Monday, 22 August 2011

Thank you, Icom

Well, I am chuffed to bits. My radio has been fixed and the bill wasn't too horrendous. It arrived back this morning and not only has Geoff repaired it, but he has also seen to it that it has left him in as close to new condition as possible, having replaced the jack bung and the volume and squelch knobs.

So, what a relief, I am no longer non-radio. Everyone in the circuit will be pleased ;)

Thank you, Geoff.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

The instructor chap was decent about the whole thing and we shook hands. After that I had a good hour or so in the air and was cut up on finals by a PA28, which reassured me that GA pilots are mortal too.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

One to learn from

click image for clarity

I am going to have to climb down and apologise to the resident GA instructor at my airfield tomorrow. I misjudged a situation, then made the wrong decision once a problem became obvious. And in the spirit of one of those blue safety thingies they enclose with the BMAA magazine, I am going to risk humiliation so that others can learn from my mistake (if ever they are stupid enough to get in the same situation).

As I approached the airfield, late evening, there didn't seem to be anyone else about. I had probably been lulled into a false sense of security by all my friends having packed up and gone home and my flight having been quiet. I did a standard over-head join at Great Oakley at 1,500', noted the absence of wind in the sock, which was pointing straight down, and decided to use the biggest runway, 27, which had been the runway in use all day. There didn't appear to be anyone else around, so I dumped 500' on the deadside of 09/27 and joined crosswind for 27 (right).

As I flew downwind I saw an aeroplane I could have sworn hadn't been there before! It transpired that it landed as I was descending, and as 27 is a right hand circuit I descended with back to 27, and therefore assumed that this aeroplane must have just landed behind me.

I concluded that he was taking off again on 27 and decided to extend downwind to give him time to get off, and then he started taxying, not running-up, so I assumed he was going to vacate on taxi-way B, so I started to turn on to a base leg (much further out than my drawing suggests). But then, instead of vacating he started to the head of 09, by which time I was on finals and realised that he wasn't using 27 but 09, that he wasn't taxying but was back-tracking ....and that he hadn't landed on 27, but on 09!!!! In descending facing the sun, I had missed him on finals.

There I was on approach, at about 500' and he had just turned around to line up. At that point a sensible man would have aborted the approach and gone around. Unfortunately, I convinced myself that since the runway in use all day had been 27, this character was the one in the I hovered there trying to decide if he was going to start rolling or if he was holding, and as I was non radio, I couldn't ask him. I braced myself to break right, flapped my wings to make myself visible and continued to drop in, then rushed to vacate via taxi-way C.

I know now that having seen him on the runway I should have known that whatever he was doing he had the right of way. I had misjudged his intentions, and that was forgiveable, because he had landed with the sun at his back while I was making my descent on the south of the airfield, but having realised on base that he wasn't taking off on 27 but had just come to a halt there and turned around after landing in the opposite direction, I should have turned left and done a left hand circuit for 09.

I feel an idiot, not least of all because I tried to argue the toss in the clubhouse afterwards. Pride got in the way, partly because I knew he'd be thinking, "Bloody microlights". But now it is worse because I have gone and given him more grounds for thinking it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

drift without triangles

click image for clear view

A friend sent me an Excel spreadsheet devised by Joan Walsh at Saxon Microlights and it is absolutely brilliant (I can't find a way to attach the spreadsheet for download from the blog, sorry). If I had an i-phone I would want this as an app.

It works out your drift and ground speed based on the angle of head or tailwind, your indicated airspeed and track required. Also it works out your flying time and your fuel usage .....all in seconds as one calculation.

On advice from a friend I used the spreadsheet to generate figures for a chart I can carry in my bar-mitt pocket, so that it is always visible. Then if I mark the wind on my chart I should be able to work out my compensation for drift without drawing triangles or even getting out my Flylight calculator. But it will take practice working out the wind relative to the aeroplane.

I have worked out my data based on a 60mph/ 52 Kt indicated airspeed. Other data can be interpolated, of course, but in a weightshift it is rarely that precise an art anyway. In effect I have worked out my triangles in advance for every eventuality.

I love it!

Many thanks to my modest friend and to Joan Walsh.

plugs and sockets

Today my Iridium plugs arrived. And so did my fused lighter socket to power my gps, though I will need to get a 4amp fuse to fit it. I may have time to fit the socket on Saturday, when I plan to fly. Hopefully the plugs will sort my starting problem so that I can operate independently again.


Radio Screwed up - but there's good news.

The chap at Icom just emailed to say that the pcb tracking, a varicap diode and capacitor became damaged by the screws which hold the belt clip on, which he described as "woodscrews"! Now, I am pretty damn certain they are just M3s (and they came with the radio when I bought it, albeit 2nd hand), but there is a moral here, still, which is not to put the screws back in without the belt clip, as presumably the clip stops the screw going too far in?

Anyway, it is good news because while Icom say they have a two week turn-around, mine is being repaired on Monday. Fingers crossed as regards the bill.

It turns out the screws WERE M3s, but were 7mm longer than the originals!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Icom needs to be repaired

A whole series of fair testing procedures I worked out for trouble-shooting my radio problem proved unnecessary, ultimately, because on the first test my IC-A22E (hand-held, with whip aerial and stand-alone battery) failed to receive a tansmission, though it sent clearly. I got an Rx on my screen but could hear nothing. So I have packed it up ready to send back to Icom for repair.

I tested my aircraft aerial with Craig's radio and it worked fine, as did my microavionics headset. Once I have the radio back I will use it with the aircraft power (already wired in) and the Flycom helmets and intercom.

