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

Last Jersey based flying day before transfer to UK

Flying the Sherwood over to the U.K. had been in the planning stages for many weeks … just waiting for a good weather window …

one element was a pre-planned air to air sequence with two great colleagues … Dale Curtin from flying and Alan Moss from ATC

We had spent some time pre planning the sequences using PowerPoint to show possible angles and heights and headings and pre planned “loss of contact-sight” actions .. and Alan had kindly a advised of a dedicated frequency to use. It turned out ATC were monitoring the frequency as they contacted Dale before we rejoined the circuit.

We planned to take off separately … formation take off is only the stuff of Red Arrows … then formate over the South East training area … loose at first ..until we were comfortable the closer up

Wind was not too bad although it was a bit choppy in the receding cloud base .. the thick fog having receded at 10

We had planned that Dale would lead all comms and I would basically fly .. as advised … repeating back any pre planned turns … we used LEFT and RIGHT words and also directional headings .. ie head EAST for the next 2 mins … this meant that Dale effectively had a relatively fixed ‘target’ …. Leaving Alan to direct Dale above below behind ….

Dale initially had problems getting slow enough … which we had discussed on the ground .. so we already had planned that flaps would be down in the Robin …. And also discussed and walked through the potential for stalls in tighter turns whilst trying to keep the camera on station It worked a treat …

Once we were comfortable distances could be reduced and we could organise and position so that we got the desired aircraft angle as well as background content

Once we were out to the offshore islands we could try to position to get some of the more nose on shots .. involving Dale and Alan passing straight and level and then me pulling up and across behind before the curvature of the Robin canopy blocked the shot.
pulling the Sherwood up was always going to present a flattish bottom to the wash behind the Robin so we didn’t do any too close but still got reasonable wash effect from the Robin with its flaps down

Air show landing picture .. poss 2017,18

It’s nice to see the odd picture appear that has been posted by talented photographers … tracked this one down to a chap called Alan Howell in Guernsey who took the shot on Jersey Air Display day … guess it was immediately post the display and landing back

Strip flying in and out

So … learnings from the flight from glorious titled Little Snoring and back over last couple of days…

  • Boy you get used to caring helpful ATC staff and feel a bit lost without them when taxying around for take off in small grass strips
  • Small remote strips have more wildlife on them than the local zoo !
  • Lifting off into what are basically huge playgrounds for C130, Stratotankers , F15, Ospreys, Apache etc keeps you on your toes
  • Done about 5 MATZ Penetrations in 48 hours vs 2 in the last 30 years
  • Farnborough N extends a good way up Norfolk and are a good option when Benson have locked the door and gone home and you are asking for a direct through their overhead … which you can’t have as the ATZ stays active EVEN when they are closed due to helimeds
  • Equally … if you are a little low and IOW is blocking your comms to Southampton .. Bournemouth are great at pre empting and SAM overhead transit
  • SkyDemon is just and always will be the BEST especially when you are going new routes
  • Lakenheath are super laid back and helpful but really after 1700 on a Friday .. clearly burger night is calling 😊
  • Lakenheath can give you MATZ pen through themselves and Mildenhall … but don’t assume that covers Marham … which I did … then thought 5 miles out I would just check …. and yep it doesn’t cover them but Marham was closed anyway
  • SkyDemon gives you a hugely long straight in fan for my little hare covered strip …
  • Do all your blind calls when approaching your quiet home strip … just on touchdown a beautiful big bright blue air balloon lifted off
  • Taxi back around the hares, pheasants, and seagulls 😉
  • So so so much fun
  • oh … then on the drive home …. Shxt …. no ATC to auto close the flight plan.. literally NO ONE knows u have landed … well apart from some wildlife and ballon man …. call Jersey ATC and lovely chat with Jo who kindly did it for me … Note to self … close with Norwich before touchdown next time

Always stuff to add to your skills …

Safe flying all …. and anyone up this way .. please feel free to get in touch ❤️

BIG distance to unload 😀
Usual Brown ‘small’ load

Little Snoring – First UK flight since move May 2021

Through the great help of Paul Hendry Smith of TLAC and the kind permission of Rob Hunter I am now able to use G-SOOT .. a PA28-180 for the wonderful Little Snoring

Today was the first flight in ‘OT to familiarise with both the aircraft and the local area

Exploring towards the Wash and the North Norfolk coast … avoiding the numerous bird sanctuary’s

And back to a few practice circuits … seagulls … a pheasant .. and even a Hare … great countryside 😊

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