August 26, 2018

More Savannah stuff

I want to finish off the work on the wingtip so I can get the slat back on permanently and make my window of weeks 2 and 3 in September for a flight to the UK. I got a bit more done, progress was a bit slow because it involved painting which then has to be left to dry, but I’m getting there.

First a shot of the Savannah where I was working on it outside the hangar with its replacement right slat in place for the first time but with all fitting nuts still loose just in case it has to come off again.

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And now a few more shots, in the daylight this time, to finish off the towbar saga. I have to say that it makes moving the aircraft very easy indeed and I’ll be glad when the new handle grips arrive so I can fit them and completely finish it off.

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And now the wingtip. All I have to do now is mask it up, rub it down a bit and apply some paint. It’ll never look perfect but I’ll be converting the wing to VG, some time next year probably, when I’ve got my decks a bit clearer and can add the job to my list, and the repair will be perfectly adequate until then.

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So that was it for today. There was a group of hunters roaming around the chateau’s domain today and my work was accompanied by the occasional gunshot and the baying of dogs. I think that they were after ‘sangliers’ (wild boar) but I don’t know if they got any. But at least no wayward shots came in my direction, which I was quite thankful for knowing what can go on with French hunting groups in the afternoon when they’ve enjoyed a glass (or ten) with their lunch 😉

August 25, 2018

Savannah Tow Bar

It’s taken a few months, a lot longer than I’d originally anticipated, but I got it working today and was very pleased with the results. Here’s my rough initial drawing of the concept, which was actually my second stab at it, the first having a simple flat crossbar with vertical holes at each end.

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I then did a more detailed drawing with dimensions etc that I took to a local man to be fabricated. I specified that it should be made from 2cm square steel tube and when I picked it up, my first thought was that it would be too lightweight and be bendy in use.

After making up the crossbar to attach to the Savannah’s nose wheel for the handle to connect to I painted it in a light grey because I just happened to have a spare partially filled spray can floating around, that I brought with me more than six years ago from the UK actually, and the handle red using paint that was left over from when I repaired the Weedhopper’s pod.

Here are the shots after I fitted the crossbar and attached the handle.

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My design uses two pins that fit horizontally into holes in the cross bar. I went for this arrangement because it allows for the bar to be raised and lowered naturally when in use and is solid enough to allow the bar to be used both for pulling and pushing the aircraft with total security. I also mounted the pins within a fork arrangement so that if the bar is dropped to the ground as in the pics, it doesn’t foul and damage the nose wheel spat which it would do if the handle was just a simple straight bar.

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To allow the bar to be attached to and detached from the crossbar, one of the pins is fixed and the other is threaded so it can very easily be screwed into the crossbar or retracted when unscrewed.

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I found today that the handle not only looks the part but also works superbly well, making it very easy to accurately manoeuvre the Savannah into and out of its hangar even though the ground is sloping and uneven. I also found that despite my fears, the 2cm square tube feels solid and is easily robust enough for the job, so taken all round, the concept is a resounding success.

But that’s not all. On the subject of ‘looking the part’, after trying the bicycle handlebar grip for size and appearance that I have left over after fitting one of the pair I bought to the Weedhooper’s stick, I’ve ordered another pair and when they’re on the Savannah’s tow bar, it’ll really be a ‘Rolls-Royce’ of a job. So if people would like to form an orderly queue, I’ll be taking orders shortly 😉

August 24, 2018

A very useful day

I’ve been expecting the replacement fuel injection pump for my car that I ordered from Germany to arrive at any time over the last couple of days and more or less wasted a whole day yesterday waiting in for it to be delivered. But it didn’t appear and although I checked the tracking today and it said that it was out for delivery, that doesn’t always mean that things will arrive as you’d expect them to.

But it did, so I was immediately on the phone to my mechanic and ran it across to his workshop. He’s convinced that this will solve my engine problem as he says that he has seen exactly the same thing on Mercedes that use the same Bosch pump, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that he’s right. I’m now waiting on the phone call to go over again when he’s fitted it to stand by when he’s ready to start the engine again.

