Testing SkyEcho

Another new toy for the aircraft, although this one isn’t a toy and could save our lives. You can just spot it in the bottom left corner of the windscreen:

A closer look:

It’s a SkyEcho electronic conspicuity unit, with a built in GPS which feeds a transmitter to send out our aircraft’s location, and a receiver to take in information from other sources. At the moment the transmitter is inhibited, as the RV has a Mode-S transponder which already sends out our position to ATC, but the UK is working towards allowing electronic conspicuity devices and transponders to both transmit from the same aircraft. This will enable other people to see us, rather than us just seeing them.

The SkyEcho feeds the Skydemon programme on the iPad…sitting on the ground at Perth we were able to see airliners over Oban just about to head out over the Atlantic:

And the smaller traffic display in the corner of the map also showed nearby targets. This one is a Cessna approaching the airfield 1500ft above us:

Seeing how it works in the air was a thinly veiled excuse to go flying. Airborne from Perth and heading west, past the “Rewind” festival at Scone Palace:

Heading south into Fife and back we could see all the airliners going into Edinburgh on the screen, but nothing came close for a screenshot until we were passing RAF Leuchars. Delta Airlines (probably a Boeing 777) passed on our left with about a mile clearance. Luckily it was 29,700 feet above us at the time:

It was quiet but eventually we got a target at our level. The display shows a Robin DR500 G-GMIB on a converging course and 1000ft below us. It’s depicted in green but if it’s an imminent threat it probably turns red. We didn’t try to check that theory!

So we now have a pretty useful traffic awareness tool for when we’re flying around. I’ve also paid for the “FLARM rights” which means it will pick up and decode the glider beacons as well. It doesn’t show ALL the traffic though…most military stuff won’t show up and also some microlights and light aircraft with no transponder or an older type. In that respect it’s just like the Flightradar24 website – not all aircraft appear on the screen.

The thing to remember is that this is an AID, not a cure all. There is no substitute for actually looking out with the good old “Mark 1 Eyeball” – but it is another layer of safety. Plus it’s pretty cool.

Talking of Flightradar24, the trace of the flight showed a quite healthy speed, one that the RV6 could only achieve in real life if you took the wings off and dropped it from a helicopter at 10,000ft. (Do not try this at home, do not occupy the aircraft during this exercise.)

The traces are not always accurate. Remember that the next time there is an incident and the news people are analysing Flightradar:

379 knots groundspeed would make for a good touring aircraft though…if only.

Eindecker Weight Loss

Time to fix the Eindecker electricals and remove the “dead weight” radio. But first a blast around in the RV for half an hour…I had done my required one hour with an instructor the day before and needed to get rid of the stink of Cessna.

Wing overs, steep turns, a practise forced landing and a general wazz about, followed by a crosswind landing in blustery conditions. The aircraft explored the width of the runway while I tried to get it slowed down. Not to worry, we just practise on narrower and narrower runways until I get it right!

The upper winds were quite brisk, leading to an impressive ground speed readout on the GPS at one point:

With the RV back in the hangar, it was time for tools out and investigate behind the Eindecker panel. This is a little convoluted as it requires the removal of the cockpit rim edge leather to get to the screws underneath. This takes most of the time as the lacing has to be undone, then the leather peeled back, then the pipe insulation foam removed and finally the edging strip. After that it’s about 10 screws to undo and the panel slides out:

The cause of the alternator charging problem was quickly apparent: there was a loose connection on the rear end of the ignition switch. Reconnected again and crimped slightly to make sure it doesn’t fall off again, all it needs is a ground run to confirm it is working.

With the panel off it was an easy matter to undo the four mounting screws and slide the radio out, manoeuvring it to disconnect the aerial and connector at the back:

Then to the locker to languish on the shelf…it actually doesn’t weigh very much (416g) so there’s not going to be a massive boost in performance after all. One burger and chips from the soon-to-reopen airfield café will cancel that out…

The one improvement is that I can now connect the aircraft aerial to the handheld radio using the cable that is now free:

The aircraft aerial with its tuned length and ground plane plate (all hidden in the rear fuselage) should be much more efficient that the “rubber duck” style aerial on the handheld:

And just in case you’re wondering, the term “handheld” does not apply when we are floating around at 500ft over Perthshire on patrol daydreaming of Snoopy and the Red Baron; when flying the radio is clipped into a mount on the left side of the cockpit with the press to talk button within easy reach of the throttle hand.

The handheld also comes along in the RV as a backup emergency radio, but its main function is primary radio in the Eindecker.

Radio in an Eindecker. What would Snoopy think…?

Snoopy is not amused

p.s Cessnas are great, really!

Feel the POWER

As mentioned previously, the Eindecker is powered by a converted Briggs and Stratton V-twin engine producing 40 horsepower. Being a four stroke it actually sounds the part, rather than some microlight engines which produce a noise like a demented chainsaw.

Judge for yourself:

Videos courtesy of Rich and Colm at work…

High and Fast, Low and Slow…

After weeks of sitting here in Scotland looking out at the gloom and wondering when summer was going to start…it is finally here. We woke to clear skies, light winds and warm sunshine. Time to fly!

First off, into the RV for a time to climb test. Here we are above the clouds to the west of Perth on the way up to 8500ft:

The proof:

We made our way over to Fort William and turned around Ben Nevis. From 8000ft even the big hills look like little bumps:

Then to Braemar before descending back towards Perth. Planning the top of descent is essential to avoid shock cooling the engine. I read somewhere that the maximum cooling rate for the cylinder head temperature is 50 degrees a minute, with 25 being better. So a long gentle descent with power only slightly reduced from the cruise setting. Get the descent point wrong and you can end up blasting into the airfield circuit at 160 knots! Luckily the RV wing is just as good at slow speeds and a few hard turns will bleed off the excess speed if required. Just like a Space Shuttle.

Here we are in the descent to the north of Perth:

Then it was land, put the aircraft away in the hangar, clean the bugs off the wings and get the other aircraft out…

A warm evening with the airfield closed and permission to operate “out of hours” is just perfect for a bit of lightweight open cockpit low level flying. And we have just the aircraft for that sort of thing:

It has been a while since the Eindecker flew, but the faithful Briggs and Stratton V-twin started first time and the throaty roar of all (count ’em!) 40 horsepower soon had us on patrol at 500ft.

Normally I have to take the Eindecker up to 2000ft to do an overhead rejoin on return to the airfield and up there I feel a little exposed. Less than 115 kilos of engine, aluminium tubing and lightweight fabric between me and the ground. It felt a lot safer at 500 feet – even though the outcome would still be the same if I fell out. Lower just feels better.

Lower also makes for good photography. Brenda took this from below as I patrolled over Wolfhill towards the (power) lines at Strelitz before returning to the field for a pleasant landing on the grass.

Unfortunately there was an electrical problem as the battery was not being charged by the alternator, so I have a little investigation to do…last time it was a loose connector behind the panel so that’s where we’ll start. I’ll also use the opportunity to take out the old 25MHz radio which is now just dead weight.

Such a nice photo that as a reward I took Brenda for breakfast the next day in the RV. To Cumbernauld. Several times the winner of the Carbuncle Award for the most dismal town in Scotland…and who says romance is dead?

It was actually pretty nice in the sunshine. The cafe in the main building does a mean bacon roll. We’ll be going back…