Today has seen a number of things fall into place. Undoubtedly the most exciting is this document.
I’m not quite sure how unique this document is; currently I believe ours is the only rotary-engined aircraft being operated by amateurs, and it must have taken a good deal of courage on the part of the LAA’s Chief Engineer, Francis Donaldson, to recommend its issue by the CAA.
After all, the Permit allows 1264 to be flown by any qualified pilot. Currently, of course, it’s owned and will be operated by three pilots who have reasonable experience on aircraft of similar weight and performance, but very different handling characteristics. But if we should sell 1264 on, it could be flown by anybody, and the LAA could be held responsible if they might be seen as not having taken sufficient precautions.
So hats off to Francis, and we’ll do our best to live up to his faith in us!
And everybody has put the pedal to the metal on this one. The CAA has a reputation for Civil Service-type responses, but they have fast-tracked the approval and liaised closely with the LAA to ensure it has been issued on time.
I found myself getting quite emotional on its receipt – it’s only a piece of paper, after all. But it’s THE piece of paper. It’s the one that officially acknowledges that we have the only airworthy Bristol Scout in the world, and that feels really rather special.
So – everything is looking good for 1264’s first public display on Sunday at the Shuttleworth Collection. Even the weather forecast is looking promising, though one can never tell until the day – and the hour – whether the weather will behave.
Fingers crossed, and please come and say hello if you’re there, but don’t just turn up; the event is a sellout owing to the final appearance – ever – of the mighty Vulcan…
Well, the very, very exciting news is that we hope that 1264 will be flown for the first time in public at the Shuttleworth Collection’s final WWI Display on 4 October.
There are a lot of bits of the jigsaw to get into place; it has to be trailered there, then rigged and test flown, and we’ll need the necessary paperwork from the CAA.
And finally, of course, we need the weather…
But if it all comes together, it will be a truly great way for 1264 to be seen in the air in public for the first time!
We had a day off, and then we were back at Bicester for their Sunday Brunch Scramble event – a half day (9 to 2) show mainly for classic cars, but with other vintage machinery on display as well.
We had been given pole position by the pedestrian entrance gate next to a large hangar, and since only Sue and I were there, she put up all the display stuff while I wheeled 1264 round from the hangar.
There was thick mist and it was quite a puzzle to work out which way I should be going.
It’s level tarmac all the way, and should have been a fairly easy push on my own, but I must admit to having to take several breathers along the way. The greatest challenge was to fit her through the security gate where the pedestrians were to come through. It’s 6m wide, and I can tell you now that this is the absolute minimum we can squeeze her through.
But it went fine, and we had a great day talking to all the people who came to see her.
Everyone is very complimentary about her, and while it’s quite an effort to come down the night before, stay in a B&B and get up early in order to have everything ready on time, the response of the public makes it a very worthwhile exercise every time.
We meet a diverse range of people with a very wide range of knowledge of WWI aviation, but all of them are interested in 1264 and the story behind her, and each of them has their own interesting story to tell.
The mist didn’t fully clear until more or less the end of the scramble, but it didn’t spoil everyone’s fun – except for one Jodel pilot who only just managed to fly in as the event was closing.
Today marked another major milestone in the project.
We had earmarked today (Friday) to continue (and hopefully complete) the test flying programme. I’d made some changes as discussed in earlier posts, and we would be able to see if they were effective.
Rick and I arrived at about 1100 at Bicester to find Dodge champing at the bit.
First job was to see if our spring modification would stop the bloc-tube (throttle) lever from slowly shutting itself when you let go of it when the engine was running. Before we started, it was pretty much okay from 0 (fully closed) to 3 and from 7 to 10 (fully open), but would gradually close itself in between 3 and 7.
We increased the spring tension gradually until the throttle pretty much stayed where it was put at about 5, but at about 7 it would steadily open itself up to full power. Humpf. Scout 1, Bremners 0.
We removed the spring and restored the status quo.
