Light Aviation January 2021

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Clive Davidson enjoys Steve’s cherished Currie Wot PROJECT


CAA Electronic Conspicuity Rebate

The CAA is offering a rebate of 50%, up to a maximum of £250, to pilots purchasing Electronic Conspicuity Devices including those listed below.

Equipment purchased from 1st October 2020 until 28 February 2021 will be eligible for the rebate.

uAvionix SkyEcho 2 Electronic Conspicuity

• ADS-B Transceiver and FLARM Receiver

• TSO-C199 GPS (SIL=1)

• Barometric Altimeter

• Up To 12 Hour Battery Life

• Use With SkyDemon, ForeFlight and more

our website to see our
and comprehensive supplies of aviation products
Suppliers of all leading manufacturers Visit
TT21 Class 2 Mode S Transponder
TT31 Mode S Transponder
Trig TN72 GPS Receiver Trig TN70 ADS-B OUT Solution
Avionics KTX2 Mode S Transponder
ZTRT800H OLED Mode S Transponder
ZTRT800H LCD Mode S Transponder
Garmin GTX335 ADS-B Transponder with WAAS
Garmin GPS20A WAAS Position Source for ADS-B BendixKing KT74
Trig TT22 Class 1 Mode S Transponder


Chairman TIM HARDY


Chief Engineer FRANCIS DONALDSON B.Tech c eng FRAeS

Chief Inspector KEN CRAIGIE

Let’s be optimistic for the year ahead and hope for a fantastic 75th Anniversary Rally!

Time to look to the future…

New year, new start, a time for optimism. With the Covid-19 vaccination programme now underway, it’s not too difficult to be optimistic, unless of course you’re one of the nut jobs who think Covid’s a scam and ‘they’ (presumably the government) just want to inject us with some kind of truth serum or tracking chip. It takes all sorts I suppose …come to think of it though, the guy down the chippie does look a little like Elvis, if I take my glasses off and squint a bit. I jest, almost anybody could look like Elvis when I don’t have my specs on. Anyway, I’m a believer and they can stick the needle wherever they like if it means we can get back to something approaching normality by the summer.

As we launch into our 75th Anniversary year, we will be featuring a number of aircraft that have played an important or interesting part in our history, and we start with the Currie Wot Airymouse , which was the subject of a popular and inspirational book of the same name by Harald Penrose. The aircraft is now owned by LAA CEO Steve Slater, and he and Clive Davidson tell its story (p40).

Following on from Ian Fraser’s article on GPS jamming in the September issue, he considers the viability or otherwise of using the nav functions of the various handheld radios that many pilots use for comms. Can they reliably track a VOR or, in the case of the Yeasu FTA 750L, intercept and fly an ILS glideslope? Find out on p30!

We have an interesting tale of the rebuild of a composite Wassmer WA81

Piranha that has changed hands a few times but is finally on the run in to the finish in the hands of Berian Griffiths. Having been involved in building Jodels in the 1950s and early 1960s, Wassmer went on to become something of a pioneering company using composite materials for airframes (p34).

Where to Go, missing from these pages for most of 2020, is back in this issue as I know we all love to start making plans early, don’t we? (p48).

Hopefully to inspire your planning for the year ahead, Martin Ferid is back with tales of three events he enjoyed in the distant past, at Folly Farm in West Sussex, Tempelhof in Germany, and Chateau de Monhoudou in France.

I do enjoy travelogues, I guess it comes down to the type of flying you like to do… or aspire to do. So, if you aspire, whether it’s to tour, get into aerobatics, learn to fly or whatever, make 2021 the year you jump in and make a start… we only have one life and if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that you just don’t know what might come around the corner – so make hay while you can!

Take care, be safe and have fun. And a very Happy New Year to you all!

Office Turweston Aerodrome,
Brackley, Northants NN13 5YD
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LIGHT AVIATION MAGAZINE Editor BRIAN HOPE 60 Queenborough Road, Sheerness, Kent ME12 3BZ Telephone 01795 662508
President ROGER HOPKINSON MBE Vice Presidents BRIAN DAVIES & JOHN BRADY Engineering email COMMERCIAL Email
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January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 3

Colleagues and fellow aviators

We enter 2021 with the expectation that, unlike 2020, we will once again be able to enjoy our flying as we have done before, with science having developed a way out of the pandemic.

Of course, for our Association 2021 heralds an important historic milestone – the 75th anniversary of our founding. At the beginning, a group of enthusiasts got together in the autumn of 1946 to re-establish private recreational aviation in the post-war period (initially as the Ultra-Light Aircraft Association). The focus has thereafter been consistent: promoting recreational flying, minimising cost, ensuring advice and services to enable that endeavour; notably through amateur construction and support for vintage aircraft.

Today we have a membership just shy of 8,000 approaching 3,000 aircraft in Permit with around 1,500 aircraft ‘in the workshop’ in build and restoration, and the quite extraordinary statistic of around 512 approved types, a figure that continues to grow. That 3,000 is about 15% of UK registered aircraft! Our engineering department, and its cadre of inspectors, is key to supporting those figures and of course, now works as a ‘delegated technical authority’, actually an approval, from the CAA. It was that level of activity, and indeed responsibility, and plans for the future that lead to us developing a revised organisation with a formal board when we became LAA in 2010. One wonders what our founding fathers would say, certainly we owe them a debt of gratitude for starting the journey that has led to where we are today.

Of course aviation is international – as an activity and in ideas, designs, development and equipment. In 2007 we worked with like associations across Europe and became a founder member of the European Federation of light, Experimental and Vintage Aircraft. EFLEVA brings together 16 LAA-like organisations from across

Europe to protect our common interests, fight for a ‘best regulatory’ regime and, importantly, encourage and develop fellowship. Much work has been done, with some success, to progress our interest to ensure cross border overflight of our nationally regulated aircraft. We also ensure we have a picture of the regulatory arrangements in each nation, so we can optimise, as much a possible, our mutual interests and promote any better methods to our CAA when appropriate. Post-Brexit this work is as relevant as ever. The 2021 75th Anniversary LAA Rally will include a specific EFLEVA presence to highlight both its activity and to bring the event a wider European dimension.

Looking ahead, there are challenges, which we must treat as opportunities. Specifically, we have a new entrant to the aviation scene, drones/unmanned aerial systems (UAS), as well as a not unexpected ‘green agenda’, both of which will have an impact on airspace and how we fly.

The issue will be to ensure that change is shaped in a way that enhances the future of our passion in a sustainable way, and in that context, we need to recognise the wider interests of others and indeed work with Government (DfT) and the CAA.

Having been directly involved, I have to say progress should have been much better, especially on airspace, which is rightly now under much wider review. What is clear is that a regulator is only the best if the activity it regulates thrives and grows in the context of stakeholder interests – that after all is their job, and we should hold them to account on that. Today, especially with some new faces in the authority, I see some positive indicators though there is much to do on that front. I hope my cautious optimism matures.

Let’s look ahead with enthusiasm to moving forward in 2021 and celebrate the our 75th Anniversary with justifiable pride.



Membership subs rise, Pilot Aware VECTOR launch, Maypole strip closes


LAA event plans for 2021


Eurofox 912 (S), Piper L18c, Cleared to Fly and New Projects


Brian Hope poses the question: Are you taking it seriously enough?


Martin Ferid chooses his favourite trio of adventures…


Steve Paffett reports on the delights of the autogyro…


If you lost your GPS signal, could your handheld radio’s VOR facility come to your rescue? Ian Fraser reports…


Berian Griffiths certainly had his work cut out for him – and then some – with his G-BKOT (s/n 813) Wassmer WA81…


Anne Hughes profiles the activities of the Struts, making good use of social media


Clive Davidson and Steve Slater look at the Currie Wot Airymouse – made famous by Harald Penrose...


Where to Go makes a welcome return as GA looks towards brighter days in 2021


Rotax floats, RV-12 cracked standoff and properly filling out ‘that’ Permit renewal form…


Tony Palmer orders a new propeller for his aeroplane – and takes a tour of the Hercules Propellers factory…


This month we meet Barry Plumb, designer and builder of the Plumb biplane and enthusiastic pilot and motorcyclist…


Looking back, looking forward…

4 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 President’s Ponderings…
January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 5 Contents Contents January 2021
10 16 28
Currie WOT G-APNT: Airymouse 40


Plenty more news is available on the LAA website at check it out every day!

PilotAware launches Complimentary VECTOR

PilotAware VECTOR – Verification of Electronic Conspicuity Transmission Obscuration and Range – is effectively an electronic EC efficiency checker, and it is available to all users of any EC system free of charge.

The existing UK Network of over 200 PilotAware ATOM GRID ground stations has been enhanced to visualise the performance of all EC signals transmitted. This is then tabulated by each unique aircraft ICAO code, so using this new development all pilots will be able to acquire, free of charge, polar diagrams of their individual EC transmission performance built up over time as they fly within the UK, and thus check the fidelity of their installation.

Using the results of the individual polar diagram provided, EC devices can be positioned to achieve the best performance possible. The optimisation achieved will benefit all EC users

irrespective of their chosen device. EC devices with remote antennas will also benefit from feedback of their performance.

Keith Vinning, of PilotAware, commented that the EC grant of up to £250 being made available by the DfT/CAA has shown impressive forward thinking and leadership for UK General Aviation.

The grant also shows commitment and drive towards greater safety for all aviators. “Although PilotAware is a low profit

organisation,” he said “it has benefitted somewhat from the grant and we have therefore decided to use the good fortune to give something back to commercial, military and GA that benefits all EC users, irrespective of the equipment that is used.

“As far as we are aware, the ability to test the performance of all EC devices from a single site is not available elsewhere in the UK. PilotAware hopes this service will be a further enabler to provide a greater insight into situational awareness by all and complement the move towards future airspace modernisation.”

A typical Polar diagram and matrix chart in their current form is shown (above left). Improvements will be made over time to better the presentation, in line with requirements.

For more information, please email

New membership fees from January 2021… but there’s still a way to save!

Sadly, after more than five years without an increase, we have reluctantly made the decision to increase membership charges from the start of the new year.

We’ve managed to maintain the permit and engineering fees, directly linked to keeping an aircraft in the air unchanged, but we are facing a major increase in the insurance premiums which protect members, inspectors and staff from liability claims.

The fees in this area have gone up more than 30% year-on-year and our overall insurance bill for 2021 is expected to rise to £113,000.

We must therefore increase Full Member fees by £7, from £58 to £65 and Full Plus Member fees by £10, from £80 to £90. Joint and overseas membership fees will increase pro rata. The good news is that there is a way many can avoid these increases. If you transfer to paying by direct debit, you will

save £10. In other words a Full Plus Member moving to direct debit will pay the same as in 2020 and a Full Member will actually save £3 in comparison with the 2020 fee! We’ll still benefit as the admin costs and bank charges

are approximately halved. All you need to do is, when your membership comes up in the new year, contact LAA HQ or check our website and ask for instructions on changing your payment method.

6 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 LA News

LAA/Pooley’s video competition

It has rightly been pointed out that we did not note our thanks to all participants in the video competition in last month’s magazine. Unfortunately, the selection took place on the Monday afternoon and the magazine went to press on the Tuesday, so it was a bit of a last-minute rush.

So, our apologies for the omission and our heartfelt thanks to everybody who took the time and effort to submit a video into the competition.

We certainly enjoyed watching them all and it’s a shame we couldn’t give everybody a prize.

Meanwhile, the winner of the first

Maypole Airfield imminent closure

Maypole Airfield, near Herne Bay in Kent, will close on the 10th of this month, the airfield owners having given the resident aircraft owners a month to remove their aircraft and any other equipment. A follow-up solicitor’s letter states that any aircraft or equipment still

on the airfield after the 10th will be deemed to have been abandoned and will be disposed of as the airfield owner sees fit. It is believed the airfield buildings will be dismantled immediately after the airfield is vacated. Prior to the notification, 15 or 16 aircraft were

prize for Covid 19 – A Chipmunk’s Tale , Tim Watson, was delighted to have won and has generously donated his prize of £500 worth of flight equipment from Pooleys to a worthy cause, decided by LAA and Sebastian Pooley to be £100 each for the five recipients of the 2020 Armstrong Isaacs Bursary recipients.

based at the field. Some have already found alternate accommodation as local airfields have helped. But a number of owners may be forced to dismantle their aircraft as unserviceability, poor weather or water logging could stop them being flown out.

FlyBox 10% LAA discount

FlyBox Avionics, the Italian based avionics company, has joined our Members Benefits scheme and are offering LAA members a 10% discount on orders placed via its website.

The scheme is designed for all LAA members to enjoy offers from a number

of equipment and service providers, including Adams Aviation, Airbox, Air Courtage Assurances, AirTeam Images, Pooleys Flight Equipment, Varley Red Top Batteries and AirPart, with their clever Grypmat tool tray accessory.

FAI award for Roger Hopkinson

Roger Hopkinson is of course LAA President, and is well known for his tireless work over many years, which has helped transform the status and influence of the sports and recreational aviation sector in the UK, and has also made a valuable input in Europe.

Roger is also a lifelong model aircraft enthusiast and at the (Virtual) 2020 FAI

Awards on 2 December, he was awarded a Paul Tissandier Diploma. Nominated by the British Model Flying Association for his valuable work on that sport’s behalf. His citation read: At a time when future of model flying was looking increasingly bleak, with the DfT appearing to be utterly dismissive, Roger used his influence and contacts to ensure that the DfT and CAA continued to

To access these sites please visit our homepage at – go to Member Area – drop down to Member Benefits page and click on your chosen company.

The selected company may ask for a code when ordering.

negotiate in a co-operative and collaborative way. This was essential in helping to achieve a successful outcome in obtaining permission to fly above 400ft. This nomination for an FAI Tissandier Diploma is in recognition of Roger’s invaluable support to the BMFA and the model flying community. Congratulations Roger for a well-deserved award.

LA News January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 7

Looking ahead…

Association plans for the 75th Anniversary year…

As the expression goes, you’d have to have been living in a cave, not to have heard that 2021 is the Association’s 75th Anniversary of its founding. Three-quarters of a century, that’s pretty impressive, particularly in today’s throwaway society, but then, LAAers are not, by nature, people who discard what is old and possibly broken.

While we have a yearning for technological advances and embrace them with open arms, we also cherish the past, nurturing old machines and bringing them back to a useful life.

Our forefathers at times had to nurture this Association back to life, at one time even doing a moonlight flit from offices, the rent for which it could no longer afford to sustain. But thanks to the loyalty of members and the dedication of so many willing volunteers over those 75 years, it has prospered and grown into Europe’s premier recreational flying organisation.

So, we certainly do not plan to let the year slip by unnoticed; plans have been forming for some months and while a number of events have yet to be finalised – the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation naturally causing a reluctance of some airfield owners to delay making firm commitments until things become a little more certain – for the most part our programme of events is fairly well established.

Dates for your 2021 diary…

April 18: Meet the LAA Day at Henstridge in association with the Wessex Strut Fly-in. The start of our LAA 75 Meet the Members’ activities.

May 1-2: The Microlight Trade Fair at Popham . The Association will have a display at this season opening recreational flying show.

May 22-31: The ‘LAA 75’ GB Tour . The event starts at Sywell on the 22nd and journeys around England, Wales and Scotland over nine days, finishing at Leicester on the 31st. For the adventurous, and to make it a UK Tour, Northern Ireland could also be an opportunity for a quick visit.

Night stops are planned en route for local Struts and Clubs to offer their help to participants with rides to hotels etc and sometimes a BBQ. The event is intended to be flexible, you can take part throughout or get involved for a day or two, and for the less experienced, there will be help aplenty from the old hands who have been touring for years. See last month’s issue of Light Aviation for more details and/or contact Neil Wilson, who is organising the event.

May 28-30: An intrinsic part of the Tour is a Meet the LAA Day in association with the Strathtay Strut and the Scottish Aero Club at Perth , in Scotland. This is a

lovely part of the country which offers some superb flying, a perfect excuse for Sassenachs to head north.

June 10-12: Aero Expo is under new management and has moved from Booker to Kemble and we will be in attendance to chat with members and explain the benefits of the LAA to those who have yet to discover the road to affordable flying. Air Courtage Assurances will also be on hand to discuss their insurance scheme, tailored for LAA. Members.

July 17-18: LAA Flying for Fun Weekend at Old Warden . This will be an opportunity to fly in, enjoy the ambiance of the museum and presentations by the Association and other organisations, partake of the BBQ and camp overnight under the wing. Final details for the event depend on the Covid-19 situation and will be announced later.

July 31-Aug 1: Meet the LAA Day at Rufforth East in association with the Vale of York Strut Fly-in. Celebrating ‘Yorkshire Day’, the event will also be attended by BGA, BMAA and other flying associations. Another opportunity to enjoy the summertime weather and camp overnight – go on, you know you love it –dawn chorus, bacon butties and a cup of builders’ tea.

September 3-5: The Biggy, the 75th Anniversary International LAA Rally and Exhibition at Sywell We are proud to be able to incorporate the European Federation of Light, Experimental and Vintage Aircraft into our 75th Anniversary year Rally and hope it encourages more of our friends from Europe to visit the event. Watch out for more news on intriguing 75th Anniversary exhibits and special guests in our ‘Speakers Corner’. The Rally will not only look to our glorious past, as it deserves to be celebrated, but will also embrace the future opportunities before us in a rapidly changing world. More anon.

September 18: Meet the LAA Day at Headcorn , hosted by the Kent Strut. If the weather decides not to play ball we will be rolling over to the Sunday, the 19th, so it’s another opportunity for the hardier souls to camp overnight. Headcorn has a good café so you can enjoy a nice breakfast to start the day.

October 26: It was on this date in 1946 that the first meeting of enthusiasts was held to discuss the formation of a post-war flying association to encourage affordable flying – and the Ultra Light Aircraft Association (ULAA) was born. We’ll be recognising the day with some special events. Watch this space!

That’s where we are at present, and hopefully we can run all the events this year as planned but we have to accept that, particularly in the earlier part of the year, Covid-19 may force changes.

For now though, let’s look forward to celebrating the success of our Association in weathering the many and varied challenges that it has overcome over the past 75 years.

I’m sure we all wish it well as it continues to meet the challenges and opportunities that will undoubtedly

8 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 75th Anniversary
January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 9 75th Anniversary

Projects which inspire others to build their own aircraft

Project News

So here we are, the other side of the most unusual Christmas holiday break I expect most of us have ever experienced. But on the bright side, sunset times are now going in the right direction and, in many ways, I’m sure we all hope that better days are not too far off. However, before we get there, we have the coldest two months of the year to come, and from a building perspective they can be discouraging when it comes to project progress. The builder who can only afford an hour or two a day may find it difficult to war m a workspace for that short period, so progress can wane.

The alternative is, of course, to tackle tasks that can be undertaken in the warm, classically in days gone by a wooden rib every few evenings would be good winter progress. But with modern kit aircraft there are still many tasks to accomplish off airframe that would be frankly annoying to do if it were daylight outside. Either researching what electronic instruments to buy, reading about how to install them, creating an instrument panel that just plugs into the aircraft, or indeed firing up your pane l indoors and starting to learn how to use your new toys. This will all cost time at some point – so you may as well do it now! I cannot recommend enough the instrument panel that simply detaches from a few multi-pin connectors – and comes out of the aircraft quickly so it can go home with you for maintenance or upgrade –but that’s another story!

Need I say that while considering your project in chillier times, you could of course always spend a little time to gather some pictures and notes about your build and share its wins and challenges with your fellow members through Project News . Your

creation doesn’t need to be complete, there are a number of projects that we have featured in instalments as they have progressed over the years. Or why not tell us how you manage to keep building through the cold months? So, go on, make yourself a warm drink and settle down with your computer keyboard to share your endeavours with the rest of us.

In that very vein, Glen Molloy got in touch and provided an update on his 90% completed restoration. Having a soft spot for vintage types, Glen had purchased a Piper L18C basket case without a moment’s hesitation. It sounds as if he has gained as much pleasure from researching the historical background of the aircraft as he has from the total rebuild. Four years into his project and the home straight is clearly in view, it’s a fascinating read.

And Richard Cole, of the Yorkshire Gliding Club, has sent us a very interesting report detailing their third Eurofox build, comparing it with the previous two tugs they built. The type has gained wide acceptance aerotowing gliders, and the YGC has gained significant experience of this over the last decade.

Personally, as a pilot without gliding experience, I found the item very enlightening. Additionally, he explains their comparative experience of three different variations of the Rotax powerplant, including the Edge Performance 120hp derivative. Slowly displacing the old bruisers from their tugging fleet, it’s great to see what a modern light permit aircraft can achieve in the gliding arena.

To get in touch with Project News , and tell your story, report a milestone or just to send a picture, email: . Please share your story!

G-HETY (LAA 376-15612) Eurofox 912(S)

The Yorkshire Gliding Club (YGC) has operated from Sutton Bank Airfield, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire, for over 80 years. We are normally open for flying on 364 days of the year, and are lucky enough to enjoy ridge, thermal and wave soaring whenever the right weather conditions prevail. The airfield is 920ft above sea level (at the Clubhouse) and slopes gently upwards to the north to about 950ft; the runways are designated 24/06 (600 metre) with a

cinder track winch run, and 20/02 (800+ metre), which has a short (extra) landing area to the east of the northern threshold orientated 24. Only about half of the grass take-off and landing areas are really smooth, and over 50% of the airfield perimeter is bounded by a public road and a busy footpath that joins the National Park Visitor Centre with the famous Kilburn White Horse.

