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We used to run a flying school - and stopped while we were still ahead.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 10

Paper, paper! and a little bit of wood

Meantime on the SP front, the work carried out had been mostly paperwork. There had been a time that I had thought the old saying that “ No aircraft shall fly until its Maximum All Up Weight is equalled by the weight of its paperwork” was an exaggeration.

Not so, it seems if anything to be an understatement as I wade slowly though the textbooks and masses of web information to answer the points raised by the Tec Office the heap of paperwork!information and references steadily grows. The trouble with such searches is the time it takes. I can spend a couple of hours with the spanners in my workshop and achieve a fair amount, but 2hours of internet search or 2hours spent going though reference books and the end results are very small.

So recent events modified the intended work on SP in a couple of areas. The first one concerned the seat belts, with KT for the first time I was able to sit in a complete Tiger Cub cockpit, well, complete if you could ignore the instrument panel resting on your knees. The seat belt situation was far better than I’d have believed possible, mostly due to the fact that the seat was suspended on its own harness and so sat differently with somebody in it. Not having to alter that would save masses of work and potential hassle from the lads in the Tec Office. The other decision was to mount the fuel tank to comply with the mandatory mod on standard Tiger Cubs rather than stick with the Romain version for which I had no paperwork. I could foresee problems ahead if I stuck with the Romain mod that had pre dated the standard mod, but on the other hand I had the paperwork for the later mod and I had two examples of how it should be. So it would seem to be better to go with the flow.

For the sake of what little remains of my sanity I needed to take a break for the computer and books and with a feeling of great relief I took up my spanners again. I returned to the workshop and SP. Having made the decision to go with the standard tank mod rather than the Romain one putting that in place had to be the next job.

First I had to remove the front cockpit section that I had temporarily fitted for photos to show the Romain Mods of the side glazing of the cockpit and the bottom hung door. Interestingly the Tiger Cub as originally made had just a gap and no door was fitted then people started doing their own thing. Jim Romain had designed his bottom hung door; others had hung them from the side tubes. This in fact had been the cause of a fatal accident when a door opening to the rear had swung open on climb out and the aircraft had gone out of control. After that any doors fitted opened towards the front, as was the case with KT.

Anyway, photos taken and the front section had to be removed again to gain good access and the top of the blue foam that formed the top of the fuselage had to be cut back. Jim had fitted his inside the fuselage but the mod showed the tank top level with top of the foam so I had to comply with that. Next job was to make up the drip tray. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem as I had the drawings plus two complete ones to work from. The tray itself was made from thin birch plywood and coated with epoxy resin. Well that shouldn’t present any problems, resin I have and thin birch ply is available at any decent model shop.

It proved a bit fiddly getting everything to fit as the whole thing was mounted at a strange angle designed to tip any large spillage of fuel clear of the blue foam. Not a bad thing that though as petrol melts away the foam, and the idea of flying an aeroplane with its fuselage gradually dissolving is not attractive to say the least.

I worked away steadily with a very sharp knife making the peculiar angles that were needed to get a good fit. It was quite engrossing work and took for longer than I had anticipated.

Then, all the pieces lay complete on my bench and I made a crude jig to hold all the parts while they were glued together. Finally fixed into one piece I offered it up to the rear fuselage, success, it fitted just fine.

Drip tray in place Then I had to fit the forward bulkhead as specified in the mod, but as this was simply made from blue foam it was soon done. A trial fit of the tank, just to be sure there are no lurking snags then I will ready to fit the tray assembly. Then after resin painting the tray and fitting the polythene skirts to protect the fuselage sides and the rear bulkhead and I will be close to re-uniting both sections of the fuselage. That will be a great day.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 9

A surprise gift and a little bit of history

Then out of the blue I get an offer that I can’t refuse, a complete Tiger Cub and trailer hangar FREE. All that and no trek to the frozen North this time, this one is at Eltham less than a hour away. I arrange to go for a look with Joan one evening. It’s dark by the time we arrive but it easy to spot which house, it’s the one with the large scruffy trailer on the drive. We knock on the door and are answered by a short figure with bright intelligent eyes that sparkle at us though he glasses. Hello, he says, I’d hoped that you get here before dark. It’s there he says pointing at the trailer, I don’t know what you are to be able to see, I had hoped that you be here before dark he reiterated. I’m Ken he says shaking hands as we introduce ourselves. We got our little torch from the car and peered into the trailer to reveal a totally complete little Cub her registration GMMKT shining on her tail. She has two flat tyres and some of the fabric seams are peeling, that apart she looks in good shape considering that she has sat in her trailer for better than 20 yrs. Retiring inside we learn a lot more. Ken, it seems is a retired engineer who worked much of the time for the MOD,. he then worked offshore. He still has a JAR PPL which he uses to fly the occasional Cessna.

Ken told us that KT was built by him at the end of unregulated microlighting so there were no build inspections. To gain her permit he sent her to the MBA factory for test flying. While she was there awaiting flight the factory went under. So he brought her home again, then he started his offshore work and so missed the time where Russ Light formed Tiger Cub Developments to support the little biplanes that he liked so much. Russ then moved on to the two seat version, the lovely Sherwood Ranger and poor old KT had missed her chance. A call to the BMAA confirmed there was little or no chance of KT ever getting a permit. As Cubs were a jig built kit though it seemed that she could be used as a source of spare parts in the rebuild of another Cub, KM for instance. So I guess at least most of her would eventually get to fly.

