February 29, 2016

Savannah – update 3

Wim had been waiting patiently for about an hour for me to arrive on Friday as I was running something over an hour late compared to my flight plan. Not only had the strobe light incident and the enforced comfort break delayed me but I’d also achieved a lower than anticipated groundspeed. Partly this was due to the fact that I’d limited my revs in the cruise to 4250 rpm as I had no feel for what fuel consumption I might get and there were limited options to land and top up the tanks on the route that I’d chosen.

Those revs only resulted in an airspeed of around 140 kmh compared to the 150 kmh that I’d used in my flight planning, and on top of that, the indications were that there was more of a headwind element than had been forecast. However, being a pilot himself, Wim appreciated why I had to fly in a conservative manner and luckily he had been able to sit in my car and listen to a CD – the same one the whole time, unfortunately, as he told me that he had no idea how to turn it off 😀

We decided that as Regis had recently sold his Zen 701, the best idea would be to move ASY to where his aircraft had been parked, the more so because some heavy weights and tie-downs had been left there which we could use for the Savannah. There were also some covers, but I told Wim that I was reluctant to use them for fear of their scratching ASY’s paintwork in the wind, so we just tied the Savannah down and went off for what was for me a very welcome cup of tea at Wim and Sophie’s place.

However, as soon as I saw how wet the weather forecast was for the coming week, I knew that I had to reconsider my decision about using the covers, and with rain forecast for later in the day and also for several more days in the coming week, I loaded my own lightweight covers together with a bag of bungees in the back of my car on Saturday and arrived at Galinat late morning to apply them. My main problem with Regis’s old covers were that they were very heavy and if placed on the wings, they could easily damage the light tubular air vents that are mounted on the Savannah’s fuel filler caps. I thought that my lighter covers would prevent that.

Unfortunately, shortly after I arrived at the airfield, the rain arrived early and like it or not, I had to put the covers on while it began falling more and more heavily. In the end, I was pretty much soaked and my clothes covered in muddy marks from the dirt that was already on the old covers that I was reusing. But it was lucky that I had decided to do the job, because when I opened the cabin door and looked inside just as I was starting, I noticed a small but steady drip of water through the seal of the cabin top window and onto the left hand leather seat back below, which stopped as soon as I put a cover over the top.

When I think how the Savannah had been kept safely for many years in a nice warm hangar, it was sad to see how it looked at the end of the job. Sure, it must have been more protected than if it were just parked in the open, but it looked a bit of a sorry sight to behold. Here are some shots, the first taken just after I arrived at Galinat when ASY was still uncovered, and the later ones with the covers on and the rain still lightly falling.

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ICP Savannah at Galinat

ICP Savannah at Galinat

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OK, it’s only a temporary arrangement until ASY can be moved over into the barn at Malbec and it must be better for it to be covered in the meantime rather than just be left out in the open. Nevertheless, it almost feels as though I’ve desecrated it somehow, by making it look so awfully scruffy 🙁

I went over to Galinat to check on things this afternoon on my way back from the supermarket. Apart from the fact that the wind had blown the cover off that I’d placed on the empennage, things didn’t look quite so bad in the sunshine as the following pictures show that were taken before I left after I’d secured the tail cover more firmly.

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I’ll have to decide what happens now, of course. I’ll know soon how long Philippe will have to keep his Citius in the barn at Malbec while he repairs his hangar roof. If it’s only going to be a few more days, much as I’d like to be flying ASY when I get the chance whenever there’s a weather window, I think I’ll just leave things as they are because, quite honestly, as I know only too well from experience, removing and replacing covers is a real pain. However, if things are going to drag on for a longer period, I’ll have to look at the options again to decide which direction to take.

February 29, 2016

Savannah – update 2

So after an exciting and very pleasurable day’s circuit flying at la Ferté the day before – 55 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon – the day finally dawned to make the flight down to la Dordogne. Despite the forecast that the morning would be cold early on but would warm up by 10.00 am, the temperature nevertheless stayed stubbornly below freezing with a heavy frost and ice on the hangar apron.

The main result was that the layer of ground-hugging mist that hung over the land as far as the eye could see, refused to budge even after the sky adopted a sunnier, bluer hue with thinning clouds. However, I knew that the further south I flew the better the conditions would become and as the visibility otherwise appeared pretty good, I decided that the time had come to take off.

The Savannah had had its tanks topped up the previous evening and both Robert and I had given it a thorough inspection, so there was no need for further delay. And then the only event that marred the day occurred while I was moving the aircraft. Due to an error of judgement on my part, the right wing tip lightly skimmed against an obstacle. Luckily this resulted in no damage to the wing tip itself, save for a little bit of paint scuffing, but it broke the strobe light, dammit!

This was upsetting but was not a disaster as after a roll of gaffer tape had been produced, the light fitting was taped over to make it OK for the flight and in no time I was taxying out to runway 22. After checking the T’s and P’s and mag drops, I lined up and applied full power. ASY accelerated down the runway, but things felt different to the day before. Today the acceleration was much slower and after travelling what seemed like a couple of hundred metres, perhaps more, down the runway, I decided to abort the take off.

