September 30, 2016

Not according to plan

Today was Weedhopper electrics day and here’s a shot of the parts that I wanted to replace laid out before I started.

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The first job was easy – to remove its voltage regulator and replace it with the new one. That was easy and didn’t take very long, except for trying to find a nut that dropped down under a seat.

Then it was time to start on the stator. Removing the end cover complete with the starter motor also didn’t take very long and the next job was to remove the flywheel. The flywheel is mounted on a tapered extension of the rear end of the crankshaft with a key and secured by a large nut and as it’s likely to have been Loctited by whoever fitted it the last time, it needs a puller to remove it. I had one, a home-made one, but I had been assured that it worked fine.

When I got the engine for MYRO back in 2009 the starter gear had been removed, so I had to refit it. This had involved tightening the flywheel retaining nut, so I assumed that I had a socket that fitted. But I guess that I must have borrowed one at the time as today I could find nothing that would fit.

So that meant a drive over to Brico Depot at Trelissac to pick up a new 30mm socket and a delay of 1½ hours, but I had no choice. Even with the new socket, the nut wouldn’t budge, probably because of Loctite, but the heat from a carefully directed blowlamp did the trick and off it came. The next challenge was the flywheel itself.

It was a pig to get off. Initially I tried just attaching the extractor and applying pressure – lots of it – but it just stayed put. Then I thought that a little bit of heat might help on that too as it had done with the retaining nut and I had totally underestimated just how much pressure the extractor was applying.

After a few seconds of heat, the flywheel flew off the shaft at great speed! Luckily, it fell into the bottom of the pod with a clatter and didn’t do any damage, but if I’d fitted the screen beforehand, it would have been badly damaged, I’m sure.

Getting to the stator and its associated wiring then involved even more stripping. Here are a few shots of the final stage that gave access to the wiring that leads out of the side of the generator housing through a hole with a split rubber grommet.

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Here are all the parts that had to be removed during the process.

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Rebuilding after fitting the new stator should then have been a doddle, and it did proceed very smoothly. Unfortunately, after dashing off for a quick ‘apero’ with friends and dashing back because of incoming rain, I didn’t take enough care to check the rebuild at each stage while I was doing it and after I’d got the flywheel and housing back on again, the engine’s crankshat wouldn’t rotate.

So I’ve obviously been careless mounting the flywheel and it’s probably gone a bit cock-eyed on the shaft. It was my own fault and now it’ll have to come off again and be refitted properly. Very annoying and after everything had seemed to go pretty smoothly up to then, not according to plan at all 😐

September 29, 2016

Weed cover on

I always knew that it would be over-optimistic to think that I’d be able to get 28AAD’s fuselage cover on and do the work on the engine electrics, so I wasn’t surprised that the only job that I did complete today was fitting the fuselage cover. Then again, I prefer to do one job properly to my satisfaction rather than two badly, so I was pleased with the result at the end of the afternoon.

The Weed’s fuselage cover is in good condition but it’s been stretched a bit, I think, because of the excessive use of padding by whoever last fitted it. That meant that I had to position it very carefully to get it as taught as possible on the fuselage framework and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. From experience, the aircraft will need to be flown a bit for it to move a little and fit as snuggly as it should, but it went on pretty well if a bit further forward than I would have liked.

This was necessary to get the top overlap right so the Velcro strips on each side along the top of the cover lined up – the further forward the cover is moved, the greater the effective circumference of the fuselage and the smaller becomes the overlap. The technique that I prefer is to half overlap the Velcros and lace the cover onto the fuselage frame. Then when you lace the sides of the cover together along the top tube, that tightens it up and the Velcro overlap becomes complete as it should be.

Here are some shots of the finished job with the Weedhopper now looking much more like a complete aircraft and more as I remember it from when I bought it.

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I had another pleasant surprise at lunch time when there was a tap on the door and a lady delivery driver stood outside with a long plastic-wrapped parcel. It was the fabric that I’d ordered for the Savannah panel top delivered at long last. I ordered two alternatives – a padded leatherette material and another more fibrous one of the type that you get in car boots. Here’s a shot of them that I took when I’d opened the parcel and they were laid out together on my kitchen floor.

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It’s early days, but I think that I’ll go for the leatherette, which is a very high quality, hard-wearing material. The deciding factor, I think, is that I’ll be able to stick my GPS bracket to it using Velcro, as I like to do, which won’t be possible with the other one. But at least I can now continue with the Savannah screen repair after waiting all this time!

September 28, 2016

Every little helps

I could only work on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, this morning because I had other more pressing things to do in the afternoon. Nevertheless, I was able to make good use of the time available.

I wanted to remove the excess padding that someone had attached to the cabin rear vertical tubes because it was preventing the proper fitting of the fuselage rear cover. Although there had been none on MYRO’s cabin tubes, I thought that it would be a good idea to retain some, so I nipped up to Bricojem to buy three more lengths of their nice pipe insulation, but of two sizes smaller than I’d used for the other tubes.

It turned out to be dead right and made for a beautiful job when attached to the tubes, as the following image shows.

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I then tested the fuselage cover to make sure that it fitted nicely and in doing so discovered that someone had made another little mistake, this time to do with the seat belts. The following shot shows the seat belts routed correctly.

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What someone had done was route the outermost strap on each side OVER the white tubes below the ones that I had just put the new padding onto. This was incorrect, because the cover has to completely wrap UNDER the white tubes for tensioning eyelets in the cover to be connected with cord. With the straps in their original positions, this would have been impossible, so I do not know how the last person who fitted the cover had managed to do so. Not correctly, obviously.

Afterwards I had a bit of luck. Just as I was about to leave the house I heard a car horn sound, which turned out to be the Post with my new stator and voltage regulator. If I had not been there to sign for them, they would have been taken away and I’d have not got them until at least Monday, so that was very fortunate. And the weather will be good tomorrow, so with a bit of luck I’ll get 28AAD’s rear cover fitted and the electrical work done, which would be very good news indeed 🙂

September 27, 2016

Very frustrating – again

I’ve just had another two very frustrating days. Yesterday wasn’t helped by our yet again losing our phone and internet for the whole day. This is getting a bit much because, of course, there’s never any suggestion that we might be refunded for the umpteen days (and evenings) worth of service that we’re not getting. I just hope that the ‘fast internet’ that we’re supposed to be getting at the end of it all turns out to be worth it.

I’d also hoped that the electrical parts that I’d ordered at the end of last week might arrive so I could press on and rectify the damage done to 28AAD’s engine, but they arrived neither yesterday nor today. There was a consolation prize however, or so I thought, because the fuel hose that I ordered on 6th September did finally show up yesterday and that meant that I could install the fuel system from the tanks up to the fuel tap in the pod at least, and this would in turn allow me to fit 28AAD’s rear fuselage cover.

So that’s what I got cracking on doing. But no, it was definitely going to be one of those days. I’d ordered fuel hose with 6mm internal diameter from a good UK supplier and I didn’t bother looking too closely at it before I started work. The first task anyway was to use the existing tubing that 28AAD’s former owner had left connected to the tanks together with a clear plastic fuel filter and a fuel tap, to make a connection from both tanks running to a ‘T’ piece and then on to the filter, which I wanted to position in the cabin between the seats.

This was quite soon done and then I fitted a length of the new hose running from the filter under the left hand seat to the fuel tap (I used MYRO’s old one) positioned low down on the cabin side tube where MYRO’s fuel pump used to be. It was when I came to fit another ‘T’ piece and a non-return valve that I realised that the joints were going to be too slack to pull up with the usual hose clips, and that made me look more closely at the hose that had arrived that morning.

It was 5/16″ diameter. I had ordered 6mm hose, equating to 1/4″, so the hose that had arrived that morning was incorrect and of too large a diameter for most of the fittings I wanted to use. I was very annoyed as I’d purposely spent a day a couple of weeks or so ago ordering the stuff that I was going to need in good time, so this was a real let-down. Ordering on the internet allowed me to avoid all of the problems of wasting time driving around looking for suppliers with the usual hassles of then finding that they’re out of stock of what you want, and now I was being plunged right back into it all.

