Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Talked to Carol 'de Solla Atkin for an hour and a half on the phone last night about aeroplanes and she is taking me up again; only this time not only do I get the stick, but I also get the front seat!

Read about my first Chipmunk experience in Carol's -and Dave Garrison's (and other syndicate members') gorgeous aeroplane.

A brilliant way to start the Easter break!

Flying Folly

Of course the Mk1 Blenheim, unlike this Fortress, does not have a cockpit on top, so any pilot would look barmy sticking out the top of the fuselage....but what a larf!

I love what this chap has achieved!

How about piloting a 1/3rd scale Bristol Blenheim?

Vickers Wellington

I have been talking to a chap on a forum who, when I suggested forming a group to design and build a pilotable scale replica of a Lancaster (in response to an American doing the same with a Flying Fortress, said he'd provide four 20hp engines.

This chap's Flying Fortress has been scaled UP from RC model plans!
(click image for clear look)

He later suggested we build a Wellington instead -
because he said the wing will scale well to satisfy an SSDR specification wing loading and a span of 30'. He sounds as mad as me, so hopefully he doesn't think I am only kidding; though I have since said I'd prefer to do a Mk1 Bristol Blenheim.

Mk1 Bristol Blenheim

Presumably my head would stick out the top of the fuselage, somewhere around that hatch panel between the wings, sitting semi-recumbent?

Sounds bloody marvellous!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

To be sure I didn't arrive late and waste Paul Bailey's time, I set out early and tried a faster but unfamiliar route, and consequently was in Over with an hour to spare. So I had a look around a Baptist graveyard and two graves in particular got my attention. One of the interred was presumably a pilot; the other is a bit more intriguing. I wonder what his story was?

I just Googled and this is what I found:

"Finished With Engines" is also a sailor-ism meaning "for good or ill, I'm getting off this ship." It's got two connotations: FWE can mean you're going on vacation, or more permanently, it can mean that you're retiring. Going ashore. About to kick back and live the good life.

Another yellow aeroplane

John Williams, based at Sandy

After I had put my trike to bed at Sutton Meadows and locked the hangar, I saw a yellow X-Air landing (and we all know that I love yellow aeroplanes) and I got talking to its owner, John Williams, who is based at Sandy and has had his licence about a year.

After a cuppa he offered to take me up. I borrowed a headset from Dave Broom and then clambered into the cab, which is a contortionist's trick, clearly not designed for old men or anyone with a bad back. You have to step clear of all struts etc and clamber in knees first, kneel on the seat, then slide one leg from under you into the foot well, then by pushing against the other seat-back, swing the other leg from under you and over the stick.

I should have taken a picture of the inside of the cockpit. It is definitely a different kind of flying to mine, with lots more space for instruments, charts etc...and of course you don't have to suit-up. Compared to the Dragonfly, the climb-rate was quite dramatic but into wind it seems to limp along. But who cares? Flying isn't about speed.

I really enjoyed my 3-axis experience. It is ages since my last one and one of these days I am going to have to take a conversion because there are so many aeroplanes I would like to try out. You get a remarkable amount of aeroplane for about 5 grand second hand. Though the prospect of John's estimated £2.7k per annum even before he takes off is really a painful prospect. There is a heck of a lot to be said for SSDR. John's recent service cost him £500, where mine, as I say, just cost me nothing.

Many thanks to John for taking me up.

Thanks to Bailey Aviation

Bruce at Bailey Aviation had hinted that there might be no charge for the service I have received, but once it was clear how much had been done, including valve clearance checks, the replacement of filters, the cleaning of my carburetter and even an oil change, I was sure that had to be wrong. But no, Paul Bailey said there would be no charge. He says they like to look after their own.

Incredible service!

Massive thanks to Paul, who went on to give me some advice about fuelling etc. He is a thoroughly decent bloke.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Colibri set-back

The rights of the newly qualified pilot to be awarded a Bronze Colibri are being championed by Paul Dewhurst who argues that the NPPL exceeds the intent of the FAI's award in terms of standards and skills. The award was designed for raising standards, especially in member countries which do not have a legal requirement to be formally trained. He asks whether the FAI should not recognise that British pilots already exceed the requirements by awarding Bronze to all NPPLs and asks whether it is not unfair that they are denied it simply for having been unaware of the specific requirements while training.

Some flying schools here claim that having an NPPL automatically qualifies a pilot for the Bronze, but this is not the case unless a student's landings and QXCs meet not only the CAA's high standards, but also the specifics of the Federation's rules. My cross country flights do not qualify me, for instance, because they were out and back and not triangular.