Just before I closed the throttle, however, I noticed that the engine revs were where they should be, so I concluded that the engine itself wasn’t the problem. The difference was just down to the extra weight on board, full tanks compared to half tanks the day before, and the state of the runway.

Previously I’d been using 04 whereas today I was on 22 and I then remembered that Robert had warned me about the state of the surface at that end. So as I turned off the runway and began to taxi back to the holding point, I waved Robert away as he began to approach the aircraft as I taxied to investigate what he thought was a potential problem.

I told him over the radio that I didn’t think that anything was wrong and that I was going to give it another go, which is what I did. And this time I kept well to the left of the centreline and got away, albeit with a bit more of a take off roll than previously. As I climbed away, I bade ‘Au revoir’ to the guys on the ground and then began to turn my attention to the flight. The mist, as I’d expected, wasn’t a problem once I was airborne and the vis was actually pretty good, despite there being no defined horizon at that time, as the next picture that I took shortly after getting to about 2000 feet shows.

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My first waypoint, Provins and then a shallow turn to the right.

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And a short while later, a spectacular view of a canal and system of lakes bounded by the towns of Vimpelles, Bazoches-lès-Bray and Châtenay sur Seine, a few tens of kilometres to the north of the Loire.

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Now approaching the town of Gien on the northern bank of the river Loire, with it’s distinctive northern road and roundabout layout that’s also clearly visible on Google Earth.

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A shot taken at the time on the other side of the aircraft of one of the many power stations dotting the landscape in this part of France belching out their clouds of steam into the atmosphere.

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Now a couple more shots passing overhead Gien and the Loire itself.

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It was about this time that I began to experience, let’s just say, some discomfort in the nether regions. I’d had my usual ‘hotel’ kind of breakfast of cornflakes, croissant, orange juice and coffee but that had been some time ago, and although I’d drunk another small coffee since then, I’d taken the opportunity to pee a couple of times before taking to the air.

There is a tube that brings heat from the engine into the Savannah’s cabin but it’s not that efficient and it was not exactly what you could warm in there, so I guess that the principal factor was the cold. But what was more important was the effect that it was beginning to have. I saw the aerodrome at Aubigny pass under my right wing and toyed with the idea of landing there before deciding to continue on. I still had a good couple of hours flying to do but I thought that I’d be able to make it while still avoiding any unfortunate personal accidents.

But it was not to be. Within half an hour the need to pee had become extremely urgent, to the point that I knew that if I wasn’t able to do something about it pretty soon, the matter would be taken out of my hands, so to speak! And then a vision passed before my eyes. As I gritted my teeth, I looked below and saw, as revealed on my GPS, the aerodrome at Issoudun passing almost vertically below me. So I took an instant decision!

There was a total absence of movement on the aerodrome because, as I found out afterwards, the aero club there is for ‘planeurs’ (gliders) and they obviously wouldn’t be flying on such a day in such weather. So I cut the gas, shoved the nose down and hurtled earthwards like an express lift. Issoudun has a multiplicity of long grass runways and I didn’t care that I’d be landing downwind on the main one as there was plenty of length to stop in. I put 20 degrees of flap on and I have to admit, slightly exceeded the flap speed limit in my haste to get down, but landed safely, taxied up to the hangar, cut the engine, jumped out and raced across to the corner of the building.

The relief was absolute bliss. I peed twice before taking off again to resume my journey south and here’s a shot I took of ASY in front of Issoudun’s cafe/bar and hangar before climbing back in and restarting the engine. Important Memo – for my next long flight, come prepared with a large, wide necked plastic bottle 🙂

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Issoudun

I back-tracked on Issoudun’s main runway and took off into wind, which had me heading in the ‘wrong’ direction after take off. So I then just put ASY into a steep climbing right-hand turn, much as I’d experienced with the owner of the Savannah I flew in in the Mourbihan the day after I’d first seen ASY, and was soon back at altitude and on track.

I’d already left Argenton some way behind me and just off to my right after taking off from Issoudun was Chateuroux, with its large airport, soon followed by Vierzon, all places with names well-known by drivers heading south on the the main A20 autoroute, known as ‘l’Occitane’. But my mode of travel was much more rapid than theirs. It had taken me almost 8 hours a day or so before to get from Plazac to la Ferté Gaucher and now I would be making the return journey in under 4. And the next large city that I’d be passing abeam was Limoges. Here are a couple of shots of the countryside in between.

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As I already knew following my flight south nearly 4 years ago in MYRO, the ground rises up ahead of Limoges and as I’d been flying mostly at 2000-2500 feet, I had to climb up to nearly 3000 to maintain good terrain clearance. Here’s a shot that I took out of my left window.

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And here’s a shot that I took at the same time in the opposite direction, showing high ground and houses on about the same level as I was at.

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Just afterwards I passed east abeam the city of Limoges, which is visible in the distance in the next shot.

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Apart from a brief period of severe turbulence that caused me little discomfort as ASY is a responsive and comfortable aircraft, the rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. Here’s a shot of the typical Limousin/Aquitaine countryside that I passed over.

