November 29, 2016

Still moving along

OK, the Savannah’s new high level panel is now done and ready to be installed as soon as I’ve repaired the face of the aluminium tray to which it attaches. Here’s a shot of it that I took a few minutes ago – a pretty good day’s work I think.

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I was scouring the internet last night for a sheet of panel switch labels and the only one that I can find that has a reasonable delivery cost is in Germany. Even that’s very expensive, so I’ll keep looking for now.

But I did decide to bite the bullet and order a new set of Aveo Powerburst strobes at the best price that I could find from aeroshop.eu in Lithuania.

Even though they blow a big hole in my budget after paying for my car repair(!) it doesn’t make sense to do all the other work involved in replacing the Savannah’s screen and then to wait until the new year before fitting new strobes. I’ll just think of them as being a somewhat expensive set of Christmas lights 😉

Just after I’d finished typing the above, Victor dropped in – in his car. In such a relatively short time after his accident, he’s driving so now he’s pretty much independent and big congratulations to him for working so hard and doing so well. There’s no keeping him down and it was a pity that we could only celebrate with coffee as it was a bit too early in the morning for anything any stronger 😀

After a quick bite to eat, I zipped over to Malbec with my now charged-up mower to give the runway what we hope will be the last cut of this year. Mind you, it’s a double-edged sword because if the winter stays mild, which we hope it does, it’ll keep growing for sure and may need cutting again. Here are some shots after I’d finished off.

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And here’s a final shot looking straight down the runway.

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Doesn’t it just make you want to open up your throttle to full power and accelerate down the centre line for one of those perfectly calm but cold autumn flights? It does me 🙂

November 28, 2016

Coming along

For some reason I overslept this morning so the day got off to a late start. After trying to decide what to do I thought that as it was on the chilly side but bright, I’d nip across to Malbec and mow the runway. I had to abandon that idea when I found that my ride-on’s battery was totally flat.

So I then turned my attention to my new high level panel front and this is where I eventually got to with it.

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The picture shows it in its coat of special primer. Tomorrow I’ll give it a spray of light grey and hopefully be able to finish it off with its switches and circuit breakers in place. Each switch has an associated 10A circuit breaker – from the left: fuel pump, radio, strobes. Then on the other side, the landing and cabin lights that share a circuit breaker with the clock/timer that I’ve ordered from China and will go into the rectangular cutout. On the far right will be the 15A panel master circuit breaker.

The layout has worked out nicely and I think that it’ll be much nicer and more useful than what was originally in the aircraft. The circuit breakers are a bit higher than I would have liked – I think that 5A for each with a 10A master would have been ample, but I wanted to re-use the ones that were already in place.

The clock/timer will have elegant blue digits and as it will have an accuracy of 2 seconds a day and comes with battery backup, there should never be too much of a problem with its being inaccurate. I think that it’ll be handy having it and not having to consult your watch while navigating, but only time (geddit..) will tell 😉

November 27, 2016

Last ‘hurrah’ for 2016?

Possibly, as I’ve got family arriving soon and staying for a few weeks over Christmas and New Year, so I’ll not have the freedom to take off whenever I want to while they’re here. But today was just too good a flying day to miss, especially as I haven’t flown anything since back in September, with a lovely almost cloudless blue sky this afternoon, very little wind and a high of around 19 degrees C.

So Wim came up with the idea of a little local flight taking in Galinat and Condat, which would give me the opportunity to get a few landings in, before returning to Malbec. Here’s the route he suggested.

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On climb out from Malbec, I took the opportunity to overfly Victor and Madeleine’s house as our good friend is now home from hospital, but hobbling around on crutches. As I expected, he’d heard the engines and was outside giving us a wave, so I did a quick circuit before heading off for Galinat.

I saw Wim going in ahead of me and landed after he’d had a chance to clear the runway. I was delighted that my first landing for over two months was a perfect greaser 🙂 After a quick stop, I went off for another, which was another good one, and then we both left for Condat with Wim leading the way.

Once again, Wim landed in front of me and we found that although there were vehicles there, the doors were open and the hangar was empty, so they were also off enjoying the flying weather. Here are some shots of 56NE and the Red Baron on Condat’s apron.

