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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.”

315. The Show must go on

August was going to be a relatively quiet month, with the Shuttleworth Edwardian Day on the 6th being the only fixture.

But all of a sudden, it’s starting to fill up, with possible events in Bristol on the 1st, Odiham on the 24th and Malvern on the 26th / 27th, followed in rapid succession by the LAA Rally at Sywell on 1st Sep.

Goodness knows how many miles we’ll have travelled this summer, and we’re always fired up by the enthusiasm with which we’re received but we’ll certainly be glad of a chance to put our feet up…

314. … and on

The Larkhill event was pretty much done by 1430, and we started to dismantle her again, then headed off to Yeovilton. Unfortunately this involved the A303 on a summer Friday afternoon, and while we managed to avoid some of the queues, it was still a VERY long, slow haul.

It being a military base, we had to go through plenty of security, but we managed to get our passes and dropped the trailer at our spot, before heading back to Theo’s house for the night.

Theo’s brother Noel was with us for the weekend, and it was a huge pleasure to see him again and catch up with all his news. He’d become an integral part of the team in Greece, and we’d missed him since.

We were told we had to be on site before 0730 on the Saturday morning, since the road would be closed after that, and this meant us getting up at 0500 in order to be on time. But Stephen Saunders drove down from Stafford, and arrived at almost exactly the same moment, having set off at 0300!

Once on site, things went very smoothly. we had a spot inside a hangar near to the flight line, next to an engine-less Swordfish. We had expected everyone to be outside all day, and that we would have a quiet day, but – except when the very noisy jets were displaying – were were on our feet all day.

Once again, we met any number of interesting people; Peter Cowlan’s grandfather was an airframe fitter on HMS Ark Royal in 1916, and may have been involved in the refurbishment of 1264 after Grandad went home.

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And another interesting meeting was with Hugh Thomas and Polly Barnes, who supplied us with a cardboard model of a Bristol Scout ages ago. They use model aircraft to inspire children, and had a space at the back of the hangar where children were making model gliders and trying them out in the space.

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But Hugh had also made up a Bristol Scout, marked 1264, and fitted it with an electric motor to fly round the pole.

1-P1100755.JPGI was very impressed with the way they engaged with the children. when he got a moment, Hugh popped across with his model to be photographed alongside the real thing.

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We then went back to their display area, hooked it up to the pole in the middle, and set it off, where it flew very successfully.

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But we weren’t finished with interesting meetings yet. When someone took a particular interest in the seat, it transpired that he’d built the thing! This was Jonathan Coates, whose Somerset firm made the seat in 2014, and who likely made the original seat in 1915…1-P1100770.JPG

The weather was great, Stephen sold lots of DVDs – indeed, if you haven’t done so, it might be worth getting your order in – and we were absolutely exhausted by the end of the day, after packing 1264 back in the trailer again.

On Sunday, I drove back up to Yeovilton, hitched up the trailer, drove it back to Bicester, and thence home to Ludlow. The remainder of this week and next I’m in the USA, earning money to help pay for our expensive toy, and then as soon as I’m back, we’re off to Stow Maries in Essex for the ‘Stow Maries at War’ weekend on the 22/23 July, where we hope to be flying in the display on both days, weather permitting.

Hope to see you there!

 

313. The Show Must Go On

I had one day off to buy replacement tools and write blogs, then a day’s work to help pay for them and the following day I set off early to Bicester to collect the trailer and tow it to Larkhill.

Larkhill, on Salisbury plain, was one of the most important locations for early aviation, and although the original airfield wasn’t operational after 1914 and is now a housing estate, some of the sheds erected by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company remain, and are Grade II listed buildings, maintained as storehouses by the Army.

And in fact it was from these sheds that the prototype Bristol Scout – still called the Baby – flew in February 1914, and so we’d always cherished an ambition to bring the Scout back home.

I spoke to the Wings over Stonehenge group who promote the remembrance of those pioneering days in the area, and specifically to Roger Green, and he and the group organised a magnificent day for us which over 100 people attended, and many more got to see, since a local roadworks involved a diversion past the door, and countless drivers were sat in the queue for hours looking at 1264 adjacent to the sheds!

It was a great day, with talks by Roger, historian Tim Brown and myself. Tim has published a note on FaceBook about the Scout which has some interesting photographs. Sir George and Lady Joanna White arrived in their gorgeous Bristol 400 which was parked next to 1264, and we ran the engine which was much appreciated. Finally, a Westland Scout helicopter overflew the site in recognition of its older namesake. All the still here were taken by Dietmar Morley; thanks for letting me share them, Dietmar!

Roger Green introducing the day.

Parked outside the original British and Colonial sheds…

… alongside the Bristol 400 belonging to Sir George White, great grandson of the founder of the B&CAC.

A shame they’ve made the doors smaller, or she could have gone right home! Wouldn’t it be nice if they could repaint the company name on the front?

Roger had arranged for BBC South to be there, and a short piece was broadcast on the early evening local news, as well as on the BBC website. BFPO did a short interview as well.

