The latest issue of The Flying Machine, the online magazine which replaces the legendary WWI Aero, features 1264 on the front cover, and in an extensive feature on the inside as well as lots of other goodies. You can order your copy here.
On Friday I drove the trailer to RNAS Yeovilton, where we’d been invited to be at the Fly Navy Heritage Trust (FNHT) supporter’s day. We rigged up on Saturday morning, with 1264 parked in the hangar alongside the two Swordfishes operated by the Trust.
Everyone at the FNHT was delighted to see us there, and offered any amount of help.
Outside they had the single-seat Hawker Sea Fury, DH Chipmunk, Harvard and Sea Vixen parked in a row, and while the supporters were being offered lunch I cheekily asked if it would be possible to sit in the cockpit of the Sea Fury, since my cousin Jimmy Bremner flew them in the late 1940s.
This they rapidly arranged, and it was a huge privilege to be sat in the cockpit of such an awesome beast. The size and weight and power are truly awe-inspiring, and there’s no way I would have the bottle to take charge of such a monster.
When the supporters arrived after being wined and dined, they were as interested as always in 1264’s story, and we didn’t get a moment to ourselves, except for a quick drink offered by Fly Navy’s Adm Jock Alexander to thank the Associate members.
Partway through the afternoon, the Harvard and Chipmunk put on an aerobatic display for the supporters.
One of the more distinguished visitors was legendary warbird pilot John Beattie, MBE, who more normally flies WWII-vintage machines like the Seafire, and who had just flown the Chipmunk display. he professed envy of us at being able to fly 1264.
A remarkable, and remarkably modest man, and an honour to meet him.
At the end of the day, the plan had been to derig 1264 into the trailer and to bring her back home, so that she could be taken to Old Warden for her inspection and check flight on Tuesday, which looked like the only time the wind would be light enough.
But although I’d tried to find a route to Yeovilton consisting entirely of trunk roads, I’d picked on the A372 from the M5, and – like many in that area – it barely deserved the ‘A’ designation. In particular, there’s a sharp left turn at a tee junction in Langport which I misjudged, and one wheel of the trailer caught the kerb.
It had appeared okay through the rear view mirror, but closer examination showed the suspension to be bent. Again. It had happened once before in mysterious circumstances, and the damage this time was much the same.
So we had, perforce, to leave 1264 and the trailer where they were, and investigate how to overcome this latest obstacle to getting 1264 back in the air.
As before, the only solution is to replace the entire axle, since the individual Indespension units are welded into it. Grrrr!
What was supposed to be a more relaxed year than 2016 is rapidly proving to be even more stressful.
Just found this video on YouTube. It’s not a le Rhone, but magic, nonetheless!
While 1264 has been here at home, I’ve taken the opportunity to sort out a couple of things.
The socks (or are they gloves?) that protect the propeller in transit have done sterling service, but needed replacement. An offcut from the local carpet shop proved exactly the right size, and is now doing the job.
And I’m proud of myself for having come up with a way of filling the pulsometer which is supposed to tell us that the oil pump is working correctly.
Word from all the experts was that it has proved impossible, but I’ve come up with a way that takes only a couple of minutes, and doesn’t spill a drop of oil anywhere…
The difficulty is that the line is closed – it comes to an end in the glass dome, so it’s difficult to see to persuade the oil into it.
The solution? Undo the two bolts securing it to the panel and let it hang upside down, with the isolating cock open and the knurled nut holding the glass in place loosened.
Then disconnect the oil line into the engine and connect it using a piece of rubber hose to the primer pump (an oil can modified to allow us to prime the cylinders with petrol).
It will be interesting to see how it works in practice. The manual says it’s possible to use it to check the speed of the engine by counting the number of pulses against a stopwatch, though I doubt anyone ever did this in flight, particularly as the pump is turning at 1.8 times crankshaft speed, so you need to be pretty good at mental arithmetic as well!
Friday was the schools; Saturday was the public. Both days were hosted by Mark and Phillippa Wiggin at their home, Downton Hall; the Saturday was put on to raise money for repairs to the local church, and visitors were able to walk round the beautiful gardens as well as listening to a talk by yours truly and a close-up look (and listen) at 1264.
Well over 100 people turned up, and the weather stayed fine, albeit a bit fresh. The setting is very special, and everyone had a great time. The engine started first time, and more than £1,000 was raised for the church. the only downside was the large pool of castor oil on the Wiggin’s drive, but I think we were forgiven!
There is never enough time to talk to all the people who come to these events, and I was particularly sorry not to speak to the chap who brought along a genuine 1914 RNAS watch, such as would have been issued to Grandad.
We were all done by 1400, but by the time we’d packed 1264 back into the trailer and cleared all the other stuff away, we were only fit for a trip to the pub for an evening meal, and an early bed.
It’s been an exhausting week. First of all, there was the uncertainty about the engine, followed by the relief of getting it back where it should be.
At the same time, the promising initial results from the ground runs give promise of better performance this year.
That was on Wednesday.
On Thursday I popped the fuselage back in the trailer and drove the 3.5 hours back to Ludlow, where I met Theo and we rigged 1264 outside Downton Hall for the two events planned here.
Friday was taken up with visits by four groups from local primary schools. the teachers had made full use of the preparatory material I’d given them, and I was amazed at the level of knowledge and the HUGE enthusiasm they showed.
In each case, I talked for a few minutes about Grandad’s theatre of operations, about the Scout’s role, and about the main features of its design. Then two by two I showed them the features of the cockpit while Sue and Theo showed the remainder the other material we have – the painting and so on.
Some of them had even prepared material to give to us, and they will form a precious part of our archive. We were all very impressed at the level of research that had gone into what they’d prepared. This is a random sample.
Thanks to heroic efforts by Andy and Phil at the Shuttleworth Collection, including Saturday working, the engine was back in the airframe on Monday evening, and they got her running on Tuesday.
There’s a conflict of interests here; clearly one wants to get the rings settled in, but it’s no good running it for any length of time on the ground, or it will overheat.
You could take the cowling off, but you’d end up with a very dirty airframe!
So the preferred technique is to run it for 2-3 minutes at a time, getting half an hour or so total time.
By the end of Wednesday I’d managed to run it up to full power very briefly, and while it’s not possible to give accurate figures yet, it’s clear the engine is giving a lot more power than before.
My first emotion was one of relief; our first engagement is Friday / Saturday, and we’ve managed to achieve that. But not far behind is elation at the wonderful sound of the Le Rhone, and the promise of increased power.
The Shuttleworth has done a wonderful job, and I’m feeling very, very grateful to them. Until the bill turns up…
While I was there, I fitted my cunning safety device that will ensure that we CANNOT run it with the oil turned off.