Sunday, 11 November 2012

Hi Piotr

My nav is getting better. Today I flew this plan and completed it with an error of only 45 seconds! It was a triangle from Mendlesham to Bawdsey on the coast, past Woodbridge aerodrome and Bentwaters to Framlingham, then back to base via Debenham. The air was very smooth indeed, except near the ground. I had an irritating niggle along the way with my glasses which rode up under my visor; going to have to find a way to secure them better.

A highlight of the day was taking Piotr (Peter) up. He came to the airfield on spec, having read about it on a forum. He wants to fly and is going to start off on hang gliders. Piotr is Polish and has been here, with his wife, for four years.

Piotr borrowed a suit and helmet from a hang glider pilot, as I didn't have any spare kit with me, and unfortunately that meant we had no comms, apart from thumbs-up. We flew around Fram castle at about 700' and enjoyed turbines and the old windmill en route. A really spectacular introduction to England from the air. 

Piotr, it was good to meet you. See you again at the airfield. 

It was great to be back in the air after an awful summer, which included a foot infection which put me on crutches, several head colds, diabolical weather and a need to change the front wheel's innertube, as it had been creeping on landing, so that the valve was being drawn into the wheel and becoming very hard to reach with a pump.

I replaced it with an angled valve, like the ones on the back, hoping it would clear the trailing link, but sadly it didn't and I had to change the tube yet again. Never mind, at least it is another job that I now know I can do on the plane, myself. Incidentally, taking the tyre off with levers wasn't too tricky, but putting it back on was a bugger and not worth the effort. Orwell Motorcycles in Ipswich did it both times for no charge.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Logging flights

Looking at my log I see that I have flown about 3hrs since the last blog entry (May 29th and June 13th), including a flight out to Bawdsey radar station, near Felixstowe. Have got out of the habit of writing up flights.

But I also had a foot infection which grounded me...and let's face it, the weather has been so changeable. Am hankering to get up again in the next few days.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

MOT Masterclass

My Permit to Fly re-validation (aeroplane's MOT, if you like) has been nagging for over a month and what with one thing and another it couldn't happen until today, two days before the old one was due to expire. But Craig Whipps and Brian Smy really came through for me today; Craig inspected and Brian check-flew. And G-MYWT passed with flying colours.

The process felt like a bit of a masterclass. I took a paperback, intending to leave Craig to do his thing, but I couldn't miss out on the chance to watch and learn. I took lots of notes, both from Craig and later from Brian....and now have a list of adjustments to do and techniques to apply. Brian said it best when he said the point of what he does is not to catch people out but to get them back in the air.

There is nothing like learning from experts. So from now on I will regard the inspection not as something to dread but an opportunity to learn. And, putting what Craig and Brian taught me today into practice, I am going to become much better at maintaining and understanding my own aeroplane.

Brian was very complimentary about my Quantum's handling. I can't claim any credit for any of that, of course, but it was gratifying to hear it. I have had a lot on my mind recently, but all that was eclipsed by my glorious evening flight, when I sang at the top pf my lungs all the way to the coast and back :)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Finally, after weeks of rain, a slot in the weather, which I filled. Flew for 1 hr 15mins. Flew through rain but there was little wind. Viz was poor.

Great to get a flight in.

Also met James, owner of the other Quantum in the hangar; friendly chap.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Grounded on an Olympic scale

Ickworth ....down to earth

Yesterday Lizzie and I went to look around Ickworth house, a visit inspired by my flight around it with Steve Wison. I loved the gardens and the sheep, but I do have to say that the view of the house from the air was a heck of a lot more impressive than the house itself, once you went inside it.

Shooting light aircraft down

No mention of what will happen if you fail to turn away from London. And the control zone comes up as far as north of Colchester!

Interesting that they don't seem to intend calling the pilot up on the radio (at times like this, maybe they will reconsider the decision not to have an en-route frequency in this country, as they do in Canada!).

(you can only circuit your own airfield within the zone if you have a transponder and contact ATC for permission before and after flying! Who the hell has a transponder? ...and that goes for gliders too - what the hell does a transponder weigh?!)

If they start shooting light aircraft down over Colchester do you think that the general public will stand for it?

This brings out the belligerent in me

Thursday, 12 April 2012

pilot to pilot comms

I have been thinking about the efficiency...or inefficiency...of communications in the air. I don't think I am alone in avoiding talking to air traffic control, etc.....deliberately flying the long way round to avoid having to do the tricky exchange with controllers. (It is a confidence barrier I need to get through, I know)

If I want to let a car out on the road, I flash my lights. He knows I have seen him and will slow down to let him out. Imagine the insanity if I had to call Road Traffic Control, tell them where I am, what car I am driving, what its registration is and where I am going; and Road Traffic Control then calling the other car to let him know that I am on the same road and to watch out for me.

