Category Archives: Tiger Cub

The Tiger Cub story

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.

Back to the beginning: Project Tiger Cub Story part 2

The Continuing Saga Of Acquiring And  Rebuilding A Classic Microlight  

       Part 2

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)

Tiger Cub Story part 24

More on the instrument panel and another cable

Without the time to make another cable, well taking into consideration the time it took me to do the last one my thoughts turned to mounting the instrument panel. Now while I was still in the dismantling stage Jim Romain gave me the original instrument panel which I’d placed, duly labelled on a shelf in the best heated part of the workshop.

My idea, as the build manual gives little clue how it is done is to mount the panel from the frame tubes “E” & “F” using padded “P” clip linking them with anti vibration mounts. Difficult to offer it up with the instruments in place as it is a bit cumbersome, they have to come out anyway to check them as best as I can and to re-varnish the panel itself. It turned out that all the instruments were held in by different sizes bolts and all of them the, rather uncommon BA type that I had to burrow into my tool kit to find the relevant spanners.

On removal the rather fine looking altimeter proved to bear the broad arrow mark to declare its military origin while the VSI was marked with a crown and A M, presumably standing for Air Ministry, the ASI bore none of these distinguished marks but was of much the same vintage. Nice kit, I only hope that they prove in good working order

Next time into the workshop produced another length of rudder cable: once complete, I connect it up with its turnbuckle and fit it. Ok fitting involved going into the small access panel at the rear, just in front of the pulleys with my arm fully inserted up to the elbow I felt a bit like a vet delivering a calf but it all worked alright. I need a better cutter though, this worked fine on the lighter wire of the simulator but this was the next size up and ragged ends were the order of the day.

Meantime the check on the altimeter was not looking promising with widely varying readings I was a bit disappointed as it is a fine looking instrument. Then the wife had an idea, “when I was gliding” she said “we used to have to tap the altimeter to get the correct reading but the vibration of power flying makes it unnecessary”. Then she smartly rapped the instrument with a finger and the needle moved significantly and my hopes rose again. So tearing up the record of readings that I’d gathered I started again and this time there was a satisfying sameness, it seems I have a working altimeter after all. Next check will be the VSI, the only way I can think of doing that is to take it along next time I go flying, still I’m feeling more optimistic than I was a day ago.

(Written in March 2015)

Tiger Cub Story part 23

Mistakes with the “hump”; rudder cables, instrument panel & seat

Arranging to meet up with the modellers at North Weald I loaded my roughly-carved blue foam SE 5 hump in the car and headed off. It was a nice sort of day if you discounted the wind, which was more than either microlight fliers or model fliers would want and after checking the aircraft tie-downs I met up with Richard, a pleasant and helpful chap.

The model club occupy a hut on the airfield similar to, but larger than, the one from which we run Saxon Microlights. They have a very nice workshop complete with a band saw and a lathe, some good large work benches and a goodly variety of hot wire cutters. Already there was a chap putting, what seemed to the finishing touches to a very beautiful model of a Mig 15 (I think). He pitched in to help straight away, so I’m afraid that we interrupted his painstaking work. Both of the lads looked at the piece that I’d brought and it was apparent that I’d made several mistakes in my ignorance of blue foam work. I’ll pass these on in the hope that it may save somebody else from the same errors.

Firstly I’d used ply for my end formers, this may have worked but I’d not taken the trouble to get the edges sufficiently smooth. Ideally I should have used alloy to allow the hot wire to glide around the ends, if not then the ply would ideally be as smooth as it was possible to make it. Secondly, for something so sharply tapered it would have been far better to have made it in two pieces to glue together later. Before we started I was warned that this may well, due to the drag on the wire, give a sway backed finish. My last mistake was to glue the sections together using epoxy, it’s not structural said the man, PVA would have done. The other advantage of PVA apart from being easier to use is that it cuts similarly to the foam so causing no localised drag on the wire.

The first side went quite well with the drag marks that I’d been warned of but nothing too much. The second side though lived up to its billing, the epoxy slowed the cut in the centre and left me with a hollow that will have to be filled.

