April 22, 2018

Marvellous!

After the high winds and turbulence of yesterday, today was a gift from the weather gods. A high of 27 degrees C had been forecast which you’d have thought would have meant more of the same, but in fact it started off rather dull and a bit cloudy with no hint of a promise of better things to come.

I did a bit of washing and hung it out as you have to if you don’t want to run out of underpants and socks and then left for Malbec as I’d intended to do, in order to give the runway another good cut at a much lower level. All went well and although it had warmed up a little by the time I’d finished, it still remained dull with a hazy, indistinct horizon and no wind to really speak of.

I’d taken the keys to all of my three aircraft with me but hadn’t really thought about flying when it dawned on me that today was the perfect day for testing out the Weedhopper. So after putting the ride-on mower to bed, I pulled it out of the barn and taxied it across to the top of the runway (the entrance to the field is conveniently just wide enough for it to go through).

I’d already walked the runway and found it to be much firmer than it was even yesterday when I flew the Savannah so while allowing the Weedhopper’s engine to warm up for a few minutes at the top of the runway I sat in the cockpit mulling over what to do. Should I do a few more high speed taxi runs or should I go for a take off, and if so, after another high speed taxy down and back again or not?

There comes a moment when the time for testing is over and you just have decide to go for it, and this was that moment. As I looked down the runway I opened up the Weedhopper’s throttle and decided to do just that.

And what happened? After a take off roll of probably less than 100 metres, it lifted off beautifully and soared into the air without a hint of drama. It was just like old times, like being back in MYRO again, except it seemed to feel a bit more stable and to have a bit more power despite having the same engine.

I adjusted the trim for a bit more nose-up and turned a bit right of runway heading so I could turn back left again 180 degrees for a straight-in approach to Malbec’s runway just as I’d done umpteen times over the past twelve months in the model I’d made of Malbec in X-Plane while I was unwell. But this time it was for real, and so much more exhilarating.

On final I had to pull the power back quite sharply because despite the day still being relatively cool compared to yesterday, there was still plenty of thermal lift trying to force me upwards. So as I was only a short way out with a runway of only 160 metres to land on, I had to keep concentrating on keeping my approach low and my speed within limits to avoid the embarrassment of having to dump the Weedhopper down with too much groundspeed.

But it all turned out nicely. Visibility from the Weedhopper is superb, much better than either the X-Air or the Savannah and despite any trepidation that I might have had, my landing was good if not totally textbook. But this was a relief nevertheless, as a first landing in an unfamiliar aircraft always is, and I taxied up to the top of the runway and shut down. There I did a thorough walk round and visual inspection to ensure that nothing had dropped off or was loose and it was time for another go.

I hadn’t taken any charts or anything else with me to Malbec, just the aircrafts’ keys, so this was not a time to be venturing too far afield much as I would like to have done. So I went for another take off and landing, which this time only took 5 minutes as I didn’t have to spend any time warming up the engine. I continued my landing roll up to the top of the runway and turned round again for another take off.

This time I flew straight out before turning left and flying over Victor and Madeleine’s house. I didn’t think that they’d be there and sure enough I couldn’t see a soul, although Victor has since told me that he was there working on his Mehari and saw me fly over.

Then I turned a bit more to the left to fly over Wim and Sophie’s place. Once again, I couldn’t see anyone on the ground, but thought that this wasn’t surprising as I know some family members have just arrived from Holland for a visit. However, Wim and Sophie were both in a field not far from their house and also saw me fly over.

So then I continued to turn left to avoid over-flying Chateau Fleurac and Fleurac village itself for another full-stop landing back at Malbec. And another respectable one, making three-out-of-three leaving me with a feeling of satisfaction and a smile on my face.

Time to put the Weedhopper back in the barn, but before I did so, a few shots to commemorate the occasion of its first flight after all my renovation efforts.

AX3 Weedhopper 28AAD, Dordogne, France

AX3 Weedhopper 28AAD, Dordogne, France

AX3 Weedhopper 28AAD, Dordogne, France

AX3 Weedhopper 28AAD, Dordogne, France

AX3 Weedhopper 28AAD, Dordogne, France

And that was it. A day that was especially poignant for me and a source of great satisfaction after all the work I’d put into getting 28AAD airworthy after its previous owner’s landing accident. Now I can’t wait to do it all over again, this time going further afield. And there should be time enough for that during the coming week despite there being a forecast of a down-turn in the weather for a day or so.

And the next thing I look forward to after that will be having my Weedhopper flying alongside Wim’s single seat version, something which I think will be good fun for both of us. Bring it on is what I say!

