October 31, 2015

Internet – oh no, not again!

My telephone and internet connections have been the bane of my life since coming to the Dordogne. And now they are at it again – not working I mean.

It started yesterday morning, a day or so after the brief but violent thunderstorm that we had a couple of evenings ago. I was checking up on the forums, news and my email on my laptop and my connection was running so slowly that in the end I decided that I’d try rebooting my modem to see if that would improve matters. But it didn’t. Instead I lost my connection completely, which means that I lost not just the internet but also my home phone service.

But this time I didn’t have to flounder around like a beached walrus – I just grabbed my new smartphone, switched on my mobile hot-spot and I was back in business. OK, the system isn’t running fast enough to run services like YouTube* – but then again my normal home internet doesn’t either – but it’s quite adequate for normal browsing and email. And, of course, people can still get me on my mobile.

There’s an argument for doing away with my home phone and internet connection completely if the 4G system down here was a bit faster but it’s too late for that now as I’ve got a contract for the next 18 months. But I’ll see what things are like at the end of it. In the meantime, as my connection still hadn’t been restored by yesterday evening, I went into the Free.fr fault reporting system.

I always get very annoyed how these systems always imply that the fault is at the customer’s end, but I bit the bullet and went through it ticking the boxes confirming that yes, the cable was connected and no, I hadn’t done anything to damage the connection. What utter rubbish, as in my experience it’s always the system infrastructure or the modem that they supplied that’s the cause of the problem.

So now I’m just back to waiting for things to happen. My guess is that my service won’t be restored until at least Wednesday of next week – that’s fast for down here – but at least I’ll have my smartphone tethered to my laptop in the meantime and won’t be totally cut off as I have been in the past.

* A quick footnote – it’s actually running YouTube brilliantly this morning, faster than my home internet usually does, with no buffering. Why are these systems so ruddy variable?

October 29, 2015

A lovely flying afternoon

In more ways than one. Not only was the weather more or less perfect, being bright, still and calm, but I also got to take Wim’s grandchildren and son for some short local flights in 56NE. It’s amazing that a whole year has flown by since the last time.

Being so busy on other things, I only got to fly once in September and today was the only time I have flown in October, so with this in mind, I was especially careful preparing and checking the aircraft over. The first thing that I noticed was that the reservoir for the oil that lubricates the engine butterfly valves was almost empty, so as a lot of water had entered the cabin and wetted the seats during the recent thunderstorm, I pushed the aircraft over and parked it in the sun before I went to buy some more oil to top it up.

I wasn’t sure what oil I needed and my first thought was that I’d need to return home and do an internet search to find out. Then I remembered my new smartphone, opened up the browser and had my answer in seconds ie 2-stroke, the same oil as for the engine lubrication.

The seats were dry by the time I got back so after topping up the oil, I started the engine and did a couple of brisk taxies up and down the runway plus a take off power check. All was in order so then I did a take off with a quick return and landing before adding a bit more fuel to the tanks.

The kids and I had a great time and all too soon the afternoon was over. One final hiccup was to come, however. Shortly after the family had left by car, I watched Wim take off in the Red Baron and head towards Plazac. He hardly climbed at all and seemed to just skim the next hilltop before continuing on his way towards Plazac. As I watched him heading into the distance it was obvious that he wasn’t going to make the next one and then I saw him turn left and start descending even lower before I lost sight of him.

I had no choice but to conclude that he’d had an engine failure and gone down in the valley between Thonac and St Léon sur Vézère, especially as he’s had one or two minor engine problems in the past couple of months. Imagine if I’d done nothing and he’d been stuck in a field somewhere, or even worse. There was little I could do from Galinat so I phoned Victor and he and Madeleine dropped everything to drive out and see what they cold find.

