Monthly Archives: Mar 2021

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 2

The Continuing Saga Of Acquiring And  Rebuilding A Classic Microlight  

       Part 2 (some time in 1999)

Having unloaded into a barn which the ever helpful Dave the owner of the airfield allowed us to use FOC. It was then time to start sorting the jigsaw puzzle I’d just bought. This was far from straightforward, bits were obviously missing but with no paperwork or drawings, what bits? and what did they look like?

 Never mind, that’s why the godfather scheme was set up, wasn’t it. Right get the name from the BMAA website and send a letter, 3 weeks no response. OK try again, saying I understand that you are probably busy here’s my phone number, e mail address and an SAE please let me know that you have received my letter, nothing. OK, time for a different approach, a mail to e group, ad’s placed on the BMAA site, and AFFORS and the Hangar sites for info, a letter to the son of Jim Romain who Guy had told me was the builder all those years ago, also a search on Goggle for Tiger Cub microlight. this last took me to a German web site that pointed me back to England and the Newark Air Museum.

 On e mailing Michael Smith at Newark back came a reply, I’m sorry it’s hung from the roof but I can supply you with a set of stepladders and we do have some paperwork with it. Paperwork, like food to a starving man, too right I’ll come up. Then one of the replies to the e group message recommending that I speak to a name thatI recognise, it’s the missing godfather. I turn in with rekindled enthusiasm, tomorrow will bring all the answers

. The next day picking up the phone with a sense of anticipation and a prepared list of queries I was shattered to hear” Tiger Cubs I had one years ago, no I haven’t any written info but if you have questions I’ll try to answer ” by a puzzled sounding bloke who seemed unaware that he was the type godfather,  the source of all things Tiger Cub. So taking a day off work I headed off up the A1 with the feeling of a guy hanging grimly on to his last straw. I pulled up outside the museum not knowing what expect to be greeted by a pleasant lass who phoned Michael Smith who was waiting inside the hangar, full of aviation knowledge and bubbling with enthusiasm.

 He showed his Cub, hanging from the roof as he had said, but the roof wasn’t too high the step ladder was long and the zoom on the camera was, powerful. His Cub was the prototype the very one ,the little red biplane that I had seen pictures of all those years ago since then she had flown many hours with her owner an ex Fleet Air Arm pilot who gave it to the museum when he quit flying. The absolute cream was the paperwork, he had everything, The Pilot and Operators Handbook, The Maintenance Manual and the complete Kit Building Instructions including many drawings. He also had the Volmer that I had seen David Cook fly at Old Warden many years ago and a delightful, beautifully simple little Hiway Demon, he had folders of info on both. As he had so much information on the Cub there was not enough time to copy it all Michael offered to copy it and post it to me, what a bloke! I floated back to Essex on cloud nine.

 Two days later a letter arrived from Jim Romain offering to meet me and to give me the original instrument panel still with many of the instruments. It was also confirmed to me that this Romain Cub was a very special little aeroplane. Jim had sent me a copy of the flight test report by the CAA test pilot and three way drawing the aircraft that he developed from his work with SP. This proved to be a stunning looking little biplane called the Cobra. I’m really looking forward to meeting this guy.

 

As we drove though the gates there was no doubt that this was the place, on one side of the drive a hangar trailer sat on the other was Cobra. Even sitting in a front garden this aeroplane looked as if it wanted to fly.

As we walked up to the front door we were greeted by a large dog barking enthusiastically in a car. Jim’s wife opened the door and ushered us though to where the man himself had a video playing showing the cub, my cub, GMJSP no less flying in her heyday after landing she was surrounded by tiny bare trikes, Pterodactyl and other strange machines that I couldn’t even hope to identify. How far we’ve come, but then looking at these skeletal machines and the fettling enthusiasts how much we stand to lose if we’re not careful. Jim also told us many tales often the insiders view of events that we had heard of. Others telling of trips as far as Germany in the old sub 70kg machines taking part in competitions, outlandings and exhibitions. Jim then presented me with the instrument panel and other bits that had been fitted to SP when he owned her. Then outside he showed us around his Cobra talking and showing us all her points. He then asked if we would like to sit in her, before I could open my mouth Joan was already there. So I took pictures and waited my turn.