And I then made good use of this afternoon. I’ve had all the items to hand to complete my Savannah tow-bar design so decided to do just that this afternoon. I’ve had the handle itself for some time but I needed to make up the crossbar that attaches it to the front wheel of the aircraft to allow it to be pushed and pulled.

The person who made the handle said that he couldn’t also make the crossbar ‘because he’d need to buy too much metal’, so I just bought a suitable strip of steel myself that was more than twice as long as I needed from les Briconautes for about 5€. And today was the day when I fabricated my crossbar from it.

I’ll show some more detailed pictures of the whole arrangement in another post but for now here’s a shot of both of the items in my ‘atelier’ after I’d painted them.

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As you can see, not only do I need to give everything in there including my bench a complete clear out and tidy-up, but the mice have also got into the ceiling again and brought down some of the plastic. One of the ‘joys’ of living in rural France, I’m afraid 🙁

August 22, 2018

Cracking good flight, Grommit!

I’m typing this at just gone 4.15 pm and it’s another scorching hot afternoon with the temperature up at around 35 degrees Celsius. So not a good time to go flying in an ultralight aircraft because you’d be thrown all over the place in extreme thermal conditions. But I don’t care, because I got my flight in first thing this morning.

I did my planning yesterday and tanked up my Weedhopper, 28AAD, so I could get away without too much delay. My aim was to be airborne by 8.30 am but in the event it was 20 minutes later, so not too bad. My idea was to fly a circuit of the Bergerac Class D control zone landing at Ste Foy la Grande and Belvès on the way before returning to Malbec as shown below.

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I unfortunately forgot to take my camera and had to use my phone camera instead so the shots that I took were of very poor quality in comparison. I’d hoped to compensate for them by having a video record of the flight but yet again I was let down by my cheap Chinese Go-Pro copy.

It seems that the latest trick on Ali Baba is either for sellers to send cameras with faults that they know will not be worth the postage to return or to pass off cameras with 1080p resolution as being 4K. I’ve been caught out both ways now and as a result have stopped using Ali Baba because they always support the seller and you end up buying a junk camera for half price. I’ve now got a collection of them.

The one that I strapped onto the Weedhopper today is a 4K camera but with a faulty lens that makes the whole of the left hand side of the image totally blurred. So not much good for anything really. I’ll go through my collection one at a time in the future and see exactly what I’ve been left with, but I know it will be a sorry collection.

Today’s one after recording the take offs at Malbec and Ste Foy also didn’t keep running long enough to record the landings despite being connected to a power pack and as a result I didn’t even bother restarting it at Belvès.

Here are the shots that I took of 28AAD at Ste Foy la Grande.

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And here are the shots of it at Belvès.

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I got talking with a very friendly guy at Belvès who is just visible taking a picture of 28AAD in one of the shots. He introduced me to the acting club president and I was given a warm invitation to go back any time, which was very kind. The aero club recently suffered a tragic loss with the death of their president in a terrible landing accident in which he crashed and died in a Cessna 172 so it was good to see life continuing there as normal in spite of that event.

But I had to bid my farewell before the thermals started building too much and soon after left them behind for my flight back to Malbec. It only took 20 minutes and I had the pleasure of achieving a super landing there despite the thermals beginning to bubble up a bit on final. It was the perfect end to a perfect flight of just over 2 1/2 hours.

28AAD is a pleasure to fly, being very stable and easy to trim in conditions like today. This means that it’s very easy to hold height and heading without having to constantly put in control inputs in the way that I seem to remember that I had to with MYRO.

And as I suspected, I also seem to be getting a better cruise speed with the prop that I cut down and fitted, 85+ rather than 80 kmh as with MYRO at 5400 rpm together with a slightly better fuel consumption, 13 litres/hour compared to about 15 for MYRO with the same engine.

So taken all round I’m very pleased with how 28AAD has turned out. I’m looking to flight test 56NE, my X-Air, this Sunday or Monday before putting it up for sale but I’ll be hanging onto 28AAD together with my Savannah. At least for now anyway 😉

August 20, 2018

Working through the list

Of jobs that is. The Savannah work has had to be put on the back burner for now as completing the repair on the wing tip is lower in the list of priorities than some other things. Like getting my car back and re-submitting my house planning application to name but two.

