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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.”

365. A weekend off…

I’m often asked ‘What’s the next project?’

Well, for this week at least, here’s the answer – all made out of spare timber, and none of it aircraft quality!

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364. Yeovilton

We’ve been pneumatically challenged this week. On arrival at Shuttleworth, the trailer tyre just clipped the kerb at the entrance.Shuttleworth kerb.jpg

And it completely shredded the sidewall. So when we got back from Shuttlworth and recovered a bit, I made a trip to the local tyre place to get a replacement.

I was working in Kent and Essex, and after work on Thursday I headed back up to Shuttleworth to collect the trailer and drive down to Theo’s place near Blandford Forum.

It was great to meet up with Theo’s brother Noel, who’d been with us in Greece.

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Noel was his usual ebullient self

On the Friday afternoon we headed up to Yeovilton RNAS and rigged up in good time, having collected all the necessary passes. 20180706_174147 (800x600).jpg

We went back to Theo’s for the night, and found one rear tyre on the Hilux looking a bit sad. On investigation we found this.

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So I changed the wheel while Theo made us a late meal. the Hilux is an automatic, and I always leave it in ‘Park’, and don’t bother with the handbrake – which works fine under normal circumstances. I hadn’t twigged, however, that when you lift one rear wheel off the ground, the differential allows the other one to turn…

So I had my dinner rather late, after the car fell off the jack.

Come Saturday morning, we had been told that we had to be on site by 0800 if we were going to be able to get the car onto the airfield and so we were up at around 0530 . On arrival at 0730, the little Hitler on the gate said that we didn’t have the right sort of pass, and we’d have to park in the public car park. Thankfully we’d unloaded the pickup the night before, so it wasn’t terminal, but it was certainly an inconvenience.

The show itself was as wonderful as always; you would think things would quieten down inside the hangar once the flying displays start, but apparently not.


So we barely got to see any of the displays, though I did manage to take a look at the Museum of Army Flying’s Skeeter helicopter which they hope to get flying again.

And while I had my lunchtime sandwich I caught our friends at the Royal Navy Historic Flight firing up the Swordfish for its display.20180707_132443 (800x600).jpg

All in all, a wonderful day, and a weekend off, which will allow me to get the puncture fixed and the Hilux brakes sorted…


363. Shuttleworth Military Pageant

Also themed on Armed Forces Day, the Military Pageant focuses on military machines.

We had a quick breakfast and were unloading the trailer shortly after 0800. Once again rigging was done within our normal 2 hour time limit, which was just as well, since we had many friends hoping to be with us.

First to arrive were Alan and Gloria Peacock, who’d come across specially from Ireland. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that Alan’s father looked after 1264 in 1916 when Grandad was flying her. We’d met them at their home in Ireland, and they’d flown over specially to see us.

Alan grew up next to the Miles factory in Woodleigh, and when I’d mentioned this to Dave Bramwell, owner of the Miles Magister at Shuttleworth, he’d immediately offered for Alan to have a flight in  the capable hands of Ian Oliver. Thank you so much to to both of you!

The bus carrying Alan and Gloria arrived in the nick of time to allow the flight to take place before the show started, and we hurried him off to leap into the back of Dave’s Maggie.

It was only a short flight, but Alan was over the moon with it.


I gave Alan a thorough briefing on the Scout so that he could take over from his Dad looking after her…

By this time my daughter had arrived with her family.

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Grandson Archie is getting a bit big to fit in with me. From now on he’ll just have to learn to fly her himself…

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… and he’s practising on the P40,…

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… including swinging the prop for his sister Rosie.


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And Sue (aka Rosie the Riveter) was busy navigating for Debbie Land (aka Riveting Rita), while they drove Debbie’s Citroen Traction Avant in the vehicle parade …

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… and posed with the Willys jeep that the original Rosie would have driven.


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And took an immediate shine to the Orange Man.

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When it was time for Grandad to fly, they headed off to the VIP enclosure and looked out for him.

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And there he was! Making a fool of himself. Again.

And this is what it looked like from Grandad’s point of view.

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The family are on the benches in front of the tower. Honest.


PS. After two flights, it’s amazing how much oil needs cleaning off. Even my goggles!

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But eventually it was done. 1264 was packed back into the trailer, the trailer tyre was changed for the spare, and we headed home. Sue and I got back home just on midnight. Are we too old for all this stuff? Not yet!



362. East Grinstead Armed Forces Day

This was our busiest weekend of the year, and we arrived at East Grinstead from Ludlow at 1700 on Friday after a gruelling six-hour drive from Ludlow; from Heathrow onwards it was basically nose to tail the entire way.

Thankfully organiser Graham Stagg was there to meet us and we parked the trailer on site and headed off to the hotel where we met Theo and Chill, who’d had equally difficult journeys.

It was an early start on Saturday morning and we were on site at 0700 to get rigged. We managed a record time of around 45 minutes, and the trailer was parked adjacent to Millenium Hall at East Court, where we were situated.

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The weather was glorious and we had a great time as usual.

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At lunchtime we were joined by our friend Ricardo Tavares from Lisbon. He normally flies an Airbus A340, but looked quite at home in something a little smaller.