Next, we checked the amount of oil coming down the sides of the fuselage. After 5 minutes, it was pretty much okay, but we’d have to wait for a longer flight to judge.
After that, the weather was eminently suitable to go flying so we hauled the aeroplane to the middle of the field. First up was the test of the flying performance with the centre of gravity as far aft as possible. For this we had minimum fuel and about 9kg of lead flashing wrapped round the tailplane struts. Dodge climbed out steadily, and 20 minutes later landed and taxied back to say that while it flew pretty horribly, it did fly, and was, in his opinion, good enough for a Permit to Fly.
He’d also rechecked the maximum speed in level flight, and it was a little faster, but not enough to make any difference.
The oil on the fuselage side was slightly better than the worst case before, but it was still leaking between the cowling and the side shield, and we felt that on the whole this modification hadn’t achieved its objective either. Still, the flying results were good, and overall, we felt that the score was probably 2 all.
The next item on the list was a repeat of the time-to-climb, with, we hoped, the engine pulling properly. For this we needed the petrol tank pretty full and the lead removed from the tail. Dodge set off again, and by the time he’d finished his five minute climb had disappeared right out of sight.
He also completed the Vne dive. This is the slightly scary bit where he dives the aircraft to the maximum speed he feels comfortable with, and if nothing falls off that’s set as the maximum speed the aircraft is approved to. Well, nothing fell off, and he felt sufficiently good about the aircraft to carry out a low pass for the cameras.
Half an hour later he landed back.
As you can see, the oil problem isn’t solved, and the climb performance, while safe, isn’t what we’d have hoped for. It’s currently around 400 feet per minute, and we would have expected more like double that. Nevertheless, it’s sufficient for now, and so Dodge said he was happy on the whole to recommend the aircraft for the issue of a Permit to Fly.
Dodge now has to submit the flight test report, together with some pilot’s notes to assist others (primarily us!) to fly it successfully. I need to put together some notes on maintenance of the aircraft.
And all of these must be sent in to Francis Donaldson at the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) to compile his report which will go to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who will issue the Permit to Fly.
And that, will mean that we, the owners, can decide where it’s flown, by whom, and under what conditions, instead of the LAA. Whew!
To be honest, although this marks a very important step in the whole project, my emotions were engaged, not so much by the prospect that we might get to fly it ourselves shortly, but the sight of 1264 drifting above us in the clear blue sky, engine purring happily, and looking positively ethereal with her translucent dragonfly wings.
She’s a quite unique sight. All the other early WWI machines with clear doped wings are large two-seaters like the BE2c and the Avro 504K and one tends to associate the two features together – clear doped wings means large and cumbersone.1264 breaks the mould – here is a clear-doped aircraft that is small and manoeuvrable, and it’s a huge pleasure to be able to watch her from below.
Another very, very exciting possibility was raised today. But nothing’s been confirmed yet, so it will have to remain under wraps. For the moment.
It was only ten days ago, but already it feels unbelievably distant.
Alan Turney had dropped the trailer in the car park as promised, and we got it parked outside the main marquee in order to rig it.
We had caused something of a stir by asking that a completed aircraft be located inside the marquee, but there was no way we were going to risk it being left outside in the rain, and the LAA were very helpful in making the necessary arrangements. The marquee people dismantled the side to allow the fuselage in, and Theo and I got it erected in pretty slick fashion. We are getting rather used to doing it now!
The three days passed in something of a blur; more or less everybody seemed very interested in it and wanted to know more, and we had a great time telling everyone about it.
We met any number of great people, and while it’s invidious to pick out individuals, of particular interest was Eric Verdon Roe, grandson of Alliott Verdon Roe, founder of the Avro company and probably the first person to fly in Great Britain. This means that during this remarkable summer, we’ve met the grandchildren of the founders of three of the most illustrious companies in British aviation – Bristol, Shorts, and Avro. What a privilege!
One highlight was the visit by ATC 1379 from Leiston in Suffolk. They were very much taken with the Scout and two of them sat in the cockpit to have their photographs taken.
Altogether a wonderful weekend!