, a wayward tape from Regis’s old hangar covering got caught round the blade, so I had to stop the engine immediately to untangle it. When I went to restart it, the starter cord pulled through the handle and disappeared into the starter housing. I could hardly believe it, but even worse was to come. I’d brought my tool kit with me, so it was an easy matter to get to the starter pulley, which I gingerly removed to get to the starter cord. But not gingerly enough, apparently, because before I knew it the starter recoil spring shot out of the housing and uncoiled itself like an insane jack-in-thebox ๐Ÿ™

I tried several times to rewind it and get it back in again, but without luck and only succeeded in getting my hands covered in grease. And I’d not taken anything to wipe them on, naturally, so I was stuck with them. By this time I was beginning to think that retreat was the better part of valour and because I’d cleared just enough to reverse 56NE’s tail into, I decided to cut my losses, re-position the aircraft and tie it back down. I put two concrete blocks under each wing and one each under its nose and tail and I think that that will be more than enough to secure it in the kind of winds that we’ll be getting over the next week or so. Here’s how it looked afterwards.

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I popped all the ‘debroussailleuse’ starter bits into an old plastic shopping bag that I happened to have with me and hopefully they’ll be easier to re-assemble in the quieter environment of home. I was really frustrated by the turn of events, but although I came home not feeling that I’d got much done, actually moving 56NE to where it’s now tied down did represent a little bit of progress. Not much, just a little ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 12, 2013

Crikey!

I was outside with the dog just after lunchtime and thought I’d check my post box. Sure enough, this week’s batch of junk mail had arrived so I opened the front door of the box to retrieve it. As I did so, a large swarm of angry wasps came hurtling out and began buzzing all around me, so being a wimp when it comes to angry insects with re-loadable stings in their back sides, I decided to beat a hasty retreat to grab my ‘anti-volants’ spray that dispatches flies, mosquitoes and wasps, among others, in double quick time.

By that time the initial swarm had abated and armed with my new-found dutch courage and spray can, I fearlessly advanced into the lions’, or more correctly, wasps’ den and gave them a good blast. Several took it full on and fell mortally wounded onto the bottom of the mailbox but others, who were either more sensible or less foolhardy than their comrades in arms, took the hint and legged it – I mean winged it. But word takes a while to get around among the greater wasp community and still a few insisted on returning to try again, so I gave full rein to my itchy button finger and let them have it full on too, whereupon they suffered the same fate as their comrades in our earlier skirmish.

I then went off thinking that by now they’d surely have got the hint only to find when I returned that this time not only were there still a few brave souls flying around the entrance to the mailbox but there were also some fat grubs squirming around on its floor inside. There was only one place that they could be coming from, which was from up inside on the roof of the mailbox, where I couldn’t see, so I went off in search of a suitable implement to shove up and shake around inside. That turned out to be a hammer. Not the most suitable tool for the job, I agree, but adequate under the circumstances, and when I shoved it up and shook it inside the mailbox, a dome-like waxy object around five inches in diameter fell down. It was still half full of the grubs which had been falling down inside the mailbox and when I knocked it out onto the ground, this is what it looked like.

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The grubs in the centre were fat and white while the ones further out towards the edge were smaller and pinkish in colour, but I’m not enough of a wasp expert to know if that signifies anything. What I do know is that it was lucky for both the post lady and me that neither she nor I were stung by the angry swarm of wasps that had been paying court to them while they were in residence in my post box.

And this wasn’t the only unfortunate surprise that I got today (well OK, last night actually). My trusty little 5″ GPS that contains the Memory Map system and charts that brought me safely and accurately all the way down from England to the Dordogne has gone on the blink. Just so I knew it was working OK, I put in the route for the short flight from the cow field to Galinat on Saturday, and it worked fine. As I’m now planning my next airborne foray and have worked out a little local flight taking in Plazac, Rouffignac, Montignac and several local chateaux, I wanted to put that route in next. However, I was really disappointed to discover that in the 24 hours since the Galinat flight, something has gone wrong with it and although it still connects to my PC through Activesync, it won’t now accept data. I’ve tried it in Windows 7 and on another Windows XP PC without luck, so it looks as though it’s a fault within the unit which seems like something to do with not now being able to read its micro-SD card. Sad, because although I can use the 7″ GPS unit that I usually keep for use in my car, that doesn’t have a screen that’s anything like as bright, which is why I originally stopped using it in the aircraft. However, I’ll just have to make do with it for the time being ๐Ÿ™

