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  • Vance
    started a topic More fun flying The Predator.

    More fun flying The Predator.

    I could see the mountains in the mist on the other side of the Santa Maria Valley from my office window and poor visibility usually means gentle winds. It seemed like a good day to fly.

    Somehow projects slowed me down and I didn’t launch till 10:30.

    I started working through a careful preflight and The Predator soon looked good to go.

    Lockheed Martin had winds light and variable for the next several hours with six miles visibility most of the day. There was a storm stalled off shore with no precipitation expected along my route to Camarillo.

    I called Spencer to see if he could have lunch and left a message with an ETA of around 1:00. Spencer holds the world record for inverted flat spins and is a CFI mostly for aerobatics. He seems to always show up with some interesting friends.

    I slowed down a little when I didn’t reach Spencer and decided a little more gas would be a good thing rather than stopping at Santa Barbara for gas. I topped her off and taxied to 30 for a right down wind to the east. She had burned five and a half gallons an hour when I was wandering around aimlessly at forty to forty five knots.

    It seemed like perfect flying weather and SMX was strangely deserted. I called for Santa Barbara ATIS on my cell phone and figured it would probably change before I got there. Run up went well and as soon as I called the tower holding short of three zero, ready for departure I was greeted with “Experimental 142 Mike Golf runway 30 clear for takeoff, right down wind approved. Have a nice flight Vance!” How can I miss?

    I started gently climbing to the 3,500 feet I would need for the San Marcos pass and was at 3,000 feet and about 12 miles out when an inbound RV was asked to “turn 20 degrees right for opposite direction traffic, an experimental gyroplane at your altitude.” For some reason he turned 20 degrees left and the tower admonished him for turning right into me. I pulled the power to idle and pointed the nose at the ground dropping down quickly and he passed right over the top of me. The tower apologized profusely and I told him I thought he was doing a great job of looking out for me. ”It only works when they follow directions!” He grumbled. I don’t think he would have hit me but it is hard to know. Somehow aircraft look a lot closer up in the air.

    Everything looked strangely distant and somewhat mysterious in the mist as I wandered along at 2,250 rpm. I love the sound the Lycoming makes at that rpm; sort of a relaxed but purposeful rumble. The demeanor of The Predator was generally easygoing and capable in the relatively calm air. The temperature was just right. My recently rebuilt headset was doing a great job of making the world seem peaceful.

    I reached 3,500 feet well before it was time to call Santa Barbara approach so I backed off on the throttle a little more just as I was getting into some light turbulence. I called approach from 20 miles out requesting to transition his airspace over the San Marcos pass and a nice lady was handling that sector. She gave me a squawk code and altitude was verified. A regional jet at 8,500 feet reported a hang glider over the San Marcos VOR at his altitude and another was reported at 6,500 feet.

    I found out why over the pass, it was all I could do to pull her back and stay at 3,500 feet. The cool ocean air felt good on my face and I asked for a decent to 2,000 feet. “Experimental two Mike Golf, remain at or above 3,500 feet for traffic.” After about 15 miles I heard; “altitude restriction canceled; descend at pilot’s desecration.” I was searching the skies for the hang gliders so my descent was slow. I never saw even one.

    It is time for bed so I will continue this tomorrow.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Vance; 10-25-2015, 05:08 AM.

  • Vance
    replied
    Flight of Freedom.

    I received a call from a potential client who wanted to learn about gyroplanes. I wanted to explain about polar moments and asked him his level of understanding. He is a mechanical engineer and when I asked him where he had graduated; he replied Russia.

    I mentioned that I had a lot of Russian Facebook friends and they seemed very serious about their aviation.

    He said when your freedom is limited you have a greater appreciation for the freedom of the skies.

    This conversation was resonating in my head as I drove to the airport with the top down enjoying the fresh clean crisp air. I was living the dream of freedom and was about to experience the freedom of the skies. I had nothing pressing to do and the resources to fly. This is the very definition of freedom for me.

    I had to pull myself back a little as I worked through preflight and got a weather briefing from flight service.

