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133. Preparation and Arrival

01/09/2014

Theo came north with the flying surfaces in order to check that they still fitted now they were covered in fabric. They did, but it wasn’t straightforward; we had to spend a good deal of time removing dope from the boltholes, and the fabric seemed to have affected the alignment in mysterious ways. Nevertheless, it all went together, and on the Wednesday we managed to get the leather cockpit padding roll fitted, which makes a big difference to the visual appearance.

It was sunny, so we rolled it outside with everything assembled and take photos of each other looking very pleased with ourselves, and I said how important it was to do this in case if fell off the trailer.

2014-08-27 Bristol Scout assembly Theo laughing

We also took delivery of said trailer – or at least the flatbed part of it. This was absolutely essential if we were going to get to the LAA Rally at Sywell in time, and it arrived in the nick of time looking very smart.

We put the wings in Theo’s trailer and got the fuselage satisfactorily fixed to the flatbed and wrapped in tarpaulins, after which we retired home for a meal.

We’d planned to leave first thing Thursday morning but were delayed by last-minute discussions with the insurers. We finally got away about an hour late, and headed off to Sywell. The first mile was the bit we most dreaded, having to thread our way down the single-track road from the airfield. As we left, I texted the film cameraman who was heading out from London to film our arrival at Sywell.

2014-08-28 Departure

In fact, the problem came about an hour later, when we went over a bump in the road and I checked my mirror to see the fuselage rocking uncertainly on the trailer. I was able to pull up immediately, and Theo scouted ahead for a more permanent place to pull up, happily finding the ideal spot about 100 yards round the next bend!

We investigated and found to our horror that the wheel hub had broken, freeing up the inner ends of a whole lot of wheel spokes. The wheel had come within an ace of collapsing altogether, and if that had happened, the whole fuselage would have ended up in the road, engine and all…

2014-08-28 Wheel hub

There was a moment of extreme depression as we tried to work out how on earth we were going to move it at all without risking the full collapse, but gradually a plan started to form itself. We headed into Worcester to the nearest DIY store and bought four lengths of good solid timber, with a box of long screws. Jack, the cameraman, texted to ask how we were getting on. I told him that we were probably going to have to turn round and go home and that he might as well do the same, but as I did so we realised that if our plan to replace the wheels with wooden chocks worked, it might be possible to carry on to the Rally, provided we could get help to lift the fuselage off the trailer. I quickly texted Jack again to change my mind, and we rang the organisers who assured us that many hands would be available and would make light work of it.

Back at the aircraft, we set to with the saw, screwdriver and bottlejack I had in the boot of the car, and in no time at all we’d replaced both wheels with a – though I say it myself – very natty and secure set of chocks under the axle.

2014-08-28 Thinking chocks

‘No time at all’ is of course something of a euphemism, and it was around 1700 when we finally rolled through the gates to start the rather precarious business of getting the fuselage off the trailer. As we did so, Jack was on hand to record the event, together with our no doubt relieved faces!

The unloading process went very smoothly, and by around 2000 we had the aircraft all but rigged and felt able to totter off to our hotel for a meal and a shower, both much-needed.

2014-08-28 Rigging

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5 Comments
  1. Goodness, what a nightmare… I’ve never seen a hub fail like that, and I’ve spent a good bit of time round motorcycles. I don’t know how you could anticipate something like that. What was the source of the hubs? Are they modern or recycled old?

    Anyway, congratulations on the award.

    • The hubs were made up by a local machine shop a good while ago and I can’t remember what steel they used. The drawing calls for 50 ton steel with a 12% elongation on a 2″ test length, so we’ll be looking a good deal more carefully at the material spec before getting replacements. We could also increase the thickness and diameter of the flange without imposing too far on the authenticity of it.

  2. Heroic efforts as always. I was really glad to get to meet you at the rally on the Friday. The aircraft is looking fantastic. When you told me then about the failed hub I hadn’t quite reailsed how close to disaster the whole project had been. Glad that never came about and look forward to more progress.

    Jon Mercer

  3. I don’t look at the photos and think, oh, that’s bound to break, but clearly they were way inadequate. Still look on the bright side, better now than the first landing as I’m sure has already occurred to you.

    Do you think its possible that there were workshop procedures, heat treatment or whatever, in hub manufacture that were so routine and so well understood that it was considered unnecessary to mention them in the drawing specification?

    • It’s possible, though the drawing calls for 50 ton steel with 12% elongation which should be enough, I would have thought. However, I’m going to ask Francis about doing an undercarriage test of some sort, since the consequences of failure are so much more serious than usual!

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