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Cyclone AX3 evaluation by RAF

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Cyclone AX3 evaluation by RAF

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Old 28th Jul 2018, 19:38
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Cyclone AX3 evaluation by RAF

Hi everyone,

I need some help for a project I am working on and hope there may be some to be found here

Is there anyone on here who was involved in the evaluation by the RAF of the Cyclone AX3? Or any use of the Cyclone AX3 with the AEF?

I'm working on a book and this forms part of one of the chapters so I'd be very grateful if anyone can help me with this.

Many thanks,
Danny
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 20:04
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Originally Posted by chillindan View Post
Hi everyone,

I need some help for a project I am working on and hope there may be some to be found here

Is there anyone on here who was involved in the evaluation by the RAF of the Cyclone AX3? Or any use of the Cyclone AX3 with the AEF?

I'm working on a book and this forms part of one of the chapters so I'd be very grateful if anyone can help me with this.

Many thanks,
Danny
You should probably try to track down the director of Cyclone Airsports at the time, Bill Sherlock.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 04:05
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Is there anyone on here who was involved in the evaluation by the RAF of the Cyclone AX3? Or any use of the Cyclone AX3 with the AEF
You might ask in the Military forum Danny, think it would be the best place for a response.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 08:48
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Originally Posted by megan View Post
You might ask in the Military forum Danny, think it would be the best place for a response.
No need for that; I was involved; the 'evaluation' as such took place at Halton.
In the early '90s, the use of microlights for flying cadets was 'officially' frowned upon and squadrons were told that 'microlight flying was not an approved Air Cadet activity', however, to HQ Air Cadets, microlights were of the weight shift variety and those in charge were unwilling to accept the rate of development of other designs.
As more 'robust' designs were developed with 'normal' 3 -axis controls, the OC of No 2409 (RAF Halton) Sqdn ATC got the manufacturers of the original Thruster to 'lend' him one with a promise he would make every effort to 'sell' the concept to HQ Air Cadets.
I had a PPL but due to official policy, I kept the operation at arms length rather than leap in and get involved.
Then in May 1991, a letter went out to squadrons in Herts and Bucks Wing ATC inviting any adult staff with PPLs who might be interested to come along to a 'look/see' day at Halton to find out what microlights were about and have a free ride in one.
Not being one to turn down a free flight, although I was a bit dubious about how safe microlights were, I went along on the specified date, 26 May 1991. I arrived to find the Thruster parked outside the microlight operator's caravan, alongside another microlight of an unfamiliar design with a strange registration. This yellow painted aircraft had a nosewheel undercarriage rather than the tailwheel of the Thruster.
Within minutes, I was introduced to Bill Sherlock of Cyclone Airsports, who took me over to this 'other' aircraft which he called the AX3, its 'strange' registration (F59EE) being apparently French Class 'B' markings indicating it was a prototype or experimental aircraft.
We strapped in, Bill pointing out that although lightweight in construction, it was made of triangular tubular sections making it very robust.
Anyway, we started up and Bill taxiied us out to the takeoff point. He did the first takeoff, talking me through it and handed over to me once we were airborne.
I climbed to 1,000ft QFE, quite a good rate of climb, flying a 'normal' circuit pattern left hand on runway 02 ( I was already familiar with Halton having been associated with 613 Glding School for many years including being an Air Cadet Glider pilot cleared for air experience flying) and with the occasional advice from Bill, flew an approach and landed, to which Bill said 'well done, greaser first time'. He then suggested we taxy back and I tried a takeoff which once again was quite straighforward.
We flew another circuit then taxiied back in to allow the next 'volunteer' a go.
I was hooked!
Next instalment shortly; Chillindan, I'll try to reply to your pm with more detail when I can.

Last edited by chevvron; 29th Jul 2018 at 11:02.
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 12:18
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Great account, Chevvron.

My first flight in an AX-3 was also in F59EE at a farm strip not far from Halton.

I went on to do about 500 hours in AX-3s. It was a great wee trainer- much easier to land than the taildragger Thruster- though the nose-wheel was a bit vulnerable and it had very limited range.

My friend Hugh Knox flew a later version, with bigger fuel capacity, from Shetland to Norway and back to Scotland via Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands. Belgium, France, England, and, just to cross a bit more more water, Ireland!
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Old 29th Jul 2018, 12:41
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This is great stuff thanks both for your help, I've dropped you an email in reply to yours!
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 10:43
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Sent you an email Chevvron with more details of my project.

