December 31, 2014

The year-end cometh

As did the new battery and spark plugs for 56NE. But by the time I’d completed what I had to do, it was too late to go across to Galinat, fit them and have a final flight before the year-end. Quel dommage!

But life and flying will go on in 2015, so as we come to the end of 2014 there’s nothing left for me to do other than to wish all my family and friends everywhere ‘Bonne Année!’

Happy New Year to all, and may it bring everything that you wish for yourself. I think that it will be a good one 😉

December 30, 2014

Really good fun!

After yesterday’s walk, I thought a bit more about repeating it, but this time in the Kia. And the more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. The weather was beautiful today, sunny and crisp with a clear blue sky, so I decided to sort out a mount for my little Canon camcorder on the Kia’s dashboard and just do it 🙂

Thinking about the condition that I’d found the trail to be in yesterday, I thought that this time it would be better to cover the route in the reverse direction, just in case the mud I’d encountered on the climb back up towards my house proved to be a bit too slippery. I didn’t think it would do, but as this was my first major venture off-road with the Kia, I decided that discretion was probably advisable.

So eventually, off I headed in the bright sunshine, with the heater whirring away and making it toasty warm inside the car. I had the camcorder running the whole way round and have already knocked the footage into a video of the drive. You can see it by clicking on the following pic.

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It’s given me a bit of a taste now and as there are quite a few more trails close to my house, I think I might have another go. I don’t know when it will be, but I’ve already got a route in mind 😉

December 29, 2014

An alternative to flying?

We had a low of around -4 degrees Celsius last night but the morning dawned bright and clear with no frost. And as it wore on, it also transpired that the gusting wind that had been forecast was not going to materialise, so with an expected high this afternoon of 5 or 6 degrees, I could have gone off for a flight in 56NE.

The only thing deterring me was the battery. It’s been on the trickle charger ever since I brought it home before Christmas but even though I think it would probably start the engine now it’s got a bit of charge in it, I don’t relish the thought of standing at the top of a pair of steps in near-freezing temperatures fitting it. So as an alternative to slouching around wasting my time, which I’ve been doing a lot of the past few days, I thought I’d drag my body outside into the fresh air for a walk.

The hills around where I live are criss-crossed with walking trails many of which are identified on the maps by coloured markers that are replicated on posts along the trails to which they apply. Walking is a popular pursuit here at all times of the year and it’s not uncommon to see Dutch and German tourists especially, walking in the Summer months with the aid of a pair of light-weight walking staves. You don’t need them on the roads or the flat, but they come in very handy on the hills where some of the trails can become quite steep.

I decided to do a 2-3 mile circuit close to my home that I know from walking it last Summer with my friend Val is quite steep in places but not so severe that walking staves are necessary. The start point I chose is at the top of my road, near the two large water storage tanks that are located there, and the finish comes out conveniently just a couple of hundred metres from my front garden. The whole walk is shown on Google Earth, below.

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This is not the most scenic or colourful time of the year to be walking but it’s enjoyable nevertheless even with an air temperature not much above freezing and ice still on the tops of the puddles. I took my little camera with me and took a few shots as I went, the location of each of which I’ve marked on the route, above.

Shot 1. Looking straight on in the direction that I was heading.

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Shot 2. A common sight all around here, meaning that the gathering of mushrooms is strictly forbidden even if you never ever see the owners of the land in question out doing it themselves.

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Shot 3. Looking back up the trail towards where the sign above was, just around the corner up on the right.

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Shot 4. Looking ahead down the trail. The slope was actually quite a bit greater than it appears in the pic.

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Shot 5. At the bottom in the valley between the hills, there’s a little stream that runs into a pair of lakes not shown in my Google Earth pic, but just a small way off to the east. They are called Les Étangs de Fongran. The picture shows the tyre marks from the hunters’ trucks that have recently used the tracks and it made me think that in the next few days, I might take the Kia round the trails that I walked today, just for the fun of it.

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Shot 6. Just a shot of some frost on some leaves on an animal trail at the side of the track.