We aren't supposed to talk to each other, even when we can see each other and Controllers can't. It'd be great, it seems to me, if there could be a universal channel with a limited range, so that if you talked on it, only someone within relatively close proximity to you could receive you. It would be similar to using the prefix "Traffic" when making a call when a ground radio isn't manned, allowing others to know your intentions.

I don't know anyone in microlighting who changes frequency from airfield to airfield as they move from one area to the next, each time alerting controllers to the change. It would strike non-pilots as absurd that at any one time there could be numerous aeroplanes in the same cubic mile, all on different frequencies....often unable to raise anyone on the ground, and each completely unable to communicate with others in the sky, except by flying in circles and flapping their wings.

Yes, arguably, it could lead to confusion if pilots were to use their own discretion in communicating, but I'd rather have too much info than no way of alerting other aeroplanes to my presence and intentions... particularly in the open sky outside controlled airspace.

70 today

A quick calculation shows I have now flown 70 hours solo!

Clucking Bell!

Last night, with all kit checked and packed, and all set for a morning's flying, I checked the NOTAMs and to my disgust found that on the first day this month when I was to be free and the weather looked favourable, Wattisham had fast jet practice from surface to 9,000' out to a radius of 5nm, which would be too close for comfort 9nm out in the panhandle.

Then I saw that it started at 9a.m., so I decided to fly early.

I was up at 5.30 this morning and at the airfield soon after 7. I flew for an hour. Visibility was not great; cloud was low and it rained. But it was just wonderful to be flying again, after a month.

A flying friend has asked me why I worried about the NOTAM, given that all the activity would have been for a few short spells, and only within the MATZ anyway. But I tend to feel that jets cover a heck of a lot of distance in very little time and I don't know how restricted pilots feel by the imaginary boundaries around airfields. Certainly, at Rougham Tornadoes bust straight through the circuit without warning, and the Red Arrows came straight through the Great Oakley circuit without calling up first, when I was taxying last year. And, because I am afraid of calling ATC, I didn't want to call them to let them know I was nearby, not least of all because when I was monitoring the radio, reception was not brilliant, so that an ordinaily tricky call could have been made a lot harder.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

RAF new home

I think I am right in saying that our hangar is at the intersection of the W-E and NW-SE the end of the original main runway, 25 (250deg). It is a WW2 structure, but I presume it was moved by the farmer? I have no idea where it would originally have been sited. Our runway is less than a third of the length of the original one. Mendlesham Mast (B on far left of top picture) is now roughly where the original control tower stood.

During WW2 the airfield was first an RAF fighter station with Spitfire MkIXs, then a base for the
34th Bombardment Group, (USAAF), flying B17s.

There is a memorial, where I must go and pay my respects, and numerous derelict buildings, but as with many such sites, they have become storage and factory units. I have seen one blister hangar like ours just beside the A140 ( behind the mast) which is the site of a steel fabrication company and other structures are in this compound. The Mast is the main feature in the area, at 1,002', when you are flying in. You can also see it a long way off when arriving by road. I took this somewhat blurry picture of the mast at dawn this morning from the hangar.


Two days in a row

Yesterday I flew to Bentwaters (former RAF, then USAAF base). I was there in about twenty minutes and then seemed to take ages to get back because of the headwind...and I worried that the hang glider people would lock up and go home, knowing all the time that I had left my keys on my cabinet in the hangar! Needn't have worried, though.

One of the pleasures of the day was meeting Sergei, a Russian software engineer who lives in Scotland and who had come down to do a two day winch launch conversion course; he is used to hang gliding off hills. He is a weightshift pilot and used to have a Quantum, which seems to have been in the same batch as mine and Steve Prouse's.

Look at that awful viz!

This morning I thought I'd get in a dawn flight before getting on with today's job of plumbing the bathroom. I was there by 5.45 and ready to fly at 6.20.....but had to hang about another two hours before the visibility looked promising. But I hit a bank of cloud at 700' and the visibility to the East was non existent, what with sun, haze and cloud, so I dropped back in and then waited another half hour, and then did two short hops before calling it a day. With no wind to speak of, that cloud was going nowhere.

Pretty but frustrating

But it was a good experiment in early morning starts. While I was hanging about I mused about the advantages of flying from Mendlesham rather than Great Oakley:

1 A fair and affordable rent (£30 cheaper)
2 No restriction on dawn take-offs.
3 Only one aeroplane in front of mine.
4 Only half an hour from home.
5 A runway just outside the hangar, so no long, time and fuel-wasting taxies.
6 The hang glider people are very friendly and there is no snobbery; good atmosphere.
7 Mendlesham Mandy...a speaking weather station!
plus, the doors have been greased so that they are not a hassle now either.

Advantages of G.O. : Doug, Sam and John (I miss Craig too, but he isn't there now either), a door which opens with a button and choice of runways.

On the whole I think I am now a lot better off.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

My most challenging landing ever

I probably shouldn't have flown at all today (probably should revise the cross-wind 1/6th by 10deg segment rule) but if I had sensibly aborted I would have missed an exciting flight, which took me over an interesting windmill (must photograph it from the air soon) on the way to Fram castle, which I skirted again.

