Repairs and Reconditioning

#939 Shell Creek Airpark

50 minutes clear skies …. Light breezes
This flight was the first after several modifications.
1) I raised the back of the seat and lowered the front.  I also put 2 inches of memory foam under the seat cover.  I’m trying to reposition my body so that the helmet will not contact with the cross brace (above the motor) and make it easer to reach the wing tip toggles.  
It worked but I’m not sure that it is the final solution.  The new seat position is a few inches forward of where I had it, putting more bend in my legs.  It’s not a problem when taxiing but it feels strange when I’m flying.  It has also reduced the size of the seat and its configuration.  Where the original seemed to wrap around me, this one feel likes I’m sitting on top.  I suspect it’s more perception than reality because I was just as exposed before this change….. it just feels like I’m, “hanging it out there”.  I think that I’m going to try it no pad and with the pad cut into two parts, seat and lumbar.
Never the less…. It worked.  My head was plenty clear of the crossbar and it was easy to reach the toggles.  Its definitely a step in the right direction.

To get a perspective, the back of the seat was touching the air intake pipes behind and below.

2)  I made was a new set of line keepers.  Over the last couple of months I’ve been having problems with lines being chopped.  In one instance for sure it was an outside wingtip line that was sucked in through the cage.  The other prop strikes … I saw lines below the keepers as the wing was inflating.  I don’t understand how slack lines were getting kicked out.  Even when I took care to position the lines in the keepers, in the same order that they would  leave, lines were being kicked out prematurely.  

The double loop is a bit artsy but the second loop puts a bit more pressure against the lines.  Hopefully this will keep slack outside lines under control until they are tensioned.  Aluminum tape covers the parts of the frame that the lines slide against including below the keeper in case one does go stray. There is electrical tape in the portion that hold the lines prior to inflation, it’s  slightly tacky and should protect against lines going slack between the hang-point and the keepers.
3) Belt has been replaced.  It was still serviceable but after 600+ hours, but what the heck?  I didn’t think it was slipping much … I could hear it squeal during take off and climb out occasionally but it never lasted long and the belt was never hot…..  I was wrong.  There is a noticeable increase in thrust and it is certainly quieter.

The flight was great.  I think the new configuration has moved enough weight forward that the front wheel is lower and the thrust line is more horizontal.  I will have to test it but my climb rate seems better and cruise RPM is lower.  This could be a huge improvement in efficiency.  It makes sense that a more horizontal thrust pushes me farther forward under the wing, increasing the angle of attack.  To think all these years I’ve been doing with a mediocre climb just so I could have my nose wheel a few inches higher.

Back in the Air … Flight 938

I layed out the Apco and launched.  The new belt is noticeably better.  It might need to be tightened a little more but it is not slipping at all.  When you start the engine there is a noticeable jolt as the prop starts turning.  There was no wind at the surface but I launched into where I thought it was and was rewarded with tremendous climb as soon as I left the surface.  The wind was pulling hard to the left because I had not set the trimmers correctly.  No Excuse….  I noticed that the wingtip steering was not threaded through the loop at the tip.  It still operated fine but it was not cupping the wing in the same way.  The seat needs to be changed.  I’m leaning too far back and my helmet is touching the cage frame.  It’s very uncomfortable.

When I got home, I lowered the front of the seat and fixed the wing.  I’m farther forward in this configuration.  My knees are more bent and it might have changed the balance so that the front wheel is lower than I like.  I don’t think it is likely to wheelbarrow but I’m going to have be careful.  A nose wheel landing isn’t a disaster but it would be tricky.

Bill & Joe’s Excellent Adventure Day 5

0200 hours What a night! I was sitting on one of the director chairs trying to read but the seas were so active that my chair I was sliding all over the deck.

At some point I slid over by the starboard wheel and wedged my foot into the helmsman seat to hold position and noticed that there was a strange clicking noise coming from the wheel. The auto helm was working hard to keep the boat on course, it was constantly in motion, turning the wheel 90 degrees and more and while I was watching, it failed. I could hear the electric motor trying but the wheel wasn’t moving. I disengaged the clutch and took over to prevent a crash jib.

When Bill came up he knew right away that the problem was the belt drive had failed and the only fix was to tear down the mechanism and replace the belt. He was sure there was a replacement onboard but it took an hour of digging through every locker and lazerette on the port hull to find it. I was hanging upside down with a flashlight in my mouth looking for something I’d never actually seen. Eventually I found it on my second sweep of the lockers. Bill took off the wheel and thirty minutes later we were back in business. Bill stayed on deck and I went below. This time I dreamed one that would have made Federico Fellini proud, featuring George W and the entire cast of the Nutcracker Suite with lots of kids all running around the Governor’s mansion. Got to love those trip dreams!

