Saturday 30 July. Stow Maries.
We were back up to Stow Maries by 0900 and rigged 1264 once again, but this time we prepared her for flight.
Jean Munn turned up to fly the WAHT Sopwith Snipe, and we caught up with him and his news.
There was one job needing to be done before we considered flying, and that was to replace the axle bungees, which were looking a bit slack.
This proved an interesting exercise; as you can see from the photos both bungees were damaged, and one of them had actually been cut into several pieces. The reason was clear.
The drawing shows the bungee being wound onto the chassis in three layers of four turns each, the trunnions being exactly the right width for four turns. Separating each layer are two semicircular pieces of aluminium to allow one layer to slide smoothly over the other so that all turns end up taking the same load. The ends of the aluminium had been chafing on the bungee and had actually cut right through it!
We decided to replace the aluminium strips as we rebuilt it – partly because this was what was on the drawing, and partly because we weren’t at all sure we’d be able to get the three layers to lie flat and evenly tensioned without them. We also wondered if they had had an unusual amount of wear in the trailer, though we wouldn’t know for sure unless we had a GoPro camera mounted in the trailer while we were driving along!
During my preflight inspection, I also noted that the braiding on the tailskid bungee was very frayed, but we decided it was okay to fly, as long as we didn’t taxi her at all, and we’d order more bungee to replace it before flying again.
It was quite hard to concentrate on the job in hand, with an airshow going on in the background; Rob Gauld-Galliers in the Albatros, Jean-Michel Munn in the Sopwith Snipe, and various other machines as well.
At the end of the airshow the wind was poorly aligned with the runways and a bit strong, so I went on a fruitless search for a replacement trailer tyre. When I got back, the wind had dropped and was reasonably aligned with the main runway, so we towed her out and started her up.
We’d parked next to a 7/8 scale SE5A all afternoon and its pilot, John G, had taken off just beforehand, with a plan to do a little formation flying once I’d got confidence in my right turns.
Takeoff was normal, and I climbed out and practiced my turns in both directions. I reckon I’ve now got the hang of it. The trick with right hand turns is to apply right stick and rudder to get the angle of roll you want, but don’t alter the rudder until you start pulling back on the stick. All perfectly logical, of course, but if you alter the rudder before pulling back, you end up in a large sideslip, and of course if you leave it until after you’ve pulled the stick back, you end up in a large sideslip!
That sorted, I looked around for the SE5A, and then began one of the most enjoyable flights I’ve had. For around 20 minutes, we chased each other round the sky; sometimes he was on my tail, sometimes the other way around, and he was kind enough to turn on his smoke system from time to time when I had him lined up in my sights!
It was magical, and while we were doing this I was keeping an eye on the windsock which was moving around a good bit, making it hard to decide which runway to use.
Eventually I thought I should call it a day, and decided to use the same direction I’d taken off from. The wind, although variable, was very light, so I hoped it would be okay. I’ve got into the habit of flaring too late recently, so this time I made a positive effort to flare before the wheels touched, and the result was a horrible balloon, and I stalled in from around 6ft up and bounced. But she stayed straight, and I thought we’d got away with it, until the tail started swinging left, faster and faster, and with a horrible inevitability the left wheel gave way, and 1264 tipped gently on her nose.
Just like Granddad.
And no, there are no photos to demonstrate!
Thankfully the airfield was very quiet, and we were right on the edge of the runway, so we weren’t causing any serious blockage. I tried to get out of the cockpit and found it pretty much impossible. With half a dozen people there, they tried rotating the aircraft back on an even keel, but there wasn’t enough to get hold of. Eventually I stepped down using the cabane struts as a ladder, and with the aircraft lightened, we were able to get her tail back down and make a preliminary assessment of the damage.
Usually the main victim of an event like this is our beautiful propeller, but although the tip had driven maybe six inches into the ground, when we cleaned it off, there wasn’t even the tiniest scratch to the lacquer. Amazing! The cowling had been gently pushed back into contact with a couple of rocker gears, but had barely contacted them, which meant that meant that the engine was extremely unlikely to have suffered any damage.
Next on the list of at-risk items is the wingtip, but here again the tip skid had done its work and the wing itself was untouched.
The chassis appeared completely unmarked. Even the beaded tyre – normally reckoned to be very vulnerable – was intact although the rim resembled a strictly non-European banana, and the specially made hub – which we’d reinforced after the last near-disaster – was pristine.
After the event, Theo said the wind at the time of the landing was right across the runway, with a significant tailwind factor. I should have reassessed the windsock on finals and gone around if I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t. It would likely to have been better to have landed on the other runway.
With the help of the staff at Stow, we managed to get her back to the apron with the help of a trolley under the broken wheel, then derigged and back in the trailer. Getting the fuselage into the trailer was a challenge, but once again Theo came up with the goods and suggested using a beam lifted by four people with a strop round the axle where the damaged wheel had been. It all went very smoothly, and we even had in the trailer a purpose-built axle stand left over from the last wheel failure in 2014 which served perfectly to support it in the trailer!
We drove back to Theo’s on the Sunday, and left the trailer at his place.
Today I dismantled the damaged wheel, found the tyre and inner tube in prime condition, and got the wheel in for rebuilding using a spare rim we had already purchased. Theo spoke to Steve Moon, the cowling man, and he confirmed that repair would be possible.
And Jean Munn rang to commiserate and offered constructive suggestions for other checks we can make to the airframe to ensure there’s no further unexpected damage to 1264 which we shall certainly carry out before flying her again. He also said that everyone who flies a WWI aircraft will suffer a ground loop, which made me feel better, though I certainly hope that having got mine out of the way I can avoid it hereafter!
Both of them will be ready in around a couple of weeks, so we are hopeful to be back up and running before the end of the flying season. Once again, 1264 is proving to be resilient and lucky.
From → Flying