August 11, 2013

Chill-out day today

I hadn’t realised how stressful the last few days had been until I got back home again from Galinat yesterday evening. After I’d typed the previous post, a wave of tiredness just seemed to sweep over me, and before anyone asks, no, it wasn’t anything to do with the red wine I’d been drinking! I sat in an armchair and had a little nap and when I awoke after half an hour or so, I felt much better ๐Ÿ™‚

So I thought that I’d give flying a miss today and re-charge my batteries. I dropped in on Regis in the late morning to pick up my small step ladders that we’d left in his car, and Rouffignac where he lives was teeming with people as there’s always a market there on Sunday mornings. He showed me the field up the road from his house where he hopes to shortly test fly the Zenair which he’s been rebuilding over the last year or so. It looked a good place to me, so hopefully we’ll all be over there soon helping him to get airborne.

On the way back I bumped into my neighbour Christian who has a house next to the cow field from which I took off yesterday and who kindly made the initial arrangements on my behalf with the landowner. I told him how I’d felt when I got home yesterday and he said that maybe I was a bit stressed by the number of people who turned up! I said that I didn’t think that that was the reason, but more than likely it was the result of the tension built up by all of the things that I’d had to organise and get into place over the weeks leading up to the X-Air’s first flight.

But whatever the reason, I’ve enjoyed a very restful day today. We’ve had a comfortable 29 degrees Celsius, still with only very light winds from the north, and tomorrow is forecast to be similar with a temperature of 30/31 degrees. The whole week is in fact forecast to follow a similar pattern with temperatures at about the same level, so it should be a good flying week, especially in the mornings or early evenings. There was a bit of low-lying mist in the valleys this morning so my guess is that the evenings will be the best, although I’m in no hurry and will just play things by ear. I’ll need to take my motorised ‘debroussailleuse’ (brush cutter) over to Galinat anyway to clear the area where the X-Air is tied down, so I’ll take my time and just fit in all of the things that I want and need to do. But from where I’m sitting, it looks as though this coming week can’t fail to be a good one ๐Ÿ˜€

August 10, 2013

Magical day

Which is why I’m treating myself to a glass of red wine while I type this. I was ready when Wim and Regis arrived at about 9.00 am this morning with the X-Air’s covers off so we could whip the wings off pretty quickly. Then they pulled the fuselage down the road from my front garden to the cow field while I steered from behind using the rudder. We had to pull over a couple of times to allow cars to pass us but it only took a couple of minutes or so for us to arrive at the field, where we then left it to return for the wings. I put two lengths of wood across the front and back of the roof bars on my car and we laid the wings on them in turn and very slowly drove them down to the cow field to join the fuselage so we could get to work re-rigging the aircraft ready for flight.

It was about 10.00 am by this time and I had told various people previously that I doubted that I’d be taking off much before mid-day, which is how it proved to be. Later actually, but when you’re fully re-rigging an aircraft that has had its principal controls disconnected, it pays to take your time and be sure that you do everything properly. It was a big bonus having Wim and Regis helping because both of them are expert in this kind of thing and we could all get on with doing several jobs at the same time as a result.

While we were working, I met the landowner, M. Lajoie, who had kindly agreed to allow me to use his field. Word also began to get around and more and more of my neighbours came down to watch what was going on. When the time came for me to take off there were 20 or 30 people there and there was almost a festive atmosphere on the field with much chattering, laughing and joking by everyone. I met several of my neighbours from the area for the first time actually. After I’d taxied around for a bit to test the engine, perform some power checks and burn up a bit of the old fuel in the tanks, I stopped to give the aircraft yet another check-over and top up the tanks with 20 litres of fresh 95 octane ‘sans alcool’ which is freely available in France, as well as the nasty stuff with 10% added alcohol that UK microlighters hate so much. Wim had flown into the field earlier in his Weedhopper and we decided that he would take off first, circle around and then I’d take off to follow him over to Galinat. He had already tried a practice take off to the south with a slight tail wind so we already knew that we wouldn’t have any problems on that score.