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Sue had dressed up as Rosie the Rivetter from the WWII poster, and joined the excellent singing group from the same era.

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Next to us was a group of RFC re-enactors called Dawn Patrol RFC Living History Group, and they appreciated a genuine WWI machine to pose with. How did they stay cool?

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At the end of the day the one dressed as a pilot asked if he could sit in the cockpit. There was only one ‘other ranks’, and he was ordered to swing the propeller.

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The most distinguished guest was Air Marshal Sir Ian MacFadyen, an ex-fighter pilot,  and it was a privilege to show him the very first fighter aircraft!

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The event finished at 1515, but the day was only half done for us, and we set to packing 1264 away, and headed off to Biggleswade and the Shuttleworth Collection. There was a considerable rush, as Ricardo wanted to get to our accommodation in time to watch Portugal’s match against Uruguay.

We had a great trip round the M25 for a change, and although we caught a kerb and wrecked a trailer tyre, at least it was at the entrance to Old Warden…

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We left Ricardo in his room while we headed to the pub for dinner. Ricardo joined us later to cry into his beer. (Portugal 2, Uruguay 1, if you remember).

It was another early night ready for the next big day…


361. Synchronicity

We are always being asked about the unsynchronised gun fitted to 1264 and people are amazed that anyone should be so daft as to try it.

But it makes a lot more sense than you might imagine, and was apparently more common than people realise.

To demonstrate the effects, we had a half propeller made up and shot holes in it using original 0.303 rounds.

The effect is far less dramatic than you might suppose.

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Here’s our half propeller, with two holes, which is more or less what you might expect from emptying a Lewis gun drum of 47 rounds. As you can see, the propeller will pretty definitely get you home.

I then had a look through a wonderful book of RFC Communiques from 1915 – 1916, edited by Christopher Cole

the very first entry detailed Lanoe Hawker’s action forcing down three German machines in one flight which earned him the VC – in a Bristol Scout with an unsynchronised gun. While a good many of the combats involved the FE2a or the Vickers Gunbus which are pushers, the Bristol Scout and Morane are very well represented, and neither had a synchronised gun. Some may have been fitted to the top wing to fire over the top of the propeller, or (as in Hawker’s case) obliquely to the side of the propeller.

But I’ve been struck by this account which Keith Pybus sent me recently, where the improbably-named Geoffrey Hornblower Cock, a WWI flying Ace from Shropshire, says “The 1½ Strutter was a good aircraft, but the front gun was quite useless. I, however, was lucky in getting the Ross interrupter gear on trial, and this speeded up the rate of fire … to almost normal rate, and I got most of my victories with it. Of course, both front and rear guns were operating in a fight, but if the Hun was shot down while the rear gun was firing at him, the gunner got the credit, and very rightly too.” The interrupter gear enabled pilots to fire their Vickers machine gun without engaging the interrupter gear, increasing the rate of fire but also increasing the risk of damage to the propeller! A flight commander in the same squadron ( Norman MacMillan, CO of 45 Sqn) claimed “some aircraft came back with as many as twenty bullet holes in the propeller, but no one was known to have been lost because of a shot-off blade.”

And this was in late 1916, by which time synchronising was pretty much standard fit.

His point about the rate of fire is critical – the amount of time the gun is pointing in the right direction is a fraction of a second, so the more rounds you can get off the better.

You also need to bear in mind that the synchronising gear was very unreliable. it’s possible German air ace Max Immelmann died shooting his own propeller off.

It’s certain that Haptmann Heydemark, who commanded the German squadron at Drama in Macedonia shortly after Grandad had faced them, shot his own propeller off.

All in all, if you have to choose between waiting to be shot down by a German or the fairly remote possibility of damaging your own propeller, I know which I’d choose!


360. Bridgend

On Saturday we were in south Wales, as part of the Wartime Bridgend event. Strictly speaking we were a bit of an anachronism, as the theme was WWII, but no-one seemed to mind the discrepancy, and as always we spent a happy day chatting to everyone who came past.

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Organiser Rob Butler, Sue and Theo in a good mood after a great day

There were a couple of showers during the day, but they didn’t dampen spirits, and by the afternoon the sun prevailed and we were able to put 1264 back in the trailer quite dry.

Among the guests were actors playing Sir Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Montgomery – and the real Simon Weston, the soldier who was so terribly disfigured in the Falklands war. It was a great honour to meet him.

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For the past couple of weeks Theo and I had swapped cars, and on Sunday we were able to switch back and Sue and I towed 1264 home ready for the next appearance in Wisbech, Cambs next Sunday.

The following weekend is pretty hectic – East Grinstead on the Saturday, followed by the Shuttleworth Military pageant on Sunday.

359. Symmetry

Ever since 1264 took to the air, photographers have managed to capture photographs with astonishing symmetry.

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Andrew Goldsmith took this at her first public display at Shuttleworth, flown by Dodge Bailey in October 2015. To get wings and propellers perfectly aligned is something that is unlikely ever to happen again!

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The following Thursday, Roger Pattrick took this on my first flight.

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And how about this one taken by Tom Gotobed last year. Apparently Tom survived the encounter, since he published it in January…

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… and the latest by Ashley Stephenson taken on Sunday. The footholes on port and starboard side are perfectly aligned!