Motorfloater News...
by Mike Sandlin ................................ Last edit: October 19, 2017

October 18, 2017....I forgot the camera yesterday, so I'll put in this recent shot of me flying around with one spark plug and the rectangular horizontal stabilizer, soon to be triangular if it works.

I flew four touch and go landings and one full stop, all a little high but on the narrow runway (!) so I didn't pick up many thorns.

At one point I did a full back snatch on the throttle, a quick move from cruise engine speed down to idle, something I seldom do since quick throttle moves may cause a marginally running engine to quit (I did this because I wanted to make a radio call without too much background noise). Usually I would push the nose down to maintain airspeed, but this time I was staying off the stick to see the plane's trim response. The response was a sedate but large change of pitch, from nose up to nose low, at the lowest of flying speeds. I just sat there and observed, wallowing at low speed until the trim caught up with the power change and stabilized the nose angle. On ordinary ultralights with bigger engines this would probably have been even more dramatic.


October 16, 2017....The composite ribs are complete on my new prototype triangular horizontal tailplane for the Bloop 4. This part as shown is ready for fabric covering.

October 14, 2017 ...Thorns are stuck in my tire! After two touch and goes and one full stop landing, all on the gravel runway, I still get thorns, although there was no sign of any tire losing air. The tire not in the picture does not have thorns, so I think I picked these up during the last landing when my left tire ran out into the field for a while. It's hard to keep the tires on a 15 foot wide runway when your wheelbase is eight feet (notice the clearance from the grass margin in the photo). A new precision event has been added to my flying repertoire: keep the tires on the runway or risk a flat!

This last summer I have been taking off and landing in an open field, next to the runway but not really with any precision ground track to follow. Landing along a particular straight line is something I haven't done often. I may have lost some of my lateral accuracy and centerline tracking skills.

Landing  a  two axis plane in a crosswind doesn't make for the best centerline tracking, either. When you touch down in a crab angle, the wheels will be trying to roll you into the wind, and even if you get the nose down fast and keep rigorously steering down the runway, there is still likely to be some residual offset to the side.


Bloop 2 has another engine failure, followed by an airport landing. Here is Glen H.'s report on a flight of Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.

Thought that I would go flying this afternoon. Bloop 2 was flying well until  the second touch and go. Then the engine started surging between 7900 and 8300 RPM while climbing.Then on the down wind leg it began losing power. The engine just stopped almost at the East end of runway 27. I was only a hundred feet up off of the field elevation. I wasn't sure that I could make it over the creek bed and brush. Bloop 2 did great! a dead stick landing with no damage to pilot or airframe on the South West side of runway 27. I did bounce a little, but that was it.

Upon landing I tried to restart the engine, but I couldn't pull the engine through with the rope starter, I went back to the engine and tried to move the prop. it wouldn't move until I rotated it backward. It felt like there was something inside the engine scraping something. I walked the plane back to the hanger (Bloop 2 was very sad) and found that I could rotate the prop with one hand and that there was very little compression. Next I removed the spark plug. It looked good, Good color no fouling and clean and a good gap.  I removed the head expecting to see a hole in the piston. There was no hole, but the cylinder wall had a white mark on it, but no scoring, I took off the intake silencer expecting that the air cleaner had plugged the carburetor throat, but it was fine. By then it was getting dark so I buttoned up everything and went home.

My preliminary analysis is that a piston ring broke in the engine causing the loss of compression which caused the engine to quit.


On Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, there was another club flying engine failure, a paramotor went down a few miles to the west and was retrieved by his companions driving out to get him. Right now the paramotor engines are not looking good.

Here's a video of a VJ-24 demonstration flight, low and slow, turning back and flying sideways, nothing spectacular, just the things that can be done at a low wing loading. A Bloop or Zigolo would probably look very similar to this. The ailerons and rudder look very decoupled, I suspect this is an example of a rigorous three axis airplane that requires a high degree of coordinated flying skill.