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Shot 7. A lattice-work of fallen trees at the side of the track. The woods are full of them but as all of the land is owned by someone, you can’t just go in and load up your trailer with it.

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Shot 8. The Winter sun glistening on the bare trees.

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As I emerged from the woods for the climb up the last stretch of trail leading to my house, a movement caught my eye off to the right as a large adult deer broke from the trees and went racing across the open field ahead of it. It was too far away for me to take a shot of but I watched it as it crossed the trail some way ahead of me and continued on for the cover of some more woods that I know were there.

Then a long way behind it, a hunting dog also emerged from the same trees that the deer had come from just before, with its nose glued to the ground as it followed the deer’s scent. But it was too late to be able to see it and had no chance of catching up, so presently it turned tail and headed back in the direction from which it had come.

As soon as I got home not long after, I got my wood burner blazing away to start getting some heat into the house. The sky out to the east over the hills where I’d just been walking had that tell-tale pink tinge to it that experience tells you means that a cold night is ahead. It’s blazing away next to me as I type this, chucking out heat, ticking away as it expands and munching its way through the big pile of oak logs that I stack up next to it every morning in readiness for the evening to come. From the look of it, I may well have to go outside and fetch more before the evening’s through, but it’s worth it, though, just for the fantastic smell of burning oak that fills the house by the time it’s time to go to bed.

When I looked out to the west earlier on, this is what I feasted my eyes upon.

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With a view like that, you know that all’s well with the world. So the afternoon was far from wasted, but I have to say that even though I like a good walk as much as the next person, at the end of the day, it isn’t really an alternative that I’d generally choose to a good flight 😉

December 23, 2014

No joy

I set the replacement plugs to the correct gap and fitted them to 56NE this afternoon. During our conversation, I’d said to Wim that if my experience with cars is anything to go by, as the battery has let me down once, it’s probably on its last legs and would do so again.

And I couldn’t have been more right. When I spun the engine up on the starter, it kicked a few times but failed to start and after a few tries, the battery lost all power again. So although I’ve brought it home and put it on the charger again, I’ve ordered a replacement which, if the supplier keeps their promise, should arrive around New Year.

The weather is forecast to be cool and wet over the Christmas period, but if I’m lucky and there’s a good flying day before the new battery arrives, with a bit of luck the old one will have enough power to start the engine, which is all it has to do.

In the meantime, may I take this opportunity to I wish all my family and friends everywhere a very Happy and Joyful Christmas.

December 22, 2014

Super flight, but…

After yesterday’s little mishap I’d taken 56NE’s battery home and put it on my electronically controlled charger overnight. Wim dropped in for a cup of coffee this morning while out with Barbouse and I told him that later on I’d put it back in the aircraft, give the plugs a clean up and try the engine again.

Not surprisingly, when I removed the plugs, I found that they were still very mucky and wet after yesterday, so I cleaned and re-gapped them and gave the engine a try. It started just as usual, so I decided that I’d do the flight that I’d loaded into my new tablet GPS to give it a good test. While I’d been working there was a good layer of mist over Galinat and although it hadn’t completely disappeared and there was a still a bit floating around lower down in the valley, it was burning off pretty quickly.

Here’s a shot showing my intended route in green and my actual track in red. As shown, I had to cut the flight short after passing Le Bugue for reasons I’ll come back to in a moment.

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I allowed the engine to warm up to 70 degrees Celsius on the water temperature gauge as usual and on these cold Winter days, I think it’s even more important to do so if you want to avoid a cold seize at full revs on climb out. However, as I climbed out it didn’t quite seem to me to be developing the usual maximum revs on the rev counter and I made a mental note to see if I could find out more, if so, after the flight.

I flew across to my house and did a low circuit over it as my neighbour Benjamin was at home with his little boy, Samuel today, but as I’d been unable to tell him what time I’d be flying over I wasn’t too surprised not to see them outdoors as it was still rather cold. Then I flew across to Rouffignac before heading for St Felix and then Le Bugue.