I dashed off an email to the supplier, which wasn’t that easy as we had no internet all day and I had to tether a slow connection through my phone to do it, and to their credit, the supplier told me by return that they would refund me in full and to keep the hose. But that didn’t help me very much to solve the supply problem with which I was now presented. While I thought about it, I looked at rerouting one of 28AAD’s brake cables that I’d inadvertently fed the wrong side of a fuselage tube when I did the landing gear repair, and I succeeded in doing that, replacing the cable in the process with one of 77ASY’s old ones. So the day at least ended up not being a total loss.

But that still left me with my fuel hose problem. To cut a long story short, today I dropped into Savimat Claas, the agricultural depot on the way to Montignac, and they said that yes, they did stock 6mm fuel hose. ‘Miracle of miracles’, I thought, but I was being too hasty. I wanted 5 metres and whereas they had oodles of rolls of every other size, they only had 2 metres of 6mm. ‘We have lots of 5.5mm’ the salesman helpfully suggested, but it looked a bit small and I wasn’t convinced that it’d fit, but I took a small sample to try anyway.

I tried two more potential local suppliers as I didn’t really feel like dragging all the way to Périgueux and beyond, but to my joy I found that with the 6mm hose that I already had, I could get by with the 2 metres that Savimat had on the shelf plus a further 2 metres of their 5.5mm that I could use for connecting my fuel pressure gauge. So back I went to do the deal.

I didn’t ask what price it was going to be, although I knew that it would be more than what I’d originally paid for the 5 metres that were shipped from the UK (around 25€ in total including delivery). However, I thought that it would be worth paying a bit extra to avoid all the time and hassle involved in driving around looking for another supplier.

But there was no way that I ever expected that I’d end up paying just over 79€ for 4 metres of fuel hose and 10 hose clips! The hose was charged at over 14€/metre which was scandalous and there’s no way that you’ll ever find me going back through the doors of Savimat to buy anything in the future.

By the time that I’d sorted all this out, there was no time left today to become involved in any substantive work on 28AAD. So I decided that in that case, I’d just get out its fuselage rear cover and place it into position so I could at least give myself the idea that I’d achieved something. Here are a few shots that I took with it on.

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I think it will look great when it’s fitted properly and tensioned up as it’s supposed to be. I had been thinking that whoever fitted the cover previously had put too much padding on the cabin rear tubes and this was confirmed when I found it impossible to make the Velcros on the side tubes meet up when they were wrapped around, so the next job will be to remove it. It’s at times like this that having already done the work on MYRO is such a help in making decisions and knowing what’s right.

And when I do the work, I just hope that things run more smoothly than they have over the last couple of days 😐

September 25, 2016

Screening process

Is completed! Today was forecast to be unsettled with rain later, so it was a good day to do a job that could be completed indoors – namely making 27AAD’s new screen. I’ve done this a couple of times before so it held no fears for me and it was just a matter of doing a good job with no cock-ups.

The screen is made from 1.5mm thick polycarbonate plastic sheet, in this case ‘Lexan’ although I’d ordered ‘Makrolon’, which didn’t matter as they’re identical products. Although polycarbonate is very impact damage resistant, the main thing that you have to be careful of when you’re handling it is to avoid scratches, which are very easy to do when you have to lay it on a flat surface to work on it and are using sharp metal tools.

In the past I’ve been able to work on the floor of a fully carpeted lounge but today I only had a tiled floor to choose from so had to cover it first with some soft fabric to protect the plastic. Then after laying the new plastic sheet on it, I had to place the old screen on top to use as a pattern, diagonally so as to be able to fit it onto the sheet.

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The next job was to carefully draw around the old screen onto the protective plastic film that the new sheet has on both of its surfaces to give some protection from scratching, making sure to include all of the slots that need to be cut to accommodate fuselage tubes and marking any cuts that need to be made in it for it to fit over and round them.

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Then it was time to cut around the screen’s basic outline. Some people say that you should use snips or shears, a rotary cutter (eg Dremmel) or a jig saw. I eschew all of those in favour of just a large pair of sharp scissors that I ensure beforehand are nice and sharp by sharpening them against a large kitchen knife. There’s little or no chance of scratching the plastic as you might do with a jig saw, going off line as you might with a Dremmel type tool or getting an untidy cut that happened for me when I experimented the first time with metal shears.

It’s worth mentioning that while cutting as a right-handed person, the material on the right of the cut feeds downwards and that on the left upwards. The job’s made very easy if you put your foot onto the right hand piece after making an initial cut, to hold it down, and pulling the left hand piece upwards while you’re cutting. That encourages the plastic to ‘tear’ along the cut with absolutely no detrimental effect while reducing the cutting effort required and also results in a lovely clean cut edge. Here’s a shot of the basic screen with the scissors that I used to cut it out.

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It’s then time to take out your hole cutters and drill out the ends of the slots that were marked previously. The Weedhopper’s nose slot is of larger diameter than those for the cabin side tubes and there’s also a cut-out at the top-centre for the screen to fit snugly up against the bottom of the main tube.

Then and only then is it time to use a jig saw, to join up the holes cut in each end of the slots. But you still need to take great care not to scratch the plastic and it’s a good idea to apply tape on the ‘good’ side of each cut for the saw to slide on and also not to push downwards too heavily. And once all the cuts have been made, edges can be cleaned up as and where necessary with a sharp file and the final cuts made in the screen to allow it to slip over the tubes that go into the slots.

Here’s a shot of 28AAD’s new screen finished and ready to be fitted.

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I’m glad to say that the work went smoothly with no scratches or bad or mis-placed cuts, so I’m pleased with the results. I removed the panel yesterday and went through the wiring with a fine-tooth comb, so now know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.

That means that it and the screen can now be fitted permanently into 28AAD as it won’t be difficult to install the missing gauges while it’s in-situ. I’m also hoping that the new electrical parts to replace the ones that were damaged last week might arrive tomorrow and when they’re installed, the re-assembly of 28AAD will be nicely back on track.

September 22, 2016

Keeping the balls in the air

I’ve got a lot going on what with the work I’m doing simultaneously on all three of my ULMs, plus I haven’t even looked yet at the planning papers for the work I want to do on my house that were returned asking for ‘more information’ (no comment).

There’s no point getting into a stew over the electrical damage to the Weedhopper’s 503 engine – it’s done and I’ll have to address it at some time. But not now – I can even do it when all the other work on the aircraft has been completed if I want to.

Victor and I have both come to the same conclusion as to the cause. The voltage regulator that’s now fitted was the one that someone cut the wires of when it was on the X-Air at Galinat. We think that when whoever did it, their knife blade shorted across the black lead, which was connected to the 12V +ve supply and one or more of the yellow leads. In doing so, we think that it damaged the regulator internally.

When it was connected to the engine, it in turn delivered 12V from the live black lead, that would usually have been protected by the system of diodes etc inside the voltage regulator (sorry, I’m not an electronics expert) as a dead short voltage across the coil windings of the generator stator and after a few moments, they heated up enough to cause the catastrophic damage that ensued.

I can’t actually check this theory until I get a working multimeter and I won’t bother doing so or stripping the stator off the engine until I’ve done all, or most at least, of the oustanding work on 28AAD.

My main objective today was to resolve the problem with the X-Air’s fuel pressure gauge. The fundamental problem is that when I cut the holes for the gauges in the X-Air’s panel, I hadn’t realised that the fuel pressure gauge is only 50mm in diameter and went ahead and cut a standard 57mm hole. Since then I’ve tried to pack the gap around the gauge out as best I could, without a lot of success to be honest.

It came to me the other day that I have a lot of spare screen plastic lying around at the moment and if I could find hole cutters of the right sizes, I could quite easily knock up a plastic collar to fit over the gauge and solve the problem once and for all. I didn’t realise how easy it would be. The gauge diameter is 50mm and I have a 51mm hole cutter. The panel hole is 57mm and I have a 60mm hole cutter. These dimensions aren’t just close, they are exact!