1000 hours It’s all good …Bill and I are listening to the Beatles White Album and I was marveling at our skill repairing in the auto helm after dark in a rocking boat. Bill pulled two watches letting me sleep so I was feeling rested and ready. He suggested we watch the new Star Trek Move and we were just getting into it when the 4th equipment failure happened. Captain Kirk had just ordered up a full salvo of Photon Torpedoes when, CRACK… the main traveler car exploded.

The large triple sheave block went flying to port and we were lucky not to be sitting at the helm or one was could have been injured. Bill jumped up and grabbed the block and secured the main keeping it from getting caught up in the stays.

We first tried to attach the block to the car using 5000 lb. test spectra but it didn’t take long to see that the steel straps we tied into were perfect for handling a vertical load but not the horizontal load from the main sail. After rummaging through all the hardware we could find and scratching and thinking, Bill came up with a working fix. There were two heavy duty eyepads used to lift the hull during transport located 12 inches on either side of the traveler track. Using the spinnaker sheet, the old main sheet, and several large single blocks we fashioned a way to trim the main that also served as a vang and preventer when going downwind. It added a couple of steps while tacking but it worked perfectly. Another triumph for the dynamic duo!

While we were working on the rigging a U.S. Coast Guard plane did a fly-bye from the south east, 40 minutes later he returned on the way back to Puerto Rico and hailed us on channel 16. He wanted to know… who we were? … where we had come from and where we were going? Did we have any firearms on board and what was the reason for our trip? Now we were in the system … Homeland Security had plugged us into their computer and they had a pretty good idea when we should arrive in Key West.

1900 hours Both of us took long naps during the afternoon. I’m feeling a little beat up with sore muscles but thats a good thing. No Pain No Gain … Right?

Day #4 Friday #379 #380 #381 #382

Home Sweet Home


It was a beautiful Day, light cloud cover and almost no wind. I got two flights in the morning and two in the afternoon all on the PPS. The 1st mechanical problem of the trip was at the beginning of the third flight when the prop started clipping. I cut power and landed out …very close to the place where I had destroyed the Simonini trike buggy last year. Southern California had received a large amount of rainfall just prior to the event and much of the “beach was a muddy mess…So… it was a real chore to push …pull and fight the Falcon back to solid ground. When I got to the campsite, I was able to determine that the prop was hitting the lower pulley but I couldn’t see how it could flex that far. I started it up and wasn’t able to get it to repeat until I went to 1/2 power. Then the pulley started to drift back on the shaft and I took a few more splinters out of the GSC triple. The prop wan’t flexing the lower pulley was floating on the shaft. Totally bummed, I pushed the Falcon back to the field hoping that Leon Wacker might be able to help me out. Leon scratched his head and went to look for a bolt that might secure the pulley. It wasn’t going to fix the problem but it would have stopped the pulley from flying off. While he did that John Fetz came by and after looking over the situation determined that we needed to bush the shaft with something. I went to get my tool bag and discovered it was not behind the wall where I had left it.
HAD SOMEBODY HAD STOLEN MY TOOL BAG ? !

I looked everywhere around the campsite and resolved that it was gone forever. In total dismay I walked back to the field and announced to John that my bag had been lifted. He smiled at me and said, “Maybe it’s like that camera you lost last year”. Well… after staggering around for a bit, looked at the Falcon and there it was sitting on the seat. This does not speak well for my current frame of mind.
I searched out a pop can and we cut a rectangular strip that would go around the shaft and bush the collar. In twenty minutes John and Ron had repaired my ride. I re-tensioned the belt took it out to the field for a test. It’s all good.

Pulley bites prop

For the next several flights I checked the bolts on the lower pulley and each time, I got slightly less turn. This was also true of the prop bolts. It is also important to check the collar and confirm there is a gap between the pulley and the shaft…this also goes for the GSC hub. Next time I visit Vince I’ll ask him to re-secure the pulley using a copper bushing.