Conditions were fantastic and wrapped up as I was, I wasn’t feeling the cold at all. As I approached Le Bugue I noticed that half of it was still blanketed in thick mist, but even more spectacularly, the valleys of the rivers Vézère, which passes through Le Bugue, and Dordogne, which is further south, were both full to the brim with mist and cloud. The valleys come together where the rivers join at Limeuil to the west of Le Bugue and where they converge can be clearly seen in the following image that I took from a video that I was shooting at the time, where the two cloud banks merge in the right of the picture (I was flying from north to south).

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I flew slightly more to the west of Le Bugue than I’d originally planned, over the edge of the cloud bank and as I did so, I immediately sensed that the air above it was much colder than I’d been flying through up to then. I then turned left to head for St Cyprien, my next waypoint, and opened the throttle to climb a bit as I’d descended a few hundred feet to get the best view of the cloud bank that I could.

It was then that I found that with the throttle fully open, the engine wouldn’t manage any more than an indicated 5300 RPM when it should have been giving over 6000. My immediate thought was that I was getting some carburettor icing. When the fuel/air mixture passes through the jet of the carb into the cylinder it expands and this expansion causes it to cool quite significantly. Then, if there’s a lot of moisture in the air, as there was today, this can freeze causing deposits of ice in the carburettor inlet to the extent, if it is really serious, that fuel flow is prevented and the engine stops.

I didn’t think that this was going to happen but I had to assume that the revs I was getting were the maximum that I was going to get, so some decisions were necessary. The first one was easy – to immediately cut short the flight and head straight back to Galinat, so that’s what I did. When I flew with Wim the other day, I was using only about 5200 – 5400 RPM to fly at a similar speed as his Weedhopper so I knew that so long as my engine kept running as it was, there would be no problem getting back to Galinat. But you never know, so as there was an element of doubt and as 56NE could still climb with the revs that I was getting, I decided that although I’d be ascending into colder air, that’s what I would do.

Height gives you more options, so as I continued towards Galinat I slowly climbed until I got to 3000 feet. That was enough because by then I had Thonac in sight and could begin my descent to land at Galinat, knowing that in theory I’d only have one go at it if the engine did actually die on me. But that didn’t happen and pretty soon I was down on the ground after a very presentable landing, actually. Before packing up to go home, I naturally gave the engine another test. However, it was inconclusive because even with chocks and its brakes full on, before the engine was up to full revs, 56NE was already sliding forward in the mud.

So what have I found out since the flight? Well, for one thing, the track altitude and speed profiles from Memory Map provide some very interesting information. The average speed for the flight, including take off and landing, was 99 kmh, which is not bad even for ‘normal’ conditions. Not only that, while I was climbing after Le Bugue at no more than an indicated 5300 RPM, the GPS ground speed never fell below 110 kmh and at times was almost as high as 120 kmh, which seem extraordinarily high for that engine revs figure when there was no discernible tail wind component. So it possibly begs the question whether for some reason today, the rev counter was playing up? I can’t think why it should have been and I don’t think ‘by ear’ that the engine was doing more than the indicated reading, but it’s something that I’ll need to consider when I look into things more closely.

But there’s one thing that I do know that would have had an effect, namely that when I cleaned and re-gapped the sparking plugs, I set a gap from memory of 0.025″. This actually was far too wide – the official Rotax figure is 0.015-0.020″. Also, 56NE’s plugs were still the ones left in by the previous owners. I have done just over 25 hours with them myself and who knows what they did with them, so really they are overdue for a change. I have four new plugs which I’ll set to the correct gap and replace the old ones with and then it’ll be a fair test. I have to visit Intermarché tomorrow morning for a few provisions, so hopefully that’s a job for tomorrow afternoon.

December 21, 2014

Fantastic Winter flying day!

The forecast was for the skies to clear going into the afternoon with the temperature rising to a high of 10 degrees Celsius with light northerly winds. However, the day started clear and bright and with the wind even lighter than forecast, it was obviously turning into a perfect Winter flying day.

