Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Traffic Cone Revenge

I stayed over at Sywell last night, but unfortunately the visibility was awful in the morning and didn't look set to clear away, so I left at lunchtime, having pottered around fiddling with my Dragonfly....thinking about where I am going to put my compass etc.

Yesterday, despite the haziness, which confined me to the circuit, I had a magnificent day's flying, bringing my time in the Dragonfly up to 4hrs50! My first experiences on it, on Monday, had been rather hairy; Neill said, having tried it out first thing, that it was the roughest weather he'd ever flown it in...and there was I about to fly it for the first time! A bit of rotor from surrounding hangars snatched the wing at one point and really scared me . But yesterday's flying was just superb....the experience, obviously, not my handling of the aeroplane; but even that quickly improved.

I got to the point where I could line up on the runway to land, control the wing with one hand and the throttle with the other and hold my line and height all the way along the runway...not quite sure how high....about ten feet, I guess.......but smooth and controlled. Best of all, Neill was there to see it. He got some good photos...(post them here when he emails them). Later, Stewart Bond came out and was complimentary....and even Cath had the odd nice thing to say.

Luckily the latter two didn't see me land on a traffic cone! I'd gathered that at one point on Monday Stew had said I was approaching too high, so yesterday I worked on ever shallower approaches....until I rounded out too early and so low that I didn't so much come down on a cone as fly into it! It was there to mark the end of the runway.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Today I flew my first aeroplane for the first time

The thing about flying the Dragonfly for the first time is that you can't be "checked out" on the type because there is no second seat; nobody can come round with you on your first circuit to make sure you are happy with the controls. You just have to listen carefully to instructions then climb in and apply all you have learnt.

And that is what I did today......completing 1hr 35 in it.

It is a fantastic feeling flying your first ever aeroplane for the first time (nice bit of alliteration for a lesson there).

More later, but right now I am off to The Aviator for a drink with Neill!

Friday, 26 December 2008

The BMAA community

I have been spending increasing amounts of time on the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) forums, where I have been picking people's brains about instrumentation. Jeremy Harris, Steve Wilson, Paul Collins and Paul Dewhurst have been especially helpful. I like the BMAA Forums as it feels like a community and everyone is very willing to share what they know.

I had no idea that most compasses on microlights were regular, common or garden nautical compasses, or that digital compasses were not just a gadget of little real, practical use, though Jeremy says the compass on his watch is "pants" because it has to be held perfectly horizontal to work.

Paul Dewhurst (who has won international competitions in navigation) has even used a flat walking compass (the type with a bezel) and managed fine. He said there is nothing to stop me just fixing it to the keel (I could probably just use a bit of black duct tape?). Steve Wilson, who flies near me, flies an unfaired Dragonfly with a Silva kayaking compass strapped to the keel, which is another very affordable option.

Jeremy recommends a Suunto watch with vario and altimeter, but I am not sure this is necessarily going to be cheaper than a Digi Fly. On his advice I have placed a wanted ad on Paramotorists' site.

GPS systems also have altimeters and digital compasses, and one that is very affordable is the Garmin Etrex Vista, and coincidentally Paul has one he is willing to sell. Steve just emailed me to say that you can download your track and see where you went on Google Earth, which is pretty seductive stuff! He also pointed out that an ASI is not really necessary as you know, for nav calculation purposes, how fast you go in trim (with the bar neutral). So, the Etrex could be all I need, though I would like a separate compass that I can just glance at (especially as the Garmin compass uses lots of battery).

the merits of not knowing what you don't know

I was talking on the phone to Dad today and mentioned Neill having complimented me on my rather fine side-slip turn the other day. He seemed impressed. I said that I achieved it mainly because I only vaguely know what a side-slip turn is, which made him laugh. All I know is that I wanted to get down quickly, so I made my call for Final half way down base leg and then cut the corner and dumped some height; I sort of just picked my target and then cut in towards it.

Neill (who attributes any latent genius in me to his teaching, naturally) was extremely complimentary. I was just chuffed he had seen it. He said I am now a "pilot", rather than a student. It was kind of a coming-of-age moment.

I have now done about 6 hours solo.

I have bought 3rd party insurance and next time I go to Sywell, I am going to fly MY aeroplane for the first time.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Red Herrings and Asset Stripping

As a teacher who would far rather talk about aeroplanes than adverbial clauses, I have been teaching my kids the art of the skilfully initiated red herring....and thus, this week, was treated to a jolly five minutes discussing with Year 4 the business of storing an aeroplane.