April 20, 2018

What a day!

Come what may, I intended to do my planned flight today taking in Galinat, Condat and Sarlat Domme. I did all my planning and downloaded my route into my GPS last night and when I checked the weather this morning it was almost identical to last night’s forecast – wall-to-wall blue sky with winds variable from the east to the south-east with gusts up to about 12 kmh. So relatively benign, it seemed, and a good day to do my first flight for over a year.

Here’s a pic of my intended route, dropping into Galinat then Condat, then doubling back again to Galinat and back once again to Condat before flying south to Sarlat Domme and finally back to Malbec.

null

The one thing we have to look out for down here, though, on days like this is thermal induced turbulence and with today’s high being in the region of 28-30 degrees C, there was almost a cast-iron certainty that there would be a big build-up of thermals as the day progressed. So I really wanted to get away pretty smartly from Malbec with the aim of being back shortly after lunch time before the thermals had too much of a chance to build up.

But then the inevitable happens. First you get delayed leaving home and then when you’re preparing the aircraft, unexpected things crop up. Like my landing light, that I found was loose and will require a more secure fixing. For the moment though, as the next shot that I took at Galinat shows, I just duck-taped it in to make sure that it couldn’t fall into the prop.

null

Finally, after fixing one of my little sports cams to the right wing strut, I was ready to take off, but at gone 11.00 am, which was a bit later than I would really have liked. But no worries – as I took off, everything felt immediately familiar as though I’d never been away from the Savannah’s controls, let alone for over a year. The new scimitar prop felt great – I was up and away in well under 100 metres and as I climbed away over Victor and Madeleine’s house, then I spotted it. The ‘Remove Before Flight’ tag hanging out of pitot.

In my haste I’d forgotten to remove it – a lesson learned – but I wasn’t too worried. If I can’t land the Savannah at Galinat by now without a proper airspeed read out then I shouldn’t be flying at all, and so it proved. A perfectly good landing that I was very happy with after such a long lay-off. It was great to be back at Galinat and here are some shots that I took there.

Savannah MXP740 at Galinat

Savannah MXP740 at Galinat

Savannah MXP740 at Galinat

Then on to Condat. Here’s a shot that I took of Montignac as I passed by.

null

After I’d landed at Condat, again not too shabby a landing at all, that’s when my time plan really went by the board. The reason was that Roland, the airfield owner, and his wife were working getting it ready for the season. And it showed – the airfield looked the best that I’ve ever seen it and I told them so. But it’s hard to get away once you’re engaged in a friendly conversation here in France and I stayed for much longer than I’d planned to and already the wind and turbulence were beginning to pick up.

Here are some shots of the Savannah at Condat.

Savannah MXP740 at Condat

Savannah MXP740 at Condat

After I’d signed the visiting aircraft book that Roland has to keep for the benefit of the local police, I was off as planned to drop in again at Galinat before returning to Condat. By then Roland and his wife had left for lunch so after a quick turn-round, I was off south for Sarlat Domme. By now the visibility was reducing a bit but the main thing was that the wind from the east was increasing, as was the turbulence.

The saving factor was that the wind was almost straight down runway 10 so apart from a very bumpy final with a bit of wind shear, the approach was actually quite straightforward. And also, because my groundspeed was so low, I was able to slow the Savannah down in just a few metres and turn right immediately onto the main apron, something which I’ve never been able to do before!

Here are some shots that I took at Sarlat. The last time that I was there was at the beginning of last year and I think that the airfield’s been given a makeover, as today it and its facilities looked superb, as the pictures show.

Savannah MXP740 at Sarlat-Domme

Savannah MXP740 at Sarlat-Domme

Savannah MXP740 at Sarlat-Domme

null

null

null

null

The tower and aero club looked super, but also the public cafe with all of its tables and seats outside. That I’m sure will be a big hit with visiting families during the summer, especially now that the weather seems to have turned the corner. I couldn’t help but think that the overall impression was so positive compared say, to somewhere like Headcorn in the UK which is all a bit ramshackle and amateurish in comparison. Perhaps it’s chicken and egg, and we can see why the general public attitude to general aviation is so much more positve in France compared to the UK.

But already the weather was beginning to fall apart. While I drank a can of Coke and chatted to a mechanic in the aero club club house, I noticed that at times the windsock was horizontal. I’d originally left the Savannah with its flaps down and tail into the wind and because it has no handbrake, we suddenly spotted it starting to move blown by the wind across the apron!