Launching from Sutton Bank is primarily by aerotow,

10 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Project News

with winch launching limited to days with the wind from the west, plus or minus about 20°, and minimum of 15kt.

Public footpaths, roads, winch cables and aerotow ropes are a challenging mix, and until 2010 the tug fleet consisted of a Super Cub and two Pawnees, equipped with fixed tow ropes. One of the Pawnees was fitted with a Cable Retract Guillotine (CRG) system which was used when landing over the road or footpath.

In 2012, EuroFOX UK introduced a 100hp Eurofox variant that was equipped for glider towing and capable of towing ‘80% of the glider fleet at 20% of the cost’. The aircraft was sold as an amateur built kit to be operated under the LAA Permit to Fly regime.

Leading up to the YGC’s decision to operate with a Eurofox was the fact that, according to our treasurer, the cost of keeping a trio of 50-year-old ‘legacy’ glider tugs airworthy had put the Club on to a financial ‘final

Above The latest addition, Eurofox G-HETY, also EP 120 powered and registered in memory of one the Club’s office dogs, Richard’s black Labrador Hettie. Photo: Richard Cole

glide’ to oblivion! And so… our Eurofox Project was born, and although the first towing trials at Sutton Bank were carried out with the tricycle demonstrator Eurofox, we decided that the tailwheel version of the aircraft would be best suited to our airfield conditions, and that midsize ‘tundra’ tyres and a Tost CRG system would complete the most suitable tug configuration.

The Club’s first Eurofox was registered G-MOYR, remembering our Club President, Moyra Johnson, and the build took five months and over 450 hours of work in the Club workshop. With the guidance of the LAA and EuroFOX UK, G-MOYR took to the Yorkshire skies early in 2013, and quickly became the tug of choice alongside the Cub and Pawnee.

Needless to say, integrating a lightweight aircraft into a tug fleet of vintage types presented some interesting challenges.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 11 Project News
Above YGC’s first Eurofox, the 100hp Rotax ULS powered G-MOYR, built in 2013 and with the Northumbria Gliding Club since 2017, having flown over 1,000 hours at Sutton Bank. Above TYGC’s second Eurofox G-CIOF, initially powered by a Rotax 912iS it has since been converted to an Edge Performance 120hp EP 120. Photo: Richard Cole

Firstly, a large body of opinion suggested that the aircraft would not stand up to the rough ground conditions and the turbulence that frequently occurs at Sutton Bank, and that pilots who are used to manhandling Pawnees would have difficulty converting to the new, 21st century aircraft.

Secondly, there were legitimate questions asked concerning the increased possibility of ‘tug upset’ caused by poor glider handling on tow, leading to divergent lateral or vertical oscillations. After eight years of Eurofox towing at Sutton Bank the aircraft has stood up to our testing conditions rather better than both the Cub and the Pawnee, because of its light weight and well sprung undercarriage. And in turbulence the EuroFox excels on account of her superior handling, affected by very responsive and well-harmonised controls that are powerful enough to hold both flight attitude and yaw balance when gliders move to extreme out-of-position situations.

Tug upsets are caused by gliders losing sight of the tug, pulling up or turning ‘off-tow’ without releasing the tow rope (for whatever reason). Tow aeroplanes of all shapes and sizes can suffer an upset, and the risk is mitigated by thorough training and continuous safety publicity. In addition, the CRG towing system enables an instant ‘chop’ of the tow rope should the need arise, as opposed to a conventional release pull of over 100lb required to operate a mechanical release hook holding a tow rope under extreme tension.

In 2015, YGC built its second Eurofox, G-CIOF. The second build took roughly the same time and effort as the first, and the new tug settled into our towing operation very well. G-CIOF used the fuel injected Rotax 912iS engine, which (on paper) produced more power at max continuous rpm than the Rotax 912 ULS in G-MOYR. In practice this performance did not materialise because the engine’s induction system draws warm air from within the cowling.

Eurofox tug development using the Edge Performance (EP) modified 912 ULS, reverted to the original dedicated cold air induction feeding a 120hp

G-BJTP (s/n 18-999) Piper L18C

Iam a retired military and airline pilot with a penchant for vintage types. Having owned a Tiger Moth in the past, and presently an Auster J1N, I was also tempted to rebuild an old Piper L18C I found as a project, advertised in the back of an issue of LA As part of the Mutual Defence Assistance Programme after WWII, the USA agreed to help Europe re-arm. As a part of this assistance, as well as other military equipment, a number of Piper L18C aircraft were delivered to a number of countries, including Italy. The aircraft type was introduced in 1949, developed from the Piper PA11, and traces its military lineage back to the J3 Cub widely used in the war. It was a step up from the J3 however, in so far as one could fly it from the front seat, take more fuel and it had a higher MAUW, and with this, Italian Light Aviation (ALE) was born with 60 L18s being delivered, the first in 1952. The aircraft had a basic instrument fit, a C90-8f engine, a fixed pitch propeller, no flaps and no

engine modified with fuel injection and big-bore pistons and barrels. G-CIOF is now fitted with an EP 120 engine and, despite the Covid-19 lockdowns, has flown over 300 hours in 2020. G-MOYR transferred to the Northumbria Gliding Club in 2017 having flown over 1,000 hours at Sutton Bank.

Tribute to Hettie…

We have recently completed the third YGC Eurofox build, G-HETY, registered in memory of one the Club’s office dogs, my black Labrador Hettie. Following the usual visit to Nitra in Slovakia to fabricate, cover and prepare the kit for spray painting, we used Eurofox UK’s factory in Kent for our four-man build team to complete our aircraft build, and then transported G-HETY by road to Sutton Bank for final inspection, initial Permit work and flight testing.

The new tug is also powered by an EP modified engine, and her performance through flight testing is well up to expectations. I think the Permit Application and Test Report should come up to LAA Engineering’s exacting standards, and we eagerly await a full Permit to Fly in due course.

In eight years of Eurofox glider towing at Sutton Bank, the Yorkshire Gliding Club has accumulated more than 2,500 hours on our two tugs and EuroFOX UK’s demonstrators. Operating under the LAA’s engineering regime and working with our local LAA Inspector has proved very effective in maintaining a safe and efficient towing operation. Most importantly, the Club now has a tug fleet capable of towing most (if not all) glider types likely to fly from the airfield.

Membership of the LAA, building our three Eurofox kits, and several years of ‘owner maintenance’ has been a huge learning experience for our 20 tug pilots which, in turn, has contributed to improved flight safety and towing efficiency.

We are very grateful for the support from EuroFOX UK, the Light Aircraft Association and Edge Performance in Norway which has been pivotal to the success of our project.

Project News 12 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Right All stripped, the project spent its first three years in Glen’s garage, enabling regular progress. Photo: Glen Molloy

starter. The ALE used it to train artillery observers and pilots for more than 20 years.

Esercito Italiano, EI-51 (now G-BJTP) was the very first aircraft to be delivered to Italy and was sent to the Bracciano base near Rome. I discovered it was personally allocated to a Capitano Coppi, who had just arrived back from his training course in the States.

Initially, there was conflict of overall ownership, as the Air Force wanted to register and operate the aircraft, but the Army refused to hand them over. In an extremely unusual and comical situation, the Army had to put civilian registrations on the aircraft until the matter was resolved many years later. So EI-51 was initially registered as I-EICO (CO because its pilot name was Coppi). So, the first batch of aircraft had the ‘suffix’ initials of the squadron pilots, I-EI** and I have a list and pictures of those first intrepid Italian aviators!

After its military service in Italy, EI-51 ended up in

the UK in the 1980s, registered as a US Marine aircraft and painted navy blue with a ‘Donald Duck’ logo on the side. After many years, she finally ended up as a pile of rusty bits in boxes, in a garage near Pershore.

When she came up for sale as a project, without a second thought I bought her, and she took up residence in my garage. Besides liking the type, in essence the L18 was the first Supercub, I was intrigued by her history and gained permission from the Italian authorities to paint her in an original military colour scheme, which was, after the rebuild, carried out very ably by Keith at Shropshire Aircraft Painting.

In short, the airframe was stripped back to bare metal and work began from there. All the work, including welding and a fair bit of percussion adjustment has been checked and signed off by my LAA inspector, Pete Whitehead at Shropshire Light Aviation. Besides replacing the rotting floors and fitting

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 13
Left The fuselage was micro-blasted with soft plastic pellets and painted two pack military green. Photo: Glen Molloy
Below It looks just like a brand new engine, courtesy of Brian Newby. Photo: Glen Molloy

the Grove brake mod, I tried to retain as much of the original aircraft as possible, and had some of the major dents and damage on the engine cowlings and panels repaired by a vintage car restorer. Many smaller dents are still evident, but they give her a patina which I think is desirable.

I needed seat replacements, a new exhaust and a number of missing parts, which I purchased from Univair and a few Vintage Piper Club members. The seat belts were in a poor state, so I have utilised a set from an army Saxon Armoured Personnel Carrier, until I get around to renovating the originals. The dated and scratched windscreen was polished to almost a new condition by a local glider canopy restorer, and the engine was beautifully refurbished by the venerable Brian Newby, although I nervously await its first start.

I've been in contact with an ex-Italian army pilot who has written a book purely on ALE Piper aircraft, their bases and crews. He and his friends have been most helpful and assisted with some of the historical background, which I find fascinating. I hope they will be pleased with my efforts when she finally gets airborne. Four years have now passed, and she is 95% complete, but as we all know that last 5% can take an age. Fingers crossed, she should be in the air by the spring of 2021.

If your aircraft has been featured in the New Projects list, please let Project News know of your progress at:

n Pitts S-1S (LAA 009-15734) 19/11/2020

Mr M Hemsworth, 28 Broadway, Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, DN34 5RN

Cleared To Fly

If your aircraft has featured recently in the magazine and has subsequently completed its maiden flight, Project News would like to hear from you at:

n G-CLMR Eurostar EV97 (PFA 315-14607) 5/11/2020

n Van’s RV-8 (LAA 303-15733) 12/11/2020

Mr P Upshall, 12 Cypress Road, Charlton Down, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 9FF

n Chilton DW.1 (LAA 225-15731) 3/11/2020

Mr S Leigh, 29 Groombridge, Kents Hill, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK7 6HA

n Van’s RV-7 (LAA

Project News 14 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Above Painted RAL olive green and brown camouflage, topped with a two-pack satin lacquer. Left Tango Papa emerging from Shropshire Aircraft Painting. Photo: Keith Bebbington
323-15735) 18/11/2020 Name & Address held by LAA Engineering n Murphy Renegade Spirit 912 (LAA 188A-15732) 5/11/2020 Name & Address held by LAA Engineering
Mr Colin James, Petty France, Denstead Lane, Chartham Hatch, Canterbury, CT4 7NJ n G-OLED Eurofox 912(S) (LAA 376-15688) 5/11/2020 Simon & Jack Ledingham, Rose Cottage, Temple Sowerby, Penrith, CA10 1SD n G-BBMR DHC-1 Chipmunk 22 (s/n C1/0213) 23/11/2020 Name & Address held by LAA Engineering n G-RVZZ Van's RV-7 (s/n 72805) 12/11/2020 Name & Address held by LAA Engineering
New Projects


Having built a reputation for excellence in the design and manufacture of light aircraft fuel system components within the amateur-build aircraft sector, Andair has now established a significant presence in the commercial aviation market as well.


Weight and balance…

Brian Hope poses the question: Are you taking it seriously enough?

I’m not convinced that many of us really have a particularly deep understanding of weight and balance, and probably more concerning is that rather too many of us rarely, if ever, carry out a ‘proper’ W&B exercise before we fly. I learned to fly more years ago than I care to remember, in a Condor, a classic two-seat side-by-side with a single fuel tank mounted between the firewall and the instrument panel, and a parcel shelf behind the occupants capable of accommodating very limited baggage. None of my instructors ever even mentioned weight and balance before any of my training flights. I think I may have read about it in the two volumes of Birch and Bramson, the then basis for the PPL exams, but until I bought a Jodel D117 some years later, I never gave the matter any serious thought.

I can’t say that my attention to W&B was particularly scientific even when I did get the Jodel. Even back then I wasn’t built like a racing snake, so my major concern was that with a reasonable-sized passenger, both tanks full and a tent and sleeping bags on the parcel shelf, we were within max all up weight, which with the D117’s generous useful load we were. A W&B in that configuration showed that we were still within the aircraft’s aft CG, which again on the D117 is pretty generous. So, for pretty well any scenario I was likely to fly the aircraft in, I was not going to have a W&B issue, and as you always deplete the rear tank first (although you have to take off and land on the front tank), the CG is moving forward during a fair portion of the flight anyway. Could I end up with a forward CG? No, it simply wasn’t possible, even with a sub 50kg pilot and a full front tank (which moves

Above Levelling the aircraft to drop the plumblines to establish the wheel and fixed datum positions. John has a neat adjustable prop for the tailwheel to fit into.

the CG forwards) and with nothing on the parcel shelf or in the rear tank. For the best part of 28 years I never did a formal W&B, I knew how much weight I could carry as regards pilot, passenger, baggage, and fuel and simply stayed within those parameters.

Of course, not all aircraft are equal, that’s part of what makes them so interesting after all, and for some, a narrow CG range and/or wide variations of possible loading, mean that it is vital that the pilot carries out a W&B for variations in loading. This is particularly relevant to four-seaters, lightweight types where the variable weights are a significantly larger proportion of the max all up weight, and non-standard configurations where perhaps seat position changes or weights might need to be added to adjust the CG. An out of range CG will not simply make the aircraft’s handling feel strange, it can be positively dangerous – an aft CG in particular can make an aircraft very tender, and possibly irrecoverable from an upset.

So, let me be clear, every pilot of every aircraft must know that he is within the specified W&B criteria for the aircraft in the configuration he intends to fly it. That may be a simple mathematical assessment of the loading, as with the D117, or it may be an absolute necessity that he mathematically works out the CG for every flight – if there’s any doubt, work it out.

Anyway, the crux of this article is how ‘we’ (actually John Luck who runs a part-time light aircraft weighing service in the South East: reweighed another Jodel, this time a modified D112, which I and a friend have bought and spent the best part of a year fettling. I do have a plan to run an irregular

16 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021

series of articles about the LAA staff members’ aircraft projects, most of the Engineering-based guys have something interesting on the go and I just need to prise the information from them. So, this also serves the double purpose of introducing that (hopeful) series of articles.

The D112 was airworthy when we bought it, but we knew at the time it had a number of things we weren’t happy with that needed to be resolved… it required a bit of TLC. You may ask why did we buy it then? Well, to put it succinctly, it was a bit like Les Dawson’s piano playing in that it had all the right notes, they just needed re-arranging to make a decent tune. It had a C90 instead of a C65, and a supplementary rear tank as per the D117, plus a new Hercules prop, a Trig 8.33 and Mode S, an alternator instead of a dynamo and a modern lightweight starter instead of the old pull clutch type… and the airframe was sound, the wing having been re-covered within the past 10 years (I’d also had a chat with the Inspector who oversaw the wing covering, and he assured me that any repairs were satisfactorily carried out). Some of the other workmanship, however, is best described as safe but sloppy and, as we are likely to be flying the aircraft two up most of the time, the overly heavy cowling, exhaust and spats had to go. So too did the plumbing arrangement on the rear tank, which used an electric fuel pump to transfer its fuel into the front tank, rather than feed directly to the engine. I think this modus operandi was used to get around the fact that the engine did not have a mechanical fuel pump fitted. It doesn’t take a lot of working out that this meant we would have to use a significant amount of fuel from the front tank – with the CG moving aft while we did so – before we could start moving the fuel from the rear tank forward. In normal circumstances I don’t doubt this was perfectly satisfactory as far as remaining within the CG range, but what if the fuel pump failed? We’d have 40 litres of unusable fuel and have to land prematurely if we were on a long leg. The canopy frame had also had a troubled life, mullered probably best describes it, the doors fitted like they really didn’t want to come along for the ride.

A fuel overhaul

To cut a long story short, we have completely redone the fuel system, including fitting a three-way valve and mechanical fuel pump to feed the two tanks independently to the engine, binned the overly complex exhaust and silencer for an Airworld UK type system, replaced the canopy frame with a forward hinging door-style canopy and the cowling with a traditional aluminium style, moved the battery from inside the cockpit to the engine bay, and completely rewired the aircraft and fitted a new instrument panel. We were ready to do a weight and balance, the various changes obviously negating the previous weighing. Incidentally, LAA recommends a reweigh at least every 10 years, although if you make any significant changes, you must redo the weighing as a matter of course.

I must mention here that none of this work was accomplished without a huge amount of help from our friends at Farthing Corner, in the shape of supply of second-hand parts, expertise, hands-on help and encouragement. I won’t name them all, they know who they are, but they epitomise what is so wonderful about this Association. Paddy, my partner in crime, and I will be forever grateful for their generous assistance, so freely given.

Just to make things awkward, there was no space available at FC when we bought the aircraft, so we were based at Clipgate Farm, near Canterbury (thanks Bob and Avril), almost an hour away for me and more for Paddy. Anybody working on an aircraft in such a situation will understand the frustration of turning up with a boot full of parts and tools, only to find that you left the O-rings or screws you needed to do the planned job on the kitchen table! However, a month or two before we expected to be in a position to fly the aeroplane, a space came available at FC and, fortunately, somebody must have hidden all the black balls as we were accepted as the replacement residents.

Now that we were paying two lots of hangar rent, and winter and an anticipated ramp up of Covid-19 were likely

Left Still a bit of tarting up to do in the cockpit. The central iPad runs a Talos EFIS which uses a remote AHRS unit, it was in the aircraft when we bought it and works very well. The rhs mount is for a Garmin aera 500. We used Fly Visuals for the placarding and were very pleased with their products. Likewise, the Andair fuel valve which is pure artistry in aluminium. A PilotAware is mounted behind the panel to overlay traffic onto the SkyDemon and, with the subsidy, we will be fitting a TN72 to give us SIL 1 ADSB out for EC.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 17 W&B

to cause problems if we didn’t make the move sooner rather than later. It was all hands to the pump to tie up the loose ends so we could make the 10 minute flight up to Farthing Corner. So, on 24 October, John turned up with his aircraft scales, and our Inspector, the ever-helpful Gary Smith, was also on hand and we set to, to carry out the reweighing.

The theory is pretty straightforward. Every aircraft will only fly properly if its point about which it is in balance (its centre of gravity) is within a certain range. Usually, on a conventional aeroplane, this range works out to be between about a quarter and a third of the wing chord back from the leading edge. For each aeroplane the extremes of the allowable range are defined in terms of a pair of distances either forward or aft of an immovable datum, often the leading edge of the wing, but sometimes the firewall or other fixed point. There is always a so-called ‘CG range’ quoted because inevitably there needs to be a degree of tolerance forward and aft of the ideal balance point to cater for variations in the fuel load, baggage and pilot/passenger weights. The extent of that tolerance represents the forward and aft CG limits. The allowable CG range is, of course, not an arbitrary one, it is tied in with aerodynamic considerations, such as the centre of pressure of the wing, and the moment of the tailplane and elevator, which determine whether the aeroplane is stable, controllable and likely to recover from a spin. However, that is outside the scope of this article, and certainly my expertise; all we need to know is that the designer sets those limits, we have to stay within them, and a W&B Schedule provides us with the means to do so.

In order to calculate the effect of the variable loads on the CG, the points at which those loads act are measured from the fixed datum, those measurements being called the moment arms. Depending on whether the load is forward of the fixed datum or aft of it, it has a positive (aft) or negative (forward) value. On the Jodel, the datum is the leading edge of the wing at the root, and the CG point is aft of the datum; of the variable weight moment arms, only the front fuel tank is forward of the datum, so has a negative value, all the others – pilot, passenger, baggage and rear fuel tank – are aft of the datum and so are positive. As a general rule, the moment arm lengths are a known value for a particular design, however, if they are not then they are relatively easy to measure, which we’ll come to shortly.

Top Marking the leading-edge fixed datum using a plumb bob.

Above Measuring the distance of the main wheel axis from the fixed datum.

Below Levelled up on the parcel shelf. A few degrees out will make a lot of difference so make sure you know the correct datum.

So, the first part of getting a weight and balance schedule done is to ascertain the aircraft’s empty weight and the position of its empty weight CG, and to do this it has to be set level to a horizontal datum, which effectively puts it in the flying attitude. Often the datum for this is the top longeron, which on the Jodel is the same as the parcel shelf. Make sure you know what the correct levelling attitude is and set it up accurately – a few degrees can make a big difference to the results.

