When We Triumphantly Return To The Skies

Well, as that overly-hyped title says today marks my return to flight status. As I wrote in this post I had to make repairs due to what happened when my PPC fell off the trailer. This morning was perfect flying weather. I headed out to New Jerusalem just as the sun was coming up. I started setting up shortly before 7am and left the ground at 7:18am.

This is NOT the runway I took off from! It’s over to the left. This is the old parallel runway that is leased by local farmers.

I climbed to about 200 feet and just started cruising around the field making sure everything still works. It all did. So are started wandering a little farther afield. That’s really not too far considering my airspeed is only 27-30 mph. But the Pink Panther just kept purring like a little pink kitten.

So it wasn’t a very long flight today, maybe about 30 minutes or so. I have to find a solution for the seat. It only comes up just to my lower back and my back starts to ache after about 20 minutes or so. It’s sure building up my core muscles!

Front and back seat of my powered parachute

As you can see from the above photo, the back seat passenger has full back support, the pilot has to rely on the back seat passenger for back support – they ARE the back support! Without anyone in the back seat I have no back support. I’m going to try to rig up some pillows to lean against for more comfortable, longer flights. Still, it’s great to be back in the sky!

See you next time!

When We Fix What We Break

When we last tuned in our intrepid pilot was kicking himself for crashing his pink flying thing while it was still on the ground and he wasn’t even in it! Well, about $500 later we’re back to having an airworthy flying machine again! It took about three weeks total to order the repair parts and have them delivered. It took about a day and a half to actually make the repairs.

The propeller was sent back and recondition back to good as new. Each blade was rebalanced and sent back. This was the first repair I made. After receiving the blades back I re-assembled the propeller, attached it to the engine, and set the blade angle at 12 degrees (as measured from the hub of the prop).

Then, a few days later I received the aluminum tubing back. It took about 8 hours to re-drill all the holes and bolt the tubes back on the airframe. Here is the end result:

Tubing finally drilled out and mounted

All damage repaired!

As you can see from the photos, the grey unpainted tubing are the repairs. I will disassemble one tube at a time and repaint them gloss black. I will paint the ring section in place as it is riveted in. That will take about a week. I should be flying next Saturday, painted or not!

When We Don’t Properly Secure A Load

I’ve been involved in two aircraft accidents… crashes if you will. My favorite line is “I crash better than anyone I know.” Well, recently I found out that I could even crash an aircraft when I’m not even in it, heck, when it’s not even flying! Here’s the story.

I wanted to go flying before work a few weeks ago so loaded everything up and drove out to New Jerusalem. When I arrived I found two crop dusters working on the field. That’s not a problem I just take off from the taxiway and they use the runway and we stay out of each other’s way. I started to unload my PPC but then there was a spray rig spraying who-knows-what on the almond trees at the end of the runway and clouds of it were blowing onto that end of the airport. I decided I would just drive to the other end of the runway and fly from there. The front wheel was already disconnected but the two rear wheels were still tied down. I thought it would be fine if I drove slow.

Can you see where this is going?

I started driving to the other end of the field. About half way down… I hit a bump. Something caught my eye in the rear-view mirror: it was the nosewheel of my PPC sticking way up in the air! I quickly stopped and walked back to find the back of my PPC on the ground. The bottom of the fan ring (the ring that protects the prop) was broken as were the three lower supports that connect it to the rest of the airframe. The whole rear of the PPC was resting on one prop blade.

Ugh.

It was a struggle but I go the PPC off the trailer, loaded it back up and properly lashed it all down. I was so angry with myself I couldn’t go into work. I got home and started assessing the damage.

Broken fan ring segment
Broken lower support tube – supports the fan ring
Another view of the broken support tube
This is where the propeller contacted the ground
Another broken support tube
Center support tube all ground up where it was skidding on the ground

The good news is that repair parts have been ordered. The prop is being repaired and is on it’s way back to me. So within a couple of weeks we should have the Pink Panther back in the air. And we learned a valuable lesson about securing loads on the trailer. Don’t ever move it unless all three wheels of the PPC are tied down!

Mallion Repair

My Six Chuter Powered Parachute is running well now however, I did notice one issue a few weeks ago. I had gotten my lines twisted somehow and so to straighten it out I had to detach the parachute from the cables that attach it to the airframe. In doing so I found one of the mallions (also known as a rapid link) did not snug down properly when I re-tightened the turnbuckle to close it. I couldn’t turn it by hand so it was probably safe, but it wasn’t right so I decided to replace it.

This is what a mallion looks like:

Mallion or rapid link

To use it you put the rope, chain, or cable through the opening and then screw the turnbuckle shut until it is snug. It should look like this:

Properly closed mallion

But this one looked like this:

Stripped turnbuckle

This would would turn past where it should have stopped and snugged itself. Probably okay but not right. So as I said I replaced not only this mallion but all six. There are three per side. Why are these so important? Because they attach the airframe to the parachute.