OK, next problem, how to get her home and where was that home to be? Both were solved easier than I’d have believed. Firstly, at Joan’s suggestion I rang Tony HS, Hon. Sec. of the Essex Microlight Club. Tony volunteered straight away and he was perfectly suited to the task. As an enthusiastic caravan owner he had a car that was well matched to the job and had a huge amount of experience at towing large loads. Finding a home for her turned into a simple task, in three days I’d had two offers. Firstly from Rob at London Colney where by removing the wings I’d be able to store her in the back of Robs hangar and the trailer in the trailer park and secondly an offer from Angie to store her at the farm. It really is amazing how helpful people can be.

The big pickup day arrived, or at least the pickup evening. I met up with Tony at the M25 services. It wasn’t until I got there that I remembered that I’d never seen Tony’s car, his aeroplane yes, car no. Still I suppose that is one of the few blessings of the mobile phone. As it happened Tony arrived within minutes of me so  we transferred all the bits and pieces that I thought that we might need and set off. This time we arrived in daylight and Tony had a good look inside before we set to covering the whole thing with new tarpaulins. This was because the old ones although still keeping the weather out looked pretty rotten and my imagination had us shedding bits of rotting canvas all over the M25 and the Kent and Essex countryside as we trailed disintegrating flags of cloth like the Black Pearl from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Tony checked out the running gear and we were away. We moved smoothly along with Tony showing his expertise and making it all look very easy. All went well until Tony heard that the M11 was blocked so we headed in from South Weald, neither of us knew this route very well but Tony had his GPS so no problem. As we drove the road seemed to get progressively smaller and the darkness started to descend. We knew we were close but despite the GPS the Navstock Triangle got us. This is the name given to the maze of small roads in the area. They all look similar and wind in unexpected directions, at times it is comforting that the roadside isn’t littered with the remains of lost souls. Tony was the master of the situation and reset his GPS for point that I was familiar with and we soon emerged into country that I recognized and shortly after we turned into the farm where Joan had made us a cuppa. And so another Tiger Cub joined the collection.

By the next weekend I was impatient for a good look at the latest addition to my growing litter. So, it seemed were several others. Rob asked that we let him know when we were heading down and Angie appeared as soon as we started to move the trailer.

With a good look in daylight it was obvious that the ply that the tailgate was made of had seen better days and the ply floor also looked a bit dodgy, so it was going to take a bit of care to ease her out of her cocoon. So some support was given to the tailgate and we pumped up the tyres and moved her carefully backwards using chocks to limit her to a few inches at a time.

Slowly and carefully she emerged into the sunlight for the first time in more than 20yrs. She looked good, apart from the fabric edges lifting that we had already noted and the rubber mountings for the instrument panel had died and the panel hung on its wires and tubes.

Now, all these years after I’d seen the Tiger Cub in the magazine I had the opportunity to sit in a Cub cockpit as this was the first complete one that I’d seen since ogling Bob Adams in GMJSU at Cranfield in 1984. It wasn’t going to be easy as the firm alloy cockpit floor was well forward of the narrow opening.

In the years since I envied Bob swinging into his cockpit I’d put on two stone of lard and acquired a damaged hip. Never mind, there is very little that you can’t do if you want to badly enough, and believe me, I wanted to. On my third attempt I swung in more easily than I’d thought, just a matter of getting the method right.

The real surprise was the amount of room and the shortness of the stick. Everything fell nicely to hand especially the neat little throttle quadrant with its well made friction nut. The only gripe I could find was that to reach the altimeter adjustment was a long reach forward. All too soon it was time to yield my place to the next in line. This was Angie, who swung nimbly into place. Well, maybe she’d been watching me, after all it couldn’t just be that she was younger, fitter and a whole lot lighter than me could it? Next in was Joan who looked quite at home and it was a shame but it was out of the question for Rob to get in, he is a big lad and gallons into pint pots sprang to mind. With the state of the trailer it was going to be a hell of job to get her back inside especially as the tail wheel trolley was rapidly dying. This was partially bad news as without the trolley and with the wings folded the wing tips fouled the ground.

Angie had the idea of putting little KT behind her Yak in the hangar so we pulled the big beastie out and pushed the little beastie in with Rob putting all his weight on the engine to keep the wingtips clear of the ground as the trolley fell apart the more we moved it. As we left she looked almost cute behind the big Yak.

What a shame that she can never fly as she is, particularly as there are many nice touches in the way she’d been made, you could see that there had been an engineer involved. Still, combined with GMNKM that will be one more Tiger Cub still flying.

Postscript: We never did manage to make use of KT. Too many other jobs needed doing elsewhere and I donated her as an SSDR* project to a chap in Northern Ireland.
*Single Seat DeRegulation – see [here] for more information.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 8

Making and fitting some new bits

Some of the bonding of the foam panels to the longerons is not so good, due mainly I think. to clumsy handling over the years as the bits lay uncared for in the hangar at North Coates. Still that is a simple enough repair with a bit of care.

A trial fit of the rear cockpit section, now bolted together again, to the rear fuselage, is now due. After a lot of careful jiggling about of the clumsy components all the bracket angles are correct and the alignments right she slides together. Probably the first time in more than 20yrs most of the fuselage stands as one unit, really satisfying.
I finish that evening with a big grin on my face.

