Looking back through the photo archives, we found quite a few pictures of the Sting, and were reminded that the smooth finish of the composite construction produced some lovely reflections. Here’s a sample.
In the hangar at Perth:
Cloud reflections over Perthshire:
Over Denmark on the Great 2018 Sweden Adventure:
Over Sweden. Lots of trees below, more cloud reflections:
Approaching the Rhine in Germany:
Back safe in the home hangar:
The Sting was a great little aircraft. With a cruise speed of 120 knots it was able to get places quickly. The Rotax 912 engine wasn’t a gas guzzler, and the controls were responsive. Maintenance and annual permit renewals were straightforward due to the composite construction. Support from the UK dealer and the factory in the Czech Republic was amazing. We had great fun in our Sting.
The only niggle was the manual flap lever, which was close to my right arm and required a bit of hand swapping on the controls to release the left hand to reach over and operate the lever. A little ungainly but perfectly safe.
More recent versions have electric flaps, operated by a switch on the panel, which eliminates that problem. They also have a more accessible baggage area and even an autopilot.
We would definitely have another Sting. Lovely aircraft.
The SSDR Eindecker hasn’t flown for a while and is in need of a bit of TLC, so I wheeled it out into the fresh air…
…and then wheeled it across to the work hangar where it was stuck in the back:
The work hangar is big enough to hold two helicopters, a trailer, a tractor, two containerised offices and a bunch of lockers, so the Eindecker didn’t take up too much space…
Also, the work hangar has a particularly awesome toolkit…it was time to get to work!
With the help of paramedic Rich the wings were removed and set aside. That’s the only two-person job of the whole process:
The control cables were disconnected and the hinges disassembled to remove the rudder:
Then it was the turn of the elevator. I lifted the tail up onto the toolkit for easy access. Note the wooden chocks adding a bit of counterbalance as the aircraft is very nose heavy. One of the points of this whole process is to modify the aircraft by moving the battery from the engine compartment down to the tail. The battery is tiny and not much mass, but way down there it will have a long lever arm and help to balance the aircraft in flight. At the moment to fly level there is a fair bit of back pressure required on the stick…the forces are very light and completely manageable but it would be nice to be a bit more balanced.
Tail feathers removed, and tail lashed down to a drum of water. Not taking any chances!
The next day we picked up a hired box van with tail lift. The only way to load the aircraft was tail first, with the tail up in the extra space above the cab. This exacerbated the nose down tendency so special attention was paid to lashing the tail down with lots of padding. As it was we stopped halfway through the 15 -minute journey home to inspect everything and retighten the lashings.
After all the faffing about reversing the van into the narrow gate, it was a simple task to unload the fuselage and wheel it into the home workshop. Note the home-made wing stand sitting waiting for the next delivery:
Second run complete, the whole aircraft is now safely in the workshop, ready for cleaning, refurbishment, repairs and modifications. We used the RV builder’s dimpling frame lashed to the tail to hold it down. Vans aircraft are in trouble at the moment so the RV8 build is on hold…their kit prices recently went up by 32% as the company tries to emerge from its financial woes. It makes sense to me to hold back and see if they will actually survive. In the meantime, the tools are still useful, even if just as tie-down weights!
Retirement looms and the Eindecker is a first project, but it doesn’t really qualify as a new career as per the title. The intention is to do my Flight Instructor (Aeroplanes) rating…no more helicopters for me!
With the FI(A) I’ll be able to continue to fly with somebody else paying for it, and let my pension pot have a bit more time to grow.
I’ll also be able to pass on some hard-learned experience to the young’uns. Should be fun.
Not much to report in December…working too much, and when not working, the weather has been horrendous.
The RV hasn’t flown for a while, as there was a hold up with the paperwork for the Permit to Fly. I need to give it a trickle charge before we take it out.
I did manage a quick flight in the Cub, on a day when the wind was straight down the runway. It was only 20 minutes in the circuit, but good to blow the cobwebs away. It had been exactly a month since I flew the Cub, but the engine started right up – we had a new battery fitted at the last annual and it showed.
After landing I taxied to the pumps to fill up…Christmas is coming and the “World’s Coolest Copilot” is visiting so we might continue our 25th December Cub flight tradition. I’m back to work and the airfield closes before the run of shifts finishes so I needed to fill up then and there:
The aircraft behind are out of the AST engineering training school hangar. They were wheeled out into the fresh air during a big hangar clean-up and reshuffle.