As the logical way to weigh an aircraft is to put scales under its wheels, in order to calculate its empty weight CG we need to know the moment arms of the wheels –their measurement to the fixed datum. So, before the scales are put under the aircraft, it is levelled and a

Headset review W&B

plumbline used to mark the leading edge datum (each side), the centreline of both the main wheel axles, and the centreline of the tailwheel – chalk or pencil marks being made on the floor. The main wheel and fixed datum axes are then marked with a chalk line (a piece of thin twine that is chalked, held taut between the marks and then twanged like a guitar string) to form two transverse lines, and a fore and aft centreline is strung down to the tailwheel mark. We can then measure the distance between the fixed datum and the main gear axle – in this case 95mm aft of the datum, and the distance from the datum to the tailwheel centreline – 4,675mm, obviously also aft of the datum. Had the Jodel had a nosewheel, the nosewheel centreline would have been forward of the fixed datum and the moment arm would have had a negative value.

It is at this point that if we do not know the moment arm of any of the causes of a variable load, a new auxiliary fuel tank, for example, we can drop a plumbline down from its centreline so we can measure its distance from the fixed datum.

Now that we have all the moment arms noted, we can weigh the empty aircraft – it is possible to weigh it with a known quantity of fuel in it but we had drained the tanks for the sake of accuracy, and we later had to calibrate the rear fuel gauge anyway.

On the scales

The weighing itself is a bit of an anti-climax, you roll the aircraft onto the scales and lift the tail end back up to put the tailwheel back into the tripod which is now also on a scale (the scale being zeroed so the tripod weight was negated). The results are shown on the W&B Schedule, 172.9kg port main, 172.7kg starboard main, and 22kg tailwheel.

We now had all we needed to calculate the empty weight and CG position. By adding the three weights from under the wheels we get 172.9 + 172.7 + 22 = 367.6kg empty weight. This was 12kg lighter than at its previous weighing, so our weight saving exercise had borne fruit.

The ‘moments’ are established by multiplying the moment arm by its appropriate weight – for example, for the port wheel it is 172.9 x 95 = 16,425.5 You do the same for the starboard (16,406.5) and tailwheel (10,2850) and then add the three together because they are all positive numbers and get 13,5682 By dividing that figure by the empty weight (367.6kg) you get an empty weight CG position of 369.10mm aft of the fixed datum.

Had this been a nosewheel machine, the nosewheel figure would have been a negative value, so you would have added the two main wheel moments and then subtracted the nosewheel moment before dividing that by the empty weight.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 19 W&B
Below And finally, noting the weights on the scales.

The same methodology is then used to calculate the worst forward CG case, with the Jodel’s layout this is based on a 55kg pilot flying solo with a full front tank but no luggage or rear fuel; and a worst aft CG case with ‘standard’ 86kg pilot and passenger, no fuel in the front but 25kg of baggage and a full rear tank. By working through the examples, you will see that the front tank Moment is subtracted from the total Moment figure because it is forward of the fixed datum. Zero fuel CG’s are also calculated for both examples.

OK, this is as far as you need to get to keep Engineering happy that your aircraft meets the appropriate design code it falls within, but filing it away in the aircraft folder and never looking at it again is not supposed to be the next step. If you have a trawl around the net you will find a number of apps into which you can punch the appropriate numbers but unfortunately a lot of them are in US units (lb and inches) only.

The LAA website includes both metric and imperial formats and spreadsheet versions of them which avoids you having to calculate the results through by hand, and quickly shows you the results of changes in loading on the loaded weight and CG. You can find them under the Aircraft and Technical tab, then Designing Aircraft, then Preliminary design

Next month we’ll take a look how you can adapt your W&B schedule into a digital format with these and other systems to make things simple enough so you can easily carry out a W&B check before every flight. In the meantime, if you are using an app that works for you, please drop me a line so I can pass on the details.

Oh, and yes, we did manage to get the aircraft up to her new home at Farthing Corner before lock down… just.

Below Ten days

later the aircraft was flown up to its new home at Farthing Corner.

We did the fuel flow tests a week after doing the W&B, and after countless checks to make sure everything was properly bolted back together, Gary signed the aircraft off and John Dean very kindly flew it up to FC the day before lock down. He made two half-hour flights and reported that it flew very well.

Both Paddy and I have to revalidate, which we are reluctant to do at the moment, so we’re going to do a bit of tidying up of the interior and hopefully paint the cowling and do the permit test flight when the weather improves. We are looking forward to some good flying next season! ■

Headset review W&B 20 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021


As we usher in, hopefully, a brighter and brilliant 2021, Martin Ferid peers down Memory Lane at a few flights to stir the soul…

As the sophomoric orange glow fades from the White House and the local Specsavers negates the need for a special journey to Barnard Castle, we put this most surreal of years behind us.

All we can hope is that the vaccines work, and people focus on the things we have in common, with a degree of beneficence, rather than the negativity.

It may not be among the most fashionable of diktats, but I long for the return of European skies, with endless visibility and a quirky ambrosial bistro at the other end. The thrill naturally begins long before the day of the flight, but with so many variables it’s sometimes a juggling act for all the components to come together, and even then you can’t be sure of making your destination until you’ve arrived.

Thank you to those of you who have emailed and lamented the Flying Adventure feature missing from the recent pages of LA. This was an intentional move so as not to tempt, tantalise and encourage pilots to flit from one place to another, going against scientific advice at odds with the garboil and mixed messages sometimes coming from the government. That in no way infers a diminished appeal or a plethora of new destinations are not waiting, rest assured that the feature will return in due course.

During lockdown there were thousands of memes doing the rounds that not only broke the monotony but also

Above Folly Farm, one of UK’s abundance of idyllic farm strips. It is to be hoped that sensible criteria will enable operations into and out of such strips to the continent are permitted to continue post mid-2022.

went some way in cementing friendships with an added touch of levity. One in particular that struck me was a picture of Emmett Lathrop PhD from Back to the Future, otherwise known as ‘Doc’ Brown; he was giving Marty McFly some undeniably sound advice – ‘‘Whatever you do Marty don't go back to 2020!’’

For this feature, we are taking the Doc’s advice and assigning 2020 to the annals of history, only to be dissected by A-level students in years to come, and spoken about in clandestine meetings down dark corridors in the dead of night. Be glad it’s over, and if there is a lesson to be learned, it is that the opportunities that are there for us today may not be there tomorrow; by adopting a state of hebetude or coming up with a series of excuses, you only cheat yourself. Rather than spending hours doom scrolling weather sites weeks before a trip, just wait and go if it is good, and mow the lawn if it is not.

As for flying events, there were some, but social distancing, face masks and not being able to get close to the aircraft somehow took the zest out of them.

By way of wishing you all a Happy New Year, instead of January’s regular ‘Best three fly-ins’ feature, I have chosen three from a surprisingly long ‘shortlist’ of memorable or special flights taken over the years. Each had something ineffable that appealed to the irenic being inside, not necessarily at the time but more so on reflection. To start,

22 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021

we go to a simple farm strip in Sussex, then to the awe-inspiring Berlin Templehof, and finally to a XVI century French Château, equipped with its own runway.

Folly Farm – West Sussex

At the time, several microlight pilots had either built or purchased LAA light aircraft and my name was doing the rounds with regards to licence upgrades to SSEA and test flying. One day an invitation appeared in my inbox, for a BBQ to be held at Folly Farm in West Sussex. The farm is owned by Shaun, who flew a Rans S7, with Tony, a Thruster pilot and Graham as fellow organisers. The strip was parallel to high voltage power lines, had a dip in the middle, trees at one end and farm buildings at the other, requiring a dogleg so as not to annoy the neighbours. Nothing too unusual in that, especially given that the majority of arrivals would be microlights or pilots used to farm strips. The thing with strip flying is that every approach and departure has added challenges, although along with those challenges come certain freedoms, charm and satisfaction.

As it was approaching mid-summer, with high pressure building, my partner Sian and I set off into the wild blue yonder. Picking out a new strip from the abundance of green fields can be tricky and, to be honest, I can even struggle with ones that I know, in the event – and much to her delight – Sian spotted it long before I did.

Never wanting to miss an opportunity, as the fly-in was only about 30 minutes or so from the Isle of Wight, we had planned to overnight in the ‘old town’ area of Shanklin before heading back home for a return to reality and the more mundane chores.

As one of the earlier arrivals, it was pleasant sitting just before the runway threshold with a drink as the other pilots arrived directly over the buildings – above our heads.

Watching these pilots arrive gave rise to one of those ikigai moments where the wonderment of flight fused with the fact that this wasn’t the preserve of others, but actually a part of what we do and what we are. We weren’t living vicariously but were fully paid-up, cardcarrying members of this fraternity, engendering a feeling of well-being and purpose.

The BBQ itself was surprisingly good, and really there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be as farmers have access to reasonably priced fresh produce, rather the more usual cheap pack of burgers and catering sausages.

Later, as I looked back to the hangar through the trees from the other end of the strip, the realisation dawned on just how fortunate we are to have these farm strips, gems that form part of the fabric of our lives, with almost a

Flying Adventure

Left Microlighters and SSEA pilots enjoyed camaraderie and a superb BBQ at a Folly Farm fly-in.

sub-culture serving as one of the last bastions of true flying freedoms. These strips are in abundance here in the UK but are a rarity in some countries, and not allowed at all in many others, with pilots restricted only to licensed aerodromes.

Since the Brexit vote, one of the major concerns was always going to be the ongoing ability to take-off from one of these small patches of grass, head off to somewhere in Europe and return unhindered. That situation is about to change and without a ‘Certificate of Agreement’ from June 2022 pilots will have to land elsewhere both outbound and inbound. In a bid to disseminate the information early, I have requested to be one of the first to go through the vetting process and follow it up with a feature. Let’s hope ‘taking back control’ doesn’t make it too onerous as we should legally be treated along the same lines as the sailing fraternity, who are entitled to pull into any port, as required. It is something that all the associations, the LAA, BMAA & AOPA should really look into, as this decision was quietly announced last October.

Berlin – Templehof

The approach and landing into Berlin Templehof were about as charged and rousing as it gets. The place is vast and the imagery it conjures up when parked, facing the huge curved structure that houses the terminal, is awe-inspiring and formidably impressive. Pilots either managed to make the trip or really wish they had! Like most accomplished bureaucracy, whatever semblance or guise it comes under, the plutocrats eventually won the day. Despite its popularity and place in history, the valuable land was earmarked for closure and close it did. Yes, they did put it to a public vote, which they duly lost. and after ‘careful consideration’ closed it anyway.

It was opened on 8 October 1923 by the Reich Ministry of Transport as one of Germany's first airports, although the major development programme wasn’t undertaken until the Nazi regime came to power in the 1930s. Its name originates from The Knights Templar, as the land where it was built was originally owned by them during the middle-ages. In the closing stages of WWII, Oberst Rudolf Böttger, its German commander, was ordered to destroy the base to avoid it falling into the enemy’s hands. He chose to disobey his orders and committed suicide, leaving the way open for Soviet troops. Its contribution to Operation Vittles, officially known as the Berlin Airlift, is well known and became one of the first major international impasses of the Cold War.

At about six hours flying time from the south coast, it is possible to do it in a day, although much easier allowing

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 23

Right Enjoying a drink with friends at the end of the day at the Inselgarten Restaurant on the island of Unterseeinsel on lake Untersee.

for a night stop. With aircraft going from all over the country, our contact was Hubert Eckl, an Emeraude pilot based at Kyritz about a 30-minute flight to the north-west of Berlin in the old East Germany. Hubert organised several events over the years, which tended to kick-off the flying season, although in early May it often threw up some challenging weather conditions.

Our first night’s dinner was with a mix of old and new friends with the Jodel neatly lined-up alongside a Falco, Alpi Pioneer, Jabiru 400 and Taylorcraft at the airport of Osnabruck-Atterheide (EDWO). Others had chosen nearby Damme (EDWC) for their night-stop and despite a forecast that could easily have gone either way, the outbound trip was made in good VFR.

There must have been 30/40 of us for dinner in Kyritz the next evening, with easily as many Brits as Germans.

The following morning consisted of a military-style briefing, whereby we would depart in waves of four aircraft at five minute intervals and had connotations more akin to a bombing run rather than a friendly visit. So, off we set, with just one aircraft in each group making the radio calls at the reporting points, with familiar names like Potsdam and Spandau.

Those of us with spare seats were asked to take some of their non-flying club members along for an airborne experience before they lost the opportunity forever.

Once landed and through the terminal, the U-Bahn (U6) had us quickly into the centre of Berlin, where our excursion took the semblance of a walk through history. Our tour included the Reichstag Building, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the Berlin Wall and the banks of the River Spree. On our return, we joined a guided tour of the airport detailing its history, purpose and current circumstance. The westerly departure for the return to Kyritz certainly focused the mind as an engine failure gave few if any options for a safe outcome. It did though

Above Berlin Templehof, with its huge semi-circular terminal building, designed and built during the Nazi era and never actually completed. It closed in October 2008 and is now a country park.

Left A tour of Berlin took in sights such as the 18th century Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of Berlin’s disunity during the Cold War but now a symbol of hope.

Flying Adventure 24 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021

take us directly over another historic disused airfield, Gatow, which was to become RAF Gatow in the British sector of post-war Berlin and also played a major role in the Airlift.

The location of the Brandenburger Inselgarten Restaurant for the evening meal rounded off a superb day and was equally spectacular. It is located on the idyllic setting of the Unterseeinsel, a small island accessible only by boat, that lies on lake Untersee between Kyritz and Wusterhausen. Sitting on the terrace, overlooking the lake, the 20 or so of us were full of the camaraderie that exists between pilots after a truly magnificent day with not a care in the world – until, of course, the following day when we had to head for home.

Château De Monhoudou – Loire Valley

This was to be an extra special trip, over a bank holiday weekend, as it’s not every day we get to indulge at the luxury end of the market. Looking at the forecast raised questions as to its feasibility as ‘all the ducks had to line up’. We had booked a two-night stay at the Château De Monhoudou, roughly midway between Alençon and Le Mans, the home of Michel and Marie-Christine de Monhoudou. The Château had been in Michel’s family since the XVI century and operated as a luxury hotel with an optional dinner package. A departure on Friday afternoon had us slipping between two weather systems and sitting for dinner at the Amiens Campanile by around 8.30pm, leaving a 1½ hour flight to the Château the next day.

The following morning, we optimistically had the aeroplane ready by 9am, but the fine, misty, drizzly rain made it axiomatic and we were going nowhere fast. After some time, delusionally convinced of some improvement, the decision to get airborne for a closer look into the grey, had us back on the ground within seconds. Cursing like Dick Dastardly’s dog Muttley from the Wacky Races, it was very grey up there and certainly greyer than it looked from down below. With the aeroplane tied down again, a couple of forlorn figures trudged towards the local industrial centre. It was time to accept reality and call the Château to cancel the booking. Christine was charming but said she would have to charge us, adding that the weather there was fine and that the room awaited us should we arrive.

After a period of debate, and further checking of the forecast, there was a definite improvement, the aircraft was readied for a second time that day, the power went in and we managed a reasonably comfortable 600ft. Now most pilots realise that there are differing degrees of comfort and this certainly had substantial latitude, but talking to Beauvais, with nothing else in the sky, we took a labyrinthine route through their airspace, until around 30 minutes later when the tension eased, and the cloud base and visibility improved. The further south we got the better conditions were.

As usual, Sian had studied the Google Earth pictures and spotted the strip long before me. What I did notice was the trees at the runway threshold, and the windsock

Top The charming XVI century Château De Monhoudou in France, where pilots can fly in and enjoy a touch of luxury.

Above The nicely kept airstrip at Monhoudou Château.

with its tail flicking like a circus performer’s whip from the left-hand side. After running the gauntlet of the final approach, we landed safely, and Michel was there to greet us. Christine prepared a welcome drink a good six hours after our intended arrival. A look around Monsieur de Monhoudou’s Ekolot KR-030 Topaz was a real eye-opener, it must be the most luxurious microlight that I'd ever seen, with the family crest emblazoned on each side.

Drinks and canapés were to be served in the lounge at 7pm to meet the other guests, and smart dress was suggested. This gave us sufficient time for a walk around the grounds where peacocks roamed freely and horses grazed the paddocks, and to take a swim in the indoor pool, before dressing for dinner.

Dinner was a civilised affair around a large dining table consisting of several courses with wine included, and lasted a good couple of hours or more. After a pleasant evening of comity, we retired to the billiards room for a ‘spot of snooker’ and if I were a smoker, I'm sure brandy and cigars would have followed.

The next morning Michel helped us refuel from the local petrol station and loaned us his car with recommendations of places to visit. We set off on our voyage of discovery finding a little bistro in the village of La Perrière for lunch, where it appeared little had changed since the 1930s –except for maybe the addition of a table football game sometime during the 1960s. After the almost obligatory look around the church, we followed the trail around the village marked by some amazing carvings made from fallen tree stumps.

With fewer guests the next evening, the setting was less formal and more intimate, with the seating arranged on

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 25 Flying Adventure

individual tables. The entire stay couldn’t have been more pleasant and is fondly remembered as a sojourn and toe-dipping exercise into the high-life.

Had we not departed the day before and ‘played poker’ with the weather, the frontal systems would have beaten us with a ‘double bluff’ by moving slower than expected. I’m often asked about the wisdom of particular flights and in hindsight, it would have been better to have waited another hour or two before leaving Amiens. Luckily the journey home was in clear, sunny and bright skies, often described as ‘uneventful’.

Good fortune for 2021

Whether you use Feng shui, a horseshoe or a rabbit’s foot, we can all do with a little luck and to close I’d like to wish you all A Happy New Year for 2021, with a bit of that luck. There are still plenty of memories to be made, and this crazy situation will hopefully soon be over… and it will not have put the best of our days behind us.

Luck can present itself in mysterious ways and is hard to define, as it is not an object, a mass or a property. Most of us define it in our own, personal way though. When the Wright brothers were deciding on who should make the first flight, it was determined by luck, a simple toss of a coin and it was ‘lucky’ Wilbur who won the toss. His attempt proved unsuccessful, however, as he stalled as the aircraft rotated. Three days later, ‘unlucky’ Orville, who had lost the toss, got his turn and at 10.35am on 17 December 1903, 12 seconds over 120ft made him the first man to fly in a powered heavier than air machine. They actually managed two flights each that day, with Wilbur’s final attempt lasting nearly a minute over 852ft. And what of the fate of the Promethean ‘Wright Flyer’? Well, a gust of wind caught it and it was never to fly again.

We also hear tell that people make their own luck, although I guess that too is a subjective concept. A Croatian named Frane Selak, born in 1929, is considered to be the world’s unluckiest man, but is he? In 1962, he was aboard a train that derailed and went crashing into a river, 17 others

drowned. The following year, on his first and only ever flight, he was blown out of the aircraft when a door handle failed. He landed on straw bales, whereas 19 others died. In 1966, a bus he was travelling in skidded off the road, crashing into a river, four died while he was able to swim ashore. In 1970 his car caught fire and he escaped just before it blew up. Three years later in another car fire, he survived again with singed hair. In 1995 he was hit by a bus in Zagreb. The following year on a mountain bend he was involved in a head-on collision, he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrown out of the car and hung onto a tree while the car plummeted into the valley below. That said, does that make him lucky or unlucky? Anyway, in 2003 he won €900,000 Euros on the lottery and got married for the fifth time. That is lucky – the lottery win, not necessarily the fifth wife!

As everyone used to say in the latter half of the last century – be lucky! ■

Bit of inspiration!

Martin Ferid is a Class Rating Instructor and Revalidation Examiner specialising in flying with qualified pilots throughout Europe in their aircraft as day trips or a few days. In these days when so much is ‘virtual’, a browse through the ‘favourite destinations’ on the website below should help with a little inspiration for the future. For a little amusement on rainy days, try the ‘bit of fun’ section. If you'd like to make contact:


Tel: 07598 880 178


Above The classically French lounge of Michel and Marie-Christine’s home.

Gyro joys…

: Steve Paffett reports on the delights of the autogyro – and how he has used his aircraft to raise charity funds…

It has long been a mission of mine to try and demonstrate to the public at large, that the autogyro is the safest and most benign and forgiving aircraft there is. Many of you will have seen the legend who was Wing Commander Ken Wallis, a once regular airshow performer, with his legs dangling over the side of one of his favourite aircraft while using an SLR camera in his hands, demonstrating only too well how incredibly stable these machines are.

I never flew in one myself until 2010, and at that time I was petrified of heights and never enjoyed flying. Prior to that I was lucky enough to fly (well, try to) radio-controlled model helicopters, so the rotary side of things always made some sense to me. Like the proverbial sycamore seed, rotors even without power would, if the setup were right, bring their load safely to the ground.

I decided to take the plunge and, after several hours of instruction, I was smitten to the point that it wasn’t too long before my own new aircraft was ordered. I don’t mind admitting that it was a massive amount of money for me to raise and I was fortunate

enough to go online and borrow (both on the same day) £25,000 each from two lenders – all I had to worry about then were the repayments, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.

On 5 October 2011, I gained my PPL (G). How chuffed was I – the only test I had ever passed in my life was my driving test and now I was a gyroplane pilot. Some would argue I’m still not, but I have a piece of paper to prove it!

I was incredibly fortunate to find a farm strip to the east of the Luton zone, only 15 minutes from home and Big Nellie has been hangared there ever since.

