Saturday, 22 August 2009

How's your Sprag clutch?

The Rotax 912S is almost certainly the world's best-selling aviation engine at the moment. It's the power plant of choice for almost every LSA in the US (Cessna's SkyCatcher is powered by Continental's O-200D) and can be found in all sorts of microlights and homebuilt aircraft. It's a four-stroke 100hp engine and has a reputation for being both highly reliable and frugal.

Recently however, I've heard of a few owners who have had to replace sprag clutches much earlier than they would like. The engine has a TBO of 1,500 hours, but some sprag clutches (used to engage the starter) have needed replacement at 150 hours.

If you are a Rotax 912S owner, drop me an email or leave a comment about your experience with the sprag clutch.

Friday, 21 August 2009

2009 Burned Children's Club

Today was a good day. Today was a day when a few of us could get together, give a little time and/or fuel, and give some pleasure to a group of children attending a local camp. All of the children have been seriously burned, and all are on a holiday organised by the Burned Children's Club.

Of course a day like this doesn't just happen and Jim & Pat Dalton put a huge amount of work and effort into making it all run smoothly. There's a group of volunteers who work alongside them organising and recording what's going on, while others provide food, entertainment and safe passage to or from the aircraft.

It's great to be involved in something like this, it's great to see people enjoying flying so much, and it's great to see everyone pulling together to make this happen with the minimum of fuss.

Eclipse lives again

As expected, the bankruptcy judge dealing with the demise of Eclipse accepted the only bid for the company's assets yesterday (August 20).

The $40m bid was put together by two deposit holders, Mason Holland and Mike Press. The way is now clear for the company to reopen on September 1 with Eclipse's assets and no debts. The 'original' Eclipse burnt through an estimated $1.7 billion before closing down.

Holland and Press have no plans to restart production immediately, but will concentrate on bringing the existing fleet up to spec (the assets include the DayJet fleet), and on supplying parts and service to existing owners.

Klapmeier clears desk

US aviation news service ANN is reporting that Alan Klapmeier, Cirrus Design co-founder, has cleared his desk at the company's Duluth, Minnesota offices.

Klapmeier founded Cirrus Design (now Cirrus Aircraft) with his brother Dale, who still works for Cirrus, twenty years ago.

Over the past twenty years, he has built a reputation for passionately promoting GA as a business tool, and for his efforts to promote aviation to a non-pilot audience.

He recently put together a team to buy the Vision SF50 jet programme from Cirrus, but negotiations broke down during Oshkosh. It's not yet known when or where he'll reappear in the aviation world, but there's little doubt that he'll be back.

Charity begins with an Aircoupe

This blog doesn't usually carry ads for aircraft for sale, but this one is a bit special. It's a Fourney Aircoupe F-1A, and what makes it special is that the proceeds from the sale will go to the Burned Childrens Club. Tony Crowe is looking after the sale and has posted a lot of details on the FLYER forum here.

I flew the aircraft earlier this week and it's a good, honest little aeroplane that handles well, and sips avgas at about 4.5gph. With a price tag of £14,000 ono (and with no VAT to pay) it has the potential to provide extremely low-cost flying for a small group.

Email Tony at for more details.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Photo shoots

Yesterday afternoon we did a photo shoot for an upcoming feature. One of the variables that makes an air-to-air shoot interesting (by which I mean a pain in the backside) is any performance differences between the photo ship and the subject aeroplane. At the slow end of the scale we've photographed flexwing microlights, at the fast end a Cessna 421 and even an Eclipse Jet.

There are things that can be done to help minimise the differences. If the subject aeroplane (or helicopter) is much slower, then putting it on the inside of a turn helps. If it is much faster, then a wide descending turn gets the speeds closer together - there's nothing worse than a picture of a jet with gear and flaps down and at a high angle-of-attack, or a speck in a blue sky that's actually a microlight lagging a mile or so behind.

Yesterday's subject, a BN Islander, was ideal - the Islander will fly at stupidly slow speeds or will fly at up to 130kt (which is also stupidly slow when you consider that it takes 600hp and the associated fuel burn to do that). It was also being flown by someone who teaches formation flying, which made things even easier.

ATC and 'pretend' clearances

OK, you are flying along minding your own business. Somewhere between your present position and your destination is a chunk of tiered, Class D, controlled airspace. You call up the relevant unit and make your request. In return you're given a squawk, the QNH and a Basic service. You are also asked to remain outside controlled airspace. So far so good.

Plan A is to continue on track, Plan B to remain on track and continue below the airspace or Plan C to turn east to avoid the airspace.

A couple of miles before the boundary you get a call, "G-ABCD cleared on a direct track to XXXX (where X = your destination), remain below 1,500' on a QNH of 1018."

The trouble is the controlled airspace starts at 1,500', so below that altitude you are outside controlled airspace - so what are you being cleared through? I would much prefer, "Unable to offer transit, please remain below controlled airspace which starts at 1,500', QNH 1018," to a pretend clearance that has the potential for confusion.

Any UK ATC out there?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A great little strip...

There are some great farm strips and some great people. Today, I needed somewhere green and quiet to meet Tony Crowe, to go flying in an Aircoupe that he's selling, and to take some pictures.

I emailed Jim Thorpe, PPL/IR member, part-time instructor and strip owner who emailed straight back with a 'no problem'.

Tredunnock is 800m of easy-to-use, slightly-uphill grass, there are only a few rules (to keep everyone happy) and it was just the job for today. So thanks Jim, the 'loan' of your strip is much appreciated.

..and there are good airports too

OK, I might enjoy the relative freedom and lack of complication that strip flying brings, but sometimes an airport is required. Today that airport was Gloucestershire (EGBJ).

Gloucestershire Airport (aka Staverton) is a bit of a favourite of mine. The opening hours are good, the people friendly and helpful, the facilities are good and the pub/cafe 'The Aviator' provides decent food at a decent price.

What's even more impressive (to me) is that they manage to combine all sorts of aviation from microlights to business jets without a problem.

Now - if only they could get the CAA to approve their GPS approach it would be even better.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Cirrus Jet video features...a Cessna

I know, small things and small minds, but the shadow of a Cessna 337 in a video from Cirrus Aircraft made me smile.

The video is part of the SF50 promotional material on the Cirrus Aviation site and includes a technical update on the project. I assume that the C337 was being used as the camera ship, and that the video's editor couldn't resist including the footage.

The Vision project, or more accurately negotiations over ownership of the programme, provided some interest and a fair few news stories during this year's AirVenture at Oshkosh.

A date for your diary

On 28th November I'll be attending the Aviators Ball. It's being held at the Holiday Inn, Regents Park, and if the last couple of years are any indication it will be another great event.

The organisers have worked to keep ticket prices reasonable in the current climate, so for just £58 per person you'll get...

Arrival drinks, a three-course meal including half a bottle of wine, a live jazz band, guest speakers and an aviation auction with some stunning prizes and a lot more.

Better still, profit from the event will go to the British Disabled Flying Association. Click here for more information and to book your ticket.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Lydeway, a perfect little fly-in

The annual Lydeway fly-in took place today. Despite being based at the strip for the past three years, this is the first event that I've been able to make and it was brilliant.

Nigel, the strip owner, limits the number of aircraft to about fifteen to keep things manageable. He also invites non-flying friends and local residents - everyone brings along some food to accompany the provided BBQ. A good time is had by pilots and visitors alike.

Any non-flying visitor is offered the chance to go flying with the pilots, enjoying short local rides. It's great to be able to share the sheer joy of flying and of course the event works well for building local relationships too. The combination of good weather, great food and pleasant company is hard to beat on a summer afternoon.