I’ve been preparing the Eindecker for de-rigging and a move to the home workshop for refurbishment. Prop off, cowling off, various panels off, controls disconnected, pressure lines disconnected and lots of wire-locking removed in readiness for the wings coming off…
Those scissors are an old pair of medical ones from work called “Tough Cuts” – or probably these days “Tuff Kutz” – I can confirm that even when old and nackered they are able to snip through locking wire with ease.
I can also confirm that the cut ends of the locking wire can puncture skin with ease. Ask me how I know…
Some days, just like WW1 flying ace Snoopy, we don’t feel like flying:
Some days we can’t fly. Either it’s too wet:
Or it’s too windy:
But after the wind and rain have abated, it’s time to get the Cub out and go survey the resultant flooding:
Still a lot of moisture around leading to low cloud in places:
Above, the River Earn. Below, the village of Luncarty:
Various flood pictures in no particular order…a breach in the flood defences:
A week later, the levee is all over the field, and there is a massive hole scoured out by the rushing water:
This is why it is called a flood plain…
Another confluence. Muddy water off the fields meets clear water from the hills:
The flooding was extensive and stretched for miles:
It took about 2 weeks for the floods to drain away and most of the fields to dry out, but there were still some wet patches dotted about:
The final puddles clearly showed the course the river used to take, the cool sounding “palaeochannels” …
The L4 is a great platform for observation and taking photos. I think we’ll keep it! I’ve been asked if I’d like to volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol when I retire – that would involve just the observational role that the military Cub was built for. Something to think about, could be fun.
The RV has just had its Permit to Fly renewed, so there should be some RV action soon. And in exciting news, we’re just about to apply to start the process of moving the Cub from the (expensive) Certificate of Airworthiness system to the (much more economical) Permit to Fly system, It may take a while, but it will be worth it in the end…
Proof that the “flying season” is not just the summer months, the fly-in at Kingsmuir was held on the first weekend of October. With the RV in bits for its annual, once again it was time to get the Cub out…
Kingsmuir is a grass strip set in lovely farmland in east Fife, just north of the village of Anstruther and quite close to the “Secret Bunker” Cold War museum…
It was a bit of a breezy day but the wind was forecast to be blowing straight down the grass runway at Kingsmuir. A straight line track took us past the confluence of the Tay and the Earn:
…and we were soon on the ground at Kingsmuir. I would have been first in from Perth but managed to fluff up the landing spectacularly with a massive bounce. Discretion being the better part of valour and all that, it was safer to power up and fly another circuit, this time to an acceptable touchdown. The delay meant that Norman in the white Ninja managed to get in first (the green one is based at Kingsmuir):
As more visitors started to arrive, the clouds gathered as well. At one point we were all huddled in the BBQ marquee as a rain shower passed through…
Proof that I could have got the RV in…here’s Pete’s RV6 parked up after the 5 minute hop over from Leuchars. Note the aircraft parked on the other side of the runway by the old clubhouse, there were about 20 or so aircraft there…
Archie and Graham got airborne to get this shot before everybody disappeared:
A fun day out. Now back to putting the RV back together…
End of August – time for the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre’s annual open day and fly-in at the “pop-up” airfield. I missed the Saturday due to work, but Sunday looked OK, even if the weather forecast wasn’t perfect. The Cub was dragged out and fuelled up:
And off we went. There were a few showers around, but they were widely spaced and easy to avoid, like this one at Forfar:
Arrival at Montrose was via the overhead, to get the lie of the land, followed by a low approach and go-around to check the runway, and finally touching down on the slightly bumpy pitches…
It wasn’t as busy as 2022, maybe the weather put some people off; I did have to shelter in one of the marquees for ten minutes as a quick shower went through, but the grey skies were mostly threatening rather than delivering…
Grant from Aberdeen was there again with his collection of military vehicles, including these Jeeps:
As the day wore on the weather slowly started to deteriorate and I decided to get going back to base. Here’s a radar screen shot of the route just before departure. Some heavy rain returns on the picture but no cloud forecast at lower levels so we could pick our way through…
Even the heavy rain areas were not too bad after all. I decided to stay low and enjoy the views from 500 feet and 65 knots. One advantage of such a slow speed is that you get a lot of time to study features on the ground as you gently trundle past:
With 10 miles to run to Perth we were out of the rain zone and in lovely clear weather, more than adequate for the task at hand. Our favourite river confluence basking in sunshine…
It’s a great day out – we’ll be going back next year – got to keep the fans happy., and the bumpy grass runway is good fun…
Next year I’ll be retired so will have both days free – a chance to do some “Cub Camping” and spend the night under the wing? Maybe…
A couple of trips over a couple of days in the good weather. First up, the RV6, for a flight down the east coast to Fishburn. Last time we were there was in the Sting, in 2017.
