Tales from the North - updated!
Aeroholics Anonymouse - 19/11/13
The top letter in November’s issue of RCM&E was from Steve Hartley in Cumbria where he confesses to being an Aeroholic. Well, aren’t we all? And are we proud of it or do we follow the excellent example of people like Alex Whittacker and creep off and hide and do “Shedly Things”? I love that expression, and am getting very good at it. But maybe doing shedly things is a secret description of an Aeroholic? Today I even had my new electric heater on, two bars, as it was a bit nippy.
It appears that Steve has recently started in this hobby, and is still, perhaps, in the “Madly, Passionately In Love” phase. Long may this remain. Patricia and I are still Madly Passionately in Love, after many years, with honeymoons at least once a year. I am still there with my modelling, and hope to remain there for many years yet. He mentions progressing from smaller to larger, from slower to faster, from rubber bands to big glow engines. And so he should!
But he mentions spending “Our money” on his addiction, and I hear an alarm bell. Another one! There are so many smug answers to this point that I think we will quietly gloss over the suggestion that spending decisions are best shared with our other half “for the greater benefit”. Then we can go back to shedly matters and the advice that mending broken planes is a skill best acquired early on in ones career as an aeroholic simply because that is when accidents seem most likely to happen, and that is when we most want to go out and commit aviation. Steve’s spare room, he admits, is a junk yard of tools and spare parts. Well, put some spare parts together and see what you get. I have several boxes of spare parts which I regularly cannibalise to build and repair planes. Which suggests that this aeroholic still crashes his toys.
Steve doesn’t mention his Club members holding him back, or offering severe counselling about buying bigger and better. Sadly there is no postcode with his letter, and I see the BMFA have recently upgraded their website and it seems we can no longer search for “Cumbria” but have to search for a postcode when we look for a Club. So I hope Steve has joined a Club, and I hope the members are all holding him back from going too fast too quick, and from spending too much of “our money” on his addiction. Yes, my advice is strongly to join a club and take what guidance it offered. My friends at Hexham MFC have been invaluable. They have a Thunder Tiger Ready trainer in ABS plastic, and it is a super plane, and fairly crashproof, as I have demonstrated. Try one, Steve, and keep it till you pass your A and B. And then you can get what you want. BUT DON’T get too competitive, too big, too fast too soon, or you might rue the day. It is really strange, now that I have passed my A Cert, I am really wondering what I should fly next? Should it be the Vulcan? Or the Lancaster? Or the Spitfire? Or all three at once? Or should I be sensible and get another trainer? Maybe I will get a large bar of really dark chocolate and have a serious migraine.
We have been adopted by a neighbour’s cat. There are several other cats in the home where it came from, four dogs, some children and a Husband, and I guess poor moggie had an identity crisis and found it better to camp out on our doorstep till his charms worked and he got his entry visa. He is a ginger tom (the official name is “Red Tabby“) so much like the cat in Shrek, so adorable. We think he is quite old, and sometimes he shows it. But most of the day he spends asleep on the sofa. When advised to move so we can sit down he states quite clearly that that is NOT in the script. When shown the door he growls and spits. It is quite true, dogs may have owners, but cats have Staff, and Staff need to know their place and do as they are told. But he is still so adorable, and I imagine he will live out his days with us. He arrived in the Summer, and staked out his ownership of his new family by bringing numerous mostly dead mostly half-eaten mice and rabbits, laying them carefully on the doorstep where we would be sure to trip up on them. Strange way to cement your friendship. I can’t quite see how it would be in my interests to leave a sack of balsa debris at the door of the Club Chairman as some sort of peace offering. Did I spell that correctly? So, he got bowls of food left outside in the summer, and then the summer changed to proper summer and he was allowed inside for a warm-up, and since the summer has now really arrived he sleeps on the sofa and has stopped shivering. And he is one handsome cat.
OOPS!! - 10/9/13
The Nats are outstandingly good value for money, and well worth a visit at some time in one’s life. Now that I live on the same planet as the Nats I have visited twice, and have loved every minute. Here is an opportunity to feel and touch all sorts of goodies for sale, to try the weight and suitability of items that have been on your wish-list for years, without the nagging doubts that the wonderful pictures on the web with lurid and mouth-watering descriptions are not quite a real-life event, perhaps more an out-of-body experience. (Even an out-of-pocket experience?). Forget about the boxes of unstarted kits on the rafters in the garage. They were from a previous century. You really must have something new, and you can always sell those old kits to some other poor creature. And anyway, you are a smart flyer now, and you must keep up appearances with other club members. I suppose it is a bit like an Aero Fashion Catwalk.
And for the Man who has Everything, there is the opportunity to watch those who can do everything show you how much you need to improve. The scale tents show the most intimate details achievable on chosen models, and they leave me gasping for breath. If I can get a model to fly, that is an achievement in itself. Adding scale detail is a barrier I have not yet attempted, though I am getting slowly drawn in to that arena. It is always good to find out how other modellers have tackled some problem and what sort of result they have achieved. I saw a novel way of fitting undercarriage nacelle doors on a Lancaster, and then remembered I had seen the same thing years ago in a magazine. So, what goes around comes around, and still the result is beautiful.
I have long admired radial engines, and the model engines that we can buy. The three-cylinder Saito seems a bit of a cheat, but the five-cylinder job seems a bit more realistic, and more expensive. A big engine for a big model, and a big bank balance. Now we can get a beautiful seven-cylinder 35cc (2.10cu.i) Evolution model with a diameter of 18.5 cm or just 7” which brings realism to many of the models we have hanging up in our sheds. All you need is about £1,000 to include the exhaust collector ring. I want one!! And if BIG is what you want, there is a seven-cylinder 77cc and a nine-cylinder 99cc glow, and a seven-cylinder 260cc petrol radial. Horizon Hobby sell them, but I didn’t hear them run. I would love to see a review of one of these beautiful engines, and to hear comment from owners. Does anyone want to sell me one?
The flying displays remind me yet again that I still have lots to learn about simple control of an aircraft. Yes, I can do loops and rolls and Cubans, but so far without much finesse, and not always with the outcome I was hoping for. Sometimes definitely not! But the OOPS!!es are getting fewer. Here are guys who can position a plane exactly where they want it at this second, and know exactly where they want that plane ten seconds from now, and ten seconds from then, and so on. Can I ever get that good? Never having OOPS!!es?
But there were some, and very surprising ones. A beautiful new and expensive yellow jet, flown by one of our most experienced flyers, delighted the crowd till it decided to go out of control (away from the spectators) and spiral at high speed in to the ground where it sat under a fierce and growing fireball and cloud of black smoke. I don’t know – and don’t need to know – what went wrong. It was a sad end to a good model and hours of hard work dedicated to our hobby.
Another OOPS!! was if anything more spectacular and probably more avoidable. Two large Corsairs with big growly Moki radials drove straight in to each other while taxying and chopped each other to bits with their big four bladed props. Think of eight scimitars whirling around held by four people in a fight and you can imagine the damage done. Thousands of pounds disintegrating in front of our very eyes, and half a Display Team out of action. To that point in the day, it seemed, one side of the runway had been used to taxi up ready to take-off, and the other side for the dash for freedom. These monsters were using the same bit of tarmac and taxying slowly directly towards each other. And it seemed they didn’t have brakes. And we could all see the accident unfold. And it was painful to watch, but not as painful, I am sure, as it was for the owners of those beautiful models. At least we were able to hear the throaty growl of those same Mokis in an earlier display.
Have you ever been told how to start a petrol motor? Use a chicken stick, or a heavy leather glove? Kneel to one side of the prop? Not quite what we saw on the flight line there, where such things appeared not to be necessary, but at least we saw no fingers being strimmed, and no first-aiders rushing to render help. I was interested to see one brave man staring in to the whirling blur of a Moki radial at full roar with his nose a few inches away from the hub nut. I don’t know what he was trying to discover, but I doubt if it was a cosmetic nose job. But at least we can be confident that these guys have been doing this for years and have a lot of experience and can fly well. But DON’T do these things at your own patch if you value your membership.
It is all too easy to appear smug when talking about other people‘s mistakes, yet overlooking your own. I crashed yet another model the other day. It was my little Thunder Tiger Ready Trainer made out of plastic, and a lovely plane to fly. I had had 3 flights that day with no problems, and all with soft landings although I had once over-run the end of the strip and stopped in thick grass. Our farmer doesn’t like us cutting too much of his silage crop so we have a strip little bigger than a Cricket pitch and models are apt to disappear in thick grass if we land away from the strip. It is said by some learned Members of the club that it is good discipline to be able to land on a small strip. Yes, but it helps if said strip is big enough to see! I did my official pre-flight check and found the wings correctly fitted, the engine still in place, both wheels turning, and so on, so off we go for a happy time. I soon realised that I needed a little extra trim for the elevator. Odd! Then I found that the throttle wouldn’t close to idle, so a landing would have to be fast at quarter throttle and something would probably break. I had to do my A-Cert the following week with this model so I definitely didn’t want that! So I flew higher and played around for a while to empty the tank so I could drift sedately down to Mother Earth. By this time I was using full elevator to keep the plane in trim, and half throttle was the least I could get. Another gentle turn to port, and suddenly the little plane spiralled towards Australia at ever increasing speed. So that was the end of that plane, and my A-Cert. Looking at the many bits, and thinking about this sad end, I concluded that the hiccup in the grass had caused the centre bulkhead holding the wheels to move slightly. The servo tray was glued to this, so 3 servos were mobile explaining the changes in trim and throttle response. The wing is also bolted on to this bulkhead so I am surprised that I didn’t notice anything amiss before I took off. The moral is Double-check everything before you fly.
Last time I was at the Nats was 2011 and I bought an Ibis. This is a trainer type machine looking a bit like a Piper, with big long wings with struts, and a big tail. This has had a number of repairs in the last 2 years, and during that time the Perspex windows have been replaced with the plastic wrappings from a bottle of Ardbeg Single Malt whisky. This was my default plane for my A-Cert. Cramlington and District MFC had an Open Day on 7th and 8th September, so I presented this advert to my private drinking habits to the examiners on a very blustery day. While putting the wings on my model the examiner came across and suggested that I might come back another less blustery day while holding firmly on to his hat. I demurred, and we agreed that the test would go ahead. Preliminaries complete, the model was taken out to the middle of the strip by an assistant, and I realised it was such a big strip that I could hardly see the model, let alone see the control surfaces wiggle the correct way. So, signal chocks away! Light the blue touch paper, and my trusty SC 120 pulled this 82” wingspan floaty monster up in to a 15 - 20 mph gust and battle commenced! Flying upwind required quite a lot of loud pedal, and flying downwind didn’t take very long at all. Manoevres completed, the dead stick landing was more like a hover to ground in that wind, graced with a perfect three-point landing. And one of the questions asked was -- “At what wind speed do you stop all flying?” Answer -- “When your bottle runs out!” Actually, at 25kt, which is around Force 6 on the Beaufort wind scale when white horses are blown off the tops of waves, whole trees begin to move, and umbrellas get blown inside - out. Smaller boats should be in harbour and larger boats should have shortened canvas and battened down all hatches. Only idiots fly models in this weather, as for a 1/6 scale model this represents hurricane force winds. After I had passed my test the wind dropped, of course, and other intrepid aeronauts brought their planes out to play. And they were good! Something to aim at for next year when I might try my B-Cert. So, now I can concentrate more on enjoying my flying, while making sure that all servo trays are secure before I attempt flight.
