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“And like no other sculpture in the history of art, the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand, and join their life with the pilot's own.”

278. Miniature Perfection

I’m honoured that so many modellers have come to us for advice on building Bristol Scout models around the world, and I’ve come across plastic models at 1/72 scale as well as RC models at 33% and 35%, from France, Wales and Canada.

But Germany is home to a large number of large-scale RC models, and Marcus Gottwald is starting work on a simply magnificent 25% scale model. He’s been in touch with me about the details and I have to show you the results of his work so far.

Gottwald Le Rhone cylinder, 3D printed

Gottwald Le Rhone cylinder, 3D printed

The water-jet cut metal parts

The water-jet cut metal parts

... bent and folded

… bent and folded

The front engine mounting plate is stunning; to weld it without distortion is amazing!

The front engine mounting plate is stunning; to weld it without distortion is amazing!

And here are the controls. Marcus tells me the grip on the stick was made using a 3D printer he made himself at home.

And here are the controls. Marcus tells me the grip on the stick was made using a 3D printer he made himself at home.

... and here they are, more complete. The red blip switch actually works!

… and here they are, more complete. The red blip switch actually works!

277. Going to Church

On Friday 18th November, thanks to the invitation of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity,  1264 will be in the Cathedral yard of Salisbury Cathedral as part of a commemoration of the end of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago.

If you fancy coming along, there will be a replica WWI trench as well, and we’ll be there most of the day.ww1-day-18-nov

276. The Scores on the Bores

Today we had a look at the dismantled engine, and went through the alternatives with Shuttleworth Chief Engineer Jean-Michel Munn and engine expert Phil. It was sobering stuff…

Jean-Michel showing us the main crankshaft bearing, and Theo and David thinking 'So much for my pension.'

Jean-Michel showing us the main crankshaft bearing, and Theo and David thinking ‘So much for my pension.’

Thankfully the bearings all seem to be okay, but elsewhere things didn’t look so rosy.

Phil on the left is describing the

Phil on the left is describing the gunge that almost filled the inside of the engine that presumably was caused by our use of castor oil.

I’ll give you a more detailed run down on the individual bits of the engine so you can see more or less how it all goes together.

The starting point is the crankshaft, which is stationary. The bit at the back of the picture is mounted in the airframe. The crank is normally at the top, with the oil gallery next to it. the main bearing is on the outside, that's what the crankcase is mounted on.

The starting point is the crankshaft, which is stationary. The bit at the back of the picture is mounted in the airframe. The crank is normally at the top, with the oil gallery next to it. the main bearing is on the outside, that’s what the crankcase is mounted on.

This is the crankcase into which all the cylinders are screwed.

This is the crankcase into which all the cylinders are screwed.

Here is a cylinder, and in front of it is an old cast iron cylinder liner that's been removed by breaking it out. You can see that it's incredibly thin - no more than about 1.5mm by my reckoning and it's a press fit into the cylinder. So it has to be made much thicker and bored out in situ before it's honed. The cylinder itself has been machined from a solid forging...

Here is a cylinder, and in front of it is an old cast iron cylinder liner that’s been removed by breaking it out. You can see that it’s incredibly thin – no more than about 1.5mm by my reckoning and it’s a press fit into the cylinder. So it has to be made much thicker and bored out in situ before it’s honed. The cylinder itself has been machined from a solid forging…

Here's the connecting rod, together with the block that fits on the crank. The block has grooves in it into which the strangely-shaped big ends fit and interleave with each other. there's no master con rod, as on most radial engines. They just move slightly in the grooves as  the engine rotates.

Here’s the connecting rod, together with the block that fits on the crank. The block has grooves in it into which the strangely-shaped big ends fit and interleave with each other. there’s no master con rod, as on most radial engines. They just move slightly in the grooves as the engine rotates.

This is the commutator ring that fits on the back of the crankcase. The HT lead from the magneto connects to a carbon brush which presses onto the face of the commutator ring you can see here. the brass inserts are connected to the brass eyebolts you can see sticking out and each one is connected by a piece of piano wire to its spark plug.

This is the commutator ring that fits on the back of the crankcase. The HT lead from the magneto connects to a carbon brush which presses onto the face of the commutator ring you can see here. the brass inserts are connected to the brass eyebolts you can see sticking out and each one is connected by a piece of piano wire to its spark plug.