You can see from the airfield diagram below that there is a bit of a slope on the grass runway, which is nice and long. Note the parallel grass taxiway, more on that later…
The standard “Ho Chi Minh” trail down the east coast passes Holy Island:
Quite a lot of cloud buildup over The Cheviot…
Passing Tynemouth again, and the wreck of the Zephyros. Again. The cloud had become more of a high overcast, and this continued all the way to Fishburn.
Parked at Fishburn. The trouble with grass airfields is that you have to mow them. When I arrived the taxiway had been mown, but not the runway. That fresh mown strip looked so inviting that I initially lined up on it, but as we got closer it became obvious that the runway was the other bit.
Fishburn is a busy little place, with lots of hangarage:
The cafe was about two-thirds full, and by subtly eavesdropping I could make out that not all the patrons were flyers. It’s a good recommendation when the locals patronise the place. I got the standard coffee and cake:
On departure the wind had swung round to be exactly across the runway. I would have liked to take off downhill for the extra acceleration but everybody was still using runway 26 so that’s what we did. Uphill with a crosswind, but the RV made swift work of the take off and soon we were skirting the Newcastle zone to the west and setting course north…
I found out later that just after I departed the Vulture Squadron from Sleap had arrived. Just missed them…Glen, Paul and Pete who were at the VPAC fly-in in various Cubs. Glen and Paul were in a borrowed Grumman and had a puncture. Luckily Pete is an engineer and they got it sorted. They stayed the night. For me, the weather was glorious for the trip north…
The route was further inland than the outbound leg, and was planned to fly over the farm strip at Lempitlaw in the Borders…
You can just make out Lempitlaw airstrip in the centre of the picture, just beyond the small pond:
Next day the weather was still fine, so the Cub was dragged out…
…and half an hour later we found ourselves in Cumbernauld:
I had a meeting with Johnny of Phoenix Flight Training to sort out my two yearly instructor flight and licence sign-off, so walked along the edge of the apron to the Phoenix office. A German registered Pilatus PC-6 survey aircraft was just starting up. Noisy thing. I’ve jumped out of the same type of aircraft at Mmabatho in South Africa and Empuriabrava in Spain, they are great utility aircraft:
On start up, who should be preflighting the Tomahawk parked next to us? None other than Scott, who produced the Cub video last year. He was off on an hour-building trip with a friend, in between studying for ATPL exams and working as an air ambulance operations officer for Gama Aviation.
We were soon airborne and heading direct back to Perth. Here we are passing the Kincardine Bridges. Note the swinging centre section on the far bridge – this was to allow ships up the river to the old port at Alloa and also the ammunition storage facility in the loop of the river. The shipping no longer goes that far upstream, and the new bridge doesn’t have the ability to let ships through…
And finally back in the hangar, ready for all the adoring fans to visit…
The plan was to take the Cub to the Vintage Piper Aircraft Club’s “Northern Meet” at Wickenby. Ironic that I would fly south for four hours to get to the “Northern” Meet!
I had been monitoring the forecasts for the week before…initially it looked like the whole thing would be a washout due to the weather, but as the days counted down it started looking promising – clear skies on the way down and a little bit greyer on the back.
Imagine my surprise when I checked the Newcastle weather on departure morning…no wind, visibility 500m in fog with broken clouds at 100ft about the airfield:
The weather at Perth looked nice, so the decision was made to prep the aircraft and check the weather in a bit – the cloud was probably just lifted fog which should dissipate as the day warmed up. Or so I hoped.
Packing the Cub was pretty straightforward – overnight kit on the front seat, spare oil in the boot and a lifejacket for the overwater bit…
By the time I had pulled the aircraft out the weather at Newcastle had improved sufficiently to launch. In fact the weather all the way down was lovely. Here we are southbound over the Firth of Forth:
The planned route was Perth – Eshott – Gamston and then stay the night. Originally I wanted to camp at Eddsfield but Edd rang back to say there was no fuel. Camping was ditched in favour of a hotel. Such hardship!
