Category Archives: Wurbles

Things I’ve seen this summer

Winter is coming – no not a Game of Thrones reference, but it’s time to admit it’s getting harder to fly after work. Darkness encroaching on those evening flits.

I’ve flown and flown this summer and it’s been brill. I haven’t written the half of it up – not the BBQ at Western Zoyland or the coastal Wales wandering (here anyway – see Flyer for that one!) or the endless evening bimbles.

So instead of trying to write all that up a list of some of the things I’ve seen that stuck in the mind this summer. So, in no particular order of time or significance…

A stump of a windmill, sailess on a windy shore and another high on a green hill.

Llyn Tegid awash in fog creeping up to drown the lakeskide woods and spilling over the pass into the next valley down as well.

Llyn Celyn, mirror still, reflecting nothing but sky.

The little X’Air’s shadow chasing over the dunes.

The dull pewter edge of an inversion as I spiral higher and higher looking for the top and the better vis.

The Bristol channel as iron grey as the carrier ships traversing it below me.

The dew on the newly trimmed runway as silver as the morning haze above it with nothing but the swallows flying yet and the gentle flap and clink of the windsock the only sound.

The traces of forts and long gone farmsteads, the only evidence of their remains now the longer shadows they cast on the contours of the ground at sunset.

The laughing crowds at the summer barbecue.

The glee on the faces of first time flyers, the children and siblings and partners and parents of pilots sharing their enjoyment of the sky.

The purple-grey profiles of Yr Eryri in the late afternoon haze, the peaks higher than we’re flying.

People with their back to a Spitfire because on the other side of the sky are two Lancasters.

My poor mum, one leg in the air trying to tuck it into the pod somehow while I giggle too much to really help.

The tent tucked under Rhubarb’s tail as I weave my way back to it in the dark.

The silent concentration on the face of my nephew who’s never silent and the light, delicate hold he’s taken of the stick which I’ve never consciously taught him but which he tells me makes it easier to “tell when the aeroplane’s wandering off”.

Chalk white, limestone grey, red clay cliffs and quarries of a dozen different parts of the country.

The taxi driver who’d taken us back to the little microlight field we’d stopped at pulling over and flicking off the meter to sit and watch us take off.

And a dozen dozen more which will pop back into memory over the course of the winter on those days it’s too wet and wild to fly…


Ultra Quick Update

How behind myself am I with writing this up?

A long way. But mostly because I’ve been flying and flying. So this isn’t a trip report as such but a mega quick round up.

Since posting last I have…

Got bounced all over the Welsh coast on the way to the newly reopened Llanbedr.

Sallied across the Bristol Channel down to Devon where I took my cousin flying and then spent every so long dawdling at Dunkeswell waiting in vain for the wind to drop so I could continue onto Belle Vue. Finally arriving after a conversation which ran roughly, “Well it’s still right across the runway but the whole field’s been mowed so just land anywhere”, which was what I did – arriving diagonally across the field into such a stonking wind on the nose I could have got out and walked faster!

Been too heavy fisted with our fuel bulb and burst the pressure gauge resulting in a dial fuel of fuel and a puddle on the pod floor.

Replaced same…

Revalidated my SEP rating, upon which I’m flying the microlight on differences training. It was rather lovely to be back in a Tomahawk and sweetly, easily, gently familiar resulting in some very nice landings if I say so myself. (Thought rather less satisfactory PFLs – and I’d got so good at them in the X’Air!)

Battled my way through the new EASA paperwork which should result in both an EASA license and a NPPL dropping through my door in the not too distant.

So that’s the “update so I don’t feel like I can’t write anything without it being out of date” post done out of the way! 😉

Nothing particularly planned for a few weeks other than bimbling but we’ll see!

Flying in 2013

In as much as one can get 12 months into 4 minutes!

My hours in the logbook this year don’t entirely represent the flying done – I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year chasing paperwork and instructors around the place to sort out flying the micro on a JAA PPL.