And if flying doesn’t always float your boat, I see today that a 50lb, four feet long, Swordfish has been caught in the River Tyne. Not the WWII fighter, I mean the fish with the Pinochio pointy nose. Yes, there are many amazing bonuses to living in the North East. You should try it!
G – George - 12/8/13
Lots has happened since I last wrote this blog, and all those lots have kept me from allowing the Muses to blossom as the apple trees, the thistles, the dandelions have blossomed, and all those other things that get in the way which have stopped me writing such as painting the garden gate, torrential rain, howling winds, and blistering heat. What has happened to our weather these last few months?
We have reviewed the anniversary of the Dam Busters raid, rewatched the telly documentaries and the great film, and we have wondered how we would have reacted if we had had to fly such missions. There has been a documentary about the Mosquito, the wooden wonder which was built despite being rubbished by everyone who knew all there was to know about running a War. But De Havilland knew better, backed their hunch, and built a plane which was an outstanding success in every field it was deployed in to. An outstanding bomber, it could carry as much ordnance as a B-17 at twice its speed, it could outrun almost any fighter, it encountered, it could mark targets accurately, and it could also take reconnaissance photos better than anything else. It could successfully mount a very powerful anti-submarine cannon without shaking to bits. It was so successful that it was exported to all parts of the globe where its one vice was exposed. It fell to bits when the wood glues decomposed in those humid tropical conditions. Well, you can’t win them all. And that is why there are so few Mosquitos in Museums around the World, and only two flying. I gather that is being sorted as we write, and I look forward to seeing a real Mozzie with real throbbing Merlins zooming overhead. I see there is now a French copy at three quarter scale which will soon be doing the rounds of various shows.
We were able to get to the Sunderland Air Show recently, still the only free Air Show in Britain and an outstanding success. Well worth a visit despite being in the middle of what one Noble Lord recently described as a “Desolate Area”! Well, with some of the best scenery in Britain and without being as crowded as that Noble Lord’s back yard, and having excellent job prospects, the North East is a beautiful area to live in, with plenty of flying of all sorts to indulge in. In fact, just across the valley from our own site is a farmer who regularly has small planes landing in his back yard, and one of our own members used to have his own pilot licence.
There were two stars of the Sunderland show. First, with six Merlins throbbing in unison was the BBMF with a Lancaster, a Spitfire, and a Hurricane. The Lancaster came in from the sea to simulate a dam-busting attack, but really he was a couple of hundred feet too high. Now, if he had come in below the top of the pier lighthouse we might have been impressed. As it was, his four Merlins still made our ears ring! They came back the following day, as did that great beast the Vulcan. The good news here is that this beast may yet fly again. If they can find another million pounds they can add a further two years to its flying life and extend it to 2015. If not, it stops where it gets parked in November. Lets hope there are still some deep pockets to help the many smaller donations to this cause.
I needed some repairs to a couple of engines, and sent it off to Peter Vidgeon in Surrey. We exchanged very informative emails as he worked on them. Very quickly he had mastered the problems and sorted both engines till they ran well. Excellent service and very reasonable price. He advertises in the BMFA classified site, and if you need his help you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org You won’t regret it.
It is almost time again for the Nats. I might be able to get there this year!
Same Yet - 24/5/13
It was in a previous Millenium that I first heard this expression, watching a “Look North” presenter talking about a signwriter repainting a pub sign for a landlord in North Yorkshire. The man asked what he was supposed to paint, and the publican said “Mek it t’Same Yet”. And the signwriter made it the “Same Yet Inn”, and that is how it is still named today. Or so I am led to believe. “Same Yet” means in local dialect “The Same Again” and the inn sign should have been painted “The Crown Inn” or “The Ugly Cow” or whatever it was originally, but “Same Yet” sounds ok to me. Just imagine if he had said “Paint it the same again, Sam”. He might have got an Oscar for that line!
Looking out of my window earlier today I was surprised to see the garage drifting in and out of visibility as a shower of sleety snow howled through the gap between it and the house, and “Same Yet” immediately came to mind, along with a comment on this blog from my dear friend Flytilbroke. I had recently written about the snow that had stopped our flying and he had said that near Ben Nevis where he lived they had not been so badly troubled. Well, maybe so, but today’s weather forecast shows severe winds around Fort William with some snow, and road closures a possibility. I hope you and Dot keep well, Bob, and lets hope the weather improves soon. This is now mid May and still we have “Same Yet” snow and wind. Are we never going to get a break? I saw an ad on the BMFA Classifieds, someone selling off a shedful of models he had made all winter because the weather was so awful. I think he must have had a heated shed, because I was not prepared to stay outside in my shed for most of last (or is it still this?) winter He obviously hadn’t been able to go out and fly them to death. Perhaps he needs a little help from his friends? He lives not too far away, so perhaps I could go round and chat with him, give him a helping hand?
And we moved 400 miles from Orkney to get away from weather like this!
Well, it isn’t all quite as bad as that. It has not all been “t’Same Yet”. A couple of weeks ago we did have some decent weather. I was able to get a couple of days good flying. The strip was firm, and with some drying wind the quagmire of mud on the way in to our strip had set in to hard ruts capable of ripping the bottom off our cars. One brave man had brought a spade and took the tops off the biggest ruts and had driven right up to our strip (and flattened some ruts in the process) and had some excellent flying in a strengthening wind. Even the big pond of mud at the second gate was firm and supportive. And one kind member had even mowed the grass for the first time.
My own flying was good, but I had a strange experience with one plane. After initial checks I started the engine and it ran a bit rich. I leaned it out a bit till it was good, then set off. Suddenly it ran rich and was barely able to keep airborne. I managed a quick circuit before the engine cut. On further inspection I was very surprised to find that the retaining bolt holding the throttle barrel in place had disappeared, so there was no control of mixture at all. The barrel was held in just by the throttle wire and moved in and out at will. How it had worked loose I have no idea. I can’t remember loosening it or removing the barrel for inspection or cleaning. And it isn’t a simple bolt. It has a chamfered tip, so replacement isn’t easy. However, I did find a suitable bolt, and put it in an electric drill and filed a suitable shape to the tip. It now holds the throttle barrel in place, with a tiny bit of threadlok to keep it happy. And the engine now runs perfectly. So, the moral is, as always, check everything before you commit aviation.
Another few days have gone by, and the weather hasn’t improved much, but I was able to get in a few flights, and that was when I first heard my first cuckoo of Spring. So, it’s official! Spring has definitely sprung now the cuckoos are here, or maybe this one got the wrong ticket and booked with Aeroflot by mistake. Cuckoo or not, we have rain.
Sadly, I think after this new dose of good weather the strip will now be fairly muddy with poor access. So, if we can’t fly, lets look at the weather. Fortunately, the weather presenters we see are some of the best around. They are invariably well-dressed (not like this new breed of TV presenters who can’t remember where they left their ties), they have the best diction on TV, and the ladies are among the prettiest. Even when they prophesy doom and gloom they manage to keep a smile to encourage us, perhaps hopefully searching for a change which may enable us to brave the hurricane without. And, in my experience, they seem to be pretty accurate, so at least we know when not to charge our batteries up.
No battery charging today, now near the end of May. We have had several nasty hail storms, with snow prophesied for Bob and Dot. Patricia bought pansies and put them out where they would catch the sun. What sun? Now they have been flattened by the hail.
Arctic Tern? - 17/4/13
It is now early April. Looking out of our window to the surrounding hills, I can barely see the line between skyline and cloud base because it is snowing --- again!! These hills are still covered with lots of snow drifts in gullies and around hedges. The stone walls are just visible with heavy drifts on the windward side. This winter we have been snowed in three times with drifts against the garage door and snow piled high on the track past our gate effectively blocking our exit till the Farmer was able to drive his tractor up to his sheep in nearby fields.
Our flying site is some 17 miles away past the reservoir over the moor where snow was even thicker, and the field itself would be under a thick carpet of snow, inaccessible without a track-laying Land Rover type vehicle, and a plane equipped with skis. I didn’t have any of these things and I really don’t like getting freezing cold, so I have been flying on just two occasions since Christmas when the weather lost the official plot for a few days and became almost tolerable.
Last year I searched out a number of novels on my occasional visits to charity shops so I had enough reading material to sink my nose into when the bad weather arrived. I did have a winter build project but even with two fires running full pelt, the workshop was definitely NOT suitable for any lengthy work so I read the novels and watched the icicles form and reform on the windows.
Several novels and several days later I have just managed a trip to our strip and found the farmer there had his own difficulties getting onto his field. There was a quagmire of tractor tracks in oozy mud at the lower gate, and a snow drift over another puddle of mud in front of the second gate to our bit of heaven. But, the strip itself was fairly dry with a good breeze to dry it out further and some good flying for all my troubles.
This was a special issue Siberian breeze with questionable chill-factors and from the opposite direction from our usual Atlantic breezes, so flying had to be back-to-front with approaches over the barbed wire fence and all the nightmares ensuing from dead-stick landings. The other side of the fence was where the tractors had been playing! The ruts were about 6” deep and would rip the wheels off anything landing short. I find I get cold quite quickly these days, so it wasn’t long before I was squelching towards the car with an aeroplane under one arm and a trolley with my fuel and kit snapping at my heels.
I asked the farmer how he had got on with lambing - “Not good” was the short reply, with far more lambs being born in barns than outside, and still lots being lost. I have seen our local farmer driving past our window at home several times with his Land Rover piled with dead sheep carcases. I haven’t dared ask him how many he has lost, and how much each one cost him in feed. He farms many acres of barren moorland.
It is interesting to compare our ARTF views on building models with our ARTE views on 'Almost Ready to Eat' food. In both disciplines everything is carefully and very attractively labelled and then packaged. The important bits are laid out primed for immediate consumption and ultimate enjoyment. Quick preparation time and tasty satisfaction are, of course, guaranteed. And for those expert flyers there is the joy of repeated tastes of the same meal time and time again. For others less expert, there is the joy of a quick snack before the enchantment of yet more preparation of yet another menu.
