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111. The Longest Day

12/06/2014

I’d arranged to collect Gene DeMarco from Ruislip station at 1000 and carry on to the Shuttleworth Collection at Biggleswade. The reason? Our engine had arrived in the UK, and we were going to check it had arrived safely.

By the time we got there the container was being unloaded, and the crate was sat in the hangar while the rest of the container – two complete BE2f’s and a variety of pieces for other projects  was carefully unloaded.

Unpacking the BE2f airframes from the crate.

Unpacking the BE2f airframes from the crate.

It was a great opportunity to meet a whole lot of like-minded people; Steve and Martin from Skysport Engineering were there – they have been into vintage aviation for a generation and are acknowledged experts. They are responsible for re-assembling the BE2f’s and getting them ready for Gene to test fly.

Also there was Paul Ford, builder and flyer of a red Fokker Triplane replica, but currently involved in the restoration to flying condition of a beautiful SE5A reproduction complete with original Hispano-Suiza engine. He thought he might be able to lay his hands on a genuine period air speed indicator, which would complete the fit on our instrument panel. I’ll give him a ring shortly.

And also there were Jack and Mark from ASA films. They wanted to be able to get a short interview with me and I suggested we use the Bristol Scout replica at the Shuttleworth Collection as a backdrop. That went fine, and on our way back my eye was caught by the word ‘SCOUT’ on the boss of one of the many propellers hanging in the display area.

Bristol Scout propeller, with the Bristol logo on the blade

Bristol Scout propeller, with the Bristol logo on the blade

I stopped to check and on closer investigation to proved to be the very propeller we need! You may remember that we’d already identified another of the Shuttleworth propellers as that of a Bristol Scout. This was based on the Collection’s placard which identified it as such, and we’d borrowed it in order that Hercules Propellers could do a 3-D mapping of it in order to make a copy. But although this one had no museum label on it, the information stamped on the hub identified it as exactly the correct propeller; B&C 5098 P3001 80HP Le RHONE SCOUT. 31-10-17. B&C is the manufacturer, British & Colonial; 5098 is the propeller serial number; P3001 is the design (identified in the parts list), and the engine and aircraft tie up exactly! It even has the B&CA logo on it – something we already have waiting to go on the right propeller.

The hub of the propeller, showing that it's exactly the model we need

The hub of the propeller, showing that it’s exactly the model we need

This was very exciting, but I knew that Rupert at Hercules was on the verge of cutting our propeller. Would I be in time to stop him so that we can use this as the model instead? I rang him straight away, and was mighty relieved to find that we would still be in time. He’s got the planks made up but they aren’t laminated together yet, so provided we can get this one down to Rupert soon, we won’t hold production up significantly. Phew!

And now it was time to open the crate to see if our engine had survived the journey. We removed all the screws from the lid and carefully prised it off. Inside was our engine, beautifully secured and wrapped in clingfilm. I had hoped to be able to see all the other bits that go with the engine – the oil pump, mounting plates, bloctube and so on – but these had been packed in a false bottom underneath the engine and we weren’t about to undo all the beautiful packaging there and then. They were on Gene’s invoice, and that would have to do.

The engine securely packed in its crate.

The engine securely packed in its crate.

The le Rhone engine inside the clingfilm

The le Rhone engine inside the clingfilm

The film crew did an interview with Gene, and then we all headed off to Skysport to have a look at a little bit of wing structure they thought might have been from a Bristol Scout, as it would have been of possible interest to Gene. In fact it wasn’t, but it was a fascinating opportunity to see the exciting projects they’ve got on the go.

Skysport Engineering works. It may not look much on the outside, but inside is another story.

Skysport Engineering works. It may not look much on the outside, but inside is another story.

With everything now tidied up at Shuttleworth I headed into London to see Tony Stairs, the magneto man. I had with me a part for the rebuild but it was the first opportunity to see the whole thing in pieces. He’d said it was in good condition, and indeed it was. It’s immediately obvious why Tony, despite his low-key premises in a shed at the bottom of his garden in Hendon, is regarded as THE man to go to for magneto repairs.

The depth of his knowledge is simply astonishing, as is the range of magnetos he works on from DC3 and Hawker Tempest aircraft to classic Bentley and Rolls Royce cars. Simply amazing, and the part I’d bought proved to be compatible, so I left Tony to get on with the rewire and headed off home, excited and with a strong feeling that we are really starting to see the finishing  line on this project.

Grandad's Bosch magneto, acquired from a French airman, in pieces ready for rewiring.

Grandad’s Bosch magneto, acquired from a French airman, in pieces ready for rewiring.

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