When it came I looked at the tiny cockpit and wondered would I be able to fit in, Jim had said he had made it fit him and he not a big bloke. I shouldn’t have worried I slid into the seat this aeroplane fitted like a glove the wings felt as if they belonged to me not part of a machine.

The tiniest movement of the controls brought an instant smooth response from the control surfaces wow. On tearing ourselves away we called in to Plaistow’s as it was just down the road we scrounged a cuppa from Jay and got talking to Derrick the genial owner of the airfield. O yes he said I know Jim he used to fly in here with his little Cub, the one with the nosewheel and later on he brought his Cobra. Strewth, what a small world.

Among the many things I learnt from Jim was the fact that there had been a special high performance exhaust made for the Robin engine especially for the Tiger Cub. I knew that like all biplanes they were draggy so I needed that extra punch. A few days later I received an e mail from a chap in Dorset. I hear it said that you are after paperwork about Tiger Cubs I have a builder’s manual, I’ve also got some bits from a kit that was never completed, if your interested give me a call. The phone was answered by a guy called Joe with a gentle northern Irish accent it turned out the bits included flying wires, landing wires some still tied with paper tape marked MBA genuine spares a lot of tube and brackets paperwork including 16 of the 20odd mandatory mods that I needed, and an exhaust. It seemed a day out to Dorset was called for. On arrival we met up with Joe and his charming Dutch wife  and were shown the remains of kit no 208 stored in a redundant chapel which it shared with a lovely Thruster TST that looked almost as good as my beloved DF. So we loaded up and headed off back home with  the tail gate tied down, great long tubes sticking out the back and Joan saying “I really don’t believe you”. However I’m very aware that I’m still short of many important bits .like any form of undercarriage never mind the rear bulkhead , engine, reduction drive etc.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 1

        The Continuing Saga Of Acquiring And  Rebuilding A Classic Microlight        

Part 1 (some time in 1999)

It all started with an ad in AFORS, own a bit of microlighting history it said , “Rotec Rally complete and a Tiger Cub partly restored without engine”. Tiger Cub! memories of a magazine back in the eighties, pictures of a tiny bright red biplane. I had bought the mag and read the little not very informative article. Of course there was no prospect of my ever being able to fly, that is for people much wealthier than me. But the name stuck, Tiger Cub!

 This one was at North Coats airfield near Grimsby a long drive from Essex but we set of on a mild January day changing from lowering clouds, showers to bright and sunny and back again we arrived at the airfield mid afternoon it looks almost deserted apart from a couple of cheerful guys fixing a tank on a roof in the drizzling rain. they direct us though a door into a little canteen where a lass behind the counter fixes us up with a cuppa and nips out to let Mike know that we have arrived.

 Mike turns out to be a pleasant bloke with a soft New Zealand accent who shows us through a hanger to a little pile of bits in a corner recognisable as one very small wing and a mixture of assorted control surfaces we then move on to a little workshop area, in there are the other three little wings newly fabric covered and brightly painted in red white & blue with the name “Cloud Dancer” in nicely scrolled writing,  another corner of another workshop area revealed  a tubular structure recognisable as the front end of a fuselage, a centre section, two wheels and a mixture of assorted tubes.

Further along the hangar wall looking as if it belonged to a large model was the rest of the fuselage the fuel tank was located in the back of a Rans that was being built. The paper work non existent not even a logbook, hopeless, trouble was I liked it. After a careful 5sec think I put in an offer.

Back home I spent a restless night with thoughts of a vaguely aeroplane shaped pile of assorted tubes, I knew this made no kind of sense at all. After hearing nothing for 2 wks maybe I was going to have to be sensible after all. So like an idiot I rang to confirm this. The phone was answered by a breathless sounding Mike just home fresh from the committee meeting where they had accepted my offer.

O God, not only have I got to get it back somehow I’ve got to build a workshop, I’d better stop dreaming and get practical, practical!

Right first thing, find out what I can about the Tiger Cub and this one in particular, e mail the BMAA.

Very quick reply from none other that the CTO Guy Gratton seeming to exude enthusiasm, info about the godfather system and about SP’s history even including an offer to test fly her himself. Maybe I haven’t been such a fool after all ( udgement reserved ).

The next Saturday, the forecast looking good we hired a van, rang Mike and prepared lots of ropes and packing materials. As the day dawned I woke to a foul head cold and so set off feeling like I had been kicked in the head with streaming nose and eyes. Never mind Joan will be able to drive back when I’m knackered. Arriving after a fairly easy journey feeling lousy, set ourselves up with a cuppa and start to sort the bits ready for loading.

