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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.”

284. The First Signs of Spring

1264 is still safely hibernating in her carcoon, but along with the snowdrops, things are stirring in the woods.

Last week we had notification from the people checking the tacho that they are on with it, and that while they can’t alter the internal configuration to make it read correctly they can fit a little in-line gearbox in the tacho cable to sort the problem out.

This means that the drive to the tacho will go through a 1:1.8 increase in speed between the crankcase and the oil pump; a 3.6:1 reduction between the oil pump and the front end of the taco cable; and a 1:2 increase in the middle of the cable! Go figure.

Of equal significance is the news that the engineers relining the cylinders are nearly done, and they should be back at the Shuttleworth in a week. Everything else is ready – new pistons, new rings – and so it’s only a question of reassembly once Phil’s finished on the Mew Gull engine (which was spitting iron filings at the end of the season). And then we can bring the airframe over and reunite the two. We are hopeful that with all the work that’s done, we may see an increase in performance. What we had before was perfectly acceptable, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could confirm the performance figures generated 100 year ago?

And the third piece of winter work that’s coming to fruition is Stephen Saunders’ film. He has booked the Prince of Wales cinema in Leicester Square at lunchtime on 11 April for the premiere, and we are getting ourselves psyched up for the red carpet (stained with castor oil, of course)!

Things are definitely picking up…

283. And Finally…

It’s been a satisfying week. The list of little jobs completed on the airframe is longer than I though it might be. To cap it all, we took 1264 to Henstridge to switch our replacement engine back into its proper home – the Sopwith Pup that’s being worked on there.

And in order to eliminate the risk of any problems with damp, we left her back inside the Carcoon which we used for a year or so during the build.

Thanks to Jason and Clive and Annabel for all their help!

282. Steady Progress

It’s been a good week so far. We’ve made out a list of about a dozen jobs that need doing on the airframe and remarkably, it looks as if we might get them pretty much completed in the week.

Yesterday our good friend Ricardo turned up on his day off from piloting A319s for TAP, the Portuguese airline. He was in time to help move the wings into the workshop so that we could work on them.

2017-01-12-ricardo

The lower port wing catches the worst of the oil and exhaust from the engine and needed a great deal of cleaning, mostly using thinners. We also added another coat of thinned dope in the cleaned areas to compensate for what we’d taken off in the cleaning process.

Having to do this inside the workshop is heady stuff, and whether Ricardo had sobered up in time for his return flight is open to doubt!

Today I’ve had the instrument panel off to fit anchor nuts on the back, so that the instruments can be removed without having to take the panel out. I also did a number of other small jobs, including fitting the Transport Trust badge, which we wear very proudly after having won the ‘Preservationist of the Year’ trophy last year.

2017-01-12-instrument-panelWe’ve also replaced – again – the bungee suspension on one side. They were both replaced in late August, having been sliced  into many short lengths by the aluminium strips called for in the drawing. The bungee is laid up in three rows of four turns each, and the aluminium does a good job of separating the three layers, allowing them to slip over each other. Unfortunately if they aren’t aligned precisely, the ends catch on the bungee and cut them up. We’d replaced them in August with some trepidation, but having checked them now we’ve rewound them without the strips.

It seems likely they were discarded in service, but the information didn’t get back to the drawing office!

2017-01-12-suspension-bungees

One thing for the modellers among you; if you want to replicate the exact look of clear-doped linen fabric after a while in service, check these pictures out.

 

Here's the underside of the tailplane, which hasn't been cleaned for a while. The vast majority of the dirt - which is the exhaust and some oil from the engine - is on the port side.

Here’s the underside of the tailplane, which hasn’t been cleaned for a while. The vast majority of the dirt – which is the exhaust and some oil from the engine – is on the port side.

And take a look at the discolouration caused by exposure to the sunshine. Where the fabric has been under the tailplane it's almost virgin white, but forward of that it's gone a cream colour. It's also noticeably paler on the fuselage sides under the tailplane where it's been in shadow most of the time.

And take a look at the discolouration caused by exposure to the sunshine. Where the fabric has been under the tailplane it’s almost virgin white, but forward of that it’s gone a cream colour. It’s also noticeably paler on the fuselage sides under the tailplane where it’s been in shadow most of the time.

This is the fuselage port side, and you can see that despite our best efforts with meths and thinners. it's still pretty mucky. Again, this is absolutely accurate - you've only got to look at the pictures of the time to confirm - but we've added a coat of dope to give the dirt a nice shiny lustre for the 2017 season! We've also repainted the cockades; the old ones were just a tad too small, and these more closely match those on the photo of Grandad's accident.

This is the fuselage port side, and you can see that despite our best efforts with meths and thinners, it’s still pretty mucky. Again, this is absolutely accurate – you’ve only got to look at the pictures of the time to confirm – but we’ve added a coat of dope to give the dirt a nice shiny lustre for the 2017 season! We’ve also repainted the cockades; the old ones were just a tad too small, and these more closely match those on the photo of Grandad’s accident.

