Motorfloater News...        by Mike Sandlin ................................ Last edit: December 15, 2017

December 15, 2017......Looking at the two photos below reminds me that I used to fly quietly (in a Bug 2 glider), whereas now I need ear protection because I fly with a gas motor. Also, the glider did not suffer the risk of engine failure, nor did it threaten its own sustainability with direct carbon release. I hope we will soon see electric motorfloater propulsion that will address these issues. The main barrier to electric flight right now seems to be the need for light and fire safe energy storage, which should be provided by automotive developments over the next decade.
In the mean time, there are two things I want from an electric motor that might be developed now. One is to take full advantage of the reduction in engine noise by making the propeller much quieter, producing a truly quiet propulsion system. As always, I am ready to sacrifice efficiency for practical benefits, in this case possibly a geared down, heavier propeller for less noise. I would like to fly completely free from the need for ear protection. Also, the prospect of quiet airports would go a long way in promoting public acceptance of ultralights and paramotors.
Secondly, I wonder if the propeller of an electric system could be operated at windmilling speed to serve as an airbrake during the landing. I expect that a propeller is thrusting at higher speeds, and then as it slows down it actually becomes a drag on the plane, and that drag maximum is at what I call windmilling speed. As the prop continues to slow down, the drag decreases until it becomes constant when the prop stops. Perhaps the electric speed control will allow me to maintain the windmilling speed in flight, yielding maximum drag for landing utility.

December 13, 2017.........Flying this afternoon (left), and flying back in 1999 (far left), same view! These are both biplanes, but over the desert with the soaring instrument I'm in the Bug 2 airchair glider, launched by aerotow after the plane was road transported on top of my truck.

Soaring is a big air adventure, but casual and frequent local flying is fun too.

The bent wheel strut has, of course, been repaired.

Here's Bloop 2 news from Glen F., who has been down with an engine seizure problem:

Bloop 2 has flown again! After breaking in the new piston and cylinder for10 hours, I decided to further break in the engine under flight loading,

I am using the 33:1 fuel to oil ratio, but rather than fly long periods of time I am limiting full power to 30 seconds and varying the engine RPM every few minutes with sustained flights of no longer than 15minutes, and a full stop landing and cooling off for 15 minutes before retaking to the air. So far this tact seems to be workingwell, and I am learning to manage flight in Bloop 2 with much less power applied.

I have found that the speeds attained by Bloop 2 are pretty much the same with less power applied as they are with heavier applications of power. The only difference being that there is a lack of altitude climb which I compensate for with short bursts of power if needed to clear a hill or lift above rising terrain.

I have also limited touch and goes to one for every 15 minute flight session. Bloop 2 continues to fly well. Flight trim seems to be the best it has been since I have been flying Bloop 2 and it is just a great deal of fun to fly and land so slow and care free.

The reduction drive has continued to perform well and stay tight.Fortunately there have been no more issues there. I have replaced both tires and inner tubes now on the landing gear and straightened some aluminum parts on the left gear that I found were bent somewhat after that hard landing when the reduction drive failed.

I have 2 1/2 gallons more of fuel to use up before I switch Bloop 2 to a 40:1 fuel oil ratio. I am planning to do another 2 hour break in routine at the 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, RPM ranges before continuing flight operations for 8 more hours with the same modified flight schedule that I am doing now. If the engine survives this regimen, then I think it should prove to be pretty reliable from then on into its service life and much longer flights should be possible further afield.

At that point I may outfit Bloop 2 with a 5 gallon tank for longer range and a sliding seat to provide balance and remove the brick counterweight.


I'm not nearly so careful with my (almost identical) engine on Bloop 4, although I do avoid long periods of full power. I'm glad to hear about the care free low and slow flying, that's what motorfloaters are all about.

 November 15 , 2017...At the end of a pretty good flying day I suffered a landing gear collapse and some scrape damage on my lower right wing tip. I used a rope to hold my landing gear in place while I rolled it back to the tie down for repair (see photo). I've seen all this before and the repairs will be ordinary, except that I will increase the tube size of the side strut to strengthen it.

Just as I lifted off on the last flight I thought to my self "that last landing was rough, I should have looked at the landing gear". On the subsequent landing the right gear collapsed during the ground roll. I'm tempted to blame the hard surface runway that I was using, but I have had almost identical incidents on dirt, so gradual strengthening of the landing gear struts continues. The gear failures seem to be caused by a combination of wind disruptions near the ground and too much low maneuvering in response. Too much fun, again!