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As there was nobody around, we decided to head for home and drop in at Victor’s. Wim again went off first and he’d landed back at Plazac before I overflew his airfield and turned for Malbec, where once again I pulled off a deliciously smooth landing. Very satisfying! Then it was covers on and round for a couple of drinks with Madeleine, Victor and a couple of friends. A great way to end a very pleasant day.

November 26, 2016

All now clear

As soon as you examine the rear of the Savannah’s little high level panel you understand why whoever ‘installed’ (and I use that word very loosely…) it butchered the front of the tray in which it’s mounted in the way that they did.

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They thought that they’d go all ‘Airbus’ (once again) and mount switches on the left hand side with their associated circuit breakers above them. Only one problem. Height of switch plus circuit breaker is greater than panel height. So what do you do? Obvious innit – get out your tin snips and cut off the upper bar of the front of the tray in which the panel is mounted to provide the extra height you need.

Ah… but there’s a 90° angled length of aluminium attached to that which acts as a bracket that pop rivets holding the cabin roof panel are fixed into and if you do that you therefore lose a section of roof fixing. No problem! Only take out half of the tray top bar (on the side where the switches are) so the roof bracket is only half hanging off and when you offer up the panel front, put in two more pop rivets – one in each corner – through the panel front and the bracket. Then the panel front helps to support the cabin roof – OK, it’s not as strong and will prevent anyone else removing the panel front in the future, but hey, that’s their problem 😐

Some people should not be allowed anywhere near an aircraft with a sharp tool in their hand. I’ll be able to repair the damage as previously mentioned by making up a complete false tray front onto which the roof bracket will be secured and the panel front mounted. However, I’ll have to redesign the panel layout so the switches and circuit breakers are mounted side-by-side rather than vertically, but that shouldn’t be too difficult with the useless fuel flow indicator out of the way.

By the way – notice the loose washer that’s dropped off and fortunately been secured under a bodge up of washers used as spacers on the top left (in the above image) circuit breaker, necessary because the correct fittings had been lost. I ask you, a circuit breaker costs about 5€ – someone decided not to replace the one whose fittings had been lost and ended up risking an electrical short as a result of the loose washer, in a multi-thousand euro aeroplane. How bloody stupid is that!

November 25, 2016

It gets worse!

I earmarked today for stripping out the Savannah’s unwanted fuel flow indicator and any associated wiring together with the high level panel front that is going to have to be extensively modified. I didn’t know what I’d find but thought that I was ready for any shocks that I might come across. Little did I know!

I had to get back into 77ASY’s fuselage through the access panel behind the cabin and here are some shots that I took in there, only after I’d completed the work that I had to do, so there are no hanging wires etc to see.

The shot below shows the fuel collector tank where the fuel supplies from the two wing tanks join up, with a single supply then feeding the engine outside along the bottom of the fuselage.

ICP Savannah fuselage interior

ICP Savannah fuselage interior

ICP Savannah fuselage interior

The Savannah really is built like a ‘proper’ aeroplane and I find its structure quite impressive. I can’t say the same though, about what I found when I searched to find the cabling for the fuel flow indicator to strip out. The reason was that there wasn’t any – someone had already cut the sensor cables and just left them hanging there against the fuselage side.

OK, fine, you say, but what about the fact that the indicator unit up-top was still connected to power? Was there no chance that the bare sensor wires that had been left were still live and could therefore short out – right next to the fuel collector tank? I shudder to think 😕

So I ended up taking out all of the extraneous cable, including what I’d left in place the other day, so gradually 77ASY is being restored closer and closer to its standard state. Then it was the turn of the high level panel. I had previously found that I couldn’t get it out even after removing the three securing screws because of two small pop rivets that someone had put into its top edge.

Here’s the panel after I’d drilled them out, disconnected the switches and cabling and removed it.

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And here’s what was left afterwards. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Here are some more shots from different angles.

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It appears that for some unknown reason, someone in the past had butchered its front in the most shocking way imaginable. I do not know how anyone, even the most ham-fisted buffoon, could treat a structure in such a way, but they obviously could and did.

That now leaves my with the problem of how to make good the destruction that they’ve left behind. I considered removing the complete panel tray structure and fabricating a replacement but had to reject the idea because it’s been covered in a black carpet-like material together with the rest of the cabin ceiling and ripping it all out would just be too much of a job.