I think I am probably a 'Fish’chips' model eater, or perhaps an 'Egg Foo Yong Fried Rice' sort of guy, but I am sure I am at last getting better. But do we ever ask ourselves who makes our kits, or ready meals? Do we dwell at length on how green or sustainable our activities are? Perhaps not. Farmers are having a very difficult time these days but someone has to dish up our ARTEs. And you don’t see our farmer on a bike. The hills are too steep!
Today I am suffering from wind. No surprise in that, but this is not that sort of wind for which syrup of figs is recommended. No, this is a strong wind storming in off the Atlantic and heading back towards the Arctic and at last it feels distinctly warm. The thermometer is registering double figures, as is my anemometer so flying is off for several days. They say the wind might calm by the weekend without really specifying which weekend they mean. Suffice to say, we will probably get some flying in some time this year. The Geese seem to have left for northern latitudes. Maybe the Swallows will arrive soon? Maybe those masters of the airwaves, the Arctic Terns, will soon be seen flitting around our coasts? Summer on the way? Arctic turn-around? Perhaps to travel hopefully is better than to arrive, especially if we travel towards another summer like we had last year!
Carburettor Bread - 27/3/13
Although Patricia has NEVER expressed the slightest interest in flying my planes she has always encouraged me, and comforted me when the occasion required, in my aspirations to be a truly great aeronaut. That illusion is still as far away as ever, and Patricia still cannot stand the mess and dust of my workshop, and she absolutely loathes the delicious smell of burning castor oil which I find so alluring --- and the stink of petrol makes her sick!
So I really thought my boat had come in (or should that read – my plane had landed?) when she told me we would be having carburettor bread, cheese, and real home-made soup when my brother came for lunch. His wife is Irish, and Patricia is half Irish, and we all get on well together. Now would this carburettor bread have a bouquet of ethanol with just a hint of castor, mere methanol and synth, or was it to be just a soupsant of Esso and racing two-stroke?
Well, the great day arrived, and so did my brother and his wife, and we had bread and cheese and soup and it was all delicious and the bread smelt just-baked and was full of holes, suitable for people who watch calories. But no obvious connection with carburettors. Well, I am not very good at puzzles and it would be no surprise if the connection did escape me. Maybe I will puzzle it all out later.
Our club has a Thunder Tiger Ready 3 trainer. It is made of plastic, is light and strong, and flies very well. If you get one, check the contents carefully to see that there are no problems with the plastic mouldings. I have heard that sometimes the ailerons don’t come out right. I bought one, and have had endless fun with it, when our patch has been free of snow and mud, and the sheep have been shooed away. Well, relatively endless, in a manner of speaking.
Construction is easy if you trial-fit everything first so you know where all the bits fit and what the instructions actually mean you to do. It helps to mark with a soft pencil where the bulkheads will fit as it is not easy to manoeuvre them in to the correct positions when dry, and very messy with lots of epoxy or cyano around. Since the engine (and front wheel mount) has to be built on to the firewall bulkhead BEFORE gluing in, you must drill this correctly for your engine with self-tapping screws as you won’t be able to put nuts on the rear bolts afterwards. The rear bulkhead similarly needs to be positioned accurately as this determines the landing gear symmetry. It helps to get the wing joiner right or you will have no dihedral and flying will be a problem. There appear to be no replacement landing gear legs available, so if you break one you will need to replace with wire from your spare parts drawer and permanently epoxy this in to place. Not easy!. If you used Loctite to secure the landing gear bolts you will have a problem removing them.
The wings secure to the plane with a single plastic bolt. It would be worth buying a spare packet of bolts when you buy the plane. No matter how hard you tighten this bolt it does not stop the wing from swivelling around it. I drilled a pilot hole through the wing in the midline 2cm back from the LE angled 45-degrees forward so it went through the cockpit roof, then enlarged it and glued a dowel through so it doesn’t rotate so much. A second dowel at the back will stabilise the wing further.
In the event of an unplanned arrival it is possible to repair quite serious cracks and dents with the sheets of ABS, they graciously provide for this very purpose. You can also use a hair drier to soften the plastic to unbend dents and folds. And if you want to know just how I found that out, well --- you can guess! Most other planes would have ended up in a bin bag! I am now more confident of landings that before, and was practising flat spins and rolls as recommended for the 'B' Cert, and I got a bit flustered when things didn’t go as planned. I have had little stick time over the winter, and have not made it up on the simulator, silly me! So, before we get snowed in yet again, I must get some simulator time!
I have one other plane that has tried to die several times and has been resurrected so far successfully. It is a Protech Ibis, 2100 mm wingspan, weighing about 4 kg, with lots of wing and a nice big rudder. Perhaps a bit like a Piper Cub. It has an SC 1.20 FS at the sharp end, and flies gentle circuits with easy turns, and tends to weathercock in to the prevailing wind which limits its usability on our patch. Press the loud pedal and touch nothing else, and it takes itself off in just a few feet and slowly climbs away. Touch the levers and it responds happily, with rudder assisting the turns. I think it would easily fly with a .91 FS which may slow it down a bit for landings. I bought that 18 months ago, which makes it my longest-lived plane. Perhaps I should retire it before something nasty happens to it.
I have mentioned before that Patricia is a bit dyslexic and sometimes gets words a bit muddled. This is sometimes a problem, and sometimes produces quite hilarious results and causes us lots of laughs. On this occasion carburettor bread turned out to be quite harmless Ciabatta bread, so perhaps we will try this recipe when my brother next turns up.
“Wine with your soup?” “No, I’ll just try some castor straight”
VRA-VRA-VROOM - 5/2/13
If you have never seen a Vulcan flying, you have never lived. If you have never felt your chest crushed by the awe-inspiring roar of those four jets on full power, you have missed one of life’s great events. Have you looked in to that enormous bomb bay? Is your name written in there? Have you watched those wings waggle like a fighter as it curtseys gracefully over you before turning away in a full-power turn? Well, if you don’t make a chance this year it may well be too late.
I see in Flight magazine that Vulcan XH558 may be retiring from flying at the end of this year. There appear to be two problems. One is, as always, the horrifying cost of keeping this glorious plane in the air. The other is that the airframe and many of its components are at the end of their permitted fatigue lives and cannot be replaced, at least within realistic budgets. The wings are a major problem, and need huge rebuilds.
So it looks as if XH558 will be retired to static and taxiing display somewhere at the end of this year, possibly next, and we will be left to rely on our memories and whatever DVDs we can retrieve. For me, I have many childhood memories as I grew up close to RAF Finningley (now Doncaster Robin Hood Airport). I last saw XH558 at Sunderland Air Display creeping in through a sea fret as it began its display. I hope to see it again this year. It will be a sad farewell.
My sister is a Vulcan fanatic. She sent me a most interesting book for Christmas entitled “Vulcan Test Pilot” by Tony Blackman and it tells the story of a man who flew 105 of the 136 Vulcans built, his experience spanning the length of the Vulcan’s working life. When it was designed just 7 years after Avro’s Lancaster bomber no-one had any idea whether a Delta would fly, particularly something that size. Now they know, and he found out just how easy and difficult that process was.
I had no idea that Vulcans became progressively unstable as they approached Mach 1 and had to have gyros and stabilisers fitted to the fin and elevators to keep the plane stable. And when he was finding all these quirks out there were no black boxes to record any anomalies. It all had to be handed on verbally --- if you were still alive! And they also became progressively uncontrollable if they were taken in to a dive too close to Mach 1. One almost went supersonic! Apparently there was insufficient elevator travel for safe control at high speeds. Early on, the leading edge was found to be prone to buckling if overstressed by loops and rolls (one Vulcan crashed at an air display when the leading edge disintegrated), so such activities were discouraged. Additionally, the airflow over the wings caused severe buffeting as speeds increased meaning the plane could never achieve its design potential and was very nearly scrapped. A change to the wing shape from true delta to the lovely flowing lines we see today rescued the design so we can still see it flying.
And one of the reasons why XH558 is still flying is that their wings were strengthened so that they could take Blue Streak missiles, and strengthened again so they could fly so low under enemy radar where turbulence was much greater than at their design altitude of 60,000 ft. It was, apparently, precisely that low-altitude turbulence that caused the Valiant to succumb so early to wing fatigue.
Roly Falk was test pilot for Avro when the Vulcan was developing. A dapper man, he almost always flew in a pinstripe suit, believing his plane should be at least as clean as his car. He also often took up BigWigs in the co-pilot seat to impress them with sales talk, so perhaps the pinstripes were essential.
There is an entire chapter on accidents to Vulcans, often with very unfortunate endings, which he reviews in a clear and objective manner, without allowing his own emotions to get in the way. He knew those men who died, he had flown those planes that crashed. It reminds me of the final scene in The Dam Busters where a horrified Barnes Wallace asks Guy Gibson “--- 56 men not coming back??---” and Guy Gibson says “---I have a few letters to write”. And I think of politicians wrapped up in smooth words and cotton wool saying “We have lessons to learn”. I wonder.
We all know that the Barnato Boys were a very rich set of men who drove Blower Bentleys around race courses in Britain and Europe, and had themselves a very happy time. Woolf Barnato made and lost fortunes mining diamonds and gold in Africa, and was also a major financier of W. O. Bentley, both his road and airplane engines. Well, if there were Bentley Boys, there must have been some Bentley Girls, but I know little about them.
Woolf Barnato had a Daughter, Diana Barnato Walker, who had just as much spirit as her illustrious Father, and became famous in quite a different way. Although she was given a Bentley on her 21st Birthday, she made her claim to fame driving Rolls-Royces. Big ones! 27 litres big! She was one of that special group, the Air Transport Auxiliary, who flew planes from the factories where they were assembled and test-flown to the bases where “The Few” flew them off to fight the War from which so many failed to return, and of those survivors barely a dwindling handful still live on.
In today’s world where it is illegal to discriminate on grounds of sex it is quite difficult to return to 1940 and find that women were barred from so many activities where we now expect them to co-operate equally with men. There has been a lot of water under a lot of bridges in the last 70 years. The then Editor of “The Aeroplane” spoke for many when he said that “women insist on wanting to do jobs which they are quite incapable of doing. The menace is the woman who thinks she ought to be flying a high-speed bomber when she really has not the intelligence to scrub the floor of a hospital properly, or who wants to nose around as an Air Raid Warden and yet can’t cook her husband’s dinner”.
HHMMM!! I wonder who would dare to say such a thing on the flight line of our clubs today without fear of a lynching. Well, actually, there are sadly no ladies in our club yet, but I still doubt if any member thinks that way now. But then things were very different. Women left their kitchen sinks and lino floors and flocked in droves to the munitions factories to work beside men for a lot less money. They took to tractors and ran farms as land girls. They dug for victory! They cut down beech trees and turned them in to DH Mosquitos. In Canada Elsie MacGill - the Queen of the Hurricanes - ran a factory with over 4,500 workers making Hurricanes, more than half being women.