Luckily there were no other aircraft in the way and I just had to turn it out of the wind, but this meant that as well as having to contend with bumps and turbulence on my way back to Malbec, the wind direction meant that I’d also have a pretty strong tailwind component to deal with on landing.

On balance it seemed a good idea to consider what to do under the circumstances, and I gave Victor a ring on my mobile. The wind direction would be almost straight down Galinat’s runway so we agreed that should it be too risky to go for a landing at Malbec, I’d land at Galinat and leave the Savannah there for the night. Victor would then drop over and pick me up so I could retrieve my car from Malbec.

When I checked the weather on my mobile, I saw that gusts of up to 50 kmh were now being forecast, which seemed incredible compared to the situation as it was when I left Malbec only a relatively short time before. So I decided to hang on for a while longer at Sarlat and see how things developed.

After an hour or so, the worst of the gusts seemed to be over so I decided to give it a go. Sure enough, conditions on the flight back up to Malbec were pretty bumpy but things seemed to settle down a bit when I was set up for final. So I decided to continue for a landing, despite having a strong crosswind from the right. And after a landing that was I have to admit, not the tidiest that I’ve ever accomplished, the Savannah and I were down on the ground ready to fight another day with the shot below to prove it.

null

After such a long break from flying, I was very pleased with how the day went. My landings were all OK except for the last one at Malbec, but that was challenging to say the least and I was pleased to have handled it. Not that I’d have tried if I’d thought that I couldn’t do it, but I was, let’s just say, overall very satisfied with how my first flight for over a year panned out 😉

April 19, 2018

Desperate times

Like I said yesterday, when the going gets tough, you’ve got to start thinking out-of-the-box a little. So when I went over to Malbec this morning and found that the runway was still too soft to use plus the ground in the hangar exit was still bog-like, I decided to implement my plan B.

This is now getting stupid. Other airfields in our area are now perfectly usable but Malbec’s runway is hardly improving at all despite the incredible weather that we’re now getting. Nevertheless, I was determined to start making some moves with the Savannah which has been languishing in the hangar for far too long.

The first thing was to get it out and that presented me with my first problem. I’d got hold of three boards to place on the soft ground outside the hangar for the Savannah’s wheels to run on but before it even got that far, it’s left main wheel got heavily bogged down in the mud that’s inside the hangar. The more I tugged on it the deeper it sank in and I was more or less resigned to having to call for some help.

But at that moment Lila from the chateau turned up to give me a message and when she saw my predicament, offered to give me a hand. I was rather sceptical because she’s only a small, slightly built lady, but believe me, is she some tough cookie! Between us we had it out of the mud in a trice and in a few minutes more, up at the top of the runway where the ground is stony and much harder.

Later on I laid down some old wooden boards inside the hangar for the Savannah to run on when I want to put it back in, as the following picture shows.

null

I don’t intend to do that for now as we’re not expecting any more rain for several more days and in the meantime I intend to keep the Savannah outside and even start flying it again! But today’s main job was to give it a thorough external clean to remove all the grime that has built up on it during the months that it has been confined to the hangar. Here are several shots that I took of it after the completion of several hours of work that I think show that the effort was justified.

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

After chocking its wheels, I then looked around for some weighty objects to attach to the wing struts to anchor it down just in case we get any unexpected larger wind gusts. I found some old gas cylinders in the barn and those combined with a couple of concrete blocks should do the trick, as shown below.

Savannah MXP740 at Chateau Malbec

So it now looks as thought my first ‘come-back’ flight won’t be in the Weedhopper after all as the runway is just too soft to risk for a first take off. The grass has also shot up again since I last mowed it on Friday and will need to be cut again before I will be able to chance taking off on it in the Weedhopper.

So what now? A flight in the Savannah, that’s what taking in a few local airfields and incorporating a few take offs and landings to get my hand and eye back in again. My plan tomorrow is to fly Malbec – Galinat – Condat – Galinat – Condat – Sarlat – Malbec which will give me a total of six take offs and landings.

The weather is going to be very warm again so I’ll probably have to get off fairly early to avoid too much turbulence, especially for my landing back at Malbec. I think it should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it 😉

April 18, 2018

Still no flying for me

But not for everyone. Victor received a phone call yesterday from a pilot based in south-east France in the Drôme who wanted to drop into Malbec for a visit and asked my advice on whether our runway was yet dry enough to use.

I had to say that sadly it still wasn’t, so Victor suggested that the visitor should instead go into Philippe’s airfield LF2468 at Mauzens-et-Miremont a few kilometres as the crow (or ULM) flies to the west of Malbec, which is now dry.

