Friday 27 March 2009

Roll on Abu Dhabi!!

It's amazing..whether it's a holiday or a work deadline! No matter how long you plan in advance, you're always ready 'just in time'! We were relieved that the logistics team managed to arrange and extra week for all the teams before Abu Dhabi (thanks a lot!) and yet we will barely be ready in time. Still, apart from a somewhat worn-out team (sorry Hux!) we should be quite relaxed once the MXS departs on Tuesday next week. Some of the finessing aerodynamics jobs will have to wait until we're in Abu Dhabi but the essentials will be complete.Will our strategy pay off? We'll only know after one or perhaps two races. This year, the penalty system means we'll all be carrying a little less speed onto the track but all the race planes will be lighter so I'm expecting more agility and more raw acceleration from all the teams. Which aspects of winter work will give the biggest payback? The Breitling Team (three in the foreground and many more behind the scenes!) hopes it will be weight, power, agility and aerodynamics in that order .... we've made improvements in all four so....roll on Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

So what happens in the last week? The swan is perhaps not so composed these days .... lots of furious paddling beneath the surface. Too much to do...way more than you ever plan! Strangely, this year there seem to be few rumours about what the other teams are up to. It's probably because we're all too busy to notice.... not much we can do other than focus on our own plans; try to be ready in time and hope our plans and schemes give us a competitive machine at the first race. I flew the MS back from the paintshop yesterday. A fun take-off in a 30kts headwind so lierally went up vertically!! Awesome! Now we have a battle between engineering needs and flight testing. There are many finessing jobs Hux needs to do before the weekend and, meanwhile, I want to do more testing. Fortunately, the control set-up is good .. I'm very happy with the handling so the focus has to be on testing Hux's final tweaks.Fingers crossed.

Friday 20 March 2009

Rough with the smooth

Some days are better than others. Lots of brainstorming then weeks and months of work can be dedicated to an idea and, mostly, the result is good.

Life is not always like that though so there can be plenty of frustration along the way. After a great day on Wednesday, yesterday was a bit like that. Some of the speed tests were less than convincing. I am hoping this may have been down to inaccurate flying in very hazy conditions. After all, we are looking for tiny increments so less than perfect flying can throw in erroneous results. Off to Mick Allen's paintshop at Turweston today for the final touchup; back on Monday for more testing through the week and final logos will be applied next Friday. After today, four more days of testing and practice before we ship to Abu Dhabi. Not enough hours in the day!!!Looking forward to the weekend though...a rugby indulgence tomorrow afternoon (will England impress against the Scots? Can Ireland beat Wales? France/Italy will not be so interesting now ....Mothers Day on Sunday...

Wednesday 18 March 2009

So far testing is going well, through there's lots left to do before the shipping deadline.
On the weight front Hux has done an outstanding job and we are confident that we'll be on the minimum race weight all season.
On the power front the new Lycon engine feels very smooth and powerful. It will be a while before we can make a true comparison with last season but the signs are really positive.
Regarding aerodynamics we have a lot to do and this is normally the most time consuming, so one or two innovations may not be ready for the first race.
The really great news is that after only 3 days I am happy with the control setup, and as the weather looks so good all week it will be test flying and training before the MXS heads back to the paint shop on Friday for the final touch ups.

Thursday 12 March 2009

All hands to the pumps

With two weeks to go before shipment to Abu Dhabi, it’s a relief to have the MXS back in the air. Air testing started in earnest yesterday and first impressions are good. The new engine seems smooth and feels powerful though we are still taking things easy. Part of the good feeling comes from the light weight so the power to weight ratio is much better than last year. Hux has done a brilliant job so far. There is still a lot to do as we make handling adjustments and work long hours to get the new canopy and wheel spats finished, Breitling logos in place and many other small details. Becci has been drafted in to work through the tools and spares shipment list (a huge job!) so it’s all hands to the pumps to make sure we’re ready for the shipping deadline.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Prepare for Take-off!

So why is the winter so busy?

Anyone would think that we just chill out, go for the odd jog, wander through the workshop occasionally to see how things are progressing on the race plane, go to lots of parties and not much else. Well, sadly, it’s not quite like that... there is SO much to do to ‘make it happen’ before the first race. Picture the swan on a strong current ... looks calm on the surface but furious paddling going on down below! In addition to Hux and Becci there are many others helping in the background so we have a great team but with shipping for Abu Dhabi a few weeks away it still feels like there are not enough hours in the day. We’ll manage though!It’s great to see the MXS coming together and we plan to start test flying on Monday next week. The new engine arrived from LYCON last week and is being installed. It looks awesome. We have various components still inbound and Hux is finalising the myriad of modifications he has been working on for the last 8 weeks. Due to all the modifications, the balance of the MXS will be different and I am expecting the feel of the controls to need a lot of attention. It took half of last season to get the control system really well ‘tuned’ but, hopefully, it’ll only take a few days this time (fingers are all crossed!)I am off to an air display conference in Belgium on Thursday and hope that by the time I get back on Saturday, all systems will be ‘Go’ for testing on Monday.

Monday 23 February 2009

Preparations for success

So, what’s been happening in the Breitling Team camp? The MXS arrived back just before the New Year and has already been stripped into a thousand components by team engineer Nigel Huxtable who has started to work his magic. This is the first season we’ve not changed planes during the winter so we’re hoping we’ll be able to incorporate all our ideas into last years single-seater and come out of the starting blocks in the first race Abu Dhabi in April with a very competitive machine. If we can achieve this, it’ll be a ‘first’ for the Breitling Team and we have high hopes for more frequent visits to the podium this year.What exactly are we doing? Well, I’d love to go into the details here but that would be crazy never know but a loose word on a blog might give an idea to one of our competitors! No doubt they are holding their cards very close to their chests so we must do the same. To this end, we have a secure ‘no cameras’ facility which is open only to those who are directly involved in the work schedule. Like all the other teams, we are doing what we can in all aspects important to air racing. We need to improve the MXS’s power/weight ratio, aerodynamic efficiency and agility. So, some engine work, some weight loss (including the pilot – more racket-ball and less chocolate!!) and a few tweaks on the airframe to improve the handling and reduce the aerodynamic drag.We’ll do our best to keep you posted on progress without revealing anything valuable to the other teams!