Suffice to say that Wim was OK and that he’d merely seen the family’s car and dropped down to fly past it, but I just wish that he’d mentioned that he might do something like that beforehand. Or, take note Wim, had his mobile phone with him and switched on so he could be readily contacted! Just wait until I see him this coming Sunday 😉

October 28, 2015

More 28AAD stuff

It was dull today but dry up until almost 4.00 pm and I managed to get a good bit done on 28AAD. I’d already swapped the rudder pedals over for those on MYRO, which are still in good shape after I painted them all that time ago, and also fitted MYRO’s old trailing links. I was surprised that they fitted, but shouldn’t have been. Only the wheel diameter is different and the main axle design is almost identical, meaning that dimensions are the same on both aircraft. So that will save me having to make up new ones after all.

My main tasks for today were to finish swapping over MYRO’s old throttle lever, which I prefer to the not very nice French one, and fit the seat bases and cushions and here are the shots that I took after I’d finished. The trailing links had been removed again so I can repaint them.

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After I’d fitted the seats, I couldn’t resist climbing in and strapping myself in. What struck me was that after being used to the X-Air, I’d forgotten just how narrow the cabin is and how tight the tube is up against your hand operating the throttle. But it can’t be too bad – after all, I did fly MYRO all the way down from Kent to the Dordogne without too much difficulty 😉

Here are MYRO’s old rudder pedals. I’ve mated them with the base from 28AAD as it doesn’t have holes drilled in it for the heel brakes and it cleaned up quite nicely too.

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I had to use MYRO’s plywood seat bases as those from 28AAD had been damaged and fitting them wasn’t as tricky as I’d remembered from last time when I’d renovated MYRO after I’d first bought it. I also used MYRO’s seat cushions as the vinyl on those from 28AAD was beginning to crack up a little bit on the cushion fronts.

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And finally, this is how things finished up at the end of the day, shortly before I covered it over as the rain began to lightly fall.

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And aside from finding some time to smarten up MYRO’s old trailing links with a splash of white paint, that’s how things may have to stay, possibly until the new year. It saddens me to have to call a halt when it won’t take a great deal to get the fuselage work finished and when I’m looking forward to fitting and wiring up the engine, but I really do now have to switch my priorities.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to take Wim’s grandchildren flying again, which I’m looking forward to as I haven’t flown at all yet in October and only flew once in September. Then it’s back onto the garden tool store and my kitchen in readiness for my sister and brother-in-law’s visit in December.

October 27, 2015

Small consolation

What I failed to mention in my posting of earlier today was that as well as losing my main computer, which had all my graphics and video editing software on it, I’ve also been having problems with my laptop. It’s an old Dell Inspiron 1501 that originally came with Windows Vista and although it has an AMD Turion 64 bit processor, it had become very slow by current standards.

I don’t want to buy a new one as I rarely have need for it nowadays but I wanted to keep it as a stop-gap machine mainly for use when I’m away from home. So with this in mind I recently upgraded it with a new Windows 7 Pro 64 bit operating system, a solid-state disk drive and an increase in memory from 1 to 4 gBs.

This did the trick and made it perfectly suitable for my purposes, but shortly after I’d transferred over to it after losing my main machine, the problems began in the shape of it constantly crashing to a BSD after being run for about 5 minutes. It seemed to me that the problem had to be heat related and as the machine has never been cleaned internally in the eight or nine years that I’ve had it, I surmised that the cooling fan was probably full of dust and fluff and in need of a clean.

I’d already checked up on the internet to see how to go about cleaning it, which involves a major, but major, strip down and rebuild of the machine in order to get at the fan, so when I got back at the end of the afternoon from posting my main PC’s disk drive controller board off to Canada and doing a couple of other things, I thought that I might as well bite the bullet and do it.

I followed the instructions that I’d seen on YouTube and in fact it wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected. It didn’t even take that long to complete and when I’d finished I was relieved that it powered up just as it should do. So I then looked forward to transferring back onto it until such time as I know whether my main PC’s disk drive can be recovered or not and enjoying sessions uninterrupted by sudden crashes.

But I was to be disappointed. This wasn’t happening before so there then followed an hour or so of my swapping hard drives and memory around while I tried to find out what was going wrong. I suspected the new solid state hard drive that I’d installed but it turned out that actually one of the pieces of memory that I’d bought direct from China was to blame.

