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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.”

275. Legendary Visitors

For hang gliding and microlighting enthusiasts, Gerry Breen is a legend.

He was one of the first to fly a hang glider in the UK, in 1972. In 1975 he set up his own hang glider manufacturing company.

In 1976 he pioneered powered hang gliders, and claims to have invented the term ‘microlights’ to describe them.

And in 1985 he set up a microlight training school in the Algarve. More of his achievements are listed here, but you might be interested to watch the film of his flight in a hang glider from the top of the 3000ft Angel Falls in Venezuela.

His other major film is Iceland Breakthrough, involving microlights and canoes.

I’ve been fortunate to know Gerry for many years. His flying skills are legendary, and he taught me a huge amount about aerobatics when he took me for a flight in his Acrosport II, which I later photographed off the Algarve cliffs near his base at Lagos.

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He had his daughter in the front seat, and I love this picture of the two of them.

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The Acrosport is now owned by Ricardo and Tiago Tavares, and I go every year to carry out its annual inspection. Ricardo is a first officer with TAP, the Portuguese airline, and he’d arranged to take a look at the Scout during a layover in London. He arrived in Dorset in a hire car, but had totally failed to mention that he had Gerry with him, and it was a wonderful surprise and a huge pleasure to catch up with their news and a privilege to be able to show them 1264, even if the poor old thing had a replacement engine and no wings.

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274. Tanking It

The 17 September 1916 was the first time tanks were used in battle, at the Battle of the Somme.

The centenary was commemorated at the Tank Museum at Bovington, and we had been asked to attend as a static exhibit.

But by now 1264’s engine was in 100 pieces in the Shuttleworth Collection’s workshop, so what were we going to hang the propeller on?

Luckily, Theo had kept in contact with the guys rebuilding a Sopwith Pup, currently housed at Henstridge airfield, and a quick email established that they would be prepared to lend us their non-running le Rhone 80 engine.

Accordingly, on the 11 September, we brought 1264 to Henstridge and parked her alongside the Pup, so that the engine could be switched from one to t’other.

The Sopwith Pup and 1264 alongside each other, and looking remarkably similar. The Pup's cowling dates from her post-war days when she was fitted with a 100hp Gnome Monosoupape engine.

The Sopwith Pup and 1264 alongside each other, and looking remarkably similar. The Pup’s cowling dates from her post-war days when she was fitted with a 100hp Gnome Monosoupape engine.

The transfer was quite straightforward in the end, and everything fitted in all the right places, so we were able to replace the cowling and get on our way.

We’re very grateful to all the Pup team for their help in this matter, and we’re looking forward to being able to return the compliment at some point!

The following weekend we headed off to Bovington, and despite being led by brown signs down some spectacularly unsuitable narrow lanes, we arrived in plenty of time to meet up with the event Co-ordinator, Vicki Pol, who showed us our pitch. Because of the strong overnight wind, we decided to come back early in the morning to rig, and in fact had everything in place well before the gates opened at 0930.

The pitch at Bovington. Notice the HUGE tank park beyond, with all sorts of interesting machinery there.

The pitch at Bovington. Notice the HUGE tank park beyond, with all sorts of interesting machinery there.

The day itself was bright and dry, and as always there were loads of people interested in the only thing that wasn’t a tank!

This young man certainly appreciated the opportunity to sit in the cockpit!

This young man certainly appreciated the opportunity to sit in the cockpit.

All in all, it was a thoroughly pleasant day, and the staff and volunteers made us feel very welcome. And we’re hoping to get down in a bit to look through the actual museum itself, which we didn’t have time to do on the day.

 

 

 

273. Thassos Ablaze

If you haven’t already spotted it on the internet, Thassos, where we flew this summer, is suffering the most dreadful forest fires. Our good friend Paschalis has sent us pictures taken from his flat across the water in Kavala, but he tells me that Kasaviti, the village in the mountains where he took us to the most wonderful restaurant, is at the heart of the area affected, in the flames you can see in the night time picture.

The hills just behind the airfield. If you look closely you can see the firefighting aircraft

The hills just behind the airfield. If you look closely you can see the firefighting aircraft

A firefighting aircraft dropping water on the blaze above the airfield

A firefighting aircraft dropping water on the blaze above the airfield

A Canadair firefighting aircraft at Kavala refilling with water.

