Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013 Spring is Here! As in the last blog entry, I haven’t updated it for a long while, November of 2012. Not much has happened mainly because this year we have seen a very long-g-g winter. Two weeks ago, we had cold and several inches of blowing snow. But apparently the weather gods felt embarrassed by that and immediately afterward brought us some warmth and better weather. We even had one short afternoon with the temperature flirted with the 80’s. It’s Sunday morning, the current temp is 38 degrees, forecast to be in the 50’s, so a little cool. I’m on my way to church and will probably go out to the airport this afternoon, if I don’t watch the final round of the Players’ Golf Championship. I heard from Richard by e-mail a couple of days ago, and he’s also getting ramped up with flying again. He got his Sport Pilot License recently and flew for the first time so far this year, so all of us are slowly retreating from our winter hibernation and cautiously peeking toward the skies. We talked about what has to be done to the JW. I have been to the airport twice this spring, once to remove the battery and bring it home to attempt to charge it and see what condition it’s in, and also to put some foam hand grips on the control bar. The battery turned out to be pretty much toast. Behaved like a brick; wouldn’t take a charge at all. Richard speculated that because it was in the plane all winter unheated, it probably froze and that spells death to batteries. It was my fault; Bob has warned me to take the battery out and bring it home for that very reason, but I never got around to it. It was in the plane when I bought it, so no telling how old it was, so I console myself with the thought that it was probably at the end of its life anyway. Fortunately it is a standard item at Walmart, not too expensive, and I got a replacement this past week and did the initiation stuff according to the instructions, so we’ll see how that works. I think I’ll take it out to the airport this afternoon and try to get as much as possible ready to fly. I don’t think there’s anything that is preventing me from taking it around the patch a couple of times. I need to do that soon just to confirm that I can do it. There are times when I feel incapable and even anxious of actually flying the JW. But there are other times I feel an exhilaration at the thought of the screaming engine noise and 2-cycle hot-oil smell and bumping and grinding down the runway to stagger into the air, then the sudden pivoting up as it frees itself from the ground, trying to figure out the climb attitude, the relative calm of flying at pattern altitude, then the realization that I should actually attempt a landing, the turn onto final, the pulling back of the control bar to my gut and watching the ground rush up to meet me, then the push-out to flatten the attitude and bleed off speed, then finally touchdown, hopefully in one piece. And maybe full power and around again, if I feel good about the previous circuit. But no more than two times around; don’t know how much fuel I have to work with. My plan is to fly it once or twice around the pattern the first time. The fuel level is probably at only about 1/3 full, but that’s OK for just a couple of patterns. Then when that is accomplished, I want to determine the consumption rate by filling the fuel tank to capacity and flying an hour, maybe doing mostly touch and go’s. That would have the dual purpose of improving my WSC flying skills, and also seeing how much fuel is consumed during that period. I have no idea what the consumption rate is, whether 1.5 GPH, 2.5 GPH, or what. With only a 5-gallon tank, and considering a reasonable safety margin, it’s critically important to know the fuel consumption rate. So that’s the plan. But there are a few things to do before that. I need to get the JW set up, get the engine running smoothly and reliably, make sure everything is tight and secure, and figure out how to deploy the wing more easily than it has been to date. So I’m looking forward to blue skies, warmer weather, and light winds.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012 Beautiful Day at the Airport

I haven’t updated this log since August, mainly because there isn’t much to tell. I’ve been to the airport a couple of times still fighting the throttle cable problem, but in fairness, there’s been some lag in my enthusiasm about the JW lately. I guess I would call it a love-hate relationship. I keep saying that I should sell it, but no one would want buy it if they couldn’t see it demo’d?!? Richard and I have talked about the cable problem several times and he was convinced that we could make the old cable work, but after trying everything we could think of, it seemed like that cable was not allowing free movement of the throttle; either it would impede the opening up of the carburetor to full power, or oppose the return back to idle. Finally I made the decision to scrap that cable and replace it. After some research on the web, I was pointed to a company in Santa Ana, CA named MotionPros who make all kinds of cables. Since my cable was apparently custom fitted, the only recourse would be to have MotionPros duplicate the cable with the proper ends and housing. I pulled the cable off, packed it up with instructions to reproduce it increasing the length. The cost came to $35 plus shipping; spendy, but necessary. It took them awhile, but finally I received the new cable by UPS. Initially I wanted to have Bob come with me to install the new cable, but his priorities were skewed…he goes hunting every year and I couldn’t make him understand my problem was more important than his hunting with his hunting friends. So I asked Richard to meet me