Sunday, 26 December 2010


on reflection, maybe all I did wrong 1st start was flood the carb because, of course, the automatic choke will have been full on. I should have been patient and waited a few mins before retrying.

On the second attempt about an hour later, when I had boosted my by then discharged battery, it did fire and stop, so I should have tried again with 10% throttle. But I think I just flooded it again.

It would be nice to hope it was nothing more complex than that...and that if I'd had a second battery, I would have been fine.

I am taking Neil Hubbard's advice and designing a new set of connections using EC3 connectors and a break-out to a couple of lugs for jump starting and charging, plus another plug in tamiya connector for trickle charging. Off to Maplins now.

Email from Wayne Lofts

Hi Peter...
Happy Christmas.
I have just read your blog and can understand
why you feel so downhearted. Please take your time and think it through.
Would not the option of buying another battery be the simple solution?
You have a lot more experience of the Dragonfly than I do.

However having owned a permit flexwing I can tell you it's a
bloody hassle. The permit every year is a big expense,

plus you have to find and pay a BMAA inspector to do the job.
Yeh you could get get a nice blade 462 for about 4K but it will

be old and need a lot of maintenance.

You have come too far in gaining a pilots licence to
simply pack it in. Why not try a spare battery and get down to the

airfield that bit more regularly if time permits.

You and the aircraft will benefit from it so much.
Kind regards,

Thanks for the encouragement, Wayne
I am not sure the battery is the problem. It will discharge very quickly anyway if the engine does not fire up quickly. No, I am missing something. Simple fact is that it is not as simple as Ben Ashman always says, it simply does not fire up every time.

I keep telling myself how lucky I was that I wasn’t ready to fly the Channel for the Bleriot celebrations!

I get to the airfield as often as I possibly can. But I agree with both you and Steve Wilson that I may have knackered my battery, so a new one is on the cards (Flylight is closed just now).

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Anyone fancy a Dragonfly?

It is glorious to fly, but I am tired of the times when it doesn't.

Don't buy an over-priced new one.

Buy mine...together with transporting equipment and I will even sell you the van, if you want.

Comes complete with all panels, new big-end bearing, new monopole and compression strut, new support plates, new foot throttle - all parts installed by Ben Ashman, except for the new nosewheel assembly which I installed but Flylight inspected - and engine serviced only a month ago by Paul Bailey himself.

If it doesn't go, I am the clown who can't get it to go. So if you are handy, this is a great opportunity to get one at an affordable price.
The aircraft itself is £8,000

the van, ramp, narrow-gauge undercarriage (for transportation and front door access), and roof-rack + ladder for supporting the wing etc are all up for offers.

built summer 2008

flown fewer than 50 hrs, including times used as sales demo by Flylight

the actual one seen in the assembly manual video and on the video on YouTube, where it flies in winter over Pitsford Reservoir.
bugger bugger bugger

all rigged and ready to go and the blinking battery discharged in seconds; guess I need a new one (and a spare)

got my trickle charger here but doubt I can take on enough as it is a slow charger.


not happy



After an hour and a quarter I thought I'd give it a short burst and then go home; didn't hold out much hope of having enough charge in the battery to start up, but never say never. So, without putting my suit on, I pulled on a motorbike helmet, strapped in and tried it. And she fired up! But after 30seconds she died and wouldn't re-start.

But that has given me hope. So, though I know it seems idiotic, I am charging the battery again in the hope of being able to fit in at least one circuit before sun-down. I don't like the idea that it cut out again...but at least it is possible to get enough charge in an hour to fire up. There is a chance now, which is more than I thought I had an hour ago.

Just as well I brought a book and have the computer here in the clubhouse to keep me amused.

Final Update
No, I couldn't start it.

That's it, I am selling it. I live too far away from the hangar to do work on her regularly, and if I am going to take her home, as I did tonight, I might as well keep her at home and fly closer to home....or sell her. But I am sick of the down-time. It is too expensive and frustrating.

I packed up the trike to bring it home and rewire the battery connections.


Friday, 24 December 2010

A fellow Dragonflyer wins Dragonfly flight :)

Congratulations to fellow Dragonflyer, Steve Wilson, for winning a go in MY Dragonfly with his answer to the competition, in record time!

The object is, amazingly, a 2.2m diameter wheel, one of the first parts of a German WW1 bomber, the
Mannesmann Poll, designed to bomb America. I don't think much else is thought to have actually been built. The wheel was found in a hangar near Koln in 1919. The scale of it is amazing, especially when you look at the wheel and then look at this picture which Steve provided today.

The giant triplane was to have had ten engines and a 6,524 mile range; seems inconceivable, doesn't it, especially at a speed of 80mph! A round trip would have lasted over three days! Hard to imagine having room for bombs as well as fuel.


Christmas Competition

Neill Howarth (my former instructor) and I met at Duxford for a grand day out yesterday and this photo, with him standing in front of it, shows a curious object which we were amazed by...and which is the basis of
this year's Christmas Competition.