Hours flown

I have just been updating my tech log. And at the same time I thought I would work out what hours I did on the Dragonfly. Turns out I only managed 34 hours over one and a half years - or an average of 2hrs per month. So far I have done 9 hrs in the last two months on my Quantum.

So I have more than doubled my average monthly flying, even though I deliberately didn't fly most of July as I had to commit to other projects. Fact is, if I fancy flying, the Quantum can manage much rougher air. I haven't had to endure the endless infuriation of being grounded by weather; though I have been limited by difficult engine starting, which has meant that I tend to fly when Craig is around. But hopefully the new plugs will sort that out, giving me greater independence.

Bearing clearance test and Iridium spark plugs

Craig Whipps, our resident expert and soon to be our resident inspector, showed me how to do a bearing clearance test by sticking his gizmo in the PTO (power take out - the spark plug port closest to the prop) and got a very respectable reading of 0.013mm. It can be anything up to 0.081mm, so that is very good. As good as on his engine, he said. And that is a very good recommendation because everything on his plane is top spec.

We also checked the spark plugs which were also good: chocolatey at the centre. The gaps were as tight as they can go. But Craig suggested that to improve starting I replace them with Iridium plugs, and I have since ordered a set. They are called BR8EIX and are equivalents of the standard BR8ES plugs I currently have.

"Iridium IX Spark Plugs are the most technologically advanced high performance plugs available. Featuring a 0.6 mm iridium center electrode tip, they offer superior ignitability without sacrificing durability. The tapered ground electrode increases flame kernel expansion, while the superior heat range design is ideally suited to the demands of high performance environments."

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Pre-mix tank markers

Those of us who run two strokes need to mix oil in with our petrol, and one problem is having jerry cans standing around with fuel in them but not being sure whether they already have oil mixed in. Some people write the mix on the side of their tanks, but there is the danger then that you might assume they have been oiled when they have only just been re-filled. Of course, you don't want to be using someone else's fuel, but it could happen.

Equally, you might forget whether you have oiled your own (trust me, I am entirely capable of forgetting) or get confused if you have several cans used at different times. So I have developed a system, which you might find useful.
I have a velcro strip which I loop round the can handle. It is reversible. Black square showing means "oiled". When I refill my tank with unleaded I unfasten the loop and reverse it so the square is inside the loop. I do this straight away.

Only after I have added oil do I reverse the loop to show the black square.

You need some black sticky-backed velcro and some white sew-on (or non-sticky backed). Make sure that one colour is "hook", the other is "eye". Cut a rectangle of black and stick it to the back of the white strip, on the end (for securing) and stick a square of black sticky-backed velcro in the middle of the back of the white strip (for marking). The black rectangle is always sandwiched, so should never be confused for the square.


I may be cured!

A whole series of engine failures on the Dragonfly made me scared of flying too far from home, so that I have hardly done anything but bimble the last two years. But yesterday's expedition may have cured me. I want to start really reaching out further afield.

Priorities now:

1 Sort out radio problems
2 Wire gps to the mains

3 keeping gps largely in reserve, I want to really develop my dead reckoning. This is an area I have always wanted to be really good at. I think I did well getting to Haverhill yesterday by just reading the map and ground.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Best Nav-X so far!

Glorious flying today, in bumpy and gusty conditions. I flew with Craig and Sam (plus his son, Harrison) to Sandy in Bedfordshire (70 miles). This was easily the most ambitious navigation exercise I have ever done. I had my GPS with me for navigating the narrow corridor between Duxford and Cambridge and between Stansted and Sandy...but the first 50 miles (statute) I flew by dead reckoning....and feel bloody good for it, too!

I had radio problems, so had to do my calls blind, and it is very un-nerving not knowing if you are being heard, and if you are, not hearing there was no way I was going through any controlled airspace. It also added to the complications of landing, which were spiced up further by a lake on finals and a line of trees just before the threshold! Apparently everyone held their breaths as I dumped about 300' over the lake and then flared quite abruptly as soon as I was past the trees...because I wanted to touch-down early, as it is a short runway with a road at the end. An exciting landing, especially with a strong cross-wind component!

Sam and Craig's aircraft landed ahead of me...but then they had flown GPS all the way. We spent a very enjoyable day with the folk at Sandy, who garlanded all pilots. There was a BBQ and bar. I did not part-take of either; the latter because I was flying back. Sam and son were camping, so Sam could allow himself a little indulgence.

Myself, Craig and Sam.

I took off just ahead of Craig this evening and we flew back in only an hour, with the wind at our backs.

What a fantastic day!
One and a half hours out, one hour back, 140 statute miles flown.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Aware+ updates are miraculously easy with an SD card reader!

When I sold my Dragonfly I agreed to leave my auxiliary power wiring (which had powered my Aware+ GPS) in place, so I haven't been using my GPS, not having wired an auxiliary socket on my Quantum yet. Its airspace info needed updating and spent I three miserable hours last night failing to do this with a USB cable connecting the PDA to the PC.....leaving me with a machine which no longer showed maps, just a series of error messages.


So I emailed Airbox and when I got up this morning there was a message from them recommending I use an SD card reader instead. I popped into Maplins to get one, paying 4x what I could pay on ebay, but I needed it quickly. And Hayley from Airbox was absolutely right, using a card reader is miraculously fast. Following her expert advice (several emails were necessary) I updated both the software and the airspace, and am now back in action.

Now that I know it can be done so easily, I shall be updating more religiously.

Many thanks to Hayley Chapman at Airbox for her expertise and patience.

I have planned and saved a route, having watched a tutorial video, which shows you how to do it from a location other than your last known fix (i.e. planning at home, not the airfield). Great stuff.