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.