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“And like no other sculpture in the history of art, the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand, and join their life with the pilot's own.”

313. The Show Must Go On

I had one day off to buy replacement tools and write blogs, then a day’s work to help pay for them and the following day I set off early to Bicester to collect the trailer and tow it to Larkhill.

Larkhill, on Salisbury plain, was one of the most important locations for early aviation, and although the original airfield wasn’t operational after 1914 and is now a housing estate, some of the sheds erected by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company remain, and are Grade II listed buildings, maintained as storehouses by the Army.

And in fact it was from these sheds that the prototype Bristol Scout – still called the Baby – flew in February 1914, and so we’d always cherished an ambition to bring the Scout back home.

I spoke to the Wings over Stonehenge group who promote the remembrance of those pioneering days in the area, and specifically to Roger Green, and he and the group organised a magnificent day for us which over 100 people attended, and many more got to see, since a local roadworks involved a diversion past the door, and countless drivers were sat in the queue for hours looking at 1264 adjacent to the sheds!

It was a great day, with talks by Roger, historian Tim Brown and myself. Tim has published a note on FaceBook about the Scout which has some interesting photographs. Sir George and Lady Joanna White arrived in their gorgeous Bristol 400 which was parked next to 1264, and we ran the engine which was much appreciated. Finally, a Westland Scout helicopter overflew the site in recognition of its older namesake. All the still here were taken by Dietmar Morley; thanks for letting me share them, Dietmar!

Roger Green introducing the day.

Parked outside the original British and Colonial sheds…

… alongside the Bristol 400 belonging to Sir George White, great grandson of the founder of the B&CAC.

A shame they’ve made the doors smaller, or she could have gone right home! Wouldn’t it be nice if they could repaint the company name on the front?

Roger had arranged for BBC South to be there, and a short piece was broadcast on the early evening local news, as well as on the BBC website. BFPO did a short interview as well.

One particular pleasure was to meet up with old microlighting friends Chris and Cathrine Bradford. Chris’ grandfather learned to fly with the RNAS at Redcar, and we think it’s entirely possible he was there when my Grandad was first Lieutenant!

 

 

312. Back to Earth with a bump

We’d had a wonderful time, as always, and headed back home on Monday.

The travel arrangements went absolutely to plan, Panos meeting us off the ferry in Kavala to present us with yet more gifts.

When we got home on Monday afternoon, we found that Theo’s partner Fran had suffered a burglary at her home, though it appears that little of value was taken.

Then we found that the glass roof on Theo’s Peugeot car had inexplicably developed a large crack in it, which will require replacement, and my own Hilux had been broken into and my toolbox stolen. I’ve spent Tuesday trying to remember what was in it and ordering replacements. Needless to say, it’s not covered by either household contents or car insurance…

Still, these things happen in threes, so we hope that will be all for a while.

311. Our Day in the Sun

There are only two airshows in Greece; one in Athens and this one in Kavala, so it’s very popular – they reckon it’s watched by upwards of 100,000 people on the waterfront of the very pretty harbour harbour town in a natural amphitheatre.

The show starts at around 1815 when the main heat of the day is spent, but because of the ferries we got there mid-afternoon, when the temperature was 38C (100F, for those of you in Myanmar, Liberia and the USA who haven’t adopted the metric system).

So we headed for the modeller’s exhibition, partly because thy have been so generous to us and partly because they were in an air conditioned hall.

But the exhibition was amazingly good, and we were (of course) immediately drawn to the 1/72 scale diorama of Thassos aerodrome in 1916, with tents under the olive grove and a row of Bristol Scouts parked nearby. 1-P1090971.JPG

1264 was there, looking splendidly oil-stained and complete with all her rigging.

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Modelling at the highest level becomes an art form. Take a look at this Tiger tank; the weatherbeaten look is amazingly realistic.

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And as we left, the chairman of the club, Babis, presented us both with specially produced mugs as well. 1-P1090982.JPG

When it had cooled off a bit, we headed off to the VIP enclosure, where Panos’ son, Lazarus, had been deputed to look after our every need – which he did. If he ever decides to give up a career in engineering, he will prove very successful as a waiter!

The Baltic Bees fly L-39 trainer jets in lovely flowing precision aerobatics – here is an example.

 

1-P1100017.JPGJurgis Kairys (whom we’d met the previous evening) flew his Extra aircraft in a dazzling display – take a look at the number of spins in this descent. I can’t even count them.

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The Air Force Apache was very popular, not least because the spray from his low hover kept those on the waterfront cool!

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And the Hueys, which are still in active service with the Greek Air Force, bring back instant memories of Apocalypse Now for those with longer memories!

All in all, a great day, and we felt thoroughly spoiled as we finally got to bed around 0030.

 

 

 

 

 

 

310. In the Spotlight

Friday 30 June was the opening ceremony for the Kavala airshow, and all the participants – volunteers, pilots and local dignitaries – were invited to small eats and a drink.

The pilots were invited to talk about their participation in the show, and the three of us – Theo, Stephen and myself – were invited first, with Panos (the event organiser) translating.

Theo and David – happy to be the centre of attention

 

I gave a short description of why we were there, and Stephen talked about the film, and told everyone to go to the open air screening across the road afterwards.