No, I’ll just have to fabricate a false front as well as the panel to fit onto it. It won’t be too difficult with thin gauge aluminium and shouldn’t take too long to do. And at least I’ll know that underneath it all things will be more or less as they should be 😐

November 22, 2016

Some people!

Here’s a shot of the back of the high-level switch panel in the roof of the Savannah’s cabin – and remember that this was AFTER I’d cut out and removed all of the unnecessary wiring!

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The connection to the red power cable that was ‘insulated’ using masking tape is shown in the foreground and yes, it is the main power supply to the switch panel for all of the circuits that the panel controlled – fuel pump, radio, strobe lights, landing light and cabin light. So quite an important lead.

Imagine if that had shorted out and the radio had been lost right in the middle of an important call to ATC. And without the fuel pump, would it have been possible to start the engine? I don’t know. But just look at the state of the wiring and how haphazardly everything has been connected – obviously done by someone who hadn’t a clue what they were doing.

And that big black lump on the left of the panel as viewed in the above image, what’s that all about? Here’s another shot of the panel but viewed from the front this time.

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The unit doesn’t seem to do anything when the master switch is on even when the button is pressed, so initially I had no idea what its function was. It turns out that there are a couple of clues – on the gauge itself there’s the word ‘elba’ and on its body the words ‘M & G Ultralight’. If you google those words you find the following LINK.

It turns out that whoever originally fitted out the Savannah was a total nutter and/or an aspiring Airbus captain with pips on his shoulders, because the unit is a fuel flow indicator. According to the link, it also tells you how much fuel is left in the tanks and how much longer it will last at the current rate of consumption.

What? Who on earth needs such information when flying this kind of aircraft? It’s not like a car – you can’t say, ‘Oh, fuel’s getting a bit low, we’ll drop into the next airport we pass and fill up’. That’s not how things work – you should know what your aircraft’s fuel consumption is at the rpm that you’ll be flying at and plan your landings according to the endurance you have available, with at least a half to one hour’s reserve. Then you check the airfields on your planned route to see where you need to put down for fuel.

In my opinion, a fuel flow indicator gadget is just that – a gadget – and has no role to play. It’s just extra, unnecessary weight, so working or not, it’ll be coming out. I see that the current cost of this one is just over 300€ with a single sensor and almost 600€ with two. Anyone spending that kind of money on this kind of gadget would need their brain testing I reckon.

And this isn’t the only indication that the original owner was a bozo – he also fitted an electric turn indicator, yet another hefty instrument that does no more than a slip ball because it’s illegal to fly an ULM/ultralight in anything other than VFR conditions and anyone who thinks that they’re capable of doing so, even with an electric turn indicator, is in for a nasty shock. I know as I’m an IMC rated pilot.

But now I have all the information on this top panel that I need in order to proceed. The first thing that I have to do is fabricate a new panel front and I’ll probably do that with all new switches and contact breakers before removing the old one as they are all now pretty old and are not that expensive. It seems that I’m now being dragged into work way beyond just the fitting of the new screen, but I think that eventually it’ll be well worth it.

November 21, 2016

Marking time – well, almost

Not much visible progress on the Savannah today but my time on it was actually very well spent. I need to get ready to replace the cabin top panel. The wiring to the switch panel in the cabin roof is only readily accessible when the roof panel is removed and as this isn’t something that you want to do unless it’s absolutely essential, now’s the time for me to deal with any wiring changes and problems.

And I’ve already noticed a few of the latter. There was a disconnected blue wire with masking tape around its bare end and a join to what I suspected is the main positive feed to the switch panel also ‘insulated’ with masking tape. And that’s before even thinking about what changes I’ll need to make to fit a set of working strobes.

Insulating any electrical connection with masking tape is a big NO-NO! The main reason is that it’s just not durable enough – basically it’s just made out of paper and when it chafes, which it can do very easily on any kind of moving vehicle, it rubs away to expose the wire beneath. Then if you’re lucky you pop a fuse or a contact breaker, if you’re not you get an electrical fire, so you only ever use masking tape for what it’s intended for and NEVER to insulate electrical connections.

