Life In The Slow Lane

It’s official.

I have just picked up India Yankee, the 1943 L4 Cub.

The aircraft was at Church Fenton/ Leeds East, and a bit of logistical planning was required. Brenda was bribed with the promise of a night in a hotel and the use of the car the next day to visit daughter Ellie and newborn Arthur, so I now had a lift down and the added bonus of space for any extras to come back.

After the formalities and with a full main tank and a full auxiliary tank it was time to set off northwards. I had planned a fuel stop at the halfway point – the delightful Northumbrian airfield of Eshott. It is a sign of the aircraft’s slow speed and the headwind on the day that Brenda was able to drive to Eshott and be there to meet me on landing. With snacks.

The route was north from Church Fenton, passing east of York and over the North York Moors to the coast at Redcar, then following the coast all the way past Hartlepool, Sunderland, South Shields, North Shields and Blyth before turning inland for Eshott.

The high wing and copious amounts of clear perspex make for good views, especially as I kept the height down as much as possible to get out of the teeth of the wind:

Cruising speed was 80mph, which is about 70 knots, and with a 30 knot headwind at times the groundspeed was down to 40. I could feel myself going grey. At one point passing Teeside I was convinced I was getting overtaken by an oil tanker on its way up the coast…

The wire fuel gauge seemed to go down really quickly, and I was thinking I would have to divert to Fishburn for fuel if I couldn’t transfer the auxiliary fuel from the wing tank into the main. Happily on opening the fuel valve the level in the wing went down and the wire in the main started to rise again until it was almost full. Loads of fuel! Panic over.

Eshott was windy, but straight down the runway so the landing was acceptable. I taxied up to the fuel truck and shut down one hour and fifty minutes after leaving Church Fenton. The airfield was quiet and it took some time to find a refueller but eventually the “almost empty” tanks took a grand total of 42 litres. Both tanks full is just under 80 so I had almost half the fuel left!

We took off again, the Cub and I, from Eshott and set course northwest. Now we were straight into wind and it took ages for the shadow to cross each field:

Eventually the coast of East Lothian crawled into view and we set off across the Firth of Forth towards Fife. Height by now was a little higher to give more options in the event of a problem. The auxiliary fuel transferred as advertised once again and endurance was no longer a concern.

Passing a rig off Kirkcaldy the wind shadow gives an idea of the strength of the wind:

Finally back over dry land at Leven. Onto the home stretch now…

Crossing the flat part in the middle of Fife near Ladybank:

And finally into the traffic pattern at Perth, an OK landing and taxied up to shut down at the work hangar, causing a bit of excitement:

Home at last…

After almost four hours of flying I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle the aircraft into its new spot in the aero club hangar, so we put it at the back of the work hangar. Total and utter coincidence that the “CUB” lettering is the right way up:

Next day I moved the aircraft into its new home, but not without going for a wee flight first:

Proving once again that it is a great little spotter plane. Awesome views from low level:

And finally into the new hangar spot. Eindecker and Cub back-to-back:

Sigurd Martin now stands for “Speed Machine” if it’s the RV6, or “Slow Machine” if it’s the Eindecker or Cub.

A couple of days later at work I rediscovered the excellent Mountain Weather Information Service website at http://www.mwis.org.uk – their simplified chart for the day of the ferry flight looked like this:

If I had seen the word “gale” before setting off I probably would have left the aircraft in the hangar!

That Escalated Quickly…

The “Panic Buying” post on 2nd April concluded with the line:

I think I’m going to wish for a Piper Cub. J3 or L4. Either is fine

Then in “That Was Quick!” on 1 May I told you how my 1:48 scale model L4 Cub had arrived as a present (Thank you Ian). It’s now in the throes of construction:

Then on 24 May, in “Inspection Time At Last”, I wandered off on a tangent, got distracted and HEY LOOK A BUTTERFLY. Sorry, I wandered off on a tangent, got distracted and mentioned that I had come across a REAL live ex-USAAF World War 2 L4 Cub for sale. Came to the conclusion that it would be cool to own, but three aeroplanes might be a bit too much…and yet, the quote was:

I cannot promise to not go and inspect the Cub when lockdown eases!

Guess what? Lockdown eased and I didn’t go to inspect the aircraft. And then I got an email from the VPAC – Vintage Piper Aircraft Club (I’ve been a member for years).