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Eventually the familiar and welcome sight of Montignac hove into view and shortly after I was preparing myself for a landing at Galinat. By setting up a long final from just south-east of Thonac, I was able to get my speed down enough to apply 20 degrees of flap, which I knew would give me ample opportunity to pull up on Galinat’s upward sloping runway. The plan worked a treat and I had to apply power, as usual, to taxy up to the top end where Wim had been patiently awaiting my arrival.

It was very satisfying to taxy ASY round to Regis’s aircraft’s old parking place, and even more so to go off for a most welcome cup of tea with Wim and Sophie after we’d tied ASY down and made everything secure. A great flight of dead on 4 hours, excluding the comfort-break midway 😉

February 28, 2016

Savannah – update 1

After picking me up at the little railway station at Coulommiers on Wednesday evening (24 February) Robert had dropped me off at the hotel le Grand Terre on the airfield at around 7.30 pm and given me the code to the ULM school door so I could let myself in. So after having breakfasted in the hotel, I did so on Thursday morning. Before leaving home, I’d made a temporary plastic bracket to mount my tablet on up on the top of the Savannah’s panel and it only took me a few minutes to fix it in position using the velcro strips that I’d applied to it.

So then I decided to take a tour of the hangar and take a few photographs as I went, something that I’d not got a chance to do when I originally came to la Ferté to view the Savannah. First a few shots of ASY standing in the hangar after I’d fitted the bracket and attached my tablet to it. As expected, the tablet was sitting a bit high in the windscreen but that was something that I would be able to address when the aircraft was down at Galinat, as it wasn’t high enough to obscure my vision by too much.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

Next door to ASY was a beautiful Ekolot JK-05L Junior. I met its owner next day, a very unassuming gentlemen, but if you want one, allow around 56,000€ before tax! It’s an incredibly slick, modern Polish ULM that you can buy either in kit form or as a complete ready-to-fly aircraft. However, my guess is that they don’t sell too many kits to the sort of pilot who can afford that kind of outlay 🙂

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Now some shots more or less taken at random around the hangar.

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Tucked away over in a fenced-off corner of the hangar I was quite surprised to come across the next aircraft.

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However, just a few moments later, I found myself back in much more familiar ULM territory.

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And then back to the Ekolot. I took a shot of its interior through a cabin window which shows that it is kitted out inside with a walnut panel fascia, making it look a bit like a top-of-the range Jaguar. Not to my taste, but perhaps a bit more familiar to the people who buy this kind of aircraft.

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And then I found myself back up at the ULM school end of the hangar where an assortment of various flexwings were parked, together with ASY.

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ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

I’d thoroughly enjoyed my stroll around the hangar by which time the weather had undergone the forecast dramatic improvement compared to previous days. So I then opened up the hangar doors and pushed ASY outside into the open air in readiness for my planned morning’s circuit-bashing. I also wanted to go and check the condition of the runway, which was extemely soft and wet, and here are a few shots that I took of the Savannah outside on the hangar apron.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at la Ferté Gaucher

Shortly afterwards Robert arrived and after the more or less mandatory cup of coffee, it was time for me to get started. Robert isn’t a multi-axes instructor and as I’d said that I’d already had a chance to fly a Savannah, he was happy to let me go straight off and watch my progress from next to the hangars. He said that after I’d done my first circuit and landing, he could see that I wasn’t going to have a problem, and so it was that I was left to myself to bang out an incredibly enjoyable 55 minutes of hacking ASY around the la Ferté circuit.

February 25, 2016

Wowzer!!

I laid my hands on the Savannah for the first time this morning and my goodness, what an aircraft! It leaps off the ground like a scalded cat and cimbs like a lift – in fact it feels more like sitting back in a rollercoaster during its initial steep climb phase!

People were very impressed by how my old vintage Tripacer used to climb back in the day because it had a 160hp Lycoming engine in a very light, fabric covered airframe. But this is something altogether different. If you take off with half (20 degrees) flap, you’d have to move incredibly smartly, or start climbing almost vertically, to get them off before reaching the flap limit speed of 96 kmh and I didn’t even bother trying it today.

And then before you know it, you’re at 140-150 kmh in the climb and still going up fast and within moments you’re having to drag the throttle back to 4000 rpm or less, just to keep at around 140 kmh in the circuit.

Then the big problem is slowing down for landing. I only got to try out the flaps twice today and then I had to make a concerted effort to get the speed low enough on the approach to put them on, and I’ll leave it until I get back to Galinat before I practise the technique in earnest.

So my verdict? I’m blown away and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s flight from la Ferte to Galinat with great pleasure and anticipation 😀

February 23, 2016

My bags are packed…

D’you remember that old Peter Paul and Mary song? Well, I’m now ready to go, not to leave tomorrow on a jet plane but on the 1311 hrs intercity train from Brive to Paris Austerlitz. I booked the rail ticket today as well as a room for two nights at the Logis le Grand Terre on la Ferté Gaucher aerodrome. Now it’s all dependent on the weather.