I’m glad to say that with all those people watching, everything went off smoothly, like clockwork. The X-Air took off like a scalded cat as soon as I applied full power and leaped into the air in what seemed like only a few yards. It only took ten minutes or so to make the flight over to Galinat and during it, my main problem was keeping behind Wim because his little Weedhopper, like MYRO but just with a single seat, is much slower than the X-Air. I had to keep doing S-turns to stay to its rear. I found that the X-Air was doing a comfortable 90 kmh at around 5200 rpm which should make for fairly economical cruising in the future and flew smoothly with no nasty vibrations or other vices, just as I remember it from when I flew it before agreeing to buy it last year. Once I’d spotted the field, I went in ahead of Wim and landed first. The views while in the air were spectacular and I flew right over one splendid local chateau but I said to Wim afterwards that there were noticeably few areas where you could make a forced landing in the event of an engine failure – just trees and more trees.

So my X-Air is now safely covered and tied down on the ground at Galinat. So now after a delay of over a year, my life here in Plazac is back on track again and I can’t wait to repeat the experience and get back up into the air again over the spectacular and beautiful countryside that is ‘La Dordogne’.

August 9, 2013

Bit of a hold-up today

The X-Air move didn’t happen today. The reason was that the owner of the cow field agreed for me to use it but wants a written disclaimer that he will not suffer any liability should anything go wrong. I understand that that applies anyway once he has given his permission and that the ULM pilot is solely responsible for events thereafter. But if that’s what he wants, I have no problem with it, although unfortunately creating the paperwork that he wants took too long for the move to happen afterwards. So Wim and Regis are coming back tomorrow and hopefully things will then proceed more smoothly.

I also had to arrange insurance today, which I did via FFPLUM, the French microlight association, as I already have pilot cover through them which I needed for my flying at Castillonnes. I didn’t find it that easy to do via the FFPLUM web site but eventually succeeded when I was almost ready to give up. Victor recently bought a RANS S12 from another member at Castillonnes, ready for when he gains his licence shortly, and has also been trying to insure it in the same way. He has come up against the same difficulties as I did, so maybe it’s a non-native French speaker thing ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a picture of the RANS – it’s a sweet little aircraft, isn’t it. It has a Rotax 582 Blue Top and is also fitted with a ballistic ‘chute that unfortunately needs servicing, but it’ll be a nice safety addition when it’s been sorted.

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The cow field owner said that I can shift the X-Air over there tomorrow morning and he’ll come over, as he lives just the other side of the field, to pick the paper up, so that will help things along. The weather forecast looks good with only a very light north-westerly wind, so as the piste is over 300 metres long and slopes slightly from each end towards the centre, it is likely that it will be possible to take off in either direction. Here’s a pic that shows just how much longer the cow field piste is compared to the other two that I mentioned earlier on the field opposite my house.

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I bought a fresh 20 litre jerry can of petrol this evening so I’ll add that to the tanks tomorrow when I’ve burnt off a bit more of the old fuel that’s already in them, by engine and taxi checks. And although it’s only a three or four minute flight to Galinat, I’ve also programmed my trusty GPS so there’s absolutely no chance of not finding the field. If things go smoothly, I might also make a small detour overhead my house and Wim’s field, I’ll have to wait and see. But anyway, it’ll be fun to be back in the air again in my own aircraft ๐Ÿ˜€

August 8, 2013

Nice surprises just keep on coming

I decided that I’d change the plugs and give the X-Air’s engine a good once-over today. Before I took the covers off I took a pic of the new prop cover that I made yesterday, and here it is. I just hope it isn’t an anti-climax after my ravings about it in yesterday’s post ๐Ÿ˜†

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After changing the plugs, topping up the rad and checking the gearbox oil level I gave the engine a run. It started easily and ran very smoothly but there was still a mag drop of about 400 rpm on one side that I didn’t much like as Rotax give a limit of 300 rpm. I guess I’ll just have to watch it and see if it improves when the engine has been run for a bit as it’s been standing without being warmed up much for about ten months. I also wonder if burning old fuel (over 11 months old) is helping and I’ll make sure that as there’s no easy way of draining the tanks, before Saturday I add 20 litres of fresh fuel to the approx 10 that are still in them.

