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…

That Was Quick!

Just under a month ago I signed off by saying:

And last week it arrived! The power of the mind in action…although this has shown that you have to be specific in what you wish for. This is the L4 Cub which is now all mine!

It’s a 1:48 scale plastic model kit, and it came all the way from Poland. I have to say that I did NOT cheat and order it myself – it came as a huge and welcome surprise. It was a thank you present from new pilot Ian for the 12 days of training we did to get him up to speed on air ambulance operations after many years flying straight and level over the North Sea on oil and gas support flights. Thank you Ian for my Cub kit, although I should have been more specific and ordered a full size flying L4 with military history and D-Day invasion markings, fitted with an 8.33 radio and Mode S transponder, and with a current and valid LAA Permit to Fly….

…but I didn’t say all that, so the universe delivered me an L4 plastic kit. I’m not complaining, ‘cos it’s great! Thank you once again Ian (and the universe)…

The weather has been awesome for flying for the last few weeks, excellent Cub or Eindecker weather, although as I write this it is raining outside. Yesterday there were some cool cloud formations around as signs that the weather was about to break:

Despite the good weather there have not been many air ambulance jobs to do. The frequency of routine ambulance transfers has dropped off and so has the number of emergency calls. Normally at this time of the year the motorbikes would be out in full force and riders would be falling off regularly. Also horses and mountains. People fall off them all the time too. Since everybody is staying at home we have been quiet at work. Here’s one job we DID respond to, we just didn’t get very far:

That yellow track line is NOT us drawing rude things in the sky, we got stood down from the job. In this case we weren’t needed because the casualty only had a few bruises after being cut out from the wreckage, so we did a graceful 180 degree turn using the autopilot to head back to base for “tea and medals” – the views were pretty good, even if we didn’t reach the patient.

Here’s Loch Lomond taken by paramedic John on another job:

…and a random hill in Perthshire quickly taken by phone:

Days off should be spent flying the RV and the Eindecker, but the current advice is essential journeys only, so the renewal of the RV’s annual will just have to wait – the inspector is stuck at home over on the west coast anyway.

A lot of free time at home on days off means that stuff gets done. The greenhouse is all fixed up and producing salady stuff, the hedge has had its annual haircut, and I have spent some time at the garage door contemplating the mess and wondering if there is enough room to build an aeroplane…?

Other aircraft projects don’t need as much room. I have to get the Eindecker model finished so that I can get on with the L4 Cub…

And we’ve also been making use of our copious free time to get on with learning Swedish, although the Duolingo app seems to have an unhealthy obsession with turtles. Sentences such as “The turtle has a yellow hat” are surely designed to teach grammatical rules rather than being an indication of real life in Sweden? Having said that, all the dogs we have met over there are slightly crazy…and we think we may have found the reason:

Can’t wait until this is all over and I can get back to tinkering on and flying the aircraft. At the moment it looks like this inside, with various panels removed for the annual inspection. We’ll all just have to be patient…

Right now we should be approaching Hook of Holland ferry terminal after the “Great Cross European Driving Adventure 2020 – Scotland to Sweden” – but that had to be cancelled. Maybe later in the year?

In the meantime, there is a lot of Skydemon fantasy flying to be done…onwards and upwards!