One particular pleasure was to meet up with old microlighting friends Chris and Cathrine Bradford. Chris’ grandfather learned to fly with the RNAS at Redcar, and we think it’s entirely possible he was there when my Grandad was first Lieutenant!

 

 

312. Back to Earth with a bump

We’d had a wonderful time, as always, and headed back home on Monday.

The travel arrangements went absolutely to plan, Panos meeting us off the ferry in Kavala to present us with yet more gifts.

When we got home on Monday afternoon, we found that Theo’s partner Fran had suffered a burglary at her home, though it appears that little of value was taken.

Then we found that the glass roof on Theo’s Peugeot car had inexplicably developed a large crack in it, which will require replacement, and my own Hilux had been broken into and my toolbox stolen. I’ve spent Tuesday trying to remember what was in it and ordering replacements. Needless to say, it’s not covered by either household contents or car insurance…

Still, these things happen in threes, so we hope that will be all for a while.

311. Our Day in the Sun

There are only two airshows in Greece; one in Athens and this one in Kavala, so it’s very popular – they reckon it’s watched by upwards of 100,000 people on the waterfront of the very pretty harbour harbour town in a natural amphitheatre.

The show starts at around 1815 when the main heat of the day is spent, but because of the ferries we got there mid-afternoon, when the temperature was 38C (100F, for those of you in Myanmar, Liberia and the USA who haven’t adopted the metric system).

So we headed for the modeller’s exhibition, partly because thy have been so generous to us and partly because they were in an air conditioned hall.

But the exhibition was amazingly good, and we were (of course) immediately drawn to the 1/72 scale diorama of Thassos aerodrome in 1916, with tents under the olive grove and a row of Bristol Scouts parked nearby. 1-P1090971.JPG

1264 was there, looking splendidly oil-stained and complete with all her rigging.

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Modelling at the highest level becomes an art form. Take a look at this Tiger tank; the weatherbeaten look is amazingly realistic.

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And as we left, the chairman of the club, Babis, presented us both with specially produced mugs as well. 1-P1090982.JPG

When it had cooled off a bit, we headed off to the VIP enclosure, where Panos’ son, Lazarus, had been deputed to look after our every need – which he did. If he ever decides to give up a career in engineering, he will prove very successful as a waiter!

The Baltic Bees fly L-39 trainer jets in lovely flowing precision aerobatics – here is an example.

 

1-P1100017.JPGJurgis Kairys (whom we’d met the previous evening) flew his Extra aircraft in a dazzling display – take a look at the number of spins in this descent. I can’t even count them.

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The Air Force Apache was very popular, not least because the spray from his low hover kept those on the waterfront cool!

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And the Hueys, which are still in active service with the Greek Air Force, bring back instant memories of Apocalypse Now for those with longer memories!

All in all, a great day, and we felt thoroughly spoiled as we finally got to bed around 0030.

 

 

 

 

 

 

310. In the Spotlight

Friday 30 June was the opening ceremony for the Kavala airshow, and all the participants – volunteers, pilots and local dignitaries – were invited to small eats and a drink.

The pilots were invited to talk about their participation in the show, and the three of us – Theo, Stephen and myself – were invited first, with Panos (the event organiser) translating.

Theo and David – happy to be the centre of attention

 

I gave a short description of why we were there, and Stephen talked about the film, and told everyone to go to the open air screening across the road afterwards.

Film maker Stephen Saunders. Did you know that Stephen’s first job in films was to add Roger Moore’s grunts and groans for the fight scene in an episode of ‘The Saint’? (If you’re interested, the episode is called Double Take, and is available on Amazon)… Since then things have improved, and he’s been nominated for a BAFTA Award for one of his films. He’s been so closely involved with the project, we count him and his wife Claire as an integral part of the team.

Film screening on the Kavala waterfront with castle in the background

 

309. A La Recherche du Temps Perdu

On Sunday afternoon we packed 1264 away in record time – 45 minutes to be precise – and drove the couple of hours down to Theo’s house where we stayed for a couple of hours, trying to stay awake, before heading to pick up Theo’s partner in Bournemouth (at 0100 on Monday morning) and driving on to Gatwick, in order that the four of us – myself, my wife Sue, Theo and Fran – could catch the 0550 flight to Thessaloniki, and then on to Thassos to stay in the same hotel as last year. All went smoothly, and by 1600 on the Monday we arrived at the hotel where we met up with film producer Stephen Saunders and his wife Claire, who had arrived a few days earlier for the Greek premiere of the film, which has been subtitled in Greek, and went down a storm.

By this time, of course, we’d been on the go more or less continuously since 0700 on the Sunday morning, and were completely goosed.

By Tuesday morning we had more or less returned to the human race, and strolled down to the airstrip to see what condition it was in.

Needless to say, the weather conditions were perfect for flying – a gentle onshore breeze perfectly aligned with the strip, and we felt the absence of 1264 very keenly, as you can see from the picture below.

 

Sue is practicing her engine starting technique while Theo holds down the tail…

… then both Theo and I go flying in our imaginations…

… before we all retire to the bar for a drink.