It was just after I’d been running the engine that I had a pleasant surprise. I was coming back out of the house when I bumped into a very friendly French guy in my garden who’d seen the aircraft on my lawn several times when he’d been passing and couldn’t resist coming in for a chat when he heard the engine running. Maybe not something that you’d expect in England where the general public is anti anything to do with private flying and light aircraft, but France isn’t the same and these things happen here. We chatted for half an hour or so and I gave him a general rundown of my plans for this coming week end. It turned out that he is a neighbour from down the road, but not just any old neighbour. His house adjoins an enormous field which is usually home to a herd of Charolais cows, but which is empty for the moment as the herd is elsewhere, probably because they’ve munched the grass too low and they are waiting for it to grow back again.

When I told him about my reservations about (a) taking off on Saturday from a short runway and (b) possibly having a tail wind to boot, he suggested that I might like to think about taking off from the cow field. Well, I almost bit his arm off. Wim and I have eyed up this field on many occasions and talked about how it would make an excellent ULM field for landings and take offs, so this was too good a chance to miss. Jean-Claude told me later on that the field is over 600 metres long, so you could easily land or take off in either direction depending on the prevailing wind. It seems that my neighbour doesn’t own the land but knows the owner very well as he bought the plot from him on which he built his house, so we left it that I gave him my phone numbers and he will ring me back ASAP before tomorrow afternoon, when he’s spoken to the land owner.

This is brilliant news and it will be excellent if I can use the cow field as it will overcome all my reservations and ensure that my short flight across to Galinat is also as safe as possible ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 7, 2013

Covers finished – for now

I kept putting the job off because I thought it would be tricky to get right, but in the end I got on with making my prop cover today. And in fact I was very pleased with the result because it turned out much better than I ever thought it could or would. So there’s a lesson for procrastinators everywhere, if ever I heard one ๐Ÿ™‚

I didn’t have time to take any pics because as soon as I’d finished I needed to dash off for a welcome few beers with Wim and Sophie and after all the work I’ve done non-stop on my new covers lately, I needed them too. Regis also turned up shortly after me so we had an entertaining time exchanging the latest gossip and news on what we’d been up to since we last met. As I plan, subject to weather, to fly the X-Air across to Galinat on Saturday morning, Wim and Regis will be over to give me hand on Friday afternoon to remove its wings, shift it onto the field opposite my house and get it rigged ready for the flight. After the storm last night, I was rather concerned by the news from Regis which was that he had been to Galinat this morning and found that the small road next to the airfield was full of fallen trees. However, I doubt that lightening will strike twice in the same place (if readers will excuse the pun) and I still intend to go ahead with my plan. I have four metal screw-in tie downs which I’ll have to use initially but I think I’ll have to make eight concrete-filled tyre tie-downs to make sure the X-Air is secure in high winds as soon as possible ie next week, to use until I can get a hangar put up.

It rained quite hard while I was at Wim’s and when I got home earlier this evening it was still bucketing down quite hard. I thought I’d check to see how the covers were performing and while I was under the wings, I was dismayed to see rain falling not only off the covers themselves but also off the wing trailing edges under the covers. So MYRO’s old blue wing covers aren’t waterproof at all! This is not a game-changing problem as the X-Air is covered in Dacron from which they make yacht sails, which are exposed to water throughout their lives. However, I’d prefer any covers I use to be both UV and waterproof, so I’ll have to get back to my sewing machine once I’ve made the concrete tie-downs and finish off the black wing covers that I cut out and put to one side when I found that the HH-66 didn’t work on them. And then I’ll have to use MYRO’s old fuselage covers as patterns for new black X-Air ones. So lots of little jobs beginning to stack up, but hopefully after Saturday I’ll at least be able to combine them with flying the X-Air ๐Ÿ˜€

August 7, 2013

Ye gods!

I mentioned in my last post that we’d had a storm the night before but that it was a weak affair with a little bit of thunder and not much rain. Well, it seems that the gods have been reading my blog and were rather unimpressed by my comments, so last night they set out to rectify the matter.

