October 31, 2016

Result!

The plan for today was to re-mount 28AAD’s wings with Wim’s help, attach all the other bits and bobs, like ailerons and wing jury struts and then weigh it. Then I could go ahead and add some fuel to the tanks and eventually go for an engine start.

I’d uncovered the fuselage and wings and given them a wipe down because of the amount of condensation that covered them and got everything in position ready to go before Wim’s arrival. Then after a quick cup of coffee we got cracking.

Attaching a Weedhopper’s wings and inserting the retaining pins is never easy and it was especially difficult this time for some reason. The front pins remained stubbornly half-a-pin out for both wings so we decided to just carry on and investigate the problem more closely when the wings are removed again. Apart from that and having to realign the top brackets for the wing jury struts that had become slightly distorted when 28AAD’s undercarriage had collapsed and the wings had rotated slightly (probably also why we had difficulty with the wing front pins), everything went pretty smoothly and after Wim had left and I’d had a spot of lunch, it was time to go for some fuel.

Here are some shots of 28AAD with its wings back on for the first time – well, half-on anyway.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

I couldn’t then just add fuel to the tanks and go for an engine start – there was bit to do first. First off, I had to check that my new hand primer bulb worked – it did, incredibly effectively! Then I had to bite the bullet and crawl into the cabin from the passenger side on my back so I could remove the fuel tubing from the fuel pressure gauge, bleed the line, reattach it and securely tighten up the retaining clip screw. It took a while but is essential and was very effective – the gauge showed good pressure when the primer bulb was pumped and retained it for quite a few seconds.

Then I removed the carburettor bowls and checked them for cleanliness – clean as a whistle and no deposits despite standing for 4 years. Then it was time to clean and check the plugs.

As I’d put oil into the engine’s cylinders, they had quite a lot on them so I took them out, cleaned them in acetone and gave them a light brushing with a wire brush. I didn’t think that it was worth gapping or doing any more to them because they had only flown a few hours down to the Dordogne from the UK – admittedly it was over 4 years ago though.

Then I connected up MYRO’s old battery. Now bear in mind that that battery was several months old when I left the UK for France and has spent the last 4 years on a trickle charger, so I really had no right to expect that it would hardly even turn the engine over, let alone give it a healthy spin. It did with the plugs out to clear the last of any loose oil and then after refitting the plugs it was time for the big test.

I gave the primer bulb a few pumps and the fuel pressure immediately shot up. Then I applied full choke, made sure the throttle was fully closed and turned the starter key. Incredible – the engine immediately burst into life! I was delighted after all this time and all that it had been through. With the choke closed it had a nice steady tick-over and at more elevated revs the mag drops on both sides seemed pretty equal. I couldn’t tell for sure because MYRO’s old rev counter wasn’t working, so I’ll have to investigate why not.

And as expected, only one side of the dual CHT gauge showed a reading, but whereas I’d originally thought that both EGT sensors weren’t working, in fact one did show a reading intermittently. So there’s probably some kind of connection problem that I’ll have to look into later.

But I regard that as a result, bearing in mind that the engine hasn’t been run since MYRO’s accident, has been stored for over 4 years and I had to fit a new stator and re-time the engine after foolishly trying the starter with the heavy earth lead not attached. I don’t think that it’ll take too much to sort out the wing retaining pins but first-off tomorrow I’d like to try and sort out the non-functioning gauges.

And not only that, I found that the hand-operated brakes didn’t hold when I tried to apply full power, so tomorrow I’ll also see what I can do about those. But tonight is for enjoying today’s successes and maybe, just maybe, I’ll treat my self to a nip or two of Armagnac a little later on. Although, what the heck, what’s the point in waiting ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 29, 2016

Cleared for take off

Well, yes, after the wings have been mounted and fuel put in the tanks! But first 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, must be weighed, have its paperwork done to send off to the DGAC to get its Carte Jaune back, have its engine started and run and have some taxi checks and a few hops before getting airborne for real.

But it is now in what should be a fully flyable state. Here’s a shot of its wings with the wing battens all now in place. Adding cord loops to the batten ends was a horribly fiddly job this morning but now they’re all back on as they should be.

null

Next job was to make up its bungie door straps. I made the internal hook fixings yesterday so today all I had to do was drill the doors and attach the straps. The ‘official’ arrangement is to hold the doors closed by just hooking their straps together but I don’t like that because if you’re flying solo and want to close the doors, you have to make sure the passenger door is pulled-to first. Then when you’re strapped in your seat and just about to grab its strap to close both doors, the darn wind blows taking the passenger door with it, so you have to get out and do it all over again.

I get around that by attaching two cable-tie loops to the horizontal bar behind your head, one for each door, so if you’re flying alone, you don’t need to open the passenger door at all. You can see my arrangement below.

null

null

I then had to make a decision about the altimeter. I would have preferred to fit a 10000 ft model but I already had one that reads to 5000 ft, so the extra cost couldn’t really be justified, especially as an aircraft like the Weedhopper rarely exceeds such a height. Here’s a shot of the panel with it in place. Now all I need is to come across, or buy a variometer.

null

So that’s it. When the wings are mounted, I’ll need to find a way of attaching the pitot tube to the left wing strut. There was a little bracket on MYRO’s old wing and I’ll have to look and see if I can find it. If not, it’ll be easy enough to make something up. So here’s what should be the final shot of 28AAD before everything goes together.

null

I can’t wait and I’m hoping that it will be sooner rather than later ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 27, 2016

Ready for the final tasks

Another lovely day today but I didn’t do very much except move 28AAD onto my front grass ready for the mounting of its wings and weighing. Here’s a shot of its fuselage standing in the sun just after I’d moved it from the back of my house to the front.

null

I then moved all of its other bits and pieces out too in readiness.

null

Everything is now all covered up and that’s how it’ll stay until I can have a hand to help mount the wings, which won’t be until the early part of next week. So in the meantime I really must get back onto the Savannah windscreen repair ๐Ÿ™‚

October 26, 2016

Have wings – will fly

At least I hope so. But before I could start on its wings I had to uncover 28AAD and dry it down. It was another lovely day today but we’ve had a couple of wet days and nights and I could see when I peeped under the Weedhopper’s cover that it had had a good soaking despite being covered up.

