Status Report:  May 2008

By Drew Fidoe

Drew at Fly In

Transponder and Comms

Operating a transponder and Icom handheld radio together on a common battery with no engine driven charging system has worked out fine, I just recharge the Gel-Cell battery using a battery-maintainer type trickle charger after every third or fourth flight.

I originally had my Icom radio's external power supply fed via a cigarette lighter connection but this proved to be unreliable, and resulted in a NORDO landing one early flight under the direction of the tower light signals.  The Icom radio battery saver is now hard-wired into the power supply system.

Due to the power requirements of my transponder being lower than that of the Icom hand-held radio (both are supplied by the same battery) if the power gets low enough the ICOM will switch off when transmitting.  My volt meter isn't sensitive enough to show this fine line (both were designed for a higher working voltage, engine driven power supply), so I now have options in place in the event that this happens.  One is to shut down the transponder to preserve radio COMs, as well I carry a charged ICOM battery pack in the cockpit.  I have also discovered out that my radio reception will noticeably degrade when my battery power is getting "borderline" low for the ICOM, so I actually have indication of low power before I start losing equipment.  If I recharge after every second day's flying I have no trouble.

I use a Flightcom headset (which is fitted in a leather flying helmet) set up with gel ear-cups which keeps out the wind noise better than my older David Clarke headset fitted in a cloth helmet.   My David Clarke set has an articulated mic covered with a newer foamy...but I get complaints from the tower on my voice quality when flying this headset, and in an open cockpit the wind noise is higher with it's standard ear cups.  The Flightcom set has a flexible boom mic, and is also now fitted with a "warbird" high-noise microphone cover of leatherette-over-foam.  This has improved the voice quality of my transmissions and I am happy with this combination, the leather helmet gives good insulation in winter but gets a bit warm in finer weather.

Latex Paint

To date, with well over a year of wear-and-tear on the airframe and with over 6 months/30 hours flight time the latex paint is holding up well.  I have noted the occasional tiny fleck of paint missing on the latex painted, previously doped wings but these are easy touch ups. 

Where I used the $20 toy paint spray gun (instead of a roller) I probably applied the top-coat a bit thin as in some areas the edges of the camouflage paint feathering is getting slowly scrubbed away from my post flight rub-downs. 

The latex is surprisingly resistant to chemicals, I am currently dealing with a weeping crankshaft nose seal which invariably gets oil onto the fabric, but using DOW "Scrubbing Bubbles" bathroom cleaner removes oil and dead bugs with no ill effects.  A quick spray with the windshield washer fluid after POL clean up indicates whether any surfactants are still on the fabric and requiring extra attention.  Even spilling gasoline on the latex-over-alkyd enamel cowlings isn't a big deal.  The paint does get a bit dehydrated looking where the fuel was but a quick clean with Scrubbing Bubbles removes it, and if required I rub the area down with ArmorAll on completion to rejuvenate the satin sheen back.  I will be working on a comprehensive "lessons learned" to update the latex postings hopefully in the near future.


My Miles Master style one-piece windscreen, made from a single piece of "flat-wrapped" lexan gives me excellent protection as a remarkably draft free cockpit.  It is noticeably larger in area and slightly closer to the pilot than of a stock 'Baby.  My windscreen also sits slightly wider than the cockpit than a stock FB windscreen, a result of it originally having to match a sliding canopy that I removed during the restoration.  This extra inch per side allows me to look over the side without much buffeting, and I have found that as long as the temperature is not below freezing that flying without goggles is very comfortable.  I was planning on changing this to a stock windscreen during a winter refit, but have come to appreciate the utility and simplicity of the current design so it stays!

A-65/75 Engine

I had a to remove a cylinder for overhaul a few hours ago as an exhaust valve started leaking.  Otherwise, besides a weeping oil seal (which I have had no luck with) the engine runs great.  I had the major reciprocating components and crankshaft of this engine static balanced during my overhaul and it is smoooooth. 

Propeller and Flight

The Sensenich wood 72-42 which I have borrowed (replacing my Sensenich wood 70-48) is a fair compromise between climb and speed.  I cruise at about 68 KIAS at 2350 rpm, much slower than 62 knots and the nose starts to raise into slow flight on this airframe.  At full throttle, level and trim, the engine will turn just over 2450 rpm and approximately 74 KIAS, with significant higher fuel consumption than in cruise (and requiring approximately 1/3 throttle more for the additional six knots).  I am satisfied with my cruise speed as the cockpit starts getting a bit windy over 75 knots.  My stall appears to be in the mid-upper '40's.  My best rate of climb is when maintaining 55 KIAS, which is produced with the engine turning a hair under 2300 rpm.  I always wish I had a bit more climb performance to keep pace in the circuit of my busy airport.  Current climb performance is a bit pokey but I do not want to sacrifice any more cruise performance.

I have a glider Airspeed Indicator fitted in Stringbag, which is designed for 0 to 180 knots but with a very large, 1 and 3/4 rotation needle sweep.  I really like this unit is has a decent, readable range for my aeroplane's flight envelope.  Many ASI's that I have seen have maybe a 1/4" of needle range between stall and cruise and are in my opinion a poor choice for a Fly Baby.  I have been told that ASI's designed for helicopters are a good choice for slow speed aircraft as well.

I've discovered an interesting trait on my airframe.  With the aircraft trimmed for "hands off" in cruise, if I place both of my hands up into the slipstream above me Stringbag noses sharply down, not up as I would have suspected.  Weird.

Belly Pan Window

The belly pan window has been pretty cool but I have to remember to look down :)  If I wear bulky clothes it does get obscured, and it has to be cleaned frequently.

Other 'planes

I have recently had the opportunity to conduct some ground trials in a Model A Ford powered Pietenpol Air Camper.  This bird is the short fuselage model built form original 1932 plans and was a very tight fit for a 190 lb, 6'2" flyer, requiring a form of aeroplane yoga to squeeze into and out of the cockpit (no wing trailing edge cut-out).  The pilot is far more exposed than in a Fly Baby...goggles were required even for taxi.  This aeroplane was very "old school" with the radiator directly in front, straight-stack exhaust pipes popping away in plane view asphyxiating the pilot, and the wing pressing down on the pilot's pumpkin.  It is definitely in a different league from the Fly Baby, but this may be an unfair comparison as this particular aeroplane was built faithfully as an "antique replica" to the 1932 Flying and Glider plans and lacks the ergonomics and refinements of most modern Piets.  It did behave well with the tail up :)

The Victoria Fly Baby Flight will soon have another bird flying, C-GVSB belonging to my hangermate, Chuck.  This bird has less than 10 hors TT on the airframe but has been in storage for many years.  The local Fly Baby community (we have a fourth Fly Baby under active construction) has been assisting with has become a rather extensive refit and inspection.  We gave it a weight an balance on Wednesday and then Tom Staples and I took turns trying it out on the taxiway.  It felt familiar but at the same time curiously different from Stringbag. 

This aeroplane has old top-wire Scintilla mags with no impulse, and in spite of a shielded harness magneto noise interferes with radio reception. Also, I HATE starting engines without a magneto impulse coupler.  If anyone has advice on quieting these units...or has a serviceable impulse coupled and shielded magneto (suitable of an A-65) for sale please shoot me a p-mail with details. 


Fly Baby Mk 1a