there and help me get that cable installed. Although I did not divulge to anyone my intentions, if the cable solved the throttle and acceleration problem with the engine, it was my plan to fly the bird. I went out to the airport about 10AM and began to tinker with the JW. I put the charger on the battery, tightened all the nuts and bolts, got the wing inflated (not easy, but got it done), and waited for Richard to arrive, which he did as planned at 2PM. For November (albeit early November), the weather was beautiful. Cool, about 40 degrees, but no wind. The conditions would have been very flyable, although it would have been too cold to be aloft for very long. My plan was to do only a couple of T&G’s just to build confidence that I could handle the JW. Richard is very thorough (a euphemism for SLOW) and he did more than just install the cable. The battery charger didn’t seem to charge the battery very well, but we got the engine running using the pull rope. It was the first time we’ve done that, and it worked OK, although I can’t imagine using that method to start the engine during actual flight. We spent probably an hour just running the engine, tuning the idling and checking out the new cable effectiveness, and testing the lower hand throttle with the control-bar throttle control. Everything worked better than ever before. I was exhilarated! One thing I’ve found about the Kawasaki two-cycle engine is that it is a little hard-starting, but once it runs and warms up, it starts like a champ every time. My method of operation in the future will be to get the JW started standing and facing the engine so I can get to the choke contol and primer pump, etc., but to then shut it down and then get the helmet on, strap myself in, and then start it seated in the seat. So after we had run the engine and Richard tuned the idle speed and mixture, I put the helmet on and got into the seat and did some taxiing around the area. I had learned from my previous disastrous experience to keep the speed under 20MPH, since lift-off is somewhere around 25MPH. It was a foreign feeling, and very uncomfortable. I attributed that to rust, but whatever, I didn’t have a “feel” for the aircraft, and after doing the taxiing for a half-hour or so, I decided today would not be the day for a test flight. It was getting late, the wind was picking up a little, it was turning cold, and I was tired. But now at least, I know that at any time I can go out there. start It up, and taxi as much as I need to get the “feel” of it on the ground before I try another take-off run. Another goal is to try to find a hanger so I can leave the JW set up rather than having to inflate the wing every time. It sure would be great to be able to go out there, open the hanger, taxi out and fly!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012 Still Working on the new Hand Throttle

A month or so ago I had ordered some cabling and other parts to complete the sub-project of converting the foot-feed throttle control to a control-bar-mounted hand throttle. Earlier in the week, Richard had proposed several options and finally after I took the parts to him, he found a way to fabricate the cable-end so it would fit on the lever that was mounted on the trike. Today he came down in the afternoon to hopefully get it finally installed and working.
But in the morning, before Richard came out, Bob Frolund came out to the airport to borrow the snowmobile trailer so he could haul some stuff up north. It was the first time I had been there myself since he and I were last there. While he was there he wanted to check out how the bracket he had made for the folded wing was working, and also to see if we could figure out how to get the wing inflated on the carriage. We got the trailer out of the hanger and hooked up to his pickup and then turned our attention to the trike. We saw some issues with the bracket that needed to be tweaked, and he has plans to resolved those issues.
But the wing was still stubborn and would not inflate. He saw that the left wing would fold out fine, but when we tried to stretch out the right wing, the left one would retreat back. He suggested that we tie down the left wing to a stake in the ground so it could not retreat back. He had a tent stake in his truck and drove it into the ground and tied the wing to that. We tried again to push the right wing out, but it resisted. Then suddenly it popped open and the haul-back tensioner came back as it should. At the same time, the left wing sprung loose from the stake. Turns out it was tied too closely to the stake and needed more slack; easy problem to solve. So this procedure to get the wing inflated should work in the future, hopefully.
So after a break for greasy tavern burgers for lunch in a local Winsted bar and grill, Bob took off.
After Richard arrived, we set about to get the throttle cable installed. With much frustration, nothing seemed to fit or to work the first time. Richard had to make constant adjustments to get things to work together. The cable housing wouldn’t go into the control, the location of the other cable end was wrong qhich required drilling a new spot for the cable to attach to the hand control, but to do that, he needed to move the bolt that attached the plate to the control, then the starter switch needed to be moved, because it was in the way, then the wire connecting the hand control to the new cable needed to bne replace by one that would retract property and on and on. But the more critical issue was to ensure that the new hand control would open the carburetor to full power, and retract it back to idle. It wasn’t doing that initially. Richard worked for several hours to get the proper balance, but he finally succeeded to make the proper adjustment.
