Gentlemen, start your engines

Last important job is to assemble and pitch the laminated wooden prop. This work of art was beautifully crafted by Brent Thompson. It uses the Precision Prop hardware, but he optimised its scimitar blade shape for the Shadow 582. 

At last, everything is bolted, screwed, glued or wired onto the Shadow microlight. Oil and fuel are in their respective tanks. 

Right, no more procrastinating. Just get on with the engine start. OK, roll the Shadow outside.  Malcolm and George appear like magic and offer encouragement.  Tie the aircraft to a couple of fence posts. 

Bit of mild panic, while the ignition key is searched for! Subconsciously delay a bit longer, by checking a few more bits and pieces. OK, let’s do it. 

After a few pulls, the Rotax 582 fires up easily. A huge relief after all the effort to get to this stage.

Over the next few minutes, we check things over.

  • tacho is reading 5000rpm at fast idle.*
  • handheld Icom A24 VHF radio works well
  • ancient Comtronics intercom has ‘packed a sad’
  • fuel and coolant temp gauges function
  • no response from EGT gauge ** 
  • plunger primer on the dash leaks fuel *^*

Then it’s switch off, push back and go home. It’s been a long hot 4 days.

*Next day my tacho reads only 1000rpm at idle, so it’s clearly a dodgy unit. We temporarily solve the problem by swapping it with the tacho from Murray’s 582 Thruster.

** Reversing polarity of EGT sender wires solves this issue.

*** Tossed out the plunger primer. Too scary to have fuel dripping out!

Final assembly

My wife and I, assisted by Malcolm Swanson, unloaded the Shadow microlight at the Fiordland Aero Club’s hangar at Manapouri Airport.


Over the next few days, I worked on installing the gearbox, radiators, carbs, etc.  My wife helped by gluing the blue closed-cell foam foam padding onto the seat bases/backrests, securing the electrical wiring inside the cockpit and applying the vinyl labels to the instrument panel.

Coming home

Nearly 8 years apart, both these photos are taken at Murray Hagen’s home near Manapouri. 

Murray and his mate, Danie Gouws, built two Shadow B-D kits in his large shearing shed. Murray’s Shadow microlight aircraft first flew in 1989 as ZK-KLH. while Danie’s plane was registered as ZK-TTE (after Tuatapere, the nearest town)

So here it is, the same Shadow, but considerably restored and improved.  Almost everything has been dismantled and re-assembled, with repairs as necessary.

The ‘points’ ignition Rotax 532 has been replaced by a new Rotax 582 with dual CDI system. Larger radiators for better cooling.  Larger footwell for rear passenger. Landing gear uprated from 395kg to 450kg. Extra side windows.

Round ’em up. Move ’em out.

Immediately after our Christmas and New Year holiday with our family at Lake Manapouri, I headed back home to Invercargill.

The aim was to prepare the Shadow for transport 150km to the Manapouri Airport for final assembly, engine start and test flying.

My son patiently fitted the various sensors to the engine and connected a myriad of coloured wires up to the voltage regulator and/or the wiring loom.

I concentrated on miscellaneous tasks, such as fitting seat belts, setting up the pull-start system, mounting the oil injection tank and fabricating a horizontal fuel pump mount.  I also checked the operation of coolant temp sender, thermostat and gauge, and the fuel sender and its gauge. 

Finally the Shadow was loaded onto our yacht trailer for the trip back inland to Manapouri. 

Tanks a lot

The original fuel tank, made from panels of aluminium honeycomb core sandwiched between phenolic skins, was looking a bit sad. It deserved some attention.

The tank’s interior was in good condition, except that the fuel outlet mesh screen (made from a “tea leaf strainer”) had come adrift. However, the exterior seams had some worn areas.  

After careful sanding, I filled any voids with epoxy filler, then glassed each seam. After final finishing, the tank looked much more presentable.

I created a large finger strainer from 0.3mm brass mesh and soldered it into the outlet fitting. Hopefully this will prevent larger bits of rubbish getting into the fuel line and clogging the fine filter.

Exhausting work

It was satisfying to get the new Rotax 582 out of its box and sitting on the Shadow’s engine frame at last. 

But it was only there temporarily, as I took it off and put it on repeatedly while I did a series of jobs before it can be installed properly.

A small change in the 582 crankcase moulding necessitated grinding out two clearance scallops in the rear engine plate.

