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Training

Just over a week until we are off..!

There are still a few loose ends to tie up but we are very excited to announce that the expedition is in the final stages of planning. With thanks to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, weather permitting we’ll be starting the expedition from the former RAF East Kirkby on Saturday 13th October.

We will say a few words at 1030 with the aim to be airborne at 1130. This first leg will take us to the former RAF Tempsford for a low approach, then the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne, a low approach at a former SOE Lysander landing field near Lyon, to then land at Lyon-Bron. Please do come and see us off if you can – some of our friends from EuroFOX with hopefully be flying in on the day to support the event!

 

Training

Why are Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) important?

There has been an expanding interest in STEM subjects, particularly in the 21st century, in light of the rising challenges of globalisation and knowledge-based economies. Students will benefit from a greater knowledge of STEM, more so than previous generations. The aim of promoting STEM subjects is to expose students to STEM-concepts and stimulate a passion to further pursue and study the subjects. The initiative also aims to break down the gender barriers associated with STEM-fields, and encourage girls to explore careers in previously male-dominated sectors.

 

For 100 years, the Royal Air Force has been a leading force in technological advancement and innovation. The RAF’s own youth and engagement team work directly with schools holding activity days and residential courses at RAF stations. The RAF also works with and supports a number of companies with events and initiatives, all with the same aim of inspiring future generations in STEM-fields. The next generation will produce the innovations in order to ensure that the RAF is always at the forefront of technological advancements. Visit: https://www.raf.mod.uk/raf100/news/raf100-inspire-our-youth-and-education-programme/

 

During our expedition we have plans to visit a number of schools in order to further promote and inspire the next generation.

Training

May 2018 – News release, also featured in LAA…

“I’m looking for an aircraft to fly to New Zealand in 2018, I’ll need a range of 1300nm at 100 knots TAS, for it to be robust, reliable, good to fly and affordable.” Such was my initial question on meeting several kit aircraft agents in 2014. The general response was that they were happy to sell me a kit, but that I was then on my own. When I sat down with the third potential supplier, my opening line yielded a glance up at a sign which said, “the answer is yes, now what is the question?” Roger Cornwell’s reply was “let’s see what we can do.” An hour later Roger had found a section of wing structure to study, we’d worked out how to double the fuel capacity and preliminary design sketches were taking shape. After a flight in the then demonstrator, G-ZTUG, I knew we had our aircraft.

The Eurofox factory in Slovakia quickly got behind the project too. Stress analysis was conducted and submitted to the LAA. Ever helpful, Francis Donaldson quickly replied saying that he saw no show stoppers. Calculations showed that with the efficient 912 iS Sport engine 1300 nm was readily achievable and, with great attention to the mass of the aircraft and crew, almost full fuel could be carried with 2 crew.

Much has been written about building Eurofoxes in this magazine, so I’ll confine myself to the differences. Finding time for the build was a concern but Roger believed it was achievable in 6 disciplined weeks of leave from the RAF. He was right. The opportunity to occupy a build bay at the Eurofox microlight factory in Kent meant that all the tools, jigs and advice were immediately to hand. The build manual is excellent, but there is no substitute for a brief demonstration by example. For instance having watched me trying to fit the shoulder harness nut to the bolt (all Eurofox builders will know the one I am talking about!), I was shown that if you tape the nut to a spanner with about 5 degrees of tilt, it is achievable by those with normal size hands!

The LAA had recommended that the outboard tanks fed into the inboard tanks. While this would have been lighter and aerodynamically cleaner, after much debate we decided to have 4 separate feeds to the fuselage collector tank. Trapped unusable fuel is an oceanic flyer’s nightmare and this design meant that only ¼ of useable fuel would be trapped by a single failure; careful management would mean that land would always be in range in the event of a single wing tank blockage…and we’d have rudimentary trimming capability in roll!

Most mods add weight and, with the heavy 912iS, we expected a forward C of G on GBNZ. The partial remedy is carbon fibre cowlings, saving a few kg and moving the C of G aft. The aim, providing the long range proving trips show acceptable longitudinal stability for extended periods of hand flying, is to fly the trip with the C of G in the aft third of the allowable range, thus reducing parasitic trim drag and increasing cruising speed and range.

Encountering poor weather en route is obviously a concern. Whilst the Eurofox does not meet the LAA’s current minimum wing loading, flying one under simulated IF conditions showed me that it is a respectable instrument platform. GBNZ is equipped in accordance with the LAA’s guideline’s for IF approval, with a Kanardia Horis and 30 min battery backup as the primary horizon reference and an MGL Explorer lite as the secondary.

The first flight was an experience that will live with me forever. Having checked everything in a verymethodical manner, conducted a final ground run and leak check, smoothly advancing the throttle on a still, spring evening on a historic airfield in Wiltshire was the culmination, so far, of years of preparation and work. Climb to 3000’, a clean and full flaperon stall to confirm ASI readings and handling, a simulated circuit and go around at height then a circuit to land; it was all over very quickly. Another airframe and leak check, then off for a second flight before darkness set in to methodically check the remaining systems and expand the envelope further towards the airframe limits. A satisfying evening in the office!

