|Europa Classic Tri-Gear G-BWON - Ferry Flight|
|7 december 2008|
The reason for me not having published many articles the last couple of months was that I have spent a LOT of time on buying my own aircraft, pushing priority of doing flights somewhat to the background. Today I was able to do the ferry-flight with the very capable help of my brother Hans from Tatenhill (EGBM) to Hoogeveen.
Wednesday and Thursday, December 3-4
Midnight was approaching when I had a look at the weather forecast, and my impression was that an opportunity could develop for this weekend to travel to the UK to receive type-training and do the ferry flight.
Friday, December 5
A very early rise after only 2-3 hours of sleep, having to catch a 5:40 train to Schiphol. Then onwards to East Midlands where LAA-inspector Graham Singleton picked us up, and drove us to Tatenhill Airport where my new baby was waiting for us in good shape. Hans finally got to meet with my new aircraft: a Europa Classic Tri-Gear with a 80BHP Rotax engine and constant speed-variable pitch prop, carrying all the goodies to make it a very pleasant bird to fly in:
That night we had dinner with Bob Hitchcock, one of the two previous owners, Graham Singleton joining in. Guess what we talked about....
Having to catch up some sleep we turned to bed early, knowing I would need a clear head for the instruction that I was about to receive.
Andy Draper will be my instructor, he also performed the pre-purchase inspection for me a couple of weeks ago. Many people in the Europa community consider Andy to be the 'God of Europa', given his background of having been the main technical person for the factory that designed and delivered well over a 1000 of these kitplanes around the globe. Currently Andy is chief engineer at the UK Light Aircraft Association.
Saturday morning, December 6
After enjoying a tasteful British breakfast Hans and myself walked to Tatenhill Airport, half an hour walk in a couple of degrees freezing removed the last 'mud' out of my head. Last night we had some rain, the overnight freezing resulted in having to do some de-icing first.
Time to do some flying has arrived! Andy and I boarded the G-BWON expecting to be airborne shortly. The battery however decided differently, not providing sufficient power to get the engine running in these cold conditions. Fortunately jumper cables were within reach, and 10 minutes later the engine was spinning in joy. Time to go up there and finally really get to know my baby!
During the next hour or so, all aerial manouevres were demonstrated and practiced. I felt an almost immediate click with my aircraft, or 'connection' if you will. It handles very nicely and direct, providing honest and immediate feedback on the controls. Basic manouevers like 30 degree bank turns, climbing and descending did not present any problem at all. Of course I had to learn how to operate the constant speed controller unit, but soon the basics felt natural.
The manouevers that I was a bit anxious about were the stalls, having read about aggresive wing-drop behavior on quite a few Europas. Naturally, Andy wanted to find out the stall-characteristics first.
He first did a clean stall (with flaps up) resulting in the left wing dropping. The wingdrop started quite gentle, but an increasing roll-rate resulted in the wing dropping faster and faster.
Despite hot having seen wings really drop before, the experience did not mess me up, so I had a go at it myself. No problem in correcting for the wingdrop, but I forgot about the big tailplane being much more effective than Cessna-elevators. I almost generated an accelerated stall by pulling the stick too briskly, a nice opportunity for Andy to demonstrate me one fully develop.
OK, point taken, ease the stick back gently is what is required (actually the rule of thumb is to handle the tailplane with small inputs all the time).
After some steep turns (no additional power like with Cessna's), next on the agenda was the stall in landing configuration. Again Andy first took a go at it to see how the G-BWON behaves. This time my heartbeat did get messed up quite a bit: the right wing dropped very quickly and the view out of the cockpit was very much nose straight down. We lost a LOT of altitude within the blink of an eye.
I did not receive this experience very well at all, mostly because I did not know what to expect and how I would react to it. I was so much impressed that I declined the offer to give that a try myself.
Saturday afternoon, December 6
Andy did the landing before lunch, explaining procedures to me, while I was following through his every input on the controls to get a feel. After lunch I had to do all landings. Andy talked me through every action while I did my first ever landing on a Europa, and very much to my surprise the landing was spot on straight away. Consider it luck...
We went on, landings 4 through 9 were all very safe, some routine developing as time progressed. The landings were not really on the numbers, but that's not to be expected after having done only a couple on a Europa. Landings 10 and 11 were flapless, and require a differnt approach as compared to the Cessna's I have flown up to now. Because of no flaps selected, you have a high pitch, and therefore a lack of clear view on the runway. The trick is to stay rather high, and upon approaching short final drop the nose a little to obtain a better view, without letting the speed increase (too much). Increased speed implies increased kinetic energy, which is hard to get rid of in a low-drag aircraft like the Europa. Pinning a flapless landing down nicely is much more difficult than doing them with a Cessna! I will require more practice getting them down, but nothing to worry about. After all, Hoogeveen has a 1100 meters runway, so plenty of margin for practice.
Unfortunately by the time we were done doing landings, we ran out of daylight. I did not have the opportunity to do some solo patterns. On the other hand, at this point I felt very comfortable with my new plane, and sufficiently confident to do my first landings tomorrow without the supervision of an instructor.