Then I fall into temptation. What I should be doing is trial fitting the fuel tank and incorporating a fuel drain as the original totally lacked one and I am almost paranoid about clean fuel. I guess I spent too long working in and around working fishing boats also I still need those seat belt measurements.. That was what I should be doing, instead I was unable to resist making up the two replacement tubes for the front cockpit section. My only excuse being that after all the dismantling checking, filling repairing and reassembling I wanted to MAKE something. I had four that were bent, damaged or otherwise unsuitable, no shortage of patterns then. Careful checks showed that, as with all the rest of the tube work they were jig made and identical. I removed the nylon inserts that I would need from damaged tubes and cut the sleeves that fit over the inboard ends of the tubes. I then carefully marked one end of each tube with centre marks top and bottom and the top of the far end of the tube. I then measured along the tube and marked the distance from the inboard end to the bolt hole for the forward bulkhead. Setting up my laser line and level gadget to give a nice clear red line centre to centre and marked the intermediate hole position with it’s centre line. Turning the tube around I marked the bottom of the tube and turning it over I then marked the bottom intermediate and extended inboard end marks beyond the length of the sleeve. Next job was to drive the centre nylon insert into position using a drift marked with the position of the insert as obtained from my patens. The end insert was then tapped into position and the sleeve glued on with epoxy. So far so good

Next thing was set the new tubes into position to ensure that my marking out was accurate. This would mean putting together the front section of the cockpit framing including the engine bulkhead. There was one tube that would not be put in place at this stage. On this tube I had to make up a throttle quadrant as the original double lever unit incorporating a choke lever needed to be changed to conform with a mandatory mod. This had come about because the double unit had  identical levers side by side. no unreasonably the powers that be decided that this was not a good idea. However the mod notification included a drawing of the replacement, so that’s another little job. Making up a spacer so that this tube could go in later I pressed on. Only to encounter another little problem, this time one of my own making. The diagonal tubes that run that run from the cockpit frame to the top of the engine bulkhead could not depress far enough. they being prevented by bolts below the top mounting brackets, some clot had put them in the wrong way around. Damn, to turn them I’d have to remove the top fore and aft tubes of the rear cockpit frame. Oh well, on with the motley, has anyone got a use for secondhand Nyloc nuts? When that is done and the tube work and bulkhead assembled I shine a torch into the bracket holes and the cockpit end and my little cross marks show nicely centered. My mood restored I slip the tubes out and drill them. Replacing them I check the forward holes and my little crosses are again just where I want them. All my pedantic measuring and aligning paid off, good stuff.

Now I ought to start getting my mods sorted with drawings, photos and calculations. As one of my main ideas is to re route the seat harness to save my spine I need to make sure that my proposed route will not foul the fuel tank or control runs. In order to sort this I’ll need to fit the tank. To do that I’ll have to offer everything up to see just how Jim Romain did it.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 7

Bent and cracked metalwork

So, on a raw autumnal morning I went back to my workshop for more than a fleeting visit. I was horrified by the clutter that had somehow gathered. I can’t work like that so it had to be sorted and sorted properly. First, the Saxon Micro drip trays just needing painting finished. That done and stowed in the shed I have a bit more room. Next, the replacement wheels for DF now just waiting for the paperwork to be labeled and stored on the right place. Then a general clean. Magic, ready to start, fire up the laptop to check with the workbook and reread the appropriate section of the Kit Build Instructions and study the drawings, it is starting to feel familiar again.

Logical order suggests that first the cockpit frame uprights to have all their plates and brackets fitted, then make up the fore and aft sub frames then join these together to form the cockpit frame. From there connect up to the engine bulkhead and the pile of tube starts to resemble part of an aeroplane again.

With so many types of plates and brackets I check the drawings in the book, read the labels that I attached when I removed them, that seems a long time ago, and lay them out on the bench. When I am happy that I know exactly where everything goes I loose fit it to check alignments, then using my supply of new nuts and bolts  making sure of a good layer of Duralac where needed.

I feel a great satisfaction as a recognizable component arises out of the stacks of labeled bits.

It is also about time that I started replacing the rejected tubes and brackets.

Firstly tube, I have two damaged forward tubes, bent by the nose wheel installation and two of the main uprights to the cockpit section have damage to the sides as if a wire or something similar had been crushed against them. Ok that is the main reason that I acquired kit 208. I am disappointed to find one of the forward tubes is not straight either but the other one and the two uprights look good. This is now a well organized process. Firstly strip off all the plates and brackets and roll it on a flat surface to check it is straight and check that all the anti-crush inserts are in place. Next a good clean down and check any marks with the trusty magnifying glass. This shows a slight deformity beside one of the holes on my last remaining forward tube, Damn. Then the messy rigmarole of the penitrant dye testing to the uprights. Messy but satisfying when as this time the developer shows a pristine white surface

So now I need a length of tube, more tube to make sleeves from and some channel and angle to make brackets from. I remember last year a mention on the BMAA web site of a metals company offering a discount to members. That seems the right place to try first. So I call them  up, friendly sounding guy on the other end has not heard of a BMAA discount but he will ring back in a about half an hour. Two hours later, no call, I ring back. Still sounding friendly he explains that he needs to speak to the States and they are not available for another hour, apologies, will ring back in less than two hours. Three hours later I ring again, he hasn’t found the channel but will ring back shortly. Next morning I ring again, he is still having trouble with the channel but can at least confirm that he is now aware of the discount offer. Leave me your e-mail address, he says, and I’ll send you a quote within threequarters of an hour. Two days later no mail, sod it, if he can’t be arsed why the hell didn’t he say so. Ah well, there are others including my old friends at Light Aero as they are now the agents for Aircraft Spruce also of high repute. So I sit down and dispatch a flurry of e-mails asking for quotes to all those that I’ve got addresses for, maybe that’ll do some good. No response to any of the e-mails, this is getting to be a pain. However after a phone call to Light Aero all is again right with the world. As helpful as ever, they track down what I need and are a bit concerned that they can’t get it to me before Christmas. It’ll have to come from America he says apologetically, but it won’t be long after the holiday. That’ll be fine I say magnanimously, it is, after all 21 December. What a damn good company.

