Yesterday I heard from Gene DeMarco to say he’d be here on 6th July, and Francis Donaldson has indicated that we should have the Permit to Test by then. Rick has emailed to say that the minor glitches with the engine controls are fixed, and the compass has been removed, which means therefore that in just over a week’s time we should be in a position, weather permitting, to get air under 1264’s wheels.
I’m not a nervous person, and I know we’ve built her to the highest standard. But we have SO much invested in her, and she’s the only one in the world, and I must admit to some sleepless nights thinking about those early flights.
And in this period of relative inactivity, it seems like a good time to say some thank yous to those who’ve helped to make this project through to completion.
Any list of this type is necessarily incomplete, and if your name isn’t included specifically here, please don’t think we aren’t grateful, because we are.
Leo Opdyke, who built the first Bristol Scout since 1916 and his machine provided our initial inspiration and persuaded us that our idea of rebuilding Granddad’s aeroplane was feasible. His research meant that we had an excellent head start in gathering the necessary information.
Derek Staha, who freely gave us high-quality scans of the original Bristol drawings that had ended up in the US.
Sir George White, who preserved Leo’s machine and photographed the parts list.
Alan Haseldine, our welder.
Ian Harris, who made the tanks and side shields.
Steve Moon, who made the cowlings.
Chris and Pat Jones, who provided accommodation at the airfield, use of all his workshop facilities and tools, advice, a helping hand whenever it was needed and endless, endless cups of tea,
Dave Garrett, who stepped in at short notice to get the trailer to and from Bicester when we were completely stuck for tow vehicles.
Dodge Bailey, Chief Test Pilot of the Shuttleworth Collection, for his advice and – probably – test flying.
I know Rick and Theo will have their own list of thank yous to make, and they will make them elsewhere, but for me, there’s one gigantic thank you I still want to make.
This list is necessarily incomplete and partial, and most men would have felt obliged to say thank you to their wives, even if their contribution had been a grudging acceptance of their husband’s long-term absence in the workshop, and the diminution of their savings. But Sue has been an active enthusiastic partner in the project from day one.
She has undertake a great deal of the research, coming up with all sorts of exciting leads relating to instruments, photographs – indeed anything to do with the Bristol Scout. It’s Sue who insisted on my starting this blog and who has pestered me to make regular entries, Sue who runs the Facebook and Twitter pages, Sue who has been in touch with the Ludlow Ledger and the BBC, Sue who has kept me going with her enthusiasm through the dark times and who wanted to lend me money when things got a bit tight.
The three of us, Theo Rick and myself, are the ones who get the credit for 1264, but in fact Sue is the fourth member of the team. Her contribution is at least as great as any of the rest of us.
Sunday 21 June.
The forecast for today was overcast all day. In fact it turned out to be a great deal better than that, and it was a perfect day for an aviation event. Yesterday’s weather had precluded the arrival of the Bristol Blenheim from Duxford. This was an event of truly historical significance for Bicester, which operated Blenheims for many years, and this was the first time one had landed here for 70 years.
Another lump in the throat as those impossibly soft Bristol Mercury engines whispered onto the grass.
Then we took it upon ourselves to roll the Scout out and park it alongside the Blenheim. This was our historic moment; the first and last Bristol designs by Frank Barnwell.
After that, the White’s two lovely Bristol cars – the 400 and the 404 – were parked in front of the two aircraft, and for us and Sir George this was a real moment to treasure.
Later, just before the Blenheim started up and taxied out, we ran the engine again, and wheeled 1264 back to its display spot, where we spent the rest of a sunny afternoon watching brilliant displays by the Blenheim, a couple of Spitfires, the WWI Display team (very slick, and a commendably tight routine) and waited for the Vulcan, which in the end got delayed and couldn’t make it.
We had 1264 packed away in the trailer and the trailer parked up within an hour and a half, and were home by around 2130, more or less voiceless and legless, but it had been a truly memorable weekend.
Saturday 21 June.
The forecast was decidedly iffy, with rain in the morning, showers throughout the day, and the possibility of thunderstorms in the evening.