Thanks.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 11:38
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That aircraft was not F59EE, it was 59EE, and that did not indicate it was a prototype or experimental aircraft. Microlights in France do not have an F registration, they are identified by the number of the department they are based in and two or three numbers. Ultralair, the manufacturer, was established in Valenciennes, Nord department, which is number 59.

Here is some background information on the AX3, including the assembly manual.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 16:09
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@patowalker: totally correct*, only allow me to elaborate: to add to the confusion, French microlights need to have a radio callsign if so equipped, and these callsigns are remarkably alike to registrations. For example, 08EB has the callsign F-JGHO, while 59CJT has F-JPIB. These callsigns seem to be in the F-Jxyz range - like several European countries, France attaches special meaning to registration subclasses. F-Pabc are experimentals, F-Wdef are temporary regs for test-flying new planes, &c.

Now regarding this Cyclone AX3, must I understand this is a UK-built variant of the famous and much copied Weedhopper design, later grown into the AX2000?

I have always liked the Weedhopper concept, but have also wondered why they are so slow. Given a more powerful engine and a sleeker wing profile, surely it must be possible to get them to cruise speeds of 150 km/h - say 80 knots - or perhaps even faster? Has this ever been done? I have even had visions of two of them coupled, a bit like the F-82 "double Mustang".

*except that it is the department number followed by two or three alpha characters, not numbers. [0-9][0-9][A-Z][A-Z]([A-Z]) might make sense to some in IT but is not really comprehensive.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 17:12
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Ah, yes, I meant the number of the department followed by two or three letters. It is all very confusing to Brits, because the registration is only under the wing and the radio callsign is sometimes shown in small characters on the tail.
BTW, Jean Luc Prignol, seen in that video, signed me off to carry passengers in my ULM. Quite a character.
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Old 30th Jul 2018, 17:31
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It is all very confusing to anyone - probably even to the locals, though not all would say so in public But for this once, the Brits are not an exception, I think

As for "quite a character": yes, aviation seems to be full of them (though I didn't yet have the pleasure of meeting this particular gentleman) ; ultralight aviation not the least. It is one of the factors that keep me hooked!
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 01:11
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Originally Posted by patowalker View Post
Ah, yes, I meant the number of the department followed by two or three letters. It is all very confusing to Brits, because the registration is only under the wing and the radio callsign is sometimes shown in small characters on the tail.
BTW, Jean Luc Prignol, seen in that video, signed me off to carry passengers in my ULM. Quite a character.
I'm positive the one I first flew at Halton had the letters/numbers 'F59EE' painted on tail; unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo of it; perhaps Forfoxake will confirm. I have recorded it in my logbook as a 'Viper' rather than an AX3 by the way.
One significant thing I notice in the video is the pilot has a 'joystick' between his legs whereas the one I flew had a single central stick which could be shared by both occupants as with the 'production' version.
I'm not sure if all UK registered AX3 were UK built; certainly the first ones were French built, however I believe the later AX2000 was UK built.
Bill Sherlock fitted one with a Rotax 912 which was much faster and took off after a ground run of about 5 feet; he also dropped into Halton one day with one he had fitted with a 2 cylinder 4 stroke engine; not sure what make the engine was but it was much quieter than the 2 stroke Rotax 503.
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 09:11
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Thanks everyone for contributing to this thread its helping me out a lot.

