Monday, February 28, 2005

Washed-out Weekend

Well, besides having to work all weekend (for no additional pay), it rained all day Saturday and Sunday, adding insult to injury. Sure will be nice to get up in the air again!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

More Thunderbird thoughts

I know this is an ultralight related blog, and I love to fly. I want to be flying right now, but since I can't fly at the moment, I want to talk a bit more about my Thunderbird.

I finally got my Thunderbird SC back on the road after a year and a half of being on jackstands. I originally put it up on the stands because the clutch slave cylinder was leaking so bad that I had to replenish the fluid every day. Replacing the slave cylinder was such a big job that I dreaded doing it. The entire exhaust system had to be removed, the fuel tank lowered (not removed) the driveshaft disconnected and slid out the rear, then the transmission needed to be removed, just to get at the slave cylinder. Of course, all the leaking fluid contaminated the friction material in the clutch, so the whole thing had to be replaced, then everything needed to be reinstalled. All in all, the job took me about 16 hours spread over several days. It wasn't too bad once I got started, but it wasn't easy either.

It was certainly worth the effort. I'm a Thunderbird/Cougar man. I haven't found another car that fits my body as well. I've owned two 1995 Cougars, a 1995 Thunderbird LX, a 1996 Thunderbird LX, but the 1994 Thunderbird SC really is nicer than all of them!

Monday, February 21, 2005

No flying this weekend, so lets talk about cars!

Well, no flying this past weekend. Too windy on Saturday and I watched the Daytona 500 yesterday. Damn Jeff Gordon... He's good, but I don't like him. I pull for Mark Martin, who finished 6th. I was working on the clutch replacement for my 1994 Thunderbird SC on Saturday, all day. My hands are all cut up, but I got the tranny back in. When I was installing the exhaust, I dropped one of the manifold nuts into the exhaust, and it got caught up in the catalytic converter and I couldn't get it out. When I do get the nut out and put the exhaust back on, I'll have the car back on the road. It's been on jackstands for about a year due to a leaky clutch slave cylinder, which contaminated the friction disc, so I replaced the entire match. The supercharged 3.8 liter V6 isn't a powerhouse with only 230 ponies, but it sure is fun to drive! I'm looking forward to it.

My Thunderbird SC before installation of the black spoiler and black pinstriping. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 14, 2005

My Quicksilver MX descending to one of my favorite "low and slow" play spots. If you look carefully, you can see a thin, horizontal gray line in the upper left. This is the Fort Deposit, Alabama airport. Photo courtesy of Don Addison...that's his shoe in the lower left! Posted by Hello

The town of Hayneville, Alabama as we fly around on our return from Prattville. Photo courtesy of Don Addision. Posted by Hello

View of the Prattville (Autauga County) Alabama airport [1A9] as Don and I are entering the pattern. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Flying to the sawmill (photos follow text)

I arrived at the airport around 9:45 yesterday morning. My friend Don was already there, piddling around getting ready to fly. We talked for a few minutes before deciding where to fly. The wind was kicking up a bit with gusts up to about 10 knots according to the windsock, blowing anywhere the southwest to the northwest. The wind was only supposed to be 5-7 MPH until noon. So much for accurate weather forecasting, eh? I decided to go up and fly a pattern to see how bad the wind actually was aloft.

I did a thorough preflight before cranking the engine, which fired quite predictably on the first pull after priming. It died because I couldn't get another shot of fuel to it in time, but started up just fine after another pull on the rope. I strapped in without all the electronic gadgets like my GPS or radio or headset. I wore only hearing protection and earmuffs. The weather was about 60 degrees on the ground with sun shining through the haze. I taxied out to the runway and after checking for traffic, taxied out to the far end (runway 33) to takeoff into the wind as much as possible. I checked for traffic once more before turning around and aligning to the runway centerline and pushing the throttle forward.

