ITV footage of first flight

Digging through old videos and pictures …

On the very first test flight ..we had BBC TV and Radio and also ITV cameras turn up … I’m guessing it could have been a spectacular failure or .. actually fly !

I did the BBC live radio interview but can’t remember anything about it .. 2 mins after jumping out of the cockpit … then the ITV TV one … by the time I lined up for the BBC TV interview I just cracked up and couldn’t speak … it just all caught up with me 😊

You can’t practice .. as such … but I’d planned 3 or 4 hops before the actual circuit

Lovely to have real footage of the very first landing .. again .. you can’t really practice … although I had flown the early production model a few months before in Little Snoring

What I love is that I’d flown my Dad down for the first test flight and he was there, runway side, during the whole test jumps … interim rest-checkpoint and then the final proper full circuit

Also, lovely that ITV interviewed him .. lovely to hear his first thoughts and something to keep x❤️

Ongoing improvements

Over the years you get lots of little bits that mark the surface or don’t quite look as neat as they used to… one area this affects is the inspection rings I originally fitted some 5 years ago …

Over time one of two of these have started to show signs of movement and that in turn has made them slightly slack and the cycle then continues…

Add to that that I added a new inspection hole under the starboard wing when I was doing the annual but managed to make it a smidgen too large

I taped it up temporarily to fly back to Priory Farm but then decided to make a better cleaner fix

The whole underside of the wing is one continous piece of Oratex material .. as is the upper and each side of the aircraft.. this meant that to take out a full ribs worth I would have to make good a new ‘end point’

This turned out to be more successful than I’d thought… cutting out the now unsightly double holes.. I left a good 2″ inner overlap … then cleaned and removed old oratex edging and covering from any rib lower capping strips

Then glued using hot melt the trimmed the ‘new’ Edge piece and ribs and inner leading edge so that I could return the next day with the iron to secure all existing material … worked a treat

Then offered up my pre shaped full panel rib to rib and leading edge to trailing edge and glued, returned 24 hours later and sealed … almost drum tight even before heat shrinking … just a couple of overlap strips to add and then I can recut and reseal the inspection rings … in a sandwich this time .. to prevent movement.

Also … be nice to get all these small things done so it’s good for the winter season of flying ahead …. Ski gear all unpacked and ready ❤️

Dads funeral fly by

Sad day this week … Monday 11th was Dads funeral ..

As Dad was THE one who got me so into all things aviation it seemed a fitting thing to have both a ground and airborne tribute to him …

Positioned the ’plane from Priory Farm to Rougham having emailed fhem a few days ago to request permission to land and then return for the funeral fly by.

The day didnt start well as my Trig radio …. that hadnt missed a beat in 5 years of flying … decided to pop a message saying ”No radio” … i tried the usual off and on and even a quick circuit but no luck … i called the boys to catch them to drop by with the Icom handheld … this didnt work too well on readability at Rougham but got me in

later investigation and , in the fading light, i could see that the second radio head, in the front cockpit wasnt illuminated … traced it to a bad connector that probably got disturbed when i did the annual

Returned a couple of days later and stripped each heat sealed cover and re crimped

Video of footage from Rougham strip on the short trip over to Bury St Edmunds

Annual …

Well ..after a fairly long stint of good solid work .. interspersed by some pretty awful family issues … I completed the work for the annual

It’s fair to say, I have never had an annual like this … and that DEF isn’t a negative statement … far from it … the thoroughness and due diligence and attention to detail that James (Milne) applies to absolutely ANY job is second to none.

There were a number of things that I should definitely been aware of or spotted with a 20+ point list to work through I was certainly kept busy.

A number of points being pretty basic … like nylocs being out of safety ie with suitable amount of thread showing through the tightened nut. It seems I had a propensity to add the occasional washer under the heads which weren’t always required and, although they looked ‘right’ this meant that insufficient bolt shank was coming through.