And there was the Air Transport Auxiliary, formed on the day war broke out. There were plenty of civilian aircrew who could not sign up for active service who would be needed to fly mail and supplies around, and also to deliver those much-needed planes. They were nicknamed “Ancient and Tattered Airmen”, and some were missing arms, legs, or eyes, but they could fly! And they accepted women! One such was Pauline Gower, aged 29 and with over 2,000 hours credited. She rather strongly disagreed with the Editor of “The Aeroplane” and gathered a group of like-minded girls around her as the ATA spread their wings. Initially they ferried Tiger Moth trainers around. There was a grandmother, a ballet dancer, an architect, an actress, an ice-hockey champion and a typist. Multi-taskers all! The cockpits were open and it was winter. Rosy cheeks and a bad hair day! But still The editor and his cronies prevailed and they couldn’t fly Spitfires till after The Battle of Britain! Eventually they flew anything that had wings and an engine, but they were NOT allowed to use guns or radio so were sometimes shot at by their own ack-ack (Amy Johnson was thought to have been shot down and killed by friendly fire) and had to navigate with basic maps and a compass in sun, wind, fog, and snow. Americans and women from other nations crossed the seas to join the ATA, and in 1943 they were at last given equal pay with their male colleagues, the first Government employees to be so honoured, and in 1944 they were allowed to fly across the channel.
And it was that Barnato Girl who did it! She flew a Spitfire to Brussels closely following her second husband in another Spitfire. Her first husband was one of “The Few” who never came back, and her second husband was killed some eighteen months later. One of the most glamorous and wealthy women of that era devoted a great part of her life to ferrying planes about so that their men - her man - could fly them. Years later she was able to say she never crashed - never even scratched one. And, of course, it was good for the boys to have some glamour around in those very tense times. One enterprising C.O. made sure she had to stay a bit longer by removing the spark plugs from her aircraft. It was a while before she found out how to start the engine! All-woman, she left anything under the bonnet to someone else! She flew 80 types of aircraft, and delivered 260 Spitfires. Yet there was one place she, nor any other ATA pilot ever flew to, and that was an aircraft carrier. No Thanks, the senior service rather agreed with that editor. Maybe there was something about 'The Ark' that was a bit protective and old-fashioned!
Open cockpit or closed, planes of that era were cold, and Diana felt the cold as much as the rest, so she swapped a gold watch for a fleece-lined jacket which she kept for the rest of her life. But it wasn’t RAF Issue. It was a bit more stylish. She was, after all, Diana Barnato
Page on twenty years, and Diana was the first British woman to break the sound barrier, in a Lightning, at over 1200mph, setting a world speed record for a woman pilot. Page on another 50 years, and the last time we flew off Orkney a woman was in full control of the flight deck. But I wonder how long before we have a female member of our club? Patricia tells me that in China they are making an enormous aqueduct requiring huge concrete sections to be lifted in to place by the biggest crane in the world. And who is driving it? A pretty 25 year old lass!
Wartime Bloopers - 22/10/12
In my last article I wrote about WD40 as being “War Department 40” and was immediately corrected by Malcolm and Ollie, so I must buy some humble pie and share it with them and all of you. I am sure I read recently in a copy of Flypast magazine, in the “Letters” section someone wrote about WD40 as “War Department 40”, and I thought that sounded good. However, Wikipedia states something different, and Ollie and Malcolm are correct. WD stands for Water Displacement, 40th formula. It was invented by one Norm Larsen in 1953 and it was the 40th formula he had used to find a protective spray to protect metal surfaces from water and rust. It was used to protect the Atlas rockets among other things from the nasty effects of the weather, and, perhaps supersonic travel. The original formula is, apparently, not patented so its secret is supposedly secure. It contains a non-volatile viscous water-displacing oil carried in a volatile hydrocarbon spray. The spray evaporates and leaves the oil to protect the surface and any crevices it has crept in to.Come to think of it, isn’t that exactly what our aero fuel does? It contains a lot of oil dissolved in methanol which evaporates leaving the insides of our engines coated with protective oil. Pity there are other by-products of combustion which can cause our engines to rot if we don’t flush them out after use.
I am not the only one to create wartime bloopers. There are legion examples. Recently there were some programmes on telly reviewing the Spitfire (again!), the Bomber Boys, and the ATA. Just think, that glorious beast the Supermarine Spitfire was almost called the Shrew! I can imagine the German High Command being ordered to find and read a little-known literary work by one ShakespeareW to find out about Taming that Shrew. They would have been little wiser. Otto Daimler apparently called his first car after his daughter Mercedes. Good she wasn’t called Mary or Regina. And what if Rolls and Royce had been called Laurel and Hardy, or Gardin and Spayde?I was interested to learn that our earlier WW2 Bombers were actually designed as day-time bombers. The rationale was that they could see the target, but they could also be seen, and so many were shot down that they rarely dropped their bombs within five miles of the target area. The Hampden had single manual .303 guns, rather like pea-shooters against the well armed ME 109s. They were a failure and were eventually withdrawn to mine-laying and torpedo duties. Maybe not surprisingly our glorious leaders had already made the same blooper in the Great War just 25 years before and had to change tactics.
Later bombers were better suited to night raids and were eventually more successful but hardly any more accurate. It is regretful that perhaps one of the biggest bloops was in failing to recognise the huge effort of Bomber Command and their appalling losses till just recently.Some months ago I heard of a part-finished Piper Cub for sale, and I was interested. I then found out that it was constructed out of aluminium tubes and sheet of various dimensions, glued together with araldite or bolted with tiny bolts. It was partly covered with Solartex, and it was cheap!!
I could say the salesman saw me coming! This model was certainly different, and certainly had some challenges, and would keep me busy in the workshop for a while. You could say it was exquisitely engineered. The various lengths of aluminium tube were cut to length and shaped exactly to fit, and the wing ribs were cut and shaped out of thin aluminium sheet. It all fitted together like a Rubik Cube, and with some of its frustrations and complexity But I didn’t realise just how difficult this might turn out to be. This kit must have been several years old, and the glue was beginning to crack in places and the 'special glue' was of course all gone. It looked like JB Weld so I reinforced those joints which appeared to be a bit mobile and put Loctite on all the bolts I could see. There were plenty I couldn’t get at in the wings and tail feathers which had been covered before I took ownership. The wing joiners were missing so I used some spare thick undercarriage wire for this, and added a third for good measure as they didn’t inspire me with much confidence.The wings fitted perfectly, so I araldited the joiners in place with the wings bolted in place, and -- guess what? The wings came away exactly as I had hoped when I undid the bolts! That was a relief! The engine was a simple fit, and the fun really started when I revved it up. I found various bits of tube were coming loose and falling off as the glue joints failed the vibration test. Worse, those nuts and bolts in the wings and tail feathers which had NOT been loctited now decided to cry foul, and they were difficult to get at to repair. Covering with solartex was difficult as the cloth would not stick permanently to the aluminium. I had to extend the cloth to wrap round and stick on to itself.
The great day arrived, actually several great days arrived, and it was a pig to fly. The engine wasn’t right one day, the wheels collapsed on another day, the rims just disintegrated, then the grass had grown too long and it wouldn’t lift off, but finally it flew after demonstrating superb ground looping expertise, did a giddy circuit, and bent its landing gear on impact somewhere fairly close to its ground looping practice site. I had previously ascertained that the landing gear was an integral part of the construction and unbending it was going to be a nightmare. It also bent the wing tips, and all that lovely aluminium tubing has to be straightened and reglued and recovered. For the same money and a lot less effort I could have bought a little trainer and had hours of fun. There has to be a moral in there somewhere!There is a guy who comes over from Sweden each year to the Nats with yards of aluminium weld wire and demonstrates his aluminium welding techniques to anyone who will watch. Now, if you want to get hold of an aluminium Piper Cub, why not talk to him first? You will find him at email@example.com Enjoy!
Patricia reminds me that SHE had already told me to get a nice easy plane to fly. She was, and always will be, right, and I love her to bits.
The Colditz Cock - 30/8/12
I had had a rather unfortunate day at the field with an engine that stopped running just a few seconds after my plane had left Terra Firma. It stalled and plunged rapidly towards that same Terra Firma, and found out just how firm-er that Terra was! After all the soaking we have had recently, and after the farmer had cut the grass for hay, the model received a very bloody nose and was returned to the car for investigations at a later date.Watching telly later that evening I was interested to see a program about the glider that was nearly used to escape from Colditz in 1945. The presenter was the same guy who proved so conclusively that Barnes Wallace actually got it right when he built the Dam-Busters bomb. This presenter used computers with millions of gigabytes to show that the sketches Barnes Wallace drew on the backs of old envelopes were correct. Well, that shows as far as I can see how useful computers are, and that Barnes Wallace was an extraordinary genius. And the history books had already told us that! Same for the guys who built the Colditz Cock. The man behind the idea, Tony Rolt, was not even an airman. He realised that the roof of the chapel at Colditz was not visible to the guards and would make a good launch platform for a small glider. Two others, Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best, found a book conveniently left in the Library all about designing aircraft, so they and a team called “The Twelve Apostles” made a glider out of stolen bits of wood and wire snitched from odd places, in an attic overlooking the chapel, behind a false wall where the glider was prefabricated. Little did they realise that this glider where all the bits were prefabricated by different people in different places would one day spawn such a massive industry we now recognise as ARTF.
The end result looked a bit like a Piper Cub, and the runway was to be tables laid out on the chapel roof. Launch power was to be a bathtub full of concrete attached to a winch, and dropped out of a window at the appropriate time. Prison sleeping bags provided the coverings, and they were doped with porridge to proof the cloth. There was room for two, sitting back-to-back. Fortunately, the glider was never used, and it subsequently disappeared (the Russians eventually finished up owning Colditz). But the original plans were preserved and a 1/3 replica was built and flown from the chapel roof in 1993.A full-size replica was flown from RAF Odiham in 2000. The replica used in this TV show was full-size but unmanned, and radio-controlled. After a few cliff-hanging (I think that should be roof-hanging) moments the launch was successful, and the landing was as eventful as some of my finer achievements. The glider made the journey across the river Mulde and broke up on impact with the Terra Firma mentioned above. Everyone could go home fairly satisfied and with a fairly full black bag, and I felt that if they could do that on telly, then my own achievement earlier that day was about OK.
Those two wars were grim affairs, and war still leaves an horrific mark on peoples lives. War influences so much of our daily activities. My favourite planes are all warbirds, a Spitfire, a Lancaster, and a Vulcan. Every day I use items directly descended from military activity of some sort, this computer for one. WD 40 is another, as that stands for War Department 40.One spin-off I have been thinking about recently is disability from various causes (one of which would be getting locked up for years in a concentration camp), and we are about to begin the Paralympic Games. I was struck recently by a letter in RCM&E from Andrew Cross who is disabled and finds difficulty in flying model planes. I must confess that I had never given disability a thought till I read that letter, and I started wondering just how disability-friendly our sport, and our local field is.
