One thing we’ve been able to finish this week is the wiring. It didn’t take long; the blip switch on the top of the stick and the magneto switch on the instrument panel are each connected to the magneto. And that’s it!
But the cable and the magneto switch needed to at least look like the 1915 original, as did the fastenings, while things like the insulation needed to be up to modern standards. Both switches have to make a connection to switch the engine off, so if for any reason they both failed, it would stop you turning the engine off. And you could still achieve that by shutting the throttle or the mixture valve, so it’s not exactly the end of the world. The only inconvenience would be that you’d need to make a glide approach and landing which shouldn’t be too difficult provided you’d picked a reasonable sized airfield.
As always, Rick’s made a great job of it.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that back in September we nearly lost the whole fuselage hen a wheel hub broke when it was on the trailer on the way to the LAA Rally at Sywell.
We’ve had new hubs made up, and as you can see, they are significantly thicker than the old ones, in order to reduce the stresses a bit. But it’s amazing how the consequences of a tiny change like this filter through the system and throw up unexpected challenges down the line.
The new hubs were beautifully machined, but the drawing called for steel of 50 tons/sq in strength, and it wasn’t until after we’d had them made that we got a sample tested and found that it was only about 42 ton/sq in.
We could have got them hardened and tempered, which would have brought them to the required strength and ductility, but because of the date with the BBC, and the need to get on with the rest of the build, we’d trusted to the additional thickness to do the job.
Reassembling the hubs was fine – just Loctite and a good strong vice to press the flanges onto the tube – and I took them to be rebuilt by a specialist wheel builder, having first got the rims shotblasted and powder coated, as there was significant rust inside them when we took the tyres off.
And then the local tyre depot put the tyres back on (amazing to watch him wrestle with them; beaded tyres don’t need any tools at all, just strong arms) and I was all set to pop them back on the axle.
But they wouldn’t quite fit. Why not? The additional flange width had widened the wheels by about 5mm and there wasn’t any spare length on the axle. Well, I managed to alter the hole for the inner sleeve, but the bungees are slightly out of line and there’s a bolt that’s threatening to chew up the undercarriage legs, but I think we’re still okay, and stretching the bungees into place was much easier the second time around now we know what we’re doing.
And that was okay for the BBC’s visit, but we still needed to carry out a load test on the wheels to make sure they were strong enough, and this required me to take the wheels and axle off the undercarriage again. The load test required us to exert four times the normal maximum load, and we set up a system of levers to achieve this, with yours truly hanging off the end of the lever to provide the necessary avoirdupois.
Interestingly, during the test we ended up raising the tyre pressure to 90psi to limit tyre distortion.
The next job was to apply the wheel covers, and on that first wheel I managed that after a bit of experimenting.
Then I put the axle – and the bungees – back on again. By now I’m getting really pretty slick at yanking the bungees taut.
When I came to look at the second wheel, I first of all tightened up the securing nut for the valve, as I ‘d done on the other one. As I did so, there was a phhhhhhhft, and the tyre deflated. It was reasonably clear that I’d pulled the valve out of the inner, so I wrestled the tyre off the rime and popped into the local tyre depot and managed to get a replacement inner tube.
Back to the airfield again, where I got to wrestle the tyre back on again – successfully – and was just pumping it up to 90 psi to match the first one when there was a large BANG, and the bead jumped out of the groove at one point and the inner tube exploded…
And of course if the flange hadn’t broken, none of this would have been necessary!
Having established the lengths of the cables for the aileron circuit, we took the wings off again and started on the final large bit of fabric – the fuselage cover.
The RFC machines had laced seams all the way down the fuselage top longerons, enabling one to gain access to anything inside that needed repair or adjustment. The drawing indicates that the RNAS asked for sewn seams at this point, which would mean that if any work needed doing on the fuselage after covering, the fabric would have to be cut off and replaced. We weren’t happy about this, and study of photographs seems to indicate that there was a laced seam all the way down the underside of the fuselage, and that’s what we’ve decided to do.
So we cut two pieces of fabric reaching from the centreline of the fuselage bottom to the top longeron, and from the tailpost right forward to the aluminium side shields, and made up the joining edges by doubling the fabric back by 30mm and then doubling a piece of 30mm cotton tape over that, so that the lacing hooks will go through four layers of fabric. Then, in order to make it easier to handle while we , we butted the two edges together and used a zigzag stitch to fasten the together temporarily.