Yes, they were easy to fix, and quick …. But def SHOULD have been spotted earlier

The new, factory ailerons, had been covered and fitted nicely and the whole aileron circuit was undone and the jiggling off centre stick addressed. This had been slightly off centre since I made it and set it one very late night many years ago and, with 4 turnbuckles in the aileron circuit it could be taken out. Easier said than done …

My son Sam and I chased our tails and spent an inordinate amount of time adjusting the turnbuckles in the Up circuit .. then the down circuit .. then the aileron pushrod … only to find ourselves back at square one !

Eventually .. we sat back … looked and decided that the lower cable run .. which is directly attached to the bottom of the control stick .. directly controls the vertical setting of the stick .. so get that correct … THEN take the rest up in the turnbuckles … voila !

The wheel bearings that I’d had issues with last year had been re designed and the block remachined by TLAC so these were replaced at the same time

James still isn’t a fan of my wire locking so I plan to pop back so that he can show me how it’s done properly 😊

Another task was offsetting the elevator cables by putting the washers at the top cable all on one side and on the lower cable all on the other side .. a simple way of giving greater separation in the body where they cross over .. mine already had silicone sleeves at the cross over point but every little helps

The engine compression was then tested … this gave me quite a heart stopping moments .. when we found that the front right cylinder head gave almost zero pressure and rear left was only about half …. We decided to run the engine which had been idle for about 2 months .. so gave it a run up to temp .. 50’ oil temp …. Then retried ..all 74psi or above … so signs of stuck or slight build up on an open valve …. Ran a treat and started first time

Cross country trip Norfolk to Bodmin

My son had a new U.K. car to pick up from Bodmin so we decided to save hours and hours of trains and fly down …

Weather wasn’t the greatest … but certainly good to keep your hand in on several hours of IMC

Permit renewal and annual check

Flew up from Priory Farm to Little Snoring … the first time all the bits have returned to the airfield since I picked them up 8 years ago in a van !

Be good to get it fully checked by the guys that actually build these …. I’m going to keep my tradition of being largely honest and open in this … on the basis that any shared information can only help others think and check things

Starter for 10 …. It was decided the best way to start was to do a full re-rig … I haven’t done a FULL re-rig for a few years but had changed one of the flying wires a couple of years ago .. so used the original dihedral and incidence boards.

TLAC a have some smarter tools for incidence and so levelled the aircraft inside their super flat hangar … set it in flying angle so lots of packing under the tail with a tie down to prevent it tipping on the nose.

Put trestles under both port and starboard wings and then slackened cables… James had identified some not so good crimps that needed replacing … the original crimps had been but in with a hand held (2 arm) hand tool .. TLAC have a similar unit but have base fitted 1 arm so it’s so much easier to control.

The original gapping between Nicopress ferrules .. 2 are fitted with a gap on landing and flying wires .. was too great .. also I hadn’t rotated the ferrule in the crimp tool POST the first crimp … by crimping all in the same directional plane you get ‘banana’ shaped bend in the cable end

On the left (old) the ‘banana’ bend plus .. I hadn’t realised you should file off the excess ‘squeeze’ to provide a smooth finish .. on right (new)

You can also see the other primary reason for re asking these cables is that I had too many threads showing … the rust pick up of 5 years of salty air shows this …

Being in the factory was so so much easier as ALL the new parts were instantly available vs the weeks it used to take to ship down to Jersey in the early days.

It was also noted that the aileron hinges were rolling on the AN bolts … each of the brackets has a hardened steal bearing insert and this should roll within the hinge bracket. The design should be that each aileron bolt clamps with requisite washers to press against this hardened ing … therefore allowing the whole arrangement to not only be square but rotate in unison with that bearing.

These bearings were partly free but some had clearly started to seize over the years. Good use of spray grease and working with a socket and ratchet spanner eased these so that they rolled correctly in situ.