Still I’d spent the morning in pleasant company and I’d learned a lot but I finished the day with a hump that needed a bit more work and at least one area of my ignorance diminished. So I moved forwards on two fronts, that can’t be bad, I ordered some more microballons for my filler and moved on.

The next job to progress was to replace the old rudder cables with new. This, after fitting the static pipe forward to the rear of the instrument panel position and rigging the seat belts, would mean that I could fit the seat. This would be handy as at present I have had to keep moving the seat about to keep it out of the way, because I’d had to attach the upper seat straps (and thus the seat) when fitting the tank.

I have made up control cables before, but only for the training simulator that we use at Saxon, I thought a bit more of a thorough look was called for. So I resorted to that invaluable resource, the EAA Instructional Videos. Sure enough all the information was there and not for the first time I blessed their generosity in making this available to everybody. I was intending to use the “economy “tool for compressing the Nicopress swages and from reading the “Big White Book” on inspections and much else by the FAA, I purchased the simple little gauge to check them.

Then I made up my first cable, a success! All I have to do now is to find a tape to prevent the ends from unravelling that doesn’t fall off and how to prevent the little spiky ends from sticking in my fingers, it didn’t happen to the bloke in the video.

(Written March 2015)

Tiger Cub Story part 22

Humps, pipes and rods

Rough hump - glued n clamped

The SE5 style hump for the back has now been rough shaped and glued together out of 4 pieces of blue foam and ply profiles made for each end.

A friend has promised to try to locate a suitable hot wire cutter for the final shaping, a new skill to learn but it does promise to be easier than hours of careful sanding, so I hope for the best. When the glue is dry I’ll weigh it , it does feel very, very light so here’s hoping the scales agree with the feel

I also wanted to trial fit the Romain vertical stabiliser, as this is already covered by the previous owner I wanted a look inside so I dug out my little cheap borescope and to my delight it gave me an excellent view of the state of the inside.

As it happened it was in good shape matching the other work done by the same chap, all the same it was nice to have looked. I’m in hope that the hump in conjunction with it will look terrific as well, hopefully, helping also to tame the swing a bit.

Other little jobs sorted are a ply inspection panel to give access to the front fin securing bolt and to enable me to fit the rudder cables up though the upper pulleys. Eventually this panel will have a balsa wood fairing fitted to get a clean joint between the rear of the hump and the front of the fin, it will also make it easier to lift out, if needed and avoid trying to pry the panel out and maybe damaging the surrounding foam. With the glue made up I have also repaired the split to the centre section, with that done I can strip off the old covering and that will probably be my trial piece to learn to use Oratex covering, easy I’m told, but we’ll see. Heck, I’ve even pumped up the tyres and sorted out the springs for the rudder pedals, things are starting to move again.


While I considered the best way to tackle the foam, I placed the cockpit floor made from thin ply roughly in place which enabled me to have a good think about the cockpit systems and layout. One of the main things was the fuel system; the previous one had no provision for a fuel drain something that I was very uncomfortable about. As it happened I had a drain cock that I’d acquired with as part of a job lot, but it was designed to fit straight into the tank bottom something that was not possible in this case. I’d have to fit it on the end of a tube, something that worked well on the trusty AX3, all I needed were the right connections and then when the floor was fully fitted I’d only have to fit it though that and I’d be able to check the fuel. This seemed particularly important as the tank had no sump, a flat bottom with port and starboard draw off points, perfect for delivering debris and water straight to my fuel filter, I’d really rather intercept it before that. Checking what was available for connections to the drain valve defeated me so I consulted the guru and rang LAS, oh yes said the chap on the phone what you need is one of these and one of these, all straight off the top of his head. I was impressed.

So my fuel system, as roughly sketched out on a scrap of paper was pipes from the draw off points coming together in a tee piece another short length of pipe to another tee piece the starboard one leading to the cockpit side (when fitted) and the fuel tap followed by a primer bulb fitted with a bypass to the filter that would be far enough forward to be readily visible as I wasn’t expecting an excess of space in the cockpit. The port line from the second tee piece would go to the tank drain, even so I reckon that I’ll need a fair sized fuel sampler to get a good idea of the tank state. So I put some of this in place as far as the tap fitting anti chafing protection where it was needed. I was using the blue urethane tubing that has given such good service in other aircraft so it would need plenty of support as the only fault that I’ve ever found with the stuff is that being fairly soft it can kink and crush unless thought is given to its use.