The forecast has played ball all week showing that Thursday will be suitable for local flying around la Ferté and Friday for the flight down to Galinat, so it would be bad luck indeed if things changed right at the last minute after I’ve lashed out good money. But that’s how things are where flying is concerned – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve paid out, if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you don’t go.

I’ve planned two routes, the one I prefer taking me to the east of Chateauroux and the other to the west. The deciding factor is whether the relevant low-level corridors are active, and the information isn’t published until the day before. But in any event, I’ve now decided not to drop into Wanafly. The flight will only be either just under or just over 3 hours depending on which route I take, so it’s hardly worth it, especially as I know from my weather-gazing that it’s been wet in the Limoges area and their runway may be unserviceable. Best just to leave things be.

Wim’s on standby to drive with me to Brive and to bring my car back again and Robert at la Ferté has very kindly offered to meet me at Coulommiers station and drop me off at the hotel. So now there’s nothing that I can do except wait and keep my eye glued to the fickle weather.

February 21, 2016

Shhh, don’t tell a soul…

It looks as though the Jetstream might retreat northwards later on this week, to torment microlight pilots in the UK probably. But if it does, a small weather window may open up which will allow me to pick up the Savannah.

I’ve made tentative plans, therefore, to travel north by train from Brive to Paris on Wednesday and thence onwards to le Ferté, where I’ll overnight at the small hotel on the airfield. I’ll then spend Thursday flying locally to familiarise myself with the aircraft and see a bit of the local scenery, possibly including Disneyland Paris, which is not that far away to the west on the eastern outskirts of the city.

After overnighting on the airfield again, I’ll depart for the Dordogne on Friday morning, possibly dropping into Wanafly on the way depending on how firm (or soft) their runway is. But it’s not essential, as with the winds the way they are, the whole flight will only be just over 3 hours long.

I’ve exchanged messages today with Robert in la Ferté Gaucher and he agrees that it looks to be on, with only one unknown factor, which is the possibilty of there being early morning mist, even fog, at la Ferté on Friday. So now all that I can do is wait and see how the weather develops…

February 20, 2016

Marmalade

A week or so ago, I bought a few loose Clementines from Intermarché. At least I thought they were Clementines, and so did the girl on the check-out, but they actually weren’t. Either by accident or design, and I have my suspicions, someone had put what looked like Clementines in the Clementine section without changing the label.

In fact they were so alike, that they could easily be mistaken for them, even on quite close examination. But actually they were marmalade oranges, as I found out to my cost when I began to peel one, noticed that it was much lighter in colour than the Clementines I’d bought up to then, and tasted the fruit. It nearly took the top of my head off, it was so bitter!

I was tempted just to throw them away, but I didn’t because deep down I had a hankering to use them to make some marmalade and having downloaded a recipe from the internet, I added a kilo of preserving sugar to my shopping list a couple of days ago, together with a few more oranges. Unfortunately, when I got home, I found that I’d disposed of all of the jars that I’d diligently saved over several months last year to use for damson jam, and that left me with a bit of a dilemma as I had all of the ingredients for marmalade, but no jars to put it in!

I ended up buying half a dozen preserving jars that cost me considerably more than if I’d just bought several jars of marmalade off-the-shelf, but as I saw it, that wasn’t the point. Anyway, to heck with it! And yesterday evening, I put the recipe to the test, with the result shown in the following picture.

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The marmalade that came out tastes FANTASTIC! I’m not saying that it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, but it’s lovely and thick with thick-cut peel, the way I like it, and must be very close to it.

I’ve just checked the label on a jar of marmalade that I bought in the UK, as follows:
– Glucose-fructose syrup
– Orange
– Sugar
– Acid (citric acid)
– Colour (plain caramel)
– Gelling agent (pectins)
– Acidity regulator (sodium citrates)
– Caramelised sugar

If I’d labelled mine and listed the ingredients, they’d show sugar, oranges and a dash of lemon juice. Oh yes, and a little bit of time and elbow grease. I know which I prefer 😉

February 18, 2016

Stop press! First pictures

We’ve had a cold day here today so I’m glad that I’d planned to stay in and work all day on my house plans with the wood burner roaring away pumping out heat. And as a result, I was able to get ‘phase 1’ of my plans finished and have produced pictures of the results.

By ‘phase 1’ I mean just the downstairs extension, excluding the work I have in mind for up in my ‘grenier’ and doing the plans for that will be my next step. In reality, I could live with just the downstairs extension, which provides an extra bedroom/office on the ground floor, a utility room and a fair sized dining room, but I still intend to go ahead with the upstairs work as well.

First off, a couple of shots to show how my ‘model’ of my house stands up against the real thing.

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The first photograph was taken right back in January 2012 and the lighting reflects that. Just the once therefore, I’ve modified the colours in the second shot to make them a bit more similar and although it’s somewhat ‘idealised’, showing none of the imperfections that are present in the real thing, I think that my model has turned out to be a fairly good representation of my house as it currently is.

The next shot shows my house as currently-is viewed from the kitchen end (north-east) with the big old lime tree that stands outside my kitchen door and overhangs the roof still in place.