In the recent taxy tests that I’ve been making in the Weedhopper at Malbec, I’ve been disappointed that even though I’ve been half-way down the runway by the time I’ve closed the throttle, 28AAD has only ever got up to about 50 kmh. This would be nowhere near fast enough for a take off and I was worried that maybe I’d over-adjusted its brakes which might be binding.

So Victor and I dropped into Malbec this afternoon to check. In fact the wheels were all running freely, so the problem can only be down to the softness of the runway. As I wish to avoid any form of take off incident in 28AAD at all costs, it looks as though I’ll have to wait until the runway is bone dry and hard before making my first attempt.

Then Victor’s phone rang and it was the visiting pilot saying that he’d landed at Mauzens and that he needed some fuel, so off we went in the Mehari to pick some up and take it over to him.

His name was François and he’d arrived in the club Nynja (www.ulmevasion26.com), a very smartly turned out aircraft as the following pictures show.

Nynja

Nynja

Nynja

We had a chinwag at Mauzens for a while and then went off with François uncomfortably loaded(!) into the Mehari’s rear luggage space to look for the chambre d’hôte that he’d booked for the night a few kilometres from the airfield. We found it and were lucky enough to be treated to a beer each by the landlady before Victor and I bade our adieus and departed.

Victor dropped me off at Malbec to pick up my car and while I was there I checked the runway yet again. It was a little bit firmer but still too soft for the narrow wheels of the Weedhopper and X-Air so I’m now beginning to think about a plan B to take advantage of the current good weather. If it’s still soft tomorrow I think that I’ll have to make a bridge arrangement out of three planks to get the Savannah out of its hangar.

I’ll then be able to give it the good clean that it needs from having been left uncovered in the hangar for so many months. Then if the runway is still soft, because the Savannah has relatively wide tyres and would do little if any damage, I’m thinking about doing one take off from Malbec and flying it over to Galinat whose runway is dry and the grass of which Christian, the owner, has just cut.

I’d have to phone him first but I’m thinking about then leaving it there for a few days until normal service has been resumed at Malbec and I can fly it back in again. Desperate times call for desperate measures and as each day passes, I’m becoming more and more desperate about not flying 😐

April 17, 2018

Corker!

The temperature rose to a spanking 26 degrees Celsius today and we could well see it rising a bit higher again tomorrow. My main aim today was to taxy 28AAD, my Weedhopper, but first I had a couple of other things to attend to.

The first one was to fix my ride-on mower. The last time I used it, a securing pin dropped out of one of the arms that hold the cutting bed in place allowing the arm to twist backwards and under the cutting bed bringing the mower to a dead stop. Luckily this happened as I was approaching the end of the job and I had a spare pin that allowed me to put the arm back in place to finish off.

However, I then found that the bed wasn’t lifting on that side when the height lever was raised, so I needed to look at that before doing anything else today as having a working mower is essential at this time of the year.

As I expected, I found that yet another pin had dropped out allowing the lifting lever on that side to fall off its peg, and yet another pin that I just happened to have solved that problem too.

But what I’m finding rather concerning is why all these pins are dropping off? And the other question I ask myself is why the heck can’t I find any of them while I’m driving around on the mower cutting the grass, as they’re big enough for goodness sake.

Then it was time to get some fuel, 20 litres for the Weedhopper and/or X-Air and 20 litres for my garden tools. And while I was in Intermarché getting 2-stroke oil I also picked up one or two items that I forgot when I was there the other day.

Then it was home for lunch and over to Malbec with high hopes that with today’s high temperature I’d be able to do some decent taxy testing in the Weedhopper on what I thought would be a rapidly drying runway.

Here are a couple of shots of the Weedhopper in its ‘natural environment’ at last, ready and waiting at the top of Malbec’s runway in what I think must be the best weather we’ve had so far this year.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

But it wasn’t to be. After doing one high power taxy down the runway and back I got out and checked the runway surface. Sadly, I found that it’s still too soft and I’d left some marks that I then needed to tread down again. So that was it – taxying had to be abandoned yet again for the day, but before calling it a day, I took the opportunity to take a few more shots of 28AAD parked in the sunshine.

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

Weedhopper 28AAD

It’s taking much longer than I expected for Malbec’s runway to dry out but there’s no point pushing it as that will only cause damage to its surface that will then need to be rectified. I’ll try again tomorrow but I must say that on today’s evidence, I’m not that optimistic that things will be much better.