So although we’ve been enjoying glorious weather once again, I’ve not been over to Malbec since I completed the initial work on the Savannh, either to continue with it or even to fly, sadly. And we’ve been having some wonderful mornings when I’d have loved to be doing the latter, but no such luck as other more important things have had to be addressed.

I went over to give my local car mechanic a hand with my car last Thursday. This wasn’t to help mechanically but just to be on hand when it was started. He is sure that the problem is down to the fuel injection pump and after stripping it and fitting new gaskets and cleaning out the old contaminated engine oil, he wanted to restart the engine.

But he wanted me to be there in case when it was started, it began to rev uncontrollably due to the amount of fuel that is still in the system and needed to be shut down immediately by blocking the air intake.

And that’s just what happened, except not while I was turning the engine over with him standing by to do the blocking, but the other way round! Luckily I knew what was going on and despite getting black diesel sprayed over my clean tee-shirt, I got it to stop before it went out of control. And sure enough, when we checked the new, clean oil in the engine sump it was again black from dirty diesel entering the engine.

On the upside, while it was revving up it didn’t sound as though the bearings etc had been damaged, but it was all too quick to be able to tell for sure. The outcome of it all was that it looks as though the pump needs a complete overhaul or replacement and to save wasting more time, I ordered an exchange unit with a 1 year warranty from a German supplier that’ll be with us with a bit of luck by Thursday 23rd.

Until then, apart from draining the engine oil once again, there’s little more that can be done on the car, so I turned my attention to the next most important item on the list, namely my house planning application.

Much has changed in the two years since I submitted my original application and dossier so to avoid any unwanted queries (and subsequent delay) I’ve been completely re-working both items, which has been something of a mammoth task.

But after working long hours including over the week-end, I’ve at last completed the job and will therefore be able to drop all of the material into the Mairie at Plazac tomorrow.

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This will at last leave me free to do other things, like finishing off the work on the Savannah. But I also desperately want to get a few hours in in the Weedhopper and/or the X-Air while the weather is so good, and as I need to test fly the X-Air before listing it for sale, that’s something that I really MUST get done this week.

And if when the replacement fuel pump arrives it solves my car problems, that really will be the cherry on the cake after all these weeks. Here’s hoping anyway.

August 15, 2018

Big day

Yesterday was a big day for me because it was the beginning of my getting the Savannah back into shape again. It was a good day for it too – sunny and warm but not too hot as to make working in the shade of the hangar doors uncomfortable.

I’d spray painted the new wing tip plastic the other day to save a bit of time so was all ready to go but had to wait in until my post arrived as I ordered a new small Black and Decker angle grinder (‘meuleuse’) on Sunday and expected it to arrive in the morning, which it did. So then I was off to Malbec.

The damage on the Savannah was confined to just the end of the slat on the right wing and the wing tip, so it was a matter of removing the slat ready for fitting the replacement, which I already have, drilling out the pop rivets securing the wing tip, dressing the surrounding metal back into shape, drilling the new wing tip to accept the strobe and fitting it into place.

But like all jobs like this, it was easier said than done, mainly because someone had used poor quality pop rivets to fit the original wing tip many of whose centre pins had fractured outside the rivet tops rather than inside as they are supposed to.

This made drilling them out very difficult and under such circumstances, no matter how careful you are and start off with as small a diameter drill as possible (2mm in my case), you always end up drilling them out just off centre and some inevitably come out leaving holes that are a bit ‘ugly’.

First some shots of the job before I started. Wim, Victor and I had repaired the damage as well as we could on the day in the hope that I’d still be able to make the flight to the UK but in the event I decided against it, not because of the damage but because by then I’d realised that I wasn’t well enough to do it. I’m sure that the aircraft would have done the flight but the photographs show that the wing tip wasn’t very pretty.

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Now a couple of shots taken after I’d removed the slat but before I’d removed the wing tip. On the day, the front part of the wing tip had popped right out and I’d replaced it and held it in situ using duck tape. Luckily the damage to the wing tip leading edge was only superficial if rather unsightly.