Brand new mallions

Two mallions connect the parachute lines to the cables that connect to the airframe, and one mallion holds the two cables together. This is what I hang from! Incidentally the red rope is the brake or steering line, it is connected to the rudder bar on the airframe and the back side of the parachute. The are all new now so I can feel a little safer when flying!

Flying the String Wing Again

If you’ll recall in my blog post titled I Went And Bought A Thing I bought a powered parachute (PPC). I’ve made some engine modifications and done all the testing and everything looks good. I’ve flown it 4 times now and am finally getting comfortable being back in the string wing saddle again.

This morning I drove out to New Jerusalem to get a quick flight in before work. I was greeted with not one but two crop duster crews. I went and talked to them to find out where they would be flying so I could stay out of their way. Wasn’t going to be a problem. In order to further stay out of their way I took off and landed on the taxiway. The crop dusters never use it. They land toward their ground crews and take off in the opposite direction; no matter what the wind is doing.

I laid out my parachute and hopped into my little pink go cart. I was a little worried about starting it. It gets notoriously hard to start when the engine is hot. This is why I don’t let it warm up too much before flying. However, I needn’t have worried, it fired up on the first pull. After a quick prayer thanking God for this gift and for His protection, I punched the throttle. The chute popped off the ground and inflated nicely. The taxiway had plenty of room for me to maneuver and stabilize the chute. Once it had stabilized I added throttle and pretty much just jumped off the ground. I reduced throttle to put it in a gentle climb.

I tried to keep my eyes on the crop dusters because they rarely use the radio. I listened for them on the radio anyway. After getting getting airborne I noted that there was a pretty good breeze blowing at about 100 feet off the ground. My forward progress slowed considerably the higher I climbed. Even though there was no wind at ground level, it was definitely breezy above. But it was smooth so no problem.

Cruising over the orchard next to the runway
Sunrise

After about 20 minutes of cruising around near the airport it was time to head back so I could get to work on time. I didn’t want to get too far from the airport as last time I had a fuel line rupture after I had landed. I repaired the problem but I wanted to stay close in case the broken fuel line was a symptom and not THE problem. I flew out over the orchard to the south of the runway and made an abbreviated approach (made possible by the stiff breeze). Just above the runway the wind quit and I sped up! Not a problem though, it actually helped my landing. After landing everything on the fuel line looked good. Having survived a sortie in the sky once more I loaded up the “Pink Thing”, taunted the crop duster crew a little, and then drove to work.

As a treat for reading this far here is a short video from the flight this morning.

2nd Trip To Durango RV Resort

Last year we visited Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff, California and enjoyed our stay so much we wanted to go back. Unfortunately my planning was poor in that not only was it Father’s Day weekend, it was the hottest weekend of the season so far! High temps hit 111 degrees F in Red Bluff! However, Cristy and I still made the best of it even if we didn’t take many photos. It was just too hot to be outside much.

We drove up on Thursday and then just hung out and napped the first day. On Friday we drove out to Black Butte Lake to do some kayaking but our GPS took us to the wrong side of the lake. In fact, it was the dried up side of the lake. By the time we got to where we needed to be it was so hot we could only stand to be out on the water about 15 minutes before turning back. Seemed like a good excuse to go have lunch so that’s what we did! We headed back to Red Bluff and had lunch at Los Mariachis.

Later that day we spent some time at the resort’s pool but it was so chlorinated we had to cut it short and head back to the trailer. We watched movies I had downloaded to the iPad for the rest of the evening.

On Saturday we slept in. We had two choices that day, go to Mt Lassen Nat’l Park or go to Mt Shasta Shopping Mall in Redding. Only one of those choices had air conditioning so guess which won? Shopping is indoor hiking as far as Cristy is concerned and she had a ball. I most sat and people-watched and read Telegram. Afterwards we made dinner at home in the trailer and watched more movies.

Sunday was a travel day so we pretty much woke up, got the trailer ready to go (dump tanks, etc) and then hit the road for home. We did stop off at Nancy’s Airport Cafe in Willows, California. They have THE best breakfast you’ll ever find. And if you happen to have an airplane, you can fly in and park right next to Nancy’s.

We split this breakfast. That ham is do die for!
Primo parking for airplanes. I’ve flown in many times myself.

It was hot but it was relaxing and we can’t wait to take our little house on the highway out again!

PPC – First Modifications

After getting my Powered Parachute (PPC) back home I wanted to start it up to see how it runs. The seller had sent me a video of the engine running but I wanted to see it for myself. It started up okay but ran pretty rough and would NOT idle correctly. If I brought the throttles back anywhere near their fully back position the engine would die. After talking to a friend who is pretty knowledgeable on PPCs and doing some online research I decided to remove the intake silencer. Most sources said they don’t really work all that well on quieting engine noise and don’t do anything to make the engine run better. So my first modification was to remove it.

