May 30, 2017

So what’s going on?

Regular followers of My Trike will no doubt have noticed by now that there’s been a singular lack of activity here for over a month. Indeed some have and have contacted me about it and grateful thanks to those who with great kindness have expressed their concern for my well-being.

So now according to my policy of not shying away from any subject to do with my life here in France, it’s time to come clean and ‘spill the beans’, so to speak, and there are two things that I need to mention.

First off, the easy one. Back at the end of April I did a very silly thing, something I’ve never done before and which I ended up paying a price for, albeit nothing like as high as it could have been.

While sitting in 77ASY as its engine was warming up ready to take off, I noticed that I’d left the cables down at the entrance to the runway at Malbec.

Common sense and hindsight now say that no harm would have come from leaving them for the short time that I’d have been away but we do not always do common sense things. Instead, as the aircraft was only idling and facing up the slope of the runway, I decided to get out, replace the cables and return to my seat.

The Savannah does not have a parking brake but despite all my experience telling me that you should NEVER leave any aircraft unchocked with its engine running, I then proceeded with this plan. Things went smoothly until just as I got back to within 3 or 4 seconds of resuming my place, the aircraft began rolling.

I had no problem dodging the prop and leaning into the cabin which I had no chance of re-entering due to the aircraft’s motion but it was at that moment 77ASY’s left main wheel ran over my left foot trapping it and causing the aircraft to turn even more sharply in a leftward circle than it was already doing. From that moment on I was just a passenger and observer of events.

The outcome was that the aircraft completed a turn through 270 degrees before striking the front of a hangar and coming to rest. And it was at this point that Lady Luck decided to smile on me rather than make me pay what should have been a much higher price for my folly.

Despite my experiences, aside from a few minor cuts and bruises, I was unhurt. My left trainer was slightly damaged but had stayed on preventing what could have been quite severe damage to my foot as it had been dragged across the runway surface while trapped under the left main wheel. But what about the aircraft itself?

Miraculously, the right wing missed striking a hangar upright by a centimetre or less, so there was no damage to the airframe. The prop hub struck a tubular upright in the hangar door to within a few millimetres of its centre point smashing the spinner in the process but causing the prop to slow down without causing any other significant damage.

The aircraft was then brought to a halt when its nose wheel came into contact with the wooden panel that fills the space below the hangar door when the engine also came to a stop with its prop blades shattered.

Despite sounding somewhat brutal, the whole process was quite progressive and surprisingly gentle and although I will ensure that the engine is extensively ground run and monitored before taking it back into the air, it still turns over smoothly and I am fully confident that it did not suffer any shock-load damage.

It only took a few hours and just over 100€ to repair the hangar door, so that was easily done. On inspection, 77ASY’s nose leg turned out to be slightly bent, so I ordered a replacement for 170€ including new fittings and delivery, not a lot of money I thought.

I also had to order a new prop, of course. The 912 ULS version of the Savannah has a 3-blade Duc Swirl as standard. All three of 77ASY’s blades needing replacing (one had already had a small tip repair done at some time in the past) as well as a new spinner and the total cost came to something over 1600€ including delivery.

But there was an alternative. Research and an already known contact revealed that a beautiful brand new 3-blade scimitar prop and spinner could be sourced from the Ukraine for about half of the above figure, so that’s the route that I decided to take and the items should be arriving any day now.

So just a matter of doing a small fibreglass repair on the nose wheel faring and putting the aircraft back together then. But not so fast! That’s when item number 2 came into play with a vengeance.

I’m sitting typing this in a small private room in Perigueux hospital after ending up in Emergency in the night of 8/9 May with severe chest pains for the second time in a week. As on the first occasion, the amazingly kind, thoughtful and experienced staff subjected me to every test on my heart known to man, I think, before declaring that it was as strong as an ox’s and that the source of the pain was somewhat of a mystery.

After an ultrasound scan, they proposed to take a closer look via an angioplasty, which they did. Afterwards they asked how I felt, which was terrible. They said that this was not normal and within an hour I’d been given a CT scan within another hour of which I was on the operating table having a severely infected gall bladder removed. No drama, no crisis and the whole process as smooth as silk.

But that was the upside. The few days after the operation were gruesome in all kinds of ways and I won’t go into the details but when I was in a fit state to receive the news I was told that there was more to it.

Although they’d needed to remove more than usual because of the extent of the infection, the operation had been a success. However, they told me that unfortunately during the course of the operation they’d come across some suspect ‘ganglions’ which, on investigation, had turned out to be the result of early stage lymphoma.

Naturally I was knocked back by this as I feel well with absolutely no symptoms of disease whatsoever, the more so as since having the infected organ removed I am eating better than I have done for some time. I have been told that this is because the disease has been caught at a very early stage by chance solely as a result of the gall bladder operation.

This is a bonus, of course, if there is such a thing under such circumstances. I have been told that I’m likely to have to face a 6 month course of chemotherapy which will, indeed, be worse than the symptoms that I’m experiencing but that at the end of it my prospects will be excellent.

So that’s the idea that I’m focusing on. There’s a possibility that I might be leaving here for home by the end of this week after which I’ll be able to move on to the chemo treatment. If that’s how events transpire, I guess that I’ll have to write off most, if not all, of the rest of this year as regards playing with my ULMs, but I guess that’s a small price to pay if things go as planned.

I hope that I’ll still be able to get all three back flyable even if yet again I don’t get the X-Air and Weedhopper sold but obviously I’ll need to see how I feel during the extended chemo process. And I also imagine that there will be the odd hiatus in My Trike during that time, although I definitely don’t intend to be defined by my ‘illness’ and hope to be able to carry on as closely as normal while events transpire.

And before I end I have to pay tribute to the amazing team of people who’ve been looking after me over the past few weeks. You could never find a more caring, friendly, capable and indeed funny bunch than I’ve been privileged to come into contact with here in Perigueux. It’s been a long and occasionally painful few weeks and but for them it would have been a hard time to bear. Somehow just saying ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough but that is all I can do.