There has been discussion on FaceBook about the practicability of operating the Bristol Scout from the deck of our newest, largest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
In fact, this was the suggestion made by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Alcock at the BMFA Awards evening, and you would think there would be a good deal of nautical mileage in PR terms on both sides.
In fact, the most sensible thing would be to arrange for the existing Royal Navy Historic Flight (Swordfishes, Sea Furies and the Sea Vixen) to be paraded on the flight deck together with the associate aircraft (Westland Wasp, Westland Wessex, Gazelle etc. as well as the Bristol Scout). All the above aircraft were operated from ships, and it would make a truly excellent PR opportunity.
How would we get them there? Well, the most problematic would be the Sea Fury and sea Vixen, and they’d have to be dismantled, road hauled to Portsmouth, and craned on board. theoretically the rotary wing machines would be flown aboard, and the Scout could be trailered.
Could we operate 1264 from the deck?
Well, take off would be very straightforward indeed. Probably best done in calm conditions with light winds, and HMS QE stationary. wind direction would be almost irrelevant, since we could get off with a reasonable margin of safety taking off across the flight deck which is 73m wide, and there would be sufficient variety of launching points to avoid the turbulence from the islands and the ski jump.
Landing could present one or two more problems, but none would be insuperable. The first issue is the lack of directional stability. landing on grass, we rely on getting the tailskid down as soon as possible after the mainwheels so that the drag will slow her down and keep her straight. Hard surfaces are anathema to us, and even adding a temporary tailwheel would be little help since the skid isn’t steerable. No, John Bulmer’s suggestion of a block attached to the skid designed to provide drag on the QE’s surface would be perfect. She stops in around 30m so once again there’s plenty of room in any direction.
We’d prefer to replicate the arrangements made for Commander Dunning on his first successful ship landing aboard HMS Furious in 1917 and have rope handles attached at a number of points with crew standing by to hold her fast as she lands, but that should be sufficient.
And what are the historical connections? Well, the Bristol Scout was the first wheeled aircraft to take off from a moving ship. It would be huge fun to replicate that, even if it meant putting to sea to do so. And 1264 was at Gallipoli at the same time as an earlier HMS Queen Elizabeth. HMS Queen Elizabeth had left by the time Grandad got there, but it’s another tentative link at least.