Mixing it with Reds

I think this was from around the 2017 Jersey air Display … the pre practice for the display was on the Wednesday and it was pretty awful weather … low cloud and rain persisted most of the morning .. so getting up in the Sherwood to do my approval runs was going to be fun..

Eventually got airborne and managed to get about 5 minutes of 250’ passes in front of the Squadron Leader checking and approving displays ahead of the Thursday display

Pulled out of the display box as the base came down to around 600’ ..but areas were starting to look like 500’ which would make it below IMC limits

Just as I completed the downwind leg I was told to hold at Corbiere (lighthouse) .. at least the runway threshold was (mostly) visible from there … if not .. the beach was an easy ‘base leg’ visual

Then .. the reason for the hold became obvious … “Red 1…clear to land .. runway 08 … wet wet wet … “ … oh dear .. I was going to probably be no 11 to land !

As it was pretty claggy all around the CI zone the Reds were coming in in 2’s and 3’s anyway …. So … mid group .. I was cleared to roll out .. having now got pretty wet in the open cockpit .. to land after the first wave

‘Nipped’ to final … mustering my full 60 or so against the wind and drizzle …and flared out to touch part way down the runway for a quick turn off vs a long slow (wet) taxy

The first wave of Reds were taxying back up from the end to park around at Gama aviation on the South side of the airfield and one of them said … “is that a Ranger I see just taxying in?” … Wow … a Red actually not only talking to me BUT recognises the type …

It turned out to be the one and only Mike Ling .. probably one of the most prolific Red pilots in terms of tours

It’s traditional the evening after the flying display on the Thursday to have a meeting of support teams, groups and pilots at the Governors house in town .. and Mike was very kind to have a long chat about the home built and say just how much the whole team are interested in all types of aviation

My very first landing … and Dad interview with ITV

A very kind chap at ITV Jersey found the footage of my interview with ITV immediately prior and post my test flight …. It also shows my very FIRST a landing at Jersey ! (Thank you so much Andy Fox)

What is really nice is the interview they did with my Dad .. sadly gone now … such a lovely lasting memory and lovely to hear his words

Joints and handshakes

Now the engine is back and running beautifully I’ve run into some annoying snags related to the wiring ..

The majority of the working was prepared and fitted around 7 years ago … it consisted of a number of looms with the bizarre but obligatory all white cabling … for every single device !

Slightly bucking the trend of aviation wiring I made a few of the connections colour coded .. so Red for power, Black for earth ..so, at a glance you pretty much knew what a wire was serving … then added the odd colour into the predominantly white looms. Yellow was oil pressure, Orange was oil temp, RPM was Blue….

The 3 looms were to provide a degree of separation for the primary engine monitoring instruments …. The mags … and the radio, the aim being to keep any ‘noise’ (a black art in itself) away from things like radio

Due to the very small panel space of the Ranger, I opted for a number of 2 1/4” dials, the main one being the engine monitor … serving up 2 x CHT, 2 x EGT, Oil pressure, Oil Temp and RPM as well as Hobbs.

This unit has 2 D plugs in the back …and even the instruction manual says you ‘may’ be provided with a male or female D Plug for the Thermocouples … the manual is also pretty unclear as to which way you are looking at the numbered pins … so is it Male or Female .. and is it viewed from the plug as you hold it in your hand ‘facing you’ or .. even more bizarrely … with the plug covers off .. facing away .. as if you were soldering the plug together !

Anyway, having had the engine in and out more than a few times over recent months AND taken the opportunity to rip out the old connector block .. that worked fine…just looked like the B and Q part it was ! .. I’ve got a misreading CHT and EGT a and going round and around to try to resolve the issue

Having roped in 2 sons to run through my recursive sequence and confirm I’m not going mad …. We have asked another friend to give his input …

Having reviewed and removed the question arises of WHY did I put quite so many handshake connectors in ! I loved the flexibility doing this on first fit .. being easily able to connect and disconnect things BUT … for each thermocouple and each earth and each live and each oil and pressure sensors … I have multiple ‘interrupts’ in the supply lead

Each of these points, over time, can become a bad joint … can get corrosion … suffer from my initial bad crimping (documented elsewhere .. using the wrong tool) … or just simple not like being pulled apart after years … I think st this latter part that has UPSET things the most !

