After Stow Maries, we towed the trailer to Shuttleworth, because we wanted to get their ideas on (a) how to seal the engine compartment to keep that oil off the fuselage side, and (b) to set up the plugs to give reliable running.
In between, we’ve all had to do some work and keep in touch with our families, but the plan this week is to do this work tomorrow (Wednesday) and then tow the trailer to Sywell on Thursday in time for the LAA Rally.
But as so often in this blog, it’s the trailer and tow vehicle that steal the limelight. We headed off for Gloucester so that I could do an annual inspection on a microlight, and while I was doing that, Rick took the Discovery to a local LandRover place to find out why the yellow warning light was on warning about the suspension. They confirmed that it would be the compressor that powers the air suspension – it’s a known item that needs regular replacement, and so with their diagnosis we set off for Shuttleworth.
The car generally behaved okay, although it’s hard work to drive when it’s wallowing along on very soft suspension with none of the fancy control systems working, and on the way there we phoned a local garage in Biggleswade who confirmed they should be able to do the work.
We called in there to book the car in, and they said they wouldn’t need it until the morning, giving us just enough time to pop into Shuttleworth and drop all the tools off befre they shut up shop for the day.
Then tomorrow morning we’ll deliver the car to the garage, they’ll give us a lift back to Shuttleworth, we’ll solve the oil problem on the Scout and set the plugs up right, fix the map holder in place and clean off all the old oil ready for the Rally and so on. The only problem is, what will we do with ourselves in the afternoon?
Stow Maries is a magical place. Set in one of the most rural parts of Essex, it’s a collection of buildings that have remained unaltered since they were put up in 1916 to form one of the cahin of home defence aerodromes to protect the UK against attack by Zeppellins and German bombers.
The buildings themselves are nothing remarkable, but as you drive into the airfield, there’s a very strong sense of the presence of those airmen in their BE2s, taking off, often at night, and trying to locate the unseen enemy with nothing more than the Mark 1 eyeball to help them.
Theo and I arrived with the trailer on Friday evening, met with the twins, Ed and Ant, and put it in the hangar for the night, then met up with Rick and Marian and Sue at the Purleigh Barns B&B, where Richard and Tilly made us feel immediately at home, and happily allowed Rick and Marian to camp on the lawn.
We rigged up on the Saturday morning and were soon joined by the aircraft of the WWI Aviation Heritage Trust; a BE2e, and the newly acquired Sopwith Snipe and Albatros DVA, together with a 7/8 scale SE5A and a static Sopwith Pup replica.
It was a fine lineup, and although the wind was to strong to allow any flying on the Saturday there was a huge turn out – 200 vintage bikers and coachloads of visitors, all of whom were well informed and very interested in all the aircraft.
Bevan Dewes, Gene deMarco’s young Kiwi protegé, was there to fly the BE2, and had managed to wangle a flypast of the Bristol Blenheim, flanked by a couple of Spitfires, which was much appreciated by all those there.
We all started our engines in turn, and everyone had a great day out.
On Saturday night, we ate at the Purleigh Bell Inn, where we had a really great meal, and the proprietors, Julian and Kirsten, took a great interest in the Scout and promised to come and have a look the following morning.The Sunday promised calm fine weather, and so it proved. Young Bevan from New Zealand got the BE2 out first, its V8 RAF1A engine producing only around 80hp like ours, and it’s a lovely soft sound from those enormous cylinders. It made stately progress round the countryside. there was something very special to see it flying past the Stow Maries water tower for the first time in 99 years.
Soon after that, John Munn got the Sopwith Snipe readied, and in fact Rick got to swing the mighty 230hp BR2 radial engine into life. Although it’s so very much bigger than our puny little 80hp, the starting technique is much the same, and it’s still possible for one man to pull it over successfully. The sound of the Bentley is quite different – there’s an authoritative bark to it, and in the air it’s very nippy.
The crowds started to build again, and later in the morning, the BE2 and Albatros circled the airfield with a Piper Cub housing a cameraman for air-to-air photography.
I explored the small museum they have there, and discovered a propeller which had been hit by 0.303 bullets from a Vickers machine gun mounted on a Sopwith Camel with the synchronising gear mistimed. The effect must be pretty much identical to 1264 when the gun was fired at any time.
And just as I was leaving, a wonderful lady introduced herself to me. She said we both had grandfathers to be proud of, but in truth hers was far, far more distinguished. she is the granddaughter of none other than Horace Short, who, with his four brothers, set up the first aeroplane factory in Great Britain, and went on to become one of the most distinguished aircraft manufacturers in the world, specialising in seaplanes. It was a real privilege to meet you, Madam!
We’ve promised to have the Scout at the Stow Maries Fly-In this weekend. It’s promising to be a great weekend with loads of interesting aircraft. A shame that the Scout won’t be among them, just yet.
So tomorrow we’re off to Bicester to pack it back into the trailer and trundle slowly across country to Essex.
We hope to see you there!
Last Friday was soaking wet. The weekend and the first half of the week was soaking wet.
But Thursday and Friday this week have been absolutely beautiful, but we couldn’t fly the Scout because Dodge Bailey isn’t available.
Next week I’m working more or less all week, and so the next available opportunity is the week beginning 10 August, and we have to hope for some similar weather then. We will be looking to really push on with the test programme – even – if possible – to get it completed, because we are all very, very keen to have a go ourselves.
But amid all the frustration of waiting, there’s been one very encouraging step forward.
I contacted Paschalis Palavouzis, who we first came into contact with a couple of years ago. Paschalis is the historian who’s an expert on WWI aviation in the Greek islands, and when I told him about our first flight and asked him about the exact locations of the two airfields Granddad flew from, he came up with the information. Thasos aerodrome is still open ground, located next to the beach on the north western end of the island. You can see it on Google earth here. In the centre you can see a short gravel strip used by the local microlight club, with whom Paschalis has contacts.
I explained that we’d need around a 500m square of smooth area to fly from, and Paschalis is absolutely determined to clear an area to allow us to fly from Thasos aerodrome once again. it’s a huge step forward in trying to recreate Granddad’s flying, and has got us all spurred on to get the flight testing complete and start organising the trip to Greece!
Getting the Scout into the air requires an empty, dry airfield that faces in any direction, at least two and preferably more ground crew, a test pilot, petrol, oil, a serviceable aircraft, a very light wind, no rain, daylight, and a valid Permit to Test.
Which is why test flying is a slow, laborious business, and we have to sit patiently and try not to get too frustrated.
On Sunday we had all the various factors lined up but Gene just couldn’t get away in time, and so 1264 stayed in the hangar and I drove all the way back home.
The next available window is Friday, when the forecast began to look ideal, and Dodge Bailey might have been available, but last night when I checked the weather forecast had changed from dry to soaking wet. Today it’s back to a little bit wet, and so the only thing is to keep hoping for the best and try not to imagine what it’s going to be like when we can hop in and go flying.
But it ain’t easy!