I was off the ground in about 50 feet. As soon as the tires cleared the pavement, the airplane weathervaned into the wind, which was blowing out of the northeast at that moment. I was at 600 AGL before half the runway was under me. I turned left twice to enter back into the pattern for landing. I went long on downwind because I was a bit high, then I turned base and final. The turn to final was not pretty as the wind wanted to push me into a steeper bank than I wanted. After lining up on the runway, I chopped the power and seemed to float down to the runway. At about 100 feet I added power and pointed the nose down because I was floating like crazy. I was doing the rudder dance as I touched the pavement. Ground speed was about 10 MPH, but airspeed was still about 25 or so. I bounced about 4 times, but they were short little bounced. The wind was trying to keep me up. The upwind wind lifted, so spoiler and rudder in that direction brought it back down. The taxi back was very slow, as the plane wanted to fly. When I got back to the hanger, I told my friend that it was windy, but nothing too terrible, which was true, now that my wing dihederal is half of what it was!

We decided to go flying to a sawmill that my friend was interested in photographing from an airborne perspective. He explained the route we would fly, following certain roads and cautioned me that landing spots enroute were scarce should either of us have a problem. I've flown over this way before and I know that he is telling the truth. The sawmill is about 12 miles straight line distance, but our route following the roads will be about 18 miles. I told him I'm game, and we both strap in and head to the destination.

We gradually climb to 2000 feet MSL. My indicated airspeed is 50+, but the groundspeed varies between 30 and 35 MPH. For the first part of the trip, there are a few suitable landing spots and I feel pretty comfortable, until I notice that one of my EGT gauges is reading about 100 degrees higher than the other. I'm only slightly concerned, because I ordered new probes about 10 hour back, and within an hour, one of them quit working. I sent it back for an exchange, but I installed an older, used probe for the time being. This probe has always reacted differently that the one that was new. I've been meaning to change it out, but you know how things go. I know better...procrastination has no part in airplane repair, so now I'm paying for my laziness by a severe lack of peace of mind. I try different RPM ranges, and the gauge response by getting cooler. This bothers me for the rest of the trip, no matter what RPM range I am running. It seems to be worst about 5200-5400 RPM. It's fine when I slow down to 4800-4900 RPM, but then I can't keep up with my friend, who's ahead of me. To make matters worse, we are starting to fly over areas where there's hardly anyplace to land safely, except maybe on a road. I'm not really comfortable with roads either, but that's another story.

I finally see what appears to be a sawmill in the distance, and I'm relieved that there are several places to land nearby, should they be needed. As we get overhead, my friend starts circling and taking pictures. I also circle off to the side as to give him clear access to any angle that he wants. We are both at about 800 feet AGL. When Don starts climbing, I know he's finished shooting and we both start to head back. I'm still having problems (real or not) with my EGT.

The flight home is relatively uneventful, and we arrive back at the airport with nothing unusual happening. I enter the pattern, turn base and final and land right on the numbers. I taxi off to the side of the runway in the grass and make way for Don to land. As I turn to see what's going on, Don flys over me and lands past me about 100 feet we both taxi back and shutdown. Total flight lasted about 1.1 hours and we covered about 38 miles. It was a pretty good flight.

Notes to myself before flying again...

Change the suspicious EGT probe...
Change my radio to antenna cable to the proper length (reduce length by 10 feet or so)...
Replace a rusty bolt that was found on the preflight inspection...

This GPS track shows the route flown to the sawmill (see below for article). The field annotated in the image is the same field shown in the picture below. Posted by Hello

Approaching the sawmill, Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

Circling the sawmill. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

See that multi-colored speck in over the green trees? That's me! Don was at about 2200 MSL, I was at about 1000 MSL heading toward a field. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

More photos from the flight to Prattville

Here's a few more pictures taken on the flight to Prattville on January 9th. These photos were taken my my BFI friend Don Addison.

Another pond in the series. I believe the house is vacant. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

Same pond...different angle. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

A private pond belonging to a friend of Don's. Photo courtesy of Don Addison. Posted by Hello

The Alabama River. Photo courtesy of Don Addison.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More dihederal perceptions

I went flying on Sunday afternoon also. It was a bit windy at altitude. At anywhere from 500AGL to 1000AGL winds were gusting from different directions. I only flew about 40 minutes because it was so windy and it was starting to cloud up with even stronger winds. I'm sure I could have continued to fly, but I didn't like what the weather was doing. I'm convinced that I wouldn't have been up for more than 5 minutes with my old wire setup. I would have been blown around even more. I believe that I'll be flying more in conditions that would have kept me on the ground previously. It's not that I couldn't fly in 10MPH+ winds before...I could. I just didn't have any fun doing it. Now, since I get bumped around less, I'll start to explore what I consider to be flyable wind speed. I like my new wires!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Perceptions of new dihederal

I've only got an hour or so flying with the new wires. I was a bit apprehensive when I was taxiing out for takeoff. One thing that was absent on the taxi was the noise of the wings flopping around a bit as they usually do. With the slight slack in the old wires, you could easily hear the thimbles on the ends clinking every time you went over a bump or the wind lifted a wing. The new wires are nice and taught, so all that noise was gone.