How on earth could someone in a wheelchair get through six inches of mud and cow pats, open two heavy gates, and drive 300 mtr through grass a foot high to get to our strip? Answer, with great difficulty! But that person could easily come to our evening in the gym flying little models and have great fun.I asked the BMFA for their views on the subject, and got an instant response in the form of a PDF file defining exactly what our response as individuals and as a Club should be. It is available on their website, and is well worth a read for us all, particularly for club officials, and particularly if improvements to premises are anticipated.
Andrew has persevered through considerable difficulties with a non-functioning left arm, and has at last found a club who have taken him under their wing and helped him along. They are the Halesowen Flyers. He has learnt how to build models one-handedly, sometimes using his chin to hold down the odd transfer while he smooths it out, and to fly and land them.Like me, he also has learnt skills in repairing models, and he is now doing really well and is about to gain his 'B' Cert. I raise my hat to him, and I would be interested to hear of any other people who have triumphed through adversity to fly models, or from clubs who have disabled members, or from suppliers who deal in equipment suitable for disabled model flying. He has two exciting models in process, one of which will have a full sound system.
Now, why didn’t I think of that?
Who framed Roger Rabbit? - 26/7/12I just love this film, and I think my models sometimes behave as if they are really toon characters instead of the serious models I fondly hoped they would turn out to be. There is one scene which I really like when Roger Rabbit is hiding from the Weasel Toon Mafia in Tec Eddie Valiant’s sink. He is handcuffed to Valiant’s wrist which makes it exceedingly difficult to conceal him under the soapsuds and washing in the sink. When the Weasels finally leave and a semblance of order is restored Roger Rabbit quietly withdraws his wrist out of the handcuffs and carries on as if nothing has happened. Valiant is incensed and asks if RR could have withdrawn his wrist at any time. “Oh no, only when it’s funny!” And that, perhaps, is the point of cartoons, and also of life in general. There has to be a funny side to life or everything gets dull and boring. Patricia and I see the funny side of most of what happens to us, and we are very happy together.
There has to be a funny side to our modelling or we will get too serious or even think ourselves important. Then we are so often seconds away from disaster and a rude awakening to our frailties. I have recognised over the last year that not many funny things have happened to me that I could pass on to you, probably because I have not been doing too much flying, but maybe that is all about to change.We have done most of the work needed to tidy the house after our move to the 55th Parallel, and have experienced the worst weather so far since records began. That, at least, is the sort of prank that toons would play on anyone. Every month this year has broken some sort of record. My last trip to the strip found the grass over a foot tall all round the small area we have carved out of the field. Both gates to our field are inches deep in glucky oozy brown malodorous mud. This feels a bit like taking off a full-size plane in to elephant grass surrounding a small cricket pitch. It really sharpens the senses. Landings are just as much fun. With any sort of cross wind you have to get your approach exactly right or you catch wheels or wingtips in thick grass and cartwheel in to that Politician’s haven “The Long Grass”. toons’ delight.
Next time I am up there I will try to expand the strip a bit, if I can get the mower started. I am told having a small strip improves flying discipline, but it also refines one’s rebuilding pleasures and improves the sale of new models which I prefer not to support. Yes, one should be able to land on a sixpence, but not all of us get it right every time, and all of us benefit from a bit of slack occasionally.In any case our editor’s excellent articles on landing a plane had drawings and photos of a strip the size of a pretty big football pitch, not a modest spotted hanky. Maybe the farmer will solve this problem for us and harvest this grass and turn it in to hay. What? In THIS weather? No way! Silage perhaps, but not hay. Get a toon sun to shine on it and dry it out! There is one other thing. Just as elephant grass hides elephants from view, so this hay-to-be hides all the sheep that may be wandering in this field. Lets hope we don’t land on one by accident.
One of the rules of pre-flight preparation is to check your model, and see that it still functions correctly at full throttle. There is nothing funnier than to see your model graciously rising in to the blue yonder --- and then find that is all it does because your intimate relationship with the model of your dreams has suffered a dramatic and terminal severance of some sort. Time to get one of those dum-dumb bullets and shoot it down. I found myself going through all these drills with one of my planes, and set the throttle wide open and checked the model while hanging on to my tranny with one hand while my other hand held on to the tail -- just! Suddenly I found that the model was completely dead to all commands, there was an SC .91 making an enormous amount of fuss just inches from my nose, and my arms getting slowly stretched just like a toon character. I tried gently moving the prop down in to the grass to try and stall the engine and found my face covered with a huge spray of mulched grass, mud, and bits of slugs and earthworms. Not good. And I knew I didn’t have a replacement prop. I thought of covering the end of the silencer with my finger and decided that would be a bit too sore. But I was just able to reach something on my flight box which would - just - cover the silencer -- the tiger died a death and the tail stopped twitching.I had switched the Tx and the aero off and on to no avail before this. I did that again before removing the wing and finding to my great surprise that the battery and leads to the switch were quite hot and the battery was as dead as a toon. A replacement battery worked just fine, and further checks showed the switch was in full working order, and the short lead from the battery to the switch was fine. The receiver worked correctly. When I got home I checked the entire circuit again and it all worked fine, but then it glitched once. So then I looped the battery lead outside the fuse with a short lead to the receiver and disconnected the two whenever I wanted to turn the plane off. It must have been a little leprechaun playing games but I couldn‘t find any obvious fault. He must have been in the driver’s seat the next time I flew that plane.
The same thing happened, the engine stuck with throttle wide open until suddenly the engine stopped with a bang and the prop windmilled to a grumbly stop. No more flying for the day. At home I found that the throttle wire had disconnected itself from the carburettor clevis - how, I can’t fathom as both ends had been carefully secured, and the crankshaft had shrunk a bit as the main bearing pin had sheared off the crankshaft leaving the piston free to roam around the cylinder and the prop free to push the crank round. The sheared pin was still in the big end bearing.Well, there’s something to laugh at. And if you have any bits of an SC, an ASP, or a Magnum .91 FS that you want to get rid of, send it to me and I will try and resurrect this poor little beast. All I need is a fairly complete crankshaft of the regulation length. I would like to fly that plane again! It always provides some entertainment.
Perhaps I should point out that my mention of toons has nothing to do with the Toon Army, or with Magpies or any birds or planes of a similar name, colour, or shape, nor even with a Tsunami. No, the Toon Army is a very special crowd and supports a very good team who are doing pretty well, thank you. More than I can say for my own team the Newcastle Falcons who failed by a single point staying in the Rugby Premier League and weren’t even allowed to play in the Sevens tournament which they won last year. We’ll get back. Arnie did.
That, I think, is what our sport eventually is all about. We spend inordinate amounts of time making our models, getting them ready to fly, trying to be better than the next man, or at least trying to be better than we were last time we flew, and it all depends on having your feet firmly on the ground. Preparation is vital.Our glorious British weather helps at present to keep our feet – and our planes – down to earth. The wettest and windiest March, the sunniest April, the weirdest May, and a deluge and floods in June. I have been to our club field and stood beside the car watching the trees bend and sway in a strong freshening wind that was a gentle zephyr when I left home half an hour before. I have driven on to our field and felt that sickening slide and whine as a wheel twizzles in the soft turf, mud spatters the length of the car, and I know I might be stuck till the farmer happens by. Fortunately I still have my winter kit in the back and I can dig my way out and return to firmer ground. There have been times when my shoes have disappeared in inches of soft mud as I walk to our site. Fortunately, the farmer has put some drainage in to the fields recently, so things are better than they were in recent years. But when I finally get to our flight patch the grass is short and the ground is firm and leaving and returning to terra firma should be easy. Until last week when I found the grass a foot long after lots of rain and needing a serious haircut.
Dave Ashby has written two excellent articles (RCM&E May & June 2012) on returning to terra firma. Written for the flier who is just going solo they are so helpful, and contain useful refresher information for those returning to the sport. For me, I felt I was able to tick off what I could do and then practice what I thought I could do till I was happy. During my last few sessions I have revelled in the nice long runway and open space we have at our site, with trees and fences a long way away. This gives us the opportunity to taxi and slowly build up speed and steer on take-off rather than do a dragster start, and I have been happy just doing circuits, but keeping them accurately controlled for height and direction, and bringing the plane down a glide path right on to the strip, a (usually) gentle kiss the grass and away round again till I run out of time or fuel. Maybe I shall be ready for my A-Cert soon. An interesting point.The aricle diagram shows a clockwise circuit. Our field has an anticlockwise circuit with a take-off in to the predominant westerly wind, then turning south away from parked cars. On the rare occasions when we have an easterly wind I find it odd to do clockwise circuits, and have to think carefully what I will do next, and so I practice doing figure-of-eights around the strip so I am comfortable with creating approaches from any angle.
Someone told me once that most people are happier doing anti-clockwise circuits than clockwise ones. Does that alter if you are left-handed? It has also been fun taking off and coming in across wind crabbing in to fly sideways along the strip. I vividly remember flying off Orkney in the Air Ambulance one stormy night with a 30kt crosswind gale and full ailerons till we were airborne. Landing at Aberdeen found us coming in at an angle of around 30-degrees to the runway, or so it seemed as a back-seat driver. In fact the runway wasn’t visible from the back seats till we were almost down and it appeared running sharply away to our left! NOT ideal conditions for a flimsy model!An ominous omission from the articles is the great variety of other ways you can land a model. It doesn't mention the stall and in every model review I have read the author mentions the stall but at a great height. I have tried this so many times successfully, but still sometimes seem to get caught out with a stall when it shouldn’t have happened, and it is black bag time.
I remember one time in Orkney when a Spitfire went dead stick near the top of a loop. It was upside down, slowing fast, and I just managed to get it in to a dive, the right way up, and level off, when it hit the only fence post nearby, the one I couldn’t see. One wing was sliced in half.Flaps are also mentioned and it is interesting how some planes seem to wallow if flaps are used. They possibly don’t really need flaps anyway, but if the technology is there, then why not get used to the idea just in case you fly a plane when they are useful?
The Bunt isn't mentioned! I gather that Spitfire pilots were told NEVER to start a loop lower than 4,000ft. The great thing about gravity is that it really does keep our feet on the ground and it works just as well on 4 tons of Spitfire hurtling around a loop at 400 mph, especially on the downward bit. A Bunt, of course is an inside-out loop and needs to be started at some considerable height unless you have a surfeit of black bags. Another way of filling black bags is getting fingers and thumbs muddled doing Cubans. Only half a roll is needed between each loop. Do more, and you will need yet more black bags. One gets in similar muddles when practising knife-edge circles in any direction.We are now in June, and it is only this month that we have heard Cuckoos around here, and according to the nursery rhyme in June they change their tune, and soon they will be gone. I have only seen a couple of Swifts flying round the village but they tend to be more town dwellers. They are such agile birds with slim sickle-shaped wings. They never land except for nesting. There are swallows flying gracefully around the house, a pair of which have expressed an interest in our garage and workshop. They fly in and out whenever the doors are left open and perch purposefully on the roof trusses. I wonder if they will ever build a little mud hut under the eaves.