I wanted to give my new tablet GPS a thorough test so couldn’t wait to get across to Galinat. Here’s a shot of the airfield shortly after I arrived with my little portable windsock visible down on the left of the runway as viewed. Christian told me when I bumped into him on arriving that he’s taken the proper one down for the Winter to prevent it getting ripped by the wind, as others before it have been.

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And talking about bumping into him, he was a bit gloomy because someone had recently done exactly that, into the rear of his old Volvo estate. He’d pulled it out a bit so he could keep driving it but was obviously still very miffed. I asked him how old the car is, and he told me ‘Twenty five years’. I couldn’t help laughing a bit, shook his hand and told him that he’s a True Frenchman! He saw the funny side and said, ‘There’s no point throwing it away while it’s still running…’

Here are a couple of shots after I’d taken 56NE’s covers off before moving it from its parking spot.

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After pulling it out onto the grass apron, I then refuelled it and gave it a good inspection before attaching my camcorder, as I thought it would be an ideal day for a video, fitting my GPS and installing myself ready to go. Here’s a shot taken just after I’d pulled it out.

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When I turned the key, there was a louder-than-usual clunk as the starter engaged, but the prop seemed to spin at the usual speed. But not for long. As the battery power died it steadily slowed down to a halt, so that was that. Just my luck! A perfect flying day , but the only problem was I didn’t get to fly! I had to smile somewhat wryly to myself, though. Earlier on I’d poked gentle fun at my Australian friend Bruce on a forum that we’re both members of, reminding him that today is the Winter Solstice and that after today, our days will be drawing out towards Summer, while all he’ll have to look forward to will be ever-shortening days and Winter. I’d titled the posting ‘Schadenfreude’. But now he can have the last laugh. That’ll teach me 😕

December 15, 2014

Cold flight with Wim

Wim has been lucky to get a few flights in recently while I’ve had other things to do and not been able to. We expected today to be a good flying day but I almost gave up on it because it started off dull with thick mist and I didn’t think that it looked as though it would clear up enough. However, as lunch time approached, the sun broke through and I was surprised by how quickly the mist began to burn off.

So I gave Wim a call and said that I’d go across to Galinat to see if the runway was firm enough to use and if it was, I’d give him a ring from my mobile. Well it turned out to be fine so while I was waiting for Wim to drop over, after getting 56NE inspected and ready to fly, I thought I’d do a quick take off and landing. Almost as soon as I left the ground, I spotted Wim approaching, so I turned round and followed him back in.

We decided that we’d do a quick flight with Wim taking the lead in the Red Baron, taking in Thenon, Fossemagne and Rouffignac. I had taken my flying jacket with me to Galinat but hadn’t put it on as I already had several layers on my upper half, as well as a ‘beanie’ hat and my trusty gloves. I soon regretted leaving it behind, however, because it was a lot colder aloft than I thought it would be. It was also quite hazy, as the couple of pics I shot show.

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I came up abreast of Wim several times but didn’t take any close-up pics because with the vis as it was, especially flying into the sun, I didn’t think it would be too safe. Eventually after we’d flown over Rouffignac, Wim turned in front of me on a low circuit to land back at his strip. After he’d landed and got out of the Red Baron, I did an approach and low pass before giving him a wave and heading off back to Galinat.

So it was an enjoyable and very welcome flight from my point of view, as when I came to fill out my log book, I realised for the first time that I hadn’t flown at all in November on account of working on my new wood store. I just hope that the situation can be remedied by getting in another couple of flights before the end of the year 😉

December 14, 2014

Lovely sight

I’d like to have got a flight in yesterday but the day started dull with low cloud and didn’t look as though it was going to improve very quickly. So that left me with a choice to make. Because of the time it takes me to get 56NE’s covers off and ready to fly, I have to decide in good time whether it’s worth making the trip across to Galinat at all, because if I don’t get to fly when I get there, I lose the opportunity to do anything more useful with the time.