Bristol Scout 1264 crash landed after fitting a le Rhone engine

281. Back in the shed

Ah, nostalgia! I’m spending a week with Theo working on 1264’s airframe. This morning we managed to manoeuvre the trailer into Theo’s drive and rolled the fuselage into the workshop just as the rain started to come down. The first thing we’ve noted is that there is a significant amount of dampness in the trailer, so this is an ideal opportunity to get things checked out and dried out.

The main job of the week is to try and some more dope onto the fuselage fabric. We have enough fabric to recover the fuselage, but the existing stuff has gone a rather attractive creamy colour in between the oil stains, and putting new fabric on would look very odd indeed, so we’ve decided to stick with the existing stuff, which more accurately represents 1264 as she would have been 100 years ago, but to try and get a finish that is easier to keep in its current state. You can get an idea of the change in colour of the fabric in the picture below. Where’s it’s been peeled back the inside is more or less the original colour.

But before we could start on that, we needed to open up the fabric at the tail, so that we could make a more airworthy job of the suspension on the tailskid. 2017-01-09-tailskid-suspension

That’s all done and should be good for the foreseeable future. We also want to unravel the main suspension to see how that is looking; you may remember that the bungees had been divided neatly into about 12 pieces by the aluminium inserts which were intended to help them slide over one another. If it looks like it might happen again, we will try removing them.

It’s been great to have her back in the workshop again. Both Theo and I commented on the warm feeling we had to have her back at her birthplace.

1 Mar 1916. Imbros

24 Feb. Dickinson. Bush and Simpson went home on leave. Up in BD at 10.25 for thirty minutes during afternoon. Landed downwind as the smoke in the harbour was blowing north and on aerodrome was blowing north. Collected shells with Thorold in evening on beach between Salt Lake and harbour. Beautiful sunset and evening, sunny but very cold air through wind coming from the south.

25 Feb. Dickinson. Dunston left. Bought his gun and ammunition. Up in Henry Farmer for short flight. Not a movement in the air. Enjoyed it immensely. Played A Flight Agamemnon and won 6-1. Most amusing as ground was still soaking and very slippery.

27 Feb. Dickinson. Windy and wet. Letters during morning. Walk with Thorold to Bluff in afternoon. Rowdy singsong by Belton, Thorold, Hooper, Knkhead (Kinkead) and Burnaby while I wrote letters.

28 Feb. Dickinson. Sunny but cold with strong north wind. Up late and had boiled eggs in cabin. Received £8 pay. Walked out to Kephalo Point with Thorold between 4.30 and 7.15. A long way but very nice though; especially the cup of tea and homemade dough cake at the Lighthouse. More and worse singsong.

28 Feb. Bunnie. Morning reconnaissance of straits. Strong N. Wind but not bumpy. Excellent slow landing.

1 Mar. Dickinson. Up 7.00am. dull afternoon with south wind and wet evening. Watched Captain Carver of Repington fame salving stranded lighter. Signs of coming southerly gale.

1 Mar. Bunnie.Hun seaplane appeared, and several machines sent after him. ’59 in the back shed, so got away rather late. Went to Chanak and hung about for a bit but never saw him. Slow landing, but a bit heavy. No wind. Quite a fair amount of archie.

Bunnie seems to have had a quiet five days since his last flight. Was the aircraft unserviceable or was he ill, maybe?

Meanwhile Dickinson had a couple of flights. I’ve been unable to discover what BD was. It’s not obviously a type of aircraft, none of which had those initials, nor was it a serial of an individual machine, since they were all numerals. And how come he took off at 10.25 for thirty minutes but it was in the afternoon?

The Henry Farmer, on the other hand, is the Henri Farman F27, which proved to be the most capable and reliable of the two-seaters.

Henri Farman F27 with No. 3 Wing RNAS on Mudros in 1915.

Henri Farman F27 with No. 3 Wing RNAS on Mudros in 1915.

Bunnie’s reference to ’59 is 1259, his second favourite machine.

The two entries for 1 March are interesting in that they seem to have no common point of reference. You might have thought that Dickinson’s diary would mention the appearance of a German seaplane over the airfield, and the weather conditions don’t seem to tie up at all!

280. Happy Christmas, and see you in the New Year!

Just to keep your appetite whetted, here’s a short video of this year’s most unique and personally moving flight.

You’ll be able to see loads more in the soon-to-be-released full-length film by acclaimed director Stephen Saunders.

You can reserve your copy here.

 

279. Christmas came early

It’s a requirement for private pilots to do an hour with an instructor every other year, and this year Theo and I decided to do so with Clive Davidson in one of his iconic Tiger Moths biplanes, restored, like 1264, to pristine perfection, exactly as she was in 1940.

All RAF pilots did their first flying hours in the Tiger Moth, and it remains one of the classic biplane designs of all time, and we happened to pick an absolutely perfect day for it on the Thursday before Christmas.

I flew to Henstridge in Dorset in the Escapade – a pleasure in itself – and here’s my take on the flight. If you’d like to have a go yourself, you couldn’t be in safer hands than with Clive or partner Annabel, and with limitless tea and coffee and aviation-related yarns in the hangar, both before and afterwards. Ring Clive on 07855 452097 or check their website here.

Enough advertising. Here’s the video.