As it’s only been a few months, I’ll see if the Chinese supplier will send a replacement gratis, but if not, I’ll just have to buy some better quality replacement memory. But at least in the meantime, although I’m now back to the 1gB that was originally installed, I’m back to having one stable machine that I can use for everything, with a smaller screen than the ‘old’ PC that I’ve been having to use in the meantime, but with screen graphics that are much more usable.

Shortly afterwards, things turned locally into something resembling a war zone as an almighty thunder-storm came roaring in. The power flashed off and on so I hastily turned both PCs off for fear of losing another machine, and then the lights went out completely. In the meantime rainwater started to come gushing through the back door of my lounge as the torrential rain was driven against it and as I grabbed a torch and lit a couple of candles, luckily the power came back on again.

Mains water is still being delivered at a pressure that is much lower than normal so I guess the pumping system must have been hit, but at least we are lucky enough to have power and light, unlike the poor souls over in the direction of Galinat on the other side of the Vézère valley, who are still plunged in an inky blackness.

But at least now that I have my laptop back, I can bring up to date the story of where I’m up to with 28AAD – well, not quite, but at least up to where I’d got to by the end of the weekend. I’ve been pressing on as fast as I can before I have to put the project on hold until the new year. The reason is that my sister and brother-in-law are coming down for the whole of December, including Christmas, and as she is disabled I must be able to keep the house as warm as possible. This means getting in plenty of wood, which in turn means that I must finish off my garden tool store to make space for it and must also do quite a bit more to my kitchen before they arrive.

So here’s where I got to by Sunday evening. First, I got the replacement tubes fitted on both sides to repair the collapsed undercarriage and also make good the main engine supports.

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The following shot shows the appalling repair that someone had carried out previously on the undercarriage by sleeving an obviously broken tube. In my opinion, that had been a major contributor to a recurrence of exactly the same damage during the previous owner’s hard landing.

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28AAD was previously fitted with a Rotax 582 engine, and as I’ll be fitting MYRO’s old 503, which is much lighter, I had to adjust the engine bearer plates to maintain the aircraft’s centre of gravity. It was while I was doing so that I noticed that the lord mounts that hold the engine had previously been incorrectly installed. Take a look at the following image, which shows that the rear mounts had been installed inverted compared to the front.

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This is not how they are supposed to be, as the following shot of MYRO’s old engine mounts shows.

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In order to counter and work against the torque of the engine, the mounts are supposed to be fitted inverted on the right as the aircraft is viewed, so someone in the past had the right idea in part but actually didn’t know what they were really doing. As they say, RTFM!!

Here’s a shot still with the mounts incorrectly fitted but with the engine bearer plates moved forward to the correct position for the 503 engine.

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Finally, here’s a shot taken as the light was failing after a full day’s work showing the progress that I’d made.

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Things have come on quite a bit even since then, but I’ll have to leave it until my next posting to show some pictures of where things are now at.

October 27, 2015

Struggling on

I’ve been back in Plazac for nearly a week following my Mum’s funeral in the UK and life has to go on. I’ve managed to get quite a bit done on 28AAD since arriving home – in fact I’ve completed the main repair work and am almost in a position to begin the rebuild but for tidying up paintwork and doing the small repairs needed to the pod – but it’s been a bit of a struggle and I’ve been unable to post any pictures.

The reason for this is the problems that I’ve had with my main computer that have turned out to be much more serious than I originally anticipated. The machine just failed while I was using it – the screen simply blacked out even though some power was evidently being supplied – and I originally thought that its main power supply had failed. However, I now know that it was much worse than that, because it’s the hard disk itself that has gone belly-up, and the reason why it’s so serious is that the drive contained EVERYTHING of mine of importance – photographs and videos from before and since I came to France including ones of my Mum, Toddie, my house and garden, friends, visits and much more, plus documents, emails, music recordings and even things like software that I purchased via download. And I have no backups or copies of the great majority of it.

I am still clinging to one slender ray of hope, however. Due to the mode of failure, I think that the disk drive itself has not been physically damaged and that it’s the controller card that has gone wrong. That’s the green printed circuit board in the image below.