So I decided instead that I’d crack on and see if I could get the remainder of my new wood cut, split and under cover in my wood store, and that’s what I did. In fact, Wim did get a short flight in in The Red Baron later in the afternoon and rubbed it in by making three low passes over my garden. I didn’t manage to finish off all of my wood, but I was still pleased with the amount that I did manage to get done during the afternoon.

The weather forecast for today looked as though this afternoon would be similar to yesterday so Wim and I pencilled in a flight together. However, on looking east out of my window towards Galinat this morning I could see that the airfield and valley were covered in radiation fog and because there was hardly any wind, it hadn’t improved by approaching mid-day. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse, so we decided to leave it for today and try again tomorrow and in the meantime, I decided that my time would be best spent finishing off all of my wood.

I’d completed the job by mid-afternoon and now when I open my wood store door, I have the lovely sight of all of my wood inside in the dry and all cut and split ready for burning. So not only will this save a lot of time and effort in the coming weeks, but for the time being at least, all the effort and mess is now behind me. Here are a couple of shots that I took when I was done.

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A further benefit is that because I’ll have no need to use my wood saw and log splitter again this Winter, I’ve also been able to put my wheelbarrow in the store instead of leaving it outside in all weathers, as shown in the second pic above. So my new wood store is perfectly playing the role I had planned for it. Now that’s it, for the moment at least, and I think I’m just about ready for anything the Winter might throw at me. Well, almost anything 🙂

December 9, 2014

New wood – finale

Just to finish off my little saga about the arrival of the new wood, after Wim had dropped by this morning for a cup of coffee while out with Barbouse, I got cracking later on with cutting and splitting the new delivery. The day was perfect for it, being cold, dry and bright, and I started off with the lengths that I’d moved into my wood store, as ultimately I’d really like all of the wood that I have in there to be cut and split ready for burning. After toiling away for something like four hours, here’s how I did.

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I was quite pleased with the progress I made and was again surprised by how much cutting and splitting the wood saves on the space needed to store it. Comparing the shot above with the first one in yesterday’s posting, below, the additional wood in the stacks behind the vertical supports consists of the uncut lengths that were in the store, shown in the foreground of yesterday’s pic, plus about the same again!

But anyway, for the time being, as there’s a bit of rain forecast for tomorrow and every day until the end of the week, I’ve now made sure that the wood remaining on the pile outside is well covered and the cover battened down as far as possible.

When the new wood was delivered, apart from its ‘look’, I had no way of knowing whether it would be as ‘good’ (dry and well-seasoned) as what I had before and am currently burning with great success. This is important to me, because as I’ve cut, split and stacked the new wood, I’ve buried the older wood underneath it. So as an experiment, I’ve only used new wood this evening to see how it performs, and here’s a picture I took earlier on.

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I won’t know ‘for sure’ until I see how much soot has been deposited on the stove’s glass door and how easy it is to clean. However, on the evidence of the picture, I don’t think I’ve got too much to worry about 😉

December 8, 2014

The new wood ‘est arrivé’

I phoned M. Dumas this morning as planned and told him that I’d like to order 3 more stères of dry oak, as before, and that if possible I’d like it delivered tomorrow. He asked ‘why tomorrow’ and I told him ‘because tomorrow it won’t be raining’. Evidently M. Dumas isn’t someone who is put off by such trivialities and he said that he’d be along with it this afternoon. He’s the sort of chap who, when someone says they’d like to place an order, he wants to deliver it before they get the chance to change their mind, and who can blame him 🙂

So he turned up this afternoon in a large new tractor (from Savimat) pulling a large tip-up trailer. Last time he came he was in a beaten up old tractor towing an old flat-bed trailer that we had to unload manually, so I guess the wood business can’t be all bad 😉

So unloading the wood was a quick job compared to last time and after I’d paid him and he’d departed, it was then just up to me to get it under cover. While he was here delivering, there was just a very slight drizzle, so to start off with, I began to move it two lengths at a time into my wood store. I was fortunate to get a reasonable amount inside before the drizzle began to turn into more heavy rainfall.