Next, I custom-made some exhaust mounts, taking care to have muffler tilted to the same angle as the rear bulkhead. The cylinder head mount neatly skirts around the spark plugs and features an access hole for the temperature sender. Stainless bands hold the muffler to its webbed mounting plate. Two LORD rubber mounts will help absorb vibration.  

Lastly, I wanted to align the pull-start cover and re-route the starter cord, so it didn’t rub on the rear hanger tubes. I added a ‘turning’ block to achieve this. 

Now it’s off to Leitch Motorsport, so Barry can weld on the 12 loops which take the 6 springs holding the manifold and elbow ball-joints together.

Canopy windows

new canopy windows for 1989 Shadow ZK-KLHOver the past few weeks, I’ve been able to return to re-building my 1989 CFM Shadow ZK-KLH.

The next task was to make new canopy windows. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source tinted 1.5mm polycarbonate in New Zealand, so had to settle for clear windows. The old windows made good patterns, not only giving me the correct outline shape, but also allowing me to pre-drill the rivet holes.

rear canopy window with twin latches on Shadow ZK-KLHEach rear window had a single central latch which resulted in bent lower tubes, so I opted to replace these with twin latches to securely hold the window closed. I machined new latch axles from solid alloy and filed two ‘flats’ to positively locate each inner lever (i.e. it no longer relies on friction to stop the inner lever from rotating out of alignment). Overall, these new latches are stronger and more secure, but only a few grams heavier.

machined axle of new rear canopy latch (Shadow ZK-KLH)

The rear windows also have a full-length lower tube (with a matching horizontal cut-out in the rear bulkhead), so that the lower rear corner of the window is not floppy. Where each latch is drilled, there is an alloy sleeve to strengthen the tube and reduce the tendency for the axle hole to wear.

PS: You can see the small side windows that were added to the canopy shroud. They will give the rear passenger a better forward view.

Paint and Power

Dec 2014 - painting the Shadow fuselage

Last weekend, the Shadow microlight project took a big step forward towards completion. That occurred when the fibreglass nose cone was glued onto the honeycomb fuselage tub.

Then began the long job of mixing lightweight fairing powder with 2-pot epoxy and carefully filling every hole, crevice and hollow. Once the epoxy has set, I spray on a faint guide coat of colour paint, followed by even more hours of sanding down the filler. The coloured guide coat shows up any imperfections in the surface, so the process needs to be repeated until you’re happy with the smoothness. Since the aircraft is old, I stopped well short of perfection – it will look OK from a distance..

Today I masked up the fuselage, then sprayed an adhesion coat onto the fibreglass nosecone, kevlar side panels and thin plywood canopy shroud. Hopefully that will help the water-based paint to stick well.

A few weeks ago, the new Rotax 582 ‘Blue-top’ engine arrived. It is fitted with oil injection and a by-pass cooling system. This system is an improvement over the 582 ‘Silver-top’ model because it keeps the coolant circulating within the engine block, while the engine is warming up. When the thermostat does open, it diverts hot water to the radiators and closes off the by-pass.

new Streak kitset nearing completion

Tim Walker - Streak 1000px

Recently I had the opportunity to visit some Shadow owners in England  (as I was en-route to the Skyleader factory in the Czech Republic).

I visited Tim Walker near Manchester who is building one of the last wide-body Streak kits to come out of the CFM factory. It’s fitted with a 75hp Rotax 618 engine, carbon-composite main landing gear and a digital cockpit display. It should be exciting to fly.

Since I hope to upgrade some components of my 1988 CFM Shadow microlight (e.g. main landing gear, cooling shroud, etc), I was pleased to see beneath the surface of his Streak,. get close-up photos of construction details and make some measurements.

It was neat to spend time with yet another enthusiastic Shadow owner. I hope that Tim will be flying his Streak soon.

Tim Walker - Streak panel 1000pxTim Walker - Streak elevator 1500px

G-MVAC – the Shadow in my website’s header image

SFC Shadow C-D G-MVACWhat a surprise? When I was in Shadow Flight Centre’s hangar at Old Sarum airfield, I spotted G-MVAC hiding beneath its covers.

This is the very Shadow that I have used for the main header photo on my Fly Micro website.FlyMicro webpage

I love MVAC’s simple colour scheme, with yellow and grey fuselage stripes. Maybe I’ll paint my Shadow in these colours?