So the theory was to first cut a round of plastic of diameter 60mm and then to change over to the smaller cutter, reinsert the guide drill into the centre hole and cut out the centre taking care to carefully hold down the plastic while doing so.

It only took 5 minutes to make the first collar in 1mm plastic and another 5 minutes to make a second one in 1.5mm. Here’s a shot after I’d given them a lick of black paint with the 1mm collar on the gauge and the 1.5mm one lying in front of it.

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If only I’d thought of it before I could have avoided all the hassles that I’ve had with the gauge becoming loose (and eventually dropping right out this year) over the past two or three years 😕

But there was still time to do a small job on 28AAD. I got hold of some lovely smooth black pipe insulation today from Bricojem at Rouffignac which was perfect for replacing the damaged padding on the aircraft’s fuselage rear tubes. I thought that it wouldn’t take that long to do, so after I’d had my evening meal I went outside, ripped the old padding off 28AAD and replaced it with this nice new stuff. Here’s how it looked afterwards.

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This means that as soon as the fuel tubing that I’ve ordered arrives, I can go ahead and install it up to the fuel cock on the cabin side tube and then fit the fuselage rear cover. Now that I am really looking forward to. It may even be tomorrow, but I have to reinstall the X-Air’s fuel pressure gauge first as the weather on Saturday looks as though it’ll be just too good to miss 😉

September 21, 2016

We have the power

This was intended to be a triumphalist posting but unfortunately it has turned out not to be, for reasons I’ll go on to explain. Wim dropped in this morning and helped me to lift MYRO’s old Rotax 503 onto 28AAD’s engine mountings. It only took a few moments and then it was just a matter of connecting things up and tightening nuts and bolts.

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Then I couldn’t resist it. I connected MYRO’s old battery up and the LED lit up when I switched the Master on. Then I turned the starter key and the starter motor kicked into life. So far so good.

As the battery is now getting very old, I wondered if it would still have enough power to turn the motor over a few times, so I held the starter key on for a few seconds. That’s when it all went pear-shaped. The next thing smoke was billowing out of the right hand rear of the engine.

The heat was sufficient to melt the plastic shroud on the engine safety tie that I’d only just fitted so there must have been some kind of electrical dead short, probably in the stator I’m inclined to think. Why I don’t know – I’m pretty sure without having checked again that I’d connected everything up properly and if so, there are two obvious possibilities. Either a fault had developed in the stator while it had been standing for the past four years in my ‘atelier’ (unlikely I’d have thought) or the voltage rectifier that I repaired the other day had got damaged in some way.

If neither of the above, I must have connected something incorrectly, but I don’t see how I managed to get a dead short across the generator. For the time being I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s a major setback and an expensive one too, as a new stator costs north of 250€. It has taken the gloss off the fact that both the new screen and door plastics and the primer bulb were both delivered today 🙁

After checking the wiring, I’m still rather stumped. All the wiring that I connected looks to be in order, so I don’t think that I made a mistake. The only dead short that I could find was across the generator pair themselves, so it looks as though the fault was an internal one, I don’t understand why. The only component that is connected across them is the voltage regulator, so that still has to be suspect.

So far it looks like a new stator (216€) and a new voltage regulator (108€) both from Loravia, so an expensive exercise. Was I wrong to try and repair the damaged regulator and that caused the problem? I don’t know, but when I come to sort this out with new parts, I won’t be able to take the chance. But for now, I think I must turn my attention to fabricating the new screen and then sorting out the couple of small things that I need to do on the X-Air.

And then there’s the Savannah screen to finish off…

September 20, 2016

To screen or not to screen?

That is the question. It is now evident that I was rather rash going off and ordering plastic to make a new screen for 28AAD. I wanted to place MYRO’s old screen into position on 28AAD to see how it fitted and how good it would be to use as a pattern. The following pictures speak for themselves.

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Now a couple of views of the interior.

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It seems that MYRO’s old screen is not only a perfect fit but it’s also still in very good condition, quite good enough in fact to have been used on 28AAD. My main worry concerned the holes that had been cut in it for MYRO’s old electric fuel pump that I’m not going to install in 28AAD.

But it seems that I need hardly have worried. The largest one isn’t visible at all and there’s just one small bolt hole that is shown in the pic below.

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I think that I could have just left it, or just put a small rubber grommet in it. It would hardly have been worth worrying about. So as it’s in place, I’m now left with the question of whether to leave the old screen in or not? If I could think of another use for the new plastic that’s about to be delivered, I think I would. Hmmmm…

Now that I’m waiting for the new screen plastic to arrive, surprisingly enough there’s not much else that I can do. There was one thing though, namely to replace the plate on the tail that holds the radio antenna.

The one that was on there was not the correct one, comprising just a large sheet of aluminium (obviously intended as a ground plane, although I have no idea if it worked or not) mounted under the horizontal stabiliser on top of the main tube.

It was clearly pretty useless as it was not strong enough and was badly bent. The proper one is much stronger and whereas the old one was held on only by ordinary lock nuts that were also intended to secure the front of the horizontal stabiliser, the real one uses bolts with security rings in. And that’s what I put on, as the following two shots show.

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The next task will be mounting the engine, because even with it on, I can still do the work needed to install the new screen and panel and it will also really move the project on. Here it is next to 28AAD on its trestle ready to be lifted up onto its mountings.

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It was too heavy for me to do it by myself and Wim has kindly agreed to give me a hand tomorrow morning. There’s still quite a bit to be done to finish 28AAD’s rebuild, but in a way, having the engine installed and all connected up will mean that the end of the project is beginning to come into sight 😉

September 20, 2016

Why I rarely buy French

Getting hold of stuff like tools and materials can be a total nightmare. If you try and buy locally, my experience is that you end up driving many tens of kilometres, wasting at least half a day or probably more and then end up either compromising because shops hold so little stock, or not finding what you want at all.

It’s not unusual in a builder’s merchants, for example, to find that if the shelf tray for a ½” widget is empty (because it’s the most popular) then tough luck because that’s it until new stock comes in. And the trays for ¼” and ¾” will be overflowing, but nobody has thought of doubling up on the quantity of ½” that are held in comparison.

I bought some hand cleaner locally the other day (you know, Swarfega type stuff). I had trouble finding it in the local merchant’s because I had the last tin on the shelf and that was all the stock they had.

So then you are ‘forced’ into buying on line. Buying on line in the UK and the rest of Northern Europe is quite normal and usually very easy – so much so in fact, that high-street stores in all sectors are beginning to suffer. But the French haven’t quite caught up with the trend yet. Firstly you find that there are still a huge number of ‘merchants’ who use their web sites as shop windows, the way that those in the UK used to do 20 years ago, and expect you to phone them and place an order. Doh!

And many that do sell ‘on line’ do not have a bank Merchant Account and ask you to either pay by bank transfer, which unlike the UK, for example, only your French bank can set up, so inevitably at least a 24 hour delay and lots of hassle, or by cheque. And in the latter case, they will only despatch the goods when they’ve received your cheque, which can also take two or three days to arrive.

But it’s in the delivery that they eventually get you, and here’s a prime example of why I invariably end up buying from the UK, Germany, China even – almost anywhere but France. On 18th September, the fuse blew in my old Robin electrical test meter. I was in two minds whether to chuck it away and buy a new replacement as it’s now about 25 years old, but after checking it by short-circuiting the fuse and finding that it still appeared to work and then doing an internet search for fuses, I decided that as they are so cheap, I’d buy some on line and check the results.

Stupidly, I chose a French supplier, who was quoting a delivery time of 5-7 days, long by UK standards when they’d have been popped into an envelope and sent out by mail, arriving in 2-3 days max, but livable with. But 24 hours after placing the order, see below the notification I received when the fuses were despatched yesterday.