Whoever identifies it gets to fly my Dragonfly in 2011.


Insurance sorted in ten minutes :)

Talked to Steve, yesterday, about possibly flying Xmas day, which he told me would be the best day for it (a brief respite in an otherwise horrible period of groundedness)...then woke this morning to the awful realisation that my insurance had run out....and the anxiety about the fact that On-Risk have pulled out of aviation....leaving me thinking I'd have to do a lot of schlepping around trying to find an insurer who would handle the great unknown of SSDR.

But I rushed off a quick text to Steve and he told me he gets his with Traffords. Went online. No phone number, just an email address. Emailed them with a "Bugger, have I left it too late?" and ten minutes later I was insured for half last year's premium...and they have included ANY PILOT!

Thanks, Steve, for the recommendation, and thanks to Greg and Tracy at Traffords.

Friday, 3 December 2010


Lizzie persuaded me that I'd be very unwise to attempt to drive the ordinarily 1 hr ten from Ipswich to Sutton Meadows, with ice under snow, to attempt a flight. I was ahead of her. I'd already decided that I'd abort. The wind was forecast as 9mph, which is no biggie in the air, but which is hazardous on the ground for an SSDR.

Pity because it would have been very pretty from the air. But am warm and dry where I am.

Monday, 29 November 2010

fingers crossed for Friday

Friday's forecasted wind has dropped from 11 to 6mph! That is the kind of trend I like! I don't work Fridays, so I am keeping fingers crossed.

Sunny, 0 degrees (could be worse, could be -3 like yesterday) and very good visibility. Anything could happen before then, of course. But I am staying positive.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

But for Dave Broom, I'd have come home without flying

My battery was flat. After all that!

I could have anticipated this: nearly three weeks without starting the engine and freezing air. I tried using a powerpack but couldn't get the crocs to hold on to the tiny contacts on my battery, so gave up, de-rigged, packed up and was resigned, completely, to coming home and salvaging what I could from the day - doing some guitar practice, or something.

Then Dave Broom landed and said, "get rigged, suit up and pre-flight and I'll pull your prop over". But I was already in give-up mode and tried to thank him most sincerely and carry on home, but he said, "you need to get flying. you need to stop fucking about". So, I completely re-rigged, strapped my balloonist's altimeter to my leg, donned my motorbike helmet (warmer than a flying helmet and headphones) and strapped in with minimal kit (no vario, radio, compass, map - nothing)

As it happened, the prop just slipped under the reduction belt, so Dave went and got his own battery out of his Shadow and jump-started me....and I went flying - the first time with a foot throttle, which makes life a hell of a lot easier.

It was glorious flying but doesn't begin to compare with Steve Wilson's story; he always tops me...and has fantastic photos to show for it; he should have a blog of his own! (Steve, take note)

I kept fairly close to Sutton Meadows (just in case. Need to re-build confidence) and climbed to about 1,800' and just bimbled. I did about 50 mins before landing for a cuppa to warm my hands. Switched off and then restarted immediately, just to see if I could. I had a coffee and a natter with Neil, Dave's student, then had another 20 mins in the air, in time to de-rig before it got dark.

But for Dave, I wouldn't have flown. He really saved the day.

Lesson learned. I need to get some quick release battery connections. Neil says the ones I used to wire in my GPS are not man enough for the job and he is going to email some good links. Currently I need to snip my lock-wire to remove the battery and re-wire it before flight....bloody-silly waste of time. I should be able to take my battery home and just click it into place and be ready for take-off. A spare battery wouldn't be a bad idea either.

I also need to slacken off my throttle cable, which wasn't returning to the stop, when closed. The engine was revving slightly high at idle and I was forced to do a go-around on my first landing.
4mph wind

going now

Saturday, 27 November 2010

sub-zero, shnub je'ro! I want to go up!

The internal debate this weekend is, "will I get up in the air tomorrow, or not"? Am all packed and ready (bought a fishing bag at a carboot for only £20, new, which has room for everything in well padded pockets and is much lighter than my wheeled tender).

So, ok, it is sub-zero...but the snow will have stopped and wind is just 7mph at its worst for the day. Should I risk the drive (snow, ice and idiots) and a blowout on the snow camouflaged, crater infested off-road track? And what will traction on the runway be like...and how easy to spot it from the air, covered in snow?

I think I will just bimble close to home and go through all the drills, some practice forced landings it has been two months.

Just praying the wind might drop just a wee bit (been rising) and the tempreature creep up even just a degree (been dropping)!
Yes, I will undoubtedly be miserably cold, but I know the scenery will be stunning and I will be aviating!

I want to go.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

about time I had a droolingly nice shot of my trike at the top of my blog again :)

Friday, 12 November 2010

I look like a fool, but I get the last laugh

I have just unloaded at Sutton and logged on to the flying club computer, having come here straight from Paul Bailey's farm, where he ran through all the checks on my engine and found the source of the problem in about twenty minutes flat. The price? To be the butt of a joke Paul will share with Ben Ashman....