After making a heap near the van  of all the assorted bits from the corners where they had been growing cobwebs Joan nipped into the back of the van to sort out the padding.

 On hearing a gasp I turned from where I had been fiddling with the heap I saw Joan tripping head first out of rear of the van and hitting the ground with a horrible thump. She was shocked, sore & bruised with smashed glasses but otherwise OK. The guys from the club were great and sorted her out with a cuppa and somewhere quiet and warm to sit as soon as it was established she was OK just dazed, shocked and sore. I finished the loading and we drove home both feeling sorry for ourselves.

Tiger Cub the Story part 26

The “hump” progresses…

The plywood section has the glue set and feels pretty rigid as I plan and shape up so that everything is nicely aligned. I carefully saw the balsa infill and sand it to a good tight fit and glue it into place

Then out of the blue I get an offer that I’d not expected, a genuine Tiger Cub Propeller, make me an offer the man says. It seems that it was given to him by Tom Wright the designer and producer of the Tiger Cub the prop having been fitted to his own G-MBUE the first to be built, it would be hard to have better province than that Having no idea of the right price I go on a fishing expedition and check what such things are fetching and come up with a price that seems to satisfy both of us. Mark, the man with the prop, says that he would like to see how SP is progressing and bring the prop at the same time, and maybe Tom himself may also come. A chance to meet the man himself, now that would be quite something, I hope he likes what I’m doing. Given the chance I like to take him to Jenkins and show him Katie (G-MMKT) as well, I still have the ambition to have them both flying.

Then a bit of a disappointment, the nice new dual CHT gauge I’d ordered arrived and it is damaged, a pity I had been looking forward to having a complete panel. Well complete that is apart from the placards, I know I can do without them being SSDR but I want it to be right and look it. Never mind I ordered it from Skydrive so I’m sure that they will sort it for me.

Back in the workshop the balsa I’d glued into place is trimmed with a very sharp knife and sanded to the required profile and is looking good. The next job will be to glue on the very thin ply covering prior to gluing it the blue foam section and sanding the whole thing together to form a smooth shape.

As expected Skydrive didn’t let me down and a replacement CHT was delivered with the minimum of delay and the panel, now supplied with all the required nut and bolts is ready for a trial fit. My idea for brackets works out a treat and the panel now sits proud in the airframe again, the first time in many years.

The next move with “the Hump” is to steam the ply covering to get it something like the bend needed. It’s pretty thin stuff so I try steaming using an ordinary kettle and leaving it tied to the inner section, I’ll find out when I release it how well, or otherwise it has worked.

While this is left I start cleaning up the top engine cowling that I got from Bob Adams. It is quite thickly coated with black paint but in places the small areas, almost pinpricks, showing the underlying alloy. This makes me suspect that there is under the paint there is corrosion forming, so it’ll need cleaning back to bare metal. The paint proves to be tough stuff and the first application of paint stripper has a very small effect; the next one is rubbed down to allow the stripper to penetrant the surface and does a better job. Just as I thought, there is a surface corrosion lurking below apparently good paint, well that was well worth doing.

The paint on the cowl may have corrosion forming below but it’s tough stuff and is taking many applications of stripper to shift it. Nothing else to do but work away at it, I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end.

Yes!, I now have a prop, unfortunately Mark and Tom were unable to come to see what I’m up to but we met up with Mark near Peterborough and had a decent natter. The prop is one of those fitted to the first Cub, G-MBUE that now hangs from the ceiling of Newark museum and is a beautiful thing.

It seems a little small for a Robin 440 but when it comes to it engine runs will tell all.When I put it on a shelf in the workshop, specially cleared for the purpose I checked the balance and although slightly out it seems within the range of varnish to one tip.

The steaming of the ply for the “hump” seems to have worked well and it now has a definite curve of its own and very little effort is needed to get it to shape. So, out with the epoxy and knock up glue and bend it around the structure, it takes a bit of positioning as I’d not reckoned on how slippery it had become. Then lengths of soft string and many wedges so that it eventually stops sliding about and conforms to the structure nicely.