It started during the evening when thick grey cloud rolled in and we started to get general thunder all around, but no lightening that you could see and no rain at all. This lulled us into a fall sense of security as it seemed like we were in for a re-run of the night before, but even so, I was glad that I’d finished the X-Air’s tail cover off in case some rain was to follow. In fact this was just the orchestra tuning up for the main event! It continued for the whole of the evening with rumbles and crashes of thunder from every direction and large flashes of sheet lightening lighting up the landscape from behind the veil of clouds. Toddie wasn’t at all concerned because he can’t hear much nowadays but when I went off for an early night at 11.00 pm I thought that I’d have difficulty getting off to sleep with the noise and the lightening flashing outside my window.

I was just dozing off about ten minutes later when I heard the sound of rushing water through my bedroom window that I’d left ajar to let some fresh air into the room and I knew immediately that the heavens had opened. I thought it was a good time to get up and see how the X-Air was faring in the what by now sounded like quite hefty wind gusts and it was lucky that I did! I found that the wind was forcing the downpour against my back door and that rain was flooding in underneath it onto the tiled floor of my lounge. The water was being channelled along the joints between the tiles and already a fair size pool was forming in front of my fireplace, so I dashed into the bathroom to grab a mop and bucket. In the meantime it looked as though all hell had broken loose outside, with lightening flashes eerily illuminating the X-Air which was being lashed with rain and rocking in the wildly gusting wind. I was very concerned that it might be able to blow over as I’d never thought that it might be necessary to tie it down on my own front garden, but there wasn’t much that I could do except keep my fingers crossed and wait.

In the meantime, I had to deal with the flood coming into my lounge. I’d turned the lights on when I came down and these kept flashing on and off as the storm became more fierce. I thought that it was lucky that this hadn’t happened earlier, when I’d had the computer on, because I’m sure it would have been damaged by the electrical conditions, but all I could do was just keep on mopping. I kept glancing out at the X-Air but I was pretty certain that it would survive unscathed because although the trees around the garden were waving backwards and forwards in the wind, they provided enough shelter on all sides for it to be not too much affected by the gusts.

Then within half an hour or so, the rain began to subside and it all began to quieten down again. I’d moved furniture around in my lounge and had more or less got the floor dry again and although there was still the odd rumble of thunder outside, it was obvious that the main storm had passed. So I gave it another few minutes and went off back to bed. This morning it is much cooler and almost calm outside. I was shocked to see two large tree branches on the front lawn which both luckily missed the X-Air. One was old and dead but the other was over three inches in diameter at its largest and covered in leaves, so it showed how strong the wind must have been when it was blowing at its fiercest. But I’m glad to say that the X-Air is otherwise unscathed and that the covers passed their initial test with flying colours ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 6, 2013

Tail cover done

The thunderstorm that we anticipated did arrive so it was lucky that I took the precaution of covering the X-Air’s tail and prop up again before I called it a day yesterday. But it was only a weak affair and although I was woken by thunder in the early hours, it didn’t look this morning as though a great deal of rain had fallen. I’d left the tail cover that I’d cut out on the kitchen floor all night ready to start on it again this morning and I started off by trying to create a strong edge by turning it over and sticking it with the HH-66 vinyl cement that I mentioned in my previous post.

This was totally unsuccessful, much as I’d expected after my previous experience with the wing cover, so reluctantly I decided that I’d get my good old Singer sewing machine out that I’d used to make MYRO’s covers and that I’d brought with me from England and run around the edge with stitching. When cut, the black tarp’s edge doesn’t fray or tear, which is a big bonus, but I want to have a double thickness for additional strength at the points where I position the securing brass eyelets. So all I need to do is turn the cut edge over and secure it with stitching and I’d found earlier that the Singer can quite easily handle a double thickness of the black tarp. I have to use the strong white thread that I bought for MYRO’s covers and in fact the contrast of the white stitching against the black tarp looks quite fetching ๐Ÿ™‚

But it was a tough job that took a long time and as I type this I feel as though I’ve done a day’s work. Not having used the sewing machine for some time, I had to climb up a short learning curve again, but I pretty soon got the hang of it once more, even filling up the bobbin. But what I find is much tougher now is threading the needle because I can hardly see its eye without a magnifying glass. Curses for this getting-old lark ๐Ÿ˜

I also managed to break about four needles because of the weight and lack of flexibility of the material, but when I’d finished, I was quite happy with the finished job. Here are a couple of pics of how it turned out.