My wiring of the auxiliary power socket was the source of the problem. I had wired the positive up correctly, but my negative should have been earthed through the chassis and not connected to the black wire.

My initial embarrassment was saved, however, when I remembered that I'd been completely oblivious to the very existence of the two wires until Ben Ashman pointed them out and suggested I plug my GPS into them. He seems to have been as unaware as I was that the black wire is commonly used by paramotorists for a KILL SWITCH!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

CAP 413 supplement 3 - How to get sound

When studying for my RT I found CAP413 Supplement 3 very useful - mainly because it has audible examples of text-book exchanges between controllers and aircraft. But when Steve Wilson suggested I use it to brush up on my RT I found that the sound links no longer worked. So I got in touch with the CAA help desk and Kevin wrote back to say that there is a mismatch between the latest version of Adobe Acrobat and their file.

The solution is to download the file to your computer and run it from there (rather than watching it in your browser). When it opens in your browser it doesn't have an immediately apparent save button. But I discovered the solution to this by accident. At the top-right is a button "Exit"-Home. Click this and a menu appears along the top. Click on the Floppy, as usual, to save.

Many thanks to
Kevin Crowley at the CAA

pitting hope against the fear of disappointment

Apparently Paul is away on holiday. So that puts paid to any plans to get flying for a week or so.

But in a way that is a good thing. When there is a chance of a gap in bad weather or a chance to go and get something done on the plane, or whatever (when you are dependent on others or other circumstances) you play a waiting game; forever on edge, forever calculating likelihoods, forever watching the wind, forever mentally pacing up and down waiting, forever pitting hope against the fear of disappointment.

At least this way I know that for the next week I will not be disappointed....and can spend the time more productively: in this case, glazing my workshop.

My plane will get sorted out and there will be a gap in the weather and I will fly.

But not this week.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

RT revision Nav-pot

It is all very well having my RT licence, but apart from calling Sutton Radio circuits and the odd mayday (ahem), I haven't actually talked to ATC at all . . . and feel afraid of doing it, despite reassuring pep talks from Carol and being called a poof by Neill.

So last night I re-jigged my Nav-pot to incorporate all my RT scripts and a moveable scribble board + pencil (yet another use for velcro!)

It is prototype number 2. It does look rather fussy, I know. But I think it will make life easier until I get the hang of RT in the air.

Wayne Lofts' trike

On a positive note, I saw Wayne Lofts' trike today and was able to send him some pictures on my mobile. In reception, when I arrived, I found Cath polishing the top panel with turtle wax - never occurred to me to do that, but what a great finish you get!

Wayne and I have been friends since he got in touch with me some months ago to ask me about the Dragonfly, as he has had a hankering to try SSDR, particularly with its advantages in terms of owner-operating costs. He had just sold his Quik and was looking for something which wouldn't feel like it was costing him loads when he wasn't flying.

What makes Wayne's Dragonfly unique is that it is adapted for use with two prosthetic legs, as he lost both of his in a motorbike accident when he was only 17, in 1987. The devastating crash also left him with a severe head injury, which meant that he had to learn to talk all over again (it doesn't show at all..and interestingly he has both air-to-ground and ground-to-air RT licences now)

Ben has designed some really nice features, including strapped pedals and a hand-brake, using the draw-chord and jam-cleat system he originally used for the retracts (which are electrically operated on Wayne's, as on most everyone's, these days).

I know Wayne is going to LOVE his Dragonfly. He has the newer engine and the grey powder coating which I thought I'd hate but which looks superb. Ben has done a really great job on it....and is delivering it on Monday.

I shall look forward to knowing how Wayne gets on with his new machine and will hopefully be able to put up some photos of it in use, as we plan on flying together soon.

Feeling discouraged

I collected my trike from Flylight today, but was rather disappointed that having fitted the throttle, Ben hadn't tested it, fired up. He said he couldn't without the prop...but I had deliberately left it behind the seat and he had overlooked it.

So Ben agreed to try the engine with me but we couldn't get it to start. Ben kept trying until it drained the battery. He checked all the lines and all looked right - I had put it all back together after cleaning the carb, but couldn't convince him that I hadn't somehow managed to block the idle jet while cleaning it.

Fuel was definitely being drawn up, but the lack of a smell of fuel didn't seem right. So Ben has said that I should take it back to Paul Bailey, who has always been very good to me, but who may not feel as magnanimous a third time. Ben has emailed Paul and hopefully he will get back to me Monday.

