My engine has been a while having its hydraulic lifter valves converted to solid lifters ..so apart from a number of PA28 trips to Jersey and back I’ve had very little biplane action !
Paul at TLAC v kindly said we could blow the dust off G-TLAC and keep my hand in ..
With one of my sons now working at TLAC and also part way through his PPL he was also very keen to get an eye on flying this fantastic little aircraft in and around tight grass strips vs the large controlled airspace of Jersey International Airport that we are both so used to !
Having waited for the huge winds to ease we finally set off to head down to Jersey from Norfolk
Our ‘normal’ routing is, shortly after takeoff, to slot between RAF Marham and Mildenhall and USAF Lakenheath …but … today .. part way through the route the US air traffic suddenly changed their mind and asked me to turn around and head the opposite way as 15 US F15 fighter jets streamed in for landing.
The resulting detour and headwinds to get back in track left our generous fuel reserve somewhat lower than we would like … an hour from the South coast to Jersey would only leave us 40 mins to get down ..and low visibility was forecast
Goodwood advised they were closed to fuelling so a hop further along the coast to Shoreham who welcomed us with a nice tight overhead join to descend left hand down to their into wind runway .. some 34+ mph winds !
The quick refuel and last hour down to Jersey had 2 temporary diverts in the direction of Guernsey as Jersey dropped below limits. The second divert we opted to hold N of the island as it looked like clearing and we have good fuel reserves .. after another 20 min hold we got a slightly higher cloud base and in we went 😊
The flight home was still pretty bumpy the following day but the Eastern route … going around the bottom of Gatwick and then up between Stansted and Southend
Arrival back after the much quicker flight back …34 mph 30 degrees off the runway .. made for an interesting approach
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❤️
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 ❤️
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
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
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
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 …