17 hours, 10 minutes, 24 flights, across 19 days is the paper tally of hours and minutes but the actually handling time must be double that even ignoring the larking about as Nick’s passenger.

It doesn’t reflect all the occasions the day’s work was followed immediately by rushing off to the airfield of the one glorious summer week when I flew every single day or the experience gained by the first outlanding due to weather or all the times we flew ‘just once more’ as the sun set.

And most of that 17:10 in the book was flown after July when I finally got signed off.  If I fly as much next year it’ll be upwards of 30 hours again for the first time since 2009.

Graph of flying time to 2013

It was interesting to bung the figures on the graph since it was about this time in 2004 that I started learning.

Halfway through 2006 was when I qualified so that high point there is a mix of all the long training cross countries and the flying and flying and flying of TOMS having bought the share a few weeks before my GFT!  A couple of very wet summers meant I never quite topped that!

2009 was boosted by a tour of Devon and some Irish flights and lots of fly-ins and closed with the engine replacement.

2010 was wet and closed with someone stuffing the poor old girl into the side of a mountain, new engine and all.

2011 was a disaster, scraping along with a poorly thought through replacement which was an utter money pit and a vague attempt at giving the IMC rating a go.

2012 I started thinking seriously about how to stop the rapid decline! I did tailwheel in an attempt to broaden the range of types I could look at and at the end of the year was tipped out that this little X’Air was for sale but really the owner didn’t want to sell it and would probably be open to sharing.

So I did!

Interesting the trend is more pronounced if I look at number of flights as well as hours.

Flights to 2013

Reflects the fact we do a lot of short hops in the X’Air – all those last minutes sunset flips!  (2005 is the other year that looks substantially different by flights rather than hours – the year of the many many short sessions trying to get solo!)

Either way, things are looking up!

To close here’s the slower version of the last year’s flying.

More mixed results…

So the stator turned out to have a coil which had coughed and died. One excursion to Lincoln later (plus an afternoon of exhaust sanding and painting and prop pitch resetting while we were at it) and an afternoon of refitting the engine we were good to go again.

This is rather different to the way it was done in Group-A-land and I think I already know this engine and airframe better after five months than I knew the workings of the Lycoming after five years. There’s a lot to be said for being able to do so much of the work yourself. Changing the stator was off over the horizon of our knowledge but stripping and preparing the engine and refitting it, that we did ourselves.

A lovely evening flight to check all was in order (not quite – oil from the rebuild everywhere from an exhaust gasket and a sticky mist from an overfilled radiator – both quickly resolved) and we were ready for a trip.

The following week I’d planned to catch a train down West to my mum’s Birthday BBQ, but a sunny morning and Nick at a loose end quickly changed the plan to flying down to Rosemarket.

Sunny it might have been but it hadn’t come alone and the westerly wind was extremely flustery, snatching at us over the trees as we took off and knocking the groundspeed back to a miserly 41knots in the cruise. It swung around to blow from the coast as we passed Pembrey which helped a bit and we came down lower to take advantage of the reduced headwind, gaining a princely 6 knots more. Thermals added their own contribution to the ride with Rhubarb doing a creditable impersonation of a glider at one point with 500fpm climb on the VSI.

Another Old Park flyer had preceded us to Rosemarket so we were expected, and a fast, tight go-around revealed an assortment of family members standing at the edge of the grass!

Trying (slightly in vain) to avoid the puddles, we taxyed in and were greeted, immediately on engine shutdown, by the wall of noise that is my three nephews. The youngest at almost two already includes the words “Take Off!” in his fledgling vocabulary and the older two were trying to climb in almost before we’d climbed out! I think they think everyone’s Aunty flies little aeroplanes, they confidently assume the whole aircraft is up for grabs in the same way the stomp rockets or paper gliders I sometimes bring home are!

“Neowm!” annouced the smallest nephew.

“That’s how a jet goes.'” observed another.

“Yes, Rhubarb doesn’t quite go ‘neowm'” I admitted.

“What does she go like?”

