May 8, 2016

Finished work – for now

My sister and brother-in-law arrive tomorrow for a three-week stay and I’ve been pushing hard to get everything finished as far as I could in readiness for their arrival. My sister is unfortunately confined to an electric wheelchair and when I said that I was worried about mud if it rained hard while they were here, it was Jerome of Agrafeuil who came up with the idea to lay the stone along the front of the house where the new extension will be.

I think it was a great idea but as I then found that the stone was making a lot of dust that was then being walked into the house, I needed to come up with something that would solve the problem in a reasonably attractive way yet still only be a ‘temporary’ installation. I decided that I’d put a metre wide pathway of flagstones along the front of the house for the wheelchair to run on, with a ramp into the kitchen door and an extended paved area at the kitchen end where I could place my garden table and chairs so we can have breakfast and other meals outside if the weather turns nice.

It’s been a tough couple of days getting it finished on top of everything else that I needed to do, but I’ve done it and I’ll now also be able to take a well-earned rest and enjoy their company while they’re here. I bought ninety 50x50x4 cm flagstones and have laid them all over yesterday and today. Yesterday was in sweltering sunshine all-day whereas today was much cooler in a very strong south-easterly wind and I must say that I preferred the conditions yesterday. Here are a few shots of the ‘finished’ job.

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I’m very pleased with it. I’ve laid the flagstones directly onto the stone, which wasn’t that level and as it could be dangerous if they rocked too much while the wheelchair was moving over them, I had to take quite a bit of trouble over it. And so they can be easily lifted again when the time comes to start work on my planned extension, all I’ve done is sweep sand into the joints between the stones to make them as stable as possible.

I’ve also put out all of the plant pots that I brought with me from England and that have been standing empty for the past four years. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to get a few plants into them while my visitors are here and that should be the finishing touch to brighten the old place up a bit. Trouble is, I’m not renowned for having green fingers 😉

May 5, 2016

Another rubbish landing

Sadly, the time had come to move the X-Air away from Galinat. I say sadly, because I’ve greatly enjoyed keeping 56NE there and with all the flights that I’ve made from Galinat, I’ve always been glad to arrive back. With its long, sloping runway it’s so forgiving and a joy to land at and any bumpy landings that I’ve had have always been down to me, never the airfield or the approach to it, even though it could be slightly turbulent on occasion.

But move the X-Air I had to. A while back, in an act of pure vandalism, someone cut the wires to 56NE’s rectifier. Everyone here was taken aback that something like that could have occurred and I said that as there was no possibility of finding whoever was responsible, I’d just put the incident behind me. But a few days ago I went to check on the aircraft as I do regularly and found that someone had cut and removed a piece of one of its tie-down ropes.

It was the one on the upwind wing too, and if I hadn’t discovered that it had been done and we’d had a repeat of the north-westerly gales of a few weeks ago, who knows what might have happened. Once again, I have no idea who might have perpetrated this latest act, but as I want to put the X-Air up for sale anyway and cannot afford anything to happen to it this close to a sale, it was time to say ‘good-bye’ to the airfield.

Sadly, being unfenced and at a junction between two roads, I think that Galinat is just too public. This may not have mattered a few years ago, especially in what is really a bit of a rural backwater, but it appears that times are changing. And for the worse, unfortunately.

Wim and Sophie have just returned after being away on vacation for a few weeks and at our resumed weekly ‘apero’ session yesterday evening, Wim kindly agreed to come with me to Galinat and then drive my car back to Malbec. Victor has already mown a parking area ready for 56NE next to Philippe’s hangar, so it would then be just a matter of my flying it over and returning to Galinat in my own time to pick up the concrete blocks etc that I needed to secure the aircraft.

Wim flew into Malbec at around 9.00 am and was there waiting for me when I turned up, closely followed by Philippe in his 4 x 4 who had decided to have a flight too as the weather was so good and the forecast is for it to get worse, with increasing wind. Wim was chatting to Patrick, I think his name is, who had also flown in in his single seat ‘autogire’ so the airfield was buzzing and a bit like Piccadilly Circus at that time of the morning.

I wanted to fly to Malbec via my house so I could take a few photographs now that the contractors have removed all their plant, but even with the slight detour, I’d still be at Malbec well before Wim driving by road. He waited for me at the bottom of the runway to make sure that I had no problems that might prevent me taking off and I then headed for my house. Here are a couple of the shots that I took. They’re rather poor, unfortunately, and I think I’m paying for changing my camera settings. I need to change them back to what they were.

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Next, Plazac that I flew almost vertically overhead.

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And then Wim’s field.

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And then it was time to land at Malbec. Compared to Wim’s tiddly little 160 metre runway, Malbec at around 220 metres, although considerably shorter than Galinat’s 450 metres, is not that short. But I suppose that having just had a poor landing experience in the Savannah, I was letting it intimidate me. I allowed my airspeed to decay too much on the first approach and just before touch-down, I applied full power and climbed away on a go-around.