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The lime tree will have to be removed and the ground re-contoured in order to allow the extension to be built and the next pic is of the proposed extension taken from approximately the same view-point.

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Next a view of the front of the house from approximately the same direction but standing further back to see how it will fit into my garden.

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Now a view of the back of the house. I hope to install new hardwood framed double-glazed windows and doors throughout. The following shot of the rear shows the new sliding doors that I hope to install leading out ultimately onto an area of decking.

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Now a shot of the front again, but taken this time from the other side of the garden. From left to right, the extension will contain a bedroom/office, an entrance hall, a dining room and at the far end, a utility room. The windows shown on the dining room are not strictly correct as although they depict sliding windows, I’d like to have four leaves, two of which will slide, so half of the window can be completely opened up to the garden during warm periods.

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Now a few general shots of the extended property taken from various angles and different elevations.

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And to finish off, a couple of shots taken from each end of the extension giving an impression of how it will appear from closer-up at ground level.

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Next time, I’ll show some pictures taken while ‘walking through’ the interior of the extended property.

Wheels are already beginning to grind slowly into motion as the men will be coming in at the end of the month to take down the lime tree and a few others that I want removed and will be back in early March to do the ‘terrassement’ of the land in front of the house ready for digging out the foundations for the extension. But there’s lots still to do before work can begin, the main task being completion of my plans and drawings for submission for planning consent. So that’s what I must now go on to do, post-haste!

February 18, 2016

Ticking over

Another bright, dry day yesterday so with more rain forecast, I took the opportunity to clear away the pine that I’ve had stacked and drying out for the last year or so. I started by sorting out the lengths that would fit into my wood saw and then cut, split and stacked them inside at the back of my wood store where they can stay until next winter when they should be ready to use. I was quite surprised by how much lighter they’d already become compared to when they were originally stacked, obviously a sign of their drying out.

That only accounted for half of the wood, though. The rest comprised large chunks of trunk of too large a diameter to fit into my wood saw, so I had various choices. I tried attacking it with my old chain saw, but that’s pretty useless now and ‘wouldn’t cut butter’ as my Dad used to say. I thought about going off to buy a new one to do the job, but changed my mind as the expenditure can’t be justified just now as I don’t need the wood at this moment, which I got for free anyway.

Another possibility will be to sell the wood saw that I currently have and buy another with a larger diameter blade. That will be my preferred option, I think, as I doubt that I’ll have much, if any, use for 3/400€ worth of new Stihl chainsaw once my unwanted trees have been cut down, of which more in a moment, but I’ll always have a need to cut burning wood all the while that I have a poele a bois.

In the end I just ended up moving the large diameter logs to a spot next to my new tool store and re-covered it with the heavy plastic sheet that’s been over it for the last few months. Then I called it a day and went off for an ‘apero’ with Wim and Sophie, always one of the highlights of my week 😉

I’ve now heard from the firm who are going to take down my big old ’tilleuil’ that stands in front of my house and the other scrappy smaller trees that are around the side in front of my wood store. They have said that they’ll be along at the end of the month to do the initial felling and clearing, returning in March to clear up and do the ‘terrassement’ for my proposed extension. Having finalised my design, I’m still working on my plans which I should have completed ‘in draft’ later today, so things are moving slowly but still ticking over. I can’t wait for them to start speeding up, though.

There are still absolutely no prospects of my picking up the Savannah for several more weeks. This spate of weather, rain day after day after day, is almost unprecedented, even for this time of year, and usually you get a short series of a few calm, clear days before it reverts back to rainy conditions. But this year it just isn’t happening.

As usual, it seems to be the Jetstream that’s responsible and the charts that I’ve been monitoring show it as being way, way further south over France, Spain and even North Africa than it ever usually is.

It’s the northern end of my route, where I’ll be starting from, that’s the main problem. The current forecast is for Coulommiers, which is adjacent to la Ferté Gaucher, to get rain and occasional high winds EVERY DAY from now until the beginning of March, which is very depressing for me and probably even more so for the people living there 🙁

February 16, 2016

‘To-Do’ list

Today has been the first full day without any rain that I can remember for some time. The sky was clear overnight and it dawned bright and clear this morning, but cold, and the temperature never rose above 8 or 9 degrees Celsius all day. It felt warmer in a sheltered position in the direct sunlight, though.

When I checked my ‘To-Do’ list this morning, I was shocked at just how long it had grown, so I started off by doing the easiest thing first, which was to go up to Rouffignac to send some letters off. Among them was one to the company that’s quoted me for taking out the big old lime tree in front of my house enclosing their signed ‘devis’ (two of). I confirmed to them later by email that they had been sent off, which they acknowledged, so I’ve at last taken the first step towards the work I have planned on my house.

The next thing that I’d decided to tackle while I had the chance was to cut and split the rest of the wood that I had delivered last year so it’s ready for burning. It’s been standing out under a cover for three or four months and the cover has blown off a couple of times in the recent winds, so I knew that it wouldn’t be completely dry. I was surprised just how wet the top layers were, though, so I think that condensation must also have been happening as the temperature has fluctuated.