The email was to advertise another L4 Cub for sale. So now it might be worth a wee trip to have a look. I got in touch with the owner and found out that the aircraft was based at Leeds East Airport, our old friend formerly known as RAF Church Fenton (See trip report in the Sting at http://www.sigurdmartin.se/2018/05/04/return-2-church-fenton/ ) and with the other L4 being based at Blackpool just over 2 hours away from there a road trip to view both was in order.

I packed away my L4 inspection kit: overalls, face mask, hand sanitiser, inspection mirror on a stalk, notebook and pen, torch, another torch, headtorch, spare batteries, spare pencil and midge net. The midge net was a mistake, I just grabbed the spare battery pouch from my work flying suit pocket and the midge net came along for the ride. All this stuff was packed in the authentic looking replica holdall which we bought at the D-Day Experience museum at “Dead Mans Corner” in St-Côme-du-Mont near Utah Beach. ( https://dday-experience.com/en/ ).

Always knew it would be useful one day…

Road Trip Day One was driving down to a hotel near Selby, ready for an early start the next day, to the old Jet Provost hangar at Church Fenton. First impression was: WOW

The aircraft is almost museum quality (don’t tell the D-Day Experience folk or they will want it). It turns out that the aircraft had a full rebuild in 2013, after being imported from Switzerland. The paintwork, fittings, cables and perspex were almost immaculate:

Inside is evidence of a (very non standard) electrical system, powering the lights, radio, transponder and engine starter.

The aircraft has a documented history with 79th Infantry Division of the US Army, and would have come ashore on Utah Beach between 12 and 14 June 1944, about a week after D-Day. It may even have flown over, but in the early days of the Battle of Normandy most came off the beach in “Deuce and a Half” trucks and had to be reassembled in the field, so that’s more likely. The paint scheme reflects the Normandy period, with the black and white invasion conspicuity markings on the wings and fuselage. I did read once that the hurried application of these stripes only a few days before D-Day exhausted the UK’s entire stock of white paint!

After the war in Europe was over, a large number of these aircraft were handed over to civilian flying clubs and organisations. It was much easier to sell them in Europe rather than boxing them up and shipping them back to the US. This particular example ended up in Switzerland and even operated on skis, performing the first ever landing on a glacier whose name escapes me. There are several Swiss modifications to the aircraft, including the attachment points for the bungee cords which keep the front tips of the skis up in flight. Digging in the front of a ski high up on a mountain glacier is not to be recommended! Another Swiss mod is the line of attachment holes on the cowling for an extra heat muff wrapped round the exhaust, but the best one is the vertical speed indicator.

At some point they put in a VSI (the original didn’t have one), and this new one has markings in German! So, a Battle of Normandy veteran with a German instrument marked “Steigt” und “Sinkt” – and not marked in our usual units of feet per minute either, this one is marked in metres per second. Easy enough as 1 metre per second is roughly 200 feet per minute, so the 5 m/s mark is more or less equivalent to 1000fpm.

Using metres per second for vertical speed is quite common in the gliding world, so this might point to use as a glider tug. Maybe they used a glider instrument when they decided they wanted a VSI in the aircraft?

After a good poke around, Dick the owner offered to take me up for a quick flight. We pulled the aircraft out onto the apron, where it looked right at home next to the military hangar:

I squeezed into the front seat. For weight and balance considerations the pilot in command sits in the back, so I blocked Dick’s view of almost all the instruments. I had a good view on the quite complex fuel gauge. It’s basically a float which follows the top of the fuel down, and the wire disappears. No wire left = no fuel left. So simple.

The view was excellent, as you’d expect from a spotter plane designed to see things on the ground:

And because of the large areas of perspex the view straight down was spectacular. Piper added lots of extra window area to the L4 compared with the predominantly yellow civilian J3 Cub on which it was based. They called it “extra fenestration” – good to see that big company jargon has been around a lot longer that I thought and is not an invention of our generation!

The wheel shot also shows the upgraded brake system, always useful.

After landing it was off to the “Fenton Feeder” for a bacon roll and coffee and to swap war stories. Dick is a former RAF pilot too. I did remember to ask some questions about the aircraft. And then, hit the road over to Chorley in Lancs for my overnight accommodation ready for Blackpool Airport the next day.

The second Cub for sale lives in Hangar 42, which is the home of the Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team and their small museum. It looked well worth a visit but I was concentrating on the Cub. No invasion markings on this one, and the code D-MF is made up. It stands for Dunkeswell Mudville Flyers, which was the flying group that previously owned the aircraft. Eagle eyed readers will spot that the Mudville Flyers cartoon logo has gone from the engine cowling. Scroll back up and check the second picture to see the Jiminy Cricket logo. Now check this one:

This L4 is very nice too, but with some “slightly tired” bits compared with the first Cub, which is a little unfair as the first one is only 7 years out of a full rebuild. Both aircraft are airworthy and ready to go, but this one has the original brakes and a 65HP engine as opposed to 90HP in the first one. Also this one has no engine driven electrical system – the radio is driven off a battery which is under the pilots seat and would need recharging every so often.