This is really getting beyond a joke now. I am not blaming anyone....these things happen and are clearly all part of owner-operating a plane, but for a plane which is meant to start every time (so that you can turn off and be sure of starting it again in flight), I seem to spend a hell of a lot of time trying to start it and keep it running.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Car Trek Voyager

Latest addition to my trike transporter is this bit of metalwork (I made from scrap), which bolts to the one-time back seat member, making a support for tool locker hatches behind the front seats (discreetly extending the back of the van bed over some storage space) and incorporates a drinks bottle holder. More pics when the project is finished, but for now....

When I took this photo the metalwork looked like
a distorted Starship Enterprise - do you see it?

G-CFKK goes home to Flylight

Before heading off to see Neill at Sackville, today, to look at his engine, I dropped my trike off at Flylight to have its foot throttle fitted

It was good to see Cath, Bernie and Paul.

There was a lot of activity....the Harvard showing off, an autogyro refuelling, a Tiger Moth...and lots of flexwings on the grass.

I wished I was flying too :(

an EXTRAORDINARY engine failure

the offending nut - well mallered!

see description below

pitting in cylinder head

goughing in the top of the piston

I had the privilege of being present, today, at the post mortem of Neill Howarth's 912, 48hrs after he brought himself and his student safely down, after it shuddered violently and stopped on take-off.

Amazingly, it turned out that the nut which held a cowl over his air filter's heater had vibrated loose and was sucked through the carb, through the inlet manifold, through the inlet port and was trapped between the piston and the cylinder head, where it was hammered violently. We think the washer must have broken up on the filter cowl bolt, easing the nut so that it wound free...and that the bits of washer got caught in the carb (where we found them). Some debris went into the rear cylinder head too with less catastrophic consequences. The gouging and pitting in both the starboard cylinder heads, just near the valves, and on the pistons is very clear.

It is hoped that the cylinder heads can be cleaned up, the pistons replaced and stress testing done...and that these steps alone will put things right. It could have been a hell of a lot more expensive.

effing celebs in Spits etc

Is anyone as sick as I am of celebs and other TV types getting rides in Spits and Lancs, etc.....because it is part of some programme or other about the war?! Half of them don't even realise what they are being given.


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Back to Ben

The carb went on fine...along with the electrical re-connections etc....but that frayed throttle cable was a bugger, so I rang Ben, thinking that maybe if it needed a new cable, I ought to bite the bullet and get a foot throttle fitted too...and as I'd be asking Ben to fit them, he'd set up my idle power setting properly for me too.

Ben was delighted to hear that I had been so daft as to remove the brass thingy on the end of the cable, saying, "This is all a bit beyond you really, isn't it" :) Apparently, he insists, I could have removed the throttle without undoing the brass thingy.

So, I am taking the trike to him tomorrow and picking it up again next Friday, at the start of half term.....solving a bunch of problems.
At the end of this crisis, as was the case at the end of the last lay-up, I shall be left with an aircraft which is better than before. It has been odd flying on a hand throttle alone...especially when landing. I think a foot throttle will give me far better control - it is a nice little design too.

p.s. Thinking it through, I can see now exactly how I should have taken the brass thingy out without undoing it. It is just the same as dismantling bicycle brakes. What a numpty! (I feel embarrassed)


Friday, 15 October 2010

Here's the plan

OK, here's the plan. Saturday, SM to do mechanics.
Sunday, go back up there to fly!

(providing I can shake off the last of this cold...and get everything back together satisfactorily)

Sunday looks great, with 3mph winds forecast.

For reference purposes, I have loaded pics of my carb assembly on to my GPS :)
and made up a sheet of them, just in case the battery dies ;)

-It sometimes seems like, no matter how many tools etc I take up with me, I will always have forgotten something...or failed to anticipate a need. But I am getting there.


Thursday, 30 September 2010

hangar maintenance

Sheltering in the hangar, working on my trike, between trips across the airfield in driving rain to my van to get tools etc, and feeling sick into the bargain, none of the jobs really seemed to go very well last Sunday. All my efforts seemed frustrated ....bolts that wouldn't come un-done, my 10mm spanner being missing, phillips heads in danger of rounding off, etc.

But finally, I got the carburetter off (being careful to photo everything as I did it because this is NOT an easy set-up); packed my bogey wheel bracket with plastic angle pieces (as advised by Ben) to stop wearing the keel; and wired in the gps auxiliary power supply, which didn't draw power when it was done, so presumably the engine has to be running (which I didn't try because I didn't have my prop on, but it makes sense, on reflection).

A tricky part of the re-fitting is going to be threading frayed steel throttle cable through the small hole in that brass cylinder at the top of the groove (see picture).

Suggestions anyone?

Carburetter maintenance

Click on images to see them more clearly

Referring to a drawing provided by Bruce Hatton at Bailey's, I took my carb apart to clean any possible fuel varnish out of my jets. Though they appeared to be clean, I soaked them in Wynns carb cleaner for about three hours (overkill perhaps, but I had no idea how long a "good length of time" was). I sprayed all other parts and let them drip dry.

