398. Progress

Finally, finally, the dope has arrived. It was ordered in November and promised in February, but didn’t arrive at the docks until ten days ago. By the time it had been transported to the stockholder and packaged up it was safer for Theo to go and collect it in person in Friday, which he did.

You may remember that what we were waiting for was the butyrate dope. We’d applied the first two coats of nitrate dope, which act as a sort of undercoat, binding to the fabric and giving a good keying surface for the butyrate, which is more fire-resistant.

Today, most aircraft are covered in coloured dope, and will have a coat of aluminium dope applied underneath which blocks the UV which is what did for our original linen fabric. 1264 is clear doped, so we have two unusual requirements of our butyrate dope; we need to try and block the UV, and we want to replicate the colour of 1264’s original covering.

So we were supplied two additives; clear UV blocker, which we’ve been adding at the recommended rate of one pint per 10 gallons if you’re American, and one part in 53 if you’re anyone else.

The other additive is Yellow Oxide, which was recommended to be added at the rate of 1/4 pt per eight gallons (or one part in 256). We mixed one gallon at this rate, but were horrified to find when we applied it to the underside of the fuselage that it was far to bright a colour. We decided to go by looks alone, and added a few spoonfuls of the diluted mixture to another clear gallon until we had what looked about right. We’ve calculated that the final ratio was one part in 1,400!

The Yellow Oxide as supplied is on the left, the initial mix is in the middle, and our final mix (before stirring) is on the right.

This came out very much better, and by midnight on Monday, we had completed the doping of the fuselage, tail surfaces and ailerons. We’d also attached the fabric discs to the wheels ready for doping.

We were up betimes today. and we’ve added the markings to the fuselage, doped the wheels, attached the tailplane to the fuselage, refitted the axle with some new pieces of rubber tube to try and limits wear, fitted the bungee suspension, re-attached the cabane, and put the fuselage back in the trailer, clearing the space in the workshop for doping the wings. The dope goes off very quickly so we are likely to be applying dope solidly all day, and we hope to have most of the wings finished tomorrow. The ailerons are a pain to reattach, and then we have to paint the cockades and finish modifying the trailer racks.

It’s a race, but we’re still hoping to have the airframe packed in the trailer by Friday night so that I can tow it back home. Then we can reinstall the engine the week after next and get her back to the Shuttleworth Collection in time for the opening show in early May. Can we do it? We’ll do our best.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of progress so far.

Starting to look like an aeroplane again. You’ll see the cockades on the sides. they may have disappeared by May! Why? Wait and see.
Not the best of photos, but we are very pleased at the comparison between the old and new fabrics. Let us know what you think when you see us.




397. Look What I found!

… or more precisely, what Sue found.

Going through my late mother’s jewellery box, we came across these; a uniform button and an RNAS brooch.Brooch and button.jpg

Very special!

396. More Scouts

The Bristol Scout built many years ago in the US by Herb Harkey is now owned and operated by Frank Parker at Ardmore in New Zealand.

Our good friend Alan Udy for Historic Aviation Film Unit has posted a wonderful video of it flying together with an interview of the granddaughter of a Kiwi Scout pilot.


And I’m told that the April issue of Aeroplane Monthly magazine has given the book a four-star review. Must get a copy at the airport on my way to Cork…

395.Hotting Up…

Things finally look as if they are moving forward, and not before time.

Yesterday I managed to get my bi-annual licence revalidation done with the inimitable Clive Davidson. Clive is one of the few people to have flown 1264, and our hour together was a total blast.

So all that remains is for his local examiner to sign my licence based on the hours I’ve clocked up and that hour. Then I need to get my medical renewed. Then I have to find time to meet up with a DAE (Display Authorisation Evaluator) to get my DA renewed, and we’re good to go. This requires one of the very few DAEs, a suitable airfield with clearance to do low-level displays, suitable weather, and a suitable aircraft (preferably 1264) to be airworthy, and all in the same place at the same time. It’s so simple, I wonder why more people don’t do it!

