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11. Consulting the Experts


So – back to the Scout.

If you’re starting anything you haven’t done before, it goes without saying that the first thing you do is consult the experts.

As it happens, one of the best sources of expertise on keeping very early aircraft flying is located in the UK, and it’s called The Shuttleworth Collection. The Collection is based on aircraft and cars collected by Richard Shuttleworth in the 1930s. The family history is fascinating and I highly recommend going to the history section of their website.

Today, they are probably the world’s premier operator of early aircraft, including some original ones from before the First World War – but also including a substantial collection of WWI aircraft, all maintained, as far as practicable, in original condition, with original engines and so on.

So we contacted them, and made an appointment with Jean Munn, the Chief Engineer, to visit on a day when the museum was closed to the public.

It’s not uncommon for people with that level of expertise to be somewhat remote, but once he’d established our credentials, and that we more or less knew what we were doing, Jean and the rest of the crew couldn’t have been more helpful.

At this stage, we hadn’t got a full set of drawings, and it occurred to us that other WWI Bristol machines might have some similar parts. The Shuttleworth has an original Bristol F2B Fighter and a reproduction Bristol M1C Monoplane, and we hoped that their drawings would provide us with some clues to details of the Scout. e spent a happy morning rooting through drawers full of original Monoplane drawings before heading out to look at the real thing.

The Monoplane was built by the Northern Aeroplane Workshop, a group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire, and they’d made sure it was built exactly in accordance with the original drawings. It’s very unusual among British WWI designs, having only a single wing. The shape of the wing is unusual too – it’s all curves, instead of the rather boxy rectangles more normally seen.

So although we weren’t expecting to see any similarity in the major components, we thought perhaps some of the little details, such as horns and so on, might have been reused, since the Monoplane was being worked on the in Drawing Office during the production run of the Scout. And indeed we could see definite similarities; many of the details were certainly similar, not only on the Monoplane, but on the Fighter too.

While we were there, Jean showed us round the rest of the workshop, and invited us to natter with the staff there, many of whom have unique skills that would be essential for us to acquire – such as the splicing of wire rope.

Large parts of the structure are braced by wire cables, and when it comes to fastening them to the structure, it’s no good tying them in a knot. Sailors will be familiar with the principle of splicing – where a rope is doubled back on itself round a thimble.

Rope Eye splice

A properly-done splice should be absolutely secure, as strong as the original rope, and inconspicuous.

Doing this with wire cable is similar in principle, but we’d understood that the chap who does it is nick-named ‘hedgehog fingers’, because of all the strands that puncture his finger ends.

We spoke to the chap at Shuttleworth who does all of theirs, and closely inspected his finger ends. We were disappointed to find there wasn’t a drop of blood to be seen, and he reckons he can do one in 20 minutes, which was very heartening.

Nicopress wire ferrule

Today you’d use a copper or aluminium sleeve that is squished over the cables with a special pair of pliers, but as you can see, it doesn’t look the part at all, so we aren’t prepared to use them. Not until we’ve shed some blood on the wire splice, that is!


From → Building, Technical

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  1. 20. Getting together « Bristol Scout

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