A bright spark advertised on the BMFA site --- “Wanted! Where has the summer gone?”. Can anyone help? Lost or Found? Contact the Met Office.
W.O. - 23/4/12
That was all they ever knew him by, just W. O. But in a world where engineering was very rapidly growing, expanding, changing and disintegrating those two letters stood for something that was immensely British. But even that changed just a few years ago.He was born Walter Owen, in Hampstead near London, in 1888, was educated at Clifton College in Bristol to the age of 16, and then went to Doncaster to the Great Northern Railway to start his apprenticeship as a railway engineer. I must emphasize the 'Great' for several reasons. First, it was a leading railway company and went on to become the LNER which remained in mortal competition with the LMS till the railways were nationalised. They subsequently all got hatcheted by a certain Mr Beeching. Second, they produced the Flying Scotsman which set and still holds the world speed record for a steam train. Third, and most important, they were Yorkshire, by gum, and I grew up just three miles from the place where W. O. and the Flying Scotsman wove their thrall over the then known world. And I never knew I was so close to history until I started writing this article.
It was here that W. O. learnt all his engineering, how to design, cast, and machine all the components to create a Patrick Stirling Eight Foot Single which so moved him. He came close to fulfilling any boy’s dream by driving an express train when he was promoted Second Fireman on a Great Northern Express, and did the London-to-Leeds runs, some 400 miles in a day where he would shovel some seven tons of coal all by himself. He also experimented with and raced motor cycles during this time. Here he would have learnt something about reciprocating masses and the energy they consume, but where coal was mined just next door, and big was beautiful, perhaps in those days that was not too important, almost a bonus. Strange how so many of our 'greats' had humble beginnings. Spitfire Mitchell left school aged 16 for a locomotive engineering apprenticeship. Sydney Camm, described as a towering giant of an aeronautical engineer, started his working life as a carpenter’s apprentice. Roy Chadwick, Lancaster designer, started as a draughtsman. For that he needed to keep his hands clean and these were hard lives in those days. Churchill, on the other hand, wanted for nothing at Harrow, and waited till he retired before he took up apprenticeships in bricklaying and pig farming.W. O. found that the railways were not for him, and so founded with his brother Horace Milner the firm Bentley and Bentley. Convinced that competition was the way to market cars, and finding that the cars he sold didn’t go fast enough, he made some aluminium pistons to replace the iron ones for his French DFP motors, balanced the crankshafts, and he was off on his second career breaking several records at Brooklands in 1913 and 1914. As the Great War began he realised that his idea for light aluminium components was vital for improved efficiency, but he had difficulty getting his message across (have you ever heard that about great British inventions before?). Maybe reciprocating mass was important after all. Finally the Navy came to the rescue and he was sent to Coventry. I find it a bit bizarre that the Navy should get interested in flying, and also send him as far away from the sea as possible, but such are the twists of nature. The Royal Air Force was then several years away from being invented. On his way he stopped off at Derby and convinced Rolls-Royce to use aluminium in their Eagle engine. Apart from making it go a lot faster it also ran a lot cooler. All good fun! He also passed through the Sunbeam factory and got them thinking sweetness and light, with the very successful Napier W 12 as a result.
When he did at last get to Coventry he set about designing his own rotary engine, the outstanding BR1 (Bentley Rotary 1) and the bigger BR2. These were competitors to the French Clerget engines powering a number of British planes of the time. The BR1 was bigger at 17 litres (it was a Bentley, of course), better (ditto), and cheaper (what? really?) than the French engine. The BR2 was almost 25 litres and later powered the Sopwith Snipe. I had no idea until very recently that Bentley made aero engines, nor that he pioneered the use of aluminium components so vital to our sport today.In 1919 he restarted Bentley Motors Limited, and produced a robust three-litre car and sturdy chassis which soon won acclaim. A Bentley entered the 1922 Indianapolis race and came 13th at an average speed in excess of 80 mph. In 1923 a Bentley came 4th in the Le Mans 24hr race, and won the following year.
W. O. is credited with the statement “there is nothing like cubic capacity”, and I suppose if he could design a 25 litre aero engine it wouldn't be long before his little three-litre cars got breathed on and grew a bit. I breathe on my potato plants in the greenhouse, and they have certainly grown, but not in the way W. O. achieved. His great rival Ettore Bugatti smugly pointed out that “Mr Bentley builds the world’s fastest trucks”. But at least they beat the Bugattis. They grew to 4.5 litres, 6 litres, and the magnificent 8 litres. There were, of course, the Blower Bentleys and the Bentley boys were winning races. But the geat depression caught up with them all. Bentley sold all 100 of his 8 litre lorries. Bugatti sold just 3 of his 8 litre design. Barnato and his millions had gone on holiday for a while, and Rolls-Royce would not tolerate such competition for their Phantom marque. Bentley went bankrupt, Rolls-Royce beat Napier’s bid, and that part of W. O.’s life closed.If I walk from my house across the village green, up the hill, round the corner and on a bit I see a house near the road. There are dilapidated barns adjacent and the corrugated iron roofing has come adrift and is flapping in the wind exposing gaunt ribs of timber and iron trusses. There are rotting farm machines around the barns. Hens and cockerels stroll around as if they own the place. There is a tired Range Rover parked near the paint-blistered front door. But by the back door, out of sight from the road, stand a Rolls-Royce and a Bentley, and they look splendid! Lots of cubic capacity and to spare. And you never see that farmer riding a bike! Rolls-Royce are now owned by BMW and Bentley are powered by a complicated W-12 engine and owned by Volkswagen. What a topsy-turvy world! But it was still W. O. Bentley, Esq. who pioneered the use of aluminium in the engines we so happily use today. If we were still in a 1920s timewarp I would love to see a tutorial by Alex Whittaker on how to cast your very own cast-iron aero glow engine of a full half-cubic-inch and weighing a mere pound-and-a-half! Suitable for his newly-designed Treiplane of 3-foot-wingspan. I love his writing, it is so full of fun and sound sense and compassion and his website is excellent.
Browsing Ebay the other night I found a book for sale, describing the quarter-scale Bentley BR2 engine built by an Australian Lew Blackmore with which he won the 1982 Duke of Edinburgh Challenge Cup in the British Model Engineer Exhibition, becoming the first entrant to take the cup from British soil. Now, this engine was a 9-cylinder rotary of some 5 litres! What sort of a model would you want to fly that monster in? He went on to start the astounding Napier Lion miniature engine, but died before completing it. This engine was the original W 12. And he only started model engineering after he retired. It’s amazing what a spot of 4X will do for you. Maybe there’s hope for me yet. Anyone got a lathe they want to sell?
Just William - 30/3/12
Everyone has heard of 'Just William' and everyone knows a 'Just William' who probably lives nearby and causes all sorts of havoc just when you thought you had seen the last of him. He was immortalised in the books which spawned numerous films and TV series, and although they are now many years old they still live on and fire the imagination of 'Just William' types. There was the Gang, and they met in the old barn in Farmer Jenks' field, and there was Jumble the trusty dog, a jumble of all sorts of mongrel features, and of course Violet Elizabeth Bott the lithping thpoiled daughter of the village millionaires liked by no-one. And there were their sworn enemies the rival gang, led by Hubert Lane.William was very fond of sweets and fizzy drinks, very good at taking the mickey out of his teachers and others, although his pranks didn’t always work out the way he expected. As I said, a 'Just William' probably lives just round the corner from you, and you may be worried about just what he is going to get up to next. For example, several times a year the local farmer herds his sheep through the village, and pandemonium breaks out. He rounds them up off the fell, round the side of the cattle grid on the main road, past the church, left at the pub, across the main road, and over the village green past our house, all expertly managed and controlled by several sheep dogs. Now these sheep are Swaledales and they are notorious for doing everything but what you want them to do. Although they know exactly where they are going, they are very partial to a nice mouthful of pansies and we have a lot in our garden. The farmhands make sure all the villagers’ gates are shut before they start their drive, but just imagine what would happen if 'Just William' opened a few gates for a giggle. No, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
So, I read with some interest an email telling us that we had new members at our flying club, Graham and William. The grapevine hummed with the story that William was learning to fly, and was having some difficulty. Could we all be nice and helpful, please? It transpired that William had acquired a new plane and transmitter. But it also seemed that the set-up was all wrong and the plane was effectively unflyable. William persevered, and by the time our club chairman got involved the advice had to be “get some proper kit and start again”.He had by this time also acquired a Real Flight simulator and was doing pretty well in the virtual world. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I had been able to inhabit a virtual world. Probably little different from what I did in a real world. I tend to be practical rather than dwell in the fantastical and I have never been able to compete on video games. My kids always beat me! Well, we heard that William had a session on a buddy box with his real plane and did very well! When I was next up on our field I saw a father and son arrive with a modest aeroplane. I had finished flying so we chatted and who should this be than just William. And he proceeded to fly without a buddy box and with excellent control until he had flattened both his batteries. He went home a happy laddy.
It transpires that this William does have similarities with the leader of “The Outlaws”. He likes sweets, preferably Starbursts, and fizzy drinks but really prefers orange. He goes around with a gang of friends but it seems that there is no real rival gang and no turf warfare. Our club meets near (but not in) the old barn on farmer’s field, but I don’t think the farmer is called Jenks. We also meet in a barn for indoor flying each week (actually a school gymnasium). Sadly, William has no jumble, no dog to call his own. He would like a sheepdog. I am sure he would train it to race round after his model and retrieve it when it landed. In fact his landings were very good, and quite close to his feet so the dog might need other exercise. There is one important difference - rather than not liking schoolwork and coming somewhere near the bottom of the class, our William usually comes top in his class and thinks he might like to be an aeronautical engineer, or perhaps study robotics. He is well on his way.His plane now has quite a few flights to its credit, not all of them perfect, and some adjustments have been made, mostly with duct tape and various glues. William has been experimenting with variable wing geometry. He found the plane needed all the down elevator he could give it on one flight, and only discovered later that the motor had been reglued back on at the wrong angle of thrust. Well, how could you expect him to know that? But he worked it out and flew it all the same!
