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60. Serendipity

17/07/2013

It’s funny how things work out.

On Sunday the weather was glorious and we had nothing planned. We had investigated the possibility of flying in to Duxford to see the Flying Legends Air Show, but because of the early morning low cloud in the east, those who’d booked early slots were delayed, meaning there would be no slots available later.

So we rang Theo to see if we could pop down and have a look at the Scout fuselage, since my wife Sue had seen very little of the assembly. He should have been away at his partner’s house for the day, but was stuck because the clutch on his car had failed – and so the trip was on, only because of low cloud in Bedfordshire and a broken clutch…

Getting from the airstrip at Newton Peveril to Theo’s house was something of a challenge; it’s just too far to walk, and we failed to get hold of a taxi, so in the end Theo had to ask his neighbour to help out, which was very nice of him.

Theo had used the extra day to start a trial assembly of the undercarriage, and had already come across a problem with the sockets for the rear legs – they had been welded on at an incorrect angle. By me. Still, removing them and adjusting them wouldn’t be a major problem, and I would be able to take the pieces back with us today to have them fixed and ready to go in a couple of weeks’ time for the big session. I’m also trusted with brazing on a couple of washers to the lower undercarriage fittings; the original drawings aren’t clear, but it’s a high stress area and it wouldn’t last long without them.

And so on to the next issue. We’d been concerned with the run of the elevator cables; as shown, they seem likely to go very slack at the extremes of travel, which is undesirable, since it can lead to flutter.

We set the fuselage in the garden on stands, popped the stick in place and rigged the tailplane and elevator, and tried connecting the one with the other with string.

We found that we were able to run them as drawn from the stick to the elevator horns, missing all the cables and frames en route. And although we weren’t able to make an accurate assessment of the slack in the system, owing to the rather stretchy string we used, it seems pretty clear that the problem isn’t nearly as bad as we’d originally thought. We’ll need to check again with proper cable, but at the moment we don’t think this is likely to cause a significant problem.

And now, the elephant in the room.

Would my large frame fit inside the cockpit? Would my knees fit under the instrument panel? Would my feet catch on the carrythrough cable?

With Theo and his schoolfriend John holding the fuselage steady, and a pair of stepladders handy, I found that it was easier than I thought to wriggle into the cockpit. With the turtle deck in place, it won’t be quite as simple, but is unlikely to be a significant problem. Indeed, me feet did fit onto the rudder bar without my knees touching the instrument panel.

David successfully installed in the cockpit. Theo has finished the engine former which shows the diameter of the engine cowling.

David successfully installed in the cockpit. Theo has finished the engine former which shows the diameter of the engine cowling.

However, I couldn’t move the rudder bar more than about 10 degrees before my knee contacted the instrument panel.

With the cushion in the seat, my knees are very close to the frame.

With the cushion in the seat, my knees are very close to the frame.

Thankfully, the problem had been resolved 99 years ago by Granddad, and we removed the cushion. This gave my knee just the extra clearance needed, and I was able to get about 30 degrees of movement of the rudder bar.

By this point, my heels were contacting the carrythrough cable, whose strange location we’ve already touched on.

With the heel trough in its position as shown on the drawings, your heel snags on it.

With the heel trough in its position as shown on the drawings, your heel snags on it.

We looked at a variety of possibilities.

Should we leave things as they were according to the drawings? It might seem the most historically accurate solution, but it’s equally possible a solution was adopted that never made it into the drawings. We have no contemporary photos to assist in this.

Should we raise the front of the heel troughs to fit over the offending cable? We tried this and it certainly seems possible; there’s still enough gap between the trough and the rudder bar to allow the heel of your shoe to fit underneath the rudder bar, though it will be a benefit to wear shoes with a clearly defined heel.

With cushion removed and the heel troughs raised, it's possible to get sufficient movement of the rudder bar without surgery!

With cushion removed and the heel troughs raised, it’s possible to get sufficient movement of the rudder bar without surgery!

We discussed a final possibility, which is to wear a pair of  ‘spurs’ strapped to your heel. These would allow you to rest your feet on the top of the rudder bar instead of behind it.

In the end, we think on balance we’re going to raise the heel troughs just enough to clear the cable. It involves minimum change from the drawings and enables all normal-sized people to fly it without a problem. We’ll keep the spurs idea in reserve in case I still have a problem with my knees.

All in all, it’s been a really useful day’s work, and it’s just so lucky the weather and the clutch on Theo’s car conspired to make it happen!

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