There was a bit of a headwind on the way to Eshott but after about an hour and a half the combine harvester graveyard near Alnwick hove into view:
Shortly thereafter we were on the ground at Eshott where the refuel was quick and efficient:
Off again down the coast, passing Ashington, with its rows and rows of coal miners’ houses:
The weather was by now glorious, with very little cloud way off in the distance, still a little headwind and very warm. It was lovely to trundle along the coast at 500ft waving to people on the beaches out of the Cub’s open door and window. Here we are passing the wind turbine at Blyth, which is a Visual Reference Point (VRP) for Newcastle airport:
To stay out of the Newcastle control zone you have to fly offshore a little bit. St Mary’s Lighthouse:
The North York Moors are to the south of Teeside, and as we came over the top, way way off in the distance on the horizon I could make out the chimney and cooling towers at Drax power station. I swear that sucker stayed in the front window for an hour until we finally got to it. With the headwind we were doing about 50 knots and I first saw it 50 miles away so yes, an hour.
Last time we went to Gamston, we had to fly around the Class D airspace at Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The airport closed last year and the airspace was removed, so this time it was straight over the top:
No photos from Gamston – they don’t allow now them due to the sensitive nature of some of the motor industry testing that uses the runway, but suffice to say the refuel was fast and efficient, reception helped me with taxis to the hotel, and the sleep was the sleep of the exhausted!
Next day, after a huge hotel breakfast, we took off for Wickenby. The original plan was for a short 25 minute transit routing around the Red Arrows restricted area at Scampton:
An early morning check of the NOTAMS showed that the restricted area was deactivated, so I was able to plan a more direct route. The Cub flies so low that I still had mobile signal and was able to double confirm just before entering:
We followed another Cub into the circuit at Wickenby, landed, and made our way to parking. Landing just behind us was Dave Dash in his L4 which parked next to us. Dave had flown in from Great Oakley, near Harwich:
Dave’s Cub is a lovely permit-to-fly machine, and the two of them looked great sitting together on the grass like cubs are supposed to do (unless they are up in the air obviously). Sit on the grass, not look great. But they look great too.
Already parked up was Glen Molloy’s restored Italian Army Super Cub. Glen was my first ever flight commander on my first ever operational squadron in the RAF. His Cub won the award for “Best Restoration” at the LAA rally. He and a gaggle of other aircraft had flown in from Sleap, near Shrewsbury, via an overnight camping stop at Sackville Farm, and the nearby pub!
Also flying in from Sleap was Paul Latham in this yellow J3, which shares a hangar there with Glen’s Super Cub and a couple of others. Known as “The Vulture Squadron” they normally fly together but this time Paul flew in on the day and missed the camping at Sackville Farm. Paul was also on my first ever operational squadron in the RAF – it was great to see them both after 30 years…
Another old friend was Richard Keech, who used to fly Boeings out of Manchester for Air2000. We flew together a couple of times on both the 757 and the 767. Richard and Mike and Charlie run the VPAC – their “merch” selling skills are second to none:
With a long way to go home I wasn’t able to stay for the whole day, but the good news was that there was a hefty tail wind for the trek up the east coast. We, the Cub and I, said our goodbyes and headed off over the Lincolnshire countryside. It’s pretty obvious why it’s called “Bomber County” – the flat landscape lends itself to quickly building airfields in times of need. The man who owned and farmed the land at Wickenby, one Mr Bowser (a good aeronautical name) got a call one morning from surveyors to say his land might be used for an airfield and the bulldozers were hard at work clearing the site by 3pm the very same day! Times of need indeed.
Northbound towards the first fuel stop at Breighton, near Selby in Yorkshire:
Breighton is the home of the “Real Aeroplane Club” who operate a fleet of various exotic and vintage aircraft. The Cub was warmly welcomed and the self service fuel pumps were simple and quick to use. Just had to taxi into the little alcove next to the office:
After fuelling up the aircraft was pushed to the grass to free up the pumps and let me visit the cafe. It was only a 30 minute stop but the aircraft received quite a bit of attention from the photographers. One even had what looked like a 20 foot selfie stick to get a better angle. Sometimes standing on a bollard just isn’t enough…
From Breighton it was off to Eshott, with the 20 knot tailwind pushing us along quite nicely. We parked up alongside one of the Eshott Chipmunks and fuelled up:
For the last leg I climbed as high as we could, up to about 4000 feet, to get as much advantage from the increased tailwind at altitude, and made for Perth. No photos from this leg as I was getting tired. Finally landed at 1805 and almost needed a crane and a chiropractor to help me get out of the aircraft. Cubs aren’t easy at the best in times but after two days in the cockpit…
One hotel room, two taxi fares, numerous refuels and landing fees, a new hat and an RAF WIckenby mug, plus 8 hours 30 minutes flown over the 2 days – all for just 3 hours on the ground at the VPAC Fly-In.