135. Rally Days Two and Three
Despite getting to Sywell before the gates were open, we spent the entire day talking to interested people. It’s hard now to remember all the wonderfully interesting people we came across, but Vic Flintham, a historian, said he might have pictures taken at Imbros during Granddad’s time there, and a lovely Lithuanian couple spent a long time going through the details of construction as they were going through the same process with a Sopwith Camel.
And Geoffrey New, an ex-Vulcan and commercial pilot, has a stand with the bits from the very first airliner – an Avro 504L which was a three-seat conversion of the wartime training aircraft. The machine was found absolutely intact, including the pilot’s goggles and helmet, and he is restoring to flying condition. On the stand he had the 110hp le Rhone engine and a number of parts being restored or rebuilt as necessary.
And there were the plane spotters. We had a large publicity display detailing the origins of the project and you might have thought that the unusual engine and spectacular propeller might have elicited some sort of reaction, but these guys were only interested in one thing; G-FDHB. Once it was recorded in their little notebook, they wandered off, oblivious to everything else. Sue was cruel; she made them read the whole of the display before she would tell them the registration!
About midday Rick and Marian joined us on the stand so that we could take turns to look round the rest of the stands and meet other people we knew.
The day flew by; Sue went to the Pilot’s Lounge at regular intervals for tea and burgers, and sometimes we got a couple of minutes free to eat them.
The film crew from the Rally did an interview and were filmed in their turn by Jack Morrow.
In no time at all, the day was over, and we headed over to one of the hangars done out for the evening do. There had been a certain amount of hinting about prizes during the day (‘Will anyone be at the prizegiving this evening?’) but we were absolutely delighted to be awarded the Albert Codling Trophy for the best part-built project.
After that we retired to the hotel bar where Geoffrey New regaled us with stories of flying the Vulcan, and of being hijacked when he was captain of a Boeing 727 on an internal flight in the Yemen. Wonderful stuff!
The Sunday was more of the same; more wonderful people, more telling of the story and demonstrating the primitive safety belt. Robin Morton, another expert in veteran aircraft, said that apparently Avros decided that a seat belt was a good idea, after so many pilots were thrown out of the aircraft by turbulence, but pilots were averse to being fully restrained, so they introduced an elasticated one!
Just as the show was coming to an end, we were approached by Lynn Williams, designer of the fabulous Flitzer range of aircraft, and one of the unsung heroes of the homebuilt aircraft movement in the UK. He’s also the brother of the legendary Neil Williams, who was the best aerobatic pilot of his day, and once saved his own life during a practice for an aerobatic competition when the wing spar of his Zlin cracked, and the wing started to fold up. Neil turned the aircraft upside down so that the wing snapped back into place, He glided down, and – flipped it upright again just as he landed. He did this so precisely that his wingtip gouged a 30 yard mark in the grass, but he landed the aircraft on its belly and it was able to be repaired!
Lynn was very complimentary about the Scout, and introduced us to Justin Adams, an expatriate X-Plane enthusiast, who promised to model the Scout in X-Plane, which should give us a reasonable estimate of an acceptable range for the centre of gravity – something we have no information about so far. And of course we should be able to try flying it ourselves on a computer to get used to it before we do the real thing…
We were concerned that dismantling and getting it home would take forever, and we weren’t allowed to start until the show closed at 1615, but in the event it all went very smoothly.
We were interrupted once by an ear-shattering noise, which proved to be caused by the four Merlin engines of the BBMF Lancaster doing a low fly-by at high power. Awesome!