Most of the time inspecting these aircraft is spent lying on a cold hangar floor:

But it’s worth a sore back to have a good check of everything. Either Cub would do, but the first one is in very good condition. I’m going back down for a second visit to scrutinise the logbooks, look at a few things I forgot last time and then, if all is in order…

First Flight In The P47 Replica

(From the archive – this originally appeared in the Scottish Aero Club’s newsletter, back in the day when it was on real paper)

I have no idea how it must feel to make the first flight on an aircraft that you have personally built – I bought because I wanted to fly and couldn’t really see myself slaving over a hot workbench for years. In a sense it was just a new aircraft type for me, albeit very different from anything I had flown before. I found I was able to, in words of Zen Master, “Keep mind like calm water and detach from outcome” 

Which was just as well because I broke all the rules on the first flight…you know them. The rules that say 

1) If you are flying from an unfamiliar airfield for the first time, make sure it is in an aircraft with which you are familiar 

2) If you are flying an unfamiliar type for the first time, do it from a familiar airfield 

3) Get a thorough checkout is a similar aircraft type 

4) Choose a good weather day 

5) Have a definite “First Flight” test plan 

etc 

I started off by putting myself under pressure…I had owned the aircraft for 6 months before the first flight and wanted to get it ferried north from Sackville farm strip in Bedfordshire to its new base at Perth in Scotland. I had 3 days off in a row which coincided with a fairly good weather forecast, so I jumped on an easyJet 737 and flew to Luton. Chris drove me out to the strip and we prepared the aircraft, got it running, wondered why it stopped, pulled the cowlings, got it fixed, and waddled off down the grass for the first flight… 

…from an unfamiliar strip (narrow and undulating) 

…in an unfamiliar type 

…running well behind schedule 

…with bad weather entering the country from the west and due in the area by evening. 

I had refreshed myself on tailwheel aircraft at Northampton School of Flying on the Super Cub with Frank McClurg, but due (again) to the UK weather my 2 day visit was spent sitting around until the evening of the second day when the winds dropped and we managed one hour of circuits. Not really enough and probably not a suitable type either – I could see out the front for a start. But good fun anyway, I’ve always liked Cubs ever since I did my tailwheel coversion at Clacton many moons ago. But it was 2 months between the Cub flying and the time of the first P47 flight. Also I had flown off grass but always an airfield, not a strip like Sackville. We had hoped for Chris to be able to position the aircraft to Peterborough with its long straight wide hard runway but that had not happened. I had a test schedule all made up, taken from Vaughn Askue’s excellent “Flight Testing Homebuilt Aircraft” and that involved slowly working up to the first flight from a series of faster and faster taxis but the Sackville strip made that impractical, so in the end we ended up blasting off and hoping for the best. I say we because the I think aircraft did most of the work! 