But for the first time ever I had a hairy take-off, and the landing was easily the most challenging, most scary and undoubtedly most skilfully executed of any that I have ever done. The problem was that the wind was a North-westerly blowing around 17mph abeam when I landed on the East-West runway. So I crabbed sideways up the runway, nose into wind, keeping power on, then dropping straight at the last minute. Crikey, I was glad to be down after that, I can tell you!

I took off with a 14mph crosswind, which I really shouldn't have attempted. I gather my aircraft's limitation is 11mph! I am an idiot, I know...but it was exciting.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Quantum Leaper nearly done

(click image for larger slideshow)

With the wheel retracted, the trolley sits flat on the ground. Wind the handle anti-clockwise to raise the trolley on the jockey wheel gear.

Here we see the trolley raised for manoeuvring.

Successfully loaded 250kg on to the Leaper. Finishing touches left to do. Time will tell whether it is capable of moving a load, but as it has only cost me a couple of weekends and a free load of scrap steel, if it fails it will have been a worthwhile experiment anyway.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Right, but for 7 nuts and bolts to hold it all together, I have finished my Quantum Leaper....and, on the whole, I am rather pleased with it. But of course I haven't tested it it may be a complete flop. I haven't even erected it anywhere yet - Not got anywhere dry, which is big enough.

Will keep you posted.


Monday, 30 January 2012

lifting hangar trolley

I am working on something a bit exciting....a trolley to lift and move my Quantum in any direction in the hangar. Think of a trailer as an isosceles triangle. Then put a jockey wheel at each corner. Roll the trike on, then wind the jockey handles and the whole load will lift off the ground. Then castor the load to where you want it and put it down.

My welding will be the weak link, I think, but I haven't done too badly. I have made the base and ramps for the trike's rear wheels and the first of the outriggers (above)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Yesterday I took up my first ever non-pilot passenger, Darren. We flew out over Framlingham Castle. A superb flight. He certainly seemed to enjoy it.

Click image for a scroll-able, blown-up slideshow

Darren, above, took the aerial shots.

Nb. A friend just asked whether I had intentionally left the trimmer completely wound off, but it is misleading in the pictures because the little brass nut which used to indicate trim would not grip and had slipped on the cable, so had to be removed. Until I replace it, I do trim, now, by judgement alone (winding it all the way off, then centralising it). Opinion differs, however, as to whether the changing of the trim on the Quantum makes much difference anyway.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Click on image above and scroll through enlarged slideshow.

Photos by Carl Wildon.
Thanks mate.

Mission accomplished!

The flight went absolutely fine. It took about 45 mins. It was uneventful, to be honest. I could see the field from a long way off but ran parallel to it for about ten minutes to avoid busting Wattisham airspace, only turning in North of Debenham, where I dropped to 900' to slip under the NE panhandle; though now I believe Wattisham prefer approaches from the East, which I will do in future.

I approached on long finals (straight towards the hangar, which is at the East end of the runway) then buzzed the hang gliders on the ground, having just seen one of them being launched in front of me. I waved at the ground and circled left and came in quite tightly, landing in the middle of the runway...then scooting back to the hangar to make room for the glider coming down.

Near the hangar, as I taxiied in, I saw Carl, who had been snapping away. I look forward to his shots, soon to appear on Facebook. I will download them and post them here. The hang glider pilots are a friendly, inclusive bunch. I also met the Chairman, Glen Reid, who flew-in in a light aircraft. Turns out he knows Mike Farr, who I went to school with! I met Mike again in 2001 at Davidstow, when he instructed there. Small world, flying.

I think I am going to like Mendlesham.


Today would not have been so successful without Darren and Carl. Not only did Darren pick me up and take me to Great Oakley this morning, but he also brought home my kit cabinet and jerry cans. Carl not only brought me home from Mendlesham but also brought me lunch - cheese sandwiches with a rather good relish, and some of Chrissy's cake!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

An important Nav-X

If all goes to plan and the weather is as forecast, I plan to fly to my new base tomorrow. I will be doing it entirely by chart and compass (no GPS), and don't know if I have ever been more thoroughly planned. I have studied the chart hard and done all the numbers (and hope the wind doesn't change its mind in the morning and mean that I have to adjust them all!).

I have a dread of getting lost (in three dimensions! - with no street names and road numbers)!

It feels quite an adventure, even if it is really only a 45 minute flight. I may talk to Wattisham as I fly under their NE panhandle, but it won't be a MATZ penetration, and they may not talk back anyway.

For logistics, I have one friend, Darren, driving me to Great Oakley and another, Carl, picking me up when I land and taking me home. I am enormously grateful to them, because this wouldn't be happening but for them; who knows when the wind will be this favourable at the weekend again this month?

Update - Sunday

I am now all thermally insulated and nearly ready for the off. Just checking TAFs and Notams. Excited. Wish me luck.