I needed to get the wood inside for a couple of reasons – firstly, my dry stocks are beginning to run a bit low so I needed to get the wet stuff into my wood store so it will have time to dry, and secondly, it and another pile of pine that I’ve had outside seasoning for over a year were right next to a row of tatty small trees that I’ve asked the company taking down my lime tree to also take out at the same time. As both lots of wood needed to be moved anyway, the best idea was to shift the wood that M. Dumas supplied last autumn inside so it could be used, thus clearing the space it had been occupying and leaving me needing just to find a space to shift the pine to.

Here’s how much wood I now have in my wood store.

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It’s difficult to estimate exactly, but I think that at the current rate of usage, I may just have enough to see me through to the spring. It’ll be a close-run thing, though, so I hope that I make it with all of the disruption that I foresee when the work starts to take down the lime tree and ‘terrasse’ my front garden to the levels and contours that I’m going to need for my planned extension. Once again I’m keeping my fingers crossed 😉

February 13, 2016

Horrendous winds

We had a forecast for today of winds with strong gusts but the real thing is far worse than was predicted. MYRO’s old wings had been propped against the back wall of my house under a cover for over 3 years and had hardly ever moved. The cover was ripped to shreds by the wind a week or so ago and today they were blown over, so I’ve had to move them, not before time I admit, to somewhere more sheltered.

But what is more worrying is that the winds are now blowing straight onto 56NE’s nose and will continue to do so for several more days at least, if the current forecasts are anything to go by. When I checked yesterday, the winds had been from the west and nothing much had moved, but today they are in a sector from west to north and are potentially much more damaging. So I went over to Galinat earlier on this afternoon to check things out again.

I was very relieved on breasting the hill approaching the airfield to see that 56NE was still standing where it should with all of its covers still in place and when I investigated closer, to find that indeed, nothing much had moved. Régis has now sold his aircraft and it was taken away by road two days ago. He had been using some very large and heavy commercial vehicle batteries to tether it down which I noticed yesterday had been left behind. There was still one there today which I moved and tied on top of the blocks under 56NE’s wing on the windward side and this should ensure that there’s no chance of it lifting in these winds.

I also moved the aircraft a small distance away from the large pool of water that’s now formed just behind the main wheels below the rear of the fuselage and tightened all of the ties securing the covers to allow them to move as little as possible in the wind. And that’s about all that I can do and hopefully it’ll be enough to see 56NE through this horrendous period of weather.

And things didn’t stop after I’d got home. Before I left, I noticed the cover over 28AAD, the Weedhopper that I’m repairing on my back lawn, was being blown up into huge billows by the wind and when I checked, I noticed that a little tearing was beginning to develop at some strain points. All I need is for that cover to rip and the Weedhopper fuselage would be open to the elements, so when I got back I took some rope out of the car and trussed it up like a turkey. That hopefully should prevent that problem occurring.

For goodness sake, when will this wild weather come to an end? Surely it can’t go on for that much longer?

February 10, 2016

Wild weather

Following yesterday’s request for help, a team of us were over at Malbec airfield this morning to help Philippe out with his Citius. The violent southerly winds of a couple of days ago had blown straight onto the corner of his new hangar that he only put up early last autumn and by getting under the front corner, had succeeded in peeling the plastic roof covers and the insulation sandwiched between them completely back like the lid on a sardine can.

This left the aircraft completely exposed and also allowed debris from the insulation to fall all over it and when we arrived, it looked in a very sorry state. Luckily, nothing solid had dropped onto it so the mess was nothing that a bit of time and cleaning effort wouldn’t put right, but the aircraft’s wheels had become bogged down in the mud in the by-now open hangar and also once extricated, it needed to be carefully pulled across the also boggy airfield to shelter in the barn in which I’ll eventually be keeping my Savannah.

Having a small team of helpers would not only make the job easier but would also ensure that no unnecessary strains would be put on parts of the aircraft not designed to take them and also that there would be enough eyes looking out to ensure that no damage would be done by hitting any hard objects encountered along the way. And so it was, and within half-an-hour or so the job was done.

I then went over to Galinat to see how 56NE had fared and was pleasantly surprised to find that apart from the pitot plug having been blow out and left swinging by its cord from a jury strut, nothing else had moved and all of its covers were still in place. So after replacing the pitot plug, readjusting the covers and pulling the tie-down ropes tight again, I was able to leave with a feeling of relief.

On the way, I’d noticed that not only had the River Vézère burst its banks at Thonac, but one of the little tributaries running into it down the hill from Plazac had done likewise and had not only flooded the adjacent fields but also some of the gardens of the houses on the fringe of the village. This is the wettest that I think it’s been since I’ve lived here, so I stopped on the way back to take a few shots of the river and the flooded fields.

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In the next shot, the framework that can be seen sticking out of the water in the foreground is where the canoes for hire are stored during the tourist season. It’s normally on the bank some way back from the river edge, and the area behind it under half a meter or so of water is where they usually park their cars, in front of the row of trees.

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This is a shot of the ‘lavage’, which most small villages still have. It’s where the village housewives used to come and do their washing in the river and although not used in the modern era, villages still keep them as a hark back to the traditional days. Today it was not beside the river but in it, and to quite a depth too.