I started by seeing what was going on with the existing strobe system. I soon found out that the cables from each wing strobe dropped down into the back of the cabin, together with the blue wire that had been cut. The Savannah has an access panel in the bottom of the fuselage behind the cabin and when I removed that, I found out what was going on.

There evidently used to be a heavy, old-technology strobe box mounted down there because the wires from each tip strobe were just dangling in the space and the blue wire had obviously once been its power supply. So that solved that one. As the strobes that I intend to fit each just require three cables (power, earth and a synchronising connection cable between the two units) which the existing strobes already have, all I had to do today was remove the cabling that will no longer be required which thankfully included the blue wire ‘up top’ with its end bound in masking tape.

Then I turned my attention to the wiring into and out of the switch panel. Quite frankly, it’s appalling and whoever was responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves. Sure enough, the masking tape bound joint does become live when the master is switched on, so I’ll have to deal with that. Also, the panel itself is scrappy and its wiring a confused cat’s cradle, so that’ll all need to be sorted out as well as the connections ready for the new strobes when I eventually fit them.

I’ll be much happier when I know that the cabling is up to standard and luckily it’s something that I’m pretty good at and enjoy doing. I’ll also have to make up a new switch panel front as seeing how badly the current one has been thrown together and how difficult it is to remove to get access to the switches mounted on it, I’d never be able to sleep if I left it as it is 😉

November 20, 2016

It’s in!

Or should it be ‘on’? I don’t care. All I know is that the Savannah’s screen is now in place, fitted exactly how it should be, and I’m mightily relieved about that.

And despite all my misgivings about having to single-handedly hold the screen under tension in-situ and line up all the holes for the pop rivets that are needed to secure it, everything went remarkably smoothly for a change. But the first job was to remove all of the old adhesive left on the panel top after I’d removed the old covering. I used white spirit and scraped it off with a wide-bladed wood chisel and it came up much better than the last time, actually.

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Then it was time to move on to the really tricky bit, namely pop-riveting the new screen in place. It’s tricky because you have to use all of the old holes in the screen frame tube and as if it’s not bad enough just getting the holes in the screen to align with them, you also have to align the holes in the capping strips as well, while working ‘blind’.

Whoever mounted the last screen had tacked it into position first with four pop rivets, two on each side, one low and one high. However, they’d obviously done it before the wings were fitted because although it was an easy matter to insert pop rivets into the lower holes, it was impossible to do the same with the upper ones as they are behind the edges of the wings.

And if the screen isn’t held firmly enough in position, it moves before you know it making it very difficult to get all the holes aligned that you need to. So I devised a method of my own that did away with the need for the upper pop rivet tack on both sides, and this was to firstly ensure that all the holes were clear enough for rivets to slip into them smoothly when aligned, then to semi-pop one into the very top of the screen frame through both the capping strip and the screen (inside the wing root space actually) so the capping strip could still rotate but the screen was held firm, and then to tightly pop in the lower tack.

This ensured that the screen was held firm and aligned with all of the rivet holes in the screen frame and the capping strip was aligned through one hole, making it easy then to rotate it so all of the holes could be lined up and riveted. I did the passenger side first because there are cables running down the screen frame on that side that need to be covered by the inner capping strip and it was easier to deal with those without also having to hold the screen under tension.

Then I moved on to the other side using the same method. It was a bit more difficult because of the need to place and hold the screen under tension as well as align all the holes, but it worked and after a bit of heaving and struggling, the panel was at last secured in position. Here are some shots taken at that point with the inner capping strips not yet in place.

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The screen doesn’t fit perfectly because there’s nothing attaching its lower edge to the top of the panel – the fit relies on the tension exerted by the mounting pop rivets pulling it rearwards and downwards. This can, and does, leave a bit of a gap between the screen and the airframe, although nothing like as large as is shown in the above pic that was taken before the final mounting rivets were in place. Even so, I now understand why there was a bead of silicone sealant along the outside of the bottom edge of the screen, to fill and seal the gap that ultimately remains.

It was then just a matter of slipping the inner capping strips into place and riveting them to the inside of the door frame. This involved aligning them with holes in the rears of the main capping strips that were fitted when the screen was secured. However, this was more time-consuming than difficult because of the need to do do a nice, neat job on parts which are highly visible inside the cabin. Here are the shots of the finished job.