This is the back of the front plate to which the propeller is attached. The gear ring is for the cam rings, which we won't go into on this page!

This is the back of the front plate to which the propeller is attached. The gear ring is for the cam rings, which we won’t go into on this page!

We were quite surprised at the rough quality of the machining on the inside of the front plate, but were told this was pretty common practice on the American engines, most of which were manufactured after the war, and it shouldn't cause any problems.

We were quite surprised at the rough quality of the machining on the inside of the front plate, but were told this was pretty common practice on the American engines, most of which were manufactured after the war, and it shouldn’t cause any problems.

And now for the problems.  A number of the cylinder bores are scored. You can see an example here. The scoring is too deep to be honed out - particularly since the liners are already so thin - and so they'll need to be replaced.

And now for the problems. A number of the cylinder bores are scored. You can see an example here. The scoring is too deep to be honed out – particularly since the liners are already so thin – and so they’ll need to be replaced.

Here's what the original steel piston skirt should look like; the marks on the skirt are machined in deliberately to aid lubrication.

Here’s what the original steel piston skirt should look like; the marks on the skirt are machined in deliberately to aid lubrication.

And here's a bad piston, with the machining marks worn away and some scoring evident as well. The plan is to replace all the pistons with new, aluminium ones (and yes, later le rhones were fitted with aluminium pistons). All the rings will be replaced as well, since the current ones seem to curve inwards at the cut, which means they've never sealed very well.

And here’s a bad piston, with the machining marks worn away and some scoring evident as well. The plan is to replace all the pistons with new, aluminium ones (and yes, later le Rhones were fitted with aluminium pistons). All the rings will be replaced as well, since the current ones seem to curve inwards at the cut, which means they’ve never sealed very well.

We’re waiting for Jean-Michel to come back to us with a more detailed cost breakdown…

275. Legendary Visitors

For hang gliding and microlighting enthusiasts, Gerry Breen is a legend.

He was one of the first to fly a hang glider in the UK, in 1972. In 1975 he set up his own hang glider manufacturing company.

In 1976 he pioneered powered hang gliders, and claims to have invented the term ‘microlights’ to describe them.

And in 1985 he set up a microlight training school in the Algarve. More of his achievements are listed here, but you might be interested to watch the film of his flight in a hang glider from the top of the 3000ft Angel Falls in Venezuela.

His other major film is Iceland Breakthrough, involving microlights and canoes.

I’ve been fortunate to know Gerry for many years. His flying skills are legendary, and he taught me a huge amount about aerobatics when he took me for a flight in his Acrosport II, which I later photographed off the Algarve cliffs near his base at Lagos.

2016-09-19-gerry-breen

He had his daughter in the front seat, and I love this picture of the two of them.

2016-09-19-gerry-breen-and-daughter

The Acrosport is now owned by Ricardo and Tiago Tavares, and I go every year to carry out its annual inspection. Ricardo is a first officer with TAP, the Portuguese airline, and he’d arranged to take a look at the Scout during a layover in London. He arrived in Dorset in a hire car, but had totally failed to mention that he had Gerry with him, and it was a wonderful surprise and a huge pleasure to catch up with their news and a privilege to be able to show them 1264, even if the poor old thing had a replacement engine and no wings.

2016-09-19-gerry-breen-and-ricardo-tavares

 

 

274. Tanking It

The 17 September 1916 was the first time tanks were used in battle, at the Battle of the Somme.

The centenary was commemorated at the Tank Museum at Bovington, and we had been asked to attend as a static exhibit.

But by now 1264’s engine was in 100 pieces in the Shuttleworth Collection’s workshop, so what were we going to hang the propeller on?

Luckily, Theo had kept in contact with the guys rebuilding a Sopwith Pup, currently housed at Henstridge airfield, and a quick email established that they would be prepared to lend us their non-running le Rhone 80 engine.

Accordingly, on the 11 September, we brought 1264 to Henstridge and parked her alongside the Pup, so that the engine could be switched from one to t’other.

The Sopwith Pup and 1264 alongside each other, and looking remarkably similar. The Pup's cowling dates from her post-war days when she was fitted with a 100hp Gnome Monosoupape engine.

