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22 November 1915. Chingford.

22/11/2015

By now, Bunnie’s training at Chingford was coming to an end. The cross-country to Ruislip was his final qualification, and having had the day off yesterday he was free to try something different. He elected to have a go in the old Bleriot that was still in the hangar, although it was by now completely outdated.

Bleriot XI relica

Bleriot XI replica

This was the Bleriot XI – the same type in which Bleriot had famously crossed the Channel six years before on 25 July 1909, but modified as a tandem two-seater with a 70hp Gnome rotary engine. Bunnie had a couple of goes but the inlet valve stuck on each attempt, so that he only managed the shortest of straight hops. Although Bleriot had introduced the control system which rapidly became standard – control stick and rudder pedals – there were a number of features that would have been very different. Roll control was by wing warping which is generally very ineffective, and the lifting tail means that one should certainly never try stalling it, as it might well go into a tail slide. Neither of these things would have become apparent to Bunnie. But one feature would have been relevant to Bunnie. Because of their poor roll control, crosswind landings were very tricky, so the Bleriot came up with a cunning solution – the main undercarriage is castoring, so that it can travel sideways. And of course this means there’s no means of steering the Bleriot on the ground.

After this, Bunnie had a short ten-minute hop in the BE2c when he tried a couple of landings. the fast one was good and the slow one wasn’t. he’d learned his lesson!

Presumably the instructors were sufficiently impressed with his flying skills that he’d been asked to try a Bristol Scout for size. Bunnie was 6ft 3in tall and he found that he couldn’t get full and free movement of the rudder because his knees contacted the bottom of the instrument panel, and he’d reluctantly asked to be posted to a seaplane Wing.

But his request was ignored, and having finished his time at Chingford, he packed his bags and headed off to Dover to join no. 2 Wing.

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