“Lining up, the cowling blocks the view ahead…ready to go, remember to keep the tail down until 40mph or there will be minimal directional control. Here we go, feed in full power, didn’t expect it to be so bumpy. And noisy! Keep straight. 40mph, raise the tail, still can’t see over the nose, raise it a bit more, accelerating nicely now. Bump! Oh ****! we’ve been launched airborne by the strip. Hold it down, hold it down, keep it in the ground effect, let it accelerate. If you climb out of the ground effect at this low speed the left wing will stall first and we’ll be history. Looking for 80mph. There it is! Raise nose a little. The hedge which was whipping past in my peripheral vision drops away. ****! it’s sensitive – wobbling left and right and pitching up and down. Calm down. Small movements. Use fingertip pressure. We’re flying. WE’RE FLYING! Heartrate you can come down now. What next what next? Ah yes, gear! Flick the switch, green lights go out, cogs and torque tubes between my knees working away until the gear is up. Temperatures and pressures OK, fuel contents guage intermittent, that’ll need to be looked at, how on earth am I going to fix that. Later. Gentle turn left. Look for Chris, he should be getting airborne about now. There he is! About 400 feet or so climbing out. Check for other traffic. Great view up and behind, but can’t see much below the nose, due to the big cowling. Will have to weave the nose to check for traffic. Fighter pilot weave. Amendment to last statement delete “traffic”, insert “bogies and bandits.” **** ****! I’m flying a P47! And it’s mine! And we’ve got to get onto the ground in one piece. Head for Peterborough. Big features, look for the lake at Grafham Water, there it is, navigation complete for the moment. Where’s Chris? Look around. 5o’clock, level. OK, steep turn left, looking for the other aircraft, pass behind him and slide into loose formation on his right wing. He rebuilt the aircraft, he has flown it, but he has never seen it fly. Give him a show. Peel away to the right. Throw it around a bit. What an excellent aircraft, flies like it’s running on rails. I want one. Oh yes! Note to self…you own one! OK, then…everybody should have one. Right then where are we? There’s the lake, and there’s the A1 road running straight towards Peterborough, so the airfield should be about…there. OK. Just a quick stall to check things out, HASELL checks, and Chris is well clear heading towards the airfield. First indications of stall at 62mph, then the left wing drops a fraction. Recovers straight away. Good. Right we’ll use a minimum of 80 on the final approach, gear limiting speed is 100, let’s see what it looks like on final, wonder when I’ll lose sight of the runway? Call Peterborough on the radio, no reply, try again, no reply. Great, what to do, what to do? OK, no radio join in the overhead. Head towards the field. There’s Chris on final, playing pathfinder for me, good man. He’ll tell them I’m coming. Overhead and descend dead side, lookout, lookout! Blind transmissions on the radio. Join crosswind then turn downwind, RPM below 2000, carb heat on, speed decaying, 110, 105, 100! Gear selected down, the cogs and tubes doing their stuff until the two green lights come on and the gear is down. Turn final and the wind is straight down the concrete. That’s one less thing to worry about at least. Pity this a single seater I could do with Frank McClurg sitting here with his 10,000+ hrs on light aircraft giving me some moral support. Ah well, you’re on your own here, you bought it, you land it! 90mph down final, checking for obstructions which will soon disappear from view. Nothing to bump into. The threshold is now out of sight behind the cowling, can still see the far end. Good old heart rate is coming up again, please God don’t let me mess up now! Runway edges in the peripheral vision, close throttle, flare. TOO MUCH! Tiny burst of throttle. Gently this time, flare, flare, a little bit gusty here, check the runway edges, they seem to be the same distance away, they should do something about those weeds, now I know that summer is coming, see all those daisies and dandelions! Come on, come on, what’s the delay, must be that cruise prop with it’s residual thrust. Flare a bit more, sink a bit more, flare a bit more. We’re in the ground effect, it still wants to fly. No idea where the wheels are in relation to the ground. Stick almost fully back and BANG we’re down, we’re down and time restores to it’s normal speed. Watch the swing, whoa steady there cowboy, gentle on the pedals, the wind should help keep us straight. We are all over the place, GENTLY, gently on the pedals, remember the article that said it’ll run straight if you let it. Let it! Good job this is a long runway, brakes are not very efficient. But then there is less chance of tipping it onto its nose, so I think we can live with that one. And finally we are at a taxiing speed. Heartrate can come down now please…breathing can come down to normal too please. Turn off the runway and stop. Undo the canopy latches and duck head as it slides back. Now I can see a bit more by leaning my head from side to side. Taxi to the pumps and stop. The radio comes to life again! Wierd. Idle cut off and the engine stops. Switches off, master off. Sit there for longer than is normal. Thinking. First flight completed. I made it. WE made it. Great aircraft, everybody should have one.” 

Later in the clubhouse, Chris confessed that his radio had packed up as well, a little handheld with a LOW BATT caption! We blasted into the circuit (pattern for our US and Canadian cousins) just at the right time when nobody else was around. It got quite busy as we were paying for the fuel. I must have been on a high, because I paid for Chris’s landing fee! 

After a first flight like that, I suppose the normal procedure is to crack open a beer and relax for the rest of the day, but hell no I had a schedule to meet, had to get north before the bad weather and before my days off ran out, so I was soon blasting off again for a high speed run up the middle of England. I didn’t get the tail up enough on takeoff again, and the landing at Carlisle was a bit ropy due to the crosswind there. I couldn’t continue to Perth so the aircraft was hangared and I went to a hotel with my toothbrush, toothpaste, spare undies and socks. The Mk1 Half Scale P47 Replica Minimal Nightstop Kit. 

THEN I had that first flight beer….and later, the second flight beer!

