But worth it! I left for Chartres at 6.30am yesterday while it was still dark and arrived back home again at 2.30am this morning. But the trip was worth every minute! I’d arranged with Chris, the owner of the Weedhopper, to meet him at his house from where I would follow him to the airfield where it’s hangared.
The drive there was almost 500km and I arrived just before 12.30pm, almost dead on 6 hours after leaving home. I’d encountered heavy rain, and quite thick mist on the high ground in the south, especially between Brive and Limoges, but by the time I got to his house, which I recognised immediately by the FFPLUM sticker on the bumper of a car parked in the driveway, the day was shaping up very nicely.
Chris turned up soon after as he’d managed to get a flight in before I arrived (can’t blame him) and after a coffee, over which I met his lovely wife and two children, we set off for the airfield. I mentioned to Chris that I needed to buy some diesel for the drive home, but with everything else that was going on, we both then promptly forgot, a lapse which came back to haunt me as I’ll explain later.
There are three ULM fields in the Chartres area and as Chris said that the one that he flew from was quite close to his home, I thought that we would be going to LF2823 Loulappe. However, I was wrong and we ended up at LF2854 La Saussaye, a bit further away. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to be taken back the way that I’d come, finally turning off the main road along a ‘chemin rural’ next to a college that I knew from having passed it many times on my way to and from the UK.
We ended up driving along the usual farm track until we arrived at a cluster of farm buildings, one of which was being used as a hangar, next to a grass runway with a windsock hanging limply and after parking next to it, Chris opened the doors and I got my first sight of MYRO’s French cousin, 28AAD. And I have to say that I was very impressed.
Unlike MYRO and most of the AX3s in the UK, 28AAD has never been used for training, and it showed. It obviously has far fewer hours on it than MYRO and the tubes and fixings all looked to be in more or less ‘brand new’ condition with not a trace of rust or a scratch anywhere. Except where it had been damaged, of course, which I’ll come back to in a second.
From what I’ve been able to gather so far from the paperwork, I think it’s a 1998 model, which would make it 3 years newer than MYRO. It appears that it was modified in 2003 with a second tank (as I did with MYRO), a ballistic parachute, which Chris is selling separately for 450€, and its new skins. The skins in general are in excellent condition. There is a unfortunately a bit of hangar rash on the wings, although not an excessive amount, but the fuselage and tail skins are immaculate. But the Ultralam and stitching is otherwise perfect with many years of life left in them.
It was fitted from new with a 582 Rotax, which again Chris is selling separately that I’d love to have kept, but fitting MYRO’s 503 as per all of the factory built UK AX3s is really what makes the project economically viable. Sad I know, but a necessary fact of life.
It has the French large-wheel undercarriage which I much prefer to MYRO’s small wheels as specified for the UK and which contributed in part to MYRO’s undoing. Now that I’ve seen it, the damage that it’s sustained looks like quite an easy fix, so I should be able to retain them. It also has a brake lever on its control stick in the manner that’s much loved here in France, rather than the original heel brakes that MYRO still has. I’ll keep an open judgement on it for now as I never had a problem with MYRO’s brakes and certainly after Regis converted his 701’s brakes to hand operated, he has never been able to get enough force on them to hold the aircraft under power.
But that’s enough for now. There’ll be plenty of opportunity to go into the more technical aspects when I start on the repair work and the first job, after agreeing to buy it, was to get it broken down and ready for transport back home. Chris said that he’d stay and help until the job was complete, which was very handy as I’d originally said that once we’d got the wings off and the fuselage up on the trailer, he could go if he wanted to as I could strip the wings myself. It was also good from another aspect because while we were working, various club members turned up who I was able to press-gang to help lift and hold things at various times during the process.
Having now done the job two or three times, with Chris helping, we were able to make quite fast progress. It was obvious from the condition of its pins and safety rings that 28AAD hadn’t been taken apart very often, if ever, and some pins eg the main ones holding the wings on, which can be quite tight at the best of times, took a bit of budging. But eventually the job was done and with the help of Alain, one of the ‘volunteers’ who has a Blériot historical aircraft and museum, we got the fuselage up on the trailer, which I’d modified to a platform by removing its front, rear and side panels, making it perfect for the job. I rolled the wing covers up and they went inside the Kia together with the wing battens, wing tip tubes and jury struts, and the main struts and wing tubes I carefully packaged up very tightly so they couldn’t shake, rub together and damage each other, to go on the roof.
Chris had left by this time to go and pick up his son and I’d worked up a real sweat as it had been hot and humid all afternoon. Finally the job was done and everything was tied down securely for the journey back to the Dordogne and just before I started off, I took the following pics.
I’d left the ’empennage’ (tail assembly) on as I don’t want to have to remove it unless I really had to. I knew that there would be a bit of an overhang as shown by the following pics, after having transported MYRO in a similar way (we took 56NE’s tail assembly off for the journey down from Bretagne), but I thought that it wouldn’t be excessive, as proved to be the case.
I was more concerned about the extent of rear overhang off the back of the trailer, as the following images show. However, although I knew that I’d be driving for a short time through some quite narrow streets in Orléans, most of the drive would be on open main roads and during the evening and night when there would be little other traffic, so I wasn’t too concerned.
The drive was tiring as I’d had a very long day but although I thought about pulling up in a rest area for a nap, I couldn’t because with all of 28AAD’s stuff in the back of the car, I couldn’t recline my seat by even an inch! So I just had to press on, which I did stopping every now and again for a break, a drink and the occasional pee. It was a great relief to arrive home and I just parked everything in my driveway and fell into bed. Surprisingly, I awoke this morning after only 7 hours sleep feeling quite refreshed and here are some shots that I took.
Remember how I mentioned that I forgot to get Chris to point me in the direction of a nearby petrol station? Well, not long after I’d left the airfield my fuel warning light came on during the long cross-country leg from Chartres to Orléans. I could hardly believe that there I was in the same heart-stopping position that I’d found myself in only a few weeks before on my way back from the UK. I knew that I wouldn’t come across any garages on my route and just as before, as I checked my fuel computer, it flipped to ‘zero’ as the distance that I could drive with the fuel remaining in my tank.
So there was nothing for it. As I was passing through a village, I decided to pull up at the side of the road and knock on a front door to ask the resident where I could find the nearest petrol station. I chose a nice smart looking one and when I knocked on the front door, which was ajar, a sweet young schoolgirl in large glasses came to greet me. I explained my predicament and she said ‘pas de souci’ (no problem), if I turned around back through the village, then turned right and continued straight on, I’d find one only about 6 kilometres away. I thanked her and after following her instructions and stopping again to ask a kind lady motorist who was just about to drive off in her car, I found what I was looking for at an Intermarché supermarket.
However, I paid a price. To punish me, the stern lady in my satnav took me back to rejoin the main road over some of the most atrocious rural roads that I’ve come across this time in France. From time to time I thought that 28AAD was going to jump right off the trailer, but finally all was well and we made it back to the main road and eventually home to the Dordogne with no damage being suffered. Now comes the job of getting it off the trailer, with Wim’s help, and getting it safely stored until I can start the repair work.