Danny
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 09:19
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
I'm positive the one I first flew at Halton had the letters/numbers 'F59EE' painted on tail; unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo of it; perhaps Forfoxake will confirm. I have recorded it in my logbook as a 'Viper' rather than an AX3 by the way.
One significant thing I notice in the video is the pilot has a 'joystick' between his legs whereas the one I flew had a single central stick which could be shared by both occupants as with the 'production' version.
I'm not sure if all UK registered AX3 were UK built; certainly the first ones were French built, however I believe the later AX2000 was UK built.
Bill Sherlock fitted one with a Rotax 912 which was much faster and took off after a ground run of about 5 feet; he also dropped into Halton one day with one he had fitted with a 2 cylinder 4 stroke engine; not sure what make the engine was but it was much quieter than the 2 stroke Rotax 503.
Standby, Chevvron.
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 10:10
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As Halton is an RAF station, the OC airfield had to be involved with the operation. OC airfield (not the Station Commander) was in these days an experienced RAF pilot of Sqdn Ldr rank and he was very keen on the microlight operation so he carried out the initial evaluation of the AX3 and made 2 main recommendations:
1. The aircraft as presented had 2 instrument panels; one above the windscreen with engine instruments and another below the windscreen with flight instruments. These needed to be grouped into a single panel below the windscreen.
2. There was no floor so nowhere for the pilot not flying to rest their feet.
This was communicated to Ultralair by Bill and they readily agreed to carry out these mods, so Bill and Rob (OC Halton Squadron ATC) paid several visits to the CAA to get UK approvals arranged and a registration allocated. Ultralair asked what colour scheme was required so they were sent a photo of a Tucano in the standard colour scheme of red and white.
Some time later, those of us who had attended the intitial evaluation day were invited back because representatives of HQ Air Cadets were coming along to 'check out' the suitability of the AX3 in its refined version for cadet flying.
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 13:38
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
I'm positive the one I first flew at Halton had the letters/numbers 'F59EE' painted on tail; unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo of it; perhaps Forfoxake will confirm. I have recorded it in my logbook as a 'Viper' rather than an AX3 by the way.
One significant thing I notice in the video is the pilot has a 'joystick' between his legs whereas the one I flew had a single central stick which could be shared by both occupants as with the 'production' version.
I'm not sure if all UK registered AX3 were UK built; certainly the first ones were French built, however I believe the later AX2000 was UK built.
Bill Sherlock fitted one with a Rotax 912 which was much faster and took off after a ground run of about 5 feet; he also dropped into Halton one day with one he had fitted with a 2 cylinder 4 stroke engine; not sure what make the engine was but it was much quieter than the 2 stroke Rotax 503.
I have checked my log book and reminded that my first flight (with Jon George at Popham) was recorded as in 'AX-3 Premier' registered F-59EE. Not sure why I would have put that regn in my logbook if it was not on aircraft but I cannot find a picture to prove it!

It was actually my second flight that was at the Drayton St. Leonards farm strip with Bill Sherlock in 'AX-3 Cyclone' but that was in F-59GD.

As far as I am aware, at least initially, all UK registered AX-3s were built at the Drayton St Leonards 'factory'- actually a tarted up farm shed. I never heard Bill talk about flying the demonstrators across the Channel so assume they were built in France and trailed over derigged, exactly how I later got my own AX-3 from Drayton St Leonards to Scotland. Unlike the Kitfox etc, it was not a quick derig/rig but it was doable.

I am almost certain that the 4 stroke engine you refer to was the Rotax 508, but I think it proved underpowered for the two seat AX-3, although fine for the single seat Chaser. Later, some might have been fitted with HKS engines.

But since my memory is obviously suspect- it was over 27 years ago after all- I think someone needs to track down Bill Sherlock. Hopefully, he is still on the go!
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 13:43
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
I'm positive the one I first flew at Halton had the letters/numbers 'F59EE' painted on tail; unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo of it; perhaps Forfoxake will confirm.
I don't doubt what you say. All I am saying is that it was not the aircraft registration, it its callsign. The registration marks would only have been under the wing only. I know how it worksthere, because I had a (radio equipped) Chaser registered in France.
Incidentally, Cyclone took over the Chaser when Aerial Arts went bust, so I got to know Bill well. Once when I visited his workshop, he and Conrad were insulating the barn, so that they could get approval from the CAA to build the AX3 in it. Bill and I still correspond at Christmas.
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 14:28
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I have been wondering if preceeding the registration with "F-" was perhaps mandatory at that time, even if it certainly isn't today. Or perhaps the people fitting them out were unsure, and preferred to "err on the safe side". Or, who knows, they may even have thought it logical...
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 15:09
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Jan,
It has always been as it is today. It is very simple to verify this by going to the register and checking it for registered and de-registered aircraft.
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Old 31st Jul 2018, 16:34
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Originally Posted by chevvron View Post
Bill Sherlock fitted one with a Rotax 912 which was much faster and took off after a ground run of about 5 feet; he also dropped into Halton one day with one he had fitted with a 2 cylinder 4 stroke engine; not sure what make the engine was but it was much quieter than the 2 stroke Rotax 503.
I have found a black and white picture in FlightLine of a (yellow?) Premier AX3 at the 1990 BMAA show. There is a sign saying it is powered by a Rotax 508, which is a two cylinder 4 stroke. It must have been an imported aircraft, because it says AX3 by Ultralair on it, rather than Cyclone AX3. The tail is not visible, so can't see a reg.
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