Fuse delivery

I’ve ringed the relevant section in red. I ask you, how can any supplier seriously think that a customer is prepared to wait for a month for any item ordered on line. They must need their heads testing. Luckily the amount is not great so I’ll now get hold of a new test meter if I can locally as I need it for checking out the wiring on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper. If local prices are as outrageous as I expect them to be, then I’ll just order a new meter from China – and I bet it’ll arrive before the ruddy fuses 😐

And I’ve just done exactly that and ordered a brand new LCD multimeter from China for 4.23€ including delivery. It’ll be interesting to see if it arrives before the fuses do, but in the meantime I can short across the fuseholder of my old analogue multimeter and just use it for testing continuity. That’s mainly all that I want to do for now anyway.

Its days were numbered in any event as it seemed to be giving some anomalous readouts eg 50V for new 3.7V lithium batteries! And it also blew its fuse simply when I set it to test mains AC voltage and shoved the pins into the wall socket, so time for the bin, I think. And I just can’t be bothered to trawl around locally searching for a replacement and having a choice of just one model if I do find one 😉

September 19, 2016

Looking more like an ULM?

228AAD, my French Weedhopper that is. I think so. I did the little bit of panel rewiring yesterday evening and got up early this morning and patched the old mounting holes in MYRO’s old panel top. So apart from missing some instruments that can go in later, the panel is now ready to be mounted in 28AAD. That can’t happen, though, until the new screen plastic has arrived and I’ve made up the new screen.

I should be able to use MYRO’s old one as a pattern but I can’t drop it into place to try it out until I’ve connected the panel front and top sections together. I can then prop it up to get the screen in and that I can’t do for now for the most annoying of reasons.

The other day I came across the studs for connecting the panel top and front, that I’d carefully kept together in a small glass jar. I put the jar somewhere safe and now I can’t find it anywhere, so for the time being I’m stymied. If I can’t find them I’ll have to connect the panel using some other arrangement, but the connecting studs were just so easy and convenient to use.

But anyhow, I’ve made a great leap forward today as the following shots show. I did the same as before when I was reassembling MYRO back in August 2009. First I dropped the panel lower section into place supported by string from the main tube. Before the panel was complete, but as explained above, that isn’t possible for now.

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That left the cables all hanging on the pod floor and I then fed them up the front tube, which immediately made things look a bit more organised.

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But that still left all of the cables unconnected, so then I had to identify them one by one and connect them up.

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These were the cables at the engine end.

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It didn’t take a lot to identify them as they consisted of the rev counter cable, the two ignition earthing cables, the connectors for the EGT and CHT gauges (a couple of which have been damaged, but not too seriously) and (as I recall) an earth lead to connect on a tag on the engine.

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Here’s a shot of them all marked up and ready to be connected when the engine goes on.

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Now it was time to sort out the connections at the voltage regulator end.

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These were a little bit more tricky but some of them had been identified and tagged and unless I’ve made a cock-up (which is possible, of course) I think that I’ve sorted them all out correctly.

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Here’s another shot of them cable tied together to tidy them all up.

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Another shot from higher up that also shows the little battery platform that I’ve mounted on the main tube behind the voltage regulator exactly as MYRO’s was.

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And a shot showing all of the wiring in place on the main tube. The ties are only temporary just so I could get everything sorted, which I think I have done, and quicker than I expected to, really.

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A final shot of the panel front with all of the cables now out of sight.

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And to finish, a shot of the panel rear showing how nice and tidy it is. Some instruments are missing but the only additional connection should be the rubber tube for the fuel pressure gauge.

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So theoretically, if the engine was dropped on, the battery fitted and the connections all made, the panel should work and the engine should run. In reality, there’s still a bit to do before that can happen, but it’s nice to think that it’s so close, though 😉

Back at the end of the day to say that I had one last search for the panel connecting studs and couldn’t find them, so decided to do what I’ve done on 56NE and use small screws and nuts instead. That allowed me to offer the whole panel into the pod and I’m glad (and relieved) to say that it will fit nicely.

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But that wasn’t all. I then dug MYRO’s old battery out that has been connected to a trickle charger for the four years since the accident. I doubt that it will still be in good enough condition to remain permanently on 28AAD but I thought it would be a good idea to test the panel wiring as far as I can without the engine being connected.

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I’m pleased to be able to say that not only did the panel power up when the Master switch was turned on, but the Aux switch also worked exactly as planned and the electrical sockets became live when it was switched on. Can’t ask for better than that 🙂

September 18, 2016

28AAD panel wiring

I’m using MYRO’s old instrument panel in 28AAD, my French Weedhopper. The one that came with it is full of holes because its instruments were all removed and the one I designed for MYRO was pretty good, worked well and is still in good condition. However, as I’m not going to install MYRO’s electric fuel pump in 28AAD as I think that it’s just dead weight, I have to make a minor change to its wiring.

I originally fitted three Aux power sockets in MYRO’s panel that are all live as soon as soon as you switch the Master on, whereas when I designed 56NE, my X-Air’s panel, I installed a second switch to control its Aux sockets. The obvious way to update MYRO’s panel is to use the fuel pump switch to control its three Aux sockets and that’s quite easily done, by switching over the fuel pump 12V+ to power the aux sockets, as shown by the following diagram. Even the fuses still work!

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It won’t take very long to do so I’ll do it later and then the panel will be ready to fit in 28AAD at any time. It’s still missing some instruments but they can be added later if necessary. But first I need to patch the mounting holes in MYRO’s old panel top as I mentioned in my previous posting.

September 17, 2016

Rain, rain go away

This is the worst kind of weather to be working in outside – passing showers. Wim dropped in this morning as usual but had to leave early because Barbouze ran off when he heard my neighbour’s bird scarer go off. Luckily though, because he is a clever little dog, Wim found him waiting at the car where he usually leaves it, about 10 minutes away from my house! Anyway, after Wim had left I got cracking on 28AAD but soon had to cover it up again when the first shower came through.

And so it continued, so I didn’t get much done today, but what I did do represented useful progress, as shown below.

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First I fitted the voltage regulator that I repaired yesterday and then MYRO’s old trim mechanism. 28AAD evidently used to have something similar from what I could see but it had been removed and the system modified to rely on just friction alone. I like this nice ‘clicky’, very positive version much more.

I then thought that I’d fit MYRO’s old cabin top plastic cover only to find that it had incurred a bit of damage on one corner. Being a bit of a perfectionist, there’s no way that I can use it, and 28AAD’s old one, apart from being a bit tatty, also has a large slot cut to take the clamp for the ballistic parachute that used to be fitted, so I can’t use that either. I’ll have to see if I have any ‘spare’ plastic that I can use to make a new one, but if not I’ll just have to order a little bit more.

Then I thought that I’d drop the panel temporarily into position and start connecting up a few cables. However, although I came across them just the other day, I just couldn’t find the special studs that I’ve always used to connect the two parts of MYRO’s panel together. I’ve obviously put them somewhere safe and I’m blowed if I can remember where, darn it! I just hope that I can find them tomorrow.

Anyway, in the meantime I need to fill all of the mounting holes in MYRO’s panel top with epoxy again, for what will be the second time. This is because none of the existing holes match those in 28AAD’s pod as they are always drilled at random by whoever did the original assembly. But anyway, no worries – just so long as in the meantime I can find the panel connecting studs 😐

September 16, 2016

Getting things sorted

I originally planned to nip over to Malbec and do a couple of little jobs on the X-Air today as Wim and I are thinking of going for a shortish local flight on Sunday when the weather is expected to be pretty good for it. However, by the time I was ready to go it had started to drizzle and then rain a bit too hard to make it worthwhile, so I turned my attention to sorting out a few things for 28AAD.

And lucky I did, because the day ended up being very productive. First I ordered a rubber bulb to install in the fuel line to prime the system as I do in the X-Air. It works well and I can’t see the point of fitting MYRO’s old electric fuel pump as it’s just dead weight once the engine is started. The bulb (known as a ‘poire d’amorcage’ in French) is coming from Bulgaria, would you believe.

