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112. Coming home

21/06/2014

Wednesday had been one of the most exciting days of the project so far. The engine had arrived, and we had found the proper propeller as a template for our own.

But we still had to get the engine back home, so on Friday Rick and I set off with his trailer behind my car back to Old Warden again. We arrived mid-morning, to find Gene and the Skysport team hard at work assembling the two BE2f’s. Jean Munn, Shuttleworth’s Chief Engineer, was happy to let us use their hoisting equipment to get the crate onto the trailer, and to carefully dismount the propeller.

We were in the throes of trying to lift the crate as a whole when Gene said he needed access to the bottom of it as there were bits in there belonging to Paul Ford. So the lid came off, we removed the stays and the cling film wrapping and attached the strops to the engine. This was, as you can imagine, something of a nervous moment, and we were glad to have Gene on hand to give us guidance. It’s actually fairly simple to put a strop round on cylinder and another round the two on the opposite side. The engine was mounted onto an astonishingly robust horizontal piece of plywood and it came out fairly easily.

Gene dived in underneath to recover a couple of packages from the bottom of the crate, and we got our first look at the accessories for the engine. Bless him, Gene had supplied everything we’d asked for; the anchor plate and rear engine mount, bloctube carburettor and oil pump, and the propeller hub.

The Shuttleworth engine specialist, Phil, came over to have a look at the engine and was very complimentary about its condition – as you’d expect. He offered a couple of useful bits of advice. Apparently the pushrods can break owing to fatigue. They tend to do so at the bottom end where there’s a screw thread that acts as a stress raiser, and the broken rod then swings out under centrifugal force and cuts the front of the engine cowling off! A simple strap will act as a keeper and retain the pushrod until your land. He also said it’s been known for the rocker posts on the cylinder heads to gradually unscrew themselves, and showed us a metal strap to locate it. In fact, ours seem to have been pegged, so we don’t think that will be necessary. We were very, very impressed with his, and everyone else’s generosity at Shuttleworth. They couldn’t have been more encouraging and trusting.

One other titbit of useful information came to light as a result of this generosity. Shuttleworth are working on the airframe of a Sopwith Camel, and they’ve used lanolin, or something similar, as a preservative for the ends of the piano wire bracing inside the fuselage. That certainly seems a very sensible idea, and we plan to do something similar.

And finally, we asked Jean Munn what he used for castor oil lubricant on the engines. We’d heard that it was possible to get hold of medically expired castor oil, but Jean said that Castrol ‘R’, although it was basically castor oil, contained a couple of useful additives – an anticoagulant and something to stop it being quite so hygroscopic – that made it, in their view, preferable to the raw oil and worth paying the extra for.

We popped the engine back in its crate, fixed the ply baseplate back in place, and used the same lifting arrangement to lift the whole open-topped crate onto the trailer before screwing the lid back on. Bits of packing timber were fitted to stop the crate moving inside the trailer and big straps put over the top.

Then we went into the museum itself to take the propeller. It’s a very strange feeling walking out of a museum with one of their precious exhibits under your arm, but we blagged our way past the nice ladies in the shop, and Jean Munn took photographs and got us to sign a form. Then it was carefully wrapped up and put between us in the car. It’s a monster beast. Even with a decent size estate car, it’s a tight squeeze, and the front rested on the dashboard between us.

We took the opportunity to go round the museum itself, and after a bite to eat in the restaurant we headed off. The M1 was badly blocked with rush hour traffic, but we hoped the M6 might be better. It wasn’t. Never mind, we’d soon be on the M45. Which was worse. Once clear of that, we were onto the M5 for a short bit, but even here there were road works.

By the time we got back to the hangar, it was too late to start unloading it, so we simply left the trailer inside and decided to come back tomorrow (Saturday) to unload it.

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