    Winds were two six zero degrees at seven knots, temperature was thirty eight degrees Fahrenheit and the density altitude was one thousand two hundred feet below sea-level.

    I rolled her outside and she came to life stumbling a little from the cold with the sound resonating off the hangars. She soon settled down to a steady idle as I worked my way through my pre-takeoff check list.

    One of my helmets had just been repaired and a volume control added, so I wanted to try it solo before I flew with a client. As expected there were some challenges to work through. I thought it wasnít working because there was very little side tone but soon discovered it had to do with my new volume control. The new ear pads took a bit of adjusting but soon did a superior job and the active noise reduction was working well. I liked the volume control a lot.

    As I taxied out to runway three zero I marveled at the blue skies and green hills. There was a Robinson 44 and a Robinson 22 near the self-serve and I wondered at their willingness to taxi up to self-serve. They returned my wave and it added to the feeling camaraderie in aviation and specifically rotorcraft. I felt the palm trees in the background gave the picture a nice Californian touch.

    I asked for a left turn out with a turn to the south and it was approved as requested.

    The Predator leapt into the air and seemed to climb out effortlessly in the cool dense air. I pulled the power back leveling off at thirteen hundred feet rumbling along only turning about two thousand RPM at sixty knots.

    I loved the feel of the air on my face; clean, cold and crisp. There was a little turbulence that we sort of floated through.

    I was soon to the hills above my practice area and climbed to two thousand two hundred feet and just sort of rumbled along dipping down into the little valleys and marveling at the beauty a little rain had added to the hills.

    I was suddenly overcome with a desire to express the freedom of the skies and started maneuvering around aggressively with no particular goal in mind. Eventually I climbed up to 3,500 feet, pulled the engine to idle and descended nearly straight down into a little valley just because I could; laughing with exuberance all the while with the swish of the rotor being the dominant sound.

    I flew over Los Alamos and headed north east toward Twitchell Reservoir.

    I checked the ATIS and called the tower ten miles to the southeast inbound with Bravo.

    There were two helicopters headed my way at 1,300 feet so I stayed high and then another experimental was coming in from the north and a heading of two four zero was suggested. I then heard; ďresume on navigation, runway three zero clear to land.Ē

    We floated in and touched down as nice as could be and taxied to fuel.

    The joyous feeling of freedom from the flight is with me still.
    Blue skies and two Robison helicopters fueling up at self-serve as I taxi to runway three zero for takeoff. Heading into the hills South West of Los Alamos, CA. Deeper into the hills South West of Los Alamos, CA. Maneuvering around expressing the freedom of the skies in the hills South West of Los Alamos, CA. Descending out of the hills toward Los Alamos, CA.

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  • Vance
    replied
    Closing out the year properly.

    After a day of frustration working on helmets/headsets I was ready for a gyroplane flight.

    I had things to do in the morning so I did not make it to the airport till one.

    Preflight took a while and to say the weather briefing was confusing would be an understatement. AIRMET Sierra was in effect for mountain obscuration, AIRMET Tango was in effect for moderate turbulence below fourteen thousand feet and AIRMET Zulu was in effect for icing above ten thousand feet. I decided on a local flight to see the effect the rain had on the nearby hills.

    It had warmed up since the morning forty one degrees but there was still a bite in the air so I bundled up.

    Winds at SMX were 024 degrees at eleven knots so runway zero two was in use. It seemed like a good opportunity to practice cross wind takeoffs so I asked for runway three zero with a left turn out and a turn to the south.

    I watched the wind socks on my way to Alpha Eight and almost changed my mind. I asked the tower for wind checks twice. Several of the five winds socks were nearly straight out (fifteen knots) and blowing in different directions. Even the freight dogs were using runway zero two making for a long taxi to their terminal. The wind checks came back the same as the ATIS so I stuck with my plan.

    The air felt cool and damp on my face as I used a lot of left rudder for takeoff. It was a textbook takeoff with a strong climb out in the minus six hundred sixty five foot density altitude making for a nice start for my last flight of twenty eighteen. I reached pattern altitude before making my left turn out. The Predator felt particularly muscular and capable as she transported me to the heavens.