As far as 1264 herself is concerned, the shipment fro the USA should finally have docked yesterday. This means we might, with luck, get our dope and additives through in time for us to start applying the final coats of dope a week tomorrow. It doesn’t require much finesse to apply it, and it dries in about half an hour, but it does require warm, dry conditions. This means that progress next week is very weather dependent. if we get a couple of days of warm dry conditions, we’ll spread the wings outside in the garden and have them pretty much finished in a day, with only the markings left to apply. If it’s cold and wet, it will have to be done in the workshop, with the heaters full on and wearing masks. So if anyone has any influence over the weather, please can we have full summer for that week?

We will be applying only cockades to the fuselage sides in order to be historically accurate, but we miss the Union Flags so much that I have ordered plastic adhesive film to put over the top of them temporarily so that she can be displayed and photographed with the Union Flags on.

2015-04-30 Bristol Scout Union Flag.JPG

Following doping, there’s another week put aside for reassembly, which will involve towing her back up to Ludlow to refit the engine, side shields and cowling. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, and then it’s back to Shuttleworth to be re-rigged, inspected and test flown. All for a single display at Shuttleworth this year!

Still, if that sounds bad, think what it’s like trying to keep more complex machines in the air. At the last Engineering Weekend there was a truly excellent display showing the astonishingly complex business of trying to manufacture replacement cylinders for the Bristol Mercury radials that power the Lysander and so on. it puts our paltry efforts into perspective, I can assure you!

As you know, we are booked to go to Kavala in Greece again this year. Once again the Greeks have pulled out all the stops for us, and it’s going to be a very, very special time, with 1264 on the sea front for the entire weekend, and very much the centre of attention. Here’s the poster artwork for the show!

Airsea Show eikonografimeno 79x200cm [PREPRESS].jpg

There’s a minor problem. I booked the ferry last week, and they took my money but said this particular sailing was full… Our attendance at the show has received approval from the highest levels of government, so I’m hoping they can pull strings!



394. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

We spent a good deal of the summer worrying about the recovering process on 1264, and were delighted to find that Randolph, one of the main manufacturers of dope, could offer a dyestuff and UV blocker that will replicate the original colour of 1264’s fabric, but – we hope – last considerably longer.

We placed an order on 26 November, and were a little surprised to learn that it wouldn’t be in the UK until the middle of February.

In fact, it wouldn’t have caused too much disruption since it was late January before we’d completed the fabric covering and applied the two initial coats of nitrate dope, which was in stock. But there has been a major problem with customs or some such which has delayed the shipment from the United States – not just our stuff, but many other customers’ products as well. The shipment was delayed until late February, and so we put back our two planned weeks to dope and then rebuild by another fortnight.

Unfortunately there is a delay of yet another two weeks, and the problem now – apart from rescheduling our other commitments – is that it’s starting to impact on the start of the season. So this week we are making a bit of a start on reassembly as far as we can.

Aileron 1.jpg
The bracing wires transmit the load from the aileron horns to the rear spar. They are a bit of  a fiddle to fit, since they have to be bent in situ, with the risk of accidentally poking an end through the fabric. And they have to be bent to exactly the right length, since there are no strainers.

Today, we’ve been reapplying the external bracing wires to the ailerons and centre section. Tomorrow we’ll start reattaching the strut sockets to the wings and put the fuel tank back on the fuselage.  My pilot’s licence needs revalidating and I’d hoped to get that done this week, as well as getting formation training, ready for the new season of display flying. But the weather isn’t playing ball either. Hrrmph!

Aileron 2.jpg
These ferrules are made from the same wire, and Rick invented a new, and very clever, way of making them. The wire – which is a posh version of piano wire – has to be bent first, then poked through the hole in the bracket without damaging the fabric, and then the ferrule threaded over both parts before the loose end is bent back to lock everything in place.

And because of the delay in arrival of the dope, the week when I should have been revalidating my display rating (postponed because the wheel fell off in August) is now going to be tied up rebuilding 1264. There just aren’t enough days in the year!

393. Fuselage fabric

Week three of the recovering process was mostly concerned with the fuselage.

By Monday we’d stripped the old fabric off the chassis (undercarriage) and fuselage and cleaned and recovered the chassis. There was a setback in that the setting tool for the lacing hooks we were going to need fro the fuselage fabric was still in Ludlow, but I set off at around 1700 feeling pretty positive about the progress we might be able to make.