Then I ordered 5 metres of fire-proof 6mm rubber fuel hose – from the UK. French prices are just so expensive and delivery takes much too long. And finally I order two sheets of Makrolon polycarbonate – 1.5mm for a new front screen and 1mm for two new doors – from Germany, for the same reason as above. I do not understand how the French ULM accessory suppliers stay in business, quite honestly. 28AAD will look very smart indeed with all this new kit 🙂

And finally, I turned my attention to the voltage regulator that’ll be going onto 28AAD. Several months ago, someone vandalised 56NE’s voltage regulator at Galinat by slashing its wires and I got round the problem by replacing it with MYRO’s old one. Now I need one for 28AAD and luckily I hung onto the X-Air’s damaged one with the idea of repairing it should it be necessary.

Today was that day, so repair it I did, and here’s a shot of the repaired item on my bench and ready to go.

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The job’s a good’un! All the damaged wires have been nicely reconnected by strong soldered joints and protected by shrunk rubber insulation. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work fine and I’m pleased with the appearance as I don’t think it will look out of place when fitted on the aircraft.

So taken all round, a very useful day indeed and a few essentials sorted that needed attention. Now, when the weather gets back to normal I’ll be able to continue with other things knowing that the bits and pieces I ordered today will be on their way and be ready for when I need them 😉

September 15, 2016

Stuff’s happening!

It turned out much cooler and fresher today but we still managed a high of 22 degrees Celsius. But the cloud didn’t clear and the sun didn’t come out until around lunch time, so I didn’t think that it would be worth heading over to Malbec and doing the couple of things I need to do on the X-Air. Instead I decided that while it was warm, I’d do a little bit of paintwork touching up that needed to be done on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, before I could press on and install cabling and so on.

So that’s what I did first off, but as it wasn’t warm enough to make the paint flash off today, I thought that while it was curing I’d continue with a couple more jobs in preparation for eventually fitting the engine – fitting the engine mounts properly and installing the fuel pump.

Whoever had fitted the engine mounts on 28AAD knew that there was ‘something funny’ about how they had to be installed but evidently didn’t know what, and because they also didn’t know why, they had fitted them incorrectly.

ULM/microlight engines are mounted on Lord Mounts which consist of metal sleeves through which the engine mounting bolts pass that are encased in rubber to handle the engine’s vibration without cracking up. In turn, the rubber is mounted in a metal body that’s flanged to allow it to be bolted to the engine mounting plates that are attached to the aircraft fuselage.

The flanges allow the Lord Mounts to be bolted above or below the mounting plates and this is for a reason, that being engine torque. When the engine is powered up, looking from the front, the propeller of a Rotax 503 or 582 engine rotates in a clockwise direction and this means that there is an equal but opposite force being applied to the engine that tries to rotate it anti-clockwise, in the opposite direction.

This means that the Lord Mount flanges need to be mounted BELOW the engine mounting plate on the left hand side of the aircraft and ABOVE the plate on the right hand side so with the force that’s being exerted on them they bear onto the faces of the mounting plates. Simple really.

But not for whoever last fitted 28AAD’s old engine, because they had fitted both rear Lord Mounts below the mounting plates and both front ones above. A big fail, then!

So the first job was to choose the best set of Lord Mounts that I had and fit them properly using the best set of nuts and bolts chosen from my ‘old’ stock and what were already on 28AAD, actually a mixture of both, and here are a couple of shots of the final results. I’m missing a large flat iron washer (front right hand bolt) but that shouldn’t be difficult to replace.

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There were already brackets on 28AAD that had been used to mount its original fuel pump, but they were non-standard and I still had MYRO’s old ones so used those instead. However, the rubber mounting bushes on 28AAD were almost brand new, so I used those and then installed MYRO’s old top fuel pump. Here’s how it looked.

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So that was it for today. Things took a lot longer than it looks as though they should have, but it was work that had to be done and now the steps towards eventually fitting the engine have at last begun. I’ve done it all before but I still find it exciting 🙂

September 15, 2016

Good grief!

I was just thinking about the next steps in the reassembly of 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, and looking for reference at photographs that I took at the same stage when I was working on MYRO, my old Cyclone AX3, a Weedhooper by any other name. The photographs are dated May 2009.

This one actually, was dated the first week of June 2009

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Amazing – nearly 7½ years ago. How time flies without you even really noticing it and how much has happened in that time. I wonder what the next 7 years have in store?

Incidentally, the actual seat bases, rudder pedal assembly, throttle lever assembly, cabin side tubes and the two long tubes rising up to the engine shown in the above pic are all being used in 28AAD, so there are strong links running between the two aircraft. 28AAD is being restored to life using parts transplanted from MYRO, its British cousin.

September 13, 2016

Sweet as!

Today was the last hot, sunny day that we’re going to get for a while and even when dry weather does resume, the temperature is forecast to be in the low 20s, which is about 10 degrees lower than it has been recently.

Having said that, working outside on the Weedhopper today was almost unbearable – even just moving around made the perspiration stream, and when I started working for real it was in my eyes, over the lenses of the glasses that I wear when I’m doing this kind of work and dripping onto the things that I was working on.

But I had to put all of that to one side because after the good progress made yesterday, today I had to get 28AAD’s pod in place and fitted, which I succeeded in doing. For anyone who may be wanting to do something similar, here are the steps to go through.

The trailing links need to be attached but loosened at the cabin end and disconnected at the axles. The front wheel must be removed and the front of the aircraft allowed to rise because the idea is to offer the pod up to the fuselage by placing it below it and sliding it towards the rear along the ground until the hanging trailing links can be entered into the slots on each side of the pod. Here’s a picture of the first stage.

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Note that in the above and the next image, the steering arms are still attached to the rudder pedal legs and MUST be removed before proceeding any further as the slots in the pod are not large enough to accommodate both them and the rudder pedal legs.

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There are also 4 bolts (more for 28AAD) that pass through the pod and attach it to the cabin sub-frame and although they should be left in place, their nuts and washers MUST be removed before proceeding further. The next 2 shots show where these bolts are located, the first shot shows the left hand side and there’s one also on the other side supporting the cabin cross member, and the second of the two shots shows the two large bolts that hold the rudder pedal assembly.

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On 28AAD there were 4 more bolts in front of the rudder pedals (you can see the holes for them in the above shot) but I do not know if these are standard only on French Weedhoppers as they were not fitted on MYRO when I did this job previously.

It helps to have the fuselage standing on level ground but as my garden slopes where I was working, I just put a large block under the lower wheel.

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Then it’s just a matter of offering the pod up while raising it into position using supports or hangers. I always use bungee cords as shown in the above pic. You must also take great care to protect the pod’s rear edges as otherwise they WILL be damaged when they come up against the fuselage metal tubes and the sharp edges of nuts.

There comes a time when the pod stops moving backwards but no worries as although at that point it feels as though it’s stuck solid and won’t budge, the reason is just that its rear edges have dropped a bit and are impacting against the main axle bar. All that’s needed is to get underneath and flip the pod edges up over the axle on both sides, as shown in the following picture.

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The pod will then more or less snick backwards into place but care must be taken not to try doing it too quickly as damage is likely to result. Also while pushing the pod towards the rear, its nose has to be carefully raised to keep the whole thing level and in shape, which is why the bungee support method is so handy.

Now’s the time to connect the trailing links to the main axle, which can be a bit tricky as the wheels have to be forced forward until the securing bolts can be pushed through the connecting pieces. It can be done by brute force alone, especially if you have an assistant to help, but I find that much less force is necessary if you loosen the connectors at the axle end, which has the effect of moving them forwards just enough. See what I mean in the next shot that shows the right trailing link connector.

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And that’s basically it. It’s then just a matter of tightening up the trailing links at both ends and fitting and tightening the four bolts (with their large washers) that I mentioned previously that secure the pod to the cabin floor tubes. But you must take great care while doing so and be careful not to force anything as fibreglass always loses against metal and it would be a shame to damage the underside of the pod at this late stage, by for example, banging the bolts down from the top when they are not correctly aligned with the pod holes.