 November 13 , 2017...I mounted a little yaw string out in front of my nose tube to see how much yaw I was reaching in turns, and to see how long it took for a continuous turn to become coordinated, if ever. This indicator fluttered around and didn't really tell me much, but it showed extended skidding in turns. I will probably mount an inclinometer on the nose tube so I can read values of tilt in turns, an equivalent measurement. From a functional standpoint, it won't matter much, since I'm getting along fine without ailerons. Skidding turns have not been much of a penalty.

The fuel line was full of air when I was priming for the engine start, a result of running out of gas on the ground a few days before (see text below). I pumped the air through the carburetor, advanced the throttle to full, kept the engine run switch off, and gave the prop a half dozen start pulls. Then, at half throttle with switch on,
the engine started pretty well. Engine starts with an advanced throttle can readily be done on the Bloop, but paramotors with the same engine would have to anchor their airframes to do the same thing, they would have a hazard of being blown over.

November 8, 2017.....Another murky afternoon, testing the new elevator trim setting. You can almost read the "6880" on the tachometer, an acceptable engine speed for cruising, and the pitch trim situation seems pretty stable, since my hand is off the control stick. The round instrument is the exhaust gas temperature, which is showing well under 1000 deg. F, so it's okay. That's all there is to see on the flying scooter, this should be a good example of an uncrowded instrument panel.

In this picture I'm flying over rough and cluttered terrain, always spotting for emergency landing areas in case my two cycle engine fails. Staying high might be a good idea for glide reasons, but small jets do fly low through this area, and to be separated from them it's best to stay down. I'm flying over the power lines to keep track of where they are.

The style element here, always important, is having the pants cuffs tucked into the socks, which would be a serious fashion risk except when flying a motorfloater.

Some pilots like to ground taxi with the Bloop 4 with the tail skid down, this leaves a scrape in the gravel but fulfills the mythology of triumphant ground progress. Three times now the plane has run out of gas on the ground during a tail down taxi, although the tank could still be seen to be about quarter full. This is probably due to the fuel pickup being just a plastic hose extending to the bottom of the forward end of the fuel tank, quite elevated in the tail down attitude and possibly sucking air. I don't expect a problem from this in any normal flight attitude, and on the ground the plane can easily be wheeled to where it has to go.


Today's mission was a flight to the border to see the prototype wall designs. Here are the eight sections in a row, with the existing steel wall running along the border behind them.

In the photo you can see the strut mounted mirror I use to determine how much gas I have left in the translucent fuel tank behind me, although at the angle seen by the camera in this shot the mirror is not showing anything useful.

 November 6, 2017....On a gloomy afternoon flight there was a break in the overcast providing a colorful sunset reflection off the lake, but the camera didn't see it.

The air was calm, you could take off in any direction, so I took off both ways. On my first launch I had faltering power, so I set myself back down on the runway and stopped, concluding that once again I had pulled the throttle back while distracted with other takeoff concerns (i.e., I
accidentally reduced engine power with an inadvertent control action). I turned the plane around and took off the other way without incident, except that I didn't seem to be getting full engine speed (reading 7600 rpm. while expecting 7800 rpm.), possibly because I am way past due on cleaning the carburetor. I don't much mind reduced power as long as the engine starts and runs.

I had forgotten to re-tension the elevator trim bungee, which has not yet been adapted to the new design horizontal stabilizer (the new stabilizer is larger, triangular, and set at a less down-pushing angle). The hands off trim seems okay at low speeds but the plane wants to dive when climbing. I plan to tension the trim a little to encourage slower flight.

My runway landings (staying out of the weeds) are successful in reducing the number of thorns I pick up in my tires, so I'll keep using the runway.

November 1, 2017...Here are some friends out to fly the Bloop, one is demonstrating his own way of getting into the seat.
I installed stepping stirrups on the plane but then removed them because they were hard on me, I got strained and sore using them.
I went back to just climbing in.

Today people were flying fast and landing slow. We seem to be exploring slow approaches to the runway such that there is not a lot of flaring authority and the plane bounces on its wheels. This is not the hard shock it used to be, probably due to the vortex generators and perhaps aided by moving the seat back for better balance. A bounce landing can be a low energy landing, so I like it.

The triangular stabilizer works normally and looks good. I'm going to trim the nose up a lot more, to slow down the ordinary flying. I see no reason to move around fast.

October 29, 2017....Test flights with the new triangular horizontal stabilizer have shown its flight characteristics to be spectacularly normal. The pitch trim might be better with a little adjustment, but this is no big event.

The triangular stabilizer has a slightly larger area than the former rectangular panel.
The elevator and tail struts are the same as before.

The pulley block has been moved back about six inches to keep the elevator control line well clear of the propeller.

An added benefit is that the pulleys are now out from under the wing and in plain sight, where all of the control mechanisms should be for the most effective pre-flight inspections.

Back at the tie down, the high visibility color scheme is Halloween

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 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.

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

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.

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.

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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