Formations and Fly-ins

A lot of flying stories start with “There I was…”

It was sometime in June, there I was floating around on my second trip of the day patrolling over Dunkeld, waiting. The RV gang from Perth had gone to the fly-in at Easter airfield, north of Inverness and they were due back any time. I was off in Walter Mitty land again, hoping to intercept any inbounds to Perth. Defensive Counter Air, I think it’s called (DCA).

I heard “Rodderz” the RV3 on the radio and the position report sounded really close, and miracle of miracles when I dipped the wing to take a look there he was! We swooped down like a bird of prey, joined on his wing and then flew in (slightly loose) formation for a while on the way back to Perth:

The next day I took off just before Ian in his RV6 and he joined up on me for a bit:

The wide angle lenses make it look a lot further apart than it actually is, honest:

Slightly zoomed in, but Ian was nicely stable here in echelon port:

And here’s me breaking away leaving Ian to go on his merry way…

A couple of days later, another RV “same way, same day” style formation. This time to Kirriemuir for an impromptu fly-in.

Self service fly-in food, also known as an aero-picnic:

Three designs from the prolific Richard VanGrunsven (according to Wikipedia there are more RVs completed every year in the US than all the general aviation manufacturers [Piper, Cessna, Cirrus etc] combined!)…Chris’s single seat RV3 in white (“Rodderz”), then Ian’s nosewheel RV6A and in the background our tailwheel RV6:

Other aircraft types are available, but RVs are the best all rounder. It must be true because the factory says so (“Total Performance” is the slogan), everybody who has flown one says so, and it says so on the sweatshirt I bought.

The RV6 has since been replaced by the RV7, and at the recent Perth fly-in we parked beside a nice red one. Note the slightly larger tail fin:

Brenda and I had just landed after a sightseeing jaunt of an hour and a half down the coast to Alnmouth and back, taking in Holy Island and the camp site where we had spent a couple of nights the previous week. Parking next to the RV7 was deliberate. I had met the builder before we took off; Ian is the man who put the “I” in G-RVIB! He was the original builder, and wanted a photo of the two aircraft together. We had a good chat over the standard fly-in burger of cardboard bread, slightly tasteless mustard and (in this case) a marginally undercooked burger. Didn’t get food poisoning so it must have been fine. We learned the story of the “flames” paint scheme. Ian had a scheme designed on the computer, with smart 3D view colour printouts and everything, but it all changed on a whim when the paint shop guy said “How about I replace that line with some flames?”

Ian built our RV6 and his RV7, has restored a Pitts and is now considering building an RV8. I did ask if he wanted to swap and take his original aircraft back but he was having none of it. Pity, that RV7 is really smart.

Maybe we will have to build one after all…

Eindecker Build Complete!

The 1:72 scale Airfix model I bought for lockdown has finally been completed, and now rests in the “aircraft I have flown” model collection. I got glue and paint everywhere so please don’t look too closely!

Disused Airfields Tour

Lovely weather at the end of June, and with the coronavirus restrictions starting to ease, time to have a look at various disused military airfields to the northeast of Perth…

Up the coast to Gourdon and Inverbervie before turning inland to the first target:

Got a bit sidetracked on the way and did a quick 360 to get this shot:

The first airfield, Fordoun, with the old runways and some new hardstanding used as storage, probably for the oil industry up the road in Aberdeen…

The former RAF Stracathro, now back to farmland but with the perimeter track still evident:

Kinnell, with barns and sheds using the hard runways as ready-made foundations. The portion that looks usable as a runway is often covered in hay bales, back in the 80’s there was some parachuting activity from here:

The remains of East Haven, a former naval air station called HMS Peewit. Many moons ago I did a Practise Forced Landing (PFL) down to 500ft here in a Grumman AA5 G-BDCK (yay for logbooks!), and in those days the concrete runways were still visible, now they are long gone:

Tealing, to the north of Dundee. Long disused, one of the old runways is covered in chicken sheds and there is a small solar farm, a wind turbine and a power distribution centre (where all the wires go to die)…

In 1942 Soviet Foriegn Minister Vyacheslav Molotov landed at Tealing on a visit for talks with Winston Churchill. The aircraft was a Petlyakov PE8. Originally known as the TB7, it was the Soviet Union’s only four-engined bomber during the war, and was even used to bomb Berlin in August 1941. Only 93 were built.


Picture courtesy of: http://www.tealingvillage.org/throughthewar_aerodrome.html

During the winter war of 1939/1940 between Finland and the USSR, the Finns called Russian bombs “Molotov’s Bread Baskets” in a disparaging reference to Molotov’s propaganda broadcasts. When they came up with the idea of a simple petrol-filled bottle with a burning wick to throw at Russian tanks, they decided that the Soviet Foreign Minister needed a drink to go with his bread baskets, and thus the “Molotov Cocktail” was born. History is great!

