It’s been a busy, busy fortnight. Since the last time I was home ten days ago I’ve been to Blandford Forum, Bovington, Lymington, Barnstaple, Ruislip, Heathrow, Singapore, Blandford and Old Warden.
The plan was to meet up with John Hurrell who flies the BAe Anson at Old Warden and many other places, and indeed flies a huge variety of other aircraft at a huge variety of places too. John is a Display Authorisation Evaluator (DAE) so that he could watch me doing a practice display and renew my display authorisation.
So I arrived at Old Warden late on Thursday having landed at Heathrow about 6 hours late, driven to Blandford to pick up the trailer and head straight back up the M3 and on round to Old Warden, arriving reasonably late at night.
Question: Why was an Apache attack helicopter was crossing the M3 at around 1000ft more or less at the junction with the M25?
This morning I rigged 1264, filled her with fuel, pumped up the tyres, rotated the axle back to its proper position, and rigged her for flight with the very competent assistance of Julian Harcourt.
John Hurrell turned up just as we completed the rig, and at 1700, with the assistance of Jean-Michel Munn, we towed her across to runway 25 which was exactly into wind. The wind was turbulent and we spent some time consulting the runes to see if we felt it was within limits or whether it might improve later.
In the end, I decided to go for it, and the takeoff and display was perfectly okay, though the low level turbulence meant that I kept pretty high for the display, and I decided not to go away for a longer flight on completion.
I decided to land back on 25, and the turbulence was quite acceptable on approach. I touched once, bounced and landed pretty smoothly thereafter, and was very disappointed to find an increasing tendency to veer left. That strongish wind should at least helped to keep her straight. Eventually it developed into a proper groundloop, and she ended up partly on her nose.
I was able to get out unaided however, and when I looked around for the cause, I was astonished to find the left wheel completely missing! I couldn’t find it anywhere, but a few seconds later, Jean-Michel turned up with it in the passenger seat of his car…
And it was only then that I got to know the full story. The wheel had in fact departed the axle about 3-4 seconds after I’d landed. It had carried on ahead of me as I slowed down. I’ve found the tracks in the grass and 1264 travelled about 25 yards after the undercarriage contacted the ground. the wheel travelled around 130 yards all on its own!
And what of the damage to 1264? Well, once again she seems to lead a charmed life.
Of course there’ll need to be a full investigation, but so far as we can tell, the damage is limited to the propeller, both ends of which are smashed,
the starboard wheel, which is bent,
and the tailskid, which is broken.
Even the wingtip skids are intact!
So what caused the wheel to fall off? Well, it’s held on by a 2BA bolt which goes through the axle and wheel bush. The bolt holes are completely unmarked, so – extraordinary as it sounds – it seems most likely that the bolt fell off during the flight, and the wheel simply came off as it started to rotate.
As for the reason, the only explanation I can give is that I had used that bolt earlier in the day to rotate the axle back to its proper orientation. It was very easy, requiring only gentle force, and I’d used an adjustable spanner with plastic faces to do the work, applying purchase to the head and tail of the bolt. But there was no indication of yield, and indeed the bolt and nut were completely unmarked afterwards because I checked, so I’m completely mystified as to why it should have happened.
Still, it’s all eminently fixable, and 1264 will be back in the air as soon as we can get everything fixed. And if they aren’t fixed by the time of your remaining static shows, the damage will certainly provide a good talking point!
And with that sorted, it was off to the pub for comfort food.
So tomorrow will be an easy day at the end of which I’ve got a ticket of the Shuttleworth Flying Proms, which are a highlight of their season. So very much looking forward to it. And so very much looking forward to getting home on Sunday…