While I await delivery of my new tube and bits I can start a bit of reassembly. First thing is to use the brackets and bits already sorted to put together the rear cockpit section. The uprights come first, then put together the torque tube and pushrod assembly. With this fitted to it’s bearings on the crosstubes I can put together the front and rear sub- assemblies. As the rear cockpit section is where the seat is mounted. When this is in one piece I can temporarily attach it to the rear fuselage giving me all the dimensions I need for the seat harness mod. Before this can happen I need to offer up the rear sub assembly to align the rear fuselage attachment brackets as the lower ones are set 45degrees to the uprights. Getting them close is easy, but things are as they should be and there is no slack in any of the bolt holes the last bit is a bit more tricky. The back of the hole being inaccessible it seems the old torch and mirror trick is the only way.

Another thing I acquired about this time was another set of main wheels, ex Pegasus as fitted to Quantums and AX2000s. Neat units, compared to the original which where the plastic wheelbarrow wheels so beloved of early microlights.

As these where innocent of any bearings I’ve always cringed a bit when looking at them. The Peggy wheels are the same diameter and same weight  but narrower, Ahh, my mantra, less drag, and fitted with bearings. They can even be fitted with brakes, but brakes are for fairies and nosewheel pilots, they are also extra weight.

Wheelbarrow wheels first, another mod for later, although it is very tempting to get side tracked

Early in January my package from Light Aero, or LAS as they now like to refer to themselves, arrives. As I have come to expect from them everything is there and 100% correct. Also the paperwork that accompanies the delivery is the kind of thing that Tec Office goes to bed dreaming about. As good as always, thanks guys. When I’ve opened the package I check that the tube that sleeves two of the others fits, and it does, perfectly. I feel a very strong urge to start making the brackets ect. Discipline prevails  and I regretfully tuck it away until the right time in the build sequence

It’s time to start checking the rear fuselage and it’s not a good start when one of the attachment brackets turns out to have an elongated hole. Sod it! still kit 208 comes to rescue again and that bracket checks out ok. The elevator push rod comes next and that also is fine, then the rear aluminium bulkhead.

This is a bit more complex, with its edges pressed over to just a bit less that 90% to the main plate, attached brackets for the longeron ends and attachment holes for the rudder post. The only way that I can think of for this is carefully, a bit at a time.

After spending most of a day checking bends, corners holes and rivets it all proves to be in good shape Whew.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 6

Dreaming up some improvements

Next came a bit of a rethink, I’m looking at so many mods that this job could take forever. Maybe it would be better to take it a bit at a time instead of trying to bury Tec office in paper I’ll do it in stages and sneak up on them. The first thing to consider seems to be which of the mods is best built in when the aircraft is reassembled and which can be readily altered or added later? OK

(1) Engine cooling, as built the Cub had a large hole though the firewall, This allowed access to the recoil starter which filled the hole. An early mandatory required the removal of the recoil starter as the engine mounts were fixed to this and the starter casing proved unequal to the task. After cracking was found the engine mounting was modified which involved the discarding of the starter and it’s housing. This of course moved the engine much closer to the firewall. Engine cooling at this stage was still fine until another mandatory mod to restore the integrity of the firewall insisted the  hole was covered by a plate. Whoops, nowhere for the hot air to go. Right what was needed was another mandatory mod to turn the cylinder heads to an angle to improve the flow. Most Cub owners also fitted a duct from the firewall plate and out though the floor and that mostly does work. I wanted to experiment with fitting a scoop to act as a sort of venturi to improve the airflow from the rear cylinder. That I think can go on the to be done later list.

(2) Seat Belt mod. As the present layout for the shoulder straps makes me shudder when I think about the effect of an accident on my spine. The reason for this is also in the chequered past of Cub mods. The tank was first mounted clear of the fuselage to the rear cockpit sub frame at about pilots head level. Although this had advantages, it was removable for filling and was clear of the blue foam that forms the structure between the longerons (petrol has the nasty habit of dissolving blue foam) it was possible for it to blank the tail surfaces .So It had to be moved. The U section channel that the tank was supported on also act as the anchor point for the shoulder harness so, of course this moved also. The mod involves lowering the tank so that it is within the fuselage taking with it the harness anchor point. This made the harness ideal for compressing the spine in the event of even a minor prang. I was not happy with that as I have no ambition to learn how to drive a wheelchair. The mod that I want in place  involves running a cable from the aft bulkhead though the rear fuselage and adding a raised section to accommodate the strap attachment at the correct level. I hope that I can make that resemble the elegant hump that the SE5 sported. I guess thats one for the initial build list

(3) Tank Mod. As I said before I have two Cubs and only one Cub Tank the other one having ended up fitted to a Rans at North Coates. I do however have a 25ltr Thruster tank and this is a superior item in every way and that is the one I prefer to fit in the first build. This will mean making a mounting system that will withstand 6G when full and as it is aft of the C of G the weight will need to be carefully monitored. Alternatively I can redesign the fuel pipe system to fit a drain valve at the lowest point. That’ll do the job, even if it isn’t such a neat solution. No mod required for that, so my first build will go that way.