Despite having blocked runways and numerous obstructions, the old airfield at Tealing continues to live on in an aeronautical capacity. Dundee airport has an official Visual Reference Point (VRP) at Broughty Ferry Castle but there are several unofficial ones: Piperdam, Monikie Reservoir and Tealing being regularly heard on the radio as aircraft report their positions to Air Traffic Control at Dundee. Today’s trainee pilots in their Cessnas share the same skies over Tealing as their wartime counterparts of 56 Operational Training Unit as they got to grips with their Hurricane fighters.

There are several other old airfields dotted about the area including Edzell and Errol, and some relief landing grounds which were just grass fields back in the war and are still grass fields today. There is one about 1500m from our house, but it’s just a big field with no trace any more.

If you’re ever in Lincolnshire with time on your hands, may I recommend the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby? Website at  https://www.lincsaviation.co.uk/ – in the museum there is a poem about disused airfields, written by Warrant Officer Walt Scott, who was a Lancaster mid-upper gunner on 630 Squadron. It makes more sense when you know that the code-name for East Kirkby was “Silksheen”…

I lie here still, beside the hill

Abandoned long to nature’s will

My buildings down, my people gone,

My only sounds, the wild birds’ song.

But my mighty birds will rise no more,

No more I hear the Merlin’s roar,

And never now my bosom feels,

The pounding of their giant wheels.

From the ageless hills their voices cast,

Thunderous echoes from the past,

And still in lonely reverie,

Their great dark wings sweep down to me.

After, sorrow, hope and pain,

I shall never know these things again,

Emotions that I came to know,

Of strange young men, so long ago.

Who knows as evening shadows meet,

Are they still with me, a phantom fleet,

And do my ghosts still stride unseen,

Across my face, so wide and green.

And in the future, should structures tall,

Bury me beyond recall,

I shall still remember them,

My metal birds, and long dead men.

Now, weeds grow high, obscure the sky,

Oh remember me when you pass by,

For beneath this tangled leafy screen,

I was your home, your friend, Silksheen.

A Race Against Time

When I did the RV flight test I had to start a new page in my logbook, and adding up the totals I found that my grand total was 10,999.1 hours – only 0.9 hours to 11,000.

How good would it be to pass 11,000 hours in my own RV6? It would be kind of cool to do it at work, where they could get the publicity, but then again they milked the 10,000 milestone with cakes, photographers, newspaper articles and the like. I managed to save a newspaper cutting for my logbook:

So this time I was hoping to pass the 1000 mark in my own aircraft. Unfortunately I had just sent the permit renewal paperwork for the RV away to the LAA, and nothing had come back yet. With not so settled weather on the way and having to go back to work in a few days, it was a race against time to see if the permit paperwork would return in time.

It was looking increasingly unlikely so it was time to bring out the small guns! The Eindecker just needed a bit of TLC to be ready to launch on patrol…air in the tyres, fuel in the tank, inspection of linkages and flying wires, greasing of hinges and a bit of a wipe to get the dust off. Trust me, at the speed this thing flies at, the wind doesn’t blow any dust off. There’s a boundary layer of low speed air which just doesn’t shift the dirt. I once spotted a fly sitting on the wing at 1000ft over Dunkeld, cheekily enjoying the ride.

I like to think of the Eindecker as a kind of aerial jetski…owning it makes no sense but it’s bloody good fun when you do get it out and go for a blast. Last year was a low utilisation year but this year I plan to do a lot more. It likes low wind days so calm high pressure days are ideal. And we’ve had a lot of those recently.

I had applied for permission from the airfield operator for an “out of hours” flight as the tower is currently unmanned. The microlight school at the field was doing engine runs and solo hire, so it wasn’t totally dead.