When I took the cover off, the aircraft looked as wet as if it had been standing out with no cover over it at all, so it appears that the tarp that I’ve been using has just about come to the end of its life. As well as being wet on the outside, the Weedhopper’s new screen and door plastics were also wet with condensation on the inside and it took me several minutes to go over the whole aircraft inside and out with a sponge and washleather.

Then it was time to get all of the remaining Weedhopper items out of my ‘cave’ and laid out on the grass ready for me to start work assembling its wings. Sufficient wing battens had been marked up to make identification easy and here are some shots of everything set out ready to start on the first wing.

null

null

null

Although I’ve twice assembled the X-Air’s wings, which go together the same as those of the Weedhopper, this was the first time that I’d tackled the actual Weedhopper ones, so it took quite a while working out how to do the job properly and without doing any damage, to the wing covering especially. But I finally cracked it and here are some shots of the right wing.

null

null

I’ve had to leave the batten ends protruding for the time being as all of the end cords that you need to extract the battens have been removed and I’ll need to get hold of some suitable cord to replace them in the next day or so. Then it was time to tackle the left wing and once again I proved the effectiveness of the ‘learning curve’ theory, because whereas the first wing had taken a good couple of hours to do, I finished the second in about 30 minutes.

So for the very first time since I’ve owned it, the Weedhopper’s identity was on display once again.

null

Here are some more shots of the finished wing. The cover didn’t pull up as tightly as the first one’s did but that won’t be a problem when the tensioning straps are applied when the wings are eventually mounted on the aircraft

null

null

null

So that was it. It had been a long day and there was nothing left other than to try to stow everything as securely as possible outside now, as I have no cover large enough to take the aircraft and its wings. So I did the same as when I’d assembled the X-Air’s wings and laid them together on the grass with a cover over them.

null

null

And the other bits and pieces, the struts and ailerons, I just laid on the ground under the aircraft, where there’ll have to stay until it can finally be assembled for weighing followed by taxi and flight testing, probably at the week-end or shortly after. Fortunately it appears that we can expect a period of pleasant dry weather in the meantime.

null

So that’s it for now. I was rather disappointed by how many dings and patches the wings had suffered under the stewardship of its previous owner(s) but there’s nothing much I can do about that, and they won’t look too bad when they’re mounted on the aircraft. While moving stuff from my ‘cave’, I came across enough bungie cord for the Weedhopper’s doors, so I’ll make the new straps up shortly.

What is more problematic is that the top panel that goes between the wings has openings in it for the parachute that was previously on the aircraft and the exhaust support that was needed for the original 582 engine. I’ll have to think how best to fill them as although MYRO’s old cover was red, it wasn’t in very good condition. It might do while I fix the proper one, which I’ll probably do with velcroed on patches.

But that’s for a bit later as tomorrow is time to get back onto the Savannah’s windscreen repair. And not a moment too soon either!

October 23, 2016

Ready to rock and roll

The repair work on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, is now complete. Apart from the usual checks on the engine, gearbox and carburettors, the work on the main fuselage has now all been done.

I still have a couple of holes in the panel – I have a 5000 ft altimeter which I’ll have to fit temporarily as I’d prefer to have a 10000 ft one, and I also don’t have a variometer (rate of climb/descent gauge), but the latter won’t prevent the aircraft being safely flown as it’s a secondary rather than a primary indicator.

Here are some shots of a finished door.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Here’s a detail of its hinge – I think it’s much better for having pop rivets rather than nuts and bolts.

null

Unlike MYRO, whose pod fitted snugly up against the cabin door tube, this one has spacers each side. The pod must be wider but it’s useful because it means that the door is well tucked in safely away from the external airflow reducing the chance that a door will be blown off in flight.

null

Here’s a shot of the cabin top. I couldn’t get hold of any suitable draught sealing strip so I made some up myself to go along the bottom edge against which the tops of the doors have to seal by cutting up a length of pipe insulation and sticking it on with contact adhesive. It doesn’t look too bad and seems to work well.

null

Now the prop. I’m delighted with its appearance – it could almost be a new one ๐Ÿ˜‰

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Now a general shot of the whole side of the aircraft.

Weedhopper 28AAD

A couple of shots from each side of the outside of the cabin.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

A general shot of the cabin interior.

null

And finally, the engine cover in place.

null

null

This is the first time I’ve put it on with the prop in place and indeed, it’s the first time that I’ve used it with a two-bladed prop as MYRO had three-bladed ones the whole time that I had it. I can only describe the fit as ‘snug’ but it goes on nicely.

I have to get hold of a length of bungie cord to hold the doors closed but tomorrow I can start on assembling the wings ready for them to be fitted. In all likelihood I won’t, in fact, as rain is forecast but let’s just wait and see.

October 22, 2016

That’s better

Things went today as they were supposed to, so compared to yesterday, I actually got quite a lot done. Today’s main task was to get the Weedhopper’s doors at least assembled and preferably, fitted, so I got cracking with that goal in mind.

I couldn’t start that early because the mornings are now becoming quite chilly and the area where I work is outside my back door, which doesn’t get the sun until after midday. But that gave me enough time to clear out and reset my wood-burner before getting everything organised so the day would run as smoothly as possible.

Within less than two hours I had the first door assembled and the only tricky bit was adjusting the drillings for the larger diameter new front tubes and the lengths of the cross-pieces to accommodate them.

null

The second door took half the time and here are the pair ready for the next stage, namely mounting them.

null

I found that with minor adjustments I could use MYRO’s old hinge plates that I made myself except this time I decided that I’d dispense with fancy nuts and bolts, which you never need to undo anyway, and use pop rivets instead. This meant that there would be very little adjustment in the hang of the doors so I had to take great care in positioning them just right. Here’s the first one that I did.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

And the doors open fully just as they are supposed to but this time, because I’d used pop rivets, there were no ugly bolt heads sticking up that I had to drill holes in the doors for so they could open fully without hitting the bolt heads.

