On Patrol…

While the Sting is in bits (Almost finished now, thanks for asking!), it’s great to have access to another aircraft to get airborne in, even if it is open cockpit and usually freezing.

There was a little bit of tinkering required for the Eindecker as the tailwheel had seized up and disintegrated. Replica WW1 fighter tailwheels should be rarer than hen’s teeth, but actually Machine Mart do a fine selection. A bit weird that they label these Fokker Eindecker tail wheels as ML309 Threaded Stem Rubber Swivel Castor. But they are only £6.95 each.

Tinkering complete it was time to launch off on patrol. Having secured the cowling with 30+ screws the engine wouldn’t start. Sod’s law. I had neglected to connect the starter motor to the battery. The battery had been off all winter on trickle charge and had been connected back up. So I thought!

30+ screws removed, cowling off and 30 seconds to reconnect the cable. Cowling on, 30+ screws refitted and ready to go. Normal wear for the open cockpit includes full clothes under a flying suit with a leather jacket on top  which looks the part.

But this was such a hot day that I tried without the jacket and suit, and it was fine. We took off on the westerly runway and turned right to head north. The early turn is required to avoid the trees at the end of the runway.

25 minutes later we were back, having satisfied the craving and got air under the wings of the Eindecker for the first time since November.

Looking forward to the next time I have a day off and it’s warm with light winds. Roll on summer…!

(Good photos by Wallace as usual)

It’s Annual Inspection Time!

Every year the aircraft needs an approval inspection to make sure it’s still fit to fly. Then a flight test and paperwork sent off to renew the “Permit to Fly” – always a joyous occasion when that comes back in the post! Prior to this there’s a bit of tinkering to be done, making sure everything is in good order, lubricated and clean. Also, as the logbooks show 208hrs, the engine is due a 200hr inspection. There is a 10hr extension allowed so 208 is still within limits, just in case you were wondering.

Luckily we know somebody who is an iRMT, qualified to do the inspection on the Sting’s Rotax 912 engine (Remember the £1000 Free Pen? ). The inspection is mostly complete, just waiting on one pesky tool to arrive from Germany, so we’ve been doing the rest of the airframe; Here’s the cockpit with the seats and baggage compartments removed, giving access to the internals of the rear fuselage…

And from a slightly different angle, looking down to underneath the seats where the two wing spars cross into sockets in the opposite wing root and are fastened together by a big bolt…

All the bell cranks and hinges get a good application of grease to keep them lubed up and working smoothly.

The bulk of the engine service has been completed, including the oil change. One cool feature is the mag plug, a powerful magnet which sits in the oil and picks up any stray bits of metal. Here’s ours after dipping in brake cleaner to remove most of the oil:

There were a few tiny slivers of metal…well within limits for normal wear and tear. Some of these things come out looking like Christmas trees, then you need to investigate a little more! We cut open the oil filter and inspect the paper element every oil change. This time there were about 7 tiny flecks visible – also well within limits. Very reassuring to know. The filter paper is retained for comparison with the next one to note any increase in particles.

The Rotax 912 has a simple mag plug, only checkable by physically taking it out and looking. On the works helicopter, we have lots of gearboxes and engines and loads of mag plugs.

On the first type a buildup of metal particles completes a circuit and a warning light comes on; the second type on the engine oil system has a warning light but also allows us to “fuzz burn” by passing a current across the particles to melt them off. If it doesn’t work, it’s probably a big buildup and we need to reduce power on that engine or even shut it down. If the fuzz burner does work, we are allowed one more burn if the warning light comes on again. It concentrates the mind wonderfully when you’re out over the sea halfway to the Outer Hebrides when a chip warning comes on…

Dealing with emergencies is practiced every six months in the simulator, known as “The Box” – typing this I’m sitting at Birmingham Airport having just completed two days in the dreaded beast. It’s not as good as the 757 and 767 sims I used to enjoy, but it’s a great place to do the stuff that the Civil Aviation Authority would frown upon if you did them in the real aircraft…setting fire to engines, losing tail rotors, that sort of stuff. Fortunately I passed, so it’ll be six months before I’m back in here:

Like most pilots I get a bit stressed before the sim, and do lots of revision and planning beforehand. Now that it’s over we can concentrate on the permit renewal for the Sting.

And flying the Eindecker.

And getting my single engine ticket revalidated.

And trip planning.

And the next medical.

And tomorrow’s 0800-2000 air ambulance shift.

It never stops.


Tryggve Gran

30 July 1914, Tryggve Gran from Norway became the first person to fly across the North Sea. It took just over 4 hours flying from Cruden Bay to Stavanger in a Blériot monoplane. (See here for more details)

Over 100 years later another crazy Norwegian flew a single engine aircraft across the North Sea, this time in speed and comfort. Klaus has a house at the air park in Sweden and stopped off at Perth on his way to Bristol to visit his son. Flying his Lancair 320 at 8000ft with a groundspeed of 200kts it took him less than half the time that Gran took.

Like Gran, Klaus was solo, the other seat being taken up by a liferaft. Unfortunately the Sting doesn’t have the room, which is why we are planning to cross at the narrowest point, Dover to Cap Gris Nez.

The trip planning continues…