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European Ercoupe Newsletter

No. 23 December 2009

Welcome

Dear readers,

Amazing to think that this is the end of not just a year but a decade. I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling their age. Each time I register on a new web site and have to scroll right down the list of years to find my birth year is getting really agonising now.

Anyhow, I of course wish everyone a Happy New Year and a Happy New decade. 2009 has beeen a bad year for many of us. Both Robert and myself lost our medicals for part of the year but have thankfully had them restored. We have to wish all Ercoupers a great 2010, long may your medicals last, your centre spars remain corrossion-free and the weather remain flyable!

Happy Flying,

Mike

Ercoupe news

2009 - Time Fly’s - Ercoupes too

Robert writes: At the end of each calender year, it is a normal procedure to analyze and make a balance sheet of 2009 activities. That is very simple; Mike gave us each month the European flying news that you cannot miss anymore, me too. It is not my point to make a résumé of all the nice flying and friendly meetings we had or we missed. You only have to read again the twelve “Newsletters” and you will know. My year was shit, but I did a lot of driving, which is not my primary hobby.

Now I understand how it is possible to have a wonderful Ercoupe in a hangar and not using it as much as I wish to. The 86 days of medical punishment during the best period of the year kill’s me nearly. But how was your flying year? It could always be better, 2010 will be the smashing flying year of all, I wish. If you have a non enthusiast fly-minded wife, send me a mail.

Anyhow if we cannot fly with this terrible weather, why not to imagine one!!

Suppose I depart from Headcorn UK with destination Antwerp, what are the options. “Do you think, Antwerp is a difficult airport to fly to”?

1st route: Headcorn - Dover VOR – Konan (mid Channel) – Ostend – Costa VOR – Nicky VOR – Antwerp.

This route is the most direct and nicest one, and for me the easiest about radio communications, and beautiful if the weather permit to see the landscape. First the Dover cliffs (Wonderful), the North Sea (smooth flying), Belgian coast (Typical), the river Schelde estuary (a must), endless flat Holland and finally the industrial port of Antwerp. Are you already not ashamed to sit reading this instead to be in your Coupe flying!

About the radio for this route; from Headcorn you have London-Info until Konan (mid Channel), then Ostend-Approach until Costa-VOR (Knokke), afterwards Brussels-Info until Nicky-VOR, finally Antwerp-Tower who guides you kindly on a runway where you can land and take off 3 times before the end. The flight over the Channel (48 minutes) is not a good idea if you do it for the first time, or if you are not visual with the French coast in Dover. Don’t forget to put on your life jacket; you need it when you land for you souvenir photo.

2nd route: Headcorn – Dover VOR – Calais – MAK NDB – Nicky VOR – Antwerp.

That looks a good idea too, only 23 minutes Channel; you will admire backwards the nice white Dover-cliffs and forwards the French-coast. If you don’t see one of those coasts you chose the wrong date for your trip, fly back from where you came.

Arrive over Calais you steer straight to MAK-NDB (Belgium) afterwards Nicky-VOR and Antwerp.

The radio procedures are simple, London-Info, mid Channel Calais-Tower, and Brussels-Info from the Belgian border until Nicky-VOR, finally Antwerp-Tower. This route is simpler and easier if the visibility is not so perfect CAVOK (I mean the real CAVOK). But sorry you miss all the typical Belgian and Dutch landscapes, a real shame, only small flat green farmer’s gardens. 

Perhaps I have to explain a little more concerning the Ostend and Antwerp approach.

Ostend is a piece of cake; first you have the Ostend-Approach, please call before you enter the Control Zone, they hate you if you fly already in their territory without contact. On the Ostend airport (the sea side), we have well kept remains of the Atlantic wall, with real anti aircraft mortar and all the rest, so be careful to be kind to the Ostend-Approach, or you life jacket will be useful. Good, Ostend-Approach give you a transponder squawk and they are happy, only tell them your intentions, and you will ear how friendly they can be. Even they wish you a good flight when you leave the Control Zone. So where is the problem?

For Antwerp you have to be a little bit more prepared; from Nicky-VOR you call immediately Antwerp Tower, If the runway is “29” those nice guys will give you reference points before landing. Take your VFR Jeppesen map and find the approach-waypoints “Rupel” and “Konti” it is south of Antwerp. Put those waypoints in your GPS then you are save, if you don’t have those waypoints tell them “I am not familiar with your airport” or “Ercoupe”, then they know we have to assist him, and you can fly or direct on “Final” if it is runway “11” or “Downwind” with runway “29”. Easy and simple, you don’t think, I fly a lot to Antwerp and build up some experience.

