Saturday, 4 July 2009

Rumours

Apparently there aren't enough rumours in this blog, so here are a few. There will probably be some more after Oshkosh...
  1. Somewhere in the USA, probably in Kansas, there's a modified Citation Mustang. At the back you'll find the normal Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615Fs, but at the front, grafted to the nose, is a turboprop of some kind. The company could be testing a new engine for the Caravan, but there have been rumours about a high performance SET (single engine turbine) to compete presumably somewhere in the Meridian to PC-12 space rather than the utility market that that the Caravan occupies. Of course it could be even more radical, and be destined for an aeroplane that will sit just above their high performance single engine pistons.
  2. Back in the days when everyone was still pretending that the economy was booming, Rolls-Royce signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mooney. Rolls-Royce is developing the RR500, a small turbine, intended for use in smaller GA aircraft. The engine should deliver up to 480shp with the capability of producing something like 350shp continuously. I understand that Mooney was planning to develop an all-new, bigger airframe specifically for this engine.
  3. Alan Klapmeier's recent announcement at M7 is the result of a bit of a rift in Duluth. I understand that Alan and brother Dale are no longer working or playing well together.
  4. The town of Bend in Oregan is a bit quieter than it used to be since Cessna closed their factory there. Lance Neibauer, founder of Lancair is apparently working on a new aviation project. He is currently building a team and seeking finance. More news at Oshkosh perhaps?
  5. ...and finally, not really a rumour, but not widely reported either. Look out for G-FRGN in an upcoming AAIB bulletin. The Piper Dakota, Polly Vacher's around-the-world aeroplane, was badly damaged when it failed to get airborne from Polly's strip. I'm glad to say however that Polly is fine.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Cirrus photoshoot results


Got a look at some of the shots from the Cirrus photoshoot earlier this week. Top is an approach to the strip in order to take a look at the EVS system (the enhanced picture on the MFD). Centre is just a nice shot that happens to include the moon - funny to think that it was 40 years ago when Neil Armstrong took that step - and bottom is just a nice shot over Dorset. All pics copyright Oli Tennent

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Glider towing for beginners

I had a go at glider towing today and it all started with a BDFA meeting at Lasham. While I was there I took the opportunity to get a briefing just in case I need to fly in (or out) at some stage.

Lasham is home to one of the world's largest gliding clubs, and if the weather's great it is wall-to-wall sailplanes with simultaneous winch launches, aerotows and trial flights, all of which use sort of parallel(ish) runways. It is also a jet maintenance base, so there's the chance of the occasional 757 and 767 movement from time to time. I can see why they want people to be fully briefed before they fly in. Trying to join overhead, flying a long shallow approach or even a wide circuit has the potential to make life all a bit interesting.

Gordon McDonald, Lasham's ex-CFI talked me through the procedures and then offered to show me the ropes (no pun intended), by taking me along on a couple of aerotows in one of the club's Robins.

He talked me through two launches and then invited me to fly a couple for myself. As you can probably imagine, the acceleration is not too impressive, particularly with a large, two-seat glass ship hooked on the back. Most of the two-seat glass sailplanes are launched at 70kt, but the wooden training gliders (K7s I think) like to be towed up at 60kt which makes life interesting as the view forwards can only be described as blue and cloudy. The only thing louder than the engine at full power is the blaring stall-warner which spends more time on than off. I'm told that once airborne the pull on the rope is only about 40lb, so when the glider releases (good tug pilots will do what they can to fly their hitchiker into an area of lift) there's only a very smal jolt, it's then a case of looking in the rear-view mirror to see which way the glider is turning and then heading off in the opposite direction. All that remains is to return to the airfield as quickly as possibly while managing any engine cooling issues and of course avoiding all of the gliders that are being launched, or flying the circuit or just in the area.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

...it's great when it all works

The logistics for the day were a bit complex. Three of us from the office needed to get to a meeting in Wantage, one of us had to get to Turweston, a photographer had to be picked up in Blackbushe and the 182 needed picking up from Henstridge before an air-to-air shoot with a Cirrus SR22. Plenty of opportunity for it all to go wrong, but I'm happy to say that it all went right! We were on time for the meeting, and on time at Turweston.

I flew the SR22 with Nick Tarrat to Blackbushe where we loaded a photographer and made for Henstridge via an approach to the strip to check some of the terrain warning system (it worked). The 182, complete with fresh Annual was ready and waiting and while I filled the tanks with fuel (ouch), Oli took the SR22 ground shots on a convenient patch of grass. It wasn't long before we were joined by an Apache helicopter who'd popped in for what I assume was a bit of training. We then did the air-to-air, and right on cue up popped a nice blue hole with some great light. Nick was flying the SR22 while I flew the 182 with Oli on board.

One of the biggest variables when it comes to air-to-air photography is the ability of the formation pilot. I'm not just talking about safety (which comes first, second, third and fourth in terms of priority) but about the ability to listen, to put the aircraft in the right position, and generally to work as part of the team. Nick was just brilliant, and the shoot went without a hitch. I took Oli back to Blackbushe (which had closed) and then took the 182 back to the strip enjoying the silky smooth air and the late evening sunlight.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The year in numbers

The Annual is nearly complete and I've been making sure that the logs are all up to date. Over the last twelve months the 182 has flown 127 hours, not a huge amount for an aircraft, but probably a little higher than the average for a single owner SEP. Of course, the trouble with low annual usage numbers is that the fixed costs - things like insurance, parking or hangarage, trust agreements and fixed maintenance (ie the Annual) work out quite high per hour. Putting all of these together for 'EW it works out that I'm paying roughly £35 an hour to cover the fixed costs. On top of that there's obviously fuel and oil to be added (about £65 at today's prices), so roughly speaking the 182 comes in at about £100 an hour. That compares very favourably with hire costs; the average for a C182 is about £175/hr. There are advantages to renting, the main one being that it doesn't tie up chunks of capital, but a renter also has the luxury of handing the aeroplane back at the end of the day, regardless of any mechanical issues, to get fixed at someone else's cost. But the rental aeroplane may not be available when you want it, you may have to have it back by a certain time, and you will quite probably find it difficult to take away for a week or so.