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If so, then I may be in luck as a search on the internet has revealed a company in Canada who claim to be able to repair controller cards with a 95% success rate. So today I have carefully packed it up, paid the $49.99 fee and will be leaving shortly to send it off to them. Then it will just be a matter of waiting and hoping. If it is successful and the drive starts working again, the first thing that I’ll do, of course, will be to back up all of the important data on it. If not then I’ll remain as I am now, which is a bit like someone who has suffered a house fire and has lost nearly all of their treasured possessions.

October 11, 2015

Pleasure tinged with great sadness

I’ve worked like crazy for the last few days on my new garden tool store and I’m pleased to say that I’ve made really good progress. The reason is that I have to return to the UK and before leaving I wanted to finish the basic structure including the roof and make it water and weatherproof by covering it with a large tarpaulin.

I’ve succeeded in my aim as shown by the following pictures taken early this evening after yet another full day’s work.

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Before covering it with a tarpaulin, I put the materials that I haven’t yet used inside under cover together with my recently acquired ride-on mower and afterwards with the tarp in place it looked a bit like a wartime bunker hidden in the woods.

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The reason why I’ve been so hard pressed to get this work done is the source of my sadness. On Friday morning my elderly mother passed away. She was a grand old lady of 96 so although it was hardly unexpected, it still came as a complete shock when it actually happened.

She has been a seemingly permanent fixture and part of our family and my life for so long that we almost came to believe that she would go on forever. But now she is gone and we have already come to realise how much we loved and will miss her.

Good night and God bless, Susie Eileen. Sleep soundly and rest easy. I am proud that you were my mum and made me into the person that I am through your never-ending and unstinting love.

October 8, 2015

Back on the tool store

Much as I’d love to be doing the work needed on the Weedhopper, my priority must be to press on with my new garden tool store. The weather forecast is for a succession of dry days between now and the start of next week, so if I have a fair wind there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get to the point where even if I haven’t got the job finished, I’ll have a waterproof roof over a hard concrete base.

I have got a bit done since laying the concrete base insofar as I managed to get most of the wood for the framework cut to length and made a start on getting the framework itself erected. However, I soon realised that this time round I’ve got a problem that didn’t arise with the wood store and is a cause for some concern.

The concrete is taking much, much longer this time to cure, and the reason is obvious. The ground on which the base was laid was much wetter than previously, mainly because of the several days of almost continuous rain that we had while I was preparing the area. Even after it had stopped I couldn’t resume work because the ground was so muddy and just stuck to your boots like glue. I thought that when the surface became dry enough to work on, it would be OK to lay the concrete, but although more or less unavoidable, this was clearly not the best way to proceed.

The reason is that the moisture contained in the underlying soil is rising up into the already water-bearing concrete, and for the concrete to properly cure, all the water has to eventually dissipate. It’s also not helpful that it’s now autumn and not only is it cooler but also the air is more humid, meaning that the water will evaporate more slowly.

What is most worrying about all this is that while the concrete is slowly curing, it’s staying a bit like a half-baked cake – not hard enough even to support its own weight let alone that of anyone or anything on its surface. As a result, I’m already seeing some damage in the form of cracking while both the concrete and the ground supporting it are moving during the drying-out process.

I’m also finding that in parts, the concrete is nowhere near hard enough to take a fixing and just blows out when drilled. I’m just hoping that the end result won’t be so bad that the base will need repairs even before the tool store can be used.

But for the time being, I’m putting that prospect behind me and carefully pressing on. By the end of today, I’ve managed to get nearly all of the basic framework up, as the pics that I shot show.

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The tool store is slightly greater in area than my wood store but is quite a bit higher. I now think that I’ve made it a bit higher than necessary, really, but it’s too late now to make any changes in that department. By tomorrow, all of the framework should be completed including, I hope, the corner struts that will pull it all properly into shape and give it some stiffness.