Looking to simplify this setup … I’ve worked out that from PiN D plug to thermocouple end point … my ‘current’ setup has joints, as follows , PIN, a handshake at around 10” .. so 2 joints, a Ring connector at the firewall side connecter block - so 2 joints, and now, double ALL that for the positive and the negative ..so 10 connection point’s in all …. NOW plan is to reduce to 2 !

Now, extrapolate that up … 4 thermocouples … 40 connection points, reduced to 8 … will now slowly work back through the system to refresh AND reduce the connections

Trip challenges …

I was reading some recent Facebook posts on challenging trips and it reminded me of some over the years …

Somme 80 Year commemoration

The plan was to fly a politician (Jersey Chief Minister) from Jersey to Abbeville … picking up the Chief Minister from Guernsey on the way for the large European wide remembrance of the end of the war

Of course .. by midday we had gale force fog in Jersey … the Guernsey Chief made it over .. just .. on Aurigny inter island … we then sat and watched the forecast play out with fog and wind and more fog and more wind

Eventually it started to get dark … we were already on version ‘F’ of the plan … so I popped down the hill near the airport and picked up 4 lots of Fish and chips .. so at least we wouldn’t go hungry

Abbeville had already been discounted .. grass strip and no lights .. but the event was a massive security issue .. with many very senior dignitaries attending and the absolute NEED auto be on time at a set time for bussed entry to the service

This left Caen as a possible alternate … and the Chiefs travel in by Road. The fog had now been replaced by lashing wind and torrential rain.

With night firmly in place and temperatures starting to plummet … the viz picked up .. dramatically … but the rain and wind took its place. We called Caen and tower said they would accept us but drop dead time was 22:00 local .. with a flight time of approx 40 mins Jersey would be close to closing too.

In the end we took off in relatively clear blackness .. with wind and rain and headed due East for Caen … the plan being to land .. meet the local French Government agent who would take them by Road … I would overnight in Caen and fly out to Abbeville next day

Landed at Caen in total downpour .. backtracked and exited .. just in time to see the tower lights turn off and then a fun time getting out of the now locked airport … met by the local support staff and dropped off at Kyriad in Caen …and they continued for what turned out to be a horrendous stormy journey by Road to Abbeville arriving in the early hours of the next day.

I ended up chatting with an American chap and his 2 kids in the Kyriad bar, explaining what and where Jersey was and gave each of the kids a £1 jersey note ! Which thrilled them.

Next morning .. bright and breezy … fuel up an hop to a foggy Abbeville and wait for the end of service and flight back … direct to Guernsey first for drop off and then back to Jersey

Coffee Machine Analysis

This was, bizarrely, a raffle flight around the island for my local school but the winner asked if I could take her and hubby and a friend up to Birmingham for the NEC exhibition on catering equipment

The day arrived … what was possibly the windiest day I’d known . . 50 on the tail … having that much on the tail wasn’t all it was jacked up to be … porpoising all the way up to Coventry .. we duly landed and taxied into a quiet Coventry .. taxi up to the NEC and a day looking at 20 or so coffee machines !

During the morning I was checking the return weather and it was classic Jersey .. 50 mph winds (from the S) and clouds BKN below 100 but lifting and dropping at regular intervals

We set off and had one of the slowest journeys I can remember .. even the seagulls were passing us as we slogged Southwards

We got to about 15 miles N of Jersey and they had just gone below 100

We looked at options … Jersey, Guernsey AND Alderney had all just dropped .. so it was Dinard ! Dinard had been flight planned as an alternate … dropping into their straight in approach we settled onto a French runway from Coventry instead of Jersey … I’d suggested we all brought passports .. so ended up after the short taxi down into St Malo for a fantastic very French evening … staying In the Novotel Thalassotherapy centre along the coast

Short pop to Dinard to Drop Off

It was just a short trip … 25. Mins or so to drop a friend down in France … it was end of the day … just finished work … weather had been pants but base was sticking at about 700 as it had been all day

So, you make that call to the Met .. hoping that somehow in talking to them, between you, you can talk that base up and to STAY put !

We ended up taking off in the venerable old PA32 G-CI … just as dusk was coming … landed at a beautifully clear dark crisp night in France … quick through customs to meet my favourite Gendarme lady with the gun !