    As I turned south along California Highway One I was very busy with the throttle with strong up and down drafts. I climbed to thirteen hundred feet MSL (about a thousand feet above the ground) and marveled at the beauty the rains had brought to the hills and the intensity of the experience.

    The ride was surprisingly smooth despite the strong up and down drafts. I climbed to two thousand feet over the hills flying around five hundred feet above the ground staying in the lift with the throttle well back (2050RPM). According to the GPS I was making thirty four knots of ground speed at sixty knots indicated air speed while working to catch the ridge lift.

    As I approached each ridge it felt like I was speeding up as I neared the ground with an impression of sudden slowing as the earth dropped away on the other side of the ridge.

    I dove down into some of the little valleys and rode the lift up out the windward side. I was overcome with a feeling of the mastery of the environment and cautioned myself aloud about overconfidence as though I was speaking to one of my clients who had become too aggressive.

    I made my way over Los Alamos and Gary on my way up the river and called the Santa Maria Tower seven miles to the north, inbound with Lima.

    I was to make left traffic for runway two and report midfield. Before I could report I was cleared to land and long landing approved.

    I landed in the last two hundred feet of runway zero two and was to taxi to fuel via Alpha. As I neared Romeo I was nose to nose with a freight dog and ground had me exit taxiway Alpha at Quebec to parking.

    I was filled with joy and wonder as I filled her up and carefully followed the check list aware that my mind was still in the heavens.

    One of my CFI mentors stopped by and asked my about conditions for his Cub because he and his wife wanted to make a last flight for twenty eighteen. I cautioned him that I did not feel bumps in the same way and told him that the view was worth it.

    I was not disappointed when I downloaded the picture and had a hard time selecting eight. I lost some pictures to the glare of the setting sun so most of the pictures are heading north or east.
    1.	South along California Highway One; a thousand feet above the ground. 2.	Heading into the hills at 1,500 feet MSL. 3.	Just ten miles east of SMX is one of the many little valleys I visited. 4.	Less than five hundred feet above the ridges I made my way east. 5.	I followed the dirt road as though I was on a motorcycle banking left and right.  It was pure magic.

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  • Vance
    replied
    I can't always get what I want.

    It has been raining a bit around Santa Maria and the hills are turning green. December seems a slow time for flight training so I hoped to go flying and take in the clean air and green hills.

    Thirty seven degrees had me bundled up with thermals and a warm top under my flight suit so I felt like my movement was restricted as I worked through my preflight.

    I was pleased to push her outside and check flight service. It looked like a lovely day to fly with the only slight negative being AIRMET Tango for moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet.

    Training is very hard on helmets and headsets so I have three and get them repaired in Texas. In a recent training flight the helmet I use in the back seat with a mush mouth started squealing making it very hard to hear and I am very uncomfortable trusting my clients to catch everything the tower has to say. The squealing was from the active noise reduction so I unplugged it and just didnít hear as well. If they fly too fast I can't hear and they have a hard time understanding me. I called Richard at Headsets Inc. and he felt it was a moisture problem making it squeal. It had stopped raining but it got warm in the afternoon and I was sweating a lot. I figured would deal with it later.

    The next flight was with a primary student who has not transitioned to the front seat so I used my regular helmet in the front. My clients don't like using the mush mouth so this was all working out.

    My client was having trouble hearing me and I figured it was because he had not properly adjusted his helmet and when we adjusted it he could hear me better.

    I thought the client was imagining things.

    In the back of my mind I suspected the headset because a client had egressed the aircraft while still plugged in and damaged the plug to the ANR.

    I could not find an identical plug and had replaced it with a nearly identical one. I thought it had been working for several months.

    I didn't want to send two helmets to Texas at the same time because I canít train without two working headsets and helmets and even with fast turnaround I would be out of business for a week.