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As can be seen, it’s a relatively unsophisticated affair, which is why I referred to it previously as a ‘bag’. However, I’ve seen quite a few sets of X-Air covers with tail covers like it, so it must work, which is the sole aim at the end of the day. Beauty contests I am NOT interested in. So all that’s left now is for me to run up a prop cover. I’ll use the sewing machine for that now that I’ve got it out which will make it easy to make two long, thin bags to cover the blades, which I’ll connect either with Velcro or a couple of thin bungee straps. But in any case, it shouldn’t take too long and then I’ll be able to get back to working on the X-Air itself in readiness for the flight across to Galinat, whenever it occurs. I’m getting quite excited now at the prospect ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 5, 2013

Foiled again!

As planned, I went straight out this morning and did the adaptations that I mentioned in my last post, to the small black ‘bache’ (tarpaulin) that I got ‘free’ with the main large one that I’ve been cutting up bit by bit. I was pretty confident when I marked out and made the cuts that I thought would do the trick and sure enough, the end result was everything that I’d hoped it would be. So much for my previous wild plan that ended up wasting me a large area of tarpaulin ๐Ÿ˜

Here are a couple of pics showing how snugly the resulting new cabin cover fits and in them you can also see the engine cover that I made last night.

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So far so good, and all I then wanted to do was press on to make my tail cover/bag and a cover for my wooden prop in order to finish off. But things didn’t work out that easily. Fist of all, I got a call from one of my neighbours asking me if I would use the keys that they had hidden outside so I could go into their house and check that they’d turned their oven off. The things you get asked to do, eh ๐Ÿ™‚

The trouble was that the caller didn’t say which neighbour they were and I wasted a bit of time searching outside the house of one who had just left to return home earlier this morning. When the penny dropped, though, I did as asked and nope, they had switched their oven off, so all was well. Then I had a chat with Jean Claude, my neighbour on the other side. He’s just back from holiday in Bretagne (temperature similar to the UK for the past week or so, ‘very refreshing’ he said, compared to the 37 degrees Celsius or so that we’ve been getting most days) and having seen the X-Air on my lawn, he wondered when I was thinking about taking off from the field opposite. I said that I’d been having a few second thoughts because of the shortness of the available runway. As can be seen in the following pic, the area where he occasionally grazes his daughter’s horse only gives a runway of about 80 metres (the shorter of the two red lines). It slopes slightly downhill before then dropping away quite sharply with a few bushes further down and trees at the bottom of the hill. On the other hand, if I took off in a different direction, across the hill, adjacent and parallel to some electricity poles, I would get a much longer run before the slope falls away a lot more slowly, allowing a safe run-off zone should I have to abort the take off for any reason.

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After flying for several months at Stoke, the electricity poles don’t worry me but I am now worried about the dangers posed by the shortness of the runway I was originally intending to use. On the other hand, the second runway would involve using Jean-Claude’s land and also that of another owner. ‘No problem!’, said Jean-Claude. He knows the other owner, who lives just up the road, very well and said that he’s a very friendly type. It also turns out that the other owner and I have never actually met face-to-face but have acknowledged each other and waved as neighbours when we have passed each other by, so that’s very good news indeed. At the end of it all, I suggested that if my registration papers are returned from Merignac this week, I’d be looking to go this Saturday, but having since checked the weather forecast, it appears that the wind could then be a full tail-wind, making a take off impossible. However, we’ll have to wait and see.

By the time I’d sorted all this stuff out, I’d got well into making my proposed tail cover but had not got anywhere near to finishing it. The wind was beginning to pick up and as one forecast had given a high probability of a thunderstorm this afternoon, I thought it wise to cover the tail back up again and batten the hatches down. It was tricky getting the light blue tarp that I’d previously taken off, back on again in a by now wickedly gusting wind, but I managed it, as well as wrapping the wooden prop just in case the promised rains do come today or in the early hours of the morning. So although I was foiled by the weather and didn’t get what I’d intended to do finished, on balance, with the news about the ‘piste’ on the field opposite, I still think the day had a favourable outcome ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 4, 2013

Covers almost done

I made good progress with the new covers today, despite making one big mistake. First I made a small cover for the pod nose and lower part of the screen, which turned out pretty well. As a result, I thought I was clever enough to work out the shape of a large single cover to enclose the cabin and cover the rest of the top half of the screen, but after marking and boldly cutting out a large chunk of tarpaulin which I thought would do the job, it turned out that I wasn’t ๐Ÿ™

I’m not sure whether the material that I’ve cut will be totally wasted – probably not, but I’ll only get some small pieces out of it, like a prop cover and covers for the main undercarriage, I think. However, my trip up the learning curve wasn’t totally wasted, because as I did last night, I ended up enclosing the cabin with the small black tarpaulin that came ‘free’ with the main large one, and I can now see how it can easily be adapted to make a perfect cover for the cabin. So that will be my first job tomorrow.

I also made a ‘custom’ engine cover which I think will work pretty well. However, if I’ve got enough material over after I’ve made the tail ‘bag’ that I have in mind, I might re-make it a little larger to give more side protection. Even so, it should work pretty well as it is and will certainly be better than the old polythene sheet that I taped together last Autumn when the rains started and which has been the engine’s main protection ever since. No pics this time as I finished too late to take any.

So at the pace things are going, if my registration papers are turned round quickly by the DSAC at Merignac, I have high hopes of having the X-Air ready to fly over to Galinat in the coming week, after which I’ll be back to flying regularly. What a thought – I can hardly wait to be back flying my own aircraft after all this time ๐Ÿ˜€

August 3, 2013

It’s not how you start…

It’s how you finish, and after a rather frustrating day, I was treated to a pleasant surprise as it drew towards a close. I struggled for almost the whole day working on the X-Air’s new covers. I thought that they’d be a piece of cake after all the work I did before, cutting and stitching MYRO’s covers, but it appears that I was mistaken. Having bought an enormous heavyweight black PVC tarpaulin to make them out of, I thought that all I’d have to do was cut out each cover, turn the edges over once to give a double thickness in which to put the brass eyelets and just cement the turn-over with the special PVC adhesive that I’d got from the UK. The stuff is called HH-66 and it came as being THE glue for PVC sheeting.

But either my tarp isn’t made from PVC or there’s more to it than I thought, because getting the stuff to stick has been a nightmare. I haven’t even got one wing cover done yet and the edges I have managed to turn over don’t look as though they’ll last five minutes if put under any stress. As a back-up, I got my old Singer sewing machine out and found that despite the thickness, it stitches through the tarp easily enough, so once I’ve got all of the edges turned over and stuck down, I’ll be able to run along them and reinforce the joint with a line of stitching, which will actually make a very good job out of it. However, that’ll take a lot of time and all the while I have no covers, I can’t take the X-Air over to Galinat and start flying it ๐Ÿ˜

We had a thunderstorm last night with quite large hail stones and fortunately I’d completely covered the X-Air temporarily with the black tarp and although there is no more extreme weather forecast for at least a couple of days, having cut up the tarp I’d used previously for the second wing cover, I needed to find something to do the job tonight. That’s when I got the idea of trying the covers I’d made for MYRO for size, and I was gobsmacked and pleasantly surprised to find that they actually fitted extremely well! So good in fact, that I’ll be able to use what I already have temporarily at Galinat and all I’ll need to do before taking the X-Air over is make a secure cover for the pod and cabin. That shouldn’t take too long as I’ll be able to adapt the small tarp that I used last night, and as I probably won’t have my registration papers back from the DSAC for the X-Air that will allow me to fly it, until the middle of next week, I should have plenty of time to do that. Here are some pics I took this evening with the X-Air in MYRO’s covers.

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I’ll still continue making the covers I originally planned from the black tarp, just in case I can’t get a hangar up before the Winter, but I think MYRO’s covers will do very well for now, and using them will also take a bit of pressure off me. Oh, BTW, the revolving door I mentioned in my last post revolved yet again almost straight away, and my friend who arrived on Wednesday from the UK to stay for a few days had to go straight back the following day, for personal reasons. So sad as that was, at least now I’ll be able to concentrate my attentions exclusively on the X-Air ๐Ÿ˜‰