Take off was to the east with a left turn to the north past Balbeggie, hoping not to annoy the neighbours too much with the mighty 40 horse power drawing us sedately through the sky at 40 MPH. This is a by-the-numbers machine…most things are done at 40. Take off, climb, cruise and land. Wouldn’t be surprised if the oil pressure was 40 psi as well. Oh, and the tyre pressures too…

Passing the fruit farms near Blairgowrie:

We did a little bit of patrolling over the lines. Power lines that is:

And then southwest towards the River Tay at Murthly. Taking photos with a phone in an open cockpit Great War replica is fraught with danger. I had to make sure the phone was angled so that the airflow was pushing it back into the cockpit in case I did drop it. You’re seeing these photos now so obviously I didn’t lose my phone…but there were a lot of rubbish ones where the autofocus was fooled by the wires. These five are the only usable ones out of about fifteen…

Here we are passing Stanley Mills towards the appropriately germanic sounding Strelitz Wood, which is (allegedly) named after Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George 111:

After ensuring the skies over Strelitz were clear of any marauding tommies, we wandered over to Kinrossie to have a look at a burning field of stubble, which was visible for miles. Smelling the smoke in an open cockpit aircraft is an experience, much more pleasant than the smell of fish I got in the cockpit of a rented Cessna 152 as I turned from base leg to final for Reykjavik’s runway 19 many moons ago…

Brenda always laughs when I say things like “we wanderered over…” when I’m in a single seat aircraft. I also say it when solo in the RV. I just smile and claim it must be a “man and machine in perfect harmony” sort of thing!

After checking the results of the (…artillery…) fire at Kinrossie we had flown 50 minutes. I only needed 55 to break the 11,000 but from Kinrossie back to the airfield took another 20 minutes!

It’s only 2.8 nautical miles, but with runway 09 in use I had to sneak my way round to the dead side of the circuit. Hopping from brown field to brown field to take advantage of the thermals to gain some height. Also I had to go around when a Eurostar missed the second turning and had to backtrack.

Go around! With 40 HP. That was interesting…and a fairly tight low level circuit to land. We taxied over to work and shut down:

Paramedic Julia (known as “snapper”) was on shift and I needed a photo to mark the occasion. Here’s a sign I made earlier. Just as well I didn’t land out in a field after only 50 minutes:

Work machine from Airbus, formerly Eurocopter Deutschland and play machine, replica of a Great War German army fighter. Bit of a German theme going on here…

As an extra bonus of the one hour engine health flight I was able to test the performance of the hand held radio when it was hooked up to the aircraft’s internal aerial. Result: MUCH better than the “rubber duck” style aerial. I can actually hear other aircraft transmitting from more than a few miles away. A great improvement.

As I put the aircraft back in the hangar the wind had shifted slightly, and the smoke plume from the Kinrossie stubble fire was more vertical, leading to the pretty cool meteorological phenomenon known as a pyrocumulus – a cumulus cloud where the formation trigger is rising air caused by a fire. It was only a wee one, not like the massive ones that are sometimes seen over wildfires in California, Canada and Australia. They are pretty rare, because the air needs to be a little moist, and moist air isn’t usually associated with the dry conditions which set off wildfires. In this case the gentle easterly wind was bringing in just enough water vapour off the North Sea to give the smoke plume a little cap of cloud. It didn’t last long.

The nice weather conditions have made for some good photography from the work machine. Paramedic JP took these on the way to Campbeltown. A view of Goat Fell on Arran:

And the town of Dunoon with Holy Loch just to the north (right):

Aerial sightseeing is awesome, no matter how many hours you have.

Perceptions

Perceptions are strange things. When I was flying the police helicopter over Glasgow, everybody down on the ground was a potential criminal, but when I transitioned to flying the air ambulance as well, then suddenly everybody on the ground became a potential patient, in need of help at a bad time.

Likewise while the aircraft was laid up waiting for new piston rings, or for the oil leak to be fixed, my perception of the aircraft was “that multi thousand pound paperweight at the back of the hangar” – and that’s pounds in monetary terms (£), not weight (lbs). But now that it has passed the annual inspection and the test flight is complete, with paperwork submitted to the LAA, the perception has flipped again into “that awesome aircraft, which is great fun and ALL MINE!”

The test day was a lovely sunny day. The permit inspection was complete, I had booked out with the airport operator, my insurance was back up to full cover (it had been downgraded to “ground risks” only for 2 months). All I needed was some fuel:

No self respecting test flight would be complete without some stirring music and a Guard of Honour for the take off, supplied here by the duty crew from work:

…and then it was off into the wild blue yonder to test climb rates, stall speeds, maximum and minimum oil pressures, performance in a simulated baulked landing, radio reception and so on.

Once the bulk of the flight test was complete it was just a case of flying around to run the engine at flight operating speeds for an hour. Always being mindful to stay within 10 miles of the airfield as per the guidance. The Skydemon trace showing the 10 nautical mile ring:

…and the same flight as recorded on Flightradar24:

It was great to be flying again in the RV:

Great views in the sunshine. Here’s Perth from the south:

…and some random fields taken out the other side:

1.1 hours of flying, with a landing on the grass runway back at Perth. Best landing in the aircraft so far. I have adjusted my seating position so that might be it, although grass is very forgiving.