Weedhopper 28AAD

And here are two final shots showing the cabin from each side.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

So today was much more successful than yesterday. Although the doors are both on, I’ve still got to finish securing the rear of the pod and the back of the screen to the cabin tube. It will go back easily on the left hand side but the other looks a bit more challenging, mainly because of the dent in the pod on that side that is forcing it out of shape. But I’m sure I’ll find a way round the problem somehow.

So to all intents and purposes, the repair and renovation of 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, is complete. Tomorrow I’ll finish all the little items that are still outstanding and then it’ll be time to think about assembling the wings. And then my mind will be able to turn to taxi and flight testing.

I just hope that the weather continues to hold – we’re expecting temperatures in the 20’s next week – because as well as finishing off the Weedhopper, I’d like to get the Savannah’s screen done too. I just hope that that’s not too much to hope for ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 21, 2016

Mama said there’d be days like this

I succeeded in finishing the Weedhopper’s prop last night and I’m delighted with the way that it eventually turned out. I managed to rectify all of the ‘bubbling paint’ problems and if anything, it’s better than I’d originally hoped it would be. So I couldn’t wait to get stuck into fabricating the new doors ASAP today.

I’ve got a painful little cut on the little finger of my right hand so thought that I’d stick a plaster on it before having my final mug of tea and getting started, so having put the plaster on, I picked up the mug – and dropped it. Tea went flying everywhere – all over the front of the microwave and worktop, down the fronts of the fridge and kitchen unit and also down the side of the latter in the gap between it and the fridge.

So nothing else for it but to start mopping all the mess up, which involved moving the microwave, coffee maker and everything else off the kitchen worktop, opening cupboard doors and drawers to mop up tea that had managed to enter inside them and pulling both the fridge and freezer out to clean around and under them. I have to say, what a great start to the day – NOT!

So all my thoughts of starting on the Weedhopper’s doors were banished for a good hour while I put Operation Big Clean-up into action. But eventually it was all finished and by this time it had gone mid-day, so time for a quick snack lunch before getting cracking on the more important stuff. Something quick and easy, hmmm. I know, a pot noodle!

I opened the cupboard door to get one out and a small bottle of Chinese sauce flew out all by itself and smashed, depositing glass and its contents all over the floor… ๐Ÿ™

And the day continued in very much the same vein. When I eventually got myself sorted out and was all ready to start assembling the first door, I found that my cordless drill was almost out of charge and didn’t even have enough power to drill through the door plastic. Evidently I’d forgotten to charge it after I last used it, so had to go to all the hassle of digging out my corded drill and running an extension lead to power it.

I’d drilled the plastic ready to pop rivet the top tube of the first door and had all of the rivets in place when I thought that I’d better count them to make sure that I had enough to do both doors. Naturally, I didn’t quite, so I had to abandon the job and go driving off to les Briconautes in Montignac to pick up some more 4mm diameter rivets to make sure that both doors looked the same.

I found what I wanted and had to join the end of an uncharacteristically (for les Briconautes) long queue. While I and those in front of me were waiting, two, yes two, old chaps decided to pay for their goods by cheque. The French habit, mainly by older people, of paying by cheque could make you scream as it takes easily five times as long as using a debit card. But still they insist and still we all have to wait in the queue behind them while they laboriously make their cheques out after checking the total at least two or three times and slowly adding their signature.

So by the time I got back home it was pushing 5.00 pm and the words of the old song came floating into my head. ‘You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…’ and it was pretty obvious that today was a ‘folding’ kind of day. So even though there was still a bit of sunshine and warmth in the day, I packed everything away. But not before I’d taken a few shots of the Weedhopper’s finished propeller. Here’s one of the blades.

null

And here are shots of each of its faces at the tip.

null

null

So I at least had the satisfaction of knowing that it’s ready now to go on. And in the immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara, ‘After all, tomorrow is another day’.

October 20, 2016

A step backwards

Compared to the success achieved the previous day with the varnish, what should have been a relatively quick and simple job of painting the prop tips yellow turned out to be a nightmare. The problem was that the ‘universal’ undercoat that I sprayed on as a base coat reacted like paint stripper with the yellow finish that was already there and caused it to bubble up.

This is not uncommon and usually happens when you don’t know the provenance of a finish that someone else has applied, as now. After cutting the prop tips down and rubbing down the bare wood to get it totally smooth, I’d then given the whole prop a coat of clear varnish. I’d then masked off the tips and applied a final, second coat of varnish to the rest of the prop before reversing the masking and lightly rubbing down the tips and giving them a light spray of undercoat as a uniform base for the new yellow finish.

In rubbing the tips down, I’d broken through the thin coat of varnish that I’d previously applied in one or two places exposing the old yellow finish that was already there and it seems that it was in those areas that the problem occurred. When something like this happens, there’s nothing else to do other than stop, allow everything to harden off and repair the damage.

The best way to do that is to isolate the affected areas and fix them with a material that’s inert to both the old and new finishes and will act as a barrier, and luckily I had such a product in my ‘atelier’ in the form of a special water-based ‘sous-couche bois’ (wood undercoat). It also had the advantage of having thickened over time so I could apply it quite thickly locally to build the levels of the damaged areas back up again without it running all over the place.

It’s been a slow but successful process and there were just a couple of small areas that needed re-doing this morning before rubbing them down again and moving on to where I’d hoped to be yesterday. Here’s a shot showing what I’m talking about.

null

Unfortunately, these lttle set-backs always happen and you just have to be patient and work through them. In comparison, I cut and bent the new door tubes the day before yesterday with excellent results and they painted up fine yesterday despite its being a damp, dull day. So at least I can now move on and finish fabricating the Weedhooper’s new doors.