Intake silencer installed on the engine. Started the removal process.

I unbolted the intake silencer and removed it from the engine.

Next I covered the carburetor intakes while I ordered the parts I would have to replace as a result of removing the intake silencer. First, I would need two air filters, one for each carburetor. Next I would need two new main jets as Rotax has a main jet recommendation for use with and without intake silencers and the jets are two different sizes. So while I was ordering the correct parts I covered the air intakes.

While the parts were on order I also decided to check the other components of the carburetor to make sure they were clean and correct. I checked the main jet, idler jet, needle jet, and jet needle (yes those are two different things) to make sure the correct parts were installed.

148?? Nope need a 158 main jet.
2.68 Needle Jet…. Yep, that checks out. Correct.
11K2 Jet Needle. Yes, that’s the right part.
45 Idler Jet… Yes, also correct. We’re in pretty good shape.

So after verifying and cleaning these jets and the needle I reassembled the carburetor and ordered two air filters and two 158 main jets.

After receiving the main jet installation is very simple. Remove the carburetor bowl (slide one clip out of the way and drop the bowl) and unscrew the main jet at the bottom of the carb. Screw the new jet in and replace the bowl. Next I put on the two new air filters.

Now after having verified the right parts in the carburetor it was time to adjust the idle. I went with Rotax’s standard recommendations to start with. Setting the idle speed on this carb is kind of like hitting a moving target. There are so many adjustments to make and every adjustment affects every other adjustment. Rotax recommended screwing in the air regulating screw all the way in and then back out 1/2 turn. They recommended screwing in the adjustment screw all the way in and then out 3 full turns. This is were I started and the only difference from these defaults was that I ended up screwing the adjustment screw out 2 1/2 turns. This gave me an idle speed of 2200 rpm with the throttle at the rearward stops. Now, here is the translation. The air regulation screw controls the idle mixture, so the closer you are to sea level, the richer it needs to be. The higher up you are, the leaner. What they call the adjustment screw actually just limits how far the throttle slide inside the carburetor will travel to the closed postion. So once you get the idle RPM running nicely with the air regulation screw, you set the minimum idle speed with the adjustment screw. If I were to give them names I would call them the idle mixture screw and the throttle stop screw.

Next I have to take the PPC out to the airport and do some full throttle tests. I don’t want to do that in my neighborhood because it’s way too noisy. More to come!

I Went And Bought A Thing

The bad news was that the flying club I belong to is closing down. I hate bad news. To console myself I started browsing Barnstormers.com for airplanes I couldn’t afford. I thought about the powered parachute (PPC) that I owned and I kind of missed it. I started looking at PPC’s on Barnstormers and all were either on the East Coast or where out of my price range. Then I stumbled on an ad for a Six Chuter PPC – call for details. I emailed the guy and got back a detailed list of what he was selling and for how much. His price was firm but it was a very good price for what he was offering. I put a deposit down on it on the spot. I ran the ad by my friend who has been into PPCs for years, got me into it. He agreed it was a smoking deal so I made arrangements to complete the purchase. The only problem, it was two states away from me almost on the Canadian border. About a 950 mile drive. One way.

No problem.

I asked Mrs. Flying Dutchman if she was up for a road trip. She hemmed and hawed a bit until I told her she could just ride with me half way and then stay in Bend, OR, our first overnight spot and spend the day shopping while I drove the rest of the way to pick up the PPC. She was sold.

We left home at the crack of 7:30am and started driving north from central California. Past Sacramento and up the Central Valley. We stopped off in Williams, CA to have lunch at Granzella’s. Delicous Reuben sandwiches and nice restaurant as well as the deli where we got the sandwiches. We stayed on I-5 until we got to Weed, yes, Weed and then jumped over to US 97 and took that past Klamath Falls all the way into Bend. It was kind of a whirlwind journey.

Klamath Lake
US 97 just goes on and on and on…

We got to our hotel in Bend, The Hampton Inn in the Old Mill District. We had dinner and pretty much fell into bed exhausted. We did take in some sights before crashing for the night. I got up and hit the road at 4:30am the next day and didn’t get back until midnight. It was a grueling drive up to Chewalah WA which is about 30 miles north of Spokane, and about 30 miles from the Canadian border! I didn’t take many pictures. Here are a couple I managed to grab on my way up.

Cristy enjoyed her day in Bend however. Here are a few photos that she took.

So all that driving… what the heck did I come home with?

When we finally got back home we were completely exhausted but at least I know I got a great deal. Now to go over it with a fine tooth comb and make sure it’s airworthy. More to come!