One of my favourite pupils, a somewhat eccentric boy, suggested I bought a barn.

I have just bought an aeroplane. How on earth will I afford a barn?

He came straight back at me, "Buy a barn with a cow in it, and sell the cow"

That is one for the book.


Monday, 15 December 2008

a pilot's swagger

Today I flew three hours solo!
THREE hours!....something like 25 landings, lots of them beautiful.

I love the Quantum wing and people keep telling me the Dragonfly is even better!

Apparently I now have a pilot's swagger.

A fantastic day!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Small is Beautiful!

I have loads of photos of the Dragonfly in various states of undress, including this one, which shows Stewart Bond crouching next to a knocked-down prototype trike. Look how compact it is. It really is incredible, isn't it!

Here's a superb
film about how to rig it.
I have said this before, but someone really must do a stop motion film of it rigging the You Only Live Twice gadget, Little Nellie.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Once in a hundred years!

I have decided that, come what may, I am going to be crossing the English Channel to France on the 25th July, 100 years after Bleriot's celebrated crossing. Hundreds are due to do it and when I originally mooted the idea, Neill didn't think I'd be ready, but I am going to be doing it anyway...and Neill, seeing my renewed determination last weekend, is going to support me. He tested my resolve by saying that if I was serious, I should join him this weekend by jumping into Pitsford Reservoir, fully kitted up...and I accepted the challenge.

Actually it won't be this weekend, and we are going to be much more sensible and do it "Officer and a Gentleman" style, in a swimming pool with divers standing by. Neill says the suits get incredibly heavy in water, so we have to have back-up in case anything goes wrong. Life jackets are inflated with CO2 at a cost of £11 a shot, so I need to get it right first time! We discussed, this morning, whether we should keep helmets on or jettison them. Some favour the latter as they are heavy and could contribute to neck impact. Neill's thinking we should keep them on for initial impact, then rethink - they may be heavy but they keep heat in. Of course nobody wants to think they will ever end up in the drink at all, but it is right to be prepared.

Carol de Solla Atkin, never one to walk away from a challenge herself, has been very encouraging and gave me the boost to go and ask Neill for his support; I am hoping she will accept MY challenge, convert to microlights and join us.....and I think she is keen. After all, this is an opportunity that comes round only once in a hundred years.

The photo comes from The Flying Kiwi - Richard Seaman
Thanks Richard

Thursday, 11 December 2008

My first aeroplane!

Looking a bit of a gumbie...but the suit matches!

Cath in her unique, electric-blue Dragonfly (with electric undercarriage) behind me in G-CFKK

here, a bald gumbie!

Cath at Flylight has confirmed that my final payment has been received, so I now own G-CFKK
I still haven't blogged last week's flying, which included Neill's demo of a power failure in which he got the GT450 all the way back to Sywell from Northampton. An extraordinary bit of flying....or so he tells me ;)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

This is where I came in!

Here's the film that first made me aware of the Dragonfly.

and here, Ben Ashman, its designer, provides interesting commentary over some more mouth-watering footage, which also features the aeroplane flown engine-off. It has record-breaking soaring capabilities.

and just watch how tightly packed it goes in this

Hey, cool, I just realised that the actual aeroplane in the user's guide is mine!

What is particularly sexy about the design, and which becomes apparent from watching the film, is that the undercarriage retracts manually, by the pull of a coded cord activating an ingenious mechanism. This has the added advantage that the entire trike unit can be "short-packed" so that it will fit into the back of a car - with the wing carried on a roof-rack. I really think it should be featured as a gadget on the next Bond film.

I aim to make a short stop-motion film of it assembling "itself", as WA116, Little Nellie, was seen to do in
"You only Live Twice"

The newest development is an electric retract, which I am going to fit to mine.
Here is Ben Ashman's film of the system being tested out on Cath Vickers' blue Dragonfly.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A Fantastic Day

Absolutely brilliant day today. This is just a brief bulletin for now, as I have to do some planning for school and ironing for the morning....

After my second solo

I flew brilliantly, my best so far....especially my final solo circuit of three, which I felt totally on top of, despite some very rough air....

(sorry, when you feel this chuffed it is hard to be modest)

Judy Ledden

Then, Ben offered me a deal I couldn't refuse and I am buying the red Dragonfly that Judy Ledden test flew. In fact, if I can get together all the top pilots who have flown this very one recently, it will make a great shot, all of them standing under its wing: including Neill Howarth , Ben Ashman, Paul Dewhurst, Stewart Bond and Dave Price.


An absolutely fantastic day!

More about it later