Assembly of the nose wheel and steering gear is just the reverse of disassembly. First, reattach the nose wheel assembly and maintain it in the straight-ahead position. Then move the rudder pedals so the rudder pedal steering legs hang down below the pod through their respective slots.

Then attach the steering arms in turn, noting that one is shorter than the other because of how the pedals are mounted inside the cabin. When finished, make sure that the rudder cables are taught but not over-tight and the nose wheel and rudder are aligned and pointing straight ahead when the rudder pedals are in the neutral position. And should they have been disconnected, it MUST be remembered that the rudder cables cross over themselves.

Here are the first shots that I took of 28AAD with its undercarriage repaired and its pod fitted.

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Nice and tidy all round I think, including the underneath of the pod.

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Here’s a shot of what was the worst damaged side of 28AAD’s pod.

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So that was job done for today. Then I had to make sure that everything was securely packed away and covered as we received a violent storm warning today. 28AAD’s old weatherproof cover had been degraded by the weather and UV especially, so I had to ditch it. Fortunately I had another though, which I’d used on 77ASY when it was outside at Galinat, and here’s a final shot showing 28AAD tucked up for the night and for the next few days of rain and bad weather, if the forecast is to be believed.

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The sky became full of thick black cloud during the evening and an hour or so ago, it became very violent outside with strong, blustery winds. So I went outside before it became too dark to throw another rope over 28AAD as the cover was billowing quite a lot as the wind got under it. The winds have dropped now and although we had a brief shower, the worst of the rain is forecast for tonight and the early hours. But I think now that it should be OK 😉

September 12, 2016

Perfect!

Having just cleared everything away after today’s repair work and still feeling a little warm, to say the least, I’ve just invented the perfect long, cold drink.

Take a long glass, add a good dash each of cherry and orange syrup. Then add two ice cubes and a generous measure of Jack Daniels. Finally top up with clear, cold water, stir and drink when cooled.

It’s delicious! A perfect way to end a really successful day. Cheers… I think maybe I’ll have another 😀

September 12, 2016

It’s déjà vu all over again, Rodney

I’ve a feeling that I may have used that headline before, in which case if I have, it is – doubly so. 28AAD, my French Weedhopper’s, pod was damaged during its landing accident. The usual places, the slots underneath at the rear where the trailing links pass through and also, in this case, two chunks taken out of the vertical rear edge on the pod’s right hand side.

The weather’s going to change in a couple of days time and the temperature’s forecast to drop significantly, so now’s a good time before it does to get any fibreglassing done. So this morning’s plan was to get 28AAD’s pod out from under the cover and try to get the repairs done while the going’s good.

So there I was with the pod up on my Workmate bench grinding away with a rotary wire brush in my electric drill just as I had been those several years ago with MYRO’s pod (back in August/September 2009 actually) and when I’d exposed the bare fibreglass ready to take resin, there I was doing the repairs with the same epoxy that I’d used at the time and brought with me when I came to France.

But this time there were not as many splits etc to repair and here are some shots that I took a short while ago while the epoxy is curing. First, the trailing link slot on the left hand side of the pod.

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Now the right hand side showing the work I’ve had to do on the trailing link slot and also to replace the chunks taken out of the pod’s vertical edge on that side.

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Once the epoxy has cured, it won’t take that long to do the fibreglassing. The little bit that I tried this morning flashed off in a few moments, whereas temperature doesn’t help that much with epoxy, for which curing is more of a time thing.

I doubt that I’ll get the whole job done this evening, but who knows. I was slowed down a bit when I found some patches of old repair that had been applied directly over paint and just came straight off as soon as I put a chisel under them. But if I do, there’s a good chance that I’ll be able to refit the pod back on the airframe tomorrow, which would be very good news indeed!

And it looks as though my wish will be granted! It has stayed warm since I finished typing the above which meant that after rubbing the repairs down, the primer and top paint coats that I then applied have flashed off at an amazing speed.

I gave the repairs a light coat of primer before having my evening meal and then carefully rubbing them down with 320 wet and dry, which I then left for a short while. Then I carefully gave them a blow over with top coat which I again allowed to dry a bit before going back and carefully finishing the job making sure I didn’t over-paint so it either ran or melted the coats underneath and made them bubble up.

I’m very pleased with the results and even the spray paint that I hoped would be pretty close to the existing looks to be a near perfect match! First the trailing link slot on the right of the pod (remember the pod is inverted in the following shots) that was quite badly damaged and the vertical rear edge on the same side that had had chunks taken out of it. Lovely repair!.

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Now the trailing link slot on the left hand side that wasn’t too badly damaged but became a bit more so when I ground the paint and fibreglass away from around the repair. I’m very pleased with it!

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And finally the nose that had a little bit of damage at the rear of the nose wheel slot and two large scores in it, one on each side, where the steering arms had dug in, presumably when the aircraft was moved after its undercarriage had collapsed. Neat enough!

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So it looks as though I will get the pod back on 28AAD tomorrow after all, which will be significant as it will mark the true beginning of the reassembly process. I just hope it all goes as well as today has 😉

September 11, 2016

To Valeuil in 56NE

On Wednesday Wim suggested flying up to Valeuil, or more correctly LF2438 Bas Meygnaud Valeuil, to the north of Périgueux where we visited a few months ago, to pop in on André and Ina for coffee. I thought that this was a great idea as I knew that I’d have 56NE’s prop repair done and thought it would give me a good chance to give the X-Air an airing before putting it up for sale on Le Bon Coin.

As I’d flown via the east of Périgueux the last time, this time I thought I’d fly up via the west and back via the east and here’s the route that I planned taking in LF2437 Le Rigola Bourdeilles near Valeuil as a waypoint.

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Wim was originally going to overfly Malbec at 10.00 am and then I was to take off in 56NE and head off after him, but as he was a bit early, he decided to land instead. Here are some shots that I took of 56NE while I was waiting for him.

X-Air at Malbec

X-Air at Malbec

X-Air at Malbec

X-Air at Malbec

Wim got to Valeuil before me because for some reason my Asus tablet running Memory Map took ages, about 10 minutes, to latch onto the GPS system. Very annoying! We passed a very enjoyable hour chatting with André and Ina over coffee and then it was time to leave before too many thermals began to build up as a high of 33 degrees was again forecast for today.

Wim left before me while André showed me around the hangar, which I was surprised to find contained four or five flexwings, an ancient side-by-side 3-axis with only one wing cover and the ubiquitous Weedhopper, of course. Here’s a shot that I took of 56NE at Valeuil before I departed for Malbec.

X-Air at Valeuil

Wim took off on a north-westerly heading, in the opposite direction to the one we’d landed in but I took off towards the south-east. There are some power lines in that direction a few hundred metres beyond the airfield perimeter on which there are also some trees, but I reckoned that I’d clear all of the obstacles by plenty, which was indeed the case.

The flight back was much more bumpy than the flight up, which had been almost totally smooth and my landing back at Malbec was not the tidiest that I’ve ever done. It doesn’t help that I’m flying two different aircraft that are so poles apart in character. But hopefully if 56NE sells once its up on Le Bon Coin, that’s a problem that I won’t have for too much longer 😉

September 11, 2016

From Malbec to Saumur

The first leg of my flight to the UK in the Savannah was a hop on 10th August of 2 hours 35 minutes over a distance of 270 kms from Malbec in the Dordogne to Saumur St Florent in the Val de Loire. It was the only leg of the whole trip when I succeeded in getting my little sports cam video recorder to stay on for the whole flight from take off to touch down.

I’ve now had a chance to edit the recording down to a short video of 14 minutes and put it up on Youtube. The latter in itself was no mean feat as we’re having terrible problems here with loss of land line and internet due, we think, to the upgrade to ‘fast internet’ that should be completed by next year. Almost every time the connection was lost, the (very big) Youtube upload was disrupted and it had to be restarted twice.

The video can be seen by clicking on the Youtube link below.