    I hopped in and was ready to go until I plugged in my headset and it sounded like the engine was running when it wasnít. I had talked to Richard at Headsets Inc. about this sort of noise and he said it was typically one of the ear cups were not sealing well. I tightened the strap up till it was making it difficult to breathe and it still made the noise. I have six new ear cups on the way.

    No problem I thought, just use the other helmet. There is a little knob that you loosen to lower the face shield and if it is not tightened again it will come out. There is a screw to prevent this but if a client unscrews the knob too hard they break the screw. The knob and screw were missing.

    I went to the helmet with the mush mouth and it had both the screw and the knob so I installed them in my client helmet. The little T screw that goes down into the visor had the screw to hold a loose knob broken off in it so I needed to replace it. Somehow I got it in my head that the easy way to change out the little T screw was to take the visor loose. I would come to learn that this is incorrect. My client helmet has the clear shield as an opting and I never liked the extra bulk so I decided to swap out the visors.

    I began this project at 11:30 and finished just as the sun was setting.

    There are lots and lots of little parts and several times I was convinced they were not interchangeable.

    I started to go for a maintenance flight and discovered the intermittent nature of the ANR.

    I got my original helmet out and rotated one of the ear cups about an eighth of an inch and it worked perfectly. I should have listened to Richard.

    This all worked out for the best because I have three of the little knobs ordered and a new face shield coming. I will box up the helmet with the faulty plug and send it off to Texas.

    This is all much better than going through this with a client that may have traveled several hundred miles waiting impatiently as I tried to get two helmets working or the client not being able to hear me as I gently guide him through the lesson in the sky.

    I have hand signals but I feel it is less professional than having a radio and intercom that works.

    So I can't always get what I want but if I try it seems I get what I need.

    I will fly tomorrow.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vance
    replied
    Max made short work of the cracked body mount.

    I finished up the rotor head and trim spring.

    The Predator is airworthy again.

    I made my maintenance flight and checked that everything is complete and tight afterward.

    I love even a simple flight in The Predator.

    The paperwork is finished and most of the tools are put away as I head home into the sunset.

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  • Vance
    replied

    It seldom comes easy.

    The ID of the ring gear turned out to be .030 smaller than the one that was on there. It was impossible to measure the old on when on the center and once we had cut it off the dimension had changed. Jim and I worked on it till 1:00 trying to get it to work.

    Richard at the airport did a lot of guessing and machined the inner aluminum hub down so we had .011 interference fit. We heated the gear in his oven to 375 degrees and cooled the inner with dry ice and it dropped on as nice as could be.

    I called Smokey who has a lot of experience with such things and when he called back when he returned from lunch he recommended .010 to .015 interference fit. He also recommended 375 degrees heat on the ring gear. We were going to use 250 degrees.

    The rotor head is back together with the spindle bolt properly torqued and the rotor bearings inspected.

    The assembly is installed on The Predator with fresh grease on the pitch pivot. This was in surprisingly good condition and needed no adjustment shims.

    The control assembly is assembled and hooked back up and the sender for the rotor tachometer is on, hooked up but not yet adjusted.

    The mechanism for the trim is in place but the spring is not yet hooked up.

    I stopped at 5:00 when the light failed, the work is too critical to rush or do without good light.

    Tomorrow's plan is to install and wire the starter, put the towers and teeter back together, install the rotor blades and install, hook up and adjust the rotor brake.

    I am looking forward to testing everything.

    Max was slow getting over his cold today so he is coming tomorrow to fix the body mount. Max is 78.

    He is so good he thinks it will be easy despite the close proximity of many combustible things and challenges with keeping it properly aligned. He has a special small TIG torch and has a scheme to keep everything aligned.

    I could possibly have her flying by Friday evening. Saturday is more likely.

    I had a lot of very talented help and it was fun working with them today.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vance
    replied
    Part of what makes giving flight instruction so much fun is the amazing people who want to learn to fly a gyroplane. I only scratch the surface in my reports.

    The ring gear on The Predatorís pre-rotator came to the end of its service life at 2,261 takeoffs. I carefully measured it and counted the teeth only to find the distributor didnít have any. I cast about on Google and found one at Pep Boys and ordered it from the Pep Boys store in Santa Maria Tuesday 12/11.