Finally, at about 5PM, we quit, thoroughly exhausted. But we’ve made progress, and hopefully next time we’ll be done with this phase. Then I can get to the process of flying.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012 Back to the Airport with Bob Frolund

Bob Frolund is a friend from church who has shown interest in the Jetwing project, and has wanted to go “…look at your toy…” as he told me. So this Saturday after the mens’ group meeting at the church, we went out to the airport. Since he is mechanically minded and very resourceful, I told him that there were several things for which I needed advice. I want to be able to get the Jetwing set up to fly when I am by myself, and there are three things that currently prevent this. I need to be able to: 1) fold up and deploy the wing without demounting the wing from the carriage, 2) find some way once the wing is folded to control it when I am wheeling the Jetwing out of and into the hanger, and 3) be able to steer the plane by controlling the nosewheel.
After getting the hanger door raised, which was no mean feat, we wheeled the aircraft out. Keeping the wing mounted on the carriage, I lowered the control bar to the ground, and we spread the wing and tried to tension it. As was the usual case, I could not get the wing fully deployed and tensioned. The eye came within about 5 inches of the tensioner bracket. Between us, we still could not get it to reach. Finally, Bob detached the Velcro overlap of the wing fabric to expose the crossbars. By pulling directly on the main crossbar, the wing expanded all the way. So the conclusion was that I simply did not have the leverage to pull hard enough to get the wing to expand fully with it attached to the carriage. I was very concerned about not forcing anything and possibly damaging it, but it seemed that there was no inordinate stress on the wing structure by doing this. Bob’s suggestion was to attach a ratchet strap or some kind of come-along to the tensioning cable to give it more muscle than I could manage. So one issue was resolved.
As we were working around the hanger and the plane, I showed Bob the Cessna tow bar that had been used by John’s 172 but was overlooked by the buyer when the airplane was sold. I said that I would like to modify the bar to work with the Jetwing but couldn’t figure out how. He took a quick look and pointed out that there seemed to be a natural place to attach the tow bar on the nosewheel bracket already. Sure enough, for some reason I had completely missed the attach point that had probably been designed on the nosewheel bracket for this very purpose. I guess no one should accuse me of being all that observant of the obvious!
We turned our attention to how to control the wings when there were in the folded position. Bob saw immediately what the need was and said he could fabricate a simple bracket out of scrap 2x4’s or 1x4’s with casters on the bottom that would wrap around the wing so it would not drag on the ground. Amazingly, the next day at church, Bob informed me that he had built the bracket and had brought it with him that morning. What a guy!
So the day with Bob was extremely productive. This in spite of two very bad knees that make it hard for him to get around. He is looking forward to replacement surgery later this year to resolve that problem.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday June 30, 2012 More Work on the Hand Throttle

Richard and I again met at the airport on Saturday the 30th. He brought along the things he had worked on to hopefully get the hand throttle to work. The modified control lever fit very well on the control bar, although it wasn’t very tight. We found that that would probably be better because I could adjust it in flight to be comfortable.
He also produced the bell-crank lever and we put it on the carriage throttle so that the both the hand throttle and the carriage throttle would pull out the throttle cable. We tested the bell-crank and it seemed to work perfectly if only we could find the cable to attach to it. The control bar throttle would override the carriage throttle control, but the carriage control with its lock knob would be used in cruise flight.
The bad news was that 8’ cable that I had which seemed like it was plenty long was not long enough. The cable housing was long enough, but the cable itself was too short. So by trying all possible combinations using the cable we had, we finally gave up for the day and I had my marching orders to find a longer cable. The problem with just getting 11’ of raw cable was that on the control lever end, there had to be the right kind of button (or whatever it is called) to fit into the lever.