The flight test schedule is now complete. As soon as the permit is received the preparation for the expedition will begin. Performance data gathering at varying altitudes, mass and C of G will be critical to understanding the capabilities and constraints of the aircraft as an oceanic cruiser. The performance of the 912iS at differing altitudes does not appear to be well documented, hopefully the ECU will give us an efficient cruise at FL100, achieving a higher TAS for the same IAS. Propeller efficiency is unlikely to degrade much between SL and FL100 at the low speeds we’ll be flying at, so provided the ECU controls the mixture effectively, there should be benefits to be had. The test programme will tell. Once the data is gathered 3 flights of 10 hours using representative profiles will be the final test, prior to departure from the UK on 28thOctober, from East Kirkby, with the Lancaster joining us for the first few hundred yards! We’ll be at the RAF 100 Cosford Air Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo; if you are there, do come and say hello. In the meantime there are more details at www.gb-nz.com.

Training

April 2018 – Dinghy drill training

A significant portion of the route involves stretches over water and therefore all crew members must be prepared to deal with emergency landings into water. At short notice, due to unfilled capacity, two of our less experienced members were able to receive dinghy drill training in order to educate them on the difficulties of landing in water. We extend our thanks to Group Captain Taylor, the Station Commander at Linton-on-Ouse, and 72 Squadron for allowing Abby and Rachel to join 72 Squadron for dinghy drill training. After the training both feel more prepared and understand the potential challenges of an emergency landing into water.

 

 

Training

February 2018 – Training

My last flight in a tailwheel aircraft was a while back, so whilst qualified to fly the Eurofox I was certainly not competent or current. There is only one place I know of offering training on a tailwheel Eurofox – G S Aviation at Clench Common. I had one day off work and needed 5 hours’ flying in 8 hours of daylight – cue a lovely day spent exploring the farm strips of Wiltshire and a visit to Wellesborne Mountford to experience a tarmac runway in a crosswind. Thank you Dave for your good humour! We managed 5 hours of stalls, steep turns, circuits, practice forced landings and cups of coffee at different venues! The Eurofox proved to be a lovely aircraft to fly, well harmonised but lacking drag on the final approach because it uses flapperons rather than separate ailerons and flaps. To get into shorter strips over obstructions a side slipped approach is necessary. The aircraft can achieve a very respectable rate of descent in a side slip, with an excellent view of your landing area all the way down to the flare…a very satisfying and addictive way of doing business. Great fun.

On the ground at Wadswick farm strip, midway through the 5 hours in a day challenge.
Aircraft Build

February 2018 – Build Complete!

The seemingly well advanced kit before leaving Slovakia.

After a winter spent working in the superb build facilities at the Eurofox UK HQ at Luke’s Field, we have an expedition aircraft! The aircraft arrived from the factory in Slovakia looking relatively complete. The looks are deceptive though. There were 3 major areas of work to complete to turn the kit into an aircraft.

 

The engine, propeller and cowlings required fitting. Wire locking gets easier with practice, but certainly hurts when a piece of wire gets pushed up under a nail! The cowlings are carbon fibre in a bid to save weight over the standard aircraft so great care was needed to prevent damage. The Eurofox microlight build team were full of great advice throughout – little things like masking around rivets before fitting the cowling fasteners certainly saved damage to the paintwork.

Carefully reaming out the holes to mount the engine cowling fasteners

The second main area is the cockpit and controls installation. Here the sage advice and use of factory templates was invaluable. Whilst the build manual is excellent I’d have required twice the number of hours without access to the factory templates and jigs for things like control deflection setting. The end result is hopefully an aircraft set up as if it is a series production machine, rather than a builder’s first aircraft, which should save considerable time during the flight test phase getting the ac set up correctly.

The final area to complete is the avionics installation. The aircraft is equipped such that it may be possible to obtain clearance to fly in cloud in the future. That meant a lot of soldering; knowing that the failure of any of the joints could cause significant problems at a critical stage of flight in the future.

The cockpit area before fitting the fuel system, electrical system and controls.

Having completed the build it was time for the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) Inspector, Adrian Lloyd, to check everything. Adrian has inspected a large proportion of the 100+ UK Eurofox fleet and was full of great advice. There were some areas identified for rectification, but thankfully all minor. The main source of frustration was a problem with the fuel system. Despite having fuel correctly feeding from the wing tanks to the collector tank and the pumps running healthily, there was no fuel in front of the firewall. We dismantled the fuel system from the engine back to the fuel pumps under the seat checking for blockages. Nothing. With fuel at the pump inlet and no fuel at the pump outlet it had to be the pump…no, I’d wired both pumps the wrong way round. They were steadfastly trying to pump fuel from the engine to the fuel tanks. You live and learn!

Approaching completion.

With the inspection signed off the paperwork was sent off to the LAA and the aircraft moved to Boscombe Down for test flying. Hopefully the weather will improve and the next exciting phase can start soon.