James knows these aircraft inside out and continued his detailed check … one of these tests was to grab the trailing edge of each aileron at each sub aileron rib and then trying to TWIST the aileron … each twist would show if there was any movement of the individual rib against the internal torque tube.

The port upper aileron showed a very small displacement .. on the outer most panel … representing the outer quadrant and so ‘end point’. There are 3 hinges per aileron .. 2 ends and one centre… with intervening ribs equally spaced. All ribs are epoxied to the torque tube and this displacement shows that we need to cut away the underside and investigate.

Aileron construction … all 4 were manufactured in my garage roof ,.. largely during the winter months. I’ve just checked back through my blog and noted the ailerons were completed around December 2015 in a specially extended garage roof .. just to aid building the aircraft. I DO remember it being very cold and this clearly didn’t help the curing process …So … currently .. my thinking is that the curing of the epoxy and/or the torque tube prep (roughing up with a coarse grit to provide a ‘key’ for the glue) MAY not have been the best environment to allow good all round positive adhesion …I’m cutting away FULL a length under covering to check ALL rib securing points and also hard checking other aileron TWIST effects.

Aileron full strip to check all joints … have now decided to replace and rebuild 4 new … as removing the rock like fibreglass will only damage the ailerons. Paul has kindly sourced some factory started ailerons … ribs on the torque tube and glued with the special gray compound that looks oh so much better

Just need to aerolite leading edge, trailing edge, top sheet and full gussets …

More to follow ….

Boy this Oratex sticks well .. even after 5 years

Channel crossing

Just how many times can you look at a gauge in flight …. and not over worry …

After about the 100th time of looking at the guages … then looking out to the North, East, West and .. through the little rear view mirror I mounted, South … I can still confirm ALL I can see is sea .. lots of sea .. as far as the eye can see !

The ground speed has hovered around 50 but has dipped more times than it has risen ..

And so the long planned flight of my home built Sherwood Ranger, following a house relocation, begins … the planned ‘safer’ passage through France or Jersey, Caen, Deauville, Abbeville, Le Touquet, Headcorn, Earls Colne, Priory Farm-Tibenham .. abandoned due to Covid heavy lockdown in France means it’s the North route …

Many weeks of planning and then re planning and then waiting for what looked like a predictable calm or southerly wind and packing and re packing the aircraft to see JUST what I could practically carry had finally come down to the Sunday in June … leaving early to get ahead of the planned rise in breeze later that morning..

With the one piece immersion suit over the top of my 5 layers I was somewhat of a Michelein man trying to squeeze into the small rear cockpit of the Sherwood … then having a life jacket it was certainly going to be cosy.

The normal planning paperwork and advance email to each of my (new route) destinations had elicited very positive responses from Sandown… Booker and Duxford but I had not realised that Alderney would still be in effective Covid lockdown and so would need a “critical worker exemption” form signed off by Guernsey Government .. even to stay airside and fuel up.

Also, it became known that Alderney had NO AvGas as no one was vsiting and so I would have to source the fuel myself. This meant a late rejig to buy a new 10L fuel can .. get the Jersey based ATF fuels to fill this for me and then strap this into the front cockpit.
After numerous repacks i settled on a roll bag flat in the front ..but ratchet strapped down to make sure my feet weren’t impeded on the rudderbars which are either side of the front seat with the now heavy Jerry can ratcheted to that .. all double strapped for security.

I then had to work out where to put the wing jury struts as I wouldn’t be able to fold the wings back at the new home base without … I ended up settling on an external mount against the 4 cabane struts .. again with double cross over securing using cable ties plus a lateral cable tie to prevent any vertical movement. Worked a treat with zero movement in the entire 4 hours 58 min flight !