In 2013, I was elected as Events Coordinator and Membership Secretary for the British Rotorcraft Association, how lucky I have been to meet some astonishing people in my time in the association, not to mention all of the pilots past and present that I have been fortunate enough to chat to, and indeed fly with.

Also, 2013 was the year I was fortunate enough to go on what I think was the last ever Wallis Open Day. What a privilege it was to stand before the great man himself and be entertained by his incredible stories;

28 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Above Some of the record 63 pilots and gyros that attended the 2019 BRA Record Breaker Fly-in at Old Warden.

and be left agog at the memorabilia and aircraft we saw that day.

Sadly, Ken is no longer with us, but his memory is embedded in most gyro pilots’ minds and his fascinating collection of gyros is safely stored.

It is hoped that one day a way will be found to get restoration underway but for the moment, WA-116 G-ARZB, Little Nellie , which Ken flew in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice , is on public display in Hanger 6 with the many astounding exhibits at the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, in Bedfordshire.

Raising awareness

Over the past three years the BRA has actively encouraged events that the public have been able to attend, and this does seem to raise awareness and, I am sure, helps keep our growing number of gyro instructors busy.

It has also been a mission of mine to try and encourage the ‘old school’ single-seaters back into the fold, sadly in recent years they dwindled to near extinction. I am pleased to say the tide of change is coming and more and more of these precious old aircraft are being restored and flown again.

My own aircraft is a factory-built two-seater and has now accumulated over 900 hours and more than 2,000 flights… and shared that experience with almost 200 individuals, including my daughter when she was just five.

As I’ve become heavier, I treated her to a bigger engine (the gyro not my daughter), upgraded rotors, and changed props, so now she is more capable and forgiving than ever. Gyros they say are 90% helicopter for 10% of the price.

Among many of the great features of the gyro is the time it takes to pull her out of the hangar, do the daily inspection and get ready for take-off in under 30 minutes. After landing, another 15 minutes and you can be on the way home, so popping down the strip for a 30 minute or hour flight is just so easy.

I am writing this article to highlight just how much joy you can get from a gyro, whether it’s a trip abroad as we did in 2014 when we flew to France, or simply

local flights meeting up with mates for that very expensive cup of coffee.

Sadly, Covid-19, as with many other organisations, led to the cancellation of our 2020 record breaker fly-in scheduled for Shobden in June. We were confidently getting ready to beat the 63 gyros that were in attendance at Old Warden in 2019. Keep an eye on the events calendar and the BRA website to find out about our events for 2021, we are hoping we will be able to try again. This time I am confident that a few of the legendary single-seaters will be there as well to help boost the numbers a little.

Finally I must mention that the gyro has also given me many opportunities to raise money for charity and to hold the privilege of flying with the Starlight Kids, one of whom was an inspirational young man named Michael. After a flight at Popham, he received the unfortunate news that his tumour had returned. Top of his bucket list was a flight in G-PAFF, and with the help of Old Warden’s B&B and his parents, we were able to tick that box for him. Puts moaning that we can’t fly into perspective, doesn’t it? ■

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 29 Gyro joys
Left Ken Wallis demonstrates the inherent stability of the gyrocopter. Below My Rotorsport MTO Sport, Big Nellie, keeps good company at Old Warden.

Navigation aids

Navigation with handheld radio

If you lost your GPS signal, could your handheld radio’s VOR facility come to your rescue? Ian Fraser reports

When I suggested this article to the editor, he laughed and said, “VOR is old hat, LAAers pretty well all use GPS.” Well, maybe he has a point, in that very few of us have an old steam-driven VOR in our aircraft, but a surprising number of us have a handheld radio with a VOR, and some even an ILS function. If we weren’t interested in VOR, why did we buy them? But we did (and still do), so what can we use them for?

In the September issue of LA I reported on GPS jamming and its consequences. GPS jamming means anything that relies on GPS will not work at all… and this can affect a large area. The CAA’s position on this is to tell us (including the airlines) when it happens, and if we need radio navigation we must revert to the old VOR systems. Which begs the question: can we use our handhelds to help under such circumstances? Obviously, we can’t use them to formally follow IFR procedures, but could we use them to aid us with our VFR navigation? This was my experience when I tried just that – and I learned a lot. But first, as many of us aren’t familiar with VOR navigation aids, I will briefly explain what they do and highlight an important feature of the technology behind them.

VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range), is a radio navigation system used by commercial IFR traffic and which you also still find in some club aircraft used to train in IMC. There are 25 or so VOR beacons dotted around the country, they generally mark the start, end, bend or intersection of airways, and sometimes an airport. They are marked on your map by a compass rose. They cover central UK well, rarely more than 50 miles apart, but toward the coasts they are sparser.

Right A typical VOR indicator. It shows we are flying along the 255 radial away from the VOR.

Left The VOR as depicted on the half mil chart.

You tune your Nav radio to a specific beacon and as long as you are in range, the VOR instrument displays its direction to or from the aircraft (regardless of heading or wind). The traditional VOR display is a compass with an arrow called a CDI (Course Deviation Indicator). The display has a knob called the OBS (Omni bearing Selector) which rotates the compass card. The central (CDI) arrow moves left or right indicating where you are relative to your current beacon radial. You can determine which radial you are on relative to the beacon by rotating the knob until the arrow is central. You are then on that bearing to or from the VOR and can fly to or from the beacon by keeping the arrow in the middle. Alternatively, you can intercept a radial by setting the target radial bearing with the OBS knob and fly on until the arrow centres. You will have just intercepted that radial, so can turn onto that heading and follow it to the beacon. With only one measurement though, you have no idea where on the radial you are, but if you can receive two beacons then you can calculate your exact position by cross referencing the two bearings. Handhelds and latter certified VORs have simplified this by displaying the current beacon bearing without the OBS twiddling.

A very similar electronic system (localiser) is used to line up with an ILS runway approach, it would be great if this was just another VOR, but it is not. It only works to identify the runway heading radial and is often lower power (range). In this case the CDI arrow represents the runway. You fly toward the approach path, typically targeting crossing it about 15 miles from the airfield. As you approach the runway path, the arrow moves toward the centre and you steer toward the runway heading. Once

Headset review 30 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021

aligned, you follow the arrow to the runway. One handheld even has a glideslope slope function, which does the same with your height as you approach. VOR / ILS is vastly different to GPS and not something you should rely on unless you are familiar with it, but if you plan ahead and practise, it could be a useful tool.

A VOR beacon consists of a radio transmitter outputting two signals, the (phase) difference between them representing the bearing. It also transmits a morse code identifier that can be monitored to check that you are tuned to the right beacon. An electronic comparison of the two signals enables your VOR receiver to determine the (magnetic) track to or from the beacon. Certified installations normally have a range of 80 miles or more, thus ensuring reliable coverage of the airways network, but to get that sort of range, they need an efficient antenna.

Right The three radios tested, a pre-8.33 Icom A22E, a Yaesu FTA750 and an Icom A24E.

Below The horizontally aligned V-shaped VOR antenna mounted on a fin.

VOR first came into service in 1946 and at the time was a neat solution for the technology available. But there was a technical catch. Like many complex radio systems, it is vulnerable to interference from signal multipaths. This means the signal could take several routes (reflected off buildings, hills etc) to your aircraft, interfering with the important direct signal and corrupting the bearing calculation. The way this is mitigated is to use a horizontal antenna system (polarisation) for VOR transmissions (as opposed to vertical for communications) and hence the different orientation of VOR antenna compared with COM antenna on your aircraft. The rationale is that in being reflected, a signal also changes toward a vertical polarisation and is thus rejected by the horizontal antenna.

Matching the antenna polarisation to the radio transmissions you are trying to receive is very important, as a mismatch will have a dramatic adverse impact on its range and effectiveness. This means that to be efficient a VOR system cannot use the same antenna as the Com system, and this is a significant issue for handheld radios trying to do both.

So, could my handheld airband radio with a VOR function help me get out of trouble in the event of a GPS failure? Does it have the range and accuracy required? As radios I wouldn’t criticise any of the products I tried, but how about their performance as radio navigators?

Although this is not a product review, never being one to take marketing or the legends on buttons at face value, I flight tested them.

I tested three radios, a Yaesu FTA750, an ICOM A24E, and just out of interest dusted off an old ICOM A22E pre-8.33 radio (VOR bands didn’t change so it should still work). Although I had been playing with this on several flights, I decided to run a repeatable test. I used the Berry Head (BHD) VOR adjacent to Torquay and planned a course direct to it from Chard in Somerset (35nm, 217° at 3,000ft). The benefit of this is that it is mostly water in between so the signal polarisation corruption should be minimal. The test was to see if, and when, the device picked up a reliable signal and if I could use it to navigate to Berry Head.

My wife Elaine and I set off with a cockpit full of radios and cables. Using the rubber antennas, the quick answer was no, they hardly worked at that range regardless of how you held them, although ours is a metal aircraft (an RV-6), which doesn’t help. The rubber antenna is a packaging compromise at the best of times without being used in the wrong polarisation. I was not surprised at this result, however, the RV has a canopy antenna which I can connect to my handheld in its COM Box 2 mode, so we repeated the test using this antenna. Unlike the rubber antenna, the canopy antenna is clear of obstruction and much closer to horizontal.


The next test was with the Yaesu with the canopy antenna. Sorry about the reflections, it was a sunny day, and the November COVID-19 lockdown prevented any further tests. Encouragingly, it first picked up BHD at 43 miles (on the way to the exercise) displaying what looked like a reasonable VOR CDI display however, when we arrived at and intercepted the test radial route (35nm) its display (automatically) changed to ‘localiser’. We did some manoeuvres to check that it wasn’t an antenna issue, but the problem remained constant at whatever orientation we placed the aircraft. I have seen this before on my Yaesu and know that it reverts to a valid and accurate VOR display at about 10 miles. I don’t think this has anything to do with the antenna as it does seem to work quite well at long range. Yaesu is looking into this issue and I look forward to repeating the test once the problem is resolved.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 31 Navigation aids
The Yaesu initially picked up the beacon at 43 miles but… then switched automatically to a CDI lookalike but with no bearing info.

Next, we tried the ICOM A24E… not a current product but many pilots still own one. At 35 miles it was receiving the VOR ident loud and clear but the numerical bearing indicator (ICOM call it DVOR which is a bit misleading as it means something quite different in VOR tech speak) was unstable, varying by as much as +/- 20°, and occasionally flipped between to and from. Flying on, to within 15nm of BHD, this didn’t improve much. The old ICOM A22E was very similar and again did not really improve much with reducing range or aircraft orientation.

One point to mention is that the VOR settings on any of the radios, while not complex, are not really intuitive enough to use if you have not practised with them. The Yaesu CDI display is quite good but the others are a little small. It’s worth a note that the latest ICOM (IC A25) has a much larger display – but I ran out of time to acquire one. I hope to get an opportunity to test it and the Yaesu comprehensively once we are out of the Covid-19 restrictions.

For the next test I had arranged with RNAS Yeovilton to use its ILS to test the Yaesu locator / glideslope function. I was joined by Ruth Kelly who flew the RV from the right, while I talked to Yeovilton, observed and recorded the display.

We flew a normal EGDY 27 ILS intercept procedure but offset by five miles to arrive at the localiser at 20 miles to go instead of 15, and 1,000ft too high (to avoid conflict). Monitoring it on GPS, the Yaesu was remarkably accurate and stable to use. We detected the localiser from 22nm away and 20°+ off runway heading. We intercepted the glideslope exactly where we expected to and were able to follow it down to our planned break off point at our expected descent rate.

Above At 35 miles the A24E was receiving the VOR ident loud and clear but the numerical bearing indicator was very unstable. Its older sibling, the A22E (right) fared no better.

Below Yaesu ILS screen shots. The arrow represents the aircraft and vertical line, the runway. The markers on the two side bars show the glideslope and when everything is central you are aligned. Left to right shows us converging with the localiser; aligned with the runway; approaching the glideslope from below; and established. It was remarkably effective.

After the disappointing experience on VOR, we were so surprised we repeated it just to check, and it works well. A very impressive function.

If you try this yourself be aware that although military ILS procedures are often outside the MATZ they are ATC controlled. Talk to ATC before you use its equipment and procedures and bear in mind, if you go into controlled airspace, you could be charged.


What I tested was the concept of using handheld VORs as navigation aids rather than specific products. The radios were acquired through foraging in various local pilots’ flight bags and were mounted or held as they would be in most GA cockpits… that’s what happens in real life. My chosen test range was the best I could achieve locally but, such a range would allow for at least one beacon to be in view over most of central UK.

With a decent antenna, all the devices used were capable of detecting the beacons at 35nm but whether the bearing display on the two older devices was stable enough to be of much use is doubtful.

The Yaesu was however very encouraging in that when it worked, it worked well but the problems I experienced on the VOR display need to be resolved. My conclusion is that in the event of a GPS failure, with the handhelds I have tried to date, it would be safer concentrating on map and compass. However, I would be interested in other people’s experience with a handheld in this role.

I will open a thread in ‘Hangar chat’ on the LAA website to hear your experience and opinions on handheld VORs. ■

Navigation aids 32 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
For all display advertising enquiries contact Neil Wilson 07512 773532

A real tour de force!

Berian Griffiths certainly had his work cut out – and then some –with his Wassmer WA81 G-BKOT (s/n 813)

In April 1977 FLIGHT International magazine published an article reviewing France’s light aircraft industry. The article included a section on Wassmer Aviation at Issoire and, during a factory visit the author test flew the company’s latest offering, the all composite WA81 Piranha. The test flight report was pretty positive, if a little grudging in praise for the use of gull wing doors.

In the same month WA81 (serial number 813) was registered as F-GAIP to Cercle Aeronautique Du Secreteriat General De L’Aviation Civile Ass., the flying club of the French Civil Aviation Secretariat based at St Cyr l’Ecole, near Versailles.

Despite the rosy outlook indicated in the Flight International article, Wassmer Aviation folded in September of the same year. Meanwhile F-GAIP continued to fly at St Cyr until it was written off in an incident on 1 September 1979. Details of the incident are sketchy at best, and an Attestation by Bureau Veritas made much later, in 1991, refers to a ‘crash landing with breaking the nose gear’, the aircraft having flown some 1,028 hours. My subsequent investigation suggests that

the nosewheel became detached from the engine frame on the ground – the same French Civil Aviation Secreteriat issued an AD only 12 weeks later changing the design of the nosewheel retaining bolts – and introducing drilled bolts and wire locking!

So, where do I come in? In the winter of 2016/17 I relinquished the role of treasurer at Buckminster Gliding Club. Having retired early, I had spent a good part of the previous eight years mending administrative and financial systems and felt I had ‘served my sentence’.

My time had not been purely consigned to administration, I had (finally) completed my Silver C, gained an NPPL SLMG followed by a LAPL (A), and was regularly towing gliders using the DR400 and Eurofox. I had also joined a Duo Discus syndicate and, together with a group of friends, had bought an SF25C motor glider which I was particularly enjoying.

In the previous eight years I had learned a lot about the regulatory and financial challenges of operating aircraft, and I felt I was ready for a project to fill the chasm in my diary. I had regularly helped out with the 50 hour checks and the annual on the SF25C – more

34 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Cockpit audio
Above F-GAIP pictured at St Cyr in November 1987. She flew for less than two and a half years before being written off and put into storage. Photo: Pierre Corny –Wassmer Archivist
Project News Special

often than not assisting my good friend and mentor Ken Ballington. Ken was a BGA and LAA Inspector and a near neighbour, and we spoke a number of times of my desire for a project. I didn’t feel that I had either the skills or the perseverance to build from scratch, so I started looking for unfinished projects or restorations.

I really enjoyed flying the DR400 and I had more or less made the decision to look for a Jodel, when I saw a Wassmer WA81 project for sale in Ireland on Afors. I had never heard of Wassmer, other than as a large-scale builder of high-quality Jodels and a smattering of gliders such as the Espadon and Javelot. I started digging and found the whole (sad) history of the company on the very comprehensive Wassmer Passion website (http://

Disappeared without trace…

My wife and I were due to travel to Limerick to meet up with an American friend, so I made contact with the vendor with a view to having a look at the WA81, registered EI-FKM. However, it had been sold and disappeared without trace. Undeterred, I kept

Photo: Berian Griffiths

Above left A major concern with an aircraft that has been dismantled for many years and moved to several locations –are all the bits there?

Photo: Berian Griffiths

Above right Using a glider trailer, recovering the airframe was to take several trips. A crane made short work of the weighty fuselage.

Photo: Berian Griffiths

researching – occasionally a WA50 four-seater popped up on Planecheck, but I wanted the two place WA81.

G-INFO lists the only Wassmer WA81 on the UK register as G-BKOT (formerly F-GAIP), first registered in the UK in 1987. It had probably sat in the back of a hangar at St Cyr from 1979 until 1987, but now it was in the UK and destined for repair at Shoreham. For whatever reason the restoration was never completed and, in 1992, the project was acquired by new owners in Cambridgeshire and entrusted to Classic Aircraft at St Neots to complete. This was a good decision as Classic was (in part) operated by former LAA Inspector and experienced GRP repairer, Andy Crumpholt.

The GRP repairs were completed by Andy to the satisfaction of the CAA, but again the project was abandoned – probably due to a combination of regulatory frustration and cost overrun. This led to the aircraft being dismantled and stored in the back of a hangar at Bourn – a sad picture of the fuselage strapped to the main wheels appears on a number of aviation photo websites.

So, in the late summer of 2017, I contacted the

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 35 Project News Special
Top The aircraft as first viewed, nestled in a front garden near Newmarket.

registered owner of G-BKOT and yes, he wanted to sell, and told me, “It’s in the front garden under plastic sheeting, come and see it.”

After an initial scouting visit, I was sufficiently enthused to ask Ken Ballington to join me for a second visit – I think he was as excited as I was. We spent a number of hours crawling over the dismantled aircraft, with the fuselage perched precariously on a rapidly decaying trailer in the front garden of a cottage in a village just south of Newmarket.

I have read of ‘barn find’ classic cars but this was definitely more Reliant Scimitar than Bentley. Were all the bits there? Well they seemed to be. Was there any corrosion? Being all GRP (including the spars) it all looked pretty sound and the metal bits had been well waxed up before mothballing, though the painted GRP surfaces looked like they’d been sprayed in a hailstorm.

Above The GRP undercarriage ‘spring’ stripped of paint for inspection. Photo: Berian Griffiths

Below The undercarriage, wheels and brakes fully restored and ready to refit. Photo: Berian Griffiths

I decided to bite the bullet and closed a deal and Ken and I left for home with several boxes and a briefcase full of documents – mainly in French – plus two propellers and a number of key components. We left Ross Skingley, the owner, searching his garage for the trim wheel assembly, which fortunately he eventually found!

Regrettably this was Ken’s only visit to Newmarket as he was taken seriously ill a few weeks later. Over the next month or so I was kept very busy securing workspace, building transport jigs and recovering the aircraft to Staffordshire – in all, it took about four trips.

At a crossroads

Making sense of all the historic documentation took up the autumn of 2017. There were stacks of invoices from Issoire Aviation (which had risen from the ashes of Wassmer), as the two previous restoration attempts had been meticulous in sourcing genuine parts, including those required to address the few published ADs. I had all the bits, and I became more confident that this might all turn out OK. Sadly however, in December 2017 Ken, my mentor, passed away and the project was very much at a crossroads – I had to ask myself, do I cut my losses or carry on?

At a chance meeting with Ken Craigie he suggested that I contact Neil France, an LAA Inspector and very experienced GRP fabricator/repairer to see if he’d take on the project. Both Neil and I were out of the country at different times, which meant it took until the spring of 2018 before we could meet up.

Having surveyed the aircraft, now resident in a farm building close to my home, Neil pulled no punches as to

36 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Project News Special

the amount of work involved, but he concluded that the aircraft was salvageable – and what else was I going to do with my time?

I had spent the first quarter of 2018 finding out everything I could about the aircraft and, with help from the owners’ association, I tried to track down the other 24 WA80 series aircraft that had been manufactured. This proved time consuming and frustrating – the aircraft in Ireland still eluded me… In fact I discovered that there were actually two in Ireland – neither flying and neither owner contactable. A father and son restoring an aircraft at Pau responded to email but quickly evaporated again.

Finally, I got a phone call from an owner in northern France – how could he help? He was very patient and helpful as I bombarded him with emailed questions.

Neil’s survey and restoration proposal was submitted to Turweston, except now I found that I had a different and unexpected problem. The previous restoration works, in particular the GRP work, had been undertaken while the aircraft was certified and thereafter painted over. I had all the invoices detailing the work, but I needed evidence of the work undertaken and to what specification.

The CAA (blue) file had been consigned to archive and Classic Aircraft had long ceased trading. After a good deal of nagging by me, and significantly less (but more effective) inquiring by Francis Donaldson, the CAA file was found and evidenced the repair.

For my part – the same American friend whom I met in Limerick at the beginning of the saga, tracked down Andy Crumpholt in Boston, Massachusetts and he supplied a very helpful statement. Finally, the show was on the road.