I got back late morning on Tuesday to find that Theo and Chill had got the three panels for the fuselage fabric measured, cut out and sewn together. But in offering them up to the fuselage for one of many trial fits, a partly open pair of scissors had punctured the fabric just behind the cockpit, meaning they’d had to start all over again…

Thankfully they were able to re-use most of the original fabric and carried on while I tidied up some bits inside the fuselage while we had access, and applied frayed edge tapes to the ribs of a couple of ailerons. The fuselage fabric is attached by means of lacing hooks as used on traditional hiking boots, and it’s necessary to double over the edges of the fabric and sew on a reinforcing tape. When I’d finished my jobs, I dug out the crimping tool that I’d been back to Ludlow to fetch, and looked for the big bag of lacing hooks which were in the blue bag of spares. Except they weren’t. I’d seen them in December and looked all over the house and in my car, and failed to find them. Theo and Chill did the same, and failed to find them. There was nothing for it but to order some more, which were set to arrive on Wednesday and shouldn’t hold up production much.

By Wednesday morning it was becoming clear that our optimism about the speed of the operation was misplaced, and it was going to be yet another slog of a week. Still, I was tidying up a space in the workshop when I came across the bag of lacing hooks under a box of paintbrushes…

Fuselage Fabric.JPG
The old fabric. Notice the difference in colour between the top of the fuselage and the sides, due to the difference in exposure to sunlight. We’ll be trying to replicate that in the new fabric.

You might have thought that it would be possible to use the old fabric as a pattern for the new, but you can probably see that it’s not flat enough or clean enough, and we’ve had to start from scratch with the new one. The only time we were able to take dimensions from the old was for the control cable holes. And it takes a long, long time. Theo did all of that with Chill’s assistance, and I carried on with other things; undercarriage legs, wheel discs, aileron rib tapes, cleaning the ply cover on the fuselage top, and making the frayed edge tapes for all the other ribs. I did this by tearing strips off the roll of linen fabric we had left over from four years ago. This leaves a good start for the frayed edge but you really need to unpick a couple more thread each side, and I ended up with frayed edges and a slightly frayed temper, staying up until 0020 on Friday morning to get the job done.

frayed edge threads.jpg
Here is a small selection of the threads removed from the rib tapes!
Fabric laced up.jpg
The fabric laced up. You can see the reinforced edges to take the lacing hooks, which have to be crimped up using specially modified bolt croppers.

And in fact it wasn’t until Friday afternoon we were finally able to sit the fabric in place, lace it up and iron it, the two initial coats of dope being applied on Saturday morning, after which we all felt in need of a lie down!

Doped Fuselage fabric.jpg
With the wheels off and the tail supported as high as possible, it wasn’t too difficult to apply dope to the underside.

I had hoped that we might be able to apply the rib tapes as well this week, but that hasn’t happened, and the few I did on a couple of ailerons has demonstrated that we need a method of applying tension while we apply dope, otherwise they wrinkle when dope is applied.

So we have arranged yet another week to get that done before the butyrate dope arrives in time for March, when we hope to get the final coats applied, the markings painted, and the whole thing reassembled in time for the 2019 season.


392.Book signing

We drove to the Shuttleworth Collection on Friday 28 Jan in time to set up our stall in the shop. As always, there were loads of old friends there, and we spent a wonderful day gossiping and selling copies of the book to a good many of those who came.

In fact, by 1500, we’d actually sold out – our nice neat box of 24 copies was completely empty, so we had to start a list of those who’d been disappointed.

In each one we’d included a piece of the original fabric as a memento, and that proved very popular, some buyers choosing swatches that had blood on as well as castor oil and dirt!

It’s revised our ideas of the popularity of the book and so today I’ve placed an order for even more. If you left your name with us over the weekend, it won’t be long now.

Also at the Shuttleworth was our petrol tank, repaired and repainted, and ready to do service in the new season.

The Engineering Weekend is a wonderful event, and we wouldn’t miss it even if we weren’t displaying or selling. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends and look deep inside some of the Shuttleworth Collection’s magical toybox.

And for any of you reading this, here’s to a happy New Year, with plenty of flying!

Scout takeoff Wayne Allen.jpg
Many thanks to Wayne Allen for this wonderful shot…