So for lack of an 11’ cable, so we couldn’t finish the job. We gave up for the day and I went home discouraged that something this seemingly simple should be such a stumbling block. But later, I found in the LEAF catalog a list of parts for a brake system that allowed for special orders of cable by the foot. I e-mailed Richard and sent a scan of the catalog page. He encouraged me to order the parts, since they didn’t amount to much cash-wise, which I did.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Saturday, June 18, 2012 Working on the Throttle Problem

After my abortive attempt to fly the Jetwing May 24th, on June 12th I e-mailed Richard Schmidt to ask for technical advice. He is the ex-racing car driver/mechanic that helped me get the Kawasaki engine to perform well. I explained the problem with the foot throttle and the basic need to find a way to control the power by 1) not using the foot-feed because of my physical limitation, and 2) keeping both hands on the control bar at all times during landing and take-off.
My thought was that I probably needed a hand control that was attached to the control bar, which is what the Jetwing had on it originally when they were first built back in 1982. In fact, Larry Miller’s Jetwing is still set up that way, except that his has the cable from the control connected directly to the carburetor. I rather like the idea that if I could get a hand control to connect to the existing control on the carriage, I could still use the control on the carriage during cruise flight and not have to have the control on the control bar effective all the time. Sort of like a Jetwing cruise control. I included some pictures with the e-mail of Larry’s plane. He thought that would work, and we agreed to meet at the airport the following Saturday, the 16th.
True to his word, Richard was at the airport waiting for me when I arrived. It was hot and muggy, and we worked most of the afternoon. I had gotten some bicycle brake control levers from a used bike shop, along with a cable, but not surprisingly we found that what we had in mind wouldn’t work. The throttle lever (bicycle brake lever) was too small and would not attach to the control bar, and even if it could be made to attach, the “travel”, which is the distance the cable has to move to apply full power, was longer than the control lever could move. Although this seems like a pretty obvious conclusion, it took several hours to determine what exactly needed to be done.
Richard wasn’t discouraged, though, and said that he could fabricate a 3:2 “bell-crank” lever that would solve the “travel” problem, and he also would modify the control lever so that it would attach to the control bar. After some e-mails back and forth, we agreed to meet again the first available Saturday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012 My First Jetwing Flight

This is a red-letter day. I have decided to go fly the Jetwing. The plane has been in the hanger for a couple of weeks now, and I haven’t been out there since. Sandra agreed to go with me to film the event (and pick up the pieces, if necessary). After rolling the Jetwing out of the hanger, I discovered that with the wing attached I could not fully deploy the wing. I could attach the kingpost after-cable, but the main tensioner cable would not pull back far enough to attach it to the turnbuckle.
Finally, I detached the wing and was able to get the tension on. But this is a potential problem, because my entire thinking was that I wanted to deploy the wing keeping it attached to the carriage, and then just raise the wing into flying position.
But that is a project for later. I did the pre-flight check, started the engine, and taxied to takeoff position. The wing was light and out of the west, which was the direction I preferred. If I was to take off the other direction, there were power lines that in a worse-case scenario could come into play. Taking off to the west was over fields and unpopulated areas.
I decided that now was the time, and gave the foot-feed full power. The Jetwing responded and we were rolling. The Jetwing left the ground but it seemed sluggish. Although I thought I was giving it full power, I reached down and gave the hand throttle a push to make sure it was getting full power, and doing so the Jetwing started to skew from side to side as I had only one hand on the control bar. Why couldn’t I get full power by using the foot feed and/or the hand throttle? The aircraft was mushing dangerously toward a stall, or may have actually been in a stall, when I reached down again to the hand throttle and discovered it had retreated to maybe half-position. Obviously I had much less than takeoff power, and the plane was headed perpendicular to the runway toward the weeds. I had the bar full forward, but as I saw the takeoff had failed, I pulled the bar back to regain some airspeed and then as the Jetwing approached the ground, I pushed it back out and landed it gracefully in the weeds alongside the runway. The landing was the only positive thing this day, and what was positive was that I hadn’t damaged the Jetwing. What an ignominious first flight! I taxied back to the hanger and put the Jetwing away, discouraged with the outcome of the day.
After I arrived home, I called Larry and discussed my experience. I told him my suspicion that because partially my height, being a little taller than Larry who had used the foot feed without any problem, and that my right ankle was the one that had been injured in the crash in 2009, maybe I couldn’t use the foot-feed effectively. He agreed that that might have been an issue, and also that because I was heavier than him, that I maybe should keep the control bar at neutral longer before pushing it out to allow for more speed on the ground run before liftoff.
That all sounded right to me, so I began planning for the next step.