In the 20 months or so since that eureka moment, the aircraft has been totally dismantled, every sub assembly, nut and bolt taken off bagged and catalogued and, in many cases, cross-referenced to the original construction drawings or parts supply invoices. I’ve spent close to 500 hours sanding off every square centimetre of paint, which entailed burning out two

Below Mid-August this year and finally back on its undercarriage after 41 years. Just 90% left to do! Photo: Berian Griffiths

domestic duty sanders before I invested in a professional quality machine. With unfailing support from Neil, I have learned a lot about GRP and making small peel ply repairs and, at the end of 2019, just about the whole lot was ready to be painted.

The engine has been rebuilt by Aerstone in Somerset and is ready to test when restrictions are lifted.

Panel challenge

I have used the lockdown period to complete restoration of the undercarriage, refurbish a number of more tired components and finally to complete translation of the Flight Manual – though I’ve still got a couple of bits of more arcane French that I’m finding challenging. At the time of writing I’m about to make a start on some of the simpler wiring, but the challenge of the panel and installing the engine remains outstanding.

Working on this project has left me hugely impressed by the quality of Wassmer’s engineering – Wassmer was the first in the world to manufacture a Certified GRP aircraft and, in line with others like Grob who followed, the GRP sections are hugely over designed. The aircraft has a dry weight (designed) of 495kg and max take-off of 800kg.

The metal bits are of similar high quality (and weight) but a real effort has been made to use standardised componentry. The aircraft makes extensive use of the Simloc gang channel fastening system manufactured by Arconic St Cosme, whereas the nosewheel has Robin provenance. However, every so often I encounter a sub assembly where Wassmer just wanted to do its own thing – I guess that’s one of the joys of owning an oddball aircraft.

Hopefully all the big plastic bits will get put together this summer – so 90% finished, only 90% to go…

I eventually found the two aircraft in Ireland, and EI-FKM is further along than mine – and we are in regular contact. F-GAIF remains listed on AFORS.

For more information or to follow progress see ■

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 37 Project News Special

Struts 4U

This year we have more reason than ever to wish each other a Happy New Year and to turn the pages of our 2021 diaries with a certain amount of optimism! There are probably many things we would prefer to forget about 2020, but there have also been opportunities taken and lessons learned, particularly when it comes to communication.

Many of our Struts have taken a new turn by introducing members (Luddites among them!) to the world of Zoom and shared presentations in a way which may well remain appropriate during future ‘normal’ times. We have also become aware of how special our face-to-face encounters are, especially during our social gatherings.

This year is another milestone for the LAA, and the Struts and Clubs will be joining in the events to celebrate our 75th Anniversary, including the LAA 75th Anniversary Tour in May by providing a welcome for participants nationwide, a number of Meet the LAA Days and, of course, the Rally.

We are also looking back at the very significant part the Struts and Clubs have played in the structure of the LAA over the last 52 years. We have put together a Struts e-handbook,

Main PFA magazines from 1971, the Association’s 25th Anniversary, and only a couple of years since the formation of the first Strut.

Right Marital bliss as the husband works away in the comfort of the lounge and his wife continues as if it’s all completely normal!

available to all LAA members, in which the Struts and Clubs tell the story of their beginnings and bring you up to date with contact details and plans for the future.

Fifty years ago, the PFA was proudly celebrating our 25th

38 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
LAA Strut News

anniversary with a special series of Popular Flying magazines and events. The 1971 magazine cost 15 new pence (three shillings) and included an article by the PFA’s President, Air Commodore Paul, looking forward optimistically to the future of the PFA and ‘fun flying’. Struts were being formed across the country, encouraging members to participate at a local as well as a national level. Photos were published of members’ dining rooms and attics being used for the construction of aircraft, and the removal of various parts of those dwellings in order for said aircraft to be moved outside!

Later that year, Popular Flying gave the Struts’ column the name ‘Strutters’ and regular reports were included from the first Strut to be formed, the Southern Strut, where Strut chair David Faulkner-Bryant (who became PFA Chairman the following year) wrote about the Strut’s hosting of the PFA’s Whitsun Rally at Shoreham.

He reported that Shoreham airfield’s grass runway saw 500 movements, and 40 aircraft took part in a fly-past of

PBrighton’s seafront, while the fuel pumps nearly ran dry.

Other Struts who included reports were the North Kent Strut, the North Lincoln Strut as well as the East Anglian, Heston-Hanworth, South West, White Rose, Northern Strut (inaugurated by Ernie Horsfall) and the Cornwall Flying Group.

Towards the end of the year, the Oxford Strut and Berks/ Bucks Strut were formed and advertised for PFA members to join in their winter gatherings. Discussions were also ongoing regarding the formation of a Glasgow Strut, and suggestions that a Strut could be set up in Northern Ireland.

Also included in the Struts’ columns of 1971 are reports from the Vintage Aircraft Group, later to become the Vintage Aircraft Club, with invitations, as always, to PFA members ‘interested in the noble cause of keeping noble aeroplanes in their rightful element!’ No change there!

We are looking forward to the LAA 75th celebrations and remain mindful of the role the Struts have played in keeping a local focus across the country over the last 50 years.

Strut details

lease check with your local Strut as meetings may be arranged at short notice. At this time, unless otherwise stated, monthly meetings are using Zoom and you are welcome to contact any Strut should you be interested

Andover Strut: Spitfire Club, Popham Airfield, SO21 3BD.1930. Contact

Bristol Strut: BAWA Club, Filton, Room 4. 1930. Or by Zoom. Contact: chairman@

5 January – Annual Review

Cornwall Strut: The Clubhouse, Bodmin Airfield. Contact: Pete White 01752 406660

1 January - New Year Fly-In at Bodmin.

Devon Strut: The Exeter Court Hotel, Kennford, Exeter. 1930. Contact:

East of Scotland Strut: Harrow Hotel, Dalkeith. 2000. Contact: inrgibson001@ 01313 392351.

East Midlands Strut: Please contact: for meeting details a few days beforehand or to be added to our email circulation to get details automatically. We also have a Facebook group and upload recordings of some meetings where we have speakers.

11 January – Quiz.

Gloster Strut: The Flying Shack, Gloucestershire Airport 1930. Contact:

Highlands & Islands: Highland Aviation, Inverness Airport. Contact: 01381 620535

Kent Strut: Cobtree Manor Golf Club, Maidstone, Kent. 2000. Contact: Brian Hope 01795 662508.

28 January 1930 – AGM Zoom meeting. LiNSY Trent Valley Strut: Trent Valley Gliding Club, Kirton Lindsey. pilotbarry1951@gmail. com

in the advertised talk. Let us hope that as the year progresses, we can get back to face to face meetings for Strut nights, and enjoy the camaraderie of fly-ins and fly-outs. It’s so true that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

North East Strut: Fishburn Airfield. Brunch third Sunday of each month. 1130-1330 at Fishburn Aviator Cafe. Contact:

North Western Strut: Veterans Lounge, Barton, Manchester. 1930 for 2000. Contact: 07813 497427.

North Wales Strut: Caernarfon Airport, Dinas Dinlle. HEMS Bistro Café. 1300. Contact: Gareth Roberts 07876 483414.

Oxford Group: The Duke of Marlborough, Woodleys, Woodstock, Oxford. 2000. (Second Wednesday each month) Contact:

Zoom meetings: Email for joining details. 13 January – AGM followed by a quiz. 10 February – World Records and More! by Steve Slade.

Redhill Strut: The Dog and Duck, Outwood, Surrey, RH1 5QU. 1930. Third Tuesday of each month. Contact:

Shobdon Strut: Hotspur Café, Shobdon Airfield, Hereford HR6 9NR. 1930. Meetings (once lockdown completed) second Thursday of month. Contact: Keith Taylor

Southern Strut: The Swiss Cottage, Shoreham-by-Sea. 2000. Normal meetings are on the first Wednesday of the month. Contact

Strathtay Strut: Scottish Aero Club, Perth Airport, Scone. Scone Clubhouse. Contact: 07785 244146.

Suffolk Coastal Strut: Crowfield Airfield Clubhouse. 1900. Contact: Martyn Steggalls 07790 925142

20 January 1930 – Zoom GASCo Safety Evening.

17 February – Foxy, Return to the Skies by Anne Hughes and David Collings. The story of the Pup prototype’s restoration.

Vale of York Strut: Chocks Away Café, Rufforth East Airfield. Contact: Chris Holliday 07860 787801.

Wessex Strut: Henstridge Airfield Clubhouse. Contact

11 January 2000 – Zoom – Jon Roper of Trig Avionics.

West Midlands Strut: Navigator Café, Halfpenny Green Aerodrome.19.30. Contact: Graham Wiley westmidlandslaastrut@ or Stuart Darby

18 February – Zoom meeting with Andy Sephton (Shuttleworth Collection’s ex-chief test pilot).

West of Scotland Strut: Bowfield Country Club, Howwood PA9 1DZ. 1900. Contact: Neil Geddes 01505 612493.

Youth & Education Support (YES): Contact: Stewart Luck captainluck@hotmail. com or Graham Wiley

NB: Thanks to all Struts and clubs for getting in touch. If you have any stories or news you wish to share, or updates for the calendar, please contact me at

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 39 LAA Strut News

Wot a belter!

Airymouse is a little aeroplane with a long story behind it. Steve Slater and Clive Davidson report…

40 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Flight Test

The Wot simply encourages you to go and have some fun!

Flight Test

While we have a lot of new developments and initiatives to look forward to in 2021, given this is our 75th Anniversary year, Light Aviation will also be regularly featuring aircraft from the Association’s three-quarters of a century of history. We start with an aeroplane which was already an anachronism when it was the subject of a book written more than 50 years ago, but it inspired many past and present LAA members to take up flying; Currie Wot G-APNT, better known as Airymouse

Today, Airymouse is owned by our CEO Steve Slater who, given its history, describes himself as ‘its custodian’. Steve was also happy to let our regular flight test pilot Clive Davidson have a go. Clive’s comments are a bit further on, but first Steve gets us up to date on Wot history and Airymouse’s story.

Call it Wot you like…

Airymouse wasn’t the first Wot to be built. That honour goes to two examples which were built pre-war by Joe Currie, at Cinque Ports Aero Club in Kent. Joe had flown SE-5As during the Great War and worked as engineer for A V Roe's, before becoming an aircraft engineer and, post-war, a lecturer at Chelsea College in London. In 1936 he drew up the design as a project for his students and, when construction started, passers-by inevitably asked ‘what they were building. Joe’s gruff response was ‘you can call it wot you blooming well like’. The name stuck!

The Wot stuck to what Currie was familiar with – effectively a smaller version of the famed SE-5A fighter (so it’s no surprise that many 7/8-scale replicas have been built on the basis of Currie Wot drawings). In fact, the underlying construction was based on the contemporary Avro Avian, all-wood with fittings handmade from mild steel plate. The result was a compact biplane, with a wingspan of a tad over 22ft. Concessions to cost and weight saving included ailerons on the lower wings only, unstreamlined bracing wires, a simple bungee suspension undercarriage, a fixed tailskid and no brakes (more on that later).

Both original Wots apparently flew well, although utilisation was somewhat limited by the fact that the two aircraft had just a single engine shared between them, a 36hp flat-twin which had been salvaged from a crashed Aeronca C2, a further example of Currie’s low budget. The two aircraft sadly didn’t survive the war, they were destroyed by Stuka dive bombers in an air raid on Lympne in May 1940.

Post-war revival

Joe became an RAF Engineering Officer, before a heart condition saw his return to civilian engineering for a number of companies in the south of England. In the early 1950s he arrived at Eastleigh, where he took on the role of chief engineer for the Hampshire Aeroplane Club, based in the former Supermarine test flight hut and hangar.

The driving force behind the club was chief flying instructor Viv Bellamy, whose can-do attitude was legendary.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 41
42 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Flight Test
Above Joe Currie in the Wot with its original JAP engine. Photo: via Igor Best-Deveraux Left Just before the first flight. Joe Currie in foreground. DH86 Express at rear.

The former Navy Seafire pilot had already acquired Spitfire Tr9 G-AISN, ostensibly on the Club’s behalf, adding to a fleet which included Tiger and Hornet Moths, and the last surviving four-engined DH86 Express airliner (for club trips overseas).

In 1957, Bellamy suggested that Currie build two examples of his pre-war ‘Wot’ to the original drawings, to offer lower cost flying to members. Currie supervised a small group which included former Supermarine draughtsman John O Isaacs and a teenage Rod Bellamy, who continues to work today as an engineer and LAA Inspector at Bodmin.

Harald Penrose

The first of the aircraft completed was G-APNT, the aeroplane that ultimately became Airymouse. As with the pre-war examples, it was initially powered by a two-cylinder JAP J-99 engine of 37 horsepower but was also used for experiments, while the second Wot, G-APWT, was under construction. It was temporarily fitted (but never flown) with the four-cylinder Walter Mikron engine destined for the second aircraft, and also for trial fittings of floats, again destined for its sister aircraft.

Airymouse gained her name, and greater fame, when she was bought in 1959 by Westland’s chief test pilot Harald Penrose, who wanted to recreate the open cockpit pleasures that he’d enjoyed in the early days of his flying career aboard Westland Wapitis and Widgeons. Penrose was a proud Cornishman and the Cornish word for bat, Airymouse, seemed an appropriate name for the ‘little biplane of insignificant horsepower’, which became his mount for open cockpit flying adventures.

With Airymouse as his platform, Penrose explored the Dorset Coast, flew formation on wildfowl above the Somerset Levels and circled ancient British fortifications, describing his view from above in the book he named after the aeroplane. What is less well-known is that one of the things Penrose noted from Airymouse’s cockpit was increasing urbanisation and industrialisation eroding the English countryside. It led to him becoming a pioneer environmentalist and a founding member of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

Penrose’s flights were not without incident. On one occasion, even with the JAP

twin blatting away at full power on both cylinders, Penrose found himself in a downdraught shortly after taking off from Yeovil and was barely able to escape the rising ground, dodging between trees. On another occasion Harald suffered the now notorious failure of a JAP engine crankshaft, with the propeller disappearing into the distance.

That meant a return to Eastleigh where a former ground power unit 50hp Lycoming was fitted, after a load test which involved a plank across the engine mounts, occupied by members of the Hampshire Aero Club!

Penrose flew Airymouse for five years, before selling her to Fleet Air Arm Sea Vixen pilot Stan Hodgkinson, who based her at nearby RNAS Yeovilton. Stan remains a well-regarded LAA test pilot and RV builder today.

The aeroplane next headed north to Sunderland, where Leslie Richardson kept her at Usworth, today the site of the Nissan car factory. Les, a founder member of the PFA North Eastern Strut, had a number of ‘adventures’ with the aircraft, culminating in at least one major airframe repair, before the

aircraft was stored and put up for sale.

In 1987, Robin Bowes headed north to look at a ‘Wot project’ with a view to using it as the basis of an SE-5A replica to accompany his Fokker DR-1 Triplane reproduction. Thankfully he instantly recognised the aircraft and, having in his youth been inspired by Penrose’s book, elected to restore Airymouse to her original condition.

Much of Robin’s handiwork remains on the aeroplane today, but he flew it for less than a year until, with airshow commitments increasing, he sold Airymouse to Jeff Salter, an air traffic controller working at Belfast International Airport. Jeff sometimes used Airymouse to fly to work from his home in County Down, landing on the grass at the side of the airport’s main runway and parking next to the windsock while he completed his shift. Imagine doing that today!

In 1998, Airymouse recrossed the Irish Sea in the hands of John Dunford. In many ways it was a return home for the aeroplane, as his farm was just a handful of miles from Eastleigh where she was originally built.

John was another who had been inspired by Harald Penrose’s books and, after some sympathetic renovation by the late Ron Souch, Airymouse had another lease of life in Hampshire skies. Sadly, John began to suffer ill health in subsequent years and Airymouse was used ever-less. By the time of his passing in 2017, the Wot had already been stored for a number of years in a barn on his farm. It was, though, the prelude to the latest chapter.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 43 Flight Test
Left Harald Penrose in Airymouse, in 1959. Photo: From film by Viv Bellamy via Martin Pengelly Right Load testing for Lycoming engine. Photo: Igor BestDeveraux Above Robin Bowes taxying from outside the aircraft. The current owner isn’t brave enough to try this! Photo: Peter R March

Steve’s story…

Like many of its previous owners, Steve was also inspired to fly old aeroplanes by Penrose’s book, so when he heard, via Vintage Aircraft Club stalwart Dave Phillips, that Airymouse might potentially be available, he just had to investigate further. Steve was eventually invited to the Dunford’s farm to take a closer look, and found Airymouse, dusty but in surprisingly good condition and stored in a dry barn, albeit next to about two tons of rather acidic fertiliser. After passing an interview from the family, to convince them he would be a worthy owner, a deal was struck and on 5 January 2018, having recruited Alan Turney and Arthur Mason to assist, the aeroplane was derigged and trailered up the A34 to Turweston.

A good wash saw the aeroplane change colour from dark maroon to scarlet and revealed that the fabric was in better condition than he had dared hope, certainly allowing, with minor woodwork repairs and patches, its original covering to continue (ahead of some more extensive work later this year).

Steve and inspector Alan were more cautious with the engine. The fuel system was flushed to remove some very

Above Pretty as a picture and bringing Harald Penrose’s writing to life every time it flies.

Below Steve demonstrates how to ground handle the Wot. Photo: Neil Wilson

stale (brown) contents, new fuel pipes and primer were fitted, and the carburettor cleaned. The cylinder barrels were removed from the Continental C-85 for cleaning, checking rings and unsticking valves before ground running could commence.

The engine originally fitted to Airymouse was a 36hp twin-cylinder JAP. It gained a Walter Mikron, then a 55hp Lycoming and, in the late 1960s a Continental former GPU of about 60hp. This was more recently replaced by a Continental C-85 from a Luscombe. There can’t be too many LAA aircraft that have had five different types of engine in their lifetime, not to mention a 250% increment in horsepower!

Airymouse took to the air again on 26 March 2018, in the hands of another who had been inspired by Penrose’s book, the late and much missed Jez Cooke. Steve got his hands on the aircraft for the first time a week later, and as Penrose had written nearly 60 years earlier, found her responsive, ‘like a spirited pony’. We’ll leave it to Clive Davidson to describe handling in more detail, but in summary Steve records she’s a delight in the air, but being brakeless and with a fixed tailskid, sometimes a bit wayward on the ground. Not too long ago, with a blustering crosswind taxi, Steve found the only way he could get back to the hangar was in a series of concentric circles, each time getting a bit closer before she weathercocked into the wind again.

There are other bits of aviation history which make Airymouse feel a bit special. The cockpit interior is painted a unique shade of green, only otherwise seen on Supermarine aircraft such as the Spitfire, and the seat is also alleged to have come from a Spitfire, albeit with the parachute ‘bucket’ rather crudely removed and replaced by a piece of beaten aluminium. You can imagine the conversations at Eastleigh during the original build, ‘we need a seat, nip up to the stores and see what you can find’. Certainly, owning and flying the little biplane is a special privilege and even in this Covidridden year, Steve’s been able to enjoy about 20 hours of open-cockpit self-isolation!

44 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Flight Test
Photo: Steve Slater

Hot Wot, Jet Wot, Wet Wot… Super Wot – what a lot of Wots!

It was natural that when the second Wot, G-APWT appeared with a Walter Mikron of 62hp, a near 100% increase over the JAP, it became known as the ‘Hot Wot’. There were also experiments with floats, resulting in the aircraft being labelled the ‘Wet Wot’ as it splashed around the River Hamble, although it never successfully flew as a floatplane.

The ‘Jet Wot’ came about in the 1960s when Viv Bellamy spotted a 60hp Rover industrial gas turbine driving a water pump at an agricultural show. Enquiries revealed that the lightweight unit was already seeing aviation use as an auxiliary power unit in the back of Avro Vulcans.

Handling notes

Left G-APWT, the Wet Wot pictured on the River Hamble. It was never successfully flown on floats. Photo: From film by Viv Bellamy via Martin Pengelly

The initial Wot installation was basic to say the least. There was effectively no throttle control for the early flights, which were accomplished by ground crew holding the aircraft back and releasing it into flight. On landing the pilot approached, still on full throttle, before pulling a length of kite cord attached to a Victorian toilet pull, which turned off the fuel tap. The remainder of the landing was accomplished in dead-stick silence!

Following the ‘Jet Wot’, Bellamy’s work extended into larger turboprops fitted to an Auster V and a de Havilland Chipmunk. G-APWT meanwhile reverted to its Walter Mikron engine and was operated by a

I grabbed a wing tip and rocked her to reassure myself and see how much tension and return there was in the barrow wheeled undercarriage, and twanged the landing and flying wires – the landing wires having a higher note while the weight was on them. Then, having made sure that there was no mud on the soles of my boots, I stepped the ball of my left foot onto what would normally be called a walkway, in this case the tiny square, black stepping point, and balanced, holding the rear left cabane strut, and swung my right leg up and over into the cockpit where, once again I upset my mother by standing on the furniture with both boots on the seat cushion, before holding the very convenient set of struts and sidled slowly with a deliberate wriggle into the cockpit. Seated and home!