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Next some shots of the new wing tip plastic when I tried it for fit the first time but before I’d dressed the leading edge back into shape.

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And finally some shots of the ‘finished’ job after the wing tip had been drilled for the strobe with the strobe light reattached.

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The job isn’t finished, of course, because there’s still repainting to do. But at least the structural work is now done. I don’t have the skill or the tools to redress the wing tip leading edge metal perfectly back into shape and I didn’t want to work it too much for fear of stretching it, which would have made re-pop rivetting even more difficult than it already was.

But I’m pleased with the outcome which has actually exceeded my expectations and hope that I’ll be able to make it look even better after respraying it. That will be for later this week, though, and the weather should be very good for it with warm temperatures and only light winds.

And the day ended as well as it started in the form of an evening ‘Marché Gormande’ at Fleurac where I had the pleasure of being with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for a year on account of my illness last year, and eating and drinking local food and wine. It proved once again that simple things are often the source of life’s greatest pleasures and I’m thankful to be among such fine people and living the life here that I am.

August 13, 2018

Now what?

Been thinking about what comes next after fixing the leak in my kitchen. I had a big problem with my toilet cistern overflowing but that seems to have abated now that the water pressure in my house is down to a more acceptable level after fitting the new pressure reducing valve. The ball valve in the cistern now stops the water inflow but shortly after water begins running down into the toilet bowl.

This is what happens with just about every toilet you ever come across in France because the ‘standard design’ is basically so poor. It’s an anathema to a UK ex-pat because we hate to see water being wasted, especially when it’s metred, plus you also end up with lime scaling staining in the bowl.

But for now I’ll just live with it, probably until I can get around to totally revamping my bathroom, especially if I can paint over the mold on the panel that the toilet is suspended on caused by the overflowing water and make it look more presentable.

So next on my list is my planning. I submitted my plans for my house extension just over a couple of years ago and was asked to provide some more information – nothing much but enough to prevent my receiving a ‘tacit approval’. The way the system works here is that if within 3 months of submitting your plans to the local mairie you have heard nothing, that means that they have been approved.

You then have to erect a panel on the roadway that can be viewed by the public outlining your project and if during the following 3 months nobody objects to your plans (they’d be unlikely to succeed anyway as the local planning authority will already have deemed them acceptable) you can eventually get cracking.

I visited the local planning office in Rouffignac a week or so ago showing my responses to the original request for more information and they told me that with them included in my planning dossier, it will be approved. They also suggested that in view of the time that’s passed, I’d do better cancelling my first dossier and submitting a new one to give me a full three years after approval to commence the work.

If I want to start my extension in the spring I really need to get the new submission in ASAP because of the time scales that I’ve mentioned above. Then I’ll be able to talk to my contractor in the autumn so he can build my work into his 2019 schedule. So rehashing my plannig dossier is a priority.

The next target, which should be simple to achieve, is to get my X-Air advertised for sale. It’s all ready to go and all I need to do is test fly it, later this week as the forecast looks to be pretty good, and take some more pictures as the ones I already have don’t show it after its recent spruce up. After advertising it all I’ll then be able to do is wait.

And finally there’s the Savannah. I have the replacement wing slat and plastic wing tip to do the repair necessary after I damaged the wing while I was turning to take off to head to the UK back in June. Looking ahead, my plans are now to make that trip some time between Monday 10 and Friday 21 September as my friend whose field I will be landing on will be back in the UK then and I’ll also be back in France in time for my next check-up scan on 25 September.

So no pressure on getting the repair work done. I sprayed the wing tip white today and have by cordless drill on charge as I type this, so should be all set up to remove the damaged parts tomorrow. Whether I’ll then continue and fit the new replacements I’ll have to wait and see, but it’ll be nice to make a start anyway.

That just leaves my car to get back repaired, hopefully also this week, and my garden and probably Malbec to mow after the showers we’ve had recently which will start the weeds growing at high speed if not the grass. So with all that lot, I’ve got a pretty well defined plan of action over the next few days, if not weeks. And who knows, with all of the above going on, I might even be able to fit in a little bit of flying too 😉

August 12, 2018

Finishing off the job

I’d thought about going flying this morning but didn’t have enough time to before the temperature began escalating after I’d visited Madeleine and Manja, Victor’s daughter, selling off their ‘junk’ at today’s Fleurac flea market. But just as well, because it gave me the chance to finish off making good after yesterday’s plumbing repair.