These were then fixed in place with masking tape and pulled taut and adjusted to give a nice straight seam underneath so that the line of the top longerons could be marked off with pencil (PLEASE, no biro, or the colour will run when you apply dope!).
Then we draped the top fabric over the frame and did the same, and it was back to the sewing machine to make the balloon seams.
Making up the balloon seams required quite a bit of practice, but Theo’s got it off to quite an art form now and they come out really very accurate. It’s possible to get a sewing machine that does the whole thing in on go, apparently, but we’ve managed fine with a normal sewing machine.
It’s very nice to be the centre of attention, but gosh! it takes a long time.
Anyway, we’ve been in famous for five minutes, which is about all anyone is entitled to expect these days.
We are currently on the BBC website which was huge fun to do, and presenter Joanne Writtle managed to get in and out of the cockpit without causing any damage or significant loss of dignity. The final broadcast version was a very good compression of a quart into a half-pint pot!
This went out on the 1830 news, but we’d also done a live broadcast during the 1330 news, as a result of which we had not one but two news agencies after us, with two photographers, one on the Thursday afternoon, the other on the Friday afternoon.
The story was picked up by the Daily Mail online and the Daily Express online, and on Friday afternoon, Rick was interviewed live on the Andrew Easton show on BBC Hereford and Worcester (about 52 minutes in)/
And on Saturday it’s appeared in the Daily Express and the Shropshire Star. All of this was set off by an initial article in the Ludlow Ledger, published in early September, and it’s the one which best captures the essence of the whole project.
The piece in the Daily Mail online is a similar length (about under 2000 words) but includes no less than 26 errors – either poor English, poor punctuation or factual errors. The factual errors, having originated with the agency, are repeated elsewhere, but I guess it’s about par for the course, and I don’t think they get in the way of the story. Shame they haven’t put links to the blog, with the honourable exception of the BBC online, whose story is accurate, brief, and grammatically correct!
We seem to have spent the whole of today talking to the press, which was very pleasant, but would have been even nicer if the weather had been less dull, windy and cold.
First of all was the team from BBC Midlands, with presenter Joanne Writtle and cameraman Andy, who were there until about 2, and who recorded a live interview for the 1330 news, and a recorded piece for the 1830 item.
Hot on the heels of the 1330 broadcast I had the chaps from the BBC website, who wanted to include it on the Shropshire section.
And finally there was a news agency who spotted it on the 1330 broadcast and were keen to get it out to the newspapers for the following day. Their photographer had to travel from the far side of Birmingham to be here, but made it in sufficient time to get some pictures before the light faded. We shall see if it makes it into the National papers tomorrow…
The three of us are back together for a week or two, working on the Scout.
We need to reassemble the whole aircraft in order to finalise the last links in the aileron circuit, and we are planning to get the fabric covering for the rear fuselage cut and sewn ready for doping, though it won’t get actually finished of until we have the petrol tank and side shields in place, and the ply top covered in fabric.
And tomorrow, Thursday, a team from BBC Midlands are planning to make a short news item about the project for their early evening news slot. If you can get BBC Midlands, keep an eye out for it. I’ll take the camera along anyway and try to get some more film – just in case they don’t find room for it.
We have a cunning plan for storing and moving the aircraft when it’s finished. Unlike most WWI aircraft, it’s small enough with the wings and elevators removed to fit in a road-legal trailer, and while rigging and de-rigging isn’t completely straightforwards, it’s very far from impossible either.
The base of the trailer was used to get the fuselage to the LAA Rally, and Keith, our trailer-builder, is incorporating a couple of changes in that before starting on the box on the top.
The plan is that the fuselage will be towed tail-first, enabling the trailer to have a fairly low front, sloping upwards towards the rear where the cabane and propeller will be. The rear door will swing down and form a ramp for getting the fuselage in and out, and bottom-hinged side doors will carry the wings in racks, ready to be lifted out and mounted on the aircraft when the doors are opened.
I started work on the racks last week, and what was originally planned to take about a day actually took nearly a week. Still, it’s done now, and you can see more or less how they work from these pictures.