It has been just over 30 years and a few log books ago since I flew Hissing Sid’s (he had a bit of a lisp) Currie Wot from Bennington near the Old Bell pub, and I knew I was going to enjoy this coming flight. So long as I could catch the Cub photo ship. I would also be flying over unfamiliar territory, flying formation and navigating is a very absorbing game.

A quick look around at the simple cockpit as I untangled the snag of the right waist strap and connected and adjusted the others in the central buckle. I do like the lipped ledge at the base of the instrument panel for pencils, a paper sweetie bag of pear drops and glasses. A handheld 8:33 Yaesu was on the right. All basic instruments are there, and I liked the engine condition instruments – oil pressure, oil temperature etc., grouped close to the rpm gauge.

Steve had briefed me to do the power check at 1,700 to 1,800rpm, and expect 2,200 static at the start of the

syndicate at Booker, before being sold to the United States in the 1980s. Third and fourth Wots built by Hampshire Aero Club members set the direction of the type for the future.

Dr John Urmiston and John Isaacs built their aircraft side-by-side in a chicken shed, and Isaacs’ aircraft became the prototype Isaacs Fury.

Urmiston meanwhile built G-ARZW incorporating a lower undercarriage and other modifications. He also redrafted the original drawings and made them available to PFA members.

In total, around 20 Wots have been built, and the drawings are today available on CD from the LAA shop.

The Currie Super Wot was a derivative of the original design with shorter span wings and a beefed-up airframe, conveying the prospect of greater aerobatic capability.

The ultimate Super Wot was G-AVEY, built in 1970 by Keith Sedgwick and developed by Tony Eastelow, it is powered by a pre-war Pobjoy R radial engine and was recently rebuilt by LAA Chief Engineer Francis Donaldson. It’s well worth an article in its own right, so watch this space!

take-off roll, rising to 2,350 before the climb out at 55 to 60mph. I made a mental note from the placard of the oil pressure, which was meant to be at the 10:30 position showing 40psi maximum. I also welcomed the familiar, centrally placed Reed & Sigrist turn and slip, which occupies 50% of my in-cockpit viewing time in a vintage type.

I moved the stick around in a circle and glanced at the dancing controls raising each as the stick was pointed at them. No play, no slackness in the cables and the ailerons are nicely gap sealed and differential, more upwards then downwards hinting at a tad of adverse aileron drag… and no elevator trim, suggesting light loads. We’ll see, soon enough.

There is a ‘windy’ ASI, probably nicked from a Tiger Moth, a spring and flat plate affair indicating against a speed scale, mounted on the leading left wing strut. Vne is placarded at 140mph and stall at 35 – I take this with a pinch of salt, tending to discover that for myself.

I wondered if the incidence angle that the upper and lower sets of wings presented to the airflow were both the same? It might allow for a gentle stall if the top wing ‘flew’ for longer at high angles of attack.

We have no park brake and with chocks in position the primer may be squeezed in for three full shots. The external mag’ switches are on the left-hand side and can be seen to be down and off as the swinger, the owner who knows his machine, pulls it through while sucking in for six blades.

Throttle cracked open. The call for switches on. I acknowledge, and Steve can see my hand flip both outside mags up, and she fires on the first blade. We’re in business! Oil pressure up, wait for temps to rise, radio on and call in

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 45 Flight Test

Above The vintage Supermarine ‘Spitfire’ green cockpit. Note rudder bar rather than pedals.

Left Rudimentary main gear with no brakes and bungeed axle for suspension.

Below Proudly bearing the Hampshire Aeroplane Club name over 60 years since club members built her.

when asked for the ‘Photo ship Formation, No.2’. A powermag-carb heat check, all set, throttle back to idle with all indications dropping, chocks away and I taxi out to the end of the runway with the Cub behind, whereupon I will turn around at the far end, while the Cub turns around to take off first.

As this is a vintage style aircraft the only brake I have is the non-steerable skid which works well enough as a plough, helping to drag the Wot to a stop as airflow and power are reduced. To turn I have to apply slipstream over the rudder for a good turning response. Now we, the Wot and me, start to roll slightly downhill and downwind, and I’m becoming ever so slightly concerned that it could just get a little tricky as the Wot was a tad past a hearty jog, even with the throttle at idle and carb hot to reduce revs! Well, there’s certainly no future in going straight ahead and ending up in the rough beyond the approaching threshold. The Wot was stoical as I gave a burst of power over a fully deflected left rudder, she is an old campaigner after all, and we swung around majestically with very little outer turn wing drop. We came to rest pointing at the tail of the Cub a cricket pitch length ahead, as it applied power and was gone!

My principal concern now was to catch Neil in the photo Cub. Could, would, the Wot catch up? I hurriedly ran through my take-off drills and self-briefed aloud for any emergency.

The Cub’s main wheels left the ground and I followed for a stream departure. I adopted the standard and cautious technique for maintaining the intended take-off path of keeping the stick back with the stabilising tailskid on the ground whilst the speed rose and, more by sound and sense of feel, rather than at a set speed, eased the stick forward holding direction with a slight right rudder so the mains held her until gracefully rising from the grass. She accelerated past 40 to the initial climb speed of 60mph.

I dropped my shoulders to relax and almost immediately flew into the dispersing wake of the Cub some 400 yards ahead. She ‘bobbled’ and rocked a tad, but a few degrees to one side and we were in clear air. And, ‘we’ were gaining on her. This girl with an 85hp Continental and efficient prop, was pulling rather nicely, surely we could catch a Cub of only 65 horses? I throttled back a small amount, not wishing to cane her and we were certainly making good ground. Steve mentioned a climb of around 600fpm, and I can believe it.

Slowly we pulled into position and started to move in and out, up and down for our routine photo shots. This, I have to say, was very enjoyable and is one of the few times that an aircraft’s manoeuvrability may be accurately gauged. I’d already guessed that with no elevator trimmer that the pitch forces might be light, and they are. Normally I would trim out even a slight stick force, but our nominated and briefed speed of 75mph worked beautifully. There is a slight amount of adverse aileron drag when rolling, pulling the nose away when initially banking into a turn, but it’s easily dealt with by a touch of rudder in the direction of the top Reed & Sigrist needle. Rate of roll is manageable and reasonably swift, not sparkling but more than adequate for those wishing to roll (I promised I wouldn’t). Lateral stability is adequate but nothing to write home about, this is a vintage design after all, and loosely based on a WWI fighter.

The control harmony is pleasant, with no control being unduly awkward to apply and the ratio of elevator : aileron : rudder very quickly feels quite normal. She also has the predictable spiral instability of power on and the nose wanting to rise to the left and, power off, drop to the right.

Having left the formation, flying back and trying to find Turweston from a position of not knowing exactly where I was, added to the stimulating piquancy of the hour and

Flight Test

raised the immediate question of fuel contents and burn. With 75mph with 2,150rpm set and a neutral stick kept us nicely level. I started off with perhaps two-thirds of the fuel float above the 11 gallons tank so... I have perhaps seven gallons? With a burn of 16 litres an hour that should give me a safe endurance of an hour and three quarters. In my briefing Steve had said that he checked (on the ground) and a stationary indicator reading zero, upon investigation, showed there still to be two gallons in the tank, which eased any apprehension I might have had still further.

It struck me that although this is not a very wide cockpit, and I am a bit of a slim Jim, being a tad over six foot at 74kg in a Sidcot Suit, I was comfortable behind a windscreen that actually works. This might seem odd to mention but I invariably have to duck my head forward in a Tiger Moth cockpit as that windscreen, although admittedly it does look like a windscreen, doesn’t do very much – it's nice chrome plated frame only flatters to deceive! Those of a Stampe and a Bucker Jungmann are much more effective, as is this Wot’s. However, as an aside, when you get a go in an Isaacs Fury, son of the Currie Wot, delightful though it is, the wind generated as you race along at 85mph is squeezed between the lower top wing centre section and the fuselage in front of the pilot. and buffets you constantly. It’s about the only bad thing about a Fury I can say… apart from the fact that Jim Norris has sold his and it has sadly departed from our hangar.

After a good lookout and at a safe height over suitable fields to put down in, as well as noting the position of the sun, the stalling exercises showed she stalls without any power at a rather high nose attitude as the ASI slipped past 40mph.

There was a slight tremor through the stick and a slight right wing drop in the high 30s. I repeated the exercise, this time waggling the ailerons to confirm or deny their effectiveness right up to the point of 38mph. Again, that right wing dropped, but stick forward, power and rudder had her under control. I had confidence that if needed I could make a crabbed approach in a gusting crosswind, being able to rely on the directional stability to roll and then straighten with the runway heading and hold the wing low to prevent any drift.

A baulked landing practice at altitude, from a low speed, held no directional control problems and I had to remind myself that this aircraft, as sprightly as she is now, with the same rudder, has twice the horsepower than when previously flown with a 36hp, two-cylinder JAP J-99 some decades ago.

Strangely enough, looking at wing loading, David Bremner’s Bristol Scout (an earlier flight test photographed from a Cub) with an 80hp Le Rhone rotary incredibly has almost the same wing loading when at

both minimum and maximum weights – so, in theory neither could out-turn the other.

Above Cantilevered tailplane has no trim facility and a non-steerable tailskid.

Back at the airfield with 75mph downwind, there were few checks to review and prep for the landing: fuel, straps, carb heat, height and further outside scans looking for any traffic both in the area and on the ground near the active runway. I held a little bit of power to flatten my approach at 55mph with carb heat warm, then cold at 100ft and held that power on to stabilise and settle at a brief couple of seconds of level flight before fully closing the throttle allowing her to adopt an ever higher nose attitude. And with the stick fully back and a welcoming slight sink she settled really quite smoothly in the three point attitude. Wings’ incidence arrangement known or not, we arrived peacefully enough. She ran straight, and all I had to do now was taxi in and return this vintage and rather historic old girl with the spirit of a youngster, to her smiling owner. Thank you Steve, that was a rather enjoyable flight! ■

Bulldog Model 120

Currie Wot

General characteristics

Crew: One

Length: 18ft 3.5in (5.575m)

Wingspan: 22ft 1in (6.73m)

Height: 6ft 9in (2.06m)

Wing area: 140 sq ft (13m2)

Aerofoil: Clark YH

Empty weight: 550lb (249kg)

Gross weight: 900lb (408kg)

Powerplant: 1 × C85

Continental 85hp (63 kW)

Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch propeller


Maximum speed: 95mph (153km/h, 83kn)

Cruise speed: 80mph (130km/h, 70kn)

Range: 240mi (390km, 210nm)

Rate of climb: 600ft/min (3.0m/s)

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 47
Top Pretty as a picture and bringing Harald Penrose’s writing to life every time it flies.

W here To G o

Welcome back to the column! With the promise of some sort of normality to the 2021 flying season we can at last look forward with a degree of optimism that more events will go ahead. Inevitably of course, there are no guarantees, so please DO check whether an event is on before setting off. The full details of the events can be found via links on the Royal Aero


27 Zoom VAC/WLAC Aviation poetry Evening. www.vintageaircraftclub.


24 Yeovilton Threshold FAAM Night Photo-shoot [Pre-book]


6 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in

6 Hendon Threshold RAFM Night Photoshoot [Pre-book]

12-13 Cosford Threshold RAFM Night Photoshoot [Pre-book]

20 St Mawgan Threshold Cornwall Av Museum Photo-shoot [Pre-book]

26-27 Church Fenton/Leeds E Private Flyer Exhibition

27 Perth ACS Avn Festival of Flight

27 St Athan Threshold S Wales Av Museum Night Photo-shoot [Pre-book]

27-28 Weston-Super-Mare Helicopter Museum World At War Event


3 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in

13-18 Lakeland, Fl (N) EAA Sun’n’Fun fly-in

17 Blackpool Threshold Hangar 42 Spit & Hurri Photo-shoot [Pre-book]

17 Turweston VAC Spring Fly-in. [PPR]. Wx fallback 18th

18 Henstridge Meet the LAA Day Wessex Strut Fly-in [PPR] 01963-364231

18 K2 Centre, Crawley Gatwick Air Enthusiasts Fair 01403-252628

21-24 Friedrichshafen (D) AERO GA

24 Duxford Flying Day


1 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in

1-2 Popham Microlight Trade Fair 01256-397733

3 Popham Classic Cars & Vintage Flyin 01256-397733

8 Duxford Flying Day

8 Bodmin Ladies’ Day Fly-in 01752-406660

13-22 Toulouse-Tarfaya (F>CN) ToulouseCap Juby Rally

Club events listing pages at events listed

New dates are being added regularly.

Our thanks to the RAeC and to Dave Wise for the use of their data. If you have an event you want to advertise on the list, please email the details to Dave at:

■ Key: LAA: organised or presence / LAA Strut or type interest

14-15 Wycombe Booker The Elite Lifestyle & Private Flyer Exhibition 14-15 Compton Abbas BAeA Aerobatic Competition 15 Sywell Europa Club Fly-in, AGM & Dinner 22 Duxford Flying Day 22-23 La Ferte Alais (F) Salis Collection Airshow 22-31 Sywell to Leicester LAA UK Tour 28-30 Perth Scottish AC and Strathtay Strut Fly-in & Meet the LAA Day. 01738550055 29-30 Damyns Hall FSTVL Music Festival –Airfield Closed JUNE 4-6 Ragley Hall Midlands Air Festival 4-6 Biscarosse (F)Van’s Club de France RV Fly-in 4-6 Endelave (OY) Europa Nordic Fly-in 5 Bodmin Action Stations Military Wings & Wheels 01752-406660 5 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 6 Duxford Flying Day 10-12 Kemble Aero Expo Tradeshow [preregister] 11 Abingdon Threshold Pre-Airshow Dusk Photoshoot [Pre-book] 11-13 Newark Retro Festival inc Airshow 12 Abingdon Air & Country Show [Prebook] tba Paderborn (D) QUAX Hangar Open Day 18-20 Gelnhausen (D) Fly-in & Airshow 19-20 Turweston Air Britain Classic Fly-in [PPR] (prov) 01376-344441/ 01280-705400 20 Duxford Flying Day 21-27 Le Bourget (F) Paris Airshow 25-27 Headcorn Battle of Britain Airshow 26/27 Breighton VAC Back to Breighton fly-in.
48 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Where to go Where to go
Above The 75th Anniversary Rally is scheduled for 3-5 September. It will be a bumper event, so make sure you don’t miss it!




January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 49 Where to go
2-3 Dublin-Weston (EI) The Elite Lifestyle & Private Flyer Exhibition 2-4 Sanicole (OO) Belgian Experimental Days Fly-in 2-4 Bienenfarm, Berlin (D) QUAX Stearman & Friends Fly-in 3 Duxford Flying Day 3 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 3-4 Bodmin Aerobatic Competition 07803-128000 3-4 Swansea Bay Welsh National Sea Front Airshow 3-4 Southport Sea Front Airshow 10-11 Sywell Flying Legends Airshow 16-18 Fairford RIAT Military Display 01285-713300 17 Firs Farm, Newbury Bring your own sausages Fly-in & BBQ [PPR by air & road] 17-18 Old Warden LAA Flying for Fun weekend 23-25 Brienne-le-Chateau (F) RSA Euro Fly-in (provisional) 24-25 Duxford Air Festival 24-25 Bodmin VAC Fly-in & Poetry & Music 01752-406660 26-Au 1 Oshkosh, Wi (N) EAA AirVenture National Fly-in & Display 30-Au 1 Old Buckenham Old Buck Airshow 31-Au 1 Headcorn Fire Show 31-Au 1 Rufforth East Meet the LAA Day Vale of York Strut Fly-in
1 Lundy Island Lundy Fly-in [PPR essential] 01752-406660/ 07805-805679 4 Duxford Flying Day 7 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 7 East Kirkby LAHC Museum Airshow [advance booking] 7-8 Blackpool Sea Front Airshow 7-8 Purleigh nr Maldon Echoes of History Mil Vehicles & Airshow 7-8 Headcorn Combined Ops Show 8 Popham Motorcycle Magameet 01256-397733 11 Duxford Flying Day 12-15 Eastbourne Airbourne Seafront Airshow 14-15 Halfpenny Green Wings & Wheels Event [PPR-pre book] 14-15 Harrowbeer 80th Anniversary Event 01752-406660 19 Duxford Flying Day 19-22 Maribo (OY) Vintage Aerobatic World Ch’ships 20-22 Wels (OE) Rotax Engine Fly-in [preregister] 21-22 Headcorn Southern Model Show 26-27 Clacton Seafront Airshow 28-29 Rhyl Sea Front Airshow
3-5 Sywell 75th Anniversary International LAA Rally & Exhibition [PPR] 3-5 Chatsworth Country Fair inc Airshow 3-5 Foxlands Farm, Leics Victory Show 4 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 4-5 Saint Junien (F) Legend’Air Airshow 5 Notodden (LN) Telemark Airshow 9 Guernsey Guernsey Airshow 9 Jersey Jersey Airshow 10+12 Leopoldsburg (OO) Sanicole AC Airshow 11 Bodmin LAA Cornwall Strut Fly-in 01752-406660 18 Headcorn Meet the LAA Day Kent Strut. [PPR] Wx fall back 19th 18-19 Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow
2 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 9 Duxford Flying Day 26 tba LAA 75th Anniversary of inaugural ULAA meeting 31 Turweston VAC Allhallows Fly-in and AGM
6 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in
4 Compton Abbas Vintage Saturday Fly-in 11 Compton Abbas Christmas Fly-in
Above With all the major events being cancelled in 2020, let’s hope for a healthy return for them all. Here we see AERO Friedrichshafen 2019.

The latest LAA Engineering topics and investigations.

Safety Spot

A hopefully final resolution for Rotax floats, RV-12 Airworthiness Information Leaflet, and filling out the Permit renewal form…

Well, hello again. Have you shaken off the dust from your Christmas revelries, diminished as they probably were? And do you sit, fighting fit, ready for whatever 2021 throws at you? I do hope so. But first, a Happy New Year to you and those close to you. Let’s work hard to make it a good one, last year was a bit of a pickle one way and another, but you’re reading this, so you must have made it through!

No doubt it will take a while longer to clear Covid-19 from the decks but, if history tells us anything, it shouts that all events end up as memories, eventually to be washed into the sea of time. I quite like the American author, Michael Altshuler’s, phrase that’s just popped, goodness knows why, into my mind, though apposite here perhaps: ‘The bad news is that time flies – the good news is that you’re the pilot’.

So, the New Year begins. A time of fresh starts, promises made and, without doubt, unexpected challenges. It is still December as I write this, so I’m still working on my personal plans for 2021 – I know that I’m going to be busy getting the boat back into shape, she’s been out of the water for well over a year now, and no mechanical device likes being left unused for long. I hope its return to full serviceability won’t be too expensive.

I’m guessing that many of you won’t have done much flying through 2020, so, in your New Year planning list, take that into account before heading off into the sunrise. There’s a fair bit been written about getting back into the saddle after a long lay up, so I won’t go on about how important it is to take things steady for the first few flights… but you know it makes sense.

It’s clear, as I’ve mentioned before, at least in terms of Operational incidents affecting our members, that the biggest single cause of our aircraft ending up being broken, is a loss of control during the landing phase. Take this into account, as you return to flying in the new year… don’t try to squeeze the aircraft into a short farm strip until you can land ‘on the numbers’ every time; practice on a runway where, if you get it a little wrong, there won’t be a disaster. Of course, from a technical perspective this time, another reason for a broken aircraft often starts with an engine failure and, generally, ends with the aircraft in a field.

If it’s true, and I’m sure it is, that it’s possible to reduce the chances of a loss of control during landing incident occurring by keeping your flying skills in tip top condition, then, surely, it’s equally true that keeping your aircraft in excellent order will help to prevent an in-flight failure. And that’s best done by checking everything regularly and, when (note, not if) you find something not quite right, dealing with the issue appropriately. Remember, you’re probably flying an aircraft operating under a Permit to

Fly – that means that the responsibility for maintaining the machine rests firmly on your shoulders.

I’m a very firm believer, as you’ve probably worked out if you’re a regular reader of this column, in ‘less is often more’… especially when it comes to rules and regulations. Overall safety starts with the individual taking charge of their own affairs in my view, and in an association setting, this means participating. Industry partners often comment about just how much feedback we receive in terms of continuing airworthiness matters – our platform, based upon the ‘just-culture’ ethic, certainly seems to pay dividends. So, thank you for your participation last year, please keep your tales, happy and, well, not so happy, coming.