The first leg to Alderney was uneventful but spent most of the time thinking about the next leg if I’m honest. Rolling out onto 09 Finals at Alderney you come in over the cliffs and somewhat biazarrley given the almost zero traffic into there .. I had the Aurigny Dornier up my tail ! … rounding out just before the runway bump and then turning off to the grass intersection to park clear and remove the Jerry can and fuel up. Took about a cupful short of the 10L .. so nicely worked out. (Note .. The Light Aircraft Company now produce a fantastic aero shaped alloy dump tank that fits on top of cabane struts). Take off and straight onto Jersey Director for the long crossing. Had a few challenges trying to donate the now empty fuel can on Alderney … used a total of ONCE ! But crash crew took it in the end as it had a dribble of fuel in so was classed as a ‘hazard’ 😊

I had conducted a proving flight test of the radios at first permit time but hadn’t gone over the allotted 20 mile suggested range check… now, at between 2,000’ and 3,000’ I was getting excellent 2 way with Jersey way past 50N on the s all panel mounted Trigs.

As expected … you become super sensitive to noises …vibrations .. movements .. and, with all that water around you long to see some sign of life .. the projected flight time cross channel was going to be around 1 hour 30 … and I’ve flown enough times over the Channel to know it can be 4kts each end and around 30 in the middle ! I had set myself a midway point (DOMUT) which was 39 miles from Alderney and 30 from Sandown .. the idea being .. if it took me disproportionally longer to get to DOMUT than I’d estimated .. then I would have a hard turn point to GO BACK with reserves

The problem with any (very draggy) biplane is that any degree of headwind makes a BIG impact on ground speed … Jersey Director asked if I wanted higher than the allotted 2,000’ and I didn’t want to incur more fuel burn climbing but decided to accept his offer of 3,000’ as it did indeed give me around 5mph more GS .. it also helped me switch to Bournemouth even tho Jersey was still crystal clear to 15 miles N of Ortac.
After what seems like an eternity of water as far as the eye could see a glimmer of darker shades ahead indicated the outline of the Isle of Wight hills.

The sight of land was a great relief albeit it arrived much much slower than a PA28 ! … called early and planned the overhead join from the South to a busy Sandown circuit .. never been in before but descended dead side and downwind to tail a Cessna in … arrived a little quickly over the threshold to a bouncy bouncy landing ..FIRST on grass in SWAB !
Taxied in and was marshalled to a neat line up of parked aircraft instead of the pumps … not worth another startup .. so just shut down and pulled her on to the pumps.
After filling and packing away the immersion suit I felt somewhat lighter ! It was time to pre check the approach details for Booker .. fold the paper neatly under my crutch so it didn’t blow away and then up and away routing around Portsmouth …

Been into Booker a few times in PA28 and 32s but never in a biplane .. the sun was getting pretty hot now as I flared over the tarmac .. elected that as I was still put off by my previous bouncy Sandown touchdown ..

Really friendly welcome as parked in the pumps to fill .. then airborne again .. post pre check of Duxford plate and route

Duxford was always going to be a grass landing … flew in from the West and joined downwind left hand for the westerly landing .. around the village with a Dragon Rapide joinIng behind for the hard runway … over the M11 fairly low and slipped it down onto the grass …. Vacate right to park to the East … just about to shutdown when the kind lady in the tower said that the B17 parked tail on to me ..about 5 aircraft away .. was about to do an engine run … would I like to move further East ..I said if he starts up I will be about 5 miles further East !!

Nice chance to chill and visit the loo for the first time since leaving Jersey at 08:15 .. and also Tea and scone ! Very English !

After a freshen up … and fuel up .. it was time to climb aboard .. start up and take off West .. turn and head up towards Lakenheath and Priory Farm Tibenham for the final leg.

Called up about 15 miles out .. a blind call .. but got a response .. nothing known to affect and also prob 19 in use … great .. as I def didn’t want to make a fool of myself on first arrival

We then had a bit of interesting confusion .. my callsign AB got slightly misheard as HB and I then heard that HB was going to join overhead …I elected to orbit and wait ….before making a fly by approach then to land …

so .. hilariously … I was orbiting awaiting MYSELF to land .. so that I could make an approach to land ha ha 😂

Down and safe

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