April 21, 2017

Well pleased!

Another glorious day – hardly any wind, blue sky and a high of around 20 degrees Celsius. So I got my grass cut and I’m not long in from testing out my fuel rig with its second pump fitted.

It pumped 25 litres from one jerrican to another non-stop against the stopwatch in 5½ minutes, so that was something over 4½ litres per minute. At that rate it means that I’d be able to do an average tank top-up in 10-12 minutes, possibly a bit less, allowing time to move between the tanks, which is more or less what I was aiming for.

The issue that I’ve had in mind the whole time, though, has been accidental spillage and the arrangement means that that is virtually impossible unless somehow the operating button sticks on when a tank is full or something like that, which I think is highly unlikely. I was also pleased to confirm today that by tilting the jerrican backwards, the system drained the last drop of fuel out of it as it was intended to do.

So I have ended up being quite a happy bunny at the end of the process and now I need to find out if that’s confirmed in practice, which I’ll be able to do in the near future as I haven’t topped 77ASY’s tanks up since Victor and I did our last flight in it. Until then, I’ve made a nice hardwearing cover for it to keep it clean while it’s standing in the hangar and here are a couple of shots that I took of it.

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We’ve got a few excellent flying days coming up through to at least Monday with very light winds and temperatures in the low to mid-20s, so I’m optimistic about getting some flying in. Not tomorrow morning, though as I’m giving Wim a hand, but Sunday and Monday should definitely be on 😉

April 20, 2017

More fuel rig

The last bits that I needed to fit the second pump on my new fuel rig arrived last Saturday so I took the opportunity to do the work in the afternoon before dashing out for dinner with Madeleine and Victor in the evening.

Although I really want to have both pumps mounted horizontally to save space, for the time being I decided that I’d save time by mounting the second one vertically as I did the first one. Here are a couple of shots showing how I did it.

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I didn’t have much time to test the rig with the second pump in place and didn’t have much fuel to do so anyway, but from what I could see it was pumping considerably faster than before.

I haven’t been able to do any more in the intervening days because I’ve been a bit under the weather but I’m now more or less back on form and should be able to do some proper tests tomorrow, before I embark on cutting the grass. So keep watching this space 🙂

April 13, 2017

Quick catch-up

Summer has come early down here in the Dordogne, at least for the time being, and we’re making the most of the thermometer hitting the mid-to high twenties with wall-to-wall sunshine day-after-day for the past week or so. There seems to be no end in sight and although some rain and temperatures in the high teens are possible next week, experience tells you that forecasts for this part of France are often not worth the paper that they’re printed on.

Last Saturday was a super flying day so I planned a local jaunt of 215 kms with Victor joining me as passenger. Here’s a shot of the route, taking in Belvès in the Dordogne, Montpezat in the Lot et Garonne and Ste Foy la Grande in the Gironde, the whole flight taking just under 2 hours including the planned take offs and landings.

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You must have DGAC permission to land at Belvès, which I have, and although I’ve landed there several times, Victor had up to Saturday only ever overflown the airfield. Here’s a shot of him standing next to 77ASY after we’d landed, taxied up to the aeroclub building and parked.

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Here’s a shot of yours truly at the same location – I must remember to hold my stomach in more in the future because I’m not convinced that it’s really that big 😉

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Here are some general shots of the Belvès aeroclub’s very attractive little building complete with its own control tower.

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One of the hangars on the airfield had its doors wide open but apart from us, there wasn’t another soul to be seen there. This seems to be the pattern this year – almost everywhere we’ve been so far, the airfields have been deserted with little flying going on. The exception was Ste Foy la Grande a few weeks ago, where there was a fair bit of activity, but sadly the usually excellent facilities on the various airfields we’ve visited have appeared to be sadly under-utilised.

By the way, for anyone wondering, most ULMs in France only show their départementale registration (for my Savannah, 77ASY) and do not carry their ‘F-Reg’ even though if they have an approved radio fitted they do have one.