When this is all set it’s ready to glue to the blue foam part so I make a bit of a jig to hold things, fit it together with more glue and “G” clamp it to the bench. The next day I remove the clamps and the jig and there it is in one piece at last. Now to sand the foam to a profile the matches the ply section a simple but time consuming job with frequent stops to use a straight edge. It is surprising how easy it is to sand a dip into the foam, but as the piles of dust grow so the technique improves and in the finish I am quite pleased with the outcome. Now all that is needed is to make a small balsa piece to fit to the rear inspection panel, this proves to be easy using the same methods as shaping the foam and I can lay it in place and finally see that it does look the way I had planned it, at what feels a long time back.

(Written in May 2015)

Tiger Cub the Story 25

I reject the “hump” and start again, more on the instrument panel.

After a bit of filling on the hump I’ve become a bit disenchanted with it a lot of filler added and still a load more to go. Despite using a filler made of as much microballon filler as the resin will stand it is noticeably gaining weight as fast as I do on holiday. This goes very much against the grain as a dyed-in-the-wool microlight pilot where light is the name of the game. The very idea of being fuel weight limited with a Robin engine up forward, not noted for its frugal fuel burn, is not at all what I’m aiming for.

So a start is made on producing another hump, but at least I learned from the last one so this 2nd model should be a lot easier. The new lot of foam is rough cut and glued in a fairly short time and I plan on trimming most of the surplus with a good sharp knife and then sanding the result into the desired shape.

The first crack at trimming and sanding went well, a good sharp knife slid though the foam with ease and even the glued joints gave it little pause. In fact it trimmed with so little trouble that I thought that it would be easy to overdo it and land up where I had started so I left a goodly bit for sanding. That also started well but part way through the job the elastic on my face mask snapped. I continued for a bit holding the mask to my face. Not one of my better ideas as a rasping feeling at the back of my nose showed, the handheld mask was not sealing well, Oh well, that was it for the afternoon as there was too much suspended dust around to do anything else without a decent mask. The idea though was a good un, the new hump, even in its partly trimmed state weighed a lot less than the partly filled one

Not having the chance to get a dust mask, my mind turned to other jobs for a while and I considered mounting the instrument panel. The normally-helpful build manual was a bit less than informative on this “As a guide the instrument panel should be made of 4mm ply or 1.5 mm aluminium , it should be mounted if possible without drilling extra holes in the structure in particular the tubes and be fitted with some form of anti vibration mount”. Well as a start I had the original instrument panel very kindly given to me by Jim Romain but no sign of how it had been fitted. Right, the tubes to which it seemed it must be fitted are at 45 degrees to the desired upright position of the instrument panel which is less than desirable. So it seems that I must fit to these tubes without causing damage to the tubes through drilling or chafing and this must have provision for the anti- vibration mounts. Resorting, once again, to the trusty LAS catalogue I found some decent looking padded “P” brackets and a look at Skydrive showed some mounts that seemed just what was needed. All that was needed now was a bracket to connect the brackets at 45 degrees to the horizontal mountings on the instrument panel, then I thought of using pieces of tube with holes drilled at 45 degrees to each other. A look into the scrap box, invaluable source, found some tube that I had found damaged in the airframe and replaced from which I could cut the sections that I’d need.

It was a bit of a fiddly job but a made a couple and fitted them before running out of the AN3-4A bolts that I needed, but the idea worked and the required bolts were added to the list of little bits that I would need from LAS.

Dust mask duly acquired; a bit more carving and sanding produced the desired shape just a bit oversized to allow for finishing. The next consideration is the making of the ply part of the structure over the tank.

I shall make it from birch ply and Balsa as lightly as I can but well enough braced internally to give it the strength needed. I cut up the first bits and offer them up, it looks promising. The ply is pinned and glued and proves to be a messier job than I’d hoped but it goes together leaving the balsa to be fitted when it is cured.

While that is curing I return to the instrument panel which is rubbed down and varnished although I had a nasty moment when the slip ball seemed to disappear. On my third search for it I found it; I had cleared the floor, raked around in all the crevices, when it turned up on the shelf where it should have been. Well not quite, it was hanging over the edge of the shelf face in pretending to be part of the upright, it was only when emptying the shelf for the second time I noticed it. When the varnish hardened I refitted the smaller bits back on the panel including making a guard for the ignition switch that it had lacked before, better they stay together I think.

(Written April 2015)