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  1. #11
    Co-Pilot Arielarts's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
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    I believe it's its grandaddy Joan. The Weedhopper was very aptly named. With its original big single Chotia (IIRC) single, it wouldn't leave ground effect. John Chotia, as well as designing the aircraft, also designed the engine! It wasn't very good.

  2. #12
    Captain Roger Mole's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Dordogne, France
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    I think the French version is more correctly the UK AX3's daddy (or mummy) depending on your preference. It is still referred to as the Ultralair Weedhopper AX3 over here and there were actually several versions.

    The earliest (I think it was the J3) had its wheels mounted directly onto straight axles with or without a pod and if it had one, it was usually more or less just a floor and its screen extended right down to the front. It was much more like the original Chotia model and although there are still a few around, they are worth very little when they come up for sale. Later versions had what looked like cutaway versions of the later AX3 pods but they still had their wheels mounted directly on straight axles.

    Then there was the Weedhopper Europa 2. This had a different pod, more like the UK AX3's but slightly more pointed, and a different shape, squarer, vertical stabiliser. I think it also stood a bit higher off the ground due to having a different main gear suspension arrangement. And around the same era, there was the single seat Weedhopper J1 which has a unique narrow full pod like the AX3's that we are familiar with but with a cropped off nose and no doors. A friend over here still flies one powered by its original points ignition 447 and wing skins that are over 20 years old (gulp!)

    Finally there was the Weedhopper JC31 some of which are referred to as the '10 ans' with its 16 m2 wing area (previously I think, but am not quite sure, wing area was 15m2). French Weedhopper's usually come with either 503 or 582 engines, although some owners have even fitted 75 HP Rotaxes on theirs.

    Mine is a JC31 and as Joan says, it looks the same as the UK AX3 but with a few differences.

    1. Large wheels (like AX2000) changed for smaller to its detriment IMO when imported into the UK.

    2. Main axle 'upgraded' for the UK to its detriment IMO by adding silly damper-like springs that do nothing but add weight and also a torsion cable. Both of these ignore the fact that any vertical movement (laughably referred to as 'suspension') is controlled by the two massive rubber blocks at each axle end that compress only very slightly and therefore allow very little. Conclusion IMO - just more weight added.

    3. No horizontal jury struts at the bottom of the vertical jury struts between the main wing struts (so more weight added for the UK).

    4. According to my observation, my French Weedhopper's pod is MUCH more flimsy and lighter than either of the two that I had on MYRO at different times. I therefore think that the pod was 'upgraded' for the UK (but I'm not certain) and if so, more weight was added.

    The outcome is that with MYRO's old 503 engine and in a configuration identical to that of MYRO, even with its larger wheels and twin fuel tanks, my French Weedhopper is considerably lighter than MYRO was (I'm not going to say by how much as I don't want to open old controversies). Suffice to say that my French Weedhopper with full instruments, doors, seat cushions etc and two 27 litre tanks with associated pipework weighs in at under the maximum first permit ZFW of 206 kg for a UK AX3.

    And when you bear in mind that the Weedhopper is a 450 kg machine over here (even the X-Air with a 503 is a 450 kg machine here), whereas the UK version with a 503 engine is only permitted at 390 kg, you can see what the problem is with AX3 weights in the UK and why they frequently involve an element of constructive imagination as the UK TADS 'typical empty weight' is assumed to be ex-factory with the minimum permitted instruments with most, if not all, coming out a bit above that in my experience.

    According to my French Weedhopper's real numbers, using my own version of the BMAA's weight and CoG spreadsheet, it can legally fly on the UK's 390 kg limit with an 86 kg pilot, a 62 kg passenger and full tanks (50 litres) with the CG within prescribed limits which MYRO would have been hard pushed (ahem..) to emulate.

    So there you go - I haven't flown it and am looking forward to doing so as I still have a really soft spot for the good old AX3. It occurred to me while I was repairing it that instead of fitting the two vertical tubes to which the doors are attached from MYRO to replace the originals that had been snapped, if I had purchased some aluminium tube I could have shaped some new longer ones that would have given a few centimetres more cabin width (I could do that here but been hung drawn and quartered for even thinking it in the UK). It would have been a simple matter to reshape the windscreen and doors which I had to replace anyway. I think that with a 582 engine, a wide-bodied AX3 with ultralam covers would have given the X-Air a good run for its money but we'll never know. Unless someone else over here has the same idea

  3. #13
    Captain MadamBreakneck's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    Essex UK
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    Hepful write-up, Roger; thanks.

    One thing that confused me was the presence of ailerons, but further reading tells me that the latest variants had them but predecessor Weedhoppers were elevator and rudder only, using secondary effects for roll. Interestingly, I ended up teaching people converting from Thruster to AX3 to steer with rudder and balance with aileron rather than the other way round which is more conventional 3-axis technique. Some found the adverse yaw beyond exciting and entering the realms of fear - once learnt, however, it becomes a sweet aeroplane to fly.

    Glad too that you're clearly enjoying the aeronautical freedoms that French rules afford you.

    Back to just bimbling in the TST.

    No longer instructing - just pontificating.

  4. #14
    Captain Roger Mole's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Dordogne, France
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    Joan, looked at some old MYRO shots a short while ago and I was wrong about the small horizontal jury struts. I was confusing it with the X-Air - the UK AX3 doesn't have them either.

    But what it does have though is the extra low level fuel pump and pipework that both the French model and the X-Air show is unnecessary. Another UK belt-and-braces job that just added unnecessary weight. Many, like MYRO, also have electric fuel pumps. Totally unnecessary in my view. Haven't got one in my X-Air and have never missed it (I can still just about summon up the strength to press the fuel bulb to prime the engine - just ) and haven't put one in my Weedhopper either.

    It always was, and still is, my opinion that GA pilots who look down their noses at us, who many regard not as 'real pilots' don't know what they are talking about. If you can fly an AX3 constantly in balance, you can fly anything, let alone the flying armchairs that they think are 'real' aeroplanes.
    Last edited by Roger Mole; 02-03-18 at 22:00 PM.

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