Link to video of motorized Volmer VJ-24 doing low turns and slow flight, 2016

October 2, 2017.....One of my tires has been needing inflation before operation on the last few flying days, the thorns are coming back and I will need to do more tire maintenance. Today, while doing some late afternoon "touch and go" landing practice, one wheel felt really clunky during a takeoff, I figured that it had lost inflation and I could see that the tire was coming off the rim. Of course I still had to go around the pattern land on it, but that was okay because motorfloater landing speed is so slow (the headwind was helpful). I took the wheel off and brought it home for repair, I'm switching to a more thorn resistant tire (no rain gutters on centerline), and I will put in fresh slime (sealant fluid), maybe that will allow more reliable operation and less air pumping. Regrettably, I may have to go back to operating off runways instead of the open fields, at least until the seasonal rains have softened up the thorns.

September 30, 2017....Last week, the Bloop 4 sits while Bloop 2 flies touch and go practice patterns.

The simplicity of the Bloop makes for a very fast pre-flight inspection, reducing the daily burden of preparation. No ailerons, flight instruments, electrical system, brakes or ground steering to check, no windows to clean, just a quick walk around and away you fly. (I did promise to write up a pre-flight check list, but I haven't done it yet, it's still coming).

September 27, 2017....Down on the border, I'm looking for the area where the border wall prototypes will be built. I think it's that cleared strip ahead, I couldn't see anything else suitable unless it's far to the east where the terrain is quite rugged. When they actually start building I'll return and try to confirm my guess. 

Three pilots flew the Bloop 4 this afternoon. One weighed 185lbs. (the other two weighed 150lbs. or so) and sat full back in the newly placed back rest (a couple of inches farther back than before). The balance check was performed and passed, but that does not preclude the weight being pretty far forward, I'm counting on the new seat position to shift the weight back. Flight reports were good, so I will call this progress.

September 18, 2017...Cloudy and mild on a Monday morning, I flew some more final approaches at trim speed, slower than usual. This works out as long as you're willing to dive down to the runway from a height of about a wing span or more, just to get a little extra speed to be able to level out on the runway instead of bouncing. Headwind helps a lot getting down, since the plane tends to glide a long way down the field at low speeds. Goodby summer!

September 14, 2017.....Diving down the hillside and the ever popular one wheel active Wednesday afternoon with windy conditions.

August 31, 2017....The photo suggests today's investigation: easing off
on the elevator control stick to find out how much can be done using just the pitch trim. This trim is a bungee cord holding the bottom of the control stick forward, keeping the plane slow since the natural trim of the plane would be to speed up without it. It is set for a satisfying cruise speed and is not adjustable in the air.

At cruise engine speed the trim is firm and can fly the plane unless the air is bumpy.

On takeoff the trim is not usable, it levels the nose and suppresses the climb. You need to hold the nose up a little with the stick to get up.

On the landing approach the trim is a bit nose down and slow, not too bad except that you have a high descent rate and not enough airspeed to do a big flare, so when you reach the ground you bounce. However, if you fly the pattern with extra airspeed (good for control and stability anyway) down into the ground skim (a couple of feet off the ground) you can gradually let the stick come back to the trim point and then leave it there, and the plane will land smoothly at trim speed. This is a method I plan to be using to keep from being so tail down right after the tires reach the ground.

On the runway, while hopping and scooting in a slight cross wind condition, I felt unstable frequently when the tail was down. Moving my weight back ( the recent seat change) has probably made the plane less stable for ground rolling.

The Bloop 4 motorfloater flying video:

Bloop 4 Slow Flying #2

August 24, 2017....The Bloop is under power but not moving! I am tethered by a long line (about 60 feet) to a ground anchor while operating the engine and flight controls. The forces of balance and alignment are supplied by the propeller wake on the tail surfaces and the tether line pulling on the tail.