(4) Undercarriage. As I mentioned before I intend to revert to a tailwheel undercarriage because it’s lighter, tougher and creates less drag and besides it looks a hell of a lot better.

I also intend to have the main wheels strut braced like the main wheels of the nose wheel undercarriage. As this is effectively a new layout it will require rigorous testing. I do have a set of the standard wire braced main gear from SU.

So I think that I’ll fit this initially thus just reverting to standard Cub undercarriage, no mod needed. I can develop the strut braced version later.

(5)  Streamlining. All those round struts. They are everywhere, wing struts, cockpit struts, undercarriage struts and they are all round factually and figuratively. the drag must be horrendous. Weight of course could be an issue but I’d have to dismantle most of the aircraft to fit them later. So, one more for the initial build list

(6) Clear vision panel…

Whilst the view from a Cub is pretty good for a Bi Plane you just can’t have too good a view so I’d like to make a centre section with a large clear panel though it. That will give me a better chance of spotting those Class A pilots that spend too much time playing with the toys on their instrument  panels and not enough time looking out.

There does appear to be increasing numbers of these. As I have two centre sections I can work on this and add it later. One more for the deferred list.

So, lets see, that’s two mods to be incorporated in the initial build and three to be developed later. That should make life bit easier.

So from these first two a logical order appears. Number one assemble the cockpit sub frame and fit seat. Next make the tank mounting and fit to sub frame. Fit tank and straps check clearance from seat. Offer up to rear fuselage and check clearance from control runs. Load test tank and mountings. Photograph, prepare drawings and write out mod submission.

Number Two, while front and rear fuselage sections are together determine height needed for shoulder strap attachment. Ensure wire from rear bulkhead can reach this without interfering with any of the control runs. When sure that it will work buy the new harness. Then when work to the tank is completed run the wire make the.” hump” from ply and lath ( shades of a Hurricane) or to make something from blue foam which may be lighter. Then as before with photos, drawings and writing.

Number Three, The streamlining. First look into the weights of the materials available, alloy, glassfibre or maybe even carbon fibre. submit mod as before. Fit to tubes on final assembly. Simple innit (OH Yeah)

Just in case there is any problem with runs of the harness rudder cables I’ll fit the tank mount for testing purposes to the cockpit framing from kit 208  from the Cub that was never completed. So taking them out of store I put them together, now with parts to be included in the build and parts that won’t be both in the workshop I must continue to be meticulous in my labelling and stowage. It is both satisfying and exciting to watch the first bits really taking shape .To satisfy my curiosity I try fitting parts from SP, SU and KM to the structure of kit 208 and they all fit. Obviously jig made, but as SP and SU were quite early in the production of the kits and KM and 208 were quite late it does wonders for the confidence.

Then before offering up I need to place the elevator control rod in place in the rear fuselage section . Then I need to run two strings to follow the course of rudder cables to ensure that there no danger of anything chafing or obstructing.

Having got this far life got in the way. The runway at Sheepcoates Farm was now operational so there was grass to cut and roll, huts to build and decking and slabs to lay.
Also the need to fly, preferably DF. Hell that is so close to addiction, almost like being a druggie.

So poor SP once again in her life was neglected. This time it was only for 4 months but on my visits to the workshop once or twice a week to turn over the engines I felt very guilty until the great day I could go back to restart work.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 5

Getting under the skin and having some ideas

Having satisfied myself with the filling and glue work to the wings they now hang them back on the wall and await Gary’s verdict. Then  will be another new experience, that of working with Ceconite. this will be possible without further mods as Jim Romain had already done this for SP with one of his mods changing from the original Tigertex.

Stripping the aileron: Now I have to cut the old fabric from the lower ailerons to see what lurks beneath. On SP these are extended to the full span on the lower wings and linked to an aileron fitted to the upper wing.

As the standard Tiger Cub had the shorter lower ones only, I really look forward to flying this little beast with the extended aileron area and the fin and rudder instead of the all flying rudder and no fixed surface. I have a copy of the test flight report and it sounds fun

As I clear away the old fabric I can see a large alloy plate bonded to both sides of the blue foam that forms the infill between the ply ribs and bolted though to hold the bracket for the rod that connects the two ailerons. The bonding of the foam to the ply ribs and the trailing edge strip is in good shape, there is a bit of damage to the edges of the foam but less than I have already sorted on the wings.

Of course this will take time but considering the length of time the poor little thing spent in its dismantled state being moved around the odd corners of the hangars at North Coates with bits being borrowed for other jobs it is really not too bad.

Then a minor success with my control column assembly. My elevator push rod is sorted. After many hours of rolling a emery tipped dowel between my hands and a final lapping in with an abrasive polish she ran sweetly. I temporarily rig the control column just to feel the whole assembly gliding smoothly though its bearings, great.