Fortunately the high temperatures should persist right through until the week-end and, hopefully, beyond, so surely it will become dry enough to use some time in the near future. Why it’s taking so long is a complete mystery 😕

April 15, 2018

Windsockery

The last job that needed to be done at Malbec while waiting for the runway to dry out was to put up the new windsock. I tried to do it by standing on a ladder on Friday but that was impossible as well as being unsafe and instead we decided to do it today by hoisting me up in the bucket of the chateau’s digger.

That made it much easier but as it was still impossible to detach the old windsock from its mounting ring, we decided to bring the complete rotating top assembly down to ground level to do the change-over from old windsock to new and then raise the top assembly back up again.

And lucky that we did. Even working at ground level using a power tool, it still took well over an hour to do the work as the jubilee clips that Victor had used to attach the old windsock to the mounting ring had weathered somewhat in the three years or so that they had been up there and I hadn’t thought to source replacements. Here’s a shot of the new windsock that I took shortly after being lowered back to ground level.

null

That was all very well, but one of the reasons apart from UV degradation that had brought about the demise of the old windsock was it getting torn by catching on the top attachments of the four cables that support the pole. The cables are attached using shackles which, together with the nuts that hold them, are perfect for catching on the windsock fabric when the wind drops and then putting small tears into it when the wind picks up again, small tears that eventually become large ones.

I had the idea of fabricating a cone to fit over the cable attachments using scrap Lexan from an old ULM windscreen or door panel and after mounting the windsock I went home to see what I could find in my ‘atelier’. I came across one of 28AAD’s old door panels which wasn’t suitable for any other purpose and cut out a piece from it that would roll up roughly into the shape of a cone using dimensions that I took on Friday and could then be pop riveted together.

Here are shots of the finished cone and the windsock billowing in the wind with the cone now attached. I’m pretty confident that it will do the job.

null

null

So that’s it for now and Malbec is ready for use, or at least it will be when its runway is firm enough. We’re expecting little if any rain going into the coming week with a temperature of 17 degrees, less than today tomorrow, but with it rising to the upper mid-20s by the end of the week. I doubt that the runway will be firm enough to use tomorrow, but I’m hoping at least that I’ll get my first flight in for over a year on Tuesday.

Watch this space 😉

April 14, 2018

More Malbec

I pulled my ladder out of my garden ‘abri’ yesterday and after clearing away all the spiders and blowing away their webs, took it across to Malbec to see if I could use it to put up the new windsock. However, although it reached the necessary height, it was much too precarious to do the job with the wind gusting and blowing the old one around once I’d uncurled the bits of it that remain from around the pole.

So the job has now been put off until Sunday when, at Victor’s suggestion, I’ll get a lift up in the bucket of the chateau’s digger, which will be much safer and probably more effective too.

As conditions were dull but dry, I took the opportunity to once again open up the Savannah’s hangar to get some fresh air into it. I also finalised the measurements for its new towing arm and then decided that as the runway was still a bit soft, I’d give it another mow at a lower height.

On completion, as the following pictures show, Malbec is now beginning to look a treat again with the parking area next to Philippe’s hangar and the turning area at the top of the runway both nicely cut in. I can’t wait to start flying from it again, but sadly it still won’t be for a few days yet while it continues to dry out.

null

null

Afterwards Victor, Wim and I met up for our regularly weekly ‘apero’. I hadn’t realised how much I’m still being affected by the aftermath of my illness because I felt incredibly tired after my afternoon’s exertions, which previously I would have regarded as quite minor. But as if to emphasise that my body is still not back to ‘normal’, this morning I awoke after sleeping for a full 10 hours. That’s not usual for me at all, but it’d be foolish not to take note of it.

April 12, 2018

Some Savannah stuff

My Savannah has taken a bit of a back seat for the past few weeks what with the work I’ve had to do involving 28AAD, my Weedhopper and the weather, which has made it impossible to even get it out of the hangar. But today I went to Malbec with two jobs in mind – the first was to see about putting Malbec’s new windsock up that arrived today via la Poste and the second was to take some more measurements for my revised-revised design for the Savannah’s new towbar.

null

We haven’t had much more rain in the past 24 hours or so and the afternoon was dullish but warm, so the situation looked good when I arrived and opened up the hangar in an attempt to get some air circulating through it. There wasn’t much chance of that though, even with the main doors wide open because there was practically no wind to speak of.

null

The first thing I found was that the only ladder that I could find at Malbec was too short to get up to the windsock, so I had to abandon the idea of putting the new one up for today. That allowed me therefore to concentrate on just the Savannah.