Here in the Bloop 4 I am performing a simulated ground roll and flight without actually moving. This is a training and orientation idea, so the pilot can operate all the controls and have them respond while not actually having to steer the plane.
With a little ear protection an instructor could be standing right next to the pilot, providing guidance.

Tethered operation is not the same as ground rolling or flight, the throttle setting has too much influence on pitch angle, but sustained operation is fairly easy and all the controls are doing what they should do. A more elaborate harness that tethers the plane at the same level as the engine might  produce more realistic results. Drills on a tether might be a good starting point for a transitioning pilot who wants to know what a motorfloater feels like, although once again the ground operation is more difficult than actually flying.

This method will work best for a two axis plane like this one. If there were ailerons they wouldn't be doing anything.

For clarity I used some photo enhancement to make the tether line more visible.

August 23, 2017.....Here is the new Bloop 4 setup that I flew with this morning (compare to photo farther down). Using the green seat cushion, I'm seated about as far back as I have ever been. To the side I'm looking out behind the wing struts. In flight I don't notice that I have lost some downward field of view, but I have.
The stylish re-curved control stick is useful for holding the stick full forward (at the very beginning of the flight) without changing my hand grip.
The throttle quadrant has been re-mounted several inches farther back and is easier to operate in this position.

In flight the effects of being as far back as the balance procedure will allow seem to be benign. I expect to fly slower since the plane will trim out at lower speeds. I usually establish my flying speed/attitude by easing off the stick, letting the plane settle, and then maintaining that speed and attitude. If that seems fast it may be time to re-tension the stick trim bungee. I could use an airspeed indicator, but let us not plunge headlong into new technology without thoughtful restraint.

On takeoff I was tending to hold the nose down too far because of the unfamiliar hand position. I'm learning that flight control is very much influenced by assuming familiar hand and foot positions and motions.

July 26 , 2017....When Floyd F. flies the Bloop, I get to see my airplane from a new angle. The takeoff can be alarmingly slow and with a high nose angle, but it's all normal. At full throttle the stick can be held full back and nothing much happens. The stick is not way back in this photo, you can see that the elevator is not much raised.

Floyd and I are practicing for the fly-in, doing demo flights with good posture. I did an engine off landing, he did a low pass at full throttle (we are careful not to call this a high speed pass, it isn't, you have plenty of time to watch the Bloop as it floats by).

We are flying from the grass instead of the graded runway, it's soft and clean, we don't leave a cloud of dust and grit when we roll through the flowers. The ground squirrels are digging craters in the far end of the field, however, so we will have to be careful if we are rolling in that area.

July 8 , 2017....Some bird in distress has perched on my cables and splattered my wing, but that's not what this photo is really about. Rather than fly with an altimeter, I use the local peaks as altitude indicators in order to stay out of restricted airspace. I am about level with the peak in the picture, and jet liner territory doesn't start until about a thousand feet above that, so I'm good.

I'm about two thousand feet above my take off, at mid point in a cross country flight. I thought I was following a trio of paramotors and might catch up to them, but they went somewhere else. In a jacket and hiking shorts I was a little warm most of the time, but lower down, near the field, the air was much cooler and refreshing.

June 27, 2017....Even when I fly for fun on a warm morning, there's usually some kind of goal. Today's fun is a turn around over a high peak in the back country. I see places where I could land and even takeoff again, but being stuck there in a damaged plane would be inconvenient, so I just look. The elevator control stick is unattended for best picture taking, so this is where I test the trim setting.

I'm testing a simplified tail skid, one of the very rare design changes that might make the plane both lighter and simpler. Not very much lighter or simpler, but at least contrary to the usual trend.

The Bloop 2 now has an off the shelf emergency parachute system (unlike mine which has a home made cover bag). This is a paraglider system, the cover bag attaches with snap hooks and has a small storage bag with a transparent top. This is an ordinary hand deployed setup, a bag inside a bag. The outer cover (as seen in the photo) is a diaper flap system that falls open when the red handle is pulled, so the chute is then held by the pilot's hand in its deployment bag and can be thrown or dropped.