Satisfied at last with the state of the lower ailerons I hang them on the wall to await Gary’s verdict and turn my attention to the short wide cord upper ones. After removing the Ceconite the underlying foam was in fair nick with only limited damage and most importantly the glue joints were all in good shape. I couldn’t ask for much better than that. As these where parts designed and made only for the Romain modifications I made sketches in my note book to show the construction and dimensions. These could be useful later as when I rebuild KM as I plan to build her as a Romain modified aircraft as well.

As I am just finishing the last of the crack testing it is time to assess what I actually need to replace rejected components. This will be a few lengths of alloy tube and some channel for making brackets. I also better check with Gary that my understanding of the grades required is right

Also it’s time I get ready to submit to mods that I feel will improve this great little aircraft into an even better one. First I want to revert to a tailwheel undercarriage. There are several reasons for this. Firstly it is stronger, both the tubes that carried to nose wheel where no longer straight and I need to replace both of them. I was far from happy with the way that they were mounted on to those tubes. So I was unsure that they would stand up to farm strip usage. Secondly the drag from such a large pertrubance added to the not inconsiderable drag of a biplane, that  I felt that I could do without. Next was the old enemy of all microlighters, weight. A rough estimate the nose wheel gave me about 2kg right up front. This with its counterbalancing lead on the rear bulkhead. I would be happy to lose both of these. Trouble was that I was far from delighted with the main undercarriage of the original tailwheel design. This was a simple tube extending vertically down from the bottom of the front cockpit sub frame each side. This carried the axle with cross bracing wires and was also wire braced fore and aft. While this was certainly light, I did not feel that it was convincingly strong. The Romain mod for the main wheels was tube braced from both front and rear cockpit sub frames looked good but of course was too far aft for my purposes. So I  thought, a combination of the two. I’ll retain the original vertical tube with axle and cross bracing wires. Then along the lines of the Romain mod use tube bracing to the rear sub frame. That would act in both expansion and compression, using a wire brace to the front would provide good triangulation. Strong and light, I’ll draw it up and see what Tec Office thinks.

The second mod that I would like in place early was to the fuel tank and its mounting. As I had two aeroplanes and only one Tiger Cub fuel tank. I wanted to use the 25ltr Thruster tank that I had bought. This was a nicely made alloy tank but one of the best features for me was that it had a sump in the bottom unlike the original. As a guy who owned boats for a long while I get a bit sensitive about water in fuel. To put this together I will need load calculations to prove to tank mounting up to 6G. Not being very clever, my maths will not handle that.  I’ll have to reassemble the rear cockpit sub frame. then the mounting will need to be made and loaded with weight equivalent to a 6G load on a full tank. Then I will need weigh all the bits and calculate the effect on the weight and balance.

All good stuff, but  I’ll be flying it at least the object is to keep me alive, I’ll drink to that.

 The other mods that I have in mind involve the seat harness and streamlining the struts. The first one to avoid compressing the spine in the event of a crack up. The second because I can’t believe the amount of round struts in the design but I can imagine the drag that they cause. I believe that if I can pull it off this will be a fantastic little aeroplane, maybe the kind of thing that Tom Watson hoped for when he did the first design sketches all those years ago.

Everything so far had  been going well, slowly but well. Then I had a clever idea. It was a fiddly job cleaning and going though all the stages of spraying the unpleasant chemicals needed for the crack testing process. This was made worse by the large number of little brackets that hold the tube work together. So I made up a board where that they could all be suspended so that they could cleaned sprayed and developed with minimal handling. Not a bad idea, not put into practice well though. I forgot just how well penitrant  dye spreads. Most of my careful little labels were now illegible, bugger. It was a good job that I’d been methodical. Some time spent checking the workbook and using diagrams and drawings of bracket profiles in the Kit Build Instructions that I’d got from the Newark Museum recovered the situation. I might feel a bit of a clot, but there was no harm done and I’d learned a bit more.

Then I receive a message from Gary telling me the properties of the types of tubing that I had inquired about and saying the type used in her construction should be as in the Kit Build Instructions. So I read those with great care, nope, not there. Next I went though the Maintenance Manual and the Pilot and Operators Handbook, no luck. I then resorted to reading all the mod forms that used tubing, not there. The only thing left was the bulletins and letters from MBA to the builders of the various aircraft that I had acquired parts of, not there either, Damn. It is beginning to look as if I’ll be pestering Guy and the Tec Office. I know that they are always busy so I’ll try Gary with what I have. That is just a description, high tensile thin walled corrosion resistant alloy tube. O yes, says Gary brightly, that is HT30TF and the Plates will be HE30TF. Great, at last, but hang about, I’ve never heard mention of this stuff before. Not in any of the stuff that I’ve read up or, more worryingly, in any of the suppliers catalogues. I tell Gary this and tentatively suggest that it seems most builds seem to use 6061T6. That’ll do the job he says, the old HT30TF was good stuff in it’s day, but things have moved on since then. Talk about going round the houses to arrive back at the obvious. Still never mind it’s now sorted.

We did fly this summer

but not that much. The weather was sometimes flyable at the same time as we were available to fly though often that was just scratching a short local flight under grey cloud. Hedy only managed two landings away from base airfield. One was a flight to the museum at Stowe Maries Great War Aerodrome, where we sampled their marvellous home-made cake. The other was to a fly-in event at Rougham aerodrome.