My idea was to make a simple thin plywood panel that could be slotted over the water supply inlet ball valve, thus holding it at its bottom, and held in place at its top by the cupboard shelf. And it worked fine as the following shots show.

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I had a suitable plywood offcut that I cut the panel itself out of using a small electric angle grinder with a thin cutting wheel. It was the first time that I’d done that and I found that the result was far better than using a jig or circular saw which always ends up fraying the cut edge of the plywood. That didn’t happen with the angle grinder.

I also cut out the slot for the ball valve handle using the same tool and it made a neat enough job. I just gave the panel a coat of white spray gloss and it was dry enough to put in place after being outside for ony a few minutes in the hot sun.

The cupboard back panel is still stained from the leak and I couldn’t do anything about that today as I didn’t have any of the special paint that you need to cover water stains, so I’ll have to deal with that later.

So that was that – job done. I’ve got my cupboard back and also my kitchen table that many of the cupboard’s contacts have been standing on for …errr… several weeks (months actually).

And the good news is that having got this job out of the way, my decks are clear to start on the Savannah’s wing this week. All I’ll then need is to get my car back repaired and things will start to look as though they’re getting back into shape again.

August 12, 2018

Wasps

I was just reading a letter about wasps in the DT Online and the useful role that they play in ‘cleaning up our environment’.

Trouble is over here in France we’re now getting them about 2 inches in length. If you tackle a nest that they’ve made in a hole in your wall (I had one near my backdoor a while back) they all come out and attack you in force and as they only have to touch you for the briefest moment with their sting to inflict a painful injury as I found to my cost, you’re wise to beat a hasty retreat.

Lord help any children or pets in the vicinity.

I patched a hole in my roof where a tile had broken a couple of days ago in anticipation of thunderstorms and before I knew it a number of smaller wasps emerged and attacked me while I was at the top of the ladder. One stung me in my eye (on my eyelid actually) but fortunately I was able to descend safely and put vinegar on the site (and, painfully, in my eye also) very quickly to mitigate the discomfort.

So fine for all you real and budding ecologists out there, if the damn things stayed in the countryside where they belong. But they don’t and inevitably end up in conflict with we humans. There can then be only one outcome, but as there seems to be so many more of the blighters this year, it’s unfortunate but probably not catastrophic for the global ecosystem.

August 11, 2018

No leaks now

On New Year’s Day I was unfortunate to find that I had a water leak behind the floor cabinet in the corner of my kitchen. This was doubly unfortunate because as well as being an unpleasant start to the new year, this cabinet was the first one that I had fitted, so you could call it the principal cabinet, and initially I thought that access to the source of the link would be impossible without ripping all of my kitchen cabinets out again.

And the leak also came at a bad time for me personally, just before the end of my eight months of chemotherapy treatment, so I was at a very low ebb physically and mentally. As a result since then I’ve limped along on a daily basis managing the leak by mopping it up when I had to, catching what I could with a container and turning the water off overnight and whenever I left the house.

But even the latter became ineffective because the stop-cock controlling the water supply was very old and eventually let enough water by even when in the ‘off’ position to allow the leak to continue.

So things had to be brought to a head and this started a month or so ago when I at last had the physical and mental determination to tackle the problem head-on. I started by cutting a section out of the back of the cabinet to get a better idea of what was going on and found that the source of the leak was a pressure reduction valve that I knew was there and had thought about renewing at the time I began fitting the kitchen but didn’t, so more fool me.

I tried to take it apart ‘in situ’ but couldn’t, but in doing so managed to slow the leak down a bit. However, this was nowhere near enough and it became obvious that I would have to take the bull by the horns and do whatever was necessary to deal with the problem once and for all. So a couple of weeks ago I enlarged the cut-out in the back of the cabinet so I could clearly see what was going to be involved.