There was absolutely no chance of getting it out of the hangar, though, because the area in front of the opening through which it would have to be brought was beyond swamp-like with water rising to the surface when even the lightest pressure was applied to it, as the following picture of my boot shows.

null

So then I had to raise the Savannah’s nose wheel up onto blocks to give easy access to the nose wheel for me to take the measurements that I needed.

null

null

At present the crossbar that was intended for my original towbar design is still attached to the nose wheel fork.

null

This was to be a simple ‘T’ design with a pin at each end of the ‘T’ to drop into the two holes at each end of the crossbar. The pins were to have holes drilled in them through which securing pins would have been located to ensure that the towing pins could not come out of the holes, allowing the aircraft to be pulled or pushed in safety.

There was, however, one flaw in the design. If during manoeuvering of the aircraft using the towbar it was necessary to stop and drop the towbar for any reason eg to move an object out of the way, the towbar handle would have immediately fouled the nosewheel mudguard with the potential of causing considerable damage especially if, for example, the towbar was to slip out of one’s hands while in use. There was obviously, therefore, a need to re-think the design before moving forward.

null

The first modification was to turn the ends of the crossbar either up or down so the holes into which the pins will locate are horizontal. This will allow the pins to act as pivots, allowing for the handle to be raised or lowered as desired in use.

But this still wouldn’t solve the mudguard fouling problem, and the only way to do that would be for the end of the towbar that connects to the nose wheel to be in a ‘U’ shape so when the towbar is lowered, the sides of the ‘U’ clear it.

The final requirement will be for the ‘U’ to be rigid enough steer the aircraft while it is being towed or pushed without bending or flexing, and the best way to achieve that would be by fabricating that part of the towbar from steel box section.

The following rather scrappy diagram shows what I’m talking about.

null

So taking measurements for this new, revised towbar design was this afternoon’s task and that only took half an hour or so. And then having the hangar main doors open provided just the opportunity that I needed to give the Savannah’s engine a much needed run.

null

null

null

I ran the engine for 10 minutes or so until its water temperature got to around 75/80 degrees before calling it a day. Now I’ve got to redo my towbar diagram with dimensions to give to my local contact who will be making it up for me. I think he’ll get a bit of a surprise because every time we speak it gets a little bit more complicated. I think that the price he gave me will also be a little bit more too 😉

April 10, 2018

Is there any hope?

Not from the evidence that I clapped my eyes on when I looked out of the window this morning.

null

null

null

null

null

After the unexpectedly lovely day that we enjoyed yesterday we had overnight rain – and from the look of it, in buckets. This inevitably meant that all of the recent progress made at Malbec in getting a runway dry enough to begin using was not only undone but several steps were also made backwards. I dropped into the airfield in the early evening after the rain had stopped for several hours and not only was there again standing water on the runway, the ground outside the hangar exit had once again been reduced to a swamp.

At this rate I’ll be lucky to get any flying in at all this month, which is incredible. It’s already over a year since I last flew and last year we were enjoying good flying weather even in January. This year is shaping up to be a disaster which makes it doubly so for me having missed out on last year’s gorgeous summer due to my dratted illness. And the medium term weather forecast looks to be offering no respite 🙁

April 9, 2018

No rain today!

Which was a surprise as continuous light rain had been forecast for most, if not all, of the day. But what do those ‘experts’ know eh? We’ve had a lovely day, at times very warm in the bright sunshine, with just the occasional cloudy spell. But no rain.

So today was a day for busying oneself with little jobs, not trivialities as such, but things one has been, let’s say, putting off doing for a while.

One such thing was my main trailer’s lights connection. Several months ago when I was still unwell, a French friend unfortunately pulled it by the cable, not the plug, to detach it from my car while helping me with work in my garden and pulled off all the connections.

When we reattached them all for some reason we just couldn’t get them in the right order even though we had the wiring diagram, and things like flashers didn’t work when they should have. I’ve been meaning to get around to sorting the problem out for quite a while so today was the ideal day and it was satisfying to get things working properly again after only a few minutes work.

Now I can take my mower to Malbec if necessary safe in the knowledge that all my trailer lights will be working properly.

And the other thing I needed to do was fit the handles on my two recently acquired little oak tables. They arrived from China several days ago and I just needed to motivate myself to fit them, so today I did. And it was well worth the effort.

null

As I type this we’re being treated to a glorious evening with a clear sky and wonderful sunshine. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for more rain and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that it will be equally as good (or bad) as their forecast for today. Anyway, here’s hoping 😉

April 8, 2018

Taxying but…

After cutting the grass at Malbec a couple of days ago, the runway has had a brief chance to dry out a little bit and as the weather forecast for the coming week is for yet more rain, I thought that I’d see whether the runway was firm enough today to do some taxying in 28AAD, my Weedhopper.

