It’s been a truly amazing four days, and now Theo and I need to lie down in a darkened room for a while to get our breath back.
Saturday morning dawned with an inch of snow on the ground here in Ludlow, which didn’t augur too well for the rest of the day.
But we both set off, arriving at Bicester at around 0900 and hitched the trailer to the back of the Hilux to go to the WWI airfield at Stow Maries in Essex for a night photo shoot, the plan being for Theo to share the driving so that he could get used to it before driving to Greece, and I could establish what sort of average speed we could expect in order to ensure the journey was feasible in the time allowed.
We set off, and once on the motorway, we edged the speed up from the 47mph I’d dared before up to 51mph. Then after we stopped for a break I took over and we went on up until we were doing 55mph, at which the whole thing was still as solid as a rock. I must admit that this has been the part of the whole process I dread the most, but after three hours, I was starting to unwind and relax, and we ended up at Stow Maries around lunchtime.
The field was pretty much waterlogged, and it was bitterly cold, and we began to wonder why we’d bothered to come all this way. Surely no photographer was going to turn out on such a bitter day?
We needn’t have worried. Jean Munn and Dick Forsythe (of WAHT) turned up shortly afterwards, and we got ourselves into action and rigged 1264 in their hangar, and rolled her, together with the Albatros, BE2F and Sopwith Snipe onto the field as the photographers – about a hundred of them – arrived.
While re-enactors stood around the aircraft to be photographed, Jean and I trudged up the runway to assess it. John felt it was okay, but I wasn’t convinced, so once the static photography was finished, he clambered into the BE2F and went flying. But as he taxied out, the wind shifted about 30 degrees on to the other runway and after he’d gone I had a look and decided that was altogether better, so we rolled 1264 and I had a ten minute wizz round in the gathering gloom. Once night had properly fallen we started the engines of the Sopwith Snipe and then the Scout. The Bentley engine in the Snipe produces some truly spectacular flames from the exhaust if it’s mistreated exactly right, but I failed to produce anything other than clouds of black smoke from the le Rhône.
I’ve been sent some of the pictures these guys took and – particularly considering the very limited amount of light available – I’m amazed at what they achieved. Here is one by Iain Moore, and there are more from John Summerill’s Flickr page is here.
After a late pint in the pub we stayed at the Purleigh Barns B&B in Maldon which I can’t recommend highly enough, and On Sunday we put 1264 back in the trailer, and towed her to Old Warden, where we rigged her again. Phew! Darren Harbar turned up, the evening was beautiful, and Jean Munn was available to fly the Piper Cub cameraship, so I set off into the evening light for some lakes round the corner, and Jean flew in circles and I tried to keep up with him without bumping into him. The results are on Darren’s webpage here, but with a sneaky preview below to whet your appetite.
Monday was tied up with business, and we were booked in today (Tuesday) for official practice for the Shuttleworth display season. The weather came up trumps, and I was able to get a couple of practice sessions in that Dodge Bailey – my mentor – observed. He pronounced himself very happy, though I found right turns something of a trial for some reason I haven’t entirely fathomed yet. I’ve got time before our first display on 5 June to iron out the issue, which is that it seems almost impossible to turn to the right without setting up a massive sideslip. I suspect it’s something to do with making the turns under full power, since right turns are being made against the torque of the engine, but I need to go higher and try various different alternatives to see what works best.
So – in four days, we’ve nailed the trailer towing ( our average speed was 45mph, which is exactly what I’d calculated on), and the fuel consumption (errrr…. about 15mpg!), got some absolutely stunning, amazing pictures, and moved the display authorisation forward several steps.