Because this flight is imaginative, I prefer the real ones, and hope to write soon a real juicy one. Perhaps, and I hope, you are now convinced that an International trip is simple and easy, just do it you will feel the enormous satisfaction and share it with all of us “Coupe Lovers”.

Sorry for the French and German Coupers, I could do the same fake flight for you, but I think the problem is Antwerp Airport, and that is the same for everybody.

Last point before I wish you all a Merry Xmas and happy New-Year 2010.

I was looking at my radio controlled clock (I like the accurate time), and realize that each movement of 1 second on the clock will not come back (that’s the same with all clocks). This pushes me to make a personal flying list for 2010 to be sure not missing one; I bought a wall planning calendar only for my trips, clever!

2010 is sooner than you expect, we will have the opportunity to enjoy nice flying and meetings.

You will be advised in the next “Newsletters” concerning all the possible meetings,

“WE WANT YOU”, just do it.

Prettige feestdagen en een gelukkig Nieuwjaar
Joyeux Noël et meilleurs Voeux.
Frohe Weihnachten und gutes neues Jahr.
Merry Christmas and happy New-Year.

Robert, OO-PUS

Nearly an Ercoupe Floatplane!

Jim McMeekan writes: Here’s some pics you might like for the newsletter, one shows a man in a boat and yes he’s towing a Cessna behind him. You can see the hangar at the Ulster Flying Club at Newtownards, this photo was taken around early summer 1982.

Newtownards airfield is only 8 feet amsl and is built on reclaimed land at the Northern end of Strangford Lough.  A combination of wet weather and a very high tide led to a breach of the tide bank separating the airfield from the lough.  On the day in question I received a call from the club saying the hangar had been flooded.  I jumped into my car and set off to the airfield not knowing what to expect hoping the flooding may only be a few inches, not enough to damage my Aircoupe hangared there.  As I neared the airfield my heart sank as I saw the road leading to the club was flooded to about 3 feet.  I parked the car, donned a pair of borrowed waders and walked the half mile to the hangar.

I will never forget the heart-breaking sight that greeted me in the hangar - there was my beloved Aircoupe submerged with just the wingtips, canopy, upper fuselage and fins sticking out of the water.  I wasn’t the only one - other aircraft owners began to arrive along with the local media to survey the damage.  Nothing could be done that day so I returned home feeling sure the salt water damage would be too great and my pride and joy would have to be scrapped.

A couple of days passed and eventually the flood subsided.  I did my best to flush out the remaining salt water, mud and silt from the aircraft using hoses and brushes, but at this stage I didn’t hold out much hope of ever flying in her again.  I soon had contact from the insurance adjustors confirming my worst fears, the Aircoupe was to be scrapped and I would receive £ 5,000 in return (it was 28 years ago, worth more now).  I enquired what exactly would be happening with the airframe and they said it would be sold on as scrap metal.  “How much for?” I asked.  “Make us an offer” they replied, so we negotiated a price £ 2,500 and I bought the Aircoupe back off them.

Now I had my Aircoupe and some cash to try and get her back in the air.  An engineer friend of mine lent me a hand to change the oil and flush out the fuel tanks with fresh fuel.  He also cleaned the mags and electrical components.  I was delighted when I pulled the starter and the mighty C90 burst into life!  Of course the airframe and interior was going to need some sort of treatment before they could be considered airworthy but there was nowhere available in Northern Ireland as the small number of aircraft engineering facilities in the country were busy with the other aircraft.  I  found out that a place at Ronaldsway airport in the Isle of Man could undertake the work, but this would mean flying the ‘Coupe across the Irish sea to Ronaldsway, about a forty minute flight.  My engineer friend gave the Aircoupe a good look over and deemed her fit to make the short flight over for the maintenance she needed.  I enlisted another pilot to accompany me and arranged for a couple of friends to fly alongside us in a Cessna 172 and then ferry us back to Newtownards.  I can well remember feeling slightly uneasy as I took off for that first flight since the flooding incident; there was a strange smell of sea and mud which filled the cockpit and as we coasted out over the sea I kept imagining the engine was running a bit rough.

The flight went well until we reached the Isle of Man coastline when the radio packed up, but I certainly wasn’t going to turn back now.  My co pilot noticed a CB had popped and thankfully on pushing it in the radio worked again, not a good sign though.  With the aircraft safely delivered we hopped into the Cessna back to Newtownards.

