Lightweight elevators

lightweight elevatorsThe Skyleader factory sent out a set of lightweight elevators for the GP One microlight. Made of carbon-fibre with a foam sandwich skin, they are torsionally-stiff and have a very smooth surface. The 6 hinge pins were very challenging to fit because of the narrow aperture along the hinge line. But with some ‘needle-nose plier’ ingenuity  and plenty of patience on my part, they went together nicely.

The new elevators, and last year’s vertical tail unit upgrade, mean that the GP One can avoid any possible flutter up to 195 knots (360 kmph). A lot faster than I’d want to go!

Carbon-fibre radiator louvres

cooling intake 2 - grilleTo help reduce the coolant temperature of the Rotax 912 UL engine on the Skyleader GP One light sport aircraft, I fitted a series of carbon-fibre the cowling air intake. They proved to be very effective at scooping air and directing it through the side-mounted radiator, reducing the temperature by over 20 degrees C.
They work a treat and look great.

Wings on and start the engine

GP One @ Southern Wings flight school 2015-11-08 1500pxBack in June, two staff from the Skyleader factory traveled to NZ and updated SkyFreedom Aviation’s GP One to the latest specs. This included making significant changes to the exhaust, radiator and cowling layout.

As they left to fly back to the Czech Republic, they asked me to look after the assembly, engine run and initial flight. After completing some unfinished tasks and adding some extra features such as storage compartments, a friend and I transported the GP One to the Invercargill Airport where we assembled the light sport aircraft in the Southern Wings hangar.

On a miserably wet afternoon, I tied the GP One down and did an engine run. The temps and pressures came up OK.

I had to wait a couple of days for the weather to improve before flying the GP One.

More info at:  Assemble aircraft and run engine

Luggage space for LSA

GP One cockpit 2015-11-08 1500pxThe Skyleader GP One which is SkyFreedom Aviation’s NZ demonstrator only had a single storage compartment, so that it was a challenge to pack and access all the items required for long cross-country trips. I have designed and manufactured a series of additional storage spaces to make the GP One more user-friendly.

First up was a lightweight carbon tray in the centre console. This is handy for mobile phone, pens, sunglasses, etc.  The headset sockets are also recessed into this tray, so that the plugs are less likely to be bumped.

The second addition is a 50 litre luggage locker below the existing locker. It fits bulkier items such as jackets, daypack, lifejackets, etc. I used the hi-tech epoxy resin infusion process to manufacture it, which means that the new carbon/foam locker only weighs slightly more than the original fibreglass locker.

More info at: Luggage space

New exhaust, cowling and radiator for GP One

GP One radiator mount 2015-11-08 1500pxWhen the Skyleader factory staff returned to the Czech Republic in late June (after a very busy 10 day visit), there were a few unfinished tasks on SkyFreedom Aviation’s GP One demonstrator. Over the next few months, I worked steadily on completing these tasks.

Since the new exhaust has been re-located further aft, the under-slung radiator had to be shifted. It is now mounted vertically on the right side of the engine compartment, with ducting built into the lower cowling. It took some interesting welding and fabrication to align the radiator with the ducting and available mounting points.

More info and photos at: Exhaust and radiator changes

Pitching a Rans S6

Rans S-6 ZK-LDB (Rangiora)

I helped a Rans S-6 owner to adjust the propeller pitch on his microlight.  It was not going very fast in cruise mode, yet it would take off quite quickly. He figured something was not quite right.

He desperately wanted some more speed before he convoyed long distance to Rangiora with a Tecnam ‘Eaglet’ and my Skyleader ‘GP One’, both of which cruised easily at 100 knots.

We checked the blade pitch using a bubble protractor and found up to 1/2 degree difference between blades. Then we carefully adjusted it to have one degree more pitch. The result was pleasing – an increase of over 5 knots in cruise airspeed (now 85 knots at 5000rpm revs), but only a small decrease in take-off/climb performance.

Read about the trip

Don’t sit on my Bantam nose. Oops – too late!

Bantam ZK-FTJWhile doing a factory upgrade on the tail fin of the Skyleader GP One, one of the local U-Fly instructors asked me to repair a nasty crack in the nose cone of his Bantam microlight. A customer had sat down on it while waiting in the hangar, causing it to collapse under the abnormal load. A big crack had appeared in the fibreglass.

Since I already had all my glassing tools and supplies on hand, it was very quick to sand, mask and glass the crack. The owner was delighted to have a professional job done, instead of attacking it himself with a ‘surfboard repair kit’ from the local hardware store.

carbon VTU upgrade

VTU transition piece glued (GP One 8005005 S) 2 smlThe Skyleader factory asked me to fit an upgrade to the VTU (vertical tail unit) of SkyFreedom Aviation’s GP One demo aircraft.

The beautifully-made carbon and foam sandwich parts duly arrived after New Year. I fitted them under the supervision of Bill Barber (of Snark fame) and Callum Smith (Twenty24 Aircraft Maintenance). The extra ribs and the transition piece connecting the boom to the leading edge of the VTU have hugely stiffened the whole tail.

More info at

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