They say that “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive”. I wonder how many GCSE students could write an essay on that topic! As a result of hasty arrivals the wing now has a variety of fitting points giving rise to a variety of flying styles. When I heard this I suggested to William that he might be in line for a replacement plane, but no! His Dad had made it quite clear that he wouldn’t be buying new planes till this one was reduced to pulp. Well, I can advise from bitter personal experience on the numerous ways of reducing planes to pulp. Dad has very sensibly invested in a plane for which you can buy every new part you might need, so when the geometry gets too variable he just gets a new bit!Which brings me neatly round to the main reason behind this piece, and this is to encourage lots more youngsters in to our clubs, and to teach them well and ensure they are encouraged to develop into fliers as expert as William (and there is always room for improvement!). There has been quite a lot in the magazine recently to bring the sport to younger people, and even to introduce learning to fly solo, without a club. Again, from bitter personal experience I can recommend very strongly that this is a lonely and tragic way to learn, and you are far better in a club if there is one anywhere near. I feel happy now to start at the bottom of the ladder in my new club and relearn what I never really correctly learnt in Orkney. But at least it has made entertaining reading for all of you.
So let me encourage all you early fliers, those returning to the sport after a break, Dads proudly watching their kids, get stuck in, enjoy the sport, start at the bottom and progress when your tutor says you are good enough (and NOT before), learn to program your transmitter correctly, and make sure you get a really good simulator - the best you can afford. It is invaluable, and far cheaper than crashing planes. Our local paper asked if they could do an article about model flying, and we got a page of great publicity and lots of photos. Much better than some papers treat the sport, and we await an interested response from the readership.Very good as William is, I see in the BMFA News that he has been trumped by Connor Gotts in the Norwich club. He is just seven years old, and has just passed his 'A' certificate and is looking forward to passing his 'B' cert. He is well ahead of me!
A final point. We have a club rule that everyone must have a functional model restraint, and the model must be secure before it is started. Have you ever tried to buy one? Well, yes, almost impossible, and one shop suggested I make one out of recycled central heating bits. Help is at hand. There is one enterprising lad who makes excellent restraints out of stainless steel, and mine is expertly finished. He will have one waiting for you. He periodically advertises in the BMFA Classifieds. His name is David Playfair and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org They are cheap at £14 Find out for yourself how good he is, and tell your mates. Make sure all models are securely restrained before they jump up and injure someone. And enjoy your flying as the spring makes tentative approaches. I saw a daisy yesterday.
It was the same Farmer who introduced me to his Llamas and the horse $#!t who told me about the strange people he had seen wandering round Kiln Pit Hill. This was shortly after we had moved to this village. I was working really hard on this little cottage and he frequently drove past on his tractor or his Land Rover, trying to keep his Swaledales in order. Now, these animals write their own rules and require full-time care, and probably a blog all for themselves. They are the sheep world Houdinis, and if you ever see a sheep on the road, chances are it will have a blackish face, cute horns, a quizzical eye, and it will dash past you in the only direction you thought it could never go.This is the friendliest village we have ever lived in, and while resting after emptying a barrowful of building rubble in to the skip the Farmer drove past and stopped to chat. The Land Rover had at least 3 Border Collies lolling around in the back, tongues hanging out a good six inches. It transpired that he knew of a field where he thought they were going to play cricket. It was flat (a relative term in these rolling hills) and they had got a mower and cut the grass really short. They weren’t really dressed for cricket. Then they went back to their cars---and took out some aeroplanes. Bemused, he went on about his business and recounted it all to me some weeks later. It was some time later again that I went up one sunny Wednesday evening to see for myself. It was a mere five miles away, but “Fully booked and four on the waiting list. Leave your email, and we may write”. I later heard that the winds over that site are quite difficult most of the time. I shall be a lot happier with the Guys at Hexham. I still haven’t heard back from the guys at Kiln Pit Hill.
I wonder what they smelted at Kiln Pit Hill. Definitely not aeroplanes though there was at least one “Fire and Brimstone” flyer. There are remains of lead mines all over this area, with forlorn chimneys sticking up in to the sky and tumble-down buildings (probably kilns!) adjacent. Some of them have names. Some don’t. They probably also smelted silver and copper. They also mined and smelted iron where the ironstone drifts came close enough to the surface to dig in to, as they did for coal. There are also some very odd names remaining in the villages round here which raise as many questions as they answer. If you mined lead for a living you wouldn’t be mining it for too many years, not if you lived in Killhope! How could you face the day when you came from Killhope and returned to Killhope to sleep? How about Stoney Heap, and how appropriate that this is now the site of the council tip! Muggleswick is close by. It sounds like a wiggly worm. Well, there is no place like home, and No Place is a village on the way to Sunderland. Chester-le-Street displays its Roman origins so close to Hadrians Wall and the remains of Watling Street, and also hosts that strange and English game Cricket during the summer. But where did Tow Law get its name from? Another very strange village is called Unthank. Apparently there are other Unthanks around Northumberland, and the name is said to apply to traveller communities. One of my brothers lives near Gunnerside and Crackpot.
But what beats them all is Snods Edge. It sounds like a dreepy old man with a sniffy nose, but you won’t find it on any map other than an Ordnance Survey, as there is no village of that name. There is an active church, and a scattering of around four houses, and that is all. All the congregation drive in from local towns and villages, and there is church activity every day of the week. I have heard that the name derives from the fact that the snow lies up to Snods Edge and no further, but I don’t believe that for a moment. Snow round here lies thick and heavy and doesn’t respect village boundaries. We have had plenty this year. And we will not dare to drive past Snods Edge after snow as the hills up to and down from it will be treacherous. I found to my horror just how necessary winter tyres are round here as my regular road tyres simply cannot cope with snow. In Norway we needed snow tyres by law from November to March. We travelled the high Pass of Drumochter near Inverness in a blizzard, but that was in a little Corsa which coped quite well, but not this Zafira. And now it is quite difficult to get winter tyres. Well, if we can get out of the village we will have to shop in different directions which aren‘t snowed in, and perhaps get some skis for my models. And if we can’t get out, I have a secret supply of Christmas potatoes as an experiment in the greenhouse, and some odd bits of wood to make some skis for me. Hmm, I wonder if the dreepy old man has a scythe over his shoulder? I wonder what he would do if he had a dreepy nose? Or if he found I had a dreepy nose?
Take a look at the 4th page of the thread attached to this blog, the bottom entry, and revel in a video of the Hurricane. It was posted by Simon Chaddock, and to him we extend our grateful thanks (His signature photo is a DR1 in stunning livery!). It shows footage of the manufacture of Hurricanes at Longbridge, a long way away from their main factory close to the great Racing circuit at Brooklands from where the test pilots made their first flights. They all looked so busy, and everyone seemed to have their own dedicated job. Simon has some interesting facts to offer about the Hurricane wing. Is anyone building a Hurricane during the winter? Which one are you modelling it around?
Come On, the Falcons!! - 23/1/12
I have come to the conclusion that there may be other sports besides flying model aircraft that may attract some of us, possibly to the detriment of the overwhelming desire to whizz lumps of balsa around the heavens on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t fly when there is a Grand Prix or a MotoGP on telly. I sit down and watch people amuse themselves at my expense. For the very first time in my life I went to a real live football match the other day, and it was fun! I am not quite sure why I have never done this before, but there is a first time for everything, and this was it.
Now, this was not the game they play with the round ball. No, this was the oval ball, the one they can pick up and run with, and jump up and down on other players with, and have a very happy time. And I am a Union Man, not a League man, and one day I hope to watch Wales play at the Millenium Stadium, if I can get a ticket.
Well, my Neighbour had a spare ticket to a match, so I jumped at the chance. The Falcons are by some way the strongest club in our league. They hold all the others up (or everybody else is jumping up and down on them), and will probably get relegated at the end of the season. Roy has a season ticket and knew all the tricks. The best way to enjoy the match, particularly on a very cold and frosty day, was to get properly prepared. So we stopped off at the Dobbin and Dray a good hour and a half before kick-off.
Sunday Roast and a jar of ale was a good defence against freezing toes, and when the plates came they were enormous, with Yorkshire puddings swimming in puddles of gravy drowning slabs of meat, and a large bowl of veg. Conversation sagged for a few minutes as we trenchermen attended to the business, and then we were able to look around us and see how others were faring. I was surprised to see a fair number of women around. One, sitting nearby, was marshalling several men and even more jars of ale when her enormous platter of Sunday roast arrived. We were sitting behind her, and when she turned sideways I realised she was exactly the shape of a rugby ball from just about every angle. Jonny Wilkinson once played at this ground, and I doubt if even he could have—well, lets leave that one!The Dobbin and Dray has a large car park and is but a short walk from the ground, so the Yorkshires were settling very comfortably by the time we were in our seats. Yes, there were plenty of women there, and obviously very knowledgeable about the game. Not quite as pretty as the cheerleaders.
Sport on TV gets you right in to the point of the action, with instant replays, and a demonstration of who fouled who, who hit who for why, and so on. It tries to create atmosphere with shots of the crowd, which I find adds very little. I was worried I would miss the close-ups and replays, and might not follow the ref’s decisions. After all, many years have passed since I played rugby, and the rules have changed a lot since then. The Falcons were playing an Italian side, and maybe they were worried about the rules—or maybe not. But I needn’t have worried. The Falcons scored a brilliant try in the first five minutes and I could follow it all as the floodlights pushed the dying sun off the pitch. And I could also see the whole pitch at once, and see who was creeping up offside, and see who was in front of the kicker, and see which way he should have passed, and it was all great fun. And the women all screamed in the right places, and they really enjoyed it. I cheered and shouted too, till I was a little horse, or should I say Dobbin?
And the Falcons won, 43-0. But still I’d rather be flying, unless it is raining, or snowing, or too windy. Then I might just phone Roy and see if he has a spare ticket.
Huff and Puff
Last year was for me awful in terms of flying. The weather was awful, and we were getting ready to move so I didn’t make any new models and the ones in the garage had lived well, shall we say? So the fuel in the can in my flight box was at least a year old when I came to try things out last week. Could I make any engines run? No, not one, and I got so frustrated I nearly kicked the models into next week. And the most infuriating thing was that when I came home and told Patricia how I had NOT got on she said straight away “Did you use fresh fuel?” Now how on earth could she know that fuel might degrade if left in the garage? But she was, of course, absolutely right. It must be love, or at least, feminine intuition. The wind is howling around the windows now, but next fine day I will be prepared with nice fresh fuel.
I wanted to try some air retracts I had bought and fitted to a model. They worked fine, till I found they came down all on their own as they were spring-downs. I found the filler valve was faulty and there was no way of repairing it. I phoned Dave at Inwood Models who is an absolute goldmine of wisdom and ordered a Robart Deluxe air set which was an expensive way of buying a replacement valve, but a cheap way of getting several other useful items such as a transfer port, pressure valve, and a tank. He said his advice to purchasers of new ARTFs - with - retracts was first to take out the retracts and BIN THEM, then replace them with Robarts.
