Well, the great British weather has laid its first challenge at our door! The wind is looking to be too strong for a safe departure from the former RAF East Kirkby on Saturday, so we will launch the aircraft from Boscombe Down on Sunday. However, we will still be at the Lincolnshire Aviation Museum at East Kirkby on Saturday 13th October to formally commence the expedition. It starts at 1000 and it would be great if you could join us! We will be there until 1200 so there is plenty of time to meet the team and find out more about the next couple of months ahead!
With just over a week to go before we set off, we have confirmed the three charities that we are choosing to support through fundraising: the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA); the RAF Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) and Save the Children. Check out our new Fundraising page for more details on how you can help us to support them in their worthwhile endeavours.
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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.