I’ve kept the ‘F’ registration that I attached to my aircraft because it was needed when I flew to the UK last year and will be once again if/when I do so again this year, which I do intend to do. It’s noticeable though, that the Savannah is usually the only ULM parked on the aprons here with its F-Reg on display.

After Belvès, we flew on to Montpezat as planned. Montpezat is the base of the largest Rotax agent in this area and the last time I landed there was in Spring 2015 when Wim and I had just embarked on our west coast tour. As we approached this time around I expected the same babble of pilots’ voices on the shared frequency but on this occasion it was uncharacteristically quiet. And on such a lovely day too.

The last time we came, Wim and I had landed on runway 33 but this time we came in over the lake to runway 15, taxied up to the ‘Acceuil’ and shut down. All was then quiet and peaceful! There was just one young fellow swatting up on his ‘400 Questions’ for his licence and in response to my request, he said that although Montpezat’s excellent restaurant was closed, the coffee machine inside was working.

A couple of very fair coffees for 50 cents apiece was the order of the day and the friendly lady manning the desk said that it was a shame that this year they have lots of aircraft in their hangars but only three or four are ever taken out to fly on week-ends. I really don’t know what’s going on, but I just hope that things change soon because with France being so blessed with such a host of excellent little local aerodromes with superb facilities, it would be a tragedy if for any reason they began to whither away through lack of use.

Here are a couple of shots of the ‘Acceuil’ at Montpezat and 77ASY parked opposite it in the same spot where I’d parked my X-Air, 56NE, two years before.

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After passing a pleasant half hour in conversation at Montpezat, it was time for us to head off for Ste Foy la Grande. In the time that we’d been there, only one other aircraft, a Skyleader (many €€s!!) had landed, on runway 33, and as this was the closest one to where we’d parked, we took off in that direction. This was actually very handy because the ‘straight out’ heading was dead on track for St Foy, so after taking off we just kept on heading in that direction and slowly climbing.

As we approached St Foy, it became clear that something was stationary and blocking the threshold of runway 28 and that ‘something’ turned out to be a glider waiting for an aero-tow tug to arrive. Why they couldn’t do that on the adjacent taxiway I don’t know, but although I joined, flew a circuit and overflew the glider before starting a go-around, they proved unwilling to do anything about making the runway safe.

So under the circumstances, we decided that we might as well just carry on and fly straight back to Malbec without landing at Ste Foy, which was a bit annoying as it meant that we arrived back at Malbec earlier than planned. And paid the price. Because of the heat of the day, which had not by that time had a chance to die down, the approach into Malbec was very turbulent to say the least, which it wouldn’t have been if we’d arrived the best part of an hour later. The outcome was that yet again I ended up high over the threshold as a result of turbulent lift from the trees just ahead of and below the runway, the result being another hard landing.

I have to say that I’m getting a bit sick of this – landing conditions at Galinat were very similar but there you had plenty of runway and could float and land half-way down and still need power to get to the top. That isn’t possible at Malbec and if I just stick the nose down to counteract the lift on final, I run the risk of exceeding the flap max speed limit of 100 kmh.

If I don’t stick the nose down and just pull back on the throttle, the aircraft being of slatted-wing design, drops like a brick, which is why it’s so easy to end up landing heavily in such conditions. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m seriously concerned about getting a bent undercarriage at this rate, even though it’s built like a tank.

So what else has been going on? I now desperately need to get the X-Air up on Le Bon Coin to find a new buyer, but before I can I need to do a couple of jobs on it to get it into ‘perfect’ shape to sell. The easiest job was to get the EGT gauge working again after the connections that I’d made onto it had broken due to vibration, and I definitely wanted to get that done by the end of this week.

I found that the pre-existing cable that I’d re-used for the gauge was single strand, which is why it had snapped, so I had to replace it with flexible multi-strand hi-fi cable. This unfortunately meant dropping the front of the panel, but I completed the work earlier this evening and the EGT gauge is now functioning correctly once again.