Once that’s done, I’ll be able to put some roof covering on. As well as meaning that there will then be no unnecessary weight on the concrete base while it’s drying out, it will also prevent any more water falling onto it and help the curing process. That’s when the job should start to turn the corner 😉

October 5, 2015

RIP MYRO

I had to do some shopping this morning and then we had some light rain in the early afternoon. However, despite the forecast being for rain on and off all day today, it stopped and there was even a bit of broken sunshine, so I was able to get out and do a bit more work towards getting 28AAD back into the air.

There was no time for sentiment. Today was the day for harvesting the parts that I need from what’s left of MYRO with a view, at some time in the future when 28AAD is flying, to breaking down what’s left, disposing of what’s not usable and starting to clear my back garden.

It was soon apparent after uncovering MYRO’s damaged fuselage that there was no chance of it ever flying again in any case. In the few months since I last took the cover off there seems to have been quite a bit of deterioration as a result of corrosion. Unless I’m mistaken and was just looking more closely today, quite a few fastenings (nuts, bolts, washers) are now heavily rusted and would have needed replacing as well as all the other repairs that would have been necessary, so using MYRO for parts was definitely the right decision and it was fortunate that 28AAD came up when it did.

There were quite a few parts and accessories still on MYRO that I needed to take off, including the top of the panel, the doors and screen, the fuel pumps, the wiring loom and the battery holder amongst others.

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I haven’t made my mind up yet about MYRO’s electric fuel pump.

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I know from my X-Air, 56NE, that it isn’t necessary and that it’s just dead weight once you have started the engine. However, it’s not as heavy as I thought and there is a switch for it on MYRO’s old panel, which I’ll be using for 28AAD, so I’ll think about it while I do other things.

It was a long day and I didn’t get finished and cleared away until gone 8.00pm. By the end of it, there was little left of the old MYRO, so to all intents and purposes, it’s now gone forever. Here are a few final shots.

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It’s been too long since the accident to be sentimental and I’m just glad to be moving on at last. Here are a couple of final shots showing what today was all about, namely the fuselage tubes that I need for 28AAD.

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There are still a few more items to come, like the seat bases, the throttle lever, things like that, but to all intents and purposes, the back of the job was broken today. So now it’s ‘RIP MYRO’, and ‘Vive 28AAD’!

October 1, 2015

More on The Weed

I was browsing the internet a few days ago looking at images of AX3s and Weedhoppers when I came across a couple more shots of 28AAD that were taken when Chris, who I bought it off, still owned it. At the time, it still had its original Rotax 582 engine and Arplast 4-blade prop which, unfortunately, I’ll be replacing during its refurbishment.

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It has changed little, if it all, since then and is still a pretty tidy little aircraft. It’s a pity about the hangar rash that it has suffered necessitating quite a few little patches on its wing coverings. I now see from its paperwork that it first entered service in 2000, making it a full 5 years younger than MYRO and 2 years younger even than MZEL, the aircraft that Rosie acquired to replace MYRO and was one of the last AX3s registered in the UK. Seeing how MYRO turned out, I have high hopes for 28AAD 😉

October 1, 2015

The worst is over

I laid about a tonne of concrete yesterday for the base of my new garden tool store. The weather was just about perfect, dry and bright with temperature of around 23 degrees but with a nice breeze, so it was just a matter of slogging on until the job was finished.

It came out pretty well, if anything better than the base of my wood store, which was worse to work on as it had the complication of the two uprights for my grenier stairs being in it and also butting straight up against my house wall. Here are a couple of shots that I took early yesterday evening after I’d cleaned and put away all of my tools.

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Looking back, I see that I was at the same stage with my wood store on 26 September a year ago, so only 4 days different this year. However, last year I lost more than that amount of time through bad weather. With a bit of luck, things are looking a bit more settled this year so I’m hoping that after having a bit of a break to recover today, I’ll be able to continue tomorrow and start making faster progress than I did on the wood store.

Victor, Olivier and I went out for a well-earned meal last night to celebrate the arrival at long last of Victor’s ULM ‘brevet et licence’. So congratulations Captain Victor, with the papers to prove it, and here’s to you enjoying many hours of safe and happy flying in the Rans.