“More like ‘Wwwwhhheeeehhhh!” I said, without thinking, causing my sister to have a fit of the giggles and the oldest nephew to spend the rest of the afternoon mimicing a two-stroke at full blat.

Taxi-of-mum ran Nick to the petrol station for a jerrycan of fuel to replace that guzzled by the headwind while the boys ran up and down on the grass pretending to be microlights themselves, and the littlest of the bunch, my baby niece, kicked and gurgled in my brother’s arms not quite big enough yet to get in on the action as she’d like to!

Nick returned, refuelled and took off into what must have seemed like blissful silence in spite of ‘Wwhheeeehhh’ and we bundled into cars for ‘Nana’s House’.

The following weekend saw me spend Saturday digging a way out of our hangar… We should have gone up not down to level the ground with 20:20 hindsight but there’s too much up now to change!

The evening was spent shooting approaches into the strip – I think I’ve got myself more or less tuned into it now.

Unfortunately another mishap (not mine!) the following morning saw the repair duties lined up once again and I was back on the train for the Belle Vue scout camp to take my mine off matters!

24 Scouts across two days an assortment of aeroplanes and 3 badges each is enough to keep the mind fully engaged and it was, as always a delight!

And all in all, ups and downs included I’m still doing double the flying I was…

Mixed Success

The morning was warm, the wind less than ten knots though varying in direction, the strip awash with people and aeroplanes and cars looking for space.


Best of all I finally had an instructor lined up – said instructor in fact being the chap whose name and squiggle appears on the cover page of the POH for the X’Air!

The sheep were out again and I joined the effort to relocate them – they’d gone both under and over the allegedly-electric fence this time!

Never mind giving me the eyeballs you - just get off the blooming runway!

Never mind giving me the eyeballs you – just get off the blooming runway!

What could possibly go wrong…

It was interesting to do the walkaround of the aircraft with someone who knew the type so well and I learned a few extra details and things to check (vent on the back of the fuel pump, and the fact the tyre pressure is actually part of the mechanics of the suspension).

It was also interesting to hear some of the changes made to the X’Air to satisfy the BMAA once they started being imported (and that just after the introduction of Section S).

The jury strut horizontally between the two main struts is a British addition to increase the tolerance to negative G, but it then interfered with the natural twist of the wing in flight (which used to cause a sort of natural washout), which made it somewhat unstable in pitch.  That was compensated for by adding a bit of reflex to the ailerons which as a side effect added 5 knots to the cruise airspeed…  Fascinating display of engineering knock-on effects!

The flaps meanwhile, are almost a paperwork exercise – there to bring the nominal stall speed down by a princely 6 knots from 38 to 32 thus nipping in under the 35 knot limit for a microlight!  (Though both stages really does steepen the approach – a lot)

After watching the flurry of departures and over a cuppa we sat down to discus what we wanted out of the day and, for my benefit, went through a sort of “microlights for group-A pilots” brief as well as the discussion of “I know it’s not loggable but how many hours have you really flown it?”

I went first, with Guy flying the first 20 minutes or so to discover any particular foibles of Rhubarb as opposed to any other X’Air.  (She does have a few we discovered – dropping the left wing consistently in when stalled in certain configurations of flap and power).  Then we started on the training proper.

Steep turns I’m fairly comfortable with in the X’Air now and I bounced us through our own wake on the first demo, leading Guy later to comment that I seemed to have used by time “productively” in the aircraft…

Stalls I hadn’t really done but are so startlingly undramatic that they weren’t too challenging – she really will just sit there with full back stick wallowing about and sinking but not really doing much of anything else at all.

Back at the strip my main offence was not getting setup and trimmed early enough to have a stable approach.  This usually (and yes I’m acutely aware it’s an repeat offence!) ended with me being high and fast and/or well off the centreline.

Neither landing we did was as neat as my attempt the previous week annoyingly.