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The next shot is of the field behind the ‘lavage’, which is used for car parking on days when festivals and events are held.

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The next two shots are of the garden of a house which is located some way back from the main river but close enough to the little tributary flowing into it to be flooded just like the field.

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The final shot is of the fields on the other side of the road, showing just how extensive the flooding was.

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I put together a short video of the flooding which can be viewed by clicking on the following image.

Thonac Floods

I was lucky that even with everything else that was going on today, I managed to find time to do some work on the planning for my proposed house developments. In particular, I was able to add the foundations to the model that I’ve built of my house and also do a few quick experiments placing it on the terrain that surrounds it. The idea is to make the terrain contours as close to the real thing as possible and even my ‘quick and dirty’ attempts haven’t turned out too badly, as can be judged by the following images.

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I’ll leave this topic there for now, though, as I’ll be going into much more detail tomorrow in the hope of getting the basic model of my house completed.

February 9, 2016

Nearly there

The weather has been raging on several occasions today with windy squalls and lashing rain, but I’ve been indoors all day continuing the work on my house plans. And today was very fruitful as I managed to sort out the roof, finish ‘building’ the end walls right up to roof level and also add the final architectural details in the form of the bedroom windows and the door into the grenier.

That means that I’ve almost achieved my initial objective of completing the model of my house as it is now, from which I’ll be able to create all the initial drawings and plans that I’m going to need. Here are some final shots taken at the end of the day.

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All that’s left now is to add the foundations, or what I imagine the foundations to be as I’ve no idea what they are actually like, and I’m sure that no other living person does either, and then place the house on terrain that’s modelled to look as closely as possible to how it actually does at present.

And with a bit of luck I’ll manage to do those things tomorrow, although after a call from Wim, the first job will be to move Philippe’s Citius from his new hangar, which has been damaged by the strong winds, into an adjacent barn. Should be a nice start to the day in the wind, rain and mud 😉

February 8, 2016

Very tricky bit

The weather’s been awful day today because we’ve been catching the fringes of the violent storms that have been lashing the southern parts of the UK. It’s been worse in northern France so it’s lucky that the Savannah’s being stored in the secure hangar at la Ferté Gaucher until things begin to improve and I can go up to collect it. But for now I’m still concentrating on my house plans and have been working all day on the roof.

And it’s been very tricky. Because the rafters in the lower part of the front roof elevation will be modified, I’ve had to include them in my model, and if those have to be shown in the plans, it would look a bit stupid if all the rest weren’t as well. So I’ve been painstakingly adding all of them to my model, and because my house is not a regular shape, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve had to put them all in manually one-by-one.

It’s taken all day to finish the job, including the ‘kick-outs’ at the bottom on both the front and back of the roof, but the results look pretty authentic, as the following two pictures show.

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I’ve experimented a couple of times with putting the roof covering (tiles) on and have identified a couple of snags. These are again due to the fact that the software expects roof coverings to be applied to regularly shaped areas, not sloping trapeziums, and I’m going to have to identify some kind of work-round. I’ve got a couple of ideas how to do it so I’ll have to try them out tomorrow. But now it’s time for bed.

February 7, 2016

Work goes on

We had a fairly pleasant day today with bright spells and showers, but the weather’s expected to become more unsettled during the coming week. So no chance that I’ll be able to collect the Savannah, then, meaning that I’ll have no distractions and will be able to concentrate on what is really my main priority, namely the improvement work that I have planned for my house.

I’m still slogging away on the modelling work that I need to do before I can create the necessary plans and drawings and making only slow, but steady, progress. The main reason is that software such as Edificus, which is what I’m using, works on the basic assumption that buildings will be square and that any shapes created during the planning process will be regular. And that’s far from the case with my house.

For a start it’s footprint is more of a trapezium with the wall at its northern end being 0.7 metres shorter than the one at the other. The southern wall is more or less at 90 degrees to the front but the northern wall is at an angle, as I found when I installed the base units in my kitchen. This means that the back wall is also shorter than the front and internal walls and partitions are also at irregular angles.

So I had to start out by taking a large number of external and internal measurements, many of which were quite difficult to get at, and then try to emulate them as closely as possible in my model. I’ve managed to do so pretty well on the whole, but fortunately I’ve succeeded in matching the most important ones quite closely.

I’ve now been working on the roof for several days and keep finding more out about the software as I use it, often having to take a couple of steps back to correct work that I’ve already done. I’ve been discovering a lot about ‘building levels’ this week end, which are highly relevant because these allow you to create and print out plans for the different parts of the building.

If by mistake you include elements from one level in another, the plans that you then create can be a nonsense, and if you need to move items from one level to another (eg from ground floor to roof level), I’ve found no simple way of doing it without then needing several more minutes (often very many for more complex items) to get all of the revised heights back to where they should be, with walls of the correct heights, beam ends at the junctions where they should be, and so on.

So it’s challenging, but a process that I’m getting more control over, in my ham-fisted way, as I proceed. Here are the latest shots of the roof structure, which is quite complex, and the interior.