October 18, 2016

Gorgeous

I was up early this morning so I could give the Weedhopper’s propeller a second coat of varnish with the possibility of doing another in 12 hours time, later this evening. However, I’m not sure that it’ll need another coat although I’ll see what I think when the time comes.

What I do know, though, is that its finish is gorgeous, as the following two shots show.

null

null

I can’t recall ever having used varnish as good as this before, perhaps because I’ve previously not come across such a fine marine quality product. The finish is not quite as perfect as the above shots show across the whole of the prop’s surface, but it’s still pretty good and indeed, much better than what I achieved on 56NE’s prop just a couple of weeks or so ago.

Whether I give this prop a further coat of varnish or not, it does at least mean that I’ll be able to do the yellow prop tips either early or late tomorrow. I’d like to leave a full 24 hours after applying the final coat of varnish, though, as I’d hate to apply masking tape and have it leave marks on the varnished surface.

So it looks as though the prop will be OK to fit this week-end, in which case if the door aluminium arrives today and I’m able to make up and fit the new doors, the Weedhopper will be more or less finished. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out – if it looks as gorgeous as its propeller I’ll be very pleased ๐Ÿ™‚

Hooray! The aluminium tubing for the doors arrived before 11.00 am so after lunch, I was able to cut and bend the two new door front tubes and give them a coat of bare-metal primer in advance of spraying them white. If I can do that this evening, I’ll be well-placed to get both doors made up and fitted tomorrow. Getting closer all the time!

October 17, 2016

Lovely job!

Or at least, it will be. I drove across to Brico Depot at Trelissac to find something to coat or paint the Weedhopper’s prop with. I decided in the end to do a proper job by rubbing it all down as I did 56NE’s, but without stripping the old coating off this time, to get a totally uniform finish.

After searching around I came across a small area hidden away among all the ‘environmentally friendly’, water-based varnishes that quite frankly are really only good for lightly used indoor surfaces, containing a range of proper white spirit based products branded Xylophene Color. These looked promising and up on the top shelf I spotted ‘Vernis Extรฉrieur Marin’, a very high resistance, uncoloured, high gloss marine varnish.

null

It’s described as having ‘reinforced impermeability’ and protection against UV bleaching so I thought it was worth buying and giving it a go. And after just the first coat, I’m not at all disappointed.

First I gave the whole prop a rub over with an abrasive sponge to give it a uniform unglossy surface and after making sure that I’d cleaned all of the dust off, applied the first coat of this varnish. The result is stunning! It’s given a fantastic, high gloss finish with absolutely no brush marks, so in most respects, it resembles what was the prop’s original finish. And that I’m extremely delighted with.

I’m going to give it a second coat before masking off the tips for painting, as I did with 56NE’s prop, and then I’ll probably apply two more so the prop will end up with a thick, highly protective, high gloss finish.

The only problem is that you have to leave 12 hours between coats and a further 24 hours for it to be fully cured, so the whole job is going to take two or three days. But I think that the final result will be well worth waiting for ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 16, 2016

Cut-down prop

Yesterday it was a lovely day – warm and sunny – and today was forecast to be the same. But it wasn’t. The sun never really managed to break through the cloud, so although I had arranged to fly today and had topped up the X-Air yesterday in readiness, I decided to back out in the hope that there’ll be a better opportunity during the coming week.

So I busied myself doing a few little things that I’ve been putting off and later on, when it brightened up a bit and became a little bit warmer, decided that I’d make best use of my time by trimming the Weedhopper’s ‘new’ prop down. I’d previously calculated that I needed to reduce it’s diameter from 67″ to 66″ so that’s what I cracked on and did. Here’s a shot of the tips that I cut off.

null

I took care to try to match the shape and profile of the cut-down tips as closely as I could to the originals and here are a few of shots of where I got to today.

null

null

null

Here’s a full-length shot of the prop after I’d trimmed it down and also rubbed down the small areas where it’s protective coating had been damaged and the underlying wood had become marked.

null

And finally, a closer-in shot of just one of the cut-down prop’s blades

null

I carefully weighed the prop after reaching the above stage and as far as I can tell, I was pleased to find that it’s still perfectly balanced in both planes ie suspended in its centre ‘flat’ and ‘on-edge’. That means that I can now go ahead and finish smoothing it down and then re-coating it, preferably with a clear epoxy-type varnish. I’ll have to see what I can lay my hands on tomorrow.

October 12, 2016

Oh no!

Every now and again something happens that shows once more that France still hasn’t quite caught up with the age of the internet. My order from ULM Technologie arrived as expected today and when the Postie handed me the parcel I could see immediately that they’d cocked it up. Here’s product code 50133 that I ordered listed in their catalogue.

null

And here’s a snip from their invoice that I received by email.

null

So I’m expecting to see a package 4 metres long arrive today and of course, what came? A single piece of aluminium tube of length 1 metre. Very stupid. So someone at ULM Technologie applied a unit of ‘1’, quite correctly for the product, but apparently nobody thought that it might be a good idea to put ‘length 4 metres’ in the description field. So that’s my work on the Weedhopper held up now for at least another 3 days, because this being France, nobody will consider sending the order out for next day delivery as they made the cock-up.

And this is the country that says it will steal all of the City of London’s Euro business after Brexit and move it to Paris. I ask you.

Edit…

I’ve just come back to say that ULM Technologie is claiming that although its catalogue shows a tube length of 4 metres, the tube is sold in units of 1 metre even though it doesn’t say so and that you’re supposed to know that, presumably by a process of telepathy. And this is how the French concept of ‘client service’ is applied – when I ask to speak to a manager, I’m told that nobody is available until tomorrow morning at the very earliest.

So I’ve paid 28,50โ‚ฌ for a piddling 1 metre of 12 x 1 mm aluminium tube including delivery and I’ve just gone onto Ebay Germany (because I want to pay in Euros) and ordered two lengths each of 1.5 metres of the same dimensions from the UK for 13,00โ‚ฌ, again including delivery. They have really lost the plot over here – and that’s the first and last order that ULM Technologie will be getting from me.