And what I found came as a pleasant surprise. With better access I could see that with care, I could replace both the stop-cock and the pressure reducing valve without having to move the cabinet at all, so with that in mind, I researched and ordered a modern replacement pressure reducer (much smaller and neater) of the required size on line.

It arrived a day or so ago so yesterday I popped down to les Briconautes in Montignac to purchase all of the other fittings and other items that I would need and today I did the job. But with all of the usual problems.

The pipework in which the old valve was fitted is 16mm in diameter so that was the size of the fittings that I bought. I wanted a ball valve rather than a stop cock because all of the latter that I’ve bought while in France have been of appalling quality and have failed early, whereas my experience with ball valves has been better.

I wanted the type with a handle with ears but of course, that being the most popular, it was naturally out of stock, so I had to make do with the type with the longer lever handle. And I also picked up a short length of 16mm diameter copper tube. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, I didn’t check closely enough and it was only when I had cut a short length to finish the installation off that I realised that what I’d actually picked up was 18mm. So back I went to Montignac having had to wait until les Briconautes reopened after their lunch break and what did I find? 16mm diameter copper tube is the most widely used for general plumbing purposes so, of course, yet again they were out of stock and had none at all on the premises.

So that left me with just one choice – to drive all the way to Brico Depot in Trellissac, the UK owned store (same owners as B & Q) who rarely go out of stock of anything and on whom you can usually rely to have just what you need on their shelves. And this was the case, of course, with 16mm diameter copper tube.

So I have made a decision once and for all, to stop trying to source ANY items locally that I need for jobs in my house and garden. It’s always the same – I always end up going to Trellissac/Périgueux anyway and like today, spending more time driving backwards and forwards than actually doing the work. So that’s it, for the last time.

The job itself turned out to be much simpler than I had ever anticipated and was soon done, as the following shot shows. So at last I’m without a leak in my kitchen.

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All I have to do now is cut and paint a plywood panel to cover the hole in the back of the cabinet. If I cut a slot in it to slip over the handle of the ball valve, it will be held in place by the cabinet shelf and there will then always be an access panel should it ever be needed again. And what a relief it will be to get all of the stuff back into the cabinet that has been standing for months on my kitchen table and at various other locations, in my spare bedroom and elsewhere.

I’ll sleep a little easier tonight 😉

August 8, 2018

Some good news

Cooler weather forecast for today – 30°C, down from 36/37°, still pretty warm but not scorching as it has been – so a good day to get myself over to Malbec and finish the varnishing on the X-Air. I can’t sell it until it’s done and I must get it advertised on Le Bon Coin ASAP while there’s still a goodly bit of the season still to run.

There’s no point keeping it. I can’t fly three ULMs and the longer it stays holed up in the barn the older it gets and the more it deteriorates. ULMs like all aircraft, need to have the air under their wings and flowing through their structure. They just get dirty and more shabby the longer they stay hangared and that’s why it was so important to get the varnishing work done on the X-Air, so it looks as fresh, clean and bright as possible for the old aircraft that it now is.

The morning started off refreshingly cool with a bit of cloud but this was a trap for the unwary or foolish, like me, with work to do who should have started early to take advantage of the cool conditions. However, I didn’t and didn’t start work until gone 11.00 am and it wasn’t long thereafter before the sunshine broke through and things began to warm up quite a bit.

The only advantage of this was that the varnish I was using soon dried and I had no worries about insects or other flying matter landing on my work and spoiling it. I soon finished off the small amount of yellow that was left to do, mainly on the rear fuselage cover, and then I wanted to re-do the blue cover between the upper wing sufaces and re-touch small areas on the aelerons that were showing signs of wear.

I’d found a small amount of blue left over by the previous owners that must be over six or seven years old but still appeared to be in good condition and I was just hoping that it would be enough. In fact with thinner added it proved to be more than ample and by early afternoon the X-Air was standing before me looking spick-and-span in its bright yellow and blue glory.

It didn’t look half bad and if this coat lasts as long as the last one has done (six or seven years by my estimation) then the X-Air’s next owner will be getting a bargain with the selling price that I’ll be putting it up for, especially when you bear in mind that the varnish will also be protecting the dacron covers from the effects of UV.