A couple of weeks later I was back over to the Isle of Man to  pick up the Aircoupe and was most pleased with the work done.  All of the interior metal surfaces had been coated in a special wax coating, including all of the structure inside the wing and fuselage and I was assured any weight penalty resulting from the coating would be minimal.  Also I was relieved the smell had disappeared from the cockpit!

The flight back to Newtownards airfield was great, with the ‘Coupe flying just as good as ever.  Soon after that the council reinforced the tide bank to prevent a reoccurrence of the flooding, and thankfully it seems to have worked.  That all happened some 28 years ago and I am still flying the Aircoupe.  Much more fun than a boat! 

Regards Jim McMeekan.

Trip report

Boxing Day flying

Boxing Day, December 26th, is traditionally a day in England when you go out and either partiicpate or watch some kind of sporting activity. "Beautiful flying day" I said to my wife Loraine at breakfast. "OK", she said, "you can go as long as you are back by midday". I was speechless, not expecting marital permisssion to get up in the ai ron a Bank Holiday, but this I was not going to miss. I checked the weather (clear, 220/30 at 2,000 feet), NOTAMs (couldn't find any!), had my bag packed and flying jacket on all within 5 minutes.

Now, the weather in the UK, the same as much as Western Europe, had been terrible for the past few days, with heavy snow, freezing weather and so on. But most of the snow had gone from around our house. The big question - how was it at Bourn?

When I got there the place was deserted. I drove down 18 runway into the wind and it was clear, but the taxiway was covered in ice at one end. Thankfully the other end was almost clear. The I drove to the hangar and all was clear! I pulled G-HARY out of the hangar, by hands nearly freezing to the handle.

By habit I called "clear prop" although there was no one around for miles. Only idiots were out of their homes on the day after Xmas. Immediately my old faithful C90 burst into life. No chance of a radio check - no one was around. Just a short run down the runway and I was up in the air. Once I reached 300 feet I just soared into the air with the strong wind into the clear air. The visibility was excellent and not a cloud in the sky.

I tried calling Cambridge but no response. I called for the Amercians at Lakenheath but no one. In the end I just tuned the radio to London Information, just in case. But the air was clear and compeltely deserted, a real pleasure!

I headed to the North and passed over Oakington disused, Bourn was a satellite of Oakington during the last war. Now it is going to be turned into a new town to cope with the large population growth around Cambridge. Then soon I was over Histon, the village where I live. I did a steep orbit close to my house, later asking Loraine if she saw me. "I heard a plane making a noise at the back of the house - was that you?" she asked. Nice that she shares my interest in aviation.

Then I headed North over the Fenlands, the flat areas of Cambridgeshire that are at sea level and extend to the Wash. The old and new Bedford rivers flood together in the winter, creating a wide flooded area. In spring when it is drained the soil is very rich and produces grazing for in turn very fat lambs!

 

 

 

I then took advantage of no one being around to fly over RAF Wyton and then Alconbury disused. The latter used to be a U-2 spyplane base. A work colleague back in the 1980's knew one of the U-2 pilots, and the key fact I remember was 9 hour missions. My bladder ensures no "mission" exceeds 2 hours so I am sure the U-2 was suitably equiped!

 

 

Finally I turned at Brampton racecouse near Huntingdon. Here one of the Boxing Day race meetings was to be held, and I could see the queues of traffic already.

Amazing to be the only aircraft in the sky on such a beautiful day. London Information took two calls during the 40 minutes I was airbourne, both weather reports requested by Monarch Airways and Jersey Airlines flights.

The weather has been terrible since Boxing Day, so I am rightly pleased I got my brief flight in. With no airfields open a fly-in is not possible. But maybe next year we have to arrange an airbourne rendevous for Ercoupes!!!

Mike

Ercoupe Videos

Here is the most amazing flying Ercoupe model taking its maiden flight!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTxrFVB-FPw and then http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULxm8Cue6Eo

And of you want to see a real Ercoupe shot with top quality professional kit watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-RXph2MG64

A New Year story

Mike writes: This story dates back to 1997, but I thought you might like it.

The last passenger of the year

Trafalgar Square, all-night parties, local pub, in front of the TV.  These are the traditional ways of spending New Year’s eve, but then there is always something new.  Like passing from the old to the new at 37,000 feet over the Alps.