Rotax Floats – The Finale… well, let’s hope so

It really does seem that the quality issue bedogging the Rotax Nine series engine for the last few years has finally been solved. The problem, as I expect all of you will be aware, is that for reasons that have never been properly explained, occasionally a carburettor float will absorb fuel and sink. There never seems to be any specific reason, it doesn’t seem to relate to the type of fuel used and ‘time in service’ seemed irrelevant. The engine manufacturer themselves, naturally, had to be reactive, and, once they acknowledged the issue, set about inventing various inspection checks on the carburettors, latterly weighing the floats to see if they had absorbed fuel – or done whatever they did to make them

Above It’s looking like the long-running stage show featuring Rotax nine series floats is closing its curtains for the last time, thank goodness. These pictures of the latest design (note the R) have been in-service for just over a year now and, fingers crossed, there have been no reported failures with the new type float. LAA Engineering has recently issued an Airworthiness Information Leaflet (AIL) requiring owners to change their floats to the new type at their next major engine overhaul or, naturally, if they suffer a float-sinkage related engine issue. Floats may be replaced free of charge and are available from the UK Rotax agent, CFS Aero. Photos: CFS Aero

50 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Safety Spot


The pictures above show two further recent ‘spots’ after deep inspections of carburettors following rough running. Photos: Rotax Engines/Raymond Proost/Paul Hendry-Smith

heavier. LAA Engineering never really supported this particular check as, from member experience, most float-sinkage events happened spontaneously, and the effect of a sinkage was a rough running engine, especially at lower rpm’s, a problem that cannot be overlooked.

Back in February 2019, Rotax issued a Service Instruction (912-032) entitled Running Modifications of the Bing Constant Depression Carburettor. This listed one or two improvements to the design and introduced a new type of float, this iteration became known as the 189 float. Now, this Service Instruction passed below most owners’ radar which, taking account that the previous float designs hadn’t been 100% successful, was probably a good thing. Naturally, LAA Engineering, alongside the UK Rotax main agent, CFS Aero, have been keeping a close eye on things.

Well, the 189 floats have now been in service for nearly a year and, drum roll please, there’s not been a single failure. I have to say, ‘hats off’ to CFS with regards to this issue, members who have suffered a float failure over the last few years have been given new floats FOC. This float exchange programme has now been officialised by the issuance of a Rotax Service Bulletin, SB-912-074. Naturally, there are caveats, but John Rowley, head of the Rotax side of CFS’s UK operation, explained that they will be able to exchange floats free of charge for those that meet Rotax’s terms – and that they’ve always honoured their warranty obligations when a customer suffers a float failure.

If you operate a 912 engine and feel like taking advantage of this float exchange programme, may I suggest that you download the Bulletin, there are links to both the earlier Service Instruction and this most recent Bulletin in an Airworthiness Alert posted in the Alerts page of the Engineering section of our website. Take care though, don’t do what I

did and print out the whole document… my printer ran out of ink trying, the SB itself is only 12 pages, but the appendix listing applicable carburettors is huge!

Fuel pipe inspection ‘spot’

Another interesting fuel related issue came across my desk recently thanks to LAA Inspector Peter Bentley, who was carrying out an inspection on a Luscombe. Following the ‘spot’ that the fuel pipes were not only well past their safe service life, but also, parts of the system were made from inappropriate materials, Peter decided that it would be sensible to strip and inspect the carburettor. Judging by the amount of detritus in the fuel bowl, this hadn’t been done for some time. It’s essential, especially with aircraft that don’t fly many hours between annual checks, that a maintenance programme is developed to include deep inspections regularly throughout the aircraft’s operational life.

The Annual Permit revalidation process

The LAA system requires the aircraft’s CAA issued non-expiring Permit to Fly to be validated each year. To prove to anybody that needs proof that this has happened, the UK authority (CAA) issues a Certificate of Validity annually. They do this on our recommendation virtually automatically. Naturally, there are ‘rules of engagement’, and one of these rules is that the aircraft is inspected by an LAA Inspector to ensure that, in every way, the aircraft is airworthy.

Often, this revalidation inspection happens during a maintenance check, but, though this is an efficient way of doing things for the average owner, maintenance and inspection are actually two very separate things. I’ve discussed different ways of managing essential maintenance

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 51 Safety Spot
The sketch, taken from the Rotax Service Bulletin, shows where the floats go in the carburettor. LAA advice has always been, if your engine is running smoothly, especially at relatively low rpm, you don’t need to do anything – naturally, there’s a risk introduced every time you dismantle a complex component and, if your engine is suffering a sinking float you’ll immediately know there’s something wrong. Above These fuel pipes and the carburettor float bowl detritus illustrates the very poor condition of a Luscombe’s fuel system discovered during an inspection. I hope at least, no further comment is required. Photos: Peter Bentley

Safety Spot

tasks many times over the years, and our home-grown concepts of owner-created Tailored Maintenance Schedules (TMS) have been adopted, very successfully, by many owners.

I’ll add a quick note here to thank LAA Inspector, Trevor Reed, for his help in promoting the TMS concept. Trevor writes an engineering column in the Devon Strut newsletter, and has been clearing up a local misunderstanding, where some owners have confused the word Tailored with Generic. In terms of thinking about tailoring a schedule, Trevor writes: “So, where do we start? Well, a good place to start is to download a copy of the Generic Maintenance Schedule (GMS) that’s available on the LAA website, you can find it if you tap on the ‘maintenance’ button on the top bar of the Engineering home page.

It is certainly ‘generic’, and, by definition, it covers all the options we are likely to need ….and this is where the problem starts. If you try to use an unedited version, there are just so many irrelevant actions in the list, that your maintenance plan will become little more than a box-ticking exercise.”

Trevor is right, the GMS we’ve published was never intended to be used ‘off the shelf’, essentially it is a collation of a number of schedules, principally designed for aircraft operating in the certified sector, placed in an LAA wrapper. These schedules, incidentally, were written as an alternative to a manufacturer’s schedule and normally follow a 50, 100, 150 hour maintenance regime so, for the vast majority of LAA machines, are far from perfect.

Tailoring this generic schedule, both to cull the unnecessary items, and to craft it to suit your particular aircraft’s maintenance requirements, makes a lot of sense. My advice to owners, when they ask about this, is that the aircraft, engine and propeller manufacturers’ advice should sit at the heart of any TMS but, the biggest factor to be taken into account when laying out a forward maintenance plan, is just how many hours per year the aircraft is going to fly.

Anyway, I’ve gone off-track slightly, as I pointed out earlier, Maintenance and Inspection are different things. It can be argued, even if you only accept my ‘less is more’ as being a half-truth, that page two of the Permit renewal form is the best ‘generic’ maintenance plan of all. But I jump ahead somewhat, let’s look a little more closely at the inspection side of the Permit revalidation using the form as a guide.

LAA Form FWR-1 – Application for Renewal (Revalidation) of Permit to Fly

The requirements for Permit aircraft require that each aircraft is maintained to a maintenance plan, and this has to be checked annually as part of the aircraft’s airworthiness review at permit renewal time. Apart from in a few specialist cases, the owner of an aircraft is able to determine for himself what maintenance plan to follow, over and above the standard series of checks set out in the Permit renewal form and inspected annually by an LAA Inspector.

A big part of the inspector’s role, when signing an aircraft out as being fully airworthy, is to ensure that, and I’ll quote directly from the FWR/1 form itself… In my opinion I can confirm that the aircraft to be overhauled, repaired and maintained to my satisfaction…

So, your inspector will want to be sure that the aircraft is being maintained according to some sort of plan. Like it or not, you’ll be required to show evidence of appropriate routine maintenance if you want your FWR/1 form signed.

Let’s look at the FWR/1 form in a little more detail. I have a couple of reasons for wanting to do this; one, because the Chief Inspector, Ken Craigie, is coordinating a big change to the required reference material to be used by inspectors at the annual revalidation point (SPARS to TADS – more about this change later). And two, to act as an encouragement to owners and inspectors, let’s call these two groups applicants to make things simple, not to send in applications that are

52 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Above Permit Renewal form (the FWR/1) starts the administrative part of the Permit revalidation process. This form is HQ Engineering’s ‘window’ on the continuing airworthiness status of the aircraft – and errors in completing the form will cause delays in the renewal process so, as a New Year’s resolution, please take the time to fill it out correctly. Photos: LAA Library

almost destined to fail during HQ checks here. Sadly, we’re seeing an increasing number of ‘rejections’ and, apart from being time-consuming, they are a rather depressing thing to have to get involved with… from both sides of the fence.

I asked the other members of the engineering staff who are involved with the Permit revalidation process, to list the causes of these failed applications. It’s a long list, but worryingly, many of the failures seemed to be caused because some applicants don’t seem to realise that this FWR/1 form sits at the centre of a national legal process. If the form isn’t submitted with the correct information, or contains information that doesn’t meet a specific requirement, we’re duty-bound to send it back. That’s a function of our hitherto mentioned, ‘rules of engagement’ with the CAA.

It’s a shame when an application fails, especially if it’s rejected for lack of a signature or something equally straightforward. Over the years, we’ve developed a scrutiny system that’s both rapid and, by all measures, effective. This fast turn round starts with a staff member picking up the mail from the Post Office so that, if all’s well, a same-day service can be offered. Recent changes in Post Office regulations mean that, believe it or not, we actually have to pay them for this privilege!

It might be useful to explain what happens here at LAA HQ when we receive a revalidation application. First, the application passes through the engineering administration section. Most of you will have, at some point or another, chatted to either Fiona or Adele, who do an incredible job keeping the paperwork (and the engineers) in order. They open up a renewal section within the aircraft’s records and, by entering the data on the form into the database, begin the renewal pathway.

We can only accept applications from current LAA members – a perhaps obvious statement, but too many applications stall at this first hurdle. Please make sure, before your send in an application, that your membership is current.

While I’m on these rather basic points, can I encourage you to fill the front page of the form in carefully – one applicant recently didn’t put the aircraft type into the appropriate box, he was right, when asked as to why he hadn’t done this (there were a number of other issues), we can look it up! But for us, the statement of the aircraft type and the registration provides a degree of verification that the registration has been correctly entered, otherwise a single transposed letter in the registration could easily result in us unwittingly revalidating the permit on the wrong aircraft! Remember, the FWR/1 form, in many respects, is also a window into your world; if an applicant can’t be bothered to fill the basic information in, should the overseeing engineer at HQ worry about this particular operation… what else isn’t being done?

Please make sure, before you send in the form, that all the sections are filled in legibly and, naturally, accurately, again, ensure that you are actually a current member and have paid any fees due. One further thing, if you have recently purchased the aircraft, please make sure that we know that you are now the new owner… unless we’ve been told, we may not know who you are!

Staying with the front page, you’ll see that, about three-quarters of the way down, there’s a space for your signature. This is the Owner’s Declaration. When you make this declaration, by signing the form, you are telling us that you understand the conditions under which you operate the aircraft and, importantly, that you are authorising us to act as your agent for the application (remember, the CAA issue the Certificate of Validity on our recommendation). Believe it or not, many applications are rejected because applicants fail to sign this part of the form – it’s an immediate showstopper, sometimes for a week or more, as the form must be returned to the applicant for signing, and then sent back to begin the process all over again.

Once the administration side of an application passes the winning post, it gets transferred to a ‘signing’ engineer. It’s their job to ensure that the overall renewal process, in every regard, is solid enough for us to make a recommendation to revalidate the Permit. As it’s an ‘arm’s length’ task, both experience in aircraft maintenance and inspection is required, signing engineers know their stuff – and have, perhaps a requisite for all aircraft inspectors, a good eye for detail.

Above Two areas in the form that seem to often cause trouble are the Aircraft Document Check and the list of significant work done in the preceding year. The LAA Inspector must check the aircraft’s Permit to Fly documentation, especially the Operating Limitations Document, to ensure that what is on the aircraft is as supposed to be. There’s clearly no point sending in a form with ‘none’ in the space where there’s supposed to be a list of significant work, when the aircraft has had a major repair (or a mod fitted) earlier in the year. Photo: LAA Library

Above Here’s the seriously legal part of the FWR/1 form; it’s the declaration by the LAA Inspector that, in their opinion, the aircraft is in an airworthy condition. Note that, over the next month or two, signing against SPARS will be phased out and Inspectors will sign against the TADS – we’re not recalling all the forms to make this change, so Inspectors and owners alike will need to keep their eyes on the ball here and amend the form themselves to reflect this change.

Photo: LAA Library

Here’s a snapshot of one day listing problems found by the engineering manager:

“Thirteen in the post today: On three – the hours do not tally (in excess of two hours out) from the figures from last year. On one – no engine info from the inspector listed in the Aircraft Document Check section. And on one – a gyro: no check flight received.”

That’s a rejection rate of over a third… and that’s without adding any admin problems into this day’s rejections. Here’s a list of some of the

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 53 Safety Spot

more common reasons why applications are delayed, to create the list we actually just looked at rejections over the last three weeks.

“Incorrect engine/prop info from inspector; worksheets not rec’d for ‘significant’ work; open mods/repairs; no w/sheets or confirmation from inspector after a Long Lay Up (LLU); incorrect SPARS number; outstanding MOD 7/FT-AVIONICS from last year; and last but not least, no last weigh date.”

Before I move on, please also make sure that you put the correct value stamp on your envelope – sorry, I feel like a bit of a pedant, but rejections by the Post Office take ages to resolve – weeks sometimes. If you’re waiting for your CV back so that you can attend a fly-in, it’s a shame that you couldn’t go for a few pence extra on a stamp. Note, a single first-class stamp is insufficient for an A4 sized envelope!

RV-12 Airworthiness Information Leaflet

In terms of customer support, Van’s Aircraft take some beating, in my view their proactive stance in continuing airworthiness support is second to none. Below is a recent Service Bulletin letting RV-12 owners know that there have been a few instances where cracks have been found in the engine stand-off. Because this cracking involves a class one primary structure, LAA Engineering has issued an Airworthiness Information Leaflet (AIL) mandating a visual check of this component until it has been changed with a strengthened part.

Above As per the Service Bulletin, left, RV-12 owner, Keith Boardman, discovered his stand-off had a crack in it. The aircraft has 500 flying hours and is grounded, hopefully only for a short while, until the new, strengthened, part arrives from Van’s.

One local suggested that, “This part doesn’t do much on the twelve,” it would be “OK to ignore the crack.” Well, if it doesn’t do much, then why did the part fail?

Goodbye SPARS. Hello TADS

As I near the end of this first Safety Spot of 2021, I mustn’t go without first giving you the heads-up that noteS to Pfa AircRaft inSpectors, SPARS for short, is to undergo a drastic change over the next few months. Unless you are an LAA Inspector, you may not have heard of this document even though, unbeknown to owners, it has underpinned the LAA inspection system for over a quarter of a century.

SPARS was first created to act as a sort of ‘go to’ manual for LAA Inspectors, it wasn’t available to aircraft owners. A substantial ringbound folder, all inspectors have been issued with SPARS as part of their inspector initiation procedure and have to refer to it at each Permit renewal they oversee. Some of the document acted as a procedure checklist, an aide mémoire if you like, but the biggest portion included sections detailing issues on specific aircraft types, propellers and, naturally, engines. It included LAA-specific advice on Airworthiness Directives, Service Bulletins, MPDs and the like, to help LAA inspectors through the maze of regulations and to pass on useful safety tips and advice. The document was created before the advent of the modern internet-based communication systems we’ve all grown accustomed to over the last decade or so and relied on send-outs of updates in paper form, issued from time to time by the Chief Inspector.

In its new form, the procedure sections of SPARS are being re-written to better reflect the current LAA fleet and expanded operations now available to some LAA aircraft. The aircraft, engine and propeller sections of SPARS are being deleted, and in future both inspectors and owners will be able to refer to this information online, we call this document the aircraft’s Type Acceptance Data Sheet.

Type Acceptance Data Sheets, TADS, are now available for most aircraft types and offer an online info-package for owners and LAA Inspectors alike. The basic format of these documents is relatively easy to follow, for example there’s a ‘must do’ section and a section with information that’s more of an advisory flavour. These are live documents, and we’ll endeavour to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with the latest safety information. Where possible, we’ll put links directly to a library copy of the relevant AD/Bulletin/MPD, LAA ALERT or Airworthiness Information Leaflet. We hope that ‘feeding’ this document will be a two-way process, in other words, if you spot something that’s missing (or incorrect), please let us know.

Just like your participation in Safety Spot, in the long term, TADS will be as good as you help us make it. Fair Winds. ■

54 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Safety Spot
Photos: Van’s Aircraft/Keith Boardman

LAA engineering charges

Note: if the last Renewal wasn’t administered by the LAA an extra fee of £125 applies

PLEASE NOTE: When you’re submitting documents using an A4-sized envelope, a First Class stamp is insufficient postage.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 55 Safety Spot
Kit Built
£300 Plans Built Aircraft £50 Issue of
£40 Initial Permit issue Up to 450kg £450 451-999kg £550 1,000kg and above £650 Permit Renewal (can now be paid
via LAA
Up to 450kg £155 451-999kg £200 1,000kg and above £230 Factory-built gyroplanes (all weights) £250
LAA Project Registration
a Permit to Test Fly
approved design only
Prototype modification minimum £60 Repeat modification minimum £30 Transfer (from C of A to Permit or CAA Permit to LAA Permit) Up to 450kg £150 451 to 999kg £250 1,000kg and above £350 Four-seat aircraft Manufacturer’s/agent’s type acceptance fee £2,000 Project registration royalty £50 Category change Group A to microlight £135 Microlight to Group A £135 Change of G-Registration fee Issue of Permit documents following G-Reg change £45
stolen etc
Modification application
(fee is per document)
Latest SPARS – No 17 April 2018
Above SPARS is no longer going to contain type-related continuing airworthiness information – all this important reference material has been transferred to the aircraft type’s Type Acceptance Data Sheet – the TADS. TADS are online and available to all. If you own an LAA type, then you should have an up-to-date copy of the appropriate TADS close to hand. Photo: Malcolm McBride

Moth’s show of strength…

Tony Palmer orders a new propeller for his Tiger Moth – and takes a tour of the Hercules Propellers factory while he’s at it…

In September 2020 I ordered a new Lang 604 propeller from Hercules Propellers for my DH82C Tiger Moth. The original propeller fitted was a fine pitched unit because the aeroplane was designed to just go up and down while training WWII pilots in Canada. The fine pitch prop would have also suited it use from 1948 to 1954, when it was operated on floats in the summer and skis in the winter – it was never a ‘go places’ aeroplane.

I went to the factory in Stroud on a very wet day and proprietor, Rupert Wasey, very kindly gave me a conducted tour, as I was very interested in the manufacture of the propellers generally and also the blades that Rupert was making for the Dowty inflight adjustable propellers used on the Rolls-Royce Merlin.

For the standard propellers he uses laminated Beech planks, which have a good tensile strength to weight ratio. Mahogany can be used but at a premium, as these days it is a banned import species, and it can only be obtained if it was imported before the restrictions. Metal leading edges can be added but also at a premium, as it takes many man hours of work. Instead, Rupert uses a special bonded-in urethane leading edge process which has proved very durable in service.

Above The man behind Hercules Propellers. Rupert Wasey standing in front of the raw material rack.

The manufacturing stages to produce a standard wooden light aircraft propeller are:

■ Rough cut the planks to size and glue them together with Aerodux, fit into the heater and clamp them down. Leave to set for six hours at 45°C.

■ Put the blank into the CNC machine and rout out the leading-edge pocket, fit the precast urethane leading edge into the pocket with Aerodux and again heat and wait.

■ Put the blank back into the CNC machine and rough cut the shape using a tungsten carbide ball nose cutter. Change cutter and do the final cut.

■ Hand finish the prop using an orbital sander to remove the machining marks and check thickness per the drawing etc. at regular intervals. The tips are completed by hand using templates, as the CNC machine holds the blade at these points.

■ The paint is applied in a heated spray booth and can add up to a fair number of different setups (mine had a lacquered wood centre with matt black back, gloss black front and yellow tips), and then it is balanced.

During the tour, Rupert demonstrated the toughness of the urethane leading edge by smacking a sample against the machine, resulting in no apparent damage.

He also showed me a propeller that he had recently

56 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021 Hercules Propellers

completed for a very unusual aircraft – a Finnish-built WWII trainer, the VL Viima II, powered by a German Siemens radial engine. The type struck a chord, as I have close connections with Finland (having been to most of the aviation museums in the country over the years). The owner had a copy of the original propeller drawing and Rupert was able to generate a 3D model, which was then converted into a file to drive the CNC machine.

Merlin blades

There has long been a demand for blades to fit the Dowty wooden bladed, constant speed propellers as used on the Merlin when installed in the Spitfire and Hurricane etc, which Rupert has been investigating for several years.

When they were in production in WWII, they were made from very hard planks made by compressing thin plies of wood to create a much denser material. Today, Rupert buys the raw material from Germany and he glues the planks together as per the standard production method, and machines them on the same CNC machines as his normal blades.

The balancing of a set of blades is very exhaustive and is done on a fixture in different directions to very fine limits, using lasers for accuracy. The prototype has completed its

Above right Curing the glue that attaches the urethane leading edges that have been installed into the routed slots.

Right The raw material, called hydulignum, which Rupert gets from Germany, is laminated using ultra-thin plies subjected to 3,000 tonnes pressure during manufacture, which densifies it such that it weighs 80lb per cubic foot.

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 57 Hercules Propellers
Above left This is the CNC machine which roughs out the shape of the propeller blades. In the photo you can see the slot for the urethane leading edge is being routed out. Left The laminating process is carried out in a heated press for six hours at 45°C.

Left An early prototype Merlin blade fitted with an accelerometer which was used to identify the blade’s natural frequencies.

Below left The enormous fan blades from the Aircraft Research Association transonic wind tunnel which Hercules Propellers is refurbishing.