That was to be it for 28 days until the next engine health flight, but now several days later there are aircraft in the sky again, so it looks like it’ll soon be back to some semblance of normality as the lockdown eases. Once the paperwork gets back I’ll be able to get airborne in “that awesome aircraft, which is great fun and ALL MINE!”

Perceptions are everything.

Inspection Time At Last

I was beginning to think it would never happen. The RV’s “Permit to Fly” ran out at the end of February just as we were starting to feel the impact of the virus. Access to the hangar was limited and so I couldn’t get to work on the aircraft as much as I would have liked to. Over a few weeks I did manage to get all the panels off ready for the annual inspection…piled up at the side of the hangar they look a bit like the pictures of the aircraft in kit form (usually accompanied with a statement like “With our kit you can be flying in six months. Engine, instruments and paint not included”)…

Inspector Sandy made it over from the West Coast to complete several permit renewal inspections, and ours was one of them! A portrait of the engineering guru in his element:

With an inspection in the bag and a Permit to Test Fly, we’re just waiting for good weather and a chance to get the flight test done…then the paperwork gets sent off and with luck a renewed Permit returns soon after. I say with luck because the Light Aircraft Association who administer these things are all working from home at the moment. The post is getting picked up from head office and the system seems to be working fine. There are no internet rumblings about any major delays so fingers crossed!

In Scotland we are still under “lockdown” and recreational flying is not at the top of the priority list, but a permit renewal test flight is classed as essential maintenance activity and can go ahead. Engine maintenance flights are allowed every 28 days as well to enable engines to get up to operating temperature which evaporates any moisture in the oil and avoids internal corrosion. A ground run just won’t cut it, so the guidance is a flight every 28 days of (I think) up to 30 minutes for a Continental engine and 60 minutes for a Lycoming. The RV has a Lycoming engine.

The flight test normally takes around half an hour to complete if you take your time, so I’ll have an extra 30 minutes to wander around and enjoy the views. Sadly the guidance also says no further than 10 miles from the airfield, but it’ll be great to be up and about again.

At least I get to go further afield with work. Some views…

Windfarm on the Ochill Hills:

Kirriemuir International Airport…saved on my iPad as a Skydemon user waypoint called Aaronsfield, ‘cos it is run by Aaron. We landed here during Ian’s training:

The old and new Kincardine Bridges:

Flat lands by the River Forth near Kincardine:

The Forth at Alloa, looking upstream towards Stirling. Can’t wait to see the views from the RV…

All that previous talk about wishing for things, and getting my L4 Cub model from Ian? A REAL one has just popped up for sale, manufactured in 1944 in the US, shipped to Europe after D-Day and transferred to the French armed forces a few months later, then post-war with a French flying club before coming to the UK, passing through several owners and now for sale at Blackpool:

(photo courtesy Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team)

It’s old and slow, but very cool. No need to spend millions on a warbird like a P51 Mustang when for a fraction of the price you can have this real warbird. Great for floating around at low level looking at stuff. Which is what it was built for. Nowadays you can stick your camera out the (open) window for some great aerial photography, but in the old days the observer in the back could call in some well placed artillery fire.

A Cub does not fly very fast – about 70 MPH or so, which translates as 60 knots. At 120 knots in the Sting it took us 15 hours flying over 3 days to get to Sweden, so in a Cub it would take 30 hours and almost a week. Definitely not an ideal commuting method for a short break, more of a spring migration type flight.

There is a group of L4 Cub owners at Kjeller airfield in Oslo. Last year they flew a formation of 3 Cubs all the way to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It took them 3 days of pushing hard, quick fuel stops and long flying days to get there, but they proved it can be done. They made a few videos of the trip…if you are interested, the first one is here:

If the purpose is to get to Sweden in a hurry, then 140kts in the RV6 beats 60kts in a Cub. If the mission is just to float along on a summer evening enjoying the view, the Cub is perfect. Truth is the RV does both and as everybody in the aviation press says, the RV is the best all rounder. I think we’ll keep it. Also, while it would be nice to own a WW2 aircraft, having three would be just greedy…but I cannot promise to not go and inspect the Cub when lockdown eases!

It’s all academic at the moment anyway as we can’t fly to Sweden because of viruses and border restrictions and quarantines and rules. Pesky rules.

Some rules are good though…remember to stay one caribou apart! Then we can get over this virus and get flying again…