(The Falcon has great visibility all the way around)

The 4th flight was wonderful. I revisited the sight of my emergency landing and floated along the beach at 2200 RPM. The PPS was great I could put tremendous pressure on the brakes and float along without fearing a stall. A few minutes later I’d climbed to 100 feet and spotted a patch of beach that looked like the perfect place to do a touch and go. I pulled some brake and dove toward the beach. At 10 feet I added power, eased up the brakes and touched down at full speed. It was a good thing too!…The dry looking surface was only a thin skin covering about 10 inches of goo.
“Not really cardboard” … MUD FLAP & Custom Mirror
As soon as I touched down black clay was flying everywhere! I silently thanked Terry for the, “Not really cardboard” …mud flap. I’d teased him about it looking “cheap” but the darn thing was doing a yeoman’s job of protecting my instruments and face.
Just as I was beginning to feel myself slow down I mashed the throttle and the Generac 32 h.p. 4 stroke clawed us back into space. I smiled… one slog through the muck was enough for the day. Looking back I could see that the Falcon had touched with all three wheels for probably 30 feet and dug in at least 6 inches. It’s hard to say if I could have pulled out with the 23 horse Briggs & Stratton. Possibly not, another trike pilot with a two stroke had tried the same thing and was not so lucky. I saw him at the water truck washing the mud off his rig.
Back at the LZ I spoke with a fellow triker who commented that I was losing the A’s to soon, I agreed and he suggested that I lower the line guides on the cage so that they would be closer to my hands. Later flights proved him right. (I never got your name, but thanks!) I also learned that with a bigger cage it’s important to experiment with different ways to hold the A lines during inflation, Today I learned that I can grasp the lines way past the mallons and then slide back to them as the wing inflates.
That evening I shared a wolf camp dinner of frozen chicken and Italian sausage wrapped in Italian flat bread. (Of course I didn’t eat the chicken!) When we heard the fireworks going off we killed the campfire and wandered down to the beach for the bonfire and prop burning.

Bob Armond leads evening prayer service

Bob Armond was in rare form and it was a joy to watch him in action. With all the passion of a traveling preacher he exorcised the demons of poor judgement from we humble and unworthy pilots. Jim King introduced a gent who had just soloed and everybody cheered his achievement.

The moon was full…The dogs were howling… it was all good.

Tachometers and Rain

Summer ended and the next day it seemed like winter. For the last three or four days the highs have been in the 40s with 7 inches of snow in Evergreen. I hope this isn’t an indicator of a cold fall and even colder winter.

Tachometer
I’ve been having trouble with the SenDec Max Tack ever since I remounted it on the forward tube next to my GPS. It would read half or two thirds of what I knew the motor to be turning. After trying three different gauges of wire and getting bad advise from the manufacturer, I stopped at the local hardware store where a good ol boy listened to my problem. He suggested that I use a heaver gauge of wire and try to avoid running it anywhere near a ground source. Bingo! It’s reading true and the heaver gauge of wire is mounting in the receiver on the tach more snugly.

The last thing is get the thrust up. Chad is bringing a set of 62 inch IVO’s and a set of GSC’s for me to try at the Monument Valley Gathering.

#358 Chatfield Marek breaks a Prop

This was an interesting flight. I didn’t plan on flying tonight but I glad I did. The air was smooth and the breeze was light. Marek and I flew south over the open fields. We are both a little wary of the massive group of high Power lines and got plenty high to cross the 5 sets of parallel wires. It was similar to this morning with Greg. I stayed high and shadowed the pilot down low. Both Marek and Greg are pleasure to watch Greg with great wing control.

I moved the hang point rings to a horizontal position attempting to lesson the friction on the trim tab. No Joy…the problem is in the webbing that acts as a back-up in case the ring brakes loose from the bullet bar. I’ve replaced the heavy webbing with a slightly lighter and longer one which will hang loose over the risers and hopefully I’ll be able to use the trim tabs. If I end up hanging from the reserve or the H.P. ring brakes, the hangpoint will spread about two inches but I don’t think it will adversely affect how the buggy hangs or the how wing flys. The next flight will tell allot.

The wing came up crooked again but, like yesterday, it stabilized quickly. I think I’m not lining up square with the wind. I did notice that when I went from idle to full power the front wheel would dip about 6 inches and return to about 3 inches below the starting position. I expect that it will be even more pronounced when I am able to use the trimmers. I’ll move the H.P. Rings forward 3/8ths and see if It helps with the wheelbarrow effect.

The incident of the evening came as we were returning to the field. Marek’s hero camera came off it’s mount on top of the cage and went through the prop. He landed without issues in the LZ but was a long walk from the car. I knew something was wrong so I landed by the truck and walked out to meet him. We wandered around the field finding parts of the prop and eventually found the camera. Up on top is probably a good position for the camera but the vibration was working the mounting bolts loose…some lock tight would help if it does not have to be changed after every flight. I hope Marek got video all the way back to earth but I’m betting it stopped when it got whacked by the prop.