This now leaves the stator. I’ve been aware for some time that the 582’s stator is faulty as evidenced by mag drops that are massively different. I still have the stator that I removed from the Weedhopper’s (MYRO’s old) 503 engine following the ‘incident’ during assembly last year. I’ve tested it on the meter and the readings appear to be correct, so it may well not be damaged. In that case I have nothing to lose by trying it on the 582 – if it works and runs OK during extended ground testing, I’ll give it a go in the air. If it doesn’t, I’ll go ahead and order a new one.

With a bit of luck and a fair wind, all will be clearer come the end of this week. And with Easter Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week looking similar to the weather we’ve been enjoying for the last few days, with a bit more luck I’ll be able to get at least one more decent flight in 😉

Just back to add that the second fuel pump for my new fuel rig arrived from China on Wednesday. However, although I have the necessary hose and clips to install it, I’m still waiting for its end fittings to arrive from Hong Kong, so I’ll have to remain patient until they do.

April 5, 2017

What we have to contend with

The work I’d planned on my house has had to be deferred, at least for the time being, until the Brexit situation resolves itself. It’s not that I think that my situation and that of other UK citizens in France will be threatened – it would surely be totally illogical for even the French to kill the goose laying the (pension) golden eggs that are shoring up both their economy and their housing market – but with the £ Sterling having fallen to a level of around 1.17€ to the £, I don’t think that the work would be economic.

I read a report from Barclays the other day that with the £ now being seen as undervalued and with clear threats emerging to the € in the coming months, they think that the rate could recover to around 1.30€ to the £ by around the end of the year and could even rise further. If that happened, all bets would be back on again, but for now I’m resigned to leaving my planned work on the back-burner.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t pressing matters to do with it to attend to. When the contractor removed the large lime tree that was just a few feet from the front of my house and afterwards ‘terrassed’ the terrain to give a gentle slope up from the front of the property they left behind a nightmare that continues to haunt me. The ground here is packed with stone, not to mention bits of builder’s debris like broken tile etc from when the place was first built, and as soon as it’s disturbed it all comes to the surface.

And that’s what happened when the above work was done, as the following shot of the slope that was created, shows.

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My front grass is pretty poor because of it but I can’t just leave the bare earth because (a) it looks awful and (b) it soon gets taken over by massive weeds that can grow up to waist height. So I have to get some seed down, but how is that possible with this amount of stone on the surface?

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And those aren’t just little bits of rock – some of them are pretty hefty.

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The answer, of course, is that it’s not. Before I can even think about grass seed I have to get rid of all of the surface stone and level the ground. I started on the job the best part of a year ago after buying a good strong rake and a garden roller. The area I chose was at the northern end of the house and I found that it was back-breaking work.

I managed to get a bit done, though, but pretty soon the weather became hotter and the ground became too hard to rake, so that was it. I had to call a halt and the small heaps of stone lay where I’d left them until a few days ago, at which time I decided that I’d better get my finger out before the same happened all over again and things would have to be left for yet another year.

So I started yesterday by collecting all the stone that I’d already raked up and loading it into my small trailer to go to the ‘déchetterie’. Then I got cracking again on raking. It was tough work but I managed to make a bit of a dent in it by the end of the day as the following shot shows.

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But with the weather forecast to become warmer and dryer over the coming days there was no chance of any respite and I was resolved to break the back of the work by the end of today or break mine in the process. And luckily I succeeded in the former.

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So now the worst of the stone has been raked up into heaps ready to be collected and taken to the ‘déchetterie’ and the place looks a lot better for it. But that is far from the end of the story. There’s still a bit more to come and then the ground will have to be made more level, plus there are also quite a few holes to be filled in. The contractor left me with some topsoil for that purpose and hopefully I’ll be able to get that done before the weather becomes too dry.

I doubt that I’ll get the area seeded this side of the summer, though, and experience has shown that if I try to, the summer sun will just kill the seed and prevent it growing. So I’ll have to think about seeding in the autumn before it starts to get too cool and that will probably mean that I’ll have to re-treat the area with weedkiller to stop the damn things taking it over again. That may not be a bad thing, though as then I’ll know that the new grass will have the best chance of getting its roots established without having to fight against weeds that would otherwise be trying to strangle it.