Headed back out to the now dark aircraft … hot start.. never great on a PA32 but I’d got used to coaching them into starting 3rd or 4th turn

About 10 mins into the flight I got a totally unexpected double hit …. Jersey dropped from its 5 hour BKN at 700 to BKN 200 … and, just as I was digesting that … the panel lights went out 😮

I’d flown this PA32 for many years and grown to accept its foibles …but not too many night hours in her

I had a small pen torch so popped it in my mouth and started to liaise with Jersey about diverting to Guernsey .. flying past the extended centreline for runway 26 at Jersey .. I could see the coastline ..but not the runway at Jersey

As I droaned on in the darkness towards the bright lights of Guernsey … I could hear a chap heading South from the U.K. towards Guernsey .. and clearly lost and in some distress

I stayed quiet . .. letting the amazing controllers talk him in below the ,cloud base that he was clearly not comfortable with … but, at BKN 900 doable … but felt he had had a long trip down south and was not planning this issue at the end

Having held off , circling in darkness ..not great with black water and black sky .. i was cleared to land 09 and rolled to a stop and all the panel lights returned

Speaking with the very white faced guy who had just diverted to Guernsey as we both sat with a cup of coffee … he was talking about heading off on the final leg to Jersey .. THAT NIGHT ! 

I persuaded him to pop along to the hotel .. just down he road from the airport in Guernsey … and have a good long sleep ! Wake up .. have a nice breakfast …. And a lovely sunny 15 mins trip down to Jersey in DAYLIGHT… he accepted the suggestion … never met him again ….but hope someone looks at me one day .. and gives the same advice .. and I ACCEPT !

An hour later …base lifted at Jersey … and I hopped back …booking the old bird into engineering (again) !

UK flying low level

I gather a very useful service has been trialled and now going live for low level GA and Military in the UK

Since moving over to Norfolk 18 months ago I’ve been getting used to different radio ‘regime and use’ .. it seems very many local VFR would prefer not to talk to anyone ..outside controlled airspace … me .. being used to the full Jersey Service find it unnerving not talking to anyone!

My usual trips down to Jersey involve much military.. UK and US .. and also large CTAs around Stansted and Southend and Gatwick

I’ve found London Info excellent … but they ‘cover’ almost the entire UK .. so my (non required- but freely given) occoasinal position reports aren’t for them but others in proximity and I find the reciprocal very useful .. hearing where others are and intentions

Article in LAA mag this month. 130.490 available air to air deconfliction civilian and military Class G below 2,000 ft in UK airspace. I’d been aware of the trial some time ago but not that it was now permanent.


Will certainly use this military mix option given the propensity of shared airspace with F15s F35s Hercules and Osprey (rotating wing variety)

Getting into the Ranger

Getting into the P1 (rear) seat is certainly easier than the P2 (front) seat but it’s still a bit of a sequence … I’ve put footholds both sides .. so you can be left or right footed to get aboard

Climbing aboard you need to have the straps out of the way … but accessible .. you then put a foot into the L or R foot hole and use the cabane bars to pull up. Get a leg up and over and a foot onto the seat …

Then you need a good bit of lower limb movement to get the second leg up and over. This is getting progressively harder .. so need to introduce some pre limbering up and stretch exercise every week !!!

Once you are now facing the front …. Both feet on the seat ..then take the weight using cabane struts L and R … to then ease your legs inwards and forwards straddling the passenger seat (in front) but also making sure you also straddle the rudder cables from the rudder pedals

Then you have to make sure your arms and head or upper torso DO NOT catch the screen ..which is fragile and can crack if caught

Leaving Cromer … smoke and crosswind

Leaving a very cold Cromer at the weekend … I’d connected up the smoke … and requested a bit of smoking on departure

A bit of a crosswind on departure ..as the smoke moves Eastwards … also need to tighten that camera bracket for grassy bumps 🤣

Smoke and wet bottoms …

I haven’t been using the smoke system that much recently …post the engine rebuild .. but, over the last few flights where I have used smoke I’ve been getting an excess of unburned smoke fluid covering the underside of the aircraft.

The areas most affected are driven by the airflow and so, undercarriage (being quite exposed) gets a direct ‘hit’ main and tailwheel ..the rest goes just behind the main gear on the underside of the body … then under the lower body with some catching the tail

I made contact with smoking airplanes in the US who supply the kit to check that my attempts to lean off the oil mixture was not working and see if they had other ideas.

