RAMP RAMBLINGS………..By Keith Bradshaw. Photos Steve Jeal and Keith Bradshaw

Hello and welcome to this bumper issue of Ramp Ramblings. First off this month, as hinted at last time, our airliner day has been replaced by a cockpit experience day . Those of you who are regular visitors to Duxford will know our cockpits are not usually open to the public, so here is your chance to spend a leisurely  30 mins in the pilot’s seat of the plane of your choice ( inc Concorde), having it all explained by an experienced guide. Full details and how to book can be found elsewhere on this website page, but hurry as places are filling up fast. This event will take place on Father’s day June 18th.

Work has been progressing well on the Concorde revamp and we now have the intake door computers powered up with all their flashing lights, these are on the first equipment rack as you enter the cabin so don’t miss them. The Concorde Heritage guys took a long while getting them to work and we wouldn’t want you to walk straight by ! Thanks also go to them for bringing back to life some more lights on the test engineers panel and a real coup, we now have engine start noise !! If you stand under the plane when this audio is running its most impressive, you even hear the ignitors cracking as the engines spool up !! Less dramatic but no less important we have also reinstated the over wing exit escape ropes, these would have been used by the crew if they had to abandon the aircraft. Work continues on other displays and hopefully there will be some more news next month.

Outside on the ramp, Chris continues his slow replacement of the Britannia corroded wing panels and in a similar vein the VC10 wing that hangs over the grass has also been rubbed down on the underside to remove corrosion caused by the moisture coming off the damp grass. Once this was complete the wash team took over and gave the old