My second approach was better, but not that much, and although I ended up with a landing that I walked away from and could re-use the aircraft after, it was slow and hard and absolutely nothing to be proud of at all. I mentioned it to Wim after he’d arrived and as a bit of an expert on short-runway landings, having operated from his own short field for so many years, I asked his advice. He said that I was trying to land far too short and even with just 220 metres to play with, I should aim to land at least 50 metres further in than I was.

He said that he’d have a go before he returned to his own field and here are a couple of shots of him taking off and climbing out.

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Now a couple of shots of his text-book approach and landing that he made look so easy.

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Sure enough, he landed well beyond where I’d tried to touch down and still had plenty of runway left to slow down and turn round ready to take off again. So he’d proven his point very effectively and I now realise that I’m allowing my speed to decay and trying to touch down far too soon.

Now some final shots of Wim’s departure.

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I had no time to have another go in 56NE today, which was a Bank Holiday in France. Not only did I have to pick up the kit that I needed to secure the X-Air from Galinat but I also had to try getting hold of a trailer load of paving slabs to prepare the approach to my house in readiness for the arrival in a few days time of my family visitors. I was unable to, unfortunately, so that’s the first job on the list for tomorrow. But at least I know that the X-Air is tucked up safely at Malbec and that I don’t have to worry about anything untoward happening to it before I can get it ready for sale.

May 3, 2016

Fabien’s finale

Fabien the big Cat driver, who single-handedly did almost all of the work to remove the stumps and roots of my trees and ‘terrasse’ the ground afterwards ready for my planned extension, broke the back of the work by the end of Thursday of last week and went to work on another job on Friday. He said that he’d be back on Monday, though, to finish off loading the heap of sub-soil that had been left on what I jokingly now refer to as my front lawn, tidy everything up as far as possible and repair the water pipe that he’d unfortunately bent and caused to leak.

And he was, and he did everything that he said he would. I bought a new hosepipe as my old one, that had been guaranteed for 12 years was fall of holes (unfortunately, it’s one of the few things that I’ve bought in France with a guarantee that I’ve lost the receipt for) and he sprayed the stone that he’d laid in front of my house before and after compacting it with a vibrator. However, I still think that it will stay very dusty so I plan to lay some 50×50 cm slabs on top of it to save keep walking it indoors.

When Fabien left on Monday he said that he’d be back today to repair the gap in the bank that he’d made to give the vehicles access onto my lawn and pick up the Cat. He said that he’ll be using it for some work on the land around the two wooden cabins that have been built down the hillside from my neighbour’s house behind mine and by mid-morning he’d fixed the bank as best he could (it doesn’t look very tidy unfortunately) and had taken the Cat away to start work.

I did a bit of earth moving by hand to tidy the bank up a bit and fill and level a few other areas. I also attached the new ‘robinet’ that Fabien had put onto the repaired water pipe to the wall and also replaced and reattached the house’s electrical earth connection. That was enough for me today and here are some of the shots that I took when I was finished.

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I’m very pleased with how everything’s turned out and really delighted to see the back of the big old lime tree that was overshadowing my house, making moss all over its roof and dropping rubbish into its gutters. This is the first small step in getting my extension built but before then, I’ve still got much to do to get the place ready before my family visitors arrive in a week’s time. So better get cracking then!

May 1, 2016

Oops!

I was still feeling a bit sore about my bouncy landing at Malbec on Friday and was browsing the internet yesterday when I came across the following video on Youtube.

The pilot of the aircraft involved, a Zenair 701 with slats, the design on which the Savannah was based, was described on the web site where I found it as being ‘an experienced test pilot’. But just watch it through until he lands at around 3 mins 09.

What I was researching were the landing characteristics of slatted wings (like those on my Savannah) and it seems that when you’re flaring in the approach and the angle of attack is increasing, you need to keep some power on otherwise the drag from the slats increases to the point when the aircraft just drops. That’s OK so long as you’re close to the ground and that’s how you achieve a really STOL landing, but not so good if you’re still some way up. Like this guy was.

He was a pretty hefty bloke anyway (it was shot in the USA, the country of large portions…) and he hit from quite a height having cut the engine over the runway threshold. It’s amazing to me given how much the undercarriage bent (remember, this is a thick bar of aluminium!) that the aircraft just shrugged it off and carried on with its landing roll with no ill effects, but it shows that I had nothing to worry about following my own much softer departure outside the preferred bounds of the landing envelope!

But, more seriously, what this does show is that even an experienced pilot can be caught out by the flying characteristics of a wing design and that I’d do as well to do my own ‘research’ with the Savannah on an airfield with plenty of runway to play with before I start trying to become the STOL king of Plazac.

Interestingly enough, I found that the slats add hardly anything to the performance of the Savannah wing and can be removed, even leaving the brackets in place, and vortex generators added without the need to fit ICP’s own VG kit that includes a new longer and thinner leading edge. The thorough research done by the first person who did it, in Australia in about 2008 and whose idea was subsequently copied by ICP showed that the performance difference between the ‘unofficial’ and ‘official’ wing designs is negligible, although, of course, the cost isn’t. Both wings achieve the same benefits in fuel consumption, higher cruise speed, more nose-down attitude in the cruise and smoother landing characteristics. Food for thought.