The hangar in which 1264 was stored overnight was full of the most beautiful vintage gliders, none of whom was prepared to come out if there was any chance of rain, so they were moved to one side and we rolled 1264 out into a very light drizzle, alongside the BE2f belonging to the WWI Aviation Heritage Trust.
We were directed to a spot right next to the VIP tent, which was a real privilege. Soon afterwards, the distinctive electric blue Bristol 400 car belonging to Sir George White pulled up alongside, and he and his wife Joanna got out, looking very smart despite the rather muddy, damp conditions.
We spoke to Steve Slater who was to do the commentary about timings and so on, and set up the table to sell copies of the parts list. Sir George started a production line to sign some of them, with us builders following suit behind.
At about 1230, we hauled the Scout over the crowd line to airside, and Steve began the introductions. All three of us got the chance to say our bit, and then Sir George gave a wonderful short speech and proceeded to sign the propeller.
I felt a lump appearing unbidden in my throat, and when we’d all posed for loads and loads of photographs, we turned the aircraft into wind and started her up. As always, she performed faultlessly for the crowd, and we got another great round of applause.
Thereafter, it was a question of dodging the showers for the rest of the day. The weather meant that a good deal of the flying display was cancelled, and the numbers of people about thinned considerably throughout the afternoon. Nevertheless, a good deal of interest was shown, and we had family and friends who’d come specially, so it was great to catch up with them.
Then about 1600 we could see a particularly large, dark cloud approaching, so all the aircraft were hurriedly wheeled into the hangar. We just made it before the big downpour, and were huddled in alongside the BE2f and all of the WWI Display team aircraft.
We got a chance to talk to the owner and pilot of one of their Fokker Dr1s, Peter Bond, who’d contacted us ages ago about the possibility of building a Bristol Scout. He’s currently on with a Sopwith Camel, apparently, but he was a great guy and it’s such a pleasure to meet like-minded people who know what it takes to complete a project like this!
Friday 19 June.
We’d agreed to meet up with Dodge Bailey, the Shuttleworth Cllection’s Chief Test Pilot, on the Friday morning so that he could get familiar with the aeroplane, and try the engine out.
We all met up about 1000 and finished off the rigging while Dodge had a good look around the cockpit and the whole of the airframe.
He has more experience than anyone else in the country of flying early aeroplanes, and asked a good many questions about the aerofoil section and other pertinent stuff, and I went through the development history of the Scout so that he could better understand what might have been found wrong in the prototype, and what they’d done to fix it.
He wasn’t happy about the compass mounting, pointing out that it was possible to get your heel jammed in front of it which might impede free movement of the rudder. We came to the conclusion that the simplest thing would be simply to remove it, since it’s not of any practical use or historical accuracy or importance.
Then we rolled it outside and – at his suggestion – filled the tank about 3/4 full, which is how it would be likely to be flown for the first few flights. This would show if the increased pressure in the fuel system had any effect on the mixture control.
The engine started first pull, as always, and the run was successful. there didn’t seem to be any significant effect on the mixture control, which as before seems to have more or less no effect at all.
When he came to shut the engine down, however, it became apparent that the mixture valve wasn’t shutting off fully unless you held the control fully shut. This isn’t acceptable, since it’s the normal way of shutting the engine off either in flight or on the ground, and it’s not immediately clear why this is happening, since it seems to work completely satisfactorily when the engine’s not running. We’ll need to do a bit more investigation into this.
Otherwise he was happy with the whole aircraft, and we were delighted to have spent time with such a delightful, modest and very experienced and wise man.
Then we posed 1264 in the sunshine for a few portraits.
At the beginning of the week, I wasn’t at all sure we were going to make it to Bicester.
Having written off my Octavia towing the trailer, I’d bought a second hand Land Rover Discovery 3 which we were confident would do the job. When I took delivery, the engine hunted at certain power settings, so, having driven it down to Banbury and back on Monday and demonstrated that there was nothing temporary about the situation, a friend took me to his local Land Rover repairer with a diagnostic computer.
As I got out of the car, I dropped my mobile phone and the screen cracked.