    Miracles of miracles the correct starter ring gear for The Predator pre-rotator showed up at Pep Boys today; 12/12 and tomorrow I am hoping to install it and begin reassembling the rotor head to get The Predator airworthy again.

    The Predator also has a broken body mount to repair and Max has agreed to do it tomorrow. It seems no matter how many times I say the body is not structural clients still hoist themselves up our of the seat by pushing on the body leading to failure of the body mount.

    I hope to be flying again by Saturday evening although somehow it always takes longer to put her back together than it does to strip her. She will be ready when she is ready.

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  • loftus
    replied
    Some interesting people. Thanks for the stories Vance.

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  • Vance
    replied
    I am the crazy uncle for my niece Claire so I understand the crazy uncle thing. Everyone should have a crazy uncle and Lillie Lemonís is Jim.

    I have an all-day deal where we fly to San Luis Obispo for lunch and do enough flying to land. Jim wanted to add Lillie and as a flight instructor it is more challenging to address too people with different agendaís.

    Jim is a widely traveled adventurer (crazy uncle) and Lillie Lemon is a talented musician into Indie Electro-Pop. I didnít know what it was so I listened from her Facebook page and I liked it. Lots of energy.

    Jim wanted to find out if he wanted to make the commitment to fly gyroplanes and Lillie was hanging out with crazy Uncle Jim and knew whatever he did would be fun.

    We worked through preflight and the briefing and both asked good questions.

    I took Jim up first and he did well. We had some work to do on the ground reference maneuvers. He seems fearless and took instruction well.

    He wasnít quite ready to land. He had forgotten how to lower his face shield and the wind in the back seat caused his eyes to tear up and coat the inside of his glasses with salty tears. He was also having a little trouble hearing instructions over the intercom.

    Lunch was the next challenge because they were both vegans. Fortunately near the airport is the Natural Cafť so off we went for a nice lunch.

    After lunch it was Lillieís turn and she did as well as any inexperienced gyroplane pilot I have flown with.

    Conditions were not ideal and Lillieís hands became cold enough to lose feeling in them. I had gloves on board but she didnít know to ask and was not comfortable flying numb.

    Jim improved dramatically on his second flight learning to work the face shield and tighten up the helmet strap so he could hear me better. By the end of the lesson I felt he was ready to land and it was a good one with very little coaching and little input from me.

    He was trying so hard he may have forgotten to have fun.

    I hope Jim will be back; he listens well and is fun to instruct.
    1.	Lillie getting her preflight briefing. 2.	Jim getting his preflight briefing. 3.	Jim heading south to the practice area. 5.	South of Santa Maria over California Highway One at 1,300 feet MSL. 6.	Jim getting more comfortable.

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  • Vance
    replied
    It has been a while since I wrote about the fun I have because I have been very busy. I have several stories saved up and will try to finish them up as I wait for paint in Buellton.

    Jelena from Bosnia called me up speaking with a most charming accent and asking for gyroplane flight instruction. She had a FAA student license and that addressed the transportation security authority challenge.

    I never know what to expect when someone tells me they know how to fly a gyroplane. A few have elicited trepidation as I recovered from untidy maneuvers.

    Jelena was great from the start. She listened well and asked good questions. She is fiercely intelligent and it showed in everything she did.

    It was still smoky from the fires.

    Her experience had all been in an MTO Sport and she was happy to fly from the back seat so off we went to the practice area. After very little adjusting to the aircraft and very little coaching from me; she flew to commercial practical test standards and did all the maneuvers well.

    She was a delight to fly with and her friend did not speak English. Jelena is the tall one standing toward the front of The Predator.

    It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
    Jelena's first moments at the controls. Off to the practice area. Jelena is getting the hang of The Predator. Jelena is the tall one toward the front.

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  • Vance
    replied
    The last time I flew with a client I had a shimmy in the nose when he landed with too much speed and dropped the nose a little hard.

    I use dielectric grease as a shimmy damper and some fresh grease took about ten minutes to apply.