Hedy takes off

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 4

Dirt under the fingernails (at last)

Right, out with the spanners. Pausing to take pictures with my little digital camera and make sketches of the detail of the Romain mods before dismantling. Now the real work starts. The piles of dismantled bits grows on the shelves sporting their little labels. One to show where it belongs and its source and hopefully a green one showing work done and tests passed and more rarely a red marker showing rejected. I hope that there won’t be many of these.

With the front fuselage section dismantled and stacked on shelves an unexpected problem rears it’s head. Both the tubes supporting the nosewheel are bent and I have growing doubts about the ability of the mod to withstand use on farm strips. I’m beginning to think that I may revert to a tailwheel. With the Romain fin and rudder this brings it’s own problems. Still I never expected things to be straight forward. Wait a minute though, Jerry’s little beauty GMWFT had been built like that, time to get in touch again.

It is now time to take a look at the flying surfaces. So I lay out a wing on a covered table to start the glueing and filling work. As this wing has been left uncovered some of the foam to ply rib joints have been stressed and show signs of cracks to the glued ply/foam joints and the blue foam has damage to it’s surface and corners. Heeding the good advice from my trusty inspector I open a V cut to the top of the cracks and pour in the heated epoxy mix until it is topped up.

After cutting out and replacing the worst damaged blue foam I set about mixing up my filler. Making sure I add plenty of microballoons to make it as soft as the foam for sanding I fill all the smaller damage. This feels good, adding something at last after all the dismantling.

The other handy tip from Gary was to save a sample of all my epoxy mixes, labelled and dated so any problems will show and be traceable. As it is my own personal bottom that this aircraft will bear off the ground this seems a good idea.

We decide to head off to Devon for a bit of a break over a long weekend. While down that way we visit Didie a fellow TST pilot. She, of course, would like show us her pride and joy , Poppy, who as the name suggests is a bright red TST and very nice too. This involves a trip to the airstrip and Halwell where due to the horrid weather there is no activity, but we are shown another Tiger Cub. It sits there on it’s trailer almost complete requiring little work to finish and fly, but sad and neglected and untouched for a couple of years, due we are told to her owner’s life falling apart. She is, we are told , free to anybody who would give her a good home. Reluctantly I tear myself away, No way could I take on another project and I don’t want to cannibalise her for parts she is so complete and I still feel guilty about the bits that I had from Bob’s GMJSU. She wasn’t anything like as complete but would still have been a good rebuild project for anyone prepared to put in the time.

On returning home I receive an e-mail from Brian who has a rebuild of a crashed Cub. Due to family commitments he is reluctantly giving up and offers me the remains including it seems most of the bits that have so far eluded me. The only trouble is he is in Penrith. that is a hell of a long way from Essex, still, as I have been told, I am daft enough for almost anything I get in touch with our local van hire firm again.

When we arrived after a long but pleasant drive Brian introduced us to his wife and his three very small very active children. No wonder he has no time for a project. We are then shown the remains of GMNKM. It seemed the owner before Brian with no training or licence after a couple of drinks decided to fly like a bird. Not surprisingly both he and his aircraft ended up badly bent.

We loaded up wended our long way home to try and find somewhere to store all my new treasure. Just as we entered Chelmsford, nearly home, we were cheered by the wonderful sight of the B17 shining in the evening sun as it flew straight towards us at not much over 1000′. That is a pretty fair greeting by any bodies standard.

The next job was to label up all the pieces and add them to the inventory to ensure that everything remains traceable. Then to separate all the bits to be incorporated in this rebuild ready for cleaning, checking and testing., Once again I was darn grateful for electronic workbook. As I have to date gathered major parts from Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Dorset and Cumbria and everything from a wing spar to a rivet must be fully traceable, a paperwork book would have been huge and very complex. As I have also been to several other places for information I feel as though I have combed the country to rebuild this aeroplane and in doing so I have met some terrific people and some of the wonderful characters that microlighting is so rich with.

As I dismantled the damaged front fuselage section I discarded the obviously damaged pieces into one pile and made stack of the others. When every part had been removed I then went though the damaged heap and removed all parts that would serve as a pattern. These pattern parts were given a red label and another plain label to say what they were and where they came from and put on the shelf reserved for that use, the remainder went into the scrap bin. I then moved to the other stack and degreased everything and cleaned all paint and varnish. Then all the right angle brackets, and there were many, were checked with a set square. This weeded out one or two more. All that was now left was checked with a magnifying glass under a strong light then tested with my crack detecting dye kit. A messy business that but it does wonders for the confidence

I was really pleased that the engine mounting plate, a large thick piece of alloy that passed all the tests. That was the largest, most important component that I had been short of. Satisfyingly I now had an imposing collection of gleaming, useful pieces. As I sat back to admire my collection I realised that I now owned almost two Tiger Cubs.

Apart from the wing ribs and foam wing panels the engine mounting plate and some simple brackets it was all there. My latest acquisition had been deregistered as the plonker that had bent it had never bothered to register it in  his name. So I started the paperchase to prove that I was now the legal owner. The CAA responded with commendable speed and no hassle, there are some things that they are really good at.

So GMNKM was now back on the register and is officially in long term storage pending rebuild and is also officially mine. On paper I now have at least a share in four different aircraft. OK, GMJSP & GMNKM, my Tiger Cubs are in pieces (plural of Lions is a pride, what is the plural of Tigers? maybe as they are cubs it is just a litter).