October 11, 2016

Think ‘wood’

Before I came to France, my house in the UK had gas-fired central heating, so I never had to bother about thinking how to keep it warm in the winter. But now I rely on my wood-burner (or alternatively, electricity that you pay through the nose for), at about this time of year I have to start looking forward to the coming winter.

I took the first step last week by getting a load of wood delivered, but I still need to get it cut and split ready for burning and safely stacked inside my wood store while the weather is still being kind to us. So as there was no sign of the aluminium that I need for the Weedhopper’s new doors, and I didn’t expect there to be until tomorrow, I thought that today I’d turn my attention to the garden.

First thing was to get out my ride-on mower and check its battery as it hasn’t been started up for several weeks. Not unexpectedly, it wasn’t completely flat but didn’t have enough power to start the engine, so on it went to the battery charger. While it was charging, I then turned my attention to my wood store which was in severe need of attention and in no state to take any new wood until it had been completely cleared out and cleaned up.

Spiders and other insects had had a field day during the summer months and the place was festooned with webs and dust. Everything had to come out before it was possible to make a start and while I was sweeping up all the burnable rubbish and thinking about starting a bonfire to get rid of it, the idea came to me that it would be a good time to go around the newly-terrassed area of the garden and pick up all the now dead and dry bits of root and branches that were left after Agrafeuil had finished their work and add those to the bonfire too.

So that’s what I did, together with as many of the large dead weeds that were also there, with the result that when I’d also finished cutting the grass, which is now lush and green again after having been burnt and brown for so many weeks, the day finished up being quite a productive one. Here are a couple of shots of my newly cleaned and cleared wood store, now ready to take the new stocks that I’ll have to start cutting and splitting in the near future.

null

null

So no work on the Weedhopper today but a day well spent nevertheless. Hopefully, the aluminium tube will arrive as expected tomorrow and I’ll be able to make up its new doors and bring the end of the project ever closer. I’ll have to wait and see ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 10, 2016

Come fly with me

OK, not quite, but almost! The Weedhopper is very nearly finished and if its wings were now attached, in theory, and I hope in practice also, it would fly. Today I repaired the EGT gauge connectors that were damaged when MYRO was recovered, connected and cable-tied the remaining cables and connected up the fuel system.

First, here’s a shot of all of the connections in the battery and voltage regulator area showing how I’ve run the choke cable and the ‘dedoubleur’ that I made.

null

Now all of the connections at the engine end showing how I’ve used pipe insulation as a handy sleeve to protect connectors and give a tidy appearance.

null

Now a shot from the other side of the engine showing how I’ve also bundled up the excess EGT and CHT sensor cabling in a similar pipe insulation sleeve. ‘Losing’ the excess cable was always a big problem on MYRO and this seems to have solved it.

null

My big disappointment was that I tested both the EGT and CHT sensors using a blowlamp and the only life I found was from one CHT sensor. THe EGT gauge is brand new and came with a note saying that it had been tested, so I don’t know where the problem is in that system as there was no reading from either sensor. Similarly, I don’t know for now why one of the CHT sensors isn’t giving a read-out as I’m pretty sure that both were when MYRO was flying.

Now the fuel system. This is the new fuel line at the engine end. There’s a main filter where the supply tubes enter the cabin from each tank as I’ll show in a minute, but I’ve also added this secondary in-line filter to be doubly sure. It’ll also give a visual sign that fuel is reaching the engine at start-up.

null

Here’s the arrangement that I’ve put together in the cabin. I’ve not installed MYRO’s old fuel pump because it’s only used for priming the engine and once the engine has been started just becomes dead weight. Instead I’ve fitted a hand primer bulb similar to what I have in 56NE. For safety, I’ve included a by-pass with a one-way valve so a blocked or damaged primer bulb won’t result in an engine stoppage but which will allow the primer bulb to work normally the rest of the time.

null

MYRO also had two Mikuni fuel pumps as all UK AX3’s should have but I’ve done away with the lower one at cabin level as X-Airs have a similar distance to pump the fuel up from the tanks to the engine and they only have one up near the engine and the system works fine.

Here’s where the main filter is located, in the well between the seats, with both tanks feeding into it.

null

And to end, here’s a final general shot of the rear of the engine showing the work that I did in that area today on the electrical and fuel systems.

null

So that only now leaves the new doors to be fabricated and fitted when the aluminium tube that I’ve ordered arrives from ULM Technologie, probably on Wednesday. Tomorrow I’ll busy myself doing small things like sticking on new top door seals and things like that, in readiness for getting ready for final assembly and, fingers crossed, test flying in the near future.

October 9, 2016

Very nearly there

Yesterday I succeeded in getting the Savannah’s cabin top panel ready to go back on so I can now go ahead and complete the work on its windscreen whenever I want to. But today I again concentrated on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, because I really want to get it entirely finished before the winter.

So today I re-timed the engine, connected up all the rest of the wiring and also connected the throttle and choke, the cables of both of which had been cut when MYRO was originally recovered. I’d only bought one new cable and outer, the latter of which I used to replace the lost piece off the choke cable, so luckily there was enough cable left on both for them to still be long enough to connect up. In fact I even had to shorten the choke cable a bit, although I had to trim the outer on the throttle.

But the important thing was that at the end, both of them worked smoothly as they should do and I was especially pleased to see that the ‘dedoubleur’, parts of which I’d made myself from aluminium tube and bar, worked fine and looked OK too. I’ll do some pics tomorrow probably, when I’ve re-routed a couple of things to tidy them up a bit.

Re-timing the engine was a little bit tricky. All of the ‘how-tos’ that you can find on the internet tell you that you need a dial gauge to accurately set the crankshaft to 18ยฐ before TDC, but I don’t have one and would prefer to avoid having to buy one. Victor suggested setting the crank to TDC, which is quite easy, and then rotating it by hand a given number of teeth on the starter ring calculated by counting the total on its circumference.

Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because you have to remove the starter ring to get at the ignition spark trigger units that you have to adjust, so I made up my own variation just using a sheet of paper.

First using my navigation protractor, I drew vertical and horizontal axes on it that intersected and then I drew a line at 18ยฐ before TDC that also passed through the intersection. Here’s a picture showing what I mean.

null

Then I took the sheet of paper out to the engine, which I’d already set at TDC, and put a small felt tip mark on the top edge of the flywheel and another opposite it on the crankcase. Then I placed the sheet of paper over the back of the engine such that the vertical axis that I’d drawn on it was dead over the two marks.

Then came the tricky bit. What I then had to do was adjust the paper keeping the vertical axis over the previous two points until the point where the axes intersected was exactly in the centre of the flywheel. This wasn’t as difficult as it sounds because placing the paper onto the end of the crankshaft and running your (dirty) finger around it makes a circular imprint on the paper and it doesn’t take much to get the point of intersection exactly in the centre of the circle.

Then it was a simple matter to use a small sharp screwdriver to place a mark on the rim of the crankcase where the 18ยฐ line intersected it. And that was it. All I then had to do was make that mark easily visible with another dab of felt tip and that showed exactly how far back the the mark I’d previously placed on the top of the flywheel had to be rotated.

Then all I had to do was adjust the ignition spark trigger units so they both lined up with the marks on the flywheel and adjust the gaps between them and the tiny pegs that are present on the flywheel surface (0.016-0.020″, 0.4-0.5mm). Obviously I won’t know how successful my method has been until I come to start and run the engine, but let’s just say that I’m quietly confident as the distance between TDC and 18ยฐ before TDC on the flywheel circumference is surprisingly large meaning that errors in measurement should be fairly small ๐Ÿ˜‰

So what’s now left to do? Well, not a lot really. The main breakthrough will come on Tuesday, or more likely Wednesday, when the aluminium tube arrives that I ordered from ULM Technologie. That will enable me to finish off the doors. In the meantime, I’ll be able to finish off running the fuel system, part of which I managed to do today before finally calling it a day at gone 7.00 pm. And tomorrow I should also be able to do the small repairs that are needed to the EGT gauge connections and get the wiring for those and the CHT gauge in. It really is now getting very close indeed!

October 8, 2016

AngloAds

When I first came to live in France just over 4 years ago there was a brilliant English small ads section one one of the ex-pat web sites that everyone used to use. It wasn’t that flashy but was dead easy to use and it worked. I bought and sold quite a few things using it and in its own way, it was also a good way to get to know other English speakers and ex-pats in your area.

But its owners were a business and it obviously wasn’t making them any money, so they changed it. With disastrous results – for its users anyway.

The number of users of the new system seems to have dropped dramatically and lots of people have been openly complaining how much more difficult it is to use in their ads, and especially to upload photographs. Certainly, I’ve found that whereas I used to be able to put items up for sale and sometimes sell them in hours, now they don’t sell at all, and when I do try to browse the new system, the photographs in the ads take an age to download and appear on screen.

And ease of use is important, of course, because the great majority of ex-pats are older, mostly retired people who quite frankly aren’t bothered whether a system is flashy or not and just want something that’s easy to use and works for them!

So rather than sit back and feel sorry about things, I decided to do something – and came up with a new FREE small ad system called AngloAds. It hasn’t cost me a penny, just my time, and will remain free just so long as it gets visitors and people make use of it. Here’s a shot of the main screen

null

And before anyone asks, no, it’s not supported by gimmicks or on-screen advertising. It has nothing like that – the web site is free, just like the system itself.

It’s very like the old system that people used to know and love and is just as easy to use. Except it’s better. Something that the old system lacked was a map showing where the things that were being sold were located and as France is a big country, it wasn’t unusual to find that something that had caught your eye was hundreds of kilometres away, even though it was in, or supposedly close to, your region.

AngloAds has a Google map so you can see instantly if it’s worth finding out if the knick-knack that you fancy is worth going after.

But enough to be going on with. Here’s the link to the web site.

http://angloads.rf.gd

The problem with any new internet idea is publicising it. What would be great would be if anyone reading this could share this My-Trike post and especially the above link. That way the search engines will get to know about it and people searching for an English small ad system will be able to find it, which will be a win-win for everyone. Except for the owners of the new system that people don’t like, of course ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 6, 2016

One of those days

You know the kind I mean… when things almost go your way but then trip you up at the last hurdle so you fall flat on your face. Well, that’s the day I had today.

I’d hoped to get the Weedhopper’s doors on today and things started very well. I had everything prepared and had cut both of the plastics out perfectly by late morning, and that was when Mr. Dumas, the wood man, turned up with my winter wood order.

I’d moved the Weedhopper so he could reverse his tractor and trailer around the back of the house because I thought the earth in the front would be a bit too soft, but he insisted on driving up the bank onto the front grass and in fact the marks he left weren’t that bad after all.

After depositing the 4 stรจres of mixed ‘chรขtaigne/chรชne’ (chestnut and oak) that I’d ordered we then embarked on the usual 20-30 minutes of social chit-chat that invariably occurs in France whenever you have a delivery or a visit from a local tradesman. Mr Dumas had noticed the Weedhopper and said he’d be interested in having a look.

We spent a good 20 minutes talking about it and ULMs in general and Mr Dumas also asked about the autogiros that he’d seen buzzing around overhead. What a sea-change difference compared to the usual attitude in the UK to ULMs/microlights! Then it was time for him to go as his lunchtime was approaching and I thought that I might as well grab a bite as well.

Here’s a shot of the heap of wood that he left behind which I covered up immediately with the old tarp that I’d had on the Weedhopper. It has a few holes and worn bits in it now but it should keep the wood dry enough if/when it rains before I can get it cut, split and in my wood store.

null

So that’s another job added to my list. I made a mental note to find a way to raise my wood splitter up to a decent working height as otherwise splitting that amount of wood will really do my back in!