So, either schools who wish to promote the FAI's goals must incorporate its requirements into their programmes, if their candidates are to qualify, or, as Paul Dewhurst argues, the FAI ought to be asked to recognise that where countries licence pilots who have been trained to a higher standard than the ambitions of the FAI, their students should qualify automatically for the Bronze.

With the international committee not meeting again until November and the likely backlash for other countries if Paul's suggestion is considered, some feel that it would be more straightforward for NPPL qualified pilots simply to use the Bronze as a further challenge to hone their skills.

My own feelings are rather ambivalent. Paul Dewhurst hadn't been aware that there had been a perceived equivalence between the Bronze Colibri and the NPPL until I asked him to sign my application (in his capacity as my CFI). This was despite his being a leading light in the BMAA and microlighting generally, which I think goes some way to highlighting the fact that Colibris have little status in the UK. When I was learning to fly nobody ever mentioned the award, whereas in gliding something similar forms the basis of their training programmes and it is what everyone is striving for.

If our own training exceeds the ambitions of the international body, it really does irk me that I don't automatically qualify for their award, but then again, what value is there in an award that nobody really cares to promote through schools anyway? It would have been nice to have one to show I had made the grade, but having exceeded the grade, I am not sure I can be bothered to be examined again to prove a point.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Humbling news

The news from Bailey Aviation is that "no fuel [was] pumping to the carburettor, due to dirt in the fuel pump and filters". That is very embarrassing news indeed, but it is good news for two reasons. Firstly it means that no expensive repair will be necessary, but more importantly it acts as a wake-up call for me to get very much more acquainted with my engine.

Microlighters do their own maintenance. It is one of the privileges of the sport (not being obliged to pay expensive licenced engineers to do it for us), but with that comes the responsibility to either do it properly ourselves or pay someone else to do it. I want to be a good all-rounder, so it is down to me to get to know my engine well and make sure such an embarrassingly simple fault does not get past me a second time.

I have been worried. The suggestion made by Ben Ashman was that I can't have been filtering my fuel, or that I have too coarse a filter. In point of fact I bought my filter from Flylight and as a Mr Funnel it is supposed to be state of the art for the purpose. So if I am filtering, what hope do I have of stopping a recurrence of my engine stoppage?

I said something to this effect in an email to Steve Wilson and he wrote this bac (and as I think it might help others, I hope he won't mind me quoting him

Filtering fuel in the field needs care. Check the outlet tube of the funnel for gunk before you use it, it may have picked up something in your tool box. I run my finger around inside the tube, tap it on the outside of the fuel can and visually inspect it. You could store the funnel with a cork in it or make it its own condom with a finger from an old rubber glove.

The classic in paramotor circles is for grass etc to get into the tank as soon as the cap is off so be very careful to limit the tank open time. When my aircraft is parked I have the fuel line disconnected and the tank cap and pressure relief valve in place but loose to allow venting. I syphon my tank dry every time I leave it. The fuel is then stored in sealed containers so the volatile content is not lost. This sucks out any rubbish that might be lurking in the tank. A visual inspection, with a torch if necessary, is always worthwhile.

I think I am careful but as my funnel is kept in my toolbox and I haven't sealed the spout or vented my tank, there is hope that in following Steve's advice, I can be a much more careful refueller than I have been.


Sunday, 7 March 2010

a man's dream set-up

Paul Bailey very kindly let me deliver my trike to him on a family day and unfortunately I was slightly late (Google Maps, it's Mill Rd, not Hill Rd Grrrrr), plus I should have turned left at Chatteris and gone down to Earith rather than the familiar route back along the A142, then to Sutton (the crossing at Sutton Gaunt is still flooded); didn't occur to me until Lizzie mentioned it. I suppose that flying it regularly, she is familiar with the fact that the washes start at Earith. Doh!

Paul's place is amazing, with automatic gates, long paved drive and a man's dream of a set-up...workshops, delivery bay, courtyards etc and, best of all, his own airstrip. Over breakfast this morning, Lizzie and I designed my dream property, which is basically a hangar with a mezzanine and a control tower on top and three runways to cover all eventualities.

Paul took delivery of my trike and says he is getting his own Dragonfly, so I am hoping that Steve and I can fly with him soon. Hopefully the engine has nothing too much wrong with it; fingers crossed. He is going to look at it Monday. If I collect it Friday night after work, or very early Saturday, I may get to fly again next weekend.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Experts are on the case

Bailey Aviation have recommended me taking my trike to Paul Bailey, who lives in Over, Cambridgeshire (very near Sutton Meadows, where I hangar). Paul is the engine's designer, and Ben at Flylight has said he will talk to him for me. So it looks as if the problem will be diagnosed and solved by the experts. And what's more, Ben reckons Paul will give me a run-down on how to trouble-shoot the engine and keep it running at its best from now on.