I was also picked up on an non-aircraft-specific issue of lookout – a useful reminder of why it’s a good idea to have an instructor along occasionally regardless of specific training needs.  When concentrating on something else lookout is one of the things that does tend to go by the by.

More practice on that was lined up for after lunch (picnic outside the hut!) while Clive took his turn and I chased a rogue sheep off the runway. (The third of the day!)

Clive and Guy returned – Clive with broadly the same issues, of ending up too high.  Perhaps those cables are radiating anti-grav not just carrying electric… 😉

It was after another cuppa we hit the snag of the day.

I’d started up, on second attempt – after a bit of experimenting with choke and throttle for the warm-to-hot-ish state of the engine, and was doing the checks when on the left mag cough splutter I gave Guy a startled glance.

“That’s not normal!”

I repeated the checks on both leaving it a bit longer with on off (I have been guilty in the past of just flicking them rather than waiting to see what the drop actually is) and this time on the left it was cough splutter dead.


Actually the word I used was a different one…

“That needs a look then.”  I switched everything off and clambered out.

Nick headed to the car for the toolbox and we talked through the problem.

Spark plugs came out and, though looked visually fine, were swapped over.  Same issue.

All right – check cheapest possibilities first…

A multimeter was borrowed from Andy and, being the littlest, I went in behind the panel head first to test the switches.  Not dignified – laid half across both seats with my feet hanging out over the strut and my head and shoulders laying on the cockpit floor (I needed both hands so couldn’t support myself!)

Not that.

More discussion and I learned that what I’ve been thinking of, and calling, “left mag / right mag” are actually part of an electronic ignition system known as DCDI (Dual Capacitor Discharge Ignition).  Two CDI units   fire two spark plugs each, one in each of the two cylinders.

They’re positioned front and back and no one knew which left/right switch was front and back so the next step was pulling leads of and trying it with the upshot that the final diagnosis was either the frontmost CDI had popped it’s clogs or that the associated wiring had.

Wiring is cheaper – that first!

But tracing cables is slow so with regret we said goodbye to the instructor, cursed our luck to have a tech problem on the best flying day of the year so far and pushed the aircraft back to her spot to investigate further.

And there perhaps we’ve found the problem – some distinctly underspec crimping in the connectors from the engine to the airframe / instruments was in evidence.  At least one cable was finger loose and pulled from its connector.  Two more actively fell from their connectors as we pulled at cables to move things to a workable position.

Can it be that cheap a fix?  Here’s hoping…

Mud, Hangars and a Flit in a Skyranger

Having pegged out the hangar plan (with such ‘success’ that I used it as an example on the work blog to my learners of a real life project!), I was occupied those same learners as the upright went up courtesy of Nick and Clive but back in the thick of it for the start of the levelling.

We were going to leave this until later but discovered that in our new spot further down the hill, where it’s steeper, it’s become a complete sod to move the aircraft with fewer than two people as she fights to roll back down into the hedge and/or sit on her tail.  This wasn’t much of a problem until the uprights went in which, since we are effectively building on the spot we’re parked on made every movement a right peril to the wingtips.

So a level inside and bit of flat standing outside is called for to make moving around by hand on the ground less hairy.

Saturday was forecast with dry spell so we began…  To my mild surprise it was only a six inch difference across the width of the middle section of the interior from top to bottom.

To my greater surprise was quite how much mud that equated to!  And mud it was, especially after the first shower, during which we retired for lunch only to return to a brand new water feature…

Nick Paddling

Margam’s new water feature


Erm, yes, I’ve stopped digging to take photos…

We got it maybe half done before the heavens opened!

Meanwhile in one of the dry windows Nick had swapped the carb rubbers on the engine and flown a brief test flight before the downpour so the aircraft and covers were soaked too.

Urgghh.  We put everything away as best we could (during which I fell straight into a waterfilled posthole up to my knees!) and dripped our way home!

Sunday was glorious weather-wise but with the ground still sodden we gave digging a miss.

I was prompted by the outbreak of spring to dust off, re-oil and fettle the pushbike and try out the alternative route to the strip (Train to Pyle then mostly cycle path).  Good grief I’m unfit!