I still have to solve an issue of vibration of the camcorder mount but I’ve managed to edit out most of the bad bits and only left in the odd short section where removing it would have ruined continuity eg during landing.

September 9, 2016

Shock, horror, yuk!

During yesterday evening, I began to notice that the water coming out of my cold tap seemed to be becoming more and more cloudy. It came to a head (no pun intended) when I flushed the loo and the water that flooded out was of quite a deep yellowish-brown hue.

So then I went into the bathroom and started running the cold tap, which is connected directly to the mains, and pretty soon this is what I saw before me as the the water that came out went from clear and became darker and darker in colour!

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That made me think of the cup of coffee that I’d made for myself not long before and sure enough, when I went and emptied the kettle out into the sink, the water that came out had a distinct yellowish tinge to it. That made me feel not a little queezy and I’m only glad that I’d boiled it before using it. The water that I’d used had come out of my Brita filter which I’d not looked at closely at the time as you don’t, do you. When I checked that, the water left in it also had a distinctly cloudy appearance.

So at that point I emptied everything out that had had water in it and began thinking about what I was going to do about washing or showering, as there was no way that I wanted to come out looking like a fake suntan fail. I also wondered what I’d do in the morning as I fancied drinking the water even less than washing in it and at one time even thought about going outdoors in the dark and collecting the clean water that was stored in my hosepipe.

But I then decided that I’d try letting the water run for a few minutes to see what happened. My fear was that something had gone wrong with my water supply, as had happened when my neighbour’s pipe had burst underground, and that I’d be left with a hefty repair bill. On the other hand, if the problem was, or had been, in the supply network, surely it would have been dealt with promptly and normal supply resumed.

And that was indeed the case. After a few minutes, as the water ran it slowly reverted back to it normal appearance and I left it running for a little while longer to be sure. Then I rinsed my kettle and teapot out and also threw away the next run in my Brita filter jug. This isn’t a normal occurrence by any means, and I just hope that it doesn’t happen too often in the future!

September 8, 2016

Pushing on with X-Air stuff

Wim and Sophie recently returned from their relaxing break away so it was with great pleasure that I dropped over to see them yesterday evening to resume our regular weekly ‘apéro’ sessions. We had a lot to talk about as it’s been over two weeks since we last saw each other and during the evening, Wim suggested flying together on Sunday.

I said that I wouldn’t be able to get the Savannah finished in time as I still haven’t received the screen parts that I need, but that luckily I’ve been pushing on with the necessary tasks to get 56NE ready for sale and as I’ve done the small prop repair and have rubbed it down, all I now need to do is varnish it and refit it to make the X-Air flyable again.

I’ve also hopefully solved my rev-counter problem. The old one works fine but always had a small dead fly under its glass that moved around and could interfere with the needle, so I bought a replacement to smarten the panel up. However, when I fitted it I found that even at maximum engine revs, it wouldn’t read above 4000 rpm, so I informed the seller and sent it back for testing.

They maintained that it worked fine, so I told them to hang on to therefore it and just return my purchase price, which they did. But that still left me with no rev-counter. Someone suggested some time ago that maybe if I could manoeuvre the fly into the gap around the stem of the gauge needle and hold a vacuum cleaner tube against the vent hole on the back of the gauge, I might be able to at least move the fly into the body of the gauge where it would be invisible and would probably do no harm.

I thought that under the circumstances, it was worth giving it a go, and it worked! So I’ve now polished up the old gauge to make it look a bit more presentable and will refit it when I refit the prop. We had light rain as forecast today but it’s now dry, although very humid. Even so, I’ve managed to give the prop an initial sealing coat of clear varnish, and here are both it and the old rev-counter on my workbench out in my back garden.

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The weather forecast for the next few days is for more dry weather so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get the X-Air work completed and ready for the aircraft to fly on Sunday. That’ll be fun and afterwards I’ll be able to give it a thorough clean and tidy up and put an ad up on Le Bon Coin to sell it. If it sells, then I’ll only be left with two ULMs and not the small fleet that I have at present 😐

September 6, 2016

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

It’s 28AAD, my French Weedhopper! It’s been standing outside in the same place without even having been uncovered once ever since I put it to bed back in October of last year before starting work on my tool store, so going on for 11 months. What with all the planning work I then had to do for the renovation and extension of my house, getting the X-Air ready to sell (very slowly…) and now the windscreen work for 77ASY, I haven’t had the time or the motivation to do any work on it at all, really.

But while I’m waiting for items for the Savannah’s windscreen and to see if the repair that I did yesterday on the X-Air’s prop does fully cure (the signs are encouraging*) I thought now was the time to take the cover off 28AAD, see how it fared over the winter and tackle the repairs it needs to its pod. Here are some shots that I took immediately after removing its cover.

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So all very good. No nasties and just looking a little bit more grubby than the last time I looked at it, which will only take a short time and a little bit of elbow grease to deal with. But my main concern was its pod, and it was here that I received a very pleasant surprise.

28AAD’s pod has a small dent just below the screen on the right hand side that could have happened at any time and may not be connected at all with when its undercarriage collapsed. In any case, I’d decided to leave it alone because it isn’t very noticeable and ‘repairing’ it from my experience would probably make it worse. No, what I was concerned with was that the pod had been compressed on that side by the floor when the main vertical tube connecting the main axle to the top (main) tube on that same side had snapped when the undercarriage had rotated backwards when it had collapsed.

My idea was to clean the paint off the affected area inside the pod, pull the pod wall upwards into shape again and apply some mat and epoxy on the inside wall that would provide the stiffness needed to retain the pod wall in the correct profile.

But when I placed the pod on the grass, I was pleasantly surprised to find that none of this will be necessary, as the following pics show.

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It appears that the pod wasn’t permanently damaged when the undercarriage collapsed but instead the deformity was a result of having been left in its compressed state for several weeks, or months, before I acquired the aircraft. By removing the pod and leaving it to stand since last October, the pod has had the opportunity to return all by itself to its original profile, which for me is great news.

Now all I’ll have to do is deal with a few minor splits on the bottom of the pod that are just the results of normal usage, as I found when I repaired MYRO’s pod the first time. This shouldn’t take very long at all, so that’s what I think I’ll do over the next few days. That’ll then mean that I’ll actually be able to begin the process of rebuilding 28AAD, a process that I should be able to get completed well before the winter if the weather continues to play ball. That is a prospect that I really do look forward to. There might even be enough room next to 77ASY in the barn at Malbec for me to complete the work there if necessary, and if so that would be total luxury!

*Scratch that out, it was a disaster. It didn’t cure properly so I’ve now cleaned the repair off and having bought some, what I hope will be, better material this afternoon, I’ll try again tomorrow. And while it’s working I’ll also have some time to do things on 28AAD 😉

September 5, 2016

Some slow progress

No big leaps forward today but some useful stuff done nevertheless. After having removed 77ASY’s screen, over the week-end I also pulled out and threw away the bits of old grey ribbed carpet tiles that someone had covered the top of the panel with. Then I asked the members of the microlightforum for ideas on what to put back and the consensus of those who responded came down in favour of ‘faux leather’ or what is known in the UK as leatherette.

I found some very nice looking material with a 3mm foam backing that looks very suitable and while looking through the products offered by the same seller, I also came across the kind of rough baize material that’s used for car boot linings, things like that. I liked that as well so I ordered a metre of each. I needed an invoice to take account of the adjusted carriage charge but after requesting one twice, one was still not forthcoming.

So I phoned the supplier in Manchester today and after twenty or thirty minutes on the phone, managed to get the order placed and paid for, for immediate despatch. But that wasn’t my only successful internet purchase.

Having spent a couple of hours or so searching for rubber extrusion suppliers, I also placed an order for the rubber trim strip that I need to go along the bottom of the new panel. I didn’t think it was worth contacting the French Savannah agent because I doubted that they’d have a length of trim in stock and would just have done what I did, found something that was close enough to what was originally fitted and then sold it to me after adding a ‘zero’ to the end of the cost.