Their first thought was that it might be a single or dual blocked injector .. the injectors are strapped to the exhaust stacks and protrude through small holes so atomising the oil spray into the hot exhaust.

The effect of a coked or partially blocked atomiser would be to allow the oil to build into globules and so be too ‘thick’ to burn … but instead trickle and run down the tube … then exit in the flow and spread

Removing them revealed that they were clearly coked and blocked

A follow up email to Smokin Airplanes in the US ..gave an almost instant response with a detailed sequence for how to (safely) clean these… amazing service 😊👍

Keeping current on types …PA28

I have been very fortunate to be able to use a lovely Hamble PA28 on occasions. I last flew it from its temporary base (at Fowlmere) to Bicester (Scramble meet) and back … both grass strips and both offering different approaches … Fowlmere slightly undulating and very close to busy Duxford and one with quite a few residences around to make approach sensitive

I remember years ago flying to Fowlmere to reposition a PA32 from Duxford as Duxford advised I couldn’t depart before 8 am next day back to Jersey as only locally based aircraft could move early … remember lining up with my Dad onboard …and the chap in the tower advising L or R turns as people departed ..depending on their destinations N or S in the U.K. … I lined up .. and said Fowlmere …and he asked if I had enough fuel for the trip ! Being about 45 seconds in a PA32 ! As Dad was onboard I asked if we could do a circuit and low flyby before peeling off to Fowlmere and was surprised to hear “No problem … line up on the grass after the landing Spitfire … which came just over our head … cleared circuit, flyby then Fowlmere” ….

Think Dad smiled for the rest of the day ❤️❤️😊

I’m currently doing some Programme support for an exciting company down in Jersey so have been down a few times this year. Travelling commercially is a pain … drive around the M25 to Gatwick and overnight for the red eye out next morning … then the slog back after a few days.

This week, I was fortunate enough to get use of the PA28 again, now re based back at Little Snoring. The dense fog of the preceding 2 days in the U.K. was easing and looking like clearing on Wednesday morning. I’d booked the flightplan out, using SkyDemon, and was set for a 9:00 local departure. Filing custom gendec forms with Jersey and the ever helpful Norwich Border Force

The fog was a little slow to clear and pre fuelling (to the top of both tanks) meant departure was about 10:00 local. Backtracked down the tarmac to the grass of threshold 25 … around a couple of pheasants !… and climb away above the mist into a lovely clear layer. Calling Norwich at 1,600’ to make sure I could get good 2 way comms … but they advised they couldn’t open my flightplan…and I’d have to ask London

I switched to London Info 124.60 and was still abeam the Norwich zone .. London Info opened the flight plan and I advised my planned routing, Bury st Edmunds, Chelmsford, Thames, Mayfield, Goodwood, Orist and would remain outside controlled airspace of Stansted, Southend and Gatwick

Managed to actually see the MAY VOR as I banked wingover right …

Had to orbit 2 or 3 times just to the North of the Northwest corner of Jersey when a fellow Jersey pilot in a faster PA32 overtook me … parking up on the grass at the aero club as the grass nearest the club looked pretty wet ..buzzed through the access door, as my Aero Club access card has now expired (following recent security enhancements at the airport)

The return, was set for Friday and Thursday was pretty grim on the deck.. typical of the moist airmass around Jersey

Friday morning 09:00

Flightplan was filed for 1400 local on Friday … and Friday woke to BKN below 100 with all the early commercials being turned back as they were he night before ! People were being shunted to Saturday flights for BA

Got a ‘phone call from a private number just after 9.00am and it was Norwich Border Force saying they had seen my flight plan but no customs form (the one I had sent earlier in the week noted outbound AND return but I think they prefer one each sector .. no worries resent it and they emailed straight back to say many thanks and all fine .. “Have a nice flight” …nice touch 👍👏

The forecast for Friday was set to lift around midday .. but was still on the deck and showing a usual very slow up and down mode !