I own a small share of the Grasshopper GCCXW, Saxon Microlights gleaming new Thruster T600N mostly so that I legitimately do the servicing. I also scrounge her for the odd flight, and my favourite, in which I have a quarter share, Thruster TST GMVDF. The difference between the Grasshoppers big Jab engine and DFs little 503 is amazing, they are both terrific aircraft, but I do enjoy the wonderful open cockpit of the TST. They both also look like microlights and don’t hide their light under a bushel trying to look like the ageing designs from messrs Piper and Cessna .I know that it sounds a lot but contrary to what they say as far as flying and aircraft are concerned it is difficult to have too much of a good thing.

Getting back to where I had been before I was interrupted I pressed on with work to the wing. At last I feel content with what I have achieved and can hang that one back up to await Garys verdict. The remaining three wings have been restored by the previous owner and his work has been approved by Gary so the ailerons come next. As all glueing  and filling work needs cure time I need another job to run in parallel.

So I turn my attention to the control column and torque tube assembly. With the control column removed this proves to be so stiff as to be almost immovable. I don’t have to look far for the reason. All the moving parts are heavily smeared with grease, as everything slides or rotates in nylon bearings this is hardly a good idea. Just to prove the text books right the bearings now hold the torque tube in a vice like grip..

Fortunately the aileron  control moves sweetly .  So I ease it apart as gently as I can and set about removing the horrible mess. Then I know that I’ll spend many hours lapping in bearings with fine emery paper fitted to a piece of doweling of the correct size. There is also some scratching to the tube itself caused by grit in that damn grease. That will also need tidying up

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 3

Searching for the missing pieces

Still next thing had to be somewhere to do the work, a workshop had to be built. so it was going to be knife in the piggy bank time again.The Continuing Saga Of Acquiring And Rebuilding A Classic Microlight

 Then out of the blue a phone call from an acquaintance, Andrew a flexwing flyer, “are you still after Tiger Cub bits? a cousin of mine has lots of stuff give him a ring”. A phone call later I’m over the moon: Bob (the cousin) seems to have most of the bits that I’m missing but in the past he has flown SP and landed her in cabbage patch at Woburn undamaged but it made a hell of mess of the cabbages. After a natter we make a date when we could meet up.

Robin 440 engine

When speaking to Francis who I’ve met on and off for several years he mentioned he had in a box, fully inhibited, a Robin 440 ex Pathfinder that had only done 10hrs, I’d better check that piggy bank again.

Right ! make arrangements to get Norfolk to see Bob and later the same day to get round to see Francis This involved getting hold of Andrew as he is after an engine and Bob has one of those brand new still in a box and heading off.

We arrive well late but Bob’s long suffering wife is still waiting. the bits are scattered around three sheds and apart from the engine covered in humungus cobwebs. Still after delving in the debris of ages and looking at a little Scout that Bob has donated to Flixton Museum I find most of what I’m missing agree a price over the phone with Bob and head off to see Francis. On arrival we are greeted by Francis who shows us into a workshop to kill for, where we look at another good looking engine complete with reduction drive for which he asks a very reasonable price this is rapidly agreed and I head off to the pub with Andrew to sort out who is having what.

OK I now have a good basis for the project. I have an enthusiastic inspector. What I need now is somewhere to do the job. No way is this going to be a quick job ,I work 8 till 5,  I’m about to be involved in a house move and I have a complete inability to ignore the siren calls from DF whenever the weather is flyable.

 Now I need that workshop, luckily the garden is big enough. Right add to the list build workshop… Two months on, house move done with most rooms liveable, workshop built and complete enough to be used.

 Its now time to get in touch with my inspector Gary to inspect the bits. Gary arrives, checks my paperwork then moves into the workshop. He sifts though my collection of parts dispensing wisdom, recommendations, enthusiasm and sharing reminiscences. After he has gone I hasten to write it all down, I feel that I have direction once more. I am well pleased that out of my heap of bits only a couple of minor parts are condemned as not fit for purpose and that Gary seems to approve of the way I propose going about things. Twelve months after first seeing the Ad its time to get stuck in.

First thing I need is a general plan on how to proceed. I already have a workbook set out on my computer( courtesy of Joan, it’s handy to have a Chartered Engineer on your side). In there I have listed all the parts that I have with their source. In other columns I can track the various stages of work of the jobs required for each part e.g.dismantle, clean/check, crack test, rebuild, paint, cover and a notes column in which I can click on a marker and bring up any remarks by Gary. Ain’t she a clever gal. As the plan is to replace all fixings with new and crack test all brackets and areas around holes I set out to play with my crack testing outfit. Wow that is pokey stuff in a confined space. Too much of that and you would be away with the fairies. Must be damn near as good as the stuff that’s allegedly behind some of the yarns on e-group.

For a while I have been looking for a 25ltr tank of decent quality as the originals seem impossible to find. A remark made at Popham comes to mind. Gordon at Thrusters had a surplus of 25ltr Thruster tanks  a phone call reveals that he still has.

A journey to Ginge is called for, always a pleasant place to visit anyway. When we arrive Gordon isn’t there but he has left the tank out for us and a prowl around the factory shows us Gordon’s latest toy. The newest edition of his floatplane complete with retractable wheels and Jab engine.

I drive back trying to think of where I could fly one like it, that would be something. Now of course I have to design and get approval of a tank mount to withstand all the forces. After brainstorming with Joan I have a lot of ideas to offer to the airframe before taking it apart.