    I have a client coming and I always do a maintenance flight before flying with another person.

    We have some rain coming and I could feel it in the air.

    The recent rain has cleaned the air of the smoke from the fires and the air felt fresh and clean on my face.

    The sun was setting and I did two normal landings at less than five knots and decided to test it properly and set her down on the final landing at fifty knots and planted the nose. She rolled out as nice as could be.

    I love the way the airport changes as the sun sets.

    I have yet to find a way to not have fun flying the Predator.

    Even this simple flight felt magical to me.

    The Predator ready to fly The airport is a different place when the sun sets. I turned off the lights.

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  • Kolibri
    replied
    I'm not arguing about the strength of the part, but its application as teeter bearings for such a heavy gyro as the Predator with its 8.5"x30' Sport Rotors.
    That's a much different kind of load than a small helicopter's tail rotor.
    A control load (of, say 50lbs) is much different than a carrying load.

    Yes, the part seems amply strong for the task and won't likely fail/break apart, but that's not my point.
    I suspect that play will develop in the Teflon lining, exhibiting as stick shake.
    Thus, I do not believe that it's a "forever" solution. Not trying to rain on anybody's parade.

    It will be interesting to revisit this 100 or 200 hours hence. Meanwhile, good luck!

    Regards,
    Kolibri

    Leave a comment:


  • gyrojake
    replied
    Originally posted by Kolibri View Post
    Either would be a first in aviation.

    ____
    I looked into this, and, as I suspected, spherical bearings are not meant to be used for teetering.
    It's actually more of a bushing than a bearing. I expect you'll experience some odd wear in them.

    But, I agree with what Vance wrote,
    "Time and testing will tell."
    Well, you need to check your sources!!
    Some Helicopters like the Robinson use them in the tail rotor assembly for feathering and the delta hinge, which teeters at a much higher frequency than our main rotor .
    The mini 500 use them as teeter bearings in the rotor head.
    Your source is flawed ..........................why am I even trying to explain
    Did you even look at the specs?
    14,950 lbs of oscillating radial load.
    That is rated 10x more than the AUW of Vance's machine.
    It's good for 100,000 cycles at 21,000 lbs !!!
    Don't think much will happen under normal or extreme flight conditions,

    Leave a comment:


  • Kolibri
    replied
    they will last forever and will work perfectly.
    Either would be a first in aviation.


    ____
    I looked into this, and, as I suspected, spherical bearings are not meant to be used for teetering.
    It's actually acting more like a bushing than a bearing.
    I expect you'll soon enough experience some odd wear in them.

    But, I agree with what Vance wrote,
    "Time and testing will tell."


    ____
    I think that needle bearings have unfairly received a bad rap in this thread, and another.

    However, Chuck believes them appropriate for teeter towers:


    There is no excuse tor not following standard helicopter practice and using needle roller bearings;
    needle bearing inserts are inexpensive and readily available in appropriate sizes.
    A rotor in flight, Eddie, teeters ~3 degrees each way for a total of 6 degrees in the upper speed range.
    With full compliment needles, thatís more than enough for each roller to overlap its neighborís track; therefore, no brinelling.
    Wonder why someone didnít tell the designers of teetering rotor helicopters such as the Bell-47 and Robinson
    that needle bearings wouldnít work as teeter bearings?

    Leave a comment:


  • Vance
    replied
    Thank you expanding the scope of the thread Jake; nicely explained.

    I didn't know if you wanted me to reveal the specifics so I didnít.

    Everything went together beautifully and to me they look nicer than what I had.

    The apparent changes in the flight characteristics have me puzzled; it is all good.

    I will endeavor to become confused on a higher level.

    I am going to do some more flight testing today and I have a primary student tomorrow.

    If the effect on the trim is the same two up I may not want to go to a linier actuator with a longer throw.

    I am going to work on finding a rotor balancer with a skilled operator.

    I may try some hit or miss centering adjustment just to get a feel for where I am.

    Thank you for helping me to enhance my gyroplane adventure.

    Leave a comment:

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