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So far, so good because what I managed to get inside hadn’t got too wet and will soon dry out before I get around to cutting it down and splitting it. But I then had to call a halt to moving it and just think about getting some covers over what was left outside before it became too wet. I was able to do so and now I’ve got two stacks of wood on my grass, today’s delivery temporarily under the blue covers until the rain stops and I can get it into my store, and the pine I acquired the other day that will have to stay under the black cover for a couple of years until it’ll be ready to burn.

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Although the wood that came today is stacked in a higgledy-piggledy way as it came off the back of the trailer and is therefore not stacked down neatly, I think M. Dumas has come up trumps and delivered what you might call a ‘good’ 3 stères of wood.

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Now all I have to do is cut it, split it and stack it and that’ll take me a few days I think. A good way to keep warm, maybe, without having to light a fire 😉

December 7, 2014

Still working

Although it still seemed to be working OK when I tested it after I’d fixed the problem with its piston non-return valve, I didn’t know for sure that my log splitter would still operate fully as it should until I’d topped up the hydraulic fluid and tried it with a log. So as I had a pile of cut logs ready for splitting in my wood store, I was relieved yesterday when it did the job properly first time. I bashed away for an hour or so and pretty soon I had all my wood cut, split and stacked as I wanted it.

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Although I expected it to take up less space after being cut and split, I was amazed at just how little space it occupied when I’d finished, compared to before. There’s plenty of room now for me to order in some more 1 metre lengths and I hope that M. Dumas has another 3 stères like I had before at the same price. In any case, I’ll give him a ring tomorrow to find out.

Ideally I’d like to cut and split it before I put it into the store so it easily goes into the space available, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do that because of the weather this coming week. It’ll take several hours, probably over a day or so, to do the whole 3 stères and while I’m doing it, it’ll be stacked outside in the open. Rain is forecast for most days next week excluding Tuesday, with quite a few strong showers on Wednesday, and as I’ve used what covers I have on the pine that I picked up a couple of Saturdays ago, I may have no choice but to ask for delivery on Tuesday and to stack it immediately in the store in the dry. We’ll see after talking to M. Dumas.

December 5, 2014

Never jump to conclusions!

I’m getting through my firewood pretty quickly, certainly much quicker than last year. Then again, the wood I was using last year was nowhere near as good as the dry oak I’m now burning and as my wood burner is performing a lot better than before, it’s burning the wood quicker and more efficiently and I’m getting a lot more heat out of it.

So I’m actually getting some decent heat into the house for a change, but as it’s not very well insulated (a job on the list for the future) and as I also only have single-glazed windows with no curtains (still :-(), I have to keep chucking logs on of an evening to keep the temperature up.

OK, I can live with that, but it still doesn’t get away from the fact that my wood store is emptying quicker than I originally thought it would. So what I decided to do was cut and split all of the one metre lengths that I still have so they take up just over half of the space that they currently do and then order in some more while there are still stocks of seasoned dry oak to be had. This is actually a serious concern because everyone else with a wood burner is probably finding the same as me now that the cold evenings and nights have arrived, and is using their wood up like billy-oh.

Anyway, I started on this the other day and more or less broke the back of it, leaving a bit more to do today. I’d finished cutting the remaining wood down and was in the middle of splitting it when I hit a particularly hard bit of oak that the splitter was finding tough to deal with. Suddenly the wood went with a loud bang and the two pieces that resulted shot across the wood store like mortar bombs. After I’d retrieved and stacked them, I returned to the splitter to do the next piece only to find that the ram, instead of returning to its starting point was stuck in the middle where it had previously come to rest.

Working the splitter is a two-handed job, principally I think, for safety reasons. You have to push down on a lever at the base of the ram mechanism while at the same time pressing on the ‘start’ button and as these two things are separated by a foot or so, you need both hands to do it. When I checked, I found that the ram still moved when you pressed the ‘start’ button but the lever was somehow loose and floppy.

