Saturday, 13 March 2010

It's been six months

Hard to believe, but the C182 hasn't been flown for six months. It went in for a little work last September, by the time that had been sorted I was away in the US, and when I got back the short days, bad weather and workload conspired to keep the aeroplane on the ground. This year started with three-and-a-bit weeks away, then some more bad weather, etc.

Eventually, I ignored the demands of work for a couple of hours, gave it a thorough pre-flight, carefully sumped the tanks and started the engine. It was a close run thing, but after six months of sitting idle through rain, snow, wind and cold the battery persuaded the engine to turn through a few blades and it fired, although I was on the verge of reaching for the external battery when it did.

It's tough to explain how good it felt. The C182 doesn't just feel like an old friend, she is an old friend. We've shared all sorts of experiences, from skimming glaciers in the alps to loafing along airways in Russia - and this short flight sort of reunited the partnership.

April and May will be busy at work, but I'm determined to spend some time with a very good friend.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Top 5 actions after a gear-up landing

1. Move the gear selector to the down position
2. Re-confirm with everyone on board that you'd put the gear down in the circuit
3. If there's time, break the bulb in the gear unsafe light(s)
4. Do not, under any circumstances, comment on the tallness of the firefighters as they make their way towards you
5. Make sure the gear selector is in the down position, see 1

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Alternate reality

Back in June 2008, I changed the alternator on the C182. I fitted a new, shiny Kelly alternator. It replaced another Kelly alternator that had, in less than a year, gone from being new to being useless. The case was no longer hanging together as the lock-wired bolts weren't doing the job they were designed for.

158 hours later, the latest new Kelly alternator is failing with a loud whining noise making music in the headsets. The case is staying in one piece this time so there's presumably a different fault.

I'm constantly amazed how the uber-regulated world of certified aviation can permit parts that are as useless as Kelly alternators seem to be.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Extra secutiy heading our way

The EU Security Directive was due to come into force in the UK on 29 April, but thanks to a consultation and the forthcoming General Election it looks like things will be delayed until perhaps June.

The EU Directive does allow countries to apply different rules to different types of aeroplane and operation. It looks like the bar has been set at 15 tonnes which certainly excludes our kind of GA. Well, sort of.

Although an aircraft under 15 tonnes will not be subject to the same increased security measures, it will be subject to a risk assessment and, pending that outcome, some form of security, however minimal.

It is also likely that we will become subject to the same security measures imposed on aircraft of over 45 tonnes when we use the same facilities.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wanna build a Sport Cruiser?

If you want to build a SportCruiser you'd better see if UK dealer Onega, or anyone else has a kit they'll sell you. A while ago I suggested that the SportCruiser, now the PiperCruiser would no longer be available as a kit. I've now had an email from Piper's spokesperson Mark Miller. He confirmed that Piper is the exclusive customer for the aeroplane, and that no kits will be available.
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Monday, 8 March 2010

Fuel woes

We've been doing some work on fuel prices in the office. Avgas is generally more than £1.50 a litre, and in some places over £2 a litre. That's bloody expensive, but at least it is still available in the UK, there are quite a few places in the world where you can't buy avgas at any price.

So what's the answer, mogas engines? Perhaps, mogas is certainly much more available than avgas, but it comes with limitations on altitude and that's without the concern over ethanol in fuel.

So how about jet A1 engines? There are currently three certificated options...

Thielert - Started life being put into Diamonds and the Robin Ecoflyer, had a contract with Cessna and went bust. Centurion (one of teh biggest stands at Friedrichshafen last year) now offering Thielert engines providing those with existing engines spares and new engines. I suspect that many OEMs are nervous of the name.

AustroEngines - Diamond's own engine, now certificated in the DA42. This engine should prove to be good, but many will be looking for more field experience before parting with cash. Christian Dries (Mr Diamond) has previously said that the engine is available to any OEM who wants to buy it, but so far only Diamond is fitting the engine.

SMA - French engine developed with huge amounts of money, partly by some of the Renault F1 team (when they were out of F1). Maule is set to become the first OEM with the M9.

No obvious winner there, and while we'd all love cheap and light turbines, they're not just around the corner - so what's going to happen? For those happy to fly lighter two-seat aeroplanes then the Rotax 912 is the answer: reliable, light, frugal and runs on avgas.

For those who need more power it looks like the SMA is currently the best long-term bet. Watch this space!

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Stunning weather, clear blue skies, gentle winds, aeroplane isn't on maintenance and is available with fuel waiting in the tanks...and I'm sitting here with a heavy cold. Just great.