When he ran the diagnostics, it indicated that the Exhaust Valve Recycling valves were the culprit, and I passed this information on to the car sales agent in the morning. Their faces fell, as this is an expensive repair, and they had committed themselves to sorting out the problem.
But things got worse. When their own LR agent ran their checks, they indicated that the entire gearbox & transmission unit would need to be replaced! I spent a sleepless night worrying how anything was going to get fixed in time to get the aircraft to Bicester for the weekend, but in the morning the car sales agent said they would lend me a Discovery as a courtesy car, complete with towhook.
In the end, it turned out to be a Discovery 2 with a manual gearbox, but I was grateful for what they’d done, and I took it straight to the trailer and hitched up.
Driving it proved to be a considerable challenge. The engine seems to be pretty gutless until the turbo cuts in at about 2000rpm, which make hill starts something of a challenge, even without a 1.5 ton trailer. As it was, there were several miles of single track roads to navigate, and on one or two hills I had to engage low ratio to get up there.
Once on the main roads, I found that the trailer started wagging at speeds in excess of 35mph, though I could creep up to 40mph on the motorways unless an artic came past, in which case I was back to 35. Still, we got there in the end, and the I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Theo was there to meet me, and we started to rig it. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to put the wing struts in, and so I got a telling off from Theo who said he could have been sat out in the sun reading his book instead of driving all the way to and from Bicester. By this time I was so tired and so relieved at having got it there, I wasn’t about to argue with him…
And now, on Thursday evening, the car is all packed with everything we need for the weekend, and we’re off first thing to finish rigging the aircraft and to meet up with Dodge Bailey, Chief Test Pilot for the Shuttleworth Collection, who is getting ready to carry out the flight testing as soon as we get the word from the LAA.
You don’t get better than that!
Then in the afternoon we’ll be sorting out how the weekend will work, where we’ll be and so on.
The forecast is looking a bit wet for Saturday, and we’ll need to decide how we deal with that, but Sunday is looking great, and if you haven’t done so yet, check out the Bicester Flywheel event website and come and see us, together with all the other mind-boggling stuff on show, on the ground and in the air.
There’s a strange hush of anticipation on the Bristol Scout front.
The damaged trailer axle has been replaced.
We are waiting for the paperwork to be issued for the first flight, but in between there’s been a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing. I’ve had to buy a Land Rover Discovery to tow the trailer, and the purchase hasn’t been entirely straightforward. A tyre needed replacing and the engine is surging at intermediate powers, all of which need to be sorted before we can get the trailer with 1264 in it back down to Bicester.
On the advice of Jean Munn, I’ve rechecked the dimensions of the mixture valve and found that it’s exactly as it should be, so we will try it in the air with the current settings before starting to mess about with it too much.
I’m hoping to get the trailer to Bicester early next week so that we can get Dodge Bailey, who might do the first flight, to take a good look at it before the Bicester Flywheel event on 20/21 June. We will be there all weekend, and at about 1230 or 1245 on the Saturday, 1264 will be dedicated by Sir George White, great grandson of the Founder of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, in a short ceremony in which he will sign the propeller for us.
If you want to see the Scout, make sure you get your tickets in advance, as numbers are limited.
We hope to have copies of the Parts list available for sale too – it’s a fantastic document and will be a perfect memento of the whole project, and signed copies will be available as well. If they are printed on time!
At the Shuttleworth display on Sunday, we were blessed with great weather. We were lucky enough to see the Bristol Monoplane and Fighter in the air, and the Sopwith Pup with its 80hp le Rhone was in fine form. An easterly wind meant that the landings were away from the crowd, but there were no mishaps and everything performed according to plan.
And while my attention was particularly focussed on the WWI stuff, of course, there was masses of other wonderful stuff in the air.
And finally, the Fauvel tailless glider doing a sequence of loops.
As for the Scout, the paperwork has been submitted to the LAA and their palms crossed with silver, we hope to obtain a Permit to Test in the not too distant future.
The trailer’s fixed, and the tow vehicle should be available tomorrow, and shortly after that I expect it will be back down to Bicester to await its baptisme de l’air.