Saturday evening Hans and I spent finalizing things with Bob and Graham and preparing for tomorrows ferry flight. We are grateful to the owners of the New Inn, who gladly provided us with internet access so we could do a proper preparation. Navigation plans and such were already prepared, waiting to be pulled when the time came.
Sunday, December 7
The big day has come: weather and all permitting we will bring her to her new home!
While walking the half mile from the Duty Officer at Tatenhill Airport to my airplane, I received numerous text messages from friends over in Holland wishing me luck and a safe flight. Martijn gave me call to find out at what time we would arrive at Midden-Zeeland (EHMZ), he and Ton decided to fly to Midden-Zeeland to witness our first landing on Dutch soil, really heartwarming!
By the time we finished our phone call, I arrived at the G-BWON to find she was completely covered in ice! We will not be able make our planned departure time because serious de-icing was required, so I delayed my flightplan with one hour (hoping this would provide sufficient time to get the ice off). Knowing that we would loose another hour over the timezone, we can't really loose much more than one hour for de-icing because that would probably destroy our chance to get home today.
Fortunately we got it done, and went airborne around 11am local time. While climbing out, we noted that the indication on the altimeter could not be right. I decided to stay in the pattern and land to find out what was wrong. We could not figure out what was wrong, since we did have an indication on the ASI and VSI, eliminating the obvious cause of a blocked static port.
First turning point was Cambridge, a mere 45 minute leg that we cruised at 2300 feet altitude with 110kts speed. London Information had some trouble hearing the calls Hans made on the radio. At some point we decided to see if my calls were coming through any better, which they did. We then decided that I would operate the radio from that point on.
After passing a fair stretch of water, we passed overhead Maypole at just under 5000 feet, and contacted Manston Approach to request flight following until the Belgium FIR boundary. We were cleared for FL055 and were ordered to report passing the coastline.
First time over the Channel was a fantastic experience: clear skies with Cumuli ahead. When closing in on Brussels FIR, Brussels Information passed us on to Oostende Approach who cleared us to continu at FL055. After a couple of minutes Oostende Approach notified us they were not getting a Mode Charlie readout, a minute later they reported not having a Mode Alpha readout either. Recycling the power of the transponder made things return to normal.
In order to stay clear of the clouds ahead, I was cleared for FL035. Few minutes later more lower clouds ahead, so a clearance for 2000 feet was obtained. At that altitude we had to make shallow turns to stay clear of clouds, but north of VOR COA cloudbase rose again. At that point Oostende Approach approved frequency change for Dutch Mil.
With Midden-Zeeland closing in, Hans and I talked about how much time we will have available at Midden-Zeeland without destroying our chances of reaching our final destination of this fantastic adventure. We had lost some time on our first leg due to something I have never experienced before: throughout the well over 2 hours of flying we did not experience any significant tail- or headwinds, not even at FL055 over the Channel. Maximum head- or tailwind noted was around 3 knots, quite remarkable! We decided that we would just get 25 liters of fuel, and press on for Hoogeveen as quickly as possible.
After landing at Midden-Zeeland we heard Martijn make the taxi-out call. With the delays we had, they could not stay any longer but at least we were able to exchange visual greetings and talk briefly over the radio. Guys, Hans and myself are really impressed by you making the effort to welcome us, and are very sorry we did not have the chance to shake hands and talk some more. We salute you!
We took of again in under 40 minutes and cruised at 1200 feet with 120+ knots indicated to make sure we would arrive at Hoogeveen well before end of daylight. Quite impressive to see landscapes slide by at this speed and altitude! Our route was via Gorinchem, Soesterberg CTR, Elburg, Zwolle and then to the new home of the G-BWON: Hoogeveen Airport.
I received best wishes from all that were there, again a very heartwarming experience! My flying friend Guus had a very original idea to welcome us: he intended to circle around with his own aircraft, but had to give up due to our delays (and him running out of fuel ;-) ). That would have been some welcome!
Epilog of this wonderful adventure
These last few days have been an extraordinary experience, one that I have been working upto as of the end of August. During these months of preparation I received tons of information and a lot of valuable advise from many people while going through a steep learning-curve.
I do not dare trying to list all the names of people that have helped me during the process, knowing that I would most certainly forget quite a few. Still, there are a few people that I would like to mention, without selling anyone short:
David Joyce and Bob Hitchcock, previous owners of the G-BWON, for always providing complete and honest information on the airplane and having made all the talks and meetings a real pleasure.
Graham Singleton, the LAA-inspector supervising the G-BWON, for giving valuable information and knowledge, and for keeping my head out of the clouds when talking about potential improvements or ideas.
Andy Draper, a true Europa-guru, for performing the purchase inspection on my behalf, and for providing me excellent type training and many sorts of contributions with a keen eye on flight safety.
Finally, a very, very special Thank-You to my brother Hans, for all the time he willingly spent to advise me on many subjects, for sharing his impressive technical knowlegde on airplaines and aerodynamics, for making me very well aware on the various aspects of owning and safely operating an experimental aircraft, and of course for joining and supporting me the last couple of days. Thanks bro'!
Hartstikke gaaf, Frank heeft namens alle FlyBloggers een leuke felicitatie in elkaar gedraaid:
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