Friday morning

Clicking up the TAF every 20 mins or so didnt offer an obvious window but at 1230 I headed up to the aero club to get the aircraft loaded, prepped and ready. … and hose off some of the mud on the underside and undercarriage from the Fowlmere-Bicester trip

At 1400 there was a sudden small break in the clag .. so I started up and got to the threshold and was a finger from transmitting ready for departure … when a Citation came in and said 7 mile final .. he was given clear land …and ..with a stiff headwind took ages to get in …and in those minutes …the MET went BKN at 300 …Sat at the threshold engine on tickover and watched successive 300, 400, 300 foot bases drift through

Eventually I taxied back and shut down .. and sat in the aircraft as it was clearly going to be a short window if indeed it DID open up. I watched the TAFs come and go … and still no luck … my problem now was that the planned 2 hr 19 min flight was dependant on hefty cross,tail winds and this all bound by a sunset in Norfolk of 17:11 .. meaning night officially 30 mins later at 17:41 ..so my absolute drop dead time for leaving was 15:15 … Eventually the patience paid off and tower called me on one of the times I had switched the radio on to hear the ATIS 134.80 SCT 300, BKN 600, BKN 1800 … we’re OFF !

Engine already warm … ran through checklist and out and lining up in 5 … climbing away .. cleared to 1,000 … then 3,000 … then not above 5,000 .. base was 3,500 so 4,000 was great

Approaching the Isle Of White and the base rose up and the tops descended to swallow me …

..what had been forecast as a 2,000 base became, in reality a few 100’ .. solid IMC with all the rising ground near Gatwick and the downs I opted to stay at 2,000’ to MAY then turned North … eventually becoming VFR again just abeam Southend

As I coasted in towards IOW, London Info had said I should call Farnborough West … but they were back to back with ILS routing entries so I re switched back to London 124.60 and stayed with them until 1.7 from Little Snoring .. awesome service

Running down to destination .. timing was going to be tight
Time to get panel lights ready as sun starts to slip away
Sun slips down below horizon and it gets dark pretty quickly
Nice panel lights .. still showing London info 124.60 and 1177 squalk .. just starting descent into Snoring
Very dark to get ‘plane tug on and pushed away

Jabiru – Oil leak ..sorted

The ongoing issue of the oil seepage has kept me grounded for a long time now …. The plugging of the rocker breather holes in each head (now I’ve conveyed to solid lifter from hydraulic) has certainly helped see the wood for the trees with only small but positive amounts of oil showing at the base on the rocker guide tubes on ground runs

Each ground run, where I let it get up to 50 degrees then push to as much throttle as the small heel brakes will hold .. usually around 2,300 rpm …at those revs the brakes are starting to squeak and object … but you can get short bursts of higher and accept the move forward if clear.

The option I did in the summmer … tying the tail to the hangar metal upright girder .. I’m not so happy about now .. his was after reading an Australian post on a Jabiru site about having Jab 2200 in taildraggers and excessive ground running NOT being good .

The reason sighted for this was possible oil starvation of the front cylinders, rockers due to the significant slant of the body

So I don’t do prolonged hot ground runs .. if I can avoid it.

Anyway .. to the fix

Having spoken with the engineer I decided an ‘in situ’ fix in a cold dusty hangar wasn’t ideal and to whip the engine out, pop it in a boot and strive up to Yorkshire was probably the far better, sensible, solution !

Engine out Friday, marking all ancillaries and safely supporting the exhaust … carb body status in situ so you don’t d disturb choke and throttle … and it’s craned out and in the boot in just over an hour

Drive to Yorkshire Sunday, work on it Monday, Back Monday night, reinstall Tuesday, Ground run Wednesday !


The engine was mounted on a sturdy bench … nose down … bolting 3 bolts through the prop driver plate through the table … this made a really easy working environment and the engine was easy to rotate

Given the photos I’d sent ..we looked to remove the rocker push riot tubes from one side first and investigate … rocker cap off, rockers undone .. pin removed … head slackened in turn …and tubes slid out of position

The alloy tubes sit in small alloy cups that then mate into the sump body. The place they insert has a rubber ring in the sump body, the allow tube has a rubber ring … the cups should be quite stiff to remove … but weren’t

This was repeated for all 4 tubes on one side and all cups were relatively slack

These were thoroughly cleaned and de greased and then new rubbers, Vaselined up and a dab of heat proof silicone for surety … and popped back in place .. this was related both sides of the block

Kevin had pre drilled the rear of the backplate – Spider to allow easy (regular) torque checking of the new flywheel bolts vs the big in situ strip.down I had to do when replacing the bolts and nordloc washers last time 👍

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