Opinions differ about whether you should EVER stick anything in a carb jet, but on Bruce's advice I used a fine strand of brass taken from a cheap BBQ brush, bought for the purpose at a hardware shop. (I pulled the strands out with pliers and now have a supply in a 35mm film pot). The thing about brass is that it is a soft metal, so ought not to scratch the surface of the jets, while still being useful to remove any stubborn deposits or flecks. The brush strands are zig-zaggy, which makes them a tiny bit more abrasive. I did this with great care.

When everything seemed clean (time will tell), I dried everything completely with compressed air, which I also powered through the jets to make sure there was nothing at all left in them, then reassembled the carburetter.

Friday, 24 September 2010

reducing idle revs

There may be a slight delay in the GO SOMEWHERE plan, as Paul Bailey has expressed the view that my rev hunting was due to varnish in my carb, and also Bailey's (confirmed by Ben) say that Flylight now set up revs at 2,500 rather than 3,000- to aid landing on the Dragonfly, as its wing resists coming down at the best of times; so I am reluctant to leave mine at over 3,000.

So, I need to clean my carb, which ought then to make it easier to adjust the tick-over.

A slower idle ought to improve my consumption too, so it is a good way to go.


Saturday, 18 September 2010

sunset and sunrise

I was the last one down last night and the first up this morning...and as nobody was about, either time, I did a fair bit of larking about. Completely brilliant to be flying again.

Then I fitted the tacho and saw how dramatically my revs fluctuated close to idle. I fiddled around with settings much of the day and couldn't for the life of me get it sorted. Dave Broom offered to have a look at it at the end of the day, so I hung around, chatting to loads of people. And after all that, it took him less than 5 mins to get it set up. He has got it stabilised a couple of hundred revs above the 3,000 specified.

So, next time I go to Sutton Meadows, I am going to GO more anxious hanging about near the airfield.

(This week I need to solder some spade contacts on to my GPS power supply connector. Fitting that to the auxiliary power supply is the next job for when I go up to SM)

Friday, 17 September 2010

I am back in the air!

I flew this evening!

I'd spent the afternoon doing a mod on my throttle, which increased its pivot from an M3 to an M5, increasing the surface area of washers etc, so that it won't slip (thank Steve for sending me the drawings). It should have been a simple mod but my pivot bolt had become very slightly distorted and would neither tighten nor undo, so I had to drill it out and file the button head off...with a crappy drill bit (and nothing adequate to pilot the hole as I hadn't anticipated the problem). Anyway, eventually the job was done and I was just packing away when Dave Broom and John Lawrance, who had both just landed, urged me to get some in before sunset. I had to get a move on....but it was worth it!

It was completely glorious!

I am now in the clubhouse at Sutton Meadows and have discovered this computer (wireless generously provided by Dave Broom), so no longer feel quite as cut off; it is deadly quiet here. I forgot to bring my radio. I remembered school stuff, with a view to planning lessons, but am I, 'eck ;)

The plan is to sleep here the night, rise at about 5.30 and rig to fly before sunrise. The winds, which I haven't checked yet, were due to be around 7mph at 7a.m. and rising, so I need to get airborn and back down again and de-rigged before ten to avoid the worst of it.

Crikey, it feels good to be back!

(tomorrow's jobs incl fitting the tacho and checking my power settings)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

I need a fuel primer

Paul Bailey said that Paramotorists always drain their carbs when they pack up, but I'd naively imagined that was because they were planning to put their equipment flat in their cars and didn't want it dripping on their seats.

One thing I don't get is, if you have to refuel each time, why don't Bailey's provide primers on the fuel system? One of my correspondents is an electrical engineer and he is very unhappy with the fact that I have to keep a finger on the starter for longer at
start-up to pump fuel to the carb. Apart from being a heavy load on the battery, it must put a heat strain on the wiring loom.

The manual says you shouldn't have your finger on the button for longer than 5 seconds but past experience showed that 5 seconds wasn't long enough to lift the fuel. Ben advised me to turn over for up to a minute
. He said, "pissing in the wind is better than 5-second bursts". I drained a battery doing those...with Steve timing me, religiously.

I thought I had solved this problem, now that I am
hangering, by leaving fuel in the system...but this week's drama has taught me a lesson: I need to drain the system (keeping the fuel in an unvented container) and refuel each time, and . . ..

I need a primer.

They don't appear to be easy to get from aviation suppliers, but would probably be ludicrously expensive if they were, but I have found them on marine supply sites for about £5.

An image search on Google suggests that I'd just cut my fuel line above the filter and insert the bulb between the filter and the pump/carburetter.

Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Wayne Lofts

The other news is that we are to be joined in the Dragonflying fraternity by Wayne Lofts, with whom I have enjoyed a summer of phonecalls and texts. He is to have a red trike and a red and grey wing. Formerly Wayne had a Quik but has been inspired by Will Minns, Steve Wilson and myself to experience not merely piloting but actually pretty damn close to pure flight...and to do so at a considerable reduction in expense.

