Saturday, 27 June 2009

Aviation parts

I consider myself lucky. So far, and it is almost complete, the Annual on the 182 has only revealed the need for a small number of out-of-the-ordinary parts. There's a cracked blade aerial that I'm changing in an attempt to bring the DME back to life (it's a Narco unit, so I'm not hopeful), the brass plug in the carburettor bowl needs changing as we had to wreck the old one to get it out, and the top hinge on the pilot's door was well and truly broken. This was concerning, not because I thought the door might fall off, I didn't, but because I was sure that it would take a while to get one shipped from the US and I need to fly to Dublin on Wednesday. Luckily, thanks to a friend in the industry, I managed to find a hinge that was surplus to requirements in stock in the UK. It arrived through the post less than 24 hours after I handed over my credit card details. The hinge (which is actually only half of the hinge) is priced at about $200. Wentworth, a good source for used parts quoted $125 for a hinge, but in the end I struck a deal with Cormack Aircraft Services that suited us both. If there's no other snags, the Annual should be complete by Tuesday morning. Famous last words?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Klapmeier breaks cover

Alan Klapmeier, current Chairman, ex CEO and joint founder of Cirrus Design (now known as Cirrus Aircraft) today announced that he was putting together a team to secure funding and buy the SF50 jet project from Cirrus Aircraft. The announcement was made at M7, the annual event that brings hundreds of customers and their aeroplanes back to the factory in Duluth. Klapmeier has engaged Merrill Lynch and is positive about being able to raise the necessary finance. He estimates that it will take two tranches of $60m each in order to develop, certify and bring the SF50 to market - by the way, it could be called the Aegis jet if Klapmeier is successful. While no deal has been done, I understand that the intention is for the new company to take over the liability for the existing deposit holders, but not for the pending L3 lawsuit. L3 is claiming a total of $21.3m, $18.3m of which relates to a cancelled contract for 75 SmartDeck systems.

At the same M7 event Brent Wouters, Cirrus Aircraft's current CEO, also spoke about the jet project. Interestingly, while acknowledging that Klapmeier had approached the board and Arcapita (Cirrus Aircraft's main shareholder) he went on to say that he saw the SF50 as playing a key role in the future of Cirrus Aircraft. He also went on to say that he saw outside capital coming into Cirrus Aircraft in order for the existing company to complete development and certification as quickly as possible. The next few months promise some interesting times, particularly in the Cirrus Aircraft boardroom, or at family events.

Listen to Alan Klapmeier and Brent Wouters, both courtesy of ANN
Read about L3's lawsuit

Grey skies

I should have known. The tennis players have enjoyed four full days of play at Wimble -don and the crowds are heading for Glastonbury. It must mean rain, and lots of it. The plan for today included six flights, all of them in or through the bands of heavy rain and predicted storms. One of the flights was an air-to-air photo shoot, and unless you are looking for a low contrast moody shot, then sunshine is the thing that's needed. I looked for a glimour of hope in the TAFs, but I could see the day being spent in various airfield cafes waiting for the weather to clear and the sun to shine. For once the time pressure is not stupid (ie this one is not needed by now), so I took the decision to pull the plug early and wait for an altogether nicer day. Anyone want to bet that it will be raining next Tuesday?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Time for an Annual

At the end of June, the Annual for N681EW runs out. There was a time when an Annual meant delivering the aeroplane to a maintenance organisation and bending over while simultaneously opening my wallet. When the wallet was completely empty, I only had to ask when they'd like me to come back and bend over again. Usually after two or three months the Annual would be complete, and I'd contributed a year's earnings to some engineering retirement fund, or so it seemed.

I'm very pleased to say that I've since found an engineer who not only does a great job, but who is also more than happy for me to get involved in the maintenance too, so as soon as the early morning mist had cleared I drove the few miles to the strip and flew to Henstridge which sits right on the eastern the edge of Yeovilton's MATZ. I tend to give them a call, and today made contact just as I passed Alfred's Tower. I was more than a litle surprised when they asked if I could fly 'not above 500 feet' for coordination. There was a scattering of houses, buildings, fences, hedges and walls below meaning that I could easily find myself in breach of the 500' rule. Sadly saying that 'ATC made me do it and then they ran away' would not work as a defence. So I did the only sensible, mature thing and pushed the nose over, went to full throttle and picked my way carefully at 500' or less agl while studiously avoiding any man-made object.

Shutting down at Henstridge I took the cowls off and removed the to plugs from each cylinder for the compression test. With a Continental this is best done when the engine is hot or warm (hence the full throttle earlier, and you thought I was just having fun), I'm pleased to say that the numbers were all good, for a Continental that is. I spent the rest of the day helping to take the interior out, opening up all of the inspecton panels, cleaning, gapping and testing the spark plugs, taking the spats off and changing the oil. I'm glad to say that when I cut open the filter, and took a close look at the pleated material inside, there was a pleasing absence of metalic particles, indicating that nothing catastrophic was happening internally. This year there are a few small things to attend to, but with a bit of luck it should be complete by early next week. I’ll be heading back to Henstridge on Saturday to get my hands dirty again.


OK, not a huge connection with aviation, but I'm sure I'll find one. I was given a pair of tennis tickets for Father's day - they were for day 1, court 1 at Wimbledon. I spent the day there with my younger daughter who's 17.

I've been to Wimbledon a couple of times before and really enjoy the atmosphere and of course the tennis. This year both lived up to expectations and we watched Sharapova beat Kutozova in two sets, and wildcard Ward go out to Fernando Verdasco. One benefit of getting a ticket to one of the early days of the tournament is that there is just so much tennis going on all over the place. Find a seat by one of the outside courts (there's no reserved seating for many of these) and you really are close to the action. Most of the people playing will have unpronounceable names that you wouldn't have heard of, but their skill leaves you in no doubt that this is tennis of the highest level. If I even managed to return a serve it would be by accident. All in all a fantastic day out.

Ah yes, that aviation connection. Wimbledon as you can imagine has a bit of a captive audience and if you are not prepared enough to take your own food and drink into the grounds you offer yourself up for some good old fashioned gouging and the Americans would say. Parking? £25 please, sandwich? £4.10 please, small bottle of water? £2 please - and that makes it almost 300% dearer than avgas per litre, and I know which is more fun to consume.