So that was all the windscreen work that I could do. I thought about stripping out the window in 77ASY’s top panel, cutting out a new one and making a start on the little bit of painting that needs to be done. However, I decided against it and instead thought that it was about time for me to tackle 56NE’s prop repair as the prop in question has been standing ready on trestles in my kitchen for several days.

I thought that I’d be clever and try to colour the fibreglass paste to make it match more closely the wood from which the prop is made. However, I didn’t really succeed and it ended up a rather weird pinky-beige. I also think that my colouring technique has affected the curing characteristics of the fibreglass because having stayed soft and tacky for some time after it was applied, although it looked to be curing slowly, it still had a ‘tackiness’ to it, undoubtedly because of the small amount of paint that I added to it in an attempt to get the colour I wanted.

Later on I got a call from James at Malbec saying that he wanted to move 77ASY as he needed to get access to a large hedge trimmer attachment for the tractor that was stored behind it. So I went over in the late afternoon to assist and make sure that no harm came to the aircraft, which it didn’t.

I’d like to say that when I got back, my fibreglass repair was well on the way to being fully cured, but unfortunately I can’t. I’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like in the morning, I think. It’s not the end of the world though, is it 🙁

September 4, 2016

Still a bit to do

This new screen is going to be a bit trickier to place in position than I thought. I wish Victor was around to help, but he’s not and won’t be for some time as he’s still laid up after his accident.

Today I cleaned off all (well nearly all) of the nasty sealant that someone had previously applied around the bottom of the old screen and tried placing the new one in position. As I found when doing MYRO’s screens, it was like wrestling with a boa constrictor because as soon as I got it anywhere near in position and relaxed my grip or pressure, it popped out at the other end because of the tension that was being applied.

It was also made more difficult because I found that I can’t reuse the rubber edging strip that was fitted to the bottom edge of the old screen, because (a) I’d cut it when breaking the sealant joint and (b) it was impossible to get all of the old sealant off it anyway. This means that I’ll have to order a new one which is bound to delay the job.

In the end just to see how it fits, I managed to get the screen more or less in position by placing its bottom edge on a cloth sheet so as not to damage 77ASY’s paintwork and carefully gripping the sides under the closed doors. Here’s how it looked.

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And that’s how I had to leave it today, with a large inverted cardboard box over the open cabin top to keep insects, dirt and bird mess out. I then brought the cabin top home with me so I can see about replacing its polycarbonate window and fixing several patches, mainly around the window opening, where paint had been lost.

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I’m also finding the more I climb over 77ASY that its white paint has been amazingly forgiving and more and more ‘dodgy’ painted areas that I hadn’t noticed before are coming to light. I’ll therefore have to turn my attention to them in the future, but the priority for now is to get the new screen in and the aircraft fully back together and airworthy.

September 3, 2016

Hooray for that!

It’s yet another scorcher today, around 34° Celsius again, and I’ve been working indoors cutting the new screen for the Savannah. However, even though it’s quite light work, I’m still running with perspiration. But at least the job’s now done.

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I’m the first to admit that it’s not my finest piece of work ever, but luckily the small slips that I’ve made will be invisible when it’s mounted in the aircraft as they’ll be covered by trim and fairings. I’m just pleased that it’s done, though, and that I can now start to think ahead, towards getting 77ASY back together and back in the air.

The forecast is for another week or ten days at least of weather like we’re now getting, amazing for this time of the year I think. I just hope that it holds up for when I’m back flying again 😉

September 2, 2016

Savannah screen repair – continued

Wow, another 34 degree day – this summer really has turned out to be a long, hot, dry sizzler! It’s certainly the hottest that I can remember in the 4 years that I’ve been here.

I went to Malbec to continue work on 77ASY’s screen but there’s no point going too early when it’s ‘cooler’ as then the sun shines straight into the barn and I’d be working in direct sunlight. So not so cool after all. It’s best to start work at about 11.15 am because by then the sun has risen beyond the roof of the barn and although it’s then hotter outside, I’ve got shade to work in.

To give readers some idea of how ‘tropical’ it is here at the moment, when I’d finished work I went to rinse my hands under the hosepipe. Besides the water that came out being really hot, I was surprised when the flow started and a little brown snake about a foot long shot out with it! I think it was as surprised as I was as it went slithering off into the grass after hitting my hand and then the ground!

By the time I’d got started, it didn’t take long to drill out all of the rivets that secured the cabin top panel.

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It came out pretty easily but anyone doing this job should make sure that they don’t drill out all of the rivets unless, like me, they’ll be replacing the top cabin glass as well, because one, or maybe two rows of rivets just hold that in and are not part of the panel fixing arrangements.

That just left the windscreen itself.

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All that was needed was to drill out the rivets along the screen’s top edge and by then the Savannah cabin was beginning to look a bit bare.

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After cleaning out all of the rivet holes ready for when I come to fit the new screen, I then placed the top panel back on top of the cabin, just to keep out as much dirt and muck as I could.

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Then all I could do was place a cover over the front of the cabin in an attempt to dissuade any insects and birds from making it their home in the time that it takes for me to make up the new windscreen.

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Here’s a shot of the old screen on my patio table (ha ha, it’s transparent, can hardly see it – doh!)

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Tomorrow I’ll unroll the new Makrolon that I received the other day, place it on a flat surface- probably my bed so as not to scratch it – place the old one on top and draw round it. Then I’ll cut the new one out with large scissors and hopefully, Voilà! – my new screen will be ready to fit.

September 1, 2016

77ASY screen repair

Yesterday I got my decks at home clear by painting a large, thick strip of silicone roof sealant across the joint on my wood store roof that’s begun letting in water again. The job looked to be a good’un so I hope that it will see me through the coming winter and maybe a few more as well before I have to do anything more extensive on the roof to solve the leaking problem.

So today was the day to embark on the repair of the Savannah’s windscreen. Before I got going this morning I quite expected that I’d be able to get the job done in not much more than a day but pretty soon it became clear that that was not going to be the case, as the following diagram shows.

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I started off by drilling out the 3mm pop rivets holding the wing leading edge trims on each side at 1A and 1B, a total of something like 16 or so. The vertical rear sides of the screen are covered by wrap-around aluminium capping strips that go up the complete height of the screen and are covered by the door leading edges when closed. The pop rivets holding those also go through the screen itself and so had then to be drilled out at positions 2 (externally) and 3 (internally.

When I removed the wing leading edge trims previously it was obvious that the rivets at the tops of the strips on both sides had been installed with the wings off and to drill them out I had to borrow an angle drive to get into the narrow gap between the wing roots and fuselage, an exercise that was very tricky indeed. But I succeeded, so thanks Victor for the loan of your angle drive.

Then the rivets securing the front of the screen to the two internal tubes at positions 4 had to be drilled out, but although the front edge of the screen is merely sealed and not secured at all, the screen itself couldn’t be budged until all of the rivets securing all along its visible top edge to the cabin top plate between the wings had been drilled out (5).

That’s when things began to get a bit more involved because even with those rivets removed, the screen would still not budge, except at the sides. The reason for this became clear by carefully lifting up the front edge of the top plate which revealed a further line of rivets securing the whole top edge of the screen to a transverse fuselage tube under the plate at 9.

So this meant that the top plate itself would need to be removed, involving the drilling out of umpteen rivets at 6 (just 2) 7 (all around the cabin top glass) and 8 (along the rear edge of the top plate. I didn’t count how many, but there were a lot of them, so as the temperature was already over 30 degrees by that time, I thought it was a good time to stop work and continue working tomorrow morning when it’s cooler.

The job’s not too difficult, just tedious, and you have to be careful so as not to cause any damage. I’ve already slipped once when drilling out a rivet on a bit of an angle, so I don’t want too many more episodes like that. The up-side is that by removing the whole top plate, I’ll be able to replace the cabin top light as I have plenty of polycarbonate and the existing one has some fuel marks on it and is also leaking a bit when it rains. But there’s a bit more work to do before all that’s finished 😕