Then two good things happened together, the first was packages from LAS and good old Skydrive with the bits that would enable me to build my fuel system, make my rudder cables (after study of the EAA excellent on line video) and put right my mistake with the incorrect washers on the aileron control rods. The next good thing was a phone from out of the blue with an offer from the North Weald Model Fliers club to lend me their equipment and expertise to cut my blue foam, what a result and a very generous offer.


Back in the workshop I was able to put right my error with the control rods. Have you ever noticed though the habit of split pins how in a slightly awkward place they sneak back and turn just when you think it’s almost sorted? Well three of them went wonderfully, but the one where I was in a bit of a cramped space did its best to make up for that.

The static port in the Romain Cub is mounted on the fuselage starboard side, that will make life a bit easier as I’ll only have to get a single tube out to the starboard interplane strut although it will involve cutting out a short length of foam, known as a “keyhole” slot in the build manual. This is tucked away behind the fuel tank and so needs to be considered at this time as well. Things are slowly starting to come to shape, although I’m sure there are few things yet that will that’ll make me scratch my head it is satisfying… heck I’m looking forward to flying this bird.


Fitting the cockpit floor was to be the next job to allow me to complete the fuel system as far as the tap and get the pipework clear of the seat, it turned out to be a fiddly job getting everything aligned and I was a lot more flexible after having finished crawling around underneath.

Then the final component to the fuel system landed on the doormat a primer bulb complete with bypass loop made by Mark at Galaxy Microlights. It’s the same type as we fitted to the AX3 a while back and have been very pleased with it.

I already have a high capacity fuel filter from Aircraft Spruce so at last I’m in a position to fit the system as far as the front bulkhead. Fortunately for me Jim Romain, no doubt horrified at the thought of blue foam below the fuel tank even with a tray fitted, had made that section of the lower fuselage of alloy. So I was able to make up a couple of alloy spacers with a soft washer made from layers for tape so that I could tighten my drain fittings through the fuselage bottom. That done it was an easy job to fit the primer assembly and filter all ready for the fire resistant fuel hose that will be used the other side of the bulkhead.

(Written – February 2015)

A Tiger Cub

The story so far…

Right. In order to get started I’ll simply put links up to the current URLs of the story episodes on the old Saxon Microlights web site. As explained in the first post, the internal links are hard-wired to the old domain so you’ll need to come back here to jump to another episode. (NB. Titles below with a * have been added as posts in this blog and the link amended to suit.)

Introduction: It all started with back in 2003 with an ad in AFORS, “own a bit of microlighting history” it said … [Index]

*Part 1 – First buy your pile of junk.

*Part 2 – Solving the jigsaw puzzle

Part 3 – Searching for the missing pieces

Part 4 – Dirt under the fingernails (at last)

Part 5 – Getting under the skin and having some ideas

Part 6 – Dreaming up some improvements

Part 7 – Bent and cracked metalwork

Part 8 – Making and fitting some new bits

Part 9 – A surprise gift and a little bit of history

Part 10 – Paper, paper! and a little bit of wood

Part 11 – Progress at last, fitting the fuel tank

Part 11b – and a surprise visitation

Part 12 – Some work in the cockpit

Part 13  – Rivets

Part 13a – The power of internet

Part 13b – Thinking about legs

Part 14 – Wheels and a bit of a SPLASH

Part 15 – Another wheel and mending a hole

[Note Feb 2011] As some of you have probably guessed, this project stalled in 2009 due to commitments to the Saxon Microlights business.

We hope to be able to report more progress later this year.

[Note Dec 2012] Some progress…

Part 16 – Back to the workshop

[Note a few months later]

Part 17 – Sniffing around the tail

Part 18 – A look quick look at the cockpit 

[… and now it’s September 2014]

Part 19 – Some work at the back

Part 20 – Trial fit some controls

Part 21 – Measuring the hump

So this is as far as the original Tiger Cub project story goes. We’ll now start trying to catch up to date