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I hope that within another one or two days I’ll have the model of my house in its current state finished, with the building sitting as it does in a model of its terrain. And then I’ll be able to go on to work on the improvements that I have in mind. I’ll be very glad to finally get to that point after all the time it’s taken so far.

February 5, 2016

Highly frustrating!

The weather here in the Dordogne has taken a turn for the better, at least for the time being, and if I wanted to, I could even go for a flight today as it’s clear, bright and fairly warm with a max temperature of around 15 degrees Celsius forecast for later this afternoon. However, the runway at Galinat is still likely to be a bit soft and I’m still very busy working on the plans for my house, so I don’t think that I’ll bother.

But the same can’t be said for northern France, which is still locked into a highly unsettled weather pattern with very high winds forecast, building over the next couple of days and going into next week. After that it’s expected to get back to just raining every day, so the prospects for my flying the Savannah down look exceedingly remote for most of the rest of February! I find that unbelievable and very frustrating, to say the least.

In the meantime, I’ve been dedicating my time to working on the plans for the work I want to do on my house. I’ve now got up to the roof level and progress has been quite slow and painstaking as I’ve discovered on close inspection that it’s actually quite a complex design. And I want my model to be as accurate as possible as not only will I be creating plans from it for my building work, but they’ll also probably be the only ones in existence as I’m pretty sure that when the house was constructed, the builders would have made nothing more than simple sketches.

As I’m working as my own surveyor and architect, I’ve had to keep going up into my grenier to look again at various details and take more measurements while I’ve been creating my model and every now and again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I’ve cross-checked dimensions from my model with the real thing just how closely they tally. So touch wood, things can’t be going that badly.

Here are some shots at where I am today with modelling the roof structure, which needn’t be exact but has to be fairly right as some major work will be done on it, removing the tile covering, installing insulation and then replacing the tiles again with new ones on the front elevation. Also, the front ‘kick-out’ will be modified to extend over my proposed new single-storey extension, as I’ll explain in another post.

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It’s taken me two or three days already to get the roof modelling somewhere near right, and I’ve also been working on other interior details. Here are a couple of shots comparing the model of my staircase up to my two bedrooms with the real thing.

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The detail has to be more or less right as otherwise the floor plan would look silly, and once again, it took me a few hours to get it to the stage that it’s at, as the ‘curved staircase’ model provided in the software just didn’t work out and I had to model each stair tread and riser from scratch. But I think that in the end it’ll be worth all the time and effort – at least I hope so 😉

February 2, 2016

Disappointing news

Up until last night I was still trying to keep a faint hope alive that I’d be able to fly the Savannah down from la Ferté Gaucher to Galinat this coming Friday but this morning I’ve finally had to admit that it isn’t on. When I last flew 56NE a few days ago, the runway at Galinat was too soft other than to do one take off and landing and with the rain that we’ve had since then, including another good soaking last night, it’s probably border-line flyable at best and more likely too soft to be absolutely safe.

Also, when I last spoke with Mandy at Wanafly, where I want to land for a break on the way down, she said that their runway, which they’re not using at the moment, is really too boggy to use, so it would be a bit unfair to force myself on them, especially if by doing so I marked up their runway for when they do want to start using it for training flights.

Couple that with the uncertainty of getting more than a one-day weather window to make the flight on account of forecast high, gusting winds and more rain, and ultimately common sense must prevail, even though I feel like a kid who knows that he’s getting a nice present for Christmas but has to wait until the big day before getting his hands on it! But on the up-side as Robert at la Ferté said this morning, at least there the aircraft is in a nice warm, dry hangar and as I couldn’t fly it if it was down here anyway because of continuing unsettled weather, that’s surely the best place for it to be.

But even so, even so… 🙁

So now what? Well, partly it’s a good thing because now I can concentrate on my house improvement work, which is really what I should be doing anyway. And I’m glad to say that things seem to be coming on a treat. I’m still heavily involved in the work to create an initial model of my house, because I think that if I can do that and produce some meaningful drawings and plans, then it won’t be that big a step to go on and create an extended model incorporating the extension and changes that I want to make, together with the associated drawings and plans.

I think that I’m making pretty good progress and slowly but surely I’m becoming more adept at using the Edificius software, which I’m very impressed with. Here are some more 3D shots showing where I’ve got up to so far. First, a couple of exterior shots.

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Now a shot taken low-down near the floor of my bedroom – low-down because I haven’t yet found out how to totally control the viewing height 🙂

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Now a couple of shots from inside my living room.

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Finally, to finish off, a shot taken from my kitchen looking back towards the living room.

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Unfortunately, when my hard-drive crashed, I lost all the original pictures that I took when viewing the house when it was empty back in January 2012, so I have nothing to compare them against. However, although a few details are not yet quite correct, the model (and pictures) are uncannily realistic. They are somewhat idealised compared to the real thing and also ‘feel’ a bit smaller than the rooms that they represent. But the main thing is that from the experiments that I’ve done so far, the model produces excellent looking plans, which is ultimately the point of the whole exercise after all 😉