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Compared to the last time the screen was fitted, I’ve taken much more care with the rivet fixings that secure the screen to the two vertical tubes by placing fairly thick rubber washers between the plastic and the metal. These have a dual role because there is quite a gap between the plastic and the tubes and without the washers, the screen is domed inwards by an excessive amount. These washers almost totally prevent that happening, as the next shot shows.

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So at last the Savannah has its screen back making it look more like a proper aircraft again. The work isn’t finished, though, because the cabin top panel, that has been in my lounge for weeks and weeks, still has to go on.

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Before fitting the top panel, I’ll have to sort out the wiring for the strobes. I intend to fit a working set but doubt that I’ll do it until the new year. However, that needn’t stop me connecting up the switch and running the necessary cables through the wings, which I’ll hopefully be able to do tomorrow before at last finishing the work off and giving 77ASY a good clean inside and out. It needs it, very badly 😉

November 19, 2016

Off and on

Off came the Savannah’s new panel top covering, so hopefully next time it’ll be ‘third time lucky’. Today I trimmed down the one that I stuck on the other day but as I still couldn’t get the new screen to sit properly, it had to come off.

Sticking the next new one in when the screen is in place will be much less of a problem than doing a proper job on the screen install without damaging it while the panel top covering is in place. The trouble now is that I’ve got to get all the adhesive off that I carefully applied to the top of the panel, and if it wasn’t for that I could have had the new screen in by now 😕

So I had to leave that job for the present as I didn’t take a chisel with me to Malbec to remove the old glue but as I’d taken the Weedhopper’s new battery with me, I was able to switch jobs, remove its old flat battery and fit the new one. It didn’t take long and afterwards I soon had 28AAD out on the piste, still without its wings of course, and ready to fire up.

It started up after a few swings of the prop and as the engine warmed up, I was pleased to see that all of the gauges were working as they should. Having buckled myself in, I was then ready to do some taxy checks. First I headed down the runway and was happy to find that the brakes, which I’ve not done any work on yet, were working OK and easily pulling the aircraft up at low engine revs. After arriving at the bottom of the runway I then applied a bit of power to turn round so my nose was pointing up the slope.

The temperatures were all good so I slowly increased the throttle up to take off power. The aircraft shot off up the runway like a scalded cat, but before closing the throttle again, I was delighted to see that the engine achived just over 6000 rpm with a bit more still to come. So on this initial evidence, it looks as though the cut-down prop will be fine.

I repeated the process once more with the same results so it looks as though MYRO’s trusty old 503 engine, which only has 65 hours on it after being completely overhauled including a new crank, has come through its period of storage in good shape. So as far as the Weed is concerned, it’s now just a matter of attaching the wings and trying it out as it’s all good to go.

I wish I could say the same about the Savannah… 🙁

November 17, 2016

Sigh….

I’m not making very fast progress on the Savannah, mainly because of the weather. Every day is a re-run of the one before – dull, so dull that I can hardly see what I’m doing in the Savannah’s barn, cold and damp. In fact I’m really getting a bit worried that with its screen out, the Savannah is now beginning to feel damp inside its cabin.

Nevertheless I decided that I’d place the new screen into position to see how it looked. It was tricky getting it into the 2CV but I managed to in the end by putting it in through a rear door and then rotating it upwards. When I placed it into position on 77ASY I was disappointed to find that it was miles out – not the shape of the screen, which must be right as I used the old one as a pattern, but because of the new panel top covering that I applied the other day.

It’s too big all round, both to the front and the sides and it’s preventing the screen from sitting down into its proper position. So it looks like my original idea of fitting it after the screen is in place was right. All I can try doing now is take the old pieces of covering that I’ve still retained, place them on top of the new covering and mark the latter before trimming it back in-situ with a sharp knife. If that doesn’t work then I’ll have to take it out and start over again after removing all of the new adhesive that I applied to the top of the panel.