I took a bucket and washleather to the airfield with me and after getting 28AAD out of the barn, I spent a few minutes cleaning off as much of the grime as I could that it had collected fom being tucked away at the back of the hangar for 18 months or so. Then it was time to pull it over to the runway and start its engine for it to warm up ready to go.

I’d already walked the length of the runway and although it was still a bit soft in places, I thought that I might get away with it as the Weedhopper is such a light aircraft. So after allowing a few minutes for the little Rotax 503 to warm up, I headed down the runway for my first taxy of any distance in the aircraft.

It went well except I could feel the softness of the ground under the wheels of the aircraft and I was worried about the depth of the ruts that I might be leaving in my wake, but when I turned round at the bottom of the runway there didn’t seem to be any real damage. So as I was at the bottom of the slope, I then had a chance to open the engine up to full power to get back up to the top again.

I don’t think that under normal conditions with a dry runway and short grass, the Weedhopper will have a problem taking off from Malbec. However, with the grass still being relatively long and the ground so soft, even after several attempts I couldn’t get 28AAD’s nose wheel to lift, let alone do a little hop on the runway, so that’ll be for later when conditions are better.

This time I had to content myself with getting the ‘feel’ of the aircraft, which seemed to be perfectly stable with a fast taxy speed, so that was encouraging. There was no point keep taxying up and down the runway any more as some ruts were beginning to appear, so after I’d returned 28AAD to the barn I walked the runway and trod the biggest ones back down again, so no great harm done.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the coming week is for yet more rain, up until Thursday. The longer range forecast is for the rain then to stop and from Friday up until the end of the following week, for a dry week with sunshine and no rain.

Let’s hope so, because as things are going, we’ll never get Malbec dry enough to use and I’m fed up of having three perfectly good aircraft ready to go and just standing idle and unflown. Time for some serious prayers to the weather gods, maybe 😉

April 6, 2018

More like it

We had a beautiful day today with sunny skies and a high of around 26 degrees Celsius. At one time I saw 28 degrees on my car temperature gauge but I think that was being a little bit optimistic. So what better day to head down to see my local contact who’s making up my new Savannah tow arm for me to drop in my final drawing and then to scoot over to Malbec to mow the runway.

With the fine weather and warm southerly winds that we’re getting we really needed to get the runway grass down as otherwise the sun wouldn’t be able to work on the ground directly to dry it out and with a bit more rain being forecast over the coming few days, if we’d let things stay as they were, we’d be waiting for weeks to get a useable airfield.

Victor and I checked out the mower the other day and found it a bit temperamental starting. And so it was again today even though Victor had fitted a new starter solenoid in the meantime, but I found that today’s problem was a breaker that Victor had fitted into the battery circuit to prevent any possible current drain while it was standing unused over the winter.

After initially getting it started and running it for several minutes it began to cough and splutter as though there was a carburettor problem. But there wasn’t, it was the dang breaker and after I’d removed it, the machine purred like a contented cat. After a few hours I’d completed the job and at last Malbec was looking like an airfield again!

null

null

null

It’ll need a few more mows to get it looking properly ship-shape again but today was a good start. The next thing will be to get hold of a new windsock to replace the existing one that has now been reduced to tatters.

Wim was hoping to fly into Malbec tomorrow morning but I walked the length of the runway before leaving for home and although the ground is no longer squelchy, it’s still much too soft to use. So I’ll have to keep waiting before I can get the Weedhopper onto it, which is so annoying, but I suppose I’ll just have to be patient for a little bit longer.

April 5, 2018

Another new challenge

My friend Wim has acquired a new interest, in radio-controlled models. As he’s a keen sailor as well as a pilot, it started with an RC sailing boat but then moved on to include RC aircraft. Wim is a great model maker and instead of starting with something, let’s just say, not too ambitious and then moving on to bigger and better things, he jumped right in at the deep end with a large multi-channel model with a wingspan of a metre or more.

It’s a beautiful thing made out of balsa wood and tissue finished with a superb paint job that’s very pleasing to the eye. But there’s just one small problem.

As a flyer of model aircraft way back in my youth, I soon found out that the little varmints are tricky to control and by the time you get to master the knack, you’ve pounded whatever model you’ve been learning on into the ground more times than you care to think about.