Then it was back to 28AAD’s doors. I’d already decided that I’d have to use MYRO’s old hinges as the ones that were on the Weedhopper were nasty and corroded. But that gave me a problem because the door tubes had been drilled for them and the holes didn’t match the ones in MYRO’s old hinges.

And not only that, the tubes were of quite small diameter and would have been severely weakened if I’d just drilled some more in them. Easy, I thought, just use MYRO’s old door front tubes because they already have the holes in the right places.

But I was too hasty – they had been bent to go on MYRO and weren’t quite the right shape to go onto the Weedhopper.

And then I demonstrated the universal truth that if you’re lucky enough to bend a small diameter aluminium tube to the shape you want before you’ve drilled holes in it, if you subsequently try to change the shape even slightly, it’ll snap at one of the holes. Which it promptly did.

So that was it – time to pack up for the day. I ended up sourcing both a new set of stainless piano hinges and some more tubing and when both arrive, I’ll fabricate the door tubes and hinges from scratch. I only made the tubes last time for MYRO but I got the hinges as well this time because the old ones are now looking very tatty having been on and off at least two or three times, on the principle that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.

And as the doors will be off the menu tomorrow, which should be another reasonably bright and warm day, it’ll be an ideal opportunity to get back onto the Savannah’s screen repair, and in particular, the work that’s needed on its cabin top panel. I’m hoping that things will runs a bit more smoothly than they did today ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 5, 2016

Pop rivets

I have a love-hate relationship with pop rivets. Sure, they’re great for making things and joining things together really quickly and easily and for that I love them. But I hate them when I have to drill them out and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

I had to drill dozens out on the Savannah to remove its screen and still have a few more to go on the cabin top panel before I can effect the repair. And today I’ve been stripping the frame tubes out of the Weedhopper’s old doors which has involved me in drilling out a few dozen more.

But at least that part of the job is now done and tomorrow I can move on to cutting out the new plastics and making the doors up. And that’s something I’m looking forward to much more.

On a different note, I think I’ve just heard, but not seen, what I think must be the first wave of cranes heading south to their winter homes in Spain and North Africa. If I’m right, I think that it’s very early as we usually expect them to fly over us and overnight in the nearby trees in late October/early November. I hope it doesn’t mean that we’re in for a long, hard winter ๐Ÿ˜

October 4, 2016

Figuring out the prop

I’ve already mentioned that over the week-end I acquired a good used wooden propeller for 28AAD, my French Weedhopper. The prop came off an older, different version of the Weedhopper with a Rotax 532 engine and as 28AAD will have MYRO’s old 503 engine, I had to make a decision as to whether the prop would be suitable. I knew its diameter and pitch and here’s how I went about doing it.

The engine is fitted with a type ‘B’ gearbox with a 2.58 ratio and here’s the data that I knew. Firstly, the original GSC wooden prop that was fitted to UK AX3s was of 64 inch diameter and 46 inch pitch and secondly, it has been established* that the optimum prop for a 503 DCDI engine is of 68 inch diameter and 32 inch pitch.

* http://www.ultralightnews.ca/articles/rotaxproprecommendation.htm

Now I’m no prop expert but I’m assuming that the GSC prop was selected as being ‘optimum’ for the engine/gearbox combination. I contend therefore that these two points can be plotted on a graph of propeller pitch v diameter and that as the distance between them is small, they can be joined by a straight line as shown in the following image.

null

So now we can start playing with the data for the new prop, whose data is diameter 170 cms (67 inches) and pitch 100 cms (39 inches) and is shown on the graph by the blue spot, which is off to the right of the ‘optimum’ line. The conclusion therefore as it’s off the line is that it is not optimum for this engine/gearbox combination.

Nothing can be done to modify the prop pitch as that’s inbuilt into its design, but its diameter is variable and it can be seen that if it’s reduced to 66 inches (the green spot), then the propeller falls directly onto the ‘optimum’ line.

So my conclusion is that as its stands, the new prop is not ‘optimum’ for the 503 DCDI engine/2.58 gearbox combination, but it can be made so by trimming ยฝ” off each tip.

I’m not sure what this means in reality, however. It seems to me that the difference in diameter is so small that the change in prop performance could well be insignificant and not worth the work and effort involved. So what I intend to do is try it first as it stands and see what static revs it gives at full power. Depending on the results only then will I consider cutting it down.

October 4, 2016

More small steps

I had to wait in for a delivery this morning and after it had arrived I was able to pop down to les Briconautes in Montignac in search of the longer setscrews that I needed. Unfortunately, I could only find ones with a cross head that didn’t match the ones already securing 28AAD’s screen but I hope that when I’ve finished and everything is tightly secured I’ll be able to remove them and replace them with the shorter matching ones.

But at least I could then press on and finish securing the screen in place. I’ve not fitted all the fixings around as far as the door openings because I’ve noticed that although they were superficially the same, this pod isn’t the same shape as MYRO’s old one. I noticed several differences when I disassembled the Weedhopper that had led the last person who assembled it to use some unconventional rear pod fixings and door mountings that I’ll go into when I do them, as I’ll have to do the same.

But the screen is now sitting and looking well on the pod for all that.

null

And so also is the panel, which I was then able to mount permanently at last.

null

And because the panel was now in, I could also run the cables up the front tube and make the various connections that will eventually make the panel live.

null

And the last thing I did today was make what is called in France a ‘dedoubleur’ for the Weedhopper’s choke cable. I bought one a week or so back that turned out to be much too large for a little ULM like 28AAD as the next picture shows. I needed it because although the top components of MYRO’s old one were were recovered, its body and bottom had been lost.

null

Victor suggested that if I bought some short lengths of aluminium bar and tube of the correct dimensions, there was nothing to stop me making my own ‘dedoubleur’ parts, so that’s what I did and that’s what the delivery was this morning.

It didn’t take too long and although the results aren’t as pretty as a more competent engineer would have produced, the finished item, the left one of the two originals in the above picture, doesn’t look too bad and, more importantly, will do the job. So the new one will be going back soon for a refund.