To cut a long story short, the lever presses on a kind-of plunger that operates a non-return valve of some sort, and this had become stuck. So out came my tool kit and after a bit of faffing around, the plunger eventually shot out accompanied by a stream of hydraulic fluid. It didn’t take long to get things back together again and when I operated the controls, the ram worked as it should, moving forward when activated and back again when the controls were released. But with so much fluid having been lost, there was no way that I could operate the machine as it was without risk of damaging it, so the next job was to find some suitable hydraulic fluid.

There’s a small gardening ‘atelier’ in Thonac which isn’t very far from my house, but I dismissed that as I’ve had mixed experiences there – poor from the proprietor who had no interest in helping me with my first motor mower not long after arriving here when I needed help getting the blade off, but excellent from his young assistant who kindly gave me a bolt for free off an old broken mower when I needed it after one had fallen off my second machine and got lost somewhere in my garden. ‘No’, I thought, I’ll try Intermarché on the off-chance as I had to go there anyway and I did buy oil for my chain saw there, and if I had no luck there, I’d just go into Les Briconautes who would surely have some.

Sure enough and not surprisingly, I had no luck in Intermarché so off I went to Les Briconautes. I couldn’t see what I wanted so I asked a chap in the gardening area and he took me off to the shelf in the main store where there were various oils on show. Sure enough, they had some but only in a 5 litre container at a cost of well over 20 euros! Good grief, who could possibly need that much hydraulic oil! A ‘fendeuse à bois’ like mine only takes a litre or so and when filled should never need topping up, as if it’s leaking it won’t be working up to pressure and will need repairing or replacing. Even large models come complete with oil and the same applies.

So off I went to Thenon where there’s a Pôle Vert garden centre thinking that surely they must have what I’m looking for as they sell a range of ‘scies à bois’ and ‘fendeuses à bois’ which are similar to what I have and they also sell mostly to ‘particuliers’ (members of the public) rather than the trade or the farming community. But what did I find. They also had a shelf containing various oils but when I checked with the fellow in the showroom he looked and said that they too only had oil for ‘fendeuses’ in 5 litre containers!

So now I was at a loss and as it was getting on a bit, I thought that I might as well go home and resume my search some other time as although I still have a pile of cut logs ready for splitting, I already have more than enough wood ready to use on my wood burner. ‘What the heck’, I thought to myself, ‘As I’m heading back south again anyway, why not drop into the gardening place at Thonac and see what they can do for me’. So that’s what I did (following image from Google Earth).

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M. Grangier looked on his shelf and came back to tell me that for the moment he couldn’t help, but had I tried Savimat down the road? That came as something of a surprise. Savimat is a depot on the road into Montignac which has a small showroom attached to it but is where the local farmers buy their heavy equipment – tractors, trailers, bailers and so on. Not the place, you’d have thought, that a member of the public would usually go to or perhaps, even be welcome at. But as the man at Thonac had suggested it in good faith, I thought that I had nothing to lose and might as well give it a go (following images from Google Earth).

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When I got there, there was only me and a young guy walking into and out of the adjoining offices and while he was gone, I checked the shelves. Well, I could hardly believe my eyes because sandwiched between all of the 5 litre containers and larger of various oils, there were a few 1 litres of ‘huile pneumatique’ suitable for ‘fendeuses à bois’.

He set me up an account on the computer (seems they haven’t heard of a general Cash Sales account down here) and the transaction was soon done – for the princely sum of 7.30€. So all my driving around to Montignac and Thenon were in vain, and all because I’d made a rash assumption about the little place in Thonac. If I’d gone there first, I’d have been able to buy the oil I wanted and return home to get the job finished, which will now have to wait until another day.