It looks as though we can expect tomorrow to be even cooler than today with cloud and rain all day, so whether I’ll be able to do anything in the morning before dropping over to visit Victor in the afternoon I doubt. Things could begin to improve a little after that with some sunshine and even a high of 15-20 degrees on Monday, so I’ll just have to be patient and see how things turn out. But it’s becoming very annoying 😐

I had to order a new battery for 28AAD, my French Weedhopper. I placed the order on Tuesday evening and it arrived by 10.00 am this morning by delivery company GLS. Proper service from Batterie Megastore!

November 15, 2016

Grabbed the opportunity

I decided after all that it would be better to fit the Savannah’s new panel top covering before trying to fit the screen. My plan for today, therefore, was just to produce a ‘final’ version of the covering ready for fitting tomorrow, which is forecast to be a little bit warmer than today. So using the pattern that I made yesterday, I cut out a new piece of covering and took it over to Malbec.

It fitted beautifully and although it had been cloudy with a chilly dampness in the air earlier on, by then the day was brighter and had warmed up a bit. So I decided that I might just as well zip down to Brico Jem in Rouffignac, buy a small can of contact adhesive and stick it on straight away.

It was a bit tricky getting it into exactly the original position because it tried to grip as soon as it touched anywhere on the panel top but in the end it didn’t go on too badly, as the following pics show.

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I’ll probably have to trim the edge a little in one or two spots when I fit the screen but that should be easy enough with a sharp knife. But at least I can at last go ahead and replace 77ASY’s damaged screen, which hopefully will be tomorrow 🙂

November 14, 2016

Back on the job

The most important one that is, namely the repair of the Savannah’s screen. It was way back in August that the damage was caused by a fuel spillage and weeks ago that I removed the damaged screen and prepared the aircraft for a replacement to be fitted.

However, the repair was then delayed when material that I’d ordered from the UK to cover its panel top with got as far as Brive but then sat in the depot there for more than two weeks because the delivery company, the thoroughly useless DPD-Chronopost, decided that they couldn’t be bothered to deliver it.

So I then had to turn my attention back to reassembling 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, to avoid having it standing outside for another winter and that forced me to put the Savannah work onto the back-burner, much as I hated the idea.

But now the time has come to complete the work because the Savannah has been unflyable all this time and its cabin open to the air with just a sheet over where its windscreen should be, and the last thing I want is for that to start deteriorating when the weather turns more nasty. And not only that, but we are expecting what may be the last couple of warmish days this week, so it should be an ideal time to complete the work.

I bought two alternative fabrics – one a foam-backed leatherette material and the other a black felt-type fabric of the type often found in car boots. I’ve decided to go for the former because I’ll be able to Velcro my navigation tablet to it without the risk of it falling off, so today’s job was to prepare the panel top for the glue that I’ll use to attach it and to make a ‘first cut’ of the material as a pattern. The supplier sent more than enough material for several attempts so I’ll hopefully be able to get it right and make a nice job.

Here are some shots of the first try.

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The pics look better than the real thing and tomorrow I’ll cut another piece and hope that it’ll sit nicely on the panel top and snugly around the two tubes that rise up from the front to the top of the screen. Then I’ll go ahead and fit the screen as it’ll be easier to do that without the new panel top covering in place, and then stick the panel top material into position.

With a bit of luck, I should be able to get the whole job finished in a couple of days which will make 77ASY flyable again, but I’ve decided that I’ll also need to order a new length of metal edge trim to finish it off properly as the one that’s on there currently is a bit messy and has been cut a tad too short. That can be fitted ‘at my leisure’ and shouldn’t take too long to be delivered in any case. Just so long as the supplier I choose doesn’t use DPD-Chronopost 😐

November 13, 2016

2CV drivers beware!

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One of the hazards of driving a 2CV in rural France. Last night I was returning home after enjoying dinner with Victor who is still in hospital but insists on escaping on his crutches whenever he can for a bit of fun. It was dark, rainy and a bit misty and all of a sudden a large wild boar sauntered out of the woods on the right straight in front of the car!

I slammed on the brakes, if you can call it that in a 2CV because its brakes are decidedly ‘France ancienne’ agricultural, and that’s being polite. I was amazed that all four wheels did actually lock up, although it was probably only because the road was wet and covered with leaves.

Just before our worlds collided, the boar must have heard the sound of the slipping tyres or revving engine and luckily for us both, did a skip and a hop across the road and disappeared into the trees on the other side. Fortunately he was a big old lone male because although the sows are just as big, they very often have a stream of piglets in tow. I hate to think what damage would have been done to the front of the 2CV if we had come together.

