Aloft - Building & Flying a Plane
Building & Flying a Plane
As a kid I would race home from school on my bike, happily announce to Mum I had no homework (yeah right), & loose myself in the world of model planes. As I built & flew these wonderful toys from the ground, I dreamed of what it must be like to build a flying machine big enough to actually climb into, take to the air & zoom through the skies. Dreaming is the easy bit.
Two mates, Dom Eller & Chris Gut also share this passion for flying & together we teamed up to procured a Rans S6S Coyote microlight kitset which arrived in two large plywood boxes at the freight depot in Queenstown in January 2008. All I had to do was take the thousands of bits & join them all together into one bigger bit... that flies, with me in it.
Building this plane has been my biggest project by far. It's a huge 3D jigsaw puzzle of mechanics, linkages, pulleys, electrical systems, hydraulics, engine, fuel system, prop, covering, painting, electrical, instruments, radio, plumbing, etc, which all needs to be thought about & done in the right order. As an aircraft engineer the airframe build was straight forward, whereas processes like covering, painting & electrics all required much learning to get the results I wanted.
My mission was to build a two seat aircraft capable of good back-country & cross-country performance, allowing aerial access to wonderful, remote adventures all around New Zealand. This requires good gear. A Rotax 912 100hp engine drives a constant speed propellor for max take off & cruise performance. In the cockpit, an Electronic Flight Instrument System provides flight & engine data, along with navigation, GPS, moving map, terrain, fuel calculations & so much more. We chose to fit a good radio, intercom (with music), transponder & Emergency Locating Transmitter to give clear communication, access into controlled airspace & safety. For back country operations, tundra tyres are a must for those less than smooth strips & to improve low speed handling further, I've fitted vortex generators to the wings resulting in a reduction in stall speed from 34 to 29 knots (33.4 mph).
To make the plane even more versatile we can fit a set of amphibious floats for those watery adventures.
This had been my labour of love for three years, four months & twelve days when we got the stamp of approval from CAA inspector Tony Hansen that our baby was fit to fly. The following day I began the 10 hour test flying program. There is something special about taking a creation of your own making into the air for the first time. It's the culmination of all the work, all the dreaming, all the imagination that went into making the dream come true.
So, how does she fly... FANTASTIC, well mannered, a joy to fly very capable of all the mission requirements... & we're just really getting to know each other with 40 hours aloft so far. I've been flying a lot with the local Wanaka crew who like to visit top dressing strips nestled on ridges & hill tops... now, that's fun! I've laughed out loud while flying at 13 000 feet, past the summit of NZ's highest mountain, Mt Cook & have flown multi leg flights up the country to do adventures with my mates.
That was my dream, a dream brought to life.
This just the start of some fine aerial adventures...