Friday, 27 May 2011

Why I am glad Dragonflying is behind me

The Dragonfly is arguably the nicest fly you can have in a flexwing; certainly, Neill (with 1500 hrs in various types) thinks so. When the weather is right and when it is flying to spec, it is superb.

But though I have deliberately worked a four day week this year in order to be able to fly on Fridays, I cannot remember a Friday when that has actually happened. While I have watched heavier aircraft take off and fly away on windy days, I have been grounded....What they don't advertise with SSDR is that the weather in this country is very often not condusive to nano-light flying.

............And on those days when it has been flyable I have found the Bailey 175 temperamental.

Ben Ashman says on his videos that the engine "starts every time". Well, I am by no means the only Dragonflyer who has found that the battery is often insufficiently gutsy to start the engine, which does not have a that if your system is drained (as it should be for packing up and transporting) it takes a lot of its juice pumping the fuel up to the carburetter. I soon learned my lesson and wired in a charging circuit and bought two spare batteries....rather than be stranded without power to start, miles from home. And eventually I learned to raise the fuel by blowing into the tank with a syphon tube (but you have to be careful not to flood the carb).

But more hairy than the engine not starting on the ground was my plane's tendency to suddenly stop in the air, which it did three times in 15 months (and a further 3 times when I tested it, while trying to solve the problem)...oh, and not forgetting the emergency landing when the throttle was slipping!! Early last year she stopped at 600' when I was climbing, a problem put down to not filtering fuel, despite having done so religiously with a filter Ben sold me - so that was a mystery - but interestingly, the problem repeated itself a month or so ago, when I was climbing from 1500'. Eventually, after two weeks' diagnostics, Paul Bailey concluded the carb was faulty. Presumably it always had been, and the problem was just biding its time to pull a repeat of that stunt. Previously, Bailey's had suggested my problems were due to varnishing in the carb, and had advised me cleaning it, which I did.

That first engine failure put paid to a reciprocal arrangement I had with a fellow ex-student mate. We'd said that he'd get a Quantum and I would get a Dragonfly...and we'd each swap planes occasionally, so that we'd have the best of both worlds. But after that, he said there was no way he was going to trust mine.

Then there was that big end bearing failure which meant that I ended up crash landing on take-off. The rebuilding of the engine cost me nothing - Bailey's, I suppose, felt it was their responsibility-, but it cost me in terms of replacement parts for the airframe...and potentially might have cost me a sale when it came to putting it on the market, especially as I have made a point of blogging my troubles.

And worse still, the succession of failures cost me in terms of my own confidence in the plane. I stopped retracting the undercarriage and stopped thermalling, because I could never be confident I wouldn't need to do an emergency landing if the engine refused to restart.

The chap who has bought G-CFKK (and who knows all the troubles I have had - from this blog and also from my tech-log...and who has added quite a lot of comments to the blog about them) has a beefed up big end, new carburetter, fuel pump and fuel lines, new nose wheel, front strut, monopole, quick release prop, new foot fact, practically a new plane. He should have no trouble because loads of the plane is new. It flew great last weekend, and I am pleased I had the chance to have a good experience of the plane before it went, but I am glad it has gone.

The bit I resent most about my Dragonfly's engine failures is that they completely put my girlfriend off flying. Flying was a passion we shared and she had done most of her first 25 hours of instruction when she decided that it wasn't for her, not if she was ever likely to have to ditch in a field and be stranded, alone, miles from home. She was a talented student and as not one of my emergency landings was down to pilot error, how could she trust that a crash landing wasn't going to happen to her sooner or later too? ....especially as they didn't seem to be too exceptional!

When it flies well, the Dragonfly is wonderful, but quite honestly it is miserable not being able to trust it completely. I am sure it is largely a psychological thing -after all, other Dragonfliers have got in loads of hours without problems, but I need to be able to trust a plane in order to fly it, and G-CFKK has done much to justify my lack of trust in her.

Part of why I sold was so that I can afford to do 3-axis, and now that is possible, but whatever I fly in future, I am glad that Dragonflying is behind me.

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