Trying to arrange a business trip to Israel had been fraught with problems - every time I could go, the Israelis were in Europe or the USA.  Then we hit on New Year.  With the rest of the world on vacation, everyone was going to be back at base in Israel.  “Do you mind me not spending New Year with you?” I asked my wife.  “I can get an early night” was the reply.  Encouragement, but hardly a compliment.

So, I ended up on BA 660 departing at 22.40 from Terminal One at Heathrow.  This is a stupid time to fly at the best of times, the very last flight of the day.  The terminal is deserted.  For once you can get immediate attention in any of the stores that now make Terminal One more of a shopping centre than most towns.  But at this time of night you feel conspicuous just walking through.

The Executive Club lounge is where I’m heading.  This is stranger still.  At this time of night there are more staff than business passengers.  The flight to Tel Aviv leaves so late BA offers a supper in the lounge so that you can skip the meal on the flight and sleep.  Yet with just a few mad passengers choosing to travel on New Year’s eve, the staff still interrogate those who venture to the buffet “do you have an invitation to eat” I’m asked.  There is enough food to keep the 10 passengers in this vast expanse of Executive Club lounge fed for a week, but they are only doing their job.

Then at 10.05 comes the announcement that the hovering staff have been waiting for: “BA flight 660 is now ready for boarding at Gate 21”.  Within seconds the buffet of smoked guinea fowl, reindeer and grilled salmon (Kosher food available - please ask) is whisked away, tables are dismantled, liqueur and wine disappear.  A minute later the other passengers have left, and there I am sitting in the vast lounge all on my own.  As a regular business traveller, I do not even bat an eyelid at the first call for a flight.  Oh no, strictly the last call before my bum lifts from the seat.  After 5 minutes the staff have cleared everything.  Short of stacking the chairs on the table, the hint is that it’s time for me to go.  Oh well, maybe I should humour them!

Its a long walk through the terminal to Gate 21.  There is no-one else to be seen in the building.  Eventually I reach the gate, still 30 minutes before the flight is due to depart.  “Good evening Mr Willis”  is the greeting from the gate agent.  “How do you know who I am?” I enquire.  “Mr Willis, everyone else for this flight has checked in at the gate, so it was an easy guess.  This makes you BA’s last passenger of the year”. 

I was last to board, but that is also a Willis tradition.  When faced with hours of sitting down, a few extra minutes standing up I count as one of life’s luxuries.

But the big dilemma was, when was New Year?  We took off at 10.50, so it was after 11pm when we left UK air space.  By then we were over mainland Europe, where it was after midnight.  New Year had not occurred, as there had been no 12 PM.  Oh well.  I don’t mind missing out on a celebration, but only if I can drop one year from my age.

PS  The bloody BA Captain has just woken us up to wish us Happy New Year at 12 PM GMT.  The cabin crew are kissing each other in the galleys.  You don’t see female cabin crew kissing each other in the TV ads.  Oh well, something to fantasize about when I get back to sleep.  Happy New Year.

Fly-Ins

UK EMU's

These monthly Ercoupe Meet-Ups are designed as an excuse to fly! There is a separate email list consisting of UK owners and known Ercoupe enthusiasts who are updated 1 week and 1 day ahead so you know who will be there (weather providing). If anyone else would like to be included on the EMU email list then please let me know. mike@ercoupe.co.uk

January 2010 2-3, North Coates - The Famous Brass Monkey Fly-In
Each year North Coates runs this event for hardy souls. For more details their web site is http://homepage.ntlworld.com/northcoatesflyingclub/index.html

Links

Ercoupe mailing lists

For a continuous discussion on Ercoupes, or a daily digest, do register for these Ercoupe mailing groups:

Social and general content http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ercoupe-flyin/
Technical information http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ercoupe-tech/

Ercoupe Web sites

Ercoupe Owners Club www.Ercoupe.org
Robert Rombouts' site www.ercoupe-be.net
Harmut's Ercoupe Maintenance & repair site www.ercoupe.info
Ernst Viehweger's German Ercoupe web site www.viehweger.org/deutsch/fliegen/erco-0.htm
Mike Willis' site www.ercoupe.co.uk
SoCal Ercoupe Owners site www.calcoupers.org/ 
Ercoupe photo album www.Ercoupe.net 
Ed Burkhead's site http://edburkhead.com/Ercoupe/index.htm

Don’t forget – any contributions to the next newsletter very welcome – email them to me at mike@ercoupe.co.uk