They are the only sets he knows are reliable and won’t leak. He has had so many modellers come in saying they had to belly-flop because their retracts didn’t come down. Well, at least the instructions were written in best Chinglish. Robart retracts cost at least half the price of a decent ARTF these days, but they are usually transferable to new models, they are reliable, and the model will land on its own wheels. Maybe it is worth spending a few bob to save a few bob. I had a couple of Chinglish sets I had bought second hand, and tried them out under water. There were streams of bubbles coming out from all sorts of places, particularly the new red control valve. This infuriated me. To think I had bought a faulty valve!! It was late, I was fed up, so I retired to warm up in the kitchen, with the help of a little Strengthening Medicine Santa had left for me.
There are some moments when one drifts between waking and sleeping when the world seems to come in to order, when ideas flow, and often as quickly disappear. I expect Einstein had these fairly often. Sometimes I think of puns I could use in this blog, and usually they are gone by the next morning. Perhaps these are the moments when The BFG came visiting and blew his dreams in to our heads. As I was drifting off to sleep I realised that there were 2 tubes from every air ram, the greatest leak was in the “Up” position, and so there must be a faulty ram somewhere. So, after a refreshing night’s sleep I got the bucket out the following morning and tried every ram on its own. They all worked fine. But all the rams together still leaked. Now, I wonder why they were sold off cheap? I think I will need to talk to Inwood Models again and enquire about Robart Retracts.
If I walk up the hill from our house and along a lane I pass an area of burnt-out gorse, and a little further on I come to a field in which are two horses. One is dark, has enormous hairy feet, a gentle and large round nose, and a bum big enough to fill the gap between the shafts of an old-fashioned milk wagon. He looks like the proverbial Dobbin. There were a few like him on Orkney, but they were much bigger Clydesdales and they were imported there by the friendly farmer who emigrated there from Weardale where we now live. Huge horses, traditional shire horses, the sort you see in shows, and the sort Vaux Breweries used to pull their immaculate drays around the pubs in Sunderland.Sadly they are now gone, a victim of the accountant’s red pencil, no longer profitable. I wonder what the accountants of old would have said when they saw the bills generated by those enormous Destriers and Palfreys used by the Knights of old and the Crusaders. Perhaps it is best that we don’t enquire too closely.
There are workhorses, and there are workhorses. They are always in the shadow of their more illustrious thoroughbred cousins. We can all remember Arkle, and Red Rum, but who can recall a Dobbin? No? Anyone heard of a chap called Camm? No? How about Mitchell? Aah, you mean Spitfire Mitchell!! Well, Sydney Camm was Hawker’s chief designer and he built the Hurricane, aptly nicknamed the “Workhorse“ of Fighter Command. He started his march to fame as a carpenter’s apprentice. Hawker were very good at building fighter biplanes made on wooden frames held together with string and old chewing gum, and with a war imminent there was little time to experiment with the new technologies coming in with stressed aluminium sheet. So the Hurricane was built around a frame of steel and wood, all covered with doped fabric. This put significant limitations on what the plane could achieve in aerodynamics, but it also meant that you could strafe it from one end to the other often with surprisingly little damage, which could be mended with fabric and dope.A similar attack on a Spitfire would possibly have it written off. It also made it a very steady plane and a good gun platform. They carried 40mm tankbusting guns later in the War to very good effect, although firing a burst from them slowed the plane down quite a bit. Workhorse maybe, but in some areas it could out-manoeuvre the Spitfire and the opposition.
One benefit of good old-fashioned construction was that the various bits of the plane could be packed up in crates and sent to various parts of the world and easily re-assembled -- provided that you had all the right bits. You would look a bit silly with two right wings or an extra tailplane. It was also a lot cheaper and easier to build and maintain than the Spitfire. And they were sent to just about every corner of the globe. And construction methods did change during the plane’s lifetime. For example the wings were later sheeted in aluminium rather than fabric which increased the speed and handling although one plane did fly with a port fabric wing and a starboard aluminium wing. Now, there’s something I might try one day. The metal wings could carry far greater loads attached to the wings, including 500 lb bombs.The Browning machine gun was not licensed for use in UK when the Hurricane was designed so the less reliable Vickers gun was initially installed. And Rolls-Royce got the weight of their Merlin engine wrong by 80lb so the C of G changed subtly. Now, I would move the battery or shift a bit of lead if I wanted to change the C of G but Sydney Camm had a better idea. He added another 400 rounds of ammunition to the guns. The all-up weight rose to just over 2 tons, with just over 1000hp to pull it round the skies. By the end of its life both these figures had doubled. The plane handled well from the start, but needed a firm hand on the controls to make it do what you wanted it to do. The Spitfire, by contrast, was more responsive, with a thoroughbred’s fingertip response to the bridle rather than that of a shire horse. But pilots who have experience of both planes said they were both very good, but different.
One of Sydney Camm’s aims from the inception was to give the pilot a good view forward. We have all seen Spitfires coming in to land sideways following a circular route, because the pilots could not see the runway through that great nose. They had to be taxied in a zig-zag so the pilots could see what they were about to run in to. But not Dobbin. Her nose was a gentle curvaceous slope, and the cockpit was quite high with a broad arched backbone down to the tail so there was a better view and greater wind resistance than her thoroughbred sister. There was more room in the cockpit but a penalty with the forward fuel tank right between your legs. Not much fun if that got hit.All in all, there were some 14,000 Hurricanes built. If we say, in round figures, that the war lasted around 1400 days, there were perhaps 10 Hurricanes lost per day. 10 young men who may never grow up to see their kids. And our glorious leaders still tell us that “we are learning from our mistakes”. Well, for some of us, “To err is human”. Too human.
We see now that women will be crewing our Submarines. No such luck in those days. There were no women front-line pilots, and only a few in the Air Transport Corps. These brave women flew planes from the factories to airfields where they would be used on active service, and when they got there they were often ignored by the receiving flying officers. They were not allowed to use the radios, and sometimes got lost in bad weather. One girl who flew a bomber in on her own had the plane searched from tip to toe as no-one believed she could have flown the plane without any help! Brave Girl!There was one other famous woman who had a lot to do with Dobbin. Elsie MacGill was the World’s first female aircraft designer, the first to receive an electrical engineering degree in Canada, and the first to receive a masters degree in aeronautical engineering in the USA. In 1938 she joined Canada Car and Foundry as their Chief Aeronautical Engineer and was soon in charge of all fighter aircraft production. She organised the manufacture of all the tools required to produce the Hurricanes, and produced a “Winterised” version which was probably a winner on the Slalom slopes. She had over 4,500 staff working for her, half of them women, and won herself the title “Queen of the Hurricanes”.
Not a “Bad Hair Day”!It will soon be Christmas. We wish you the very best during this Season, and lets hope that Santa gets it right for YOU!!
Horse Manure - 1/12/11
Our new garden is not as big as our last garden, and does not permit flying of any sort other than small helicopters or maybe indoor foamies. But a local farmer said I could use one of his fields if I wanted to. It even, apparently, had a tarmac landing strip to make life easier, and a nice high wall to stop the wind howling around the perimeter. “Yes” he said, “It will be fine once you have cleared away all that Horse $#!t.” Perhaps he had heard about my flying from some other source, but I think it was about the best description of what I do that I have ever heard. I visited the place a few days later and saw for myself what a suitable place it was. The tarmac was smaller than a tennis court, the grass mounded over the edge of the tarmac and rolled in to the distance in undulating waves. The grass was fairly short, and the llamas were fairly sleek. They eyed me from a discreet distance, and I returned their stare, watchful, and wondering who could get to the gate first! I know a thing or two about llamas. They spit, and they are better at it than most schoolboys. They are also used to protecting themselves from Cougars and Wolves in their native ranges and I didn’t fancy inspecting them or their teeth at close quarters, or getting them riled by buzzing a noisy plane at them or even bombarding them with balsa fragments or black bags. They are used as guard dogs for flocks of sheep in some areas. The wall was the retaining dam wall of a small reservoir with quite a lot of weed and some ducks, and it did nothing to the prevailing wind funnelling down the long valley other than make vortices which would tumble a model out of the sky quick as a wink.The llamas began to move, in opposite directions, and I looked at the gate. It seemed a long way away, so, whistling a jaunty tune I strolled nonchalantly towards it. Strange how difficult whistling is when you have no spit in your mouth. I’m not sure I could hear the llamas whistling, but they were quietly moving in different directions pretending to eat grass. I reached the gate first, jumped over it and strolled on to my car, still having difficulty with my whistling. I now find the farmer is going to erect a huge wind turbine on his field to extract the best energy out of the wind over the dam. Probably a water wheel as well! Well, no worse hazards to flying than my willow hedge I left behind in Orkney. I also had occasion to phone my friendly farmer neighbour in Orkney about old times, and heard what the new owner of our house is doing. Apparently he is making a back porch, “You know, where you crashed your aeroplanes!” He actually emigrated to Orkney many years ago from the next valley to here, and has relatives a few miles from here. The llama farmer knows them. I wonder if that is how he heard about my flying.
But now I fly somewhere completely different. Hexham MFC has a beautiful field of many acres with panoramic views of rolling hills with views on a clear day almost up to the Borders and away to Carlisle. We can’t quite see Durham cathedral in the other direction. The wind is often fairly strong there, and today was no exception. But even with the wind, and even as my first flight for over a year, the take-off was perfect, and a gentle climb out with no trees in the way to make life difficult. In fact, no trees for a LONG way. I have decided to start at this club as if I were a beginner and learn how I ought to fly, and so far things are looking good - people are happy to tell me everything, and I listen. I have a nice trainer with big wings which flipped around the sky as the gusts took it. It didn’t much like turning out of the wind on ailerons so I dialled in a fair bit of rudder for turns, and when it got blown onto its back I could turn it back the right way again, all much higher up than I was used to in Orkney, easily three mistakes high, but there was so much sky to play in. Then all went very quiet, and a long glide down on dead stick to a nice three-point-landing not quite on the strip, but almost good enough for an A-cert. It was worth a year’s wait! The second flight was just as much fun, but this time I flew through the dying sun as I aimed for the strip on finals and the plane went a teensy bit sideways and the landing wasn’t quite so tidy. When I took the wing off I found the right aileron servo arm had broken. Now, I know I had checked both ailerons just before launch so perhaps it had broken on landing. Strange there was so little aileron authority on the flights. It will be repaired soon and we will await another good day to practice bumps. It is so good to be flying again, and with such a nice bunch of pals. It must be 25 years since I was last a club member.I wrote last time about items “lost in the post”. Well, it seems that there are a few who aren’t too concerned what they sell, or how they advertise. Caveat Emptor are the watchwords, which means 'let the buyer beware'. Make sure you ask all the questions before you agree a sale, and make sure your money transactions are secure. Remember, the BMFA is there to help us all so let them know as soon as anything goes wrong. Maybe it is best to buy from club members who you know, but that limits what is on offer. Certainly the BMFA classifieds seems to be thriving, though I have never seen llamas for sale.
Lost in Post - 27/10/11
|The Flying Doctor|
feedback and commentary By Tim Mackey
by Tim Mackey