...... since I made the time to post anything on here, so, during the quiet few days between Christmas and the new year I thought that I would address that situation somewhat. Since my last post around 18 months ago, we moved our plane, G-BIWW, fropm LFCJ to LFCP (more about that later), moved house (I hate moving house!), built a new swimming pool at our new home, refurbished the one in the other house, brought a new plane (N9910U) and I've extended my licence and flying skills.
The move from LFCJ - at the end of 2012 into the beginning of 2013 it was clear that there were some serious issues coming to the surface at the aeroclub we were members of and two factions were beginning to appear; this came to a head at the AGM in February where one faction managed to split the club, form a new one (with the backing of the Mayor, who treats the airfield as his own play-thing, and the town's money) and effectivly bankrupt and evict the old club from the premesis. As we have freinds on both sides of the disagreement and are and will be, no matter how good our French and integratins skills are, foreigners, we and the only other English member decided it better not to renew in 2013 and move to the club at Pons, LFCP about 10 miles away and watch from afar as the battle took place. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made in my limited aeronautical career; we have been warmly welcomed into the other club, they have found parking/hangerage for our aircraft, my 14 year old son has started his theory instruction and flying their Jodel and the entire atmosphere is much more jovial and light-hearted, a welcome change.
Following its annual in the UK we brought G-BIWW to LFCP for the first time in March this year, an eventful journey to say the least as the skies opened the day I arrived to fly her back to France and caused chaos on the roads and closed the airfiled with huge snow-storms across SE England and nothern France. We were stuk waiting for two days for the snow to clear and then given special permission from Rochester Airport manager Kelvin to depart as the runway was still not totally usable. We started our runup at the far end of the parking lot, accelerated through the parking, onto the runway and took virtually the whole length of the piste to take off. Unbeknown to us, we also picked up quite a bit of mud which, in the freezing temperatures of the cross channel flight to Calais turned into a huge lump of ice on the right brake caliper which, on landing had us turning circles in the middle of a (thankfully very quiet) Calais runway until we identified the problem, removed the ice and all was back to normal again. We taxied to the ramp, closed our flightplan, filled with fuel and took to the skies for a thankfully uneventful flight to LFCP, getting a fantastic view of frozen France passing beneath us until we passed the Loire and the temperatures warmed up.
At the beginning of May, my friend and CAA instructor based at Limoges Airport, Stuart Morton, came over and he, my son Oliver and I flew to Nogaro in the foothills of the Midi-Pyrenees in G-BIWW. It also gave Oliver his first (official) flying time to enter into his logbook as he (under stuart's tuition) piloted us home.
In June, at the beginning of the summer flying season I got the call no owner wants to hear that our plane, while being flown by another pilot, had been crashed on the runway and the front gear has collapsed. Thankfully, of the four people on board, none were injured, which was, of course, the most important matter. On getting to the airfield, this was the sad sight waiting for me. Once we had moved her from the runway and into the hanger we identified that the damage also included the prop, the engine (new!), all of the cowlings and some ancillary bits and pieces. What looked like a fairly simple repair job ended up with the aircraft being decalred a "constructive total loss" by our insurance company due to the exceptionally high costs of the replacemet parts. In the end, I accepted their (very fair) settlement, purchased the wreck back from the insurance company and also brought a replacement aircraft, N9910U, a similar model with great avionics but a tired engine and exterior - the plan being to utilise some of the parts from G-BIWW and then break the rest into a lifetime of spares for '10U'.
N9910U is a 1977 Grumman AA5-A Cheetah, virtually the same as BIWW but meaning that I now have a large amount of spare parts should they be needed. The entire aircraft is 'original' which is polite for old and tired and, with the exception of the avionics, in need of complete refurbishment, so giving me a new project and money-pit for the next 5 years or so!
The first job we decided to tackle was to update the 1970's interior; while it had aged well and was in overall very good condition, the red just HAS to go.
Interior stripped, all carpets, side panels, seats and seat structures removed.
New carpets in, rear headset/radio connections installed, leather rear bench from G-BIWW installed
Interior update complete - we used the virtually new leather seats and side panels from G-BIWW to completely update the tired interior - a huge difference I'm sure that you will agree. I still have the old interior from 10U which I may install into BIWW at some point if I choose not to break her for parts but to repair her. The next job is to replace the engine in 10U, while her power plant is working well and has good compressions (in the early to mid 70's) it's now over TBO and is due for replacement. One of the main reasons I purchsed the wreck of BIWW was for the engine as, although shock-loaded it only had 40 hours on it so, once rebuilt is a far more cost-effective way to replace the power plant in 10U over 0 timing.
A half-day's work saw the engine from G-BIWW removed from the airframe, attached to a pallet and ready for shipping from France to Ronaldson Airmotive in Oxford who will rebuild it and uprate it from 150HP to 160HP prior to installing it into 10U. Again, as with the interior, I'll either install the old engine back into BIWW if we choose to repair it or sell it, choices choices.
As N9910U is fully IFR rated, in November I headed off to Nevada for three weeks of intensive flying and (what I thought would be) a bit of a holiday with the aim of getting my FAA Instrument Rating (IR) as there seemed little point in having an IFR rated aircraft and not being able to (leagally) use that capability. In just over 2 weeks of flying I added 40 hours of instrument time, and passed my written, oral and practical examinations to gain my instrument rating. I'm not kidding when I say that it was, without exception, one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do and required complete immersion and study, it has made me a much better pilot, far more aware of the messages that the aircraft is giving me and increased my confidence 100 fold. During the latter half of my time there my buddy from Limoges, Stuart, also came over to complete his IR and his FAA CPL and Multi-engine ratings, so we managed a few evenings in the bars and casinos together inbetween our hectic study regieme.
Putting new-found skills to use the week I returned on a long XC from LFCP-LFAT
So there we have it, a very brief round-up of 2013's flying activities and a promise to try a little harder to keep this blog more up to date in 2014 !!
Happy New Year everyone.