The next job will be to make up new doors. One of MYRO’s old ones suffered damage and a tube of its frame was broken, and although both look better than those that were on the Weedhopper originally, they now look tatty against the other new plastic. The old Weedhopper doors both have good frames so I’ll be using them in conjunction with new plastic based on the shape that I developed for MYRO. But that’s for tomorrow.

That will leave only one major job, re-timing the engine, for which ideally I’ll need a dial gauge. I don’t have one so I’ll have to think how I’m going to get around that one.

October 3, 2016

Getting closer

Still a little bit to do but I made good progress again today by fitting the cabin top plastic, the new screen and the instrument panel. And in the process, demonstrated yet again that in reality, fitting a Weedhopper screen is really a two-man job.

The problem is that with the screen in place, your arms aren’t long enough to hold the bolts or setscrews that attach the screen and panel to the pod on the outside while tightening their nuts, that are inside the pod. And single-handedly drilling fresh holes in the screen and panel top through the existing holes in the pod is a simple enough job but is also a bit of a nightmare because ideally you need someone to hold the parts steady to stop them moving while you’re drilling.

But I managed to do it today, apart from getting the last screw secured on the left hand side of the panel because there was a bit of a gap left and the only ones that I had were all a bit short. Again, I could probably have done it with a helper pushing and holding everything together but I’ll have to get hold of a longer screw tomorrow to finish the job off. But 28AAD is looking more and more like a complete ULM at the end of every day, as the following shots show.

null

null

null

null

null

null

So what’s left to do? I need to finish installing the panel and connect all the wiring, fabricate and fit two new doors, finish installing the fuel system, connect up the throttle and choke cables and re-do the timing, as I remembered today, because when I fitted the new stator I disturbed the ignition pick-ups. Then aside from making up and fitting the wings, the job will be more or less complete. However, its back is now broken, as is mine nearly also, from climbing in and out of the cabin backwards to put Mole grips on the under-panel nuts, and barring any unforeseen problems or mishaps, I’m hoping that it might all be done by the week-end. Too optimistic? Well, here’s hoping, anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 2, 2016

Another positive day

Closer inspection of the stator assembly this morning did indeed confirm that in my haste to reassemble 28AAD’s generator two nights ago, I hadn’t correctly installed the plate on which the stator is mounted. Unfortunately, it once again took a little bit of disassembly to get at it, but once done, it didn’t take too long to rectify.

Then this time I took my time putting everything else carefully back together and sure enough, when I’d finished everything looked OK and the engine turned over smoothly.

null

Now a few shots of the propeller that I bought yesterday. It’s far from new but is in extremely good condition for its age and looks good on the Weedhopper.

null

There are a few areas of light wear and tear, mainly on the leading edge as you’d expect, and although I could leave them for the next owner to deal with, I think that as I’ll probably be trimming the propeller’s tips anyway, I’ll lightly rub them down and seal them locally with a little clear epoxy.

null

The condition of the prop is far too good to even think about rubbing it all down and revarnishing, the way I did with 77ASY’s prop, because 99% of it is in good shape under what appears to be a very high gloss plastic finish.

null

So the next job is fitting the screen and panel, but the screen could’t go in until I’d decided what to do about the cabin top plastic. The Weedhopper’s old one was not in very good shape and also had a large rectangle cut out of its centre to accommodate the ballistic parachute that used to be mounted on the aircraft.

On the other hand, MYRO’s old one was dirty and slightly damaged with holes drilled in it that now didn’t quite match where I’d ideally prefer them to have been for mounting it on the Weedhopper.

So nothing else for it. As the new sheet of 1mm plycarbonate that I recently bought is big enough to do the two doors and the cabin top, I needed to make a new one. So that’s what I did, using the parts from the Weedhopper’s old one as they were less worn than MYRO’s, and here are the results.

null

null

It just needs rubber side strips and it’s not fixed on in the above shots but that won’t take long to do. The task that will need special care, though, will be using a soldering iron to make two holes in each side of the fuselage rear cover to take cable ties to tie the back of the cabin top down.

It appears that the person who previously fitted the rear cover never got around to doing it, so presumably the back of the cabin top had been left flapping. If so, from now on it’ll be fixed the way it should be ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 1, 2016

A good day

We had heavy rain last night and it was forecast to be wet all day today. So not a good one for working outside, but I didn’t have to as a few days ago I spotted a wooden prop for sale on Le Bon Coin and today I arranged to go and see it. As it was at Carcans in the Gironde, one of the small airfields we flew into last year during our west coast tour, I knew that it would take most of the day, so it was a good day to make the trip.

It turned out to be as good as the seller said it was in his advertisement so I ended up buying it. It actually came off an old Weedhopper with a 532 engine, the precursor to the 582 which is on my X-Air, so is not absolutely ideal for my Weedhopper’s 503. But it’s very, very close indeed. My calculations show that it will be pretty much perfect if I shave a mere 12mm off each tip.

I tried it on the Weed when I got home and it looked great. Because I’m using MYRO’s old engine I can also use its specially tailored engine cover that includes a pair of zipped prop blade covers. As it was originally made for a UK AX3 the blade covers were made to take an old GSC wooden prop. As such, they go onto the prop that I’ve just bought but are a tad too short, so if I shorten the blades by the amount that I’ve mentioned, the cover will be spot on too.

No photographs today but I’ll share some together with my prop calculations tomorrow. And I’ll also be able to finish the stator install. I popped the flywheel off the engine when I got back this afternoon and it looks as though in my haste to reassemble the engine yesterday evening, the stator carrier plate hasn’t properly seated in its housing and the flywheel is fouling it when its securing nut is tightened up. If so, it’ll be a quick job to fix, but I can’t confirm that until I can get my hands on it again in the morning.

So hopefully it’ll be possible to put a few things to bed tomorrow, which I’m pleased to say is forecast to be warm and sunny again ๐Ÿ˜‰