Being a little folding number, the bike’s not exactly built for the farmyard either but freewheeling down the hill to the parking spot was fun!

I peeled off the damp covers and spread everything out on the grass to dry before mopping water out of the various places it had gathered even inside the cockpit.

Satisfied I’d done as much as possible to dry things out I left Rhubarb basking in the sun and wandered in search of company for a cuppa.

Drip Drying

Drip Drying

Several people were up and flying, and John arrived back in his Skyranger with his 90+ uncle along – who prompted impressed the life out of me by explained what he was going to do with all the photos he’d taken in Photoshop!

John got the kettle on and after another cuppa suggested a flit in the SKyranger.

I’d not flown the type before and never turn down flying in any case so he prepped while I scuttled up the hill to re-hoist the windsock.

Maybe I’m just used to Rhubarb now, or perhaps my legs are getter shorter but it seemed a bit scrabbly hop to climb up into the Skyranger.  I went through me usual massive shortening of harness while John started up.


It doesn’t hang about, that aeroplane of his!  Bit heavier than Rhubarb but with a 912 up front we surely didn’t use any more runway and the rate of climb pipped us too!

We stooged about a while, before John demonstrated his alternative approach into the strip, keeping close and tight inside the wires.  Neat, and so very quick to stop on landing.

Tight left base inside the wires

Tight left base inside the wires

Nice aeroplane.

After the next landing John suggested we swap places for me to have a fly so a quick changeover on the ground and away we went again.  Trusting chap, given I haven’t even landed the X’Air at the strip all that often or without Nick following through.

Like the X’Air the main thing that caught be out and needed prompting or a nudge was quite how quickly the speed goes away on taking the power off.

First attempt was tidy-ish, second less so, but nothing to alarming!

Good stuff, but fuel was coming to the end of what was sensible and it was time to put things to bed.

Lovely day – lazy but passed off as productive and got some flying in…  Very typical of the pace of life at Old Park!

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Winter flying

For the first time in far too long I’ve been slow updating here not for lack for flying but for an excess!

Early darkness and murky vis have kept most of the flits local and I’ve still to pin down an instructor for the differences sign off but most weekends have involved at least a brief escape from the ground.

A combination of weather, availability and and schools’ apparent business model of prioritising regular ab initio students’ timetabling over ad hoc training reached it’s most frustrating  point on Saturday morning with another cancellation on the best flying day for weeks.

I was soothed though by a winter-rare land-away to visit the newly reopened cafe at Swansea (Go!) where everyone was in very good spirits and feeling positive.

Prettiest castle on Gower between the struts!

Prettiest castle on Gower between the struts!

Shadow of an X'Air

Shadow of an X’Air

I landed on the ample runway, firmly but not badly and am starting to incline to the point of view put forward by a number of people that I should forget the training stage – practise landing with anyone who knows the aircraft and’ll sit with me, instructor or no, and then just get an examiner in once I feel confident.

Wavering between caution and frustration I still don’t know if that’s the best plan or not.

It was refreshing to land away though, albeit only the next airport over – We ere recognised and snapped on the way home too!

I'm assured this was taken with 10x optical zoom and we weren't really ALL that low ;)

I’m assured this was taken with 10x optical zoom and we weren’t really ALL that low 😉

On the way back we met up with a flexwing from the strip and had a bit of companionable flying around the beach!

Meanwhile, back on the ground we’ve started on hangar building – under the direction of Clive the most organised of the group!

We arrived full of good intentions to put post holes in, new spade and all, to discover that the even more organiser builder of the next hangar over was renting a hole making device that would vastly speed the process up.

We agreed to share it and bailed on the digging at once!  I went for a walk up Graig Fawr instead, and spent the next flight looking for the little ruined church I’d ‘discovered’ on the way – only to be thoroughly dismayed that it wasn’t nearly as far up the hill as I’d imagined slogging up there!

Clive & Leia