Welcome Wayne!


Power, venting and psychology

On the very last day of a summer holiday spent grounded by winds, I finally got airborne. This day's other great significance was that it was the first take-off since I ploughed into a field of crop when my big end bearing failed on the climb-out in June.

this time, as I took off I was clearly under-powered and naturally this alarmed me more than it might otherwise have done and, aware that I had to immediately set myself up for an emergency landing, (and not get caught out by continuing into wind as I did last time - running out of runway), I called Mayday and did a tight turn downwind and then, still high, lined up at the start of the runway (and this is the funny thing with the Dragonfly wing) couldn't dump sufficient height to get in on the first run, so had to go around, but again in a very tight circuit. Once down, the engine died at idle. I restarted and Dave Garrison (who had given way to me in the circuit) reminded me to cancel the Mayday, after which, I taxied in to work out what was wrong.

A quick call to Paul Bailey suggested the main reason:- I had flown on a tank full of fuel that had been venting since the 6th July. No wonder it had lost its potency at the top
end! Also, he said, having left the fuel in the carb the jets would be (what word did he use?) coated in the residue of the old fuel and this would affect the settings. He said that running new fuel through the carb would clean the jets. Never leave fuel in a carb for more than two weeks.

Lesson learned.

Steve has mentioned this before and I had forgotten. Others say they top up with fresh fuel, but this time I drained mine off completely and filled with new stuff and that did the trick.

I flew another circuit, but again came down very quickly because my throttle was slipping, so that I couldn't fly without keeping one hand on it. Once down, I tightened it.

Dave Broom kindly took G-CFKK up and confirmed that it was now climbing well but said he too had trouble with a slipping throttle. I tightened the throttle as best I could without the right allen key, and then went to test it again but aborted when the runway vibration made the throttle slacken again.

Today I have bought some nuts and super glue for the throttle job and next time, and from now on, will be monitoring engine revs with a Tiny Tach *, a very nice little tachometer which works by induction (by wrapping a lead around the HT lead) to measure the number of sparks per second - and giving an RPM read-out. That should take the guess work out of power settings. Then all I need is a good flight to overcome the psychological block at take-off....the anxiety, which I didn't know was there, that I won't have enough power to get airborne.

*The Tiny Tach cost me £45, which includes VAT and postage. You pay by return, once the item has arrived. I thought that very reasonable. The one done by Bailey was more expensive and anyway has been discontinued by their distributor because the price has been hiked by the manufacturer by 30%!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Steve, who appears to know me rather well,
just sent me what he knows is my dream property.
He over-flew it yesterday evening.


Monday, 16 August 2010

Richard Grace

Image from RAF Forum

I just wanted to mention, in brief, that yesterday I also met Richard Grace, son of Carolyn Grace (of the Grace Spitfire) and chatted to him for 5 minutes or so, while we refuelled the Spitfire I had just marshalled. I'd seen him in the display pilots' tent, having marshalled his Pitts, and terrible though it is to admit, knowing that he, in only his twenties, is a Spitfire display pilot made me almost sick with envy. I had been learning to fly when I heard that he had just gone solo in the family Spitfire, aged twenty-something. And shamefully I'd just assumed he'd be cocky and self-satisfied, as I am afraid I might well be in his position.

But he was charming and disarmingly modest - took my hand and shook it, like I was someone who mattered too *. He learnt to fly in a Cessna 152 "like everyone else" and did about ten hours on their Stampe and a few hundred hours on other stuff before getting near the Spitfire, making his intro to flying very conventional. It was all part of Carolyn Grace's plan to ensure that her son would not take the Spitfire for granted. Even now, Carolyn Grace does most of the displaying. Yesterday, Richard flew in a Pitts display pair.

There are Spitfire pilots around who don't smile and who walk around with an "oh, this old thing?" look about them, and they make me so cross. They are the most privileged pilots around (the envy of millions of avid enthusiasts) and they don't look like they are even enjoying it. But you cannot begrudge Richard Grace his good fortune because if anyone is going to do it, you want it to be someone who knows how lucky he is, doesn't take it for granted and clearly loves flying the Spitfire.


*Yes, yes....I know I matter. Am not down on myself. People who are mad about flying will understand the hero worship of Spitfire pilots. And really, the point is not how I feel, but the attitude that Richard displays. He is a gentleman and a real credit to Carolyn Grace - and of course to his late father, Nick Grace. (eeek, I know that sounds patronising)

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Click any picture to increase its size

I haven't got time to do a full write-up now. Suffice it to say, for now, that today I parked a Spitfire! That is one massive prop to be powering towards you when you know that the pilot does not always have you in sight. Once he was parked I helped refuel.

Steve Wilson took some fantastic shots which I include here.

A really great day.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Depressing summer

"So, what have you got planned for the summer, Pete", all my colleagues asked.

Flying, flying and flying.

....and how much flying have I done?