Film maker Stephen Saunders. Did you know that Stephen’s first job in films was to add Roger Moore’s grunts and groans for the fight scene in an episode of ‘The Saint’? (If you’re interested, the episode is called Double Take, and is available on Amazon)… Since then things have improved, and he’s been nominated for a BAFTA Award for one of his films. He’s been so closely involved with the project, we count him and his wife Claire as an integral part of the team.

Film screening on the Kavala waterfront with castle in the background

 

309. A La Recherche du Temps Perdu

On Sunday afternoon we packed 1264 away in record time – 45 minutes to be precise – and drove the couple of hours down to Theo’s house where we stayed for a couple of hours, trying to stay awake, before heading to pick up Theo’s partner in Bournemouth (at 0100 on Monday morning) and driving on to Gatwick, in order that the four of us – myself, my wife Sue, Theo and Fran – could catch the 0550 flight to Thessaloniki, and then on to Thassos to stay in the same hotel as last year. All went smoothly, and by 1600 on the Monday we arrived at the hotel where we met up with film producer Stephen Saunders and his wife Claire, who had arrived a few days earlier for the Greek premiere of the film, which has been subtitled in Greek, and went down a storm.

By this time, of course, we’d been on the go more or less continuously since 0700 on the Sunday morning, and were completely goosed.

By Tuesday morning we had more or less returned to the human race, and strolled down to the airstrip to see what condition it was in.

Needless to say, the weather conditions were perfect for flying – a gentle onshore breeze perfectly aligned with the strip, and we felt the absence of 1264 very keenly, as you can see from the picture below.

 

Sue is practicing her engine starting technique while Theo holds down the tail…

… then both Theo and I go flying in our imaginations…

… before we all retire to the bar for a drink.

 

308. Bicester Flywheel Festival

We’ve had a very tiring, but very rewarding weekend.

On Friday afternoon we met up at Bicester and rigged 1264, leaving her in the hangar overnight alongside a couple of Tiger Moths, so that on Saturday morning we only had to roll her out onto the field with the rest of our display material in time for the start of the Bicester Flywheel Festival, which is where her public life began a couple of years ago.

The weather was perfect – bright and breezy, with some puffy clouds to keep it from getting too hot, and from the moment the gates opened at 1000, we were surrounded by interested people who wanted to hear all about her story.

Sandwiched between vintage cars on the race track and historic aircraft on the display line and in the air, it’s a perfect setting with a great laid-back atmosphere. Unlike a conventional air display, where the displays run contiguously through the afternoon, the Flywheel Festival spreads them out. This means that people have time between displays to look at the static stuff, or to watch the cars doing their stuff on the track, or to wander a little further afield, where they can go for a ride in a tank.

My particular favourite was to watch a Spitfire and Buchon (the Spanish-built Me109) chase each other round the sky powered by two RR Merlins. Magnificent!

We met up with lots of old friends and made lots of new ones, and the DVDs are selling like hot cakes.

We’ve had loads of feedback from those who bought them about how enjoyable they are, so don’t hesitate; go to the link at the top of the page and order yours now!

307. Making History

1264 has been in the trailer at Bicester since the Shuttleworth show a couple of weeks ago waiting for the Bicester Flywheel event. One of the things we wanted to achieve in this time was to get a flight test for the Light Aircraft Association’s magazine ‘Light Aviation’. Their regular flight test pilot is Clive Davidson, second generation RAF pilot who splits his time between display flying and instructing on Tiger Moths.

This week was more or less the only opportunity to do this, fitting in between Clive delivering a huge Russian Yak 11 fighter to Finland, and disappearing off to the Czech Republic for more display flying in WWI replica machines.

Thankfully the weather came good on Wednesday, and we had a simply superb time. Theo and I had set off early in order to get 1264 rigged, and were ready by around 1300 when Clive, together with Neil Wilson (photographer), Chris (Tiger Moth owner) and Annabelle Burroughes (display pilot and instructor on Tiger Moth and Bucker Jungmann).

I made a short flight to confirm everything was in order, and we strapped Clive in and off he went. As you would expect, his flying was absolutely crisp and he clearly enjoyed himself with a low fly-by and some vertically-banked turns.

Clive’s flyby. Note the anxious faces turned up to look at him, and the Piper Cub waiting to be camera ship.

He does seem to be enjoying himself.

When he landed, he said that he couldn’t stop laughing on the takeoff, because the performance was so amazing, and on his return he couldn’t put into words how wonderful the flight was.

But there was no time to stop. Steve Slater fired up the Piper Cub, and they went off for the air-to-air photoshoot.

All of this went absolutely fine, and it was a real pleasure to be able to share 1264’s amazing flying qualities with an expert pilot.

But what made the day of historic importance, was that for the first time in – well, we don’t know how long – a rotary-engined WWI machine was flown by a woman. Annabelle Burroughes owns and flies a Bucker Jungmann, and instructs in a Tiger Moth. She also received an award from the Royal Aero Club for her heroic recovery of a four-seat TB10 aircraft which started a fire in the engine compartment on take off. She had two passengers on board, and she managed to land the aircraft safely in a field, by which time her feet were starting to get very warm, safely evacuate her passengers, and then put the fire out with the extinguisher.

So when it was suggested she might like to have a flight in 1264, she jumped at the chance, and, as you’d expect from such an experienced pilot, she managed it flawlessly. 

 

 

One happy lady!

We had to de-rig 1264 and get her back in the trailer, but Theo and I were very, very grateful for the help that all of the team gave to clean 1264 and put her to bed.

It was a long day, but very rewarding!