I used to fly control-line aircraft but from the number of videos you can find on Youtube of inexperienced pilots smashing their newly constructed RC models into a million pieces, I’m pretty sure that there are a few wrinkles to be learnt about RC flying too before you get to become a master of the miniature skies. So I thought that something had to be done to avoid Wim’s beautiful aircraft suffering such a fate.

The idea I had was to acquire one of those ‘training’ type models to give to him made out of expanded polystyrene (OK all you know-alls, toys if you really want to rub our noses in it) that can be dumped into long grass time after time and still come up smiling every time and a brief internet search soon revealed the one shown in the picture below that could be purchased for peanuts from China.

null

How they do it I just don’t know – just over 30€ including delivery to France. It has a 50 cm wingspan and comes complete with a little lithium battery, a charger and the multi-channel controller. Oh, and also a spare prop 🙂

OK, it’s not up to the kind of quality that serious hobbyists and Wim have, but it works, dammit! All you need to do is charge the lithium battery, insert six AA batteries into the controller and you’re good to go, ready to get out there and start performing graceful loops, rolls and aerobatics with your new model.

Or so we thought. The first time Wim and I tried it we could barely get it into the air let alone keep it there for any length of time and especially under even the semblance of anything that might be described as ‘controlled flight’.

Because it ‘knew’ that we were novices it had a mind of its own and was attracted to every tree in the huge open field behind my house where we were trying it out as if by magnetism. And I also succeeded in flying it into the one single, solitary power line that crosses the field too – you could never do it if you actually wanted to because your aim would have to be so exact!

Anyway, my original plan today was to mow the runway at Malbec but that soon went out of the window when I set foot on it again. Despite several days of warm sun and wind, overnight rains keep thwarting us and it was still wet and squelchy underfoot. So what better thing to do after a spot of shopping at Intermarché than to take the little RC aircraft over the field again for a bit more ‘flying’ practise.

And wowie!! What a surprise. This time as well as achieving a goodly number of high speed crashes into the long grass (which fortunately didn’t result in any damage), I actually managed to get several flights in lasting several minutes and had the little model wheeling around in first left hand and then right hand circles overhead.

My next-door neighbour and his wife must have wondered what was going on and came out to see, at one time applauding my efforts with shouts of ‘Bravo!’ Unfortunately such accolades were slightly premature as I then immediately crashed it as I tried to get it to turn to ‘land’ somewhere near me, sadly once again without success.

But I was as pleased as Punch with the success that I had achieved, with several flights lasting five minutes or more. OK, not much to crow about there, you might say, but before you turn your nose up at it, have a go first yourself.

It’s a lot harder than you think … I’d say that you need at least the skills of a geeky 10 year old kid with a good few hours of computer games under their belt to be successful straight off, and I hardly fall into that category.

I phoned Wim this evening to tell him about my flights, OK and to brag a little I guess. Now I really must hand the little aircraft over to him so he can get the ‘training’ in that he’ll need before flying his own lovely model. But hopefully before I do, there’ll be enough time tomorrow for me to get just a few more in if the weather’s as nice as it’s forecast to be. It’s just too much fun to miss 😉

April 1, 2018

Great flying day!

Blue skies all day today, a light south-easterly wind and Malbec looked great.

null

Only one problem. The airfield was still much too soggy and wet to even think about using it for its intended purpose so the aircraft stayed in the hangar and the barn where they’ve been for the past few months.

null

null

And that’s where they’ll be staying for a good while yet. So only one thing to do on such a day as today – go for a bike ride!

null

Today was warmer than before so it was a good time to investigate the road that I discovered last time that I think goes to Fanlac. So having previously charged up my bike’s battery, off I went with the idea of finding out where it ended up.

I was out for about an hour including the time it took to stop to take a couple of shots using my phone, which is again why they are of such poor quality.

null

null

I didn’t get to the end of the road so I still don’t know for sure where it goes to. The reason was that as I got towards what I think is its end, it began to drop very sharply into the valley, curling back on itself the way the mountain roads do in somewhere like Switzerland. After descending quite a way, possibly a couple of hundred metres or so, I was worried that at this stage in my recovery I might be overstretching myself climbing back up again, so turned around.

In fact, although it did require a bit of effort to do so, riding back up again with the electrical assistance wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, so going the whole way will be something for the future. But as the road went from dirt in open country to hard surfaced with houses I think that my next foray will be in the Kia. Then I’ll know exactly what to expect when I do it on my bike 🙂