Below The new Hercules prop graces the front of the Tiger Moth. Initial testing shows great promise.

CAA flight testing in the hands of the Heritage Hangar, where it was fitted to a Spitfire and, as well as a variety of other tests, which took it to VNE. It was found to be very smooth, no doubt due to the extremely accurate CNC machining and the time and effort put into the balancing process.

Wind tunnel blades for refurbishment

Hercules is also refurbishing the blades of the Aircraft Research Association transonic wind tunnel in Bedfordshire. The aircraft industry had a requirement post-war for such a device, which was conceived in 1948. It was up and running by the early 1950s and was used for testing the TSR2, Concord, Lightning and many other post war jet fighters that we were building at the time.

The tunnel is capable of wind speeds in the venturi section of the tunnel of Mach 1.4 (approximately 1,000mph) and has two 40ft diameter fans, with 20 blades per fan, to produce the motive air flow.

There are still only a few wind tunnels in the world with this high-speed capability, and 70 years on the wind tunnel is still in use.

In due course I returned to Hercules to collect my new Lang 604 propeller, which was really too nice to use, it should have been hanging on my wall indoors! Having fitted it to the Tiger with no problem, and tested it, I found that it gave me a better rate of climb and a better cruise speed – plus it was lighter than the original.

I will be carrying out more expansive tests once the weather and Covid-19 allows. ■

Hercules Propellers 58 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
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A Plumb job!

This month we meet Barry Plumb, designer and builder of the Plumb Biplane and enthusiastic pilot and motorcyclist

Welcome Barry, could you tell us something of your career?

Although as a lad I wanted to be a commercial pilot and had an interview at Hamble, unfortunately it was not to be. I am now retired after an enjoyable career in the industrial refrigeration and air conditioning sector. Projects have been wide and variable, ranging from the 10,000hp system for the climatic test chambers at the Military Vehicle Engineering Establishment at Chertsey, to cooling precious article display cabinets in the Didactic Gallery of the British Library. I also spent a great deal of time on various pharmaceutical pilot plant installations at drug research and development sites.

What stirred your interest in aviation?

As a boy I was absolutely fascinated by anything mechanical, and one of my favourite machines was a model aircraft engine. I can remember running my first model engine in my hands (don’t try this at home folks) until it got too hot to hold. So, I really needed something to put it in and decided that control line model flying should be fun. It was, and I was hooked on anything that would fly. I was not a good enough athlete for free flight models as it usually meant miles of trekking off to find them, so I built control line and later radio-controlled models. Many of my models were of my own design, which added to the fun.

In what, where and when was your first flight?

My first flight was in 1964 in an Auster J1N, G-AJAJ from Sandown, Isle of Wight. I think I was about 13 at the time

and I had been saving up all year so that I could go for a flight from our usual holiday destination on the Isle of Wight. At that time, a five to 10 minute flight around the bay was 15 shillings (75p), or a full 40 minute flight round the island was 45 shillings (£2.25p). I could afford the former but not the latter, but fortunately a young couple turned up just after me and elected for the full 40 minute flight, and the pilot took pity on me and took me for half-price. I was broke, but ecstatic. Even better, the young couple sat in the rear seats, holding hands and kissing, while I got to sit with the pilot up front. Again, I was hooked, not with the kissing, but on the flying.

Later on, I did a couple of summertime, week-long courses with the Air Scouts at Lasham, flying their Slingsby T21 open cockpit gliders. I was too young to solo but it was a great experience. At that time, the Scouts had a bunkhouse which was a retired Dan Air Avro York. I was camping under the port outer engine, which dripped oil all over my tent. Recently, on a visit to Duxford, I came upon that same aircraft in the museum. No oil drips there.

Where did you do your flight training?

After a couple of lucrative overseas appointments in 1976, I was able to start training at the Lapwing Flying Group at Denham, on Beagle Pup 150 G-AXJH, and later on a Rallye 150, G-BECC. It took a couple of years to complete about 49 hours and the issue of my PPL.

How did you hear about the PFA/LAA?

It was actually before I trained for my PPL, a friend from the model flying club mentioned that he was going to the PFA Rally at Sywell as he was thinking of building a Fred (and he did). I was rather struck by this and also went

60 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
Above Barry Plumb with his self-designed and built BGP 1 biplane.

along and was fascinated by a Taylor Monoplane on display in the marquee, complete but without fabric covering. I thought that I could make one of those, as it is only a big model after all. Oh, impetuous youth! Anyway, I joined the PFA and, in typical headstrong fashion, started designing my own little biplane. That was in 1976 and I have been a member ever since.


you prefer building from plans?

Yes, I do. I suppose it goes back to my model flying days. It is mainly the sense of achievement from building something from scratch, and particularly designing the aircraft yourself.

Tell us about your BGP-1

Having joined with the intention of designing and building my own aircraft, I went along to various Strut meetings to see what I could learn about aircraft structures and their design. I was lucky to meet a chap by the name of David Livesey at the West London Strut, who spent literally hours with me explaining which textbooks I needed and how the design process went. Much study was followed by many calculations, and lots and lots of drawings. Eventually a design submission was sent to PFA Head Office and a constructor’s logbook arrived in the post. Well, I thought, I’ll just have to go ahead and build it. So I did. My Inspectors were brilliant, passing on a host of tips on how to go about the construction. Friends at the Struts were able to point me in the direction of parts and material suppliers etc., and I could not have achieved anything without the PFA.

Flight testing in 1986 was interesting, with initial flights carried out by a wonderful friend, Cliff Piper. I can tell you that waiting for him to get back from a Vne dive test was probably the most nerve-wracking experience of my life.

Top The Plumb Biplane well on the way and having a trial rig.

Above left A young Barry and Pam enjoying a fly-in with the Jodel DR1050 in which they had a share.

Above right Barry built this Wag Aero clip wing Cub with son Neil and friend Andrew Bourn, which they still own and fly.

How many have been built?

Just mine and one other. PFA member John Anson was keen to build one but I was afraid the drawings were not really good enough for someone else to follow. We struck a deal that I would prepare production standard drawings, and he would proof read them by building from them and letting me know where all of the bugs were. It worked and the aircraft was built, finished off by Pat Barker and John Riley. The aircraft has now returned to its native Cornwall, where construction began.

I believe you have had quite an involvement with the Association?

When I first joined, I was with West London Strut (eventually becoming Strut co-ordinator), Hertford Strut and Bedford Strut, but having relocated I am now a member of the Chiltern Strut. I was also on the LAA Board for some years, with particular responsibility for Engineering, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to work closely with our Engineering department at Turweston.

I have been involved in judging at the LAA Rally for a number of years, and generally I will be looking at plans built, part built and restored Vintage aircraft, which is where my skills are. It would not be much good getting me to judge riveted aluminium aircraft as I have no experience with them.

How many types and hours have you flown?

Unlike many of our members I have not flown a huge

January 2021 | LIGHT AVIATION | 61 Meet the Members

number of types, probably 15 or so. I have flown approximately 1,370 hours, about 90% of which are on taildraggers.

What aircraft have you owned?

My own biplane of course, but I once owned a one sixteenth share in a Jodel 1050 – I think my bit was the right aileron. It was a great aircraft, and only two or three of the group members ever flew it, so it was always available.

A few years ago my son Neil, a friend, Andrew Bourn, and I built a Wag Aero Acro Trainer – a kit built version of a Clip Wing Cub with an O-320 – but it was definitely not a project for a first time builder. I still own a share in this superb aeroplane.

Do you have a favourite and less so types?

I loved the Beagle Pup, with its superb handling, but this was the first powered aircraft I had flown, so comparison is difficult. Our Jodel was a fantastic, economical touring aircraft but handling was somewhat staid compared to the Pup. Our Clip Wing does everything you can want in terms of handling and performance, and my biplane handles like a dream.

I did not like the Cessna 150. It is so narrow that you need to be two ‘consenting adults’ to close the doors. How they ever manage to get two 21st century adults into one is beyond me…

What has been your best aviation moment?

My best aviation moments are every time I fly my biplane or the Clip Wing. Open the throttle and after a few seconds you are airborne on your own crafted wings – it never ceases to amaze me that the laws of physics work every time – marvellous.

I remember a lovely flight in my biplane when passing Broadway in the Cotswolds as my 1,000 hours came up.

Tell us how you got to fly in the Sanders Sea Fury

In the summer of 1980, Stuart MacConnacher and I went to Oshkosh via California. We flew with Elmer Ward in his Cessna 185 to Oshkosh and back, and the following weekend I was offered a flight in the Sanders’ family two-seat Sea Fury. I flew the aircraft for about 35 minutes from Madera to Chino. Frank did the tricky bits with the take-off and landing, but allowed me to do the cruise. The handling of that aircraft is just sublime and it’s worth noting that the diameter of the Sea Fury propeller is the same as the wingspan of my biplane. Fantastic!

Above On a visit to California in 1980, Barry was lucky to be offered a flight in Frank Sanders’ two-seat Sea Fury.

Below One of Barry’s other passions is old British motorbikes. He and Pam regularly attend rallies throughout Europe on their 1956 AJS model 30.

Do you have any aviation heroes?

Neil Williams is up at the top; watching him fly and reading his books was a joy. Similarly, Brian Lecomber was great fun and again, his writing was brilliant. I met Brian at Denham when I was learning to fly.

Also, the many professional and amateur aircraft designers who have produced such a variety of wonderful aircraft over the years.

Have you had any ‘I learned about flying from that’ moments?

I inadvertently got into cloud when in formation with two other Jodels while crossing the Channel on our way home from the RSA Rally. Lesson learned: Don’t take someone else’s word that the weather is OK, check for yourself.

I also had an engine failure in my biplane when the Jabiru threw a rod. Fortunately, I was at 3,000ft over open country and found a suitable grass field, phew! Lesson: Always expect the unexpected and be vigilant.

What is on your aircraft and vehicle wish list?

I love the early versions of the Curtis P-40, the ones with the small chin scoop. It was pretty much outclassed as a fighter, but I still think it looks absolutely beautiful.

What other hobbies and interests do you have?

I have two classic British motorcycles, a 1956 AJS model 30 (600cc parallel twin) and a 1957 Matchless G3 (350cc single).

My wife Pamela and I have ridden throughout Europe over the last 18 years, attending classic bike events and rallies. There is a very similar community to the LAA in the classic bike fraternity.

Isn’t your son also a pilot and engineer?

Yes, Neil learned to fly when he was a trainee engineer at a light aircraft maintenance company. After getting his licence he went on the fly twins, then turbines and ultimately business jets such as the Citation and Falcon 900.

He is now involved with running a new business jet maintenance company, JMI based at Oxford. Neil still loves to fly light aircraft and maintains his LAA Inspector’s ticket.

Any advice for owners and pilots?

If you are building or operating an LAA aircraft get the best Inspector you can find. They are all good, but some are exceptional. And keep flying, as there is no substitute for practise. ■

Meet the Members

Join us, save money, fly more…

For the tiny sum of £2.50 a month, The FLYER Club provides access to a whole host of ways to save money towards your flying

The FLYER Club was created by pilots for pilots and its goal is to bring like-minded people closer together.

For many members, it's a social thing, others enjoy the free landing fee vouchers, some like the advice and info webinars we've started organising, and some like the exclusive discounts. As the FLYER Club community grows, it will become more useful, more valuable, more fun and have more opportunities to join in.

Whatever your reason might be for joining The FLYER Club, we would love to have you on board!

For all display or commercial advertising enquiries please contact Neil Wilson: 07512 773532

You can email your classified advertisement direct to the LAA at the following address:

Deadline for booking and copy: 19 January 2021

If you would like to place an aircraft for sale advert please see details below:


Up to 30 words: £6; 31-50 words: £12

Up to 50 words with a coloured photo: £45


Up to 30 words: £22; 31-50 words: £44

Up to 50 words with a coloured photo: £60

LAA Engineering advice to buyers:

AIRCRAFT APPROVED? Members and readers should note that the inclusion of all advertisements in the commercial or classified sections of this magazine does not necessarily mean that the product or service is approved by the LAA. In particular, aircraft types, or examples of types advertised, may not, for a variety of reasons, be of a type or standard that is eligible for the issue of a LAA Permit to Fly. You should not assume that an aircraft type not currently on the LAA accepted type list will eventually be accepted.

IMPORTED AIRCRAFT? Due to unfavourable experiences, the purchase and import of completed homebuilt aircraft from abroad is especially discouraged.

TIME TO BUILD? When evaluating kits/designs, it should borne in mind that technical details, performance figures and handling characteristics are often quoted for a factory-produced aircraft flying under ideal conditions. It is wise, therefore, to seek the opinion of existing builders and owners of the type. You should also take your own skill and circumstances into consideration when calculating build times. The manufacturer’s build time should be taken as a guide only.


All LAA aircraft builders and potential builders are reminded that in order to qualify for a LAA Permit to Fly, homebuilt aircraft must be genuinely amateur built. For these purposes the CAA provide a definition of amateur built in their publication CAP 659, available from LAA. An extract from CAP 659 reads “The building and operation of the aircraft will be solely for the education and recreation of the amateur builder. This means that he would not be permitted to commission someone else to build his aircraft”. An aircraft built outside the CAA’s definition could result in an expensive garden ornament.


1940 Rearwin 175 Skyranger. Just off comprehensive rebuild. Factory colours. A-75 overhauled to zero. New permit. Wind-powered generator/no starter. 80mph cruise, five hours endurance. Bereavement sale of much-loved aircraft. See flight test in November Pilot magazine. £34,995 o.n.o 01234 871086


Design & Stress Analysis Service. Type submissions, modifications, engine frames and general advice. We cover everything from SSDR to A380 :- structures, powerplant (IC and electric) and avionic installations. Contact John Wighton or call 07770399315.

Univair Sealed Struts for Piper J4, L4E Cub. Complete set, new and unused with forks. Also set of original Piper struts in fairly good condition. £2000. 07855 511593

JPM, Oil filter adapters. Made to order, Continental O-200 -12 £320 and A65-8 from £390. Will help with Mod paperwork. These adapters replace the oil screen assembly.

Julian Mills 07976 530563

Welding services (mobile). CAA approved for 4130 steel airframe manufacture and repair. Custom exhaust systems and aluminium fuel tanks undertaken. Manchester based. Contact Julian Mills, on 07976 530563


France, Loire, hangarage for two aircraft at our private airfield “ Montrichard”, four-person cottage, package designed by flyers for flyers. £800 per week,, 07802 217 855, 01424 883 474.


Hewland ARV Aero Engine for static display at Museum of Berkshire Aviation. Dave Scott:


Airfield Share in Kent, one hour from London. Three Hangers, two runways and/or Europa trigear 912ULS. email


Maurice Kirk is selling four D-Day Piper Cubs, two Taylorcrafts, one Challis Chaffinch. Spare engines, including Gypsy, vintage Lycoming, A65 and shedload of post and pre-war propellers, incl. four-blade WW1. 1931 ohc four-seat Morris Minor convertible. Breton cottage next to strip £30,000. Will exchange the lot for 3rd wife +44 7708 586202

64 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021
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Looking back, looking forward

Well, what a year 2020 has been, but more importantly what a year ahead we have to look forward to. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed our lives, but thanks to the amazing vaccine developments it is reasonable to hope that more normal life (and flying) might be able to resume next spring. Hats off to our scientists, and isn’t it nice for science and technology to be cool once again?

The past year has stretched all of us to new limits. First of all, I think that the LAA HQ staff certainly deserved their Christmas break and can be proud that they have served us so well. Their flexibility, and our ‘smart’ telephone system has meant that even when all staff were homeworking, we were able to respond to member requests, engineering enquiries and ensure that our Permit renewal process continued to meet its high service standards.

We cheerfully embraced video conferencing, not just for formal meetings, but allowing us to socialise too. In addition to our Virtual Pub Nights, we’ve run online Strut seminars, Board meetings and even the AGM, enabling attendees to join us from around the country who may never otherwise have done so. Who would ever have thought this time last year that ‘unmute’ would have become one of the most-used words in the English language?

From a flying point of view, we all handled the spring ‘lockdown’ and further restrictions through this year remarkably well. It inevitably restricted our flying, led to a number of owners electing not to operate their aircraft this year and also some members deciding it was time to move on from aviation.

As a result, our fleet reduced in size for the first time in more than a decade, with around 100 fewer active aircraft and a significant drop in new projects being registered. Similarly, the number of members fell too and although these numbers recovered through the year, including a surprising number of new recruits, we are still back at 2018 membership levels.

Naturally this has hit our revenues, compounded further by a recession in other areas of income such as magazine advertising and training activities.

We’ve managed our costs with care and have met our planned budget targets, albeit on a lower turnover, but in the coming year we are having to plan for a huge increase in insurance premiums, up from £83,000 a year to in excess of £113,000.

Anyone who has insured their aircraft in recent months will already be aware that premiums have risen significantly right across the GA sector.

The simple reason was that for the past three or four years, intense competition in the sector led to insurers charging

premiums, which ultimately did not cover the losses incurred. We’re not just talking local ‘fender-benders’ here, some of the biggest GA losses in recent years have come from tornado damage to aircraft and airfields in the southern United States and defending against litigation from ambulance-chasing ‘no-win, no-fee’ lawyers. This has led to many insurance underwriters electing to withdraw from the GA market and a hardening of premiums from those that remain.

As a result, as you’ll read in News (pages 6 and 7), we’ve reluctantly decided to increase membership charges from the start of the new year. It is the first time we’ve increased fees since the start of 2015, and we’ve managed to maintain Permit and engineering fees directly linked to keeping an aircraft in the air unchanged. The good news is that there is a way many members can avoid these increases. Full members will pay an extra £7 and full plus members £10, but if you transfer to paying by direct debit, you will save £10. In other words, a full member moving to direct debit will actually save in comparison with the 2020 fee! All you need to do is, when your membership comes up next year, contact LAA HQ and ask for instructions on changing your payment method. We’ll still benefit as future admin costs and bank charges are approximately halved.

Time to celebrate…

Looking further ahead to our 75th Anniversary year, we’ll have some exciting new prospects, not least the plans for non-certificated, factory-built light sport aircraft between 450 and 600kg to be made available in the UK. You’ll notice I’m not referring to these aircraft as ‘microlights’, as although they will be registered in the microlight category as the easiest way the CAA can enable licensing for both microlight and light aircraft pilots to fly them with a minimum of rating change or differences training, they will be fully capable light aircraft with a significant increase in carrying capacity and range in comparison with the current three-axis microlight fleet.

It is anticipated, even with the high post-EASA CAA workload, that the legislation will be in place by the spring to allow the BMAA and LAA to begin their work on accepting the new types onto the UK register.

The LAA is ideally placed to deal with these aircraft, both with our experience with other aircraft in the category such as the factorybuilt SportCruiser and Roko, and in the future, potential factory-built derivatives of the Foxbat, Vixen, Zenairs, Sting, Mission, Trail, Kitfox and many others, some of which are well placed to transfer to the proposed new factory-build regime. We are already taking calls from suppliers keen to get started, and the new rules, though not yet ready to release, certainly have promise. Happy New Year! ■

CEO Thoughts CEO Thoughts 66 | LIGHT AVIATION | January 2021

ADS-B, Mode C/S, Flarm receive and Flarm transmit. £1,740.00 £1,500.00 Inc. VAT. £1,250.00 with CAA claim!

Baseline reduction until the end of January 2021.

£280.00. SkyEcho II ADS-B transmitter at Sil 1. ADS-B, Flarm, UAT receiver. Carry on and connect with Wi-FI to display traffic on SkyDemon, Runway HD, EASY VFR, Foreflight, Airmate. From £479.00 Inc. VAT. £239.50 with CAA claim!

ADS-B, Mode C/S, Flarm receive and Flarm transmit, with inbuilt display.

£2,016.00 Inc. VAT. £1,766.00 with CAA claim!

currently under promotion, and includes




See our website for full range Our Address: LX Avionics Ltd, Hangar 10, Turweston Aerodrome, BRACKLEY, NN13 5YD VAT: GB 793 1777 86 Company number 4417407 E & OE Claim up to £250.00 from CAA against the purchase of Electronic Conspicuity We will beat any like for like quotation! TN72 TABS certified GPS for Sil 1 ADS-B out from your Trig Mode S Transponder. £348.00 Inc. VAT, £174.00 with CAA claim! Trig TT21 £,1788.00 Inc. VAT £1,538.00 with CAA Claim! TQ KTX2 £,1680.00
VAT £1,430.00
CAA Claim! Funke TRT800 £1,920.00 Inc. VAT £1,670.00
CAA Claim! Garmin GTX335* £2,754.00
VAT £2,504.00
Call us on 01280 700020
with CAA
*GTX335 is
£2,220.00 Some say they do the lot... LAS REALLY DO! Contact LAS Aerospace, your number 1 parts supplier. LAS Aerospace Ltd. Exeter Road Industrial Estate, Okehampton, Devon, UK EX20 1UA Email: Phone: 01837 658081 ● Fax: 01837 658080 Learn how CamGuard protects aircraft engines year round at Together to Protect Your Investment Three months that can do more harm to aircraft engines than an entire season of flying...

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