We’re used to deer jumping out in front of us, usually in pairs, and they can do plenty of damage, but those big old boars are built like a battle tank 😐

November 11, 2016

Quintessentially French

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In this part of the world, the minor rural roads are so narrow that when two vehicles travelling in opposite directions have to pass each other, we are quite used to putting two wheels onto the often quite bumpy adjoining grass verge as we do so. Unfortunately, a couple of days ago I stupidly managed to drive off the edge of the road unintentionally during which I managed to hit something rather hard and put my front suspension out.

The Kia is therefore now languishing in the garage until Monday as today is a ‘jour férié’ (public holiday) and without it I’d have been totally stuck. My pal Victor, who’s still in hospital following his accident back in the summer, came to the rescue and when I left it there I picked up his beautifully restored Citroën 2CV which I’ll be using while mine is being sorted. Luckily I established beforehand that it’s not mandatory to wear a beret or have a pencil moustache while driving it, although both do help immensely of course.

Because I have neither, the little tinker wouldn’t let me start it this morning and it took me quite a while, while all the time receiving all sorts of contradictory advice about pulling out and pushing in the choke by phone from Victor’s hospital bed (figuratively speaking). It turned out that the trick is to release the starter key at just the right moment, not to hang onto it and keep spinning the engine, and if you do that it then coughs into life as though it’s just finished enjoying its first Gauloise and black coffee of the day in the quintessential French way. Luckily though, it can’t spit.

I then just managed to get to the Carrefour Contact in Rouffignac before they closed as much of the journey is uphill and whizzing along at top speed is purely relative at 80 kmh. But in any case, due to the Duckling’s suspension, the wisdom of old age tells you that at any higher speed, you’d be putting your life on the line, especially if there are any bends of any significance along the route.

Mind you, it’s great fun so long as you don’t want or need to get anywhere quickly, although Victor tells me that he drove it all the way to Southern Spain and back. He isn’t as considerate or understanding towards it as I am though, and said that he had to stop every now and again to allow the exhaust, that at times was glowing red hot, to cool down. On the other hand, he has been known to be somewhat prone to exaggeration 😉

I came home on the top road around the back of Plazac and with the Autumn colours, the sun on the Limousin cows chewing the cud in the adjoining fields, the old local stone houses with their characteristic bi-sloping roofs and the Deuche’s little air-cooled engine chugging away up front, I could almost have been driving along in the ‘France ancienne’ of 50 years ago that we all remember so fondly and is the reason why so many of we oldies are all living here now. Absolutely lovely.

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When I drove out of the Carrefour car park, an elderly chap was puffing and blowing riding his bike up the sloping entrance to do a spot of shopping before the store closed for the day. Now he did have a beret and pencil moustache and you could tell he was the real thing because he had a wooden chateau bottled wine box with one side removed strapped to his handlebars as a kind of luggage pannier. Such panache, and we smiled at each other as we passed. If I stay long enough in France, I hope that I acquire effortless style like that 🙂

November 3, 2016

It didn’t happen

Today was earmarked as the big day – 28AAD’s first flight from the cow field just down the road from my house to Galinat, to check its landing characteristics and then onwards to Malbec.

I’d phoned the landowner and he had kindly agreed to allow me to take off from his field once again and Wim had also kindly agreed to give up his day to give me a hand. I’d emailed my insurance broker last night to ensure that the flight would be covered and there were just a few small things to do first thing this morning before moving the show down the road.

Before Wim’s arrival I’d made up another 5 litres of fuel from the mogas that I still had in my ‘cave’, giving a total of just under 25 litres, way more than enough for the planned flight, made up a little bracket to mount the pitot on, recovered the ‘missing’ length of plastic tubing for the airspeed connection from MYRO’s old left wing and also recovered MYRO’s old wing tensioning straps that are the ‘proper’ ones and much better than what were originally fitted on 28AAD.

So when Wim arrived, all we had to do was solve the wing retaining pin problem (done by following the manual and removing the wing battens), remove the wings and check-start the engine before transferring to the cow field. And that’s when it all went pear-shaped.

