Saturday, 18 April 2009

Europa defeat

I can still remember the conversation with Ivan Shaw. I'd parked in a layby, and he was in his Wombleton factory. The end result was that we (as in Flyer magazine) would build a Europa. In due course we took delivery, and spent countless hours preparing a workshop. First things first, and in order to get approval to start building both Miles and I had to 'build' a wheel chock. This involved complex curves, fillets of resin and flox and all sorts of other techniques that would come in handy during the build process. Things progressed and before too long we had finished (well, up to a point) the tail and wings.

At some stage the builder's disease started to kick in. There were things that we could improve, modifications that we could make, a different wingtip here, a different undercarriage there... and a BRS (Ballistic Recovery 'Chute) to top it all. Each and every one of these modifications added complexity, time and money. From memory, we paid £2.5k for FEA (Finite Element Analysis) on the undercarriage, god knows how much on the BRS (we junked that idea when it all became way, way too difficult) and endended up buying a new fuselage top to replace the one we'd modified to allow the rocket-propelled parachute to fire.

The delays multiplied and the Europe spent a long time under various dust sheets. Miles moved house, became a father and found a new workshop. After a meeting where we decided to get the thing flying as soon as possible, junking any modifications that we could, things moved on, but before long the dustsheets were out again.

Now the project is for sale, and we'll take any reasonable offer.

What have I learned?

1. Building a kit is a big commitment; modifying a kit makes it a huge commitment
2. Build it somewhere where you can work on it daily. If you have to drive an hour to get to the workshop you're making life very dificult indeed.
3. If things start to slow down, get some help paid or similar. It's all about momentum.
4. I hate wet layup composite work.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Rough Diamond

Diamond Aircraft displayed the DA40 complete with their new AE300 engine at Friedrichshafen. The new engine, which shares some DNA with the Thielert Centurion, is mounted differently hence the new cowling. The new engine brings an extra 40hp (which is nearly a third more than the 135hp Centurion) so performance should be much improved. That cowl however does little for the aesthetics and looks like it will bring a whole bunch of extra drag too. As soon as I get a chance, I'll go to the factory for a flight and an update.