I like that stylish and comfortable swept back control stick, made from an offset walking cane sold at Walmart. Contrary to this, Bloop 4 uses a straight control stick just to demonstrate simplicity.


May 24, 2017.....Floyd Fronius is in the high seat warming up for an instrumented flight. We are both continuing to search for good ways to get up into the seat, it's a challenge for our limited flexabilities.  After his first flight with the vortex generator fins, Floyd commented that the low speed control seemed good. We flew, now how do we get the data out of the instrument (Flytec 6015)? We're working on it.

Just after touchdown my landings have been a little unstable lately, and I suspect it's due to a confluence of the vortex generator effects and my bad piloting habits. I think I'm landing slower and more nose up than before (good), and when the wheels are first on the ground I tend to keep steering (also good) but I don't do anything in pitch, I just sit there (nose high) when I should be rotating the nose down immediately to get stable in ground roll. I'll try to do better soon.

April 25, 2017.....Moving out to the runway, I push on the tailskid, rolling along.

Below left, the static balance of the Bloop allows sitting on the nose, convenient for raising or lowering the tail. A breeze will sometimes bring the tail down, bouncing on the tailskid.

Below right, I relax in my front row seat to watch airport activity.

Today I flew three patterns in mild wind conditions. With the vortex generator fins I seem to be lifting off and touching down at lower airspeed than before (no fins). I seem to notice more instability from the wheels in the cross wind than before. It may be that the lower airspeed has reduced the authority of my yaw stability and control, or perhaps the effect of the crosswind is amplified by the lower airspeed (a left crosswind becomes more left the slower you go.) Now, when I land in a crosswind, my nose is way up in the air,  and I have to do substantial rotation at low speed to get the nose down into a stable rolling attitude. The two axis procedure may have to emphasized: don't linger, set the nose low as soon as the tires are on the dirt.

Bloops in a row, before the morning club meeting. They're tied down to a cable so they don't get blown away like tumbleweeds when the turboprops start up.

March 14, 2017...
Updated Bloop 4 drawings will soon be posted, to cover the new smaller vertical stabilizer, simplified tail skid attachment, and to show just the current set of wheels. The updated drawings will have new dates (isn't that what updated means?) and the newest zip files will have the highest numbers, as always.

Why taxi when you can just take a calm, quiet walk? Rolling the plane is easy,
makes the narrow spots a lot easier to deal with, and saves your engine time for flying.

Here I am flying at a more or less normal pitch attitude (close to having the nose level), in a slight left turn.

The paved runway can be seen running visually from my knee to my chin. I  usually land there in the lower right to upper left direction when I use the pavement, but normally I'm on the dirt strip, the edge between the light and dark fields leading up to my nose. I have to approach that strip over the scrubby hill to the right, which is actually pretty steep. My major
goal there is to come down close to the hill and use as much of the runway as I can. Without a headwind, about a third of my runway is unusable because of the need to maintain clearance from the hillside. This is why I say if I was to add more controls, it wouldn't be ailerons, it would be airbrakes, to allow steeper approaches.

Floyd flew out to a local mountain top, looking south toward Mexico at the bottom of the canyon. The outskirts of Tijuana can be seen off to the right, this is not a clean air day down there.

I haven't been in this area, I want some place to land when the engine quits. You could land uphill in the brush, but it would probably wipe off the landing gear.

Floyd prepares for data gathering as the engine warms up (notice the spinning propeller, my paramotor power pack does not have the increasingly popular automatic clutch that would disconnect the prop at low engine speeds).
Not much warm up was needed, I had made an earlier flight into the back country to check out the new Indian reservation casino (no activity, parking lots are still dirt).

It's wonderful to be able to take action shots with people in them instead of the usual static machinery photos I have to use for my news page.

I took some takeoff shots with Floyd leaving the vicinity, walked away, turned back, and he was still there, still leaving. This is a really slow airplane!

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