After having owned MYRO for about 8 years, having kept its starter key safely for over 4½ years and having used it extensively over the past few days, I couldn’t find the key for the engine anywhere. I’ve been keeping it with the keys to my other ULMs on the window sill but it was nowhere to be found. I searched high and low, but because I’ve always put it back in the same place, I actually didn’t have any real idea where to look.

So after a delay during which Wim even dashed home and brought back the Red Baron’s key to try (no, it didn’t…), we decided that all we could do was move 28AAD over to Malbec by trailer. So that’s what we did, in two trips, after stripping the sides, front and back off my trailer as I’d done when I first brought 28AAD down to Plazac.

It was such an anticlimax. We agreed that I’d have to go ahead and order a replacement key (luckily one of MYRO’s previous owners had made a note of its number in its old Owner’s Manual) and that we’d have to find a suitable day in the next week or so to reassemble 28AAD so it would be ready to fly when the key arrived.

After the second trip to Malbec, there was no need for Wim to return to my place so I went off home to tidy everything up. It took a while because I had to reassemble the trailer as well as take all the bits and pieces out of my car that I wouldn’t be needing again and put the tools, covers, stepladders and goodness knows what back from where they had come. It was while I was emptying my car out that I took out the torches to replace them in the drawer in which they are kept – and there, stuck to my spare car remote was the starter key.

Too late to do anything by that time, but I was still glad to see it because ordering a replacement by number alone could have created its own problems. How did it get there? I don’t really know – it certainly wasn’t supposed to be in that drawer. I can only summise that I’d used my spare car remote two days ago to unlock my car and then left it in my back pocket for the rest of the day.

I’d then dropped 28AAD’s starter key into the same pocket when I’d been clearing up at the end of the day two days ago and somehow it had become jammed in the fob tag or the keyring so when I’d dropped the remote back in its drawer, it had gone in too. And when I felt that the pocket was empty, I’d just assumed that I’d already replaced the starter key back on the window sill with the others, dammit!

Still, as Wim said when I phoned him up to tell him, ‘All’s well that ends well’. How true in this case – but how ruddy inconvenient 😐

November 1, 2016

Another good day

In every way, actually. It was another beautiful high-pressure day for working outside on 28AAD, my French Weedhopper, with a high of around 21 degrees Celsius and no wind to speak of, and I also got a good bit done.

The first thing that I tackled was the non-working rev counter, which was easy to solve. An elderly male spade connector hadn’t mated properly with a new female one (shades of real life there…) and the wires had become unplugged. A few moments making the connection gave a fully functional rev counter, so then it was on to the next task, namely the CHT gauge.

Only one half of the dual gauge was working yesterday and I was pleased to find that when I switched the connections over, the fault moved across to the other side. This indicated to me that the connections were OK but that one sensor had failed.

Luckily Victor had generously passed over to me a couple of almost new sensors that were surplus to requirements on his Rans S12 because, like my X-Air, it has a water cooled engine. As they were in much better condition than the old ex-MYRO sensors that were on what is now 28AAD’s engine I was going to switch them anyway, and when I did sure enough I had a fully functional CHT gauge.

So, two out of two so far – could my luck hold with the non-functioning EGT gauge or had the sensors been damaged during MYRO’s recovery (the gauge is brand new)? One side of the gauge had seemed to function intermittently so I tried jiggling the connections a bit. One connector, that I’d recently repaired, snapped so that was probably the source of the ‘intermittent’ problem.

So I thought that I’d check the other pair, and found that when I connected either sensor on the ‘working’ side of the gauge, I got a reading. So both sensors seemed to be working and then it looked as though all I had to do was leave the working sensor connected and repair the connection that had snapped on the other side of the gauge. And sure enough, when I did that the dual gauge worked exactly as it should.

So that was three out of three and as the afternoon was drawing to a close (curses on this playing around with the clocks – we need the lighter afternoons and evenings, not the mornings) it was time to call it a day with another good result under my belt.

The weather is forecast to start getting a bit cooler after today with rain forecast for Saturday but I hope that if I can sort out 28AAD’s brakes tomorrow and get to the bottom of the wing pin problem I’ll have flown it over to Malbec and have it under cover by then. I hope so anyway.