A Canadair firefighting aircraft at Kavala refilling with water.

This night time shot shows the fire in the woods just above the airfield. It will be very close to the village where we ate such a wonderful meal in the restaurant.

This night time shot shows the fire in the woods just above the airfield. It will be very close to the village where we ate such a wonderful meal in the restaurant.

The view from Kavala. Thassos looks like a volcano.

The view from Kavala. Thassos looks like a volcano.

272. Bits and Pieces

This is what happens if you leave your aircraft at the Shuttleworth Collection. The engine has now been reduced to every one of its component parts, and is spread all over Phil’s workshop.

AA tableful of engine bits. Connecting rods on the left (note the unusual big ends), the bloc-tube carburettor in the middle, and the commutator ring on the right.

A tableful of engine bits. Connecting rods on the left (note the unusual big ends), the bloc-tube carburettor in the middle, and the commutator ring on the right.

We had a quick peek today while we were collecting the airframe for its static display at the Bovington tank museum next weekend, and to have got so far in just a week is simply astonishing.

Everything is gleaming and clean, labelled and examined. Until we’ve heard Phil’s final report we aren’t sure what, if anything, needs to be replaced, but it’s clear that the vast bulk of it is absolutely fine, though we believe it will need new piston rings, the others having not bedded in very successfully.

Here you can see the core of the engine - the crankshaft, and the crankcase. On the top right is one of the cam rings for actuating the valves

Here you can see the core of the engine – the crankshaft, and the crankcase. On the top right is one of the cam rings for actuating the valves

Three cylinders, all cleaned up, with the valves lapped to ensure we get perfect compression.

Three cylinders, all cleaned up, with the valves lapped to ensure we get perfect compression.

And although we had believed that the engine has behaved impeccably throughout the year, and it will be an expensive exercise to get it airworthy again, it’s a real pleasure to see inside, and to understand more fully how it all works. We both hope to be able to get up to the Shuttleworth when Phil’s working on it to be able to actually see all the inner workings so that we can get an instinctive feeling for the best way to treat it.

271. Sue takes the Wheel

At the LAA Rally last week, one of the stands was operating an English wheel, and when we described how Steve Moon miraculously repaired our cowling damage, he demonstrated its effectiveness for this kind of work by taking a curved piece of aluminium and hitting it as hard as he could with a soft hammer, and then repairing it in just a couple of minutes. It’s so hard to believe that Sue asked if he could have a go, and this is the result.

Amazing – clearly Sue has a real talent for this!

270. Fame!

And while we’re reprising the results of the Greek trip, the link below is a long piece on Bulgarian TV about the Kavala airshow including, at 17:23, an extended interview with… me.

 

As a child, I’d always dreamed of being a star on Bulgarian TV, and that’s another one off my bucket list.

269. Thassos from the Air

We’ve just come across this YouTube video  showing the airstrip at Prinos as extended for us. It is promoting Paschalis Palavouzis’ book about the airfield in WWI, which is wonderful, but unfortunately for us Anglophones, only published in Greek.

I’ve picked out a couple of stills from what’s a rather jumpy shot taken, by the sound of it, from a jet.

The whole Prinos peninsula, showing the port bottom left where the centenary celebration was held, the strip in the centre, and our hotel top right.

The whole Prinos peninsula, showing the port bottom left where the centenary celebration was held, the strip in the centre, and our hotel complex top right. The original microlight strip is the very thin light coloured bit at the far end, made of rolled marble grit, as is the area to its right. the remainder is roughly graded dirt. Nearer the camera, you can see the two drainage ditches which effectively limited the area available to us.

And amazingly, here is the shelter rigged for the Scout. Our trailer is parked in front of it to act as a windbreak and our Hilux is parked in front of that. I'm not sure what is to the left of the shelter, but I don't think it's the Scout because the front of the shelter is rolled down, indicating she's inside the shelter. and it was shot some time before  the afternoon of 24th June, because the back half of the shelter is still there!

And amazingly, here is the shelter rigged for the Scout. Our trailer is parked in front of it to act as a windbreak and our Hilux is parked in front of that. I’m not sure what is to the left of the shelter, but I don’t think it’s the Scout because the front of the shelter is rolled down, indicating she’s inside the shelter. And it was shot some time before the afternoon of 24th June, because the back half of the shelter is still there!