Because of the temperature, when I’d finished I was able to completely cover the X-Air up immediately to protect it from dust, dirt and animal waste, mouse and wasp droppings mainly, that are a bit of a problem in the barn. I haven’t used the black PVC covers that I made when I first acquired the X-Air for the last few months because they are beginning to fall apart a bit due to the effects of UV when it was standing outside. This wasn’t a good idea, however, as they can still provide enough protection against the muck in the barn, so today I replaced them as the shots below show.

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As I said to Wim today, I already have some suitable pics of the X-Air to be used in an ad on Le Bon Coin, so all I need to do now is give it a test flight in the next few days and put the ad up. Then it will just be a question of waiting to see what happens. We are expecting a little bit of rain over the next couple of days after which it should be a bit cooler but still with only light winds. So ideal weather for a test flight and I look forward to getting the old girl back in the air again.

And I’ve just received another bit of good news too. My local mechanic has now had a chance to look at my car and come to some conclusions about the repair. He has told me that it doesn’t need any new parts at all, so so much for the 1,600€ quoted by the pirates in Paris to fit a new turbo. He has told me that the only problem he has found so far has been an internal problem with the fuel pump that was causing fuel to be pumped straight into the engine and was caused by a fault with three bolts inside the pump.

He didn’t have time to explain exactly what the fault was, but I suspect it was something to do with high pressure fuel being fed in volume into the particulate filter as I described in my previous post, although I’m not sure. But in any case, he said that after rectifying the fault he has run the engine for the first time since the incident occurred over a month ago, but only briefly to prevent any damage.

Before he can declare it a complete fix, however, he has to clear all of the old oil and diesel out of the engine and run the engine for longer. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that it will run as it did before with no nasty fumes or noises. Now that really will be good news and music to my ears 😉

August 6, 2018

Every little helps

I hardly flew at all last year because of my illness and I’m not exactly doing much catching up this year, partly because of aircraft being U/S (damage to Savannah wing tip when I was preparing to take off to fly to the UK) and also because of the extreme temperatures that we’re getting this year.

With 37° C being forecast again for today, it starts to become dangerously thermic from quite early on, mid-day or even a bit earlier. As Wim was saying on Sunday, the only times you can think about flying are early in the morning and quite late in the evening, from around 8.30 pm, because the high temperatures and associated variable winds persist for quite a long time even after the sun has started to go down.

My plan for today was to finish off the varnishing of the X-Air and with that in mind, I got a reasonably early night so I could make an early start this morning, before the temperature began to build up too much. I also thought that if I took with me the 20 litres of fuel that I had ready, I could also top up the Weedhopper so I could do the same tomorrow, make an early start but this time get a flight in.

And with the frustration of not flying gnawing at me, I also thought that I’d take my flight bag with me ‘just in case’ – after all, you never know, as I had the last flight that I did with Wim still in my GPS, there might be an opportunity to get airborne and repeat it 😉

OK, you can guess what happened. By the time that I’d topped the Weedhopper’s tanks up, it was still fairly cool and calm with a bit of mist hanging over the landscape. What pilot could possibly have resisted it? I quickly got the Weedhopper onto the runway, warmed up the engine (no short-cuts there) and was away at 9.25. Here’s the route that I took, as before.

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After taking off, I swung left to fly over Madeleine and Victor’s house and Wim’s airfield. Then I continued up to Rouffignac and with a slight change of course, on up to Coteau de l’Herme camp site where I turned right to head for Condat.

My original intention was to land at Condat but as I could see the owner’s van there, I decided not to but to continue on to Terrasson instead. Whenever he and I meet up, we always end up chatting for ages and I couldn’t risk that today with the threat of heavy thermals building up 🙂

As last time, there was no sign of movement at Terrasson and after I’d landed, it appeared that the grass still hadn’t been mown since Wim and I were last there on 22 July. My flying time from Malbec was 35 minutes and I didn’t hang around on the ground too long, allowing myself only 5 minutes to record my flying times and have a quick pee. As every pilot knows, best to answer calls of Nature when on the ground rather than be caught short while in the air…

Then a take off in the opposite direction to the one in which I’d landed (no appreciable wind) and off to Galinat where I landed 20 minutes later. And not too soon as the approach over the trees was already becoming quite bumpy, so with that in mind another quick turn-round and off back to Malbec.