Not one bloom'n* minute.

*Just in case any of my students are reading. - I could lose my job for writing the uneuphemised word I was thinking. Blinkin' PC state!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thanks Cath Vickers - for the 8th August, two years ago!

Just got off the phone to Neill, who said that on the 8th August it'll have been two years since we started flying together. Two years!

Cath Vickers had the inspiration to book Neill to instruct me because I was hanging around, wasting time at Sywell during prime evening flying time, when all Flylight's instructors had clocked off for the day; I was camping at the airfield for the summer, but it was often too thermic to fly during the middle of the day.

I'd had a great grounding with Phil, but Neill's arrival put my training in over-drive and was the beginning of a great friendship too. Neill always said I'd miss the "the best days of your life", and he was right. After 11 months I passed my test -only needing some cross-country qualifiers to get the licence, which was issued 21st September 2009.

So we have been planning for me to go up to Sackville soon for an hour in his Quantum, and once my first year with a full licence is up I am going to do some fixed wing with him too. Neill's been saying I should fly into Sackville in the Dragonfly. I would if I could but the weather has been crap, quite frankly. Must get up in the air soon, though.

So, I have had my licence 10 months. I feel like I have forgotten so much of what I was taught, and Neill says that in a way, that is a good thing to be doing - forget the academic stuff and just fly. And that is exactly what I have been doing.

Anyway, for August the 8th, thanks very much, Cath. It was an inspired idea!


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Tiger Moth

Trying to work out how to copy this commercially produced dvd of my Tiger Moth flight, so that it can be viewed on here (probably not meant to do it), so for now here is a very nice still. Yes, that is me in the front seat.

I have control.


Saturday, 10 July 2010

FAO Steve and other Dragonfliers

Sometimes I go trawling the net looking for anything on Dragonflying,
which makes me wish that other Dragonflyers had blogs
so that I could find out what you are all doing.

It is very easy and need take no longer than ten minutes after a flight or day at the airfield.

How about it?

(We could link between each others sites)


Tuesday, 6 July 2010


I went to Sutton Meadows today in the hope of flying, but doing so was frustrated by necessary fettling and by wind (not mine).

The "slight second" front strut's bushes were too tight for pinning so needed easing out, for which I had to use a screwdriver and the thread of a the absence of a reemer or file...and eventually they fit well enough to rig....but I need to finish them off at home.

I tried out my quick release boss, which I like a lot.

I have the trike all together now and have added in to the back of the seat some of the wiring for my auxilliary socket. Incidentally, I learned from Ben a few days ago that I have two spare wires (spades) in the loom for just this sort of won't wire straight to the battery.

I heard Ben use the term fettling, so used it today. I just looked it up and it has various meanings, but is derived from the metallurgical industries and is to do with lining the furnace with sand and ore before pouring molten metal. It can also mean knocking the excess metal (sprue etc) off a cast component and has come to mean fixing or repairing; and cleaning something up or putting a finishing touch on something.

So, especially when cleaning out those bushes on the front strut, but in prepping my trike, generally, I really was fettling this evening.

And now I shall fettle to my bed.


Sunday, 27 June 2010

John Elliot - MT-03 Gyroplane display pilot

John Elliot

A highlight of the weekend was meeting John Elliot, the only licenced Gyroplane display pilot in the UK, when I was a glorified parking attendant at Rougham - marshalling aircraft myself for the first time.

He put on a really super display of autogyro flying . We had a chat and it turns out, unsurprisingly, that he knows Ken Wallace, our mutual hero.
Helping out with the BBQ at Sutton Meadows last night I talked to another John, a microlight pilot who did a 30 hour conversion on to gyroplanes and who raves about it.

I am going to have to have a go.

Not John's, but another MT-03



You can see from the shadow that this trike is about to touch down near the 200 line
(an arbitrary score line, not a measurement)

It was incredibly frustrating being sans Dragonfly this weekend, especially when I was marshalling the spot landing event, when I should have been flying it! You stop your engine or set to idle at 1000' and descend in the circuit to land (as with an engine failure and as per Colibri rules) and to keep those points you need to stop before a given point. Few did better than 50.

One newbie impressed me by having a second go just for practice, after failing to land and having to go round. On his second attempt he scored and braked on time. I was inspired; I reckon the Dragonfly could be made to score at 250 and brake at 50!

Apparently the club's own fun competitions days no longer happen, through lack of interest. I think I will have to drum some up because I can't wait until next year to have some fun like this.


Flying Circus

When Steve Wilson (fellow Dragonflyer) was telling me, on Saturday, about our mutual friend, Philip Bendall, getting a Dragonfly, I said that we ought to start a flying circus.

He said, "Peter, you ARE a flying circus".

Cheeky sod!


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Crash landing

Nobody get alarmed, now.
Any landing you walk away from is a good one....even when you plough into a field of crop when your engine fails on take-off, as it did on Monday. The only thing I hurt was my bank balance, and even then it could have been a lot worse.