I advanced the throttle when properly positioned and the takeoff and climbout was normal. My first turn to get out of the pattern was definitely different. The old wires and large amount of dihederal tended to produce a turn with the tail slightly low (uncoordinated for you flying folks) and didn't quite follow the turn too well. With the new, lowered dihederal, this was not apparent to me. The wings rolled over and the tail didn't sag in the direction of the turn. I liked this. Now back to the wings rolling...I was not prepared for the amount of bank angle and it surprised me a bit. The same amount of rudder input created a much steeper bank angle. I'm sure I will get used to this in a very short amount of time. As expected, I also noticed that I had to give a bit of opposite rudder control to "fly out" of the turn, when I didn't used to have to do this. It became a natural thing for me to do after the first two or three turns. That about covers it for turning.

Straight and level flight was affected also, but in a positive way. The wind was blowing about 15-20 MPH at about 1000 feet. This type of wind effected my craft considerably with the old wires. It would blow me around enough where I would have to fight most of the time to keep the heading that I intended. It wasn't hard work, but it required course corrections constantly. Also, when a strong gust hit the plane, I used to be able to feel and hear the wings as the cables on top and bottom would get loose, then tighten up again. With the new wires and their tightness, this is completely absent. Also, gusts don't seem to affect the MX as much with the lowered dihederal. Both of these things will be welcomed characteristics.

Landing seems to be different also, but it may be because of the incidence change in the horizontal stabilizer due to the lowered wing position and how this affects the upper boom tubes, where the stabilizer mounts. I didn't change it before I flew with the new wires because I already needed to trim the front edge of the stab down more to get closer to hands-off flight at cruise. Even with the new wires, it's not enough to fly hands-off on elevator, but it's closer. As you approach the runway for landing, the flare seems to be more predictable and less sensitive than before. As the flare happens, the airplane seems to have less of a desire to "balloon" and float up. I've been having problems with dropping in from 1-2 feet, or floating up and having to add power to keep from dropping in from 4-5 feet. All of this seemed to be gone with the new wires. Once on the ground, the upwind wing didn't want to lift nearly as much and it was much easier to get it down by giving rudder input towards the downwind wing. This makes for much less apprehension on cross-wind landings, and will certainly be a welcomed characteristic!

I didn't notice any increase in cruise speed, but yesterday wasn't a very good day to test in, being so windy. I hope I'll pick up a few miles per hour, but I'll have to wait and see.

With the added security of 1/8" wires versus the 3/32", which seem tiny by comparison, I think the new characteristics were well worth the investment. I think I'll be even happier as I get to fly with them more in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

New flying wires installed

Today I changed from the stock MX wing wires to a heavy-duty aftermarket set built by Mark Smith. As you can see from the before and after shots, the new wires give me about half of the dihederal as the stock wires. The new wire set also uses 1/8" wires instead of the factory 3/32" wires. This helps to keep them from stretching and sagging. The new wires give me a nice, cozy feeling that they won't ever cause any problem, and they sure are tight. I had to prop up one wing and hang weights from the other, just to get enough slack to install the final connection. It was tough, but the results were worth it.

I flew for an hour tonight. When I have time I'll write up my impression of flying with the new set.

Dihederal after wire change Posted by Hello

Diherderal before wire change Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

As promised a long time ago, I just added a link to a detailed description of my MX. It's in the right-hand margin. I haven't listed specific weights or speeds as of yet, but that will come in the future. I'm tossing around the idea of creating a 3D model of the entire airplane using Solidworks 3D Modeling software. Lots of useful things can come from that, such as modifications and what effect they have on center of gravity and things like that. I'll probably never have the time to do it, but you never know.