The climb out from Galinat was actually more bumpy than the approach, which made me wonder what I might expect when I got back to Malbec. I generally allow myself a long, steady approach at Malbec when conditions are like that and did so again today. Even so, the lift and sink as you descend closer to the threshold was fairly violent but I managed to control it and landed just before the marked threshold.

We set the threshold just beyond where the curvature of the slope levels out so as to allow for such eventualities so under the circumstances, I was quite pleased with that and would take it any day of the week. Time from Galinat, 10 minutes as per usual and a total flying time of 65 minutes. Not very long, but every little helps.

I still haven’t got a complete handle on the Weedhopper’s fuel burn, but from what I could tell, it appeared to have used only about 12 litres in that time. So quite amazing compared to what I was getting with MYRO with the same engine and including three take offs and landings too.

As the air was fairly still, I tried to get a feel for the speeds at various rpm’s, which were 80 kmh (normal AX3 Weedhopper cruising speed) at 5200 rpm, 90 kmh (same as the 582 powered X-Air) at 5500 rpm and over 100 kmh at 6000 rpm. The latter cannot be sustained continuously, of course, but is nevertheless quite impressive.

So taken all round, a very satisfying morning. But I really must get around to finishing off the X-Air though… goodness knows when… 😕

August 1, 2018

French frustrations!!

I’ve mentioned many times before about the problems you run into just ‘doing things’ here in France that you never thought about before because they just never arose. This morning was a case in point.

The temperature is rising again this week, back to a possible 40 degrees C by the weekend. This not only makes daytime flying impossible but it also makes working outside uncomfortable to say the least. So having sorted out all of the outstanding ‘other’ things as I thought (I’ll come back to that in a moment), I wanted to get back to finishing off the outstanding work on the X-Air.

So this morning I was out of the door for a (reasonably) early start only needing to drop into Bricojem in Rouffignac on the way to Malbec to pick up some acetone thinner and another cheapo paintbrush. But what do I find? Bricojem are ‘sold out’ of acetone. Can you believe that?

The problem is that the only idea they have of ‘stock contol’ over here is, ‘Is there any more on the shelf? No? OK, better order some more – it’ll just be a week, come back later’. The only problem is that when you need it NOW the only alternative that you have is to go elsewhere – and elsewhere is either Périgueux (half a day lost) or les Briconautes at Montignac.

The latter is much closer but in completely the opposite direction away from Malbec, back past where I live, but with no other choice, that’s what I had to do. So by the time I’d got what I wanted, that was the end of my ‘early start’ and with the temperature climbing rapidly, that’s another day gone, the more so as I think that I’m already feeling the heat somewhat as a result of the lingering effects of my illness.

So what else? Oh yes. I’ve been chasing les Noyers, the Savannah centre, since June for a replacement plastic wing tip to effect the repair on the Savannah, which has been grounded the whole time ever since. But without luck – phone hardly ever being answered, no response to emails and a grossly excessive price being quoted for the part which I had little choice but to accept.

So in a final act of desperation I gave Steve and Brian, the guys at Sandtoft Ultralights in Derbyshire a ring, who are the Savannah importers for the UK, to see if they could help in any way. ‘No problem!’ said Steve, we’ve got a couple of spares in a box because a while back we brought in two Savannah Classics whose wings were changed over during construction to VGs, which use a different wing tip. Give me your address and I’ll put one in the post for you’.

What an incredibly kind gesture and Steve even declined my offer of carriage – ‘Nah… it’s only a couple of quid’. Amazing blokes so kudos to Sandtoft Ultralights.

But then what? This morning, totally out of the blue with no prior notification after many unacknowledged calls and emails from me, I get a call from les Noyers. ‘We have your wing tip’. Thanks for nothing, really. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. ‘France’ and ‘Customer Service’ are two mutually excusive concepts.

Have you heard? Banks and other high-tech organisations will be FLOODING from London to Paris as a result of Brexit. Yeah, pull the other one… 😕