The take-off was longer than I'd have expected but I put this down to slow wind. The climb was sluggish, so that I checked that I had the throttle all the way out, which I did...but the Dragonfly levelled off at about 100', if that (my vario had chosen this time to fail too!), then started sinking startlingly quickly, so that when I started a quick turn to do a downwind landing onto the field, I wasn't sure I'd pull it off, so straightened up again. But then I was running out of surface. At the end of the field beyond the runway is a deep ditch and if I struck the far bank I would probably break my neck. I couldn't stop short of it and it didn't look like I could flare over it, so I made a very fast decision which makes me proud. Counter-intuitively, I pulled the bar in, increasing my rate of descent, but also raising my speed, creating lift over the wing, so that we leapt the ditch and just made it into the crop beyond.

The crop was thigh-high, so there was no chance of rolling to a halt - the crop acted like an arrester wire; the front wheel hit in hard and the plane slewed sideways, so that the front strut bent dramatically and the trike turned up - its starboard wheel in the air...and I hung from my strap and struggled to release myself, before calling in on the radio that I was ok, seeing Dave Broom's Quik circling above. Baz called me on the mobile - he had seen it all - and assured me that Dave Garrison, who had also seen it from his window, had jumped in a truck and was on his way. Shortly afterwards, he and another pilot arrived to help. Embarrassingly, this is not the first time Dave has rescued me!
But as last time, it wasn't my fault - neither bad airmanship nor poor judgement before flight had caused the engine failure.
I got home last night after three days away from home - filthy and exhausted, having camped at Sutton Meadows and at Sywell and after two days of exertion. Tuesday and Wednesday I was up at Sywell, where Paul Dewhurst let me do my own mechanics, sympathetic to the fact that as I am out of work, I really can't afford expensive work on things I CAN do myself; when Ben gets back from France he will do the bits it will need an expert for. (He will put bushes in my widened monopole holes, etc). I took the engine off the trike (with help and advice from Mark) and put it in my van ready to take it down to Paul Bailey. Then I changed the front forks.

But the best bit, the part that makes me feel proud of myself, is that I taught myself to take the sail off, which I did while Stew was gliding Tuesday evening. And he confirmed when he got down that the tubes had sustained no damage. He agreed that only the splayed hang bracket will need replacing.I struggled quite a bit getting the sail back on, punctuated by occasional teasing from Stew (one time champion hang glider and now-instructor), but eventually succeeded after camping beside it, then finishing at about 5a.m., as balloonists inflated their
ballon nearby.

I talked to Paul Bailey at lunchtime today and he put the engine failure down to the big end bearing, which he has replaced for free with a more robust one which he uses in his more recently developed engines. I did ask that if the repair didn't cost me a lot, he also fit the quick release hub which is also a recent-ish development and which I have coveted for some time; so now I have one of those too. So, it won't be a cheap crash, but I think my plane will actually be better than before it happened.

I went back to Sutton Meadows with the wing and re-rigged it and put it back in the hangar with Andy (a really nice hang glider pilot who told me about ground handling), then talked to Roger, a glider tug plane pilot, who is an interesting personality. It was gratifying to have my wing safely back on its trolley in its bay before coming home. (there was another pic and more text but the editor kept messing about with its html, so I give up - below is a pic of the wing skeleton)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

Hands up who hears a tune from Fiddler on the Roof :)

I just found and bookmarked this site, which gives sunrise and set times in local time. Look how early the sun comes up! I must get some early flying in...and with that in mind, and with the weather now improving, I think I will pack some bedding tomorrow and go fly the evening, sleep over (either in the van or the clubhouse) and fly early Tuesday morning too.


This is a terrific set of sunset pics taken by Neill Howarth of me doing early solo hours in my Dragonfly at Sywell.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Not a terribly attractive solution, I'm afraid, but a pragmatic one. The Aware+'s gps screen is not as easy to see in sunlight as the manufacturers claim, which made it necessary for me to shield it with my hand when reading it last week.

So I made this visor out of corroflute covered in insulating tape. I fitted velcro to it so that it can be quickly detached on the ground.

It is only a prototype, but as with the prototype rotating map (made from a flowerpot), it will probably stay in use.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

GPS power from trike

I want to run my GPS from my trike's battery and couldn't find a hard-wire kit, so I have got these two items off ebay and I am actually rather pleased with them. They snap together to provide an accessory socket (like a car cigarette lighter socket) for my GPS charger to fit into. It is wired to reduce the 12V down to 5 and the output will be 1.3amps. As it is, the Aware+ will only run for about half an hour on its internal battery (and then there is the hassle of charging). My solution will give it continuous power.

The snap connectors can also be disconnected to allow me to attach an
Optimate charger, which will mean being able to charge the battery without cutting the lock-wire which keeps the connections secured.

Must remember to disconnect when not running the engine, though!