There was one silver lining though. Diesel fuel prices here in France are much lower than in the UK (but due to go up next year because of EU ‘environmental’ concerns) and have been dropping even further due to the falling world price of oil. But not so in the Montignac Intermarché who evidently think that they have a captive market, where it’s still 1.23€ a litre. There’s a small Carrefour supermarket in Thenon which almost always sells its fuels a bit cheaper than the Intermarché, but today I was stunned to find that its ‘Gazole’ was down to only 1.16€ (92p) a litre! I was able to fill up while I was there so at least I’ll be able to enjoy some benefit from having made the drive up there 😉

December 1, 2014

My new Asus tablet

I’ve been playing around quite a bit over the week end with my new little Asus tablet and the grin on my face just keeps getting wider and wider. This is the first Android device that I’ve ever laid my hands (or, more precisely, fingers) on and even though I’m pretty computer savvy, I’m quite surprised at how quickly I’m getting the hang of it.

Because I mainly bought it to run my Memory Map navigation software on, naturally I’ve been looking around for other aviation related apps to complement it. I’m not interested in gimmicky apps like make-believe artificial horizons that some other microlight pilots in the UK with a bit of a death-wish are. Rather, I’ve been looking around for apps and software that will make flight planning and navigation easier and this is what I’ve come up with so far in the few days that I’ve owned it.

One of the apps I’ve installed is for taking screen shots, so first off here’s one of my home screen from which I can directly access the apps that I will be using the most frequently.

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I posted a shot the other day of how Memory Map looks on the Asus while in use. It wasn’t a very good image as I made it by taking an actual photograph of the Asus’s screen, so here’s another showing a planned route out from and back to Galinat.

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The GPS position indicator is shown over my house where I did the screen shot and while in flight, usually this would be locked in the centre of the screen with a vector coming out of it showing the direction of flight compared to the planned route. Unlike on the old satnav, you can choose whether to create a track trace or not, which I think is a rather nice feature, because when you fly out and back on more or less a straight line, having the outgoing track showing up as well as the route line and the new incoming track can make the screen a bit confusing and messy.

The next app that I’ve loaded is called Metam. This is very useful because what it shows is a map of the airfields close to your position, as follows.

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Your position (ie my house, at the time) is shown by the small blue dot in the centre of the screen, and as you can see, it’s located almost midway between Bergerac (LFBE) to the south-west and Brive (LFSL) to the north-east. If you then click on (ie touch) any airfield’s ICAO code, in this case Bergerac, the screen changes to show the weather conditions at the selected airfield, as shown below.

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This is an interpretation in plain words of the airfield’s METAR. Then, if you swipe upwards on the black band, you can also get hold of the airfield’s TAF, which is invaluable if you want to plan a navigation in the local area.

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The next app that I’ve loaded is called Wind Computer. This is a simple little program that does wind triangle calculations for you for navigation planning at the drop of a hat. Here’s a shot of its one and only screen.

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You enter details of wind direction and velocity, your desired track and indicated airspeed and it shows the heading you need to fly and your ground speed over on the right. Simple but handy if you’re planning a flight by hand.

However, that can get a bit tedious if you’re planning a longer flight with many legs and although you can download other people’s software for that, I’ve made my own spreadsheet that sets things out in exactly the way that I like it. I made it to be used on my PC but I’ve loaded it into the Asus and here’s a shot of the blank worksheet.

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All of the calculated values are protected so you can’t mess them up by entering data into them in error, so all that you have to do is enter all of the other data that’s required in the rows with titles in bold text. I checked it out to make sure it worked properly using data that I still have for old flights that I prepared manually and shown below is the first stage between Stoke and Abbeville of my flight down from the UK to the Dordogne back in April 2012.

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The worksheet uses data in km and km/hr but I used my old data in miles and mph, which is OK so long as the data used is consistent.

The only differences I found were due to differences in rounding, so I’m confident that it works fine. To get it to run on the Asus I used Quickoffice, the old Google app. It’s been rendered obsolete by a replacement, but on checking, I found that the majority of users who had experience of both apps still favoured the old version, so I rummaged around the Internet for a bit until a found a site that still had an old download and installed that.

So that’s it for now. It’s still very early days and I’m sure that as time progresses, I’ll come across more apps that I’ll find useful. If so, I’ll make sure that I post details of them here on My Trike.