The Sopwith Pup and 1264 alongside each other, and looking remarkably similar. The Pup’s cowling dates from her post-war days when she was fitted with a 100hp Gnome Monosoupape engine.

The transfer was quite straightforward in the end, and everything fitted in all the right places, so we were able to replace the cowling and get on our way.

We’re very grateful to all the Pup team for their help in this matter, and we’re looking forward to being able to return the compliment at some point!

The following weekend we headed off to Bovington, and despite being led by brown signs down some spectacularly unsuitable narrow lanes, we arrived in plenty of time to meet up with the event Co-ordinator, Vicki Pol, who showed us our pitch. Because of the strong overnight wind, we decided to come back early in the morning to rig, and in fact had everything in place well before the gates opened at 0930.

The pitch at Bovington. Notice the HUGE tank park beyond, with all sorts of interesting machinery there.

The pitch at Bovington. Notice the HUGE tank park beyond, with all sorts of interesting machinery there.

The day itself was bright and dry, and as always there were loads of people interested in the only thing that wasn’t a tank!

This young man certainly appreciated the opportunity to sit in the cockpit!

This young man certainly appreciated the opportunity to sit in the cockpit.

All in all, it was a thoroughly pleasant day, and the staff and volunteers made us feel very welcome. And we’re hoping to get down in a bit to look through the actual museum itself, which we didn’t have time to do on the day.

 

 

 

273. Thassos Ablaze

If you haven’t already spotted it on the internet, Thassos, where we flew this summer, is suffering the most dreadful forest fires. Our good friend Paschalis has sent us pictures taken from his flat across the water in Kavala, but he tells me that Kasaviti, the village in the mountains where he took us to the most wonderful restaurant, is at the heart of the area affected, in the flames you can see in the night time picture.

The hills just behind the airfield. If you look closely you can see the firefighting aircraft

The hills just behind the airfield. If you look closely you can see the firefighting aircraft

A firefighting aircraft dropping water on the blaze above the airfield

A firefighting aircraft dropping water on the blaze above the airfield

A Canadair firefighting aircraft at Kavala refilling with water.

A Canadair firefighting aircraft at Kavala refilling with water.

This night time shot shows the fire in the woods just above the airfield. It will be very close to the village where we ate such a wonderful meal in the restaurant.

This night time shot shows the fire in the woods just above the airfield. It will be very close to the village where we ate such a wonderful meal in the restaurant.

The view from Kavala. Thassos looks like a volcano.

The view from Kavala. Thassos looks like a volcano.

272. Bits and Pieces

This is what happens if you leave your aircraft at the Shuttleworth Collection. The engine has now been reduced to every one of its component parts, and is spread all over Phil’s workshop.

AA tableful of engine bits. Connecting rods on the left (note the unusual big ends), the bloc-tube carburettor in the middle, and the commutator ring on the right.

A tableful of engine bits. Connecting rods on the left (note the unusual big ends), the bloc-tube carburettor in the middle, and the commutator ring on the right.

We had a quick peek today while we were collecting the airframe for its static display at the Bovington tank museum next weekend, and to have got so far in just a week is simply astonishing.

Everything is gleaming and clean, labelled and examined. Until we’ve heard Phil’s final report we aren’t sure what, if anything, needs to be replaced, but it’s clear that the vast bulk of it is absolutely fine, though we believe it will need new piston rings, the others having not bedded in very successfully.

Here you can see the core of the engine - the crankshaft, and the crankcase. On the top right is one of the cam rings for actuating the valves

Here you can see the core of the engine – the crankshaft, and the crankcase. On the top right is one of the cam rings for actuating the valves

Three cylinders, all cleaned up, with the valves lapped to ensure we get perfect compression.

Three cylinders, all cleaned up, with the valves lapped to ensure we get perfect compression.

And although we had believed that the engine has behaved impeccably throughout the year, and it will be an expensive exercise to get it airworthy again, it’s a real pleasure to see inside, and to understand more fully how it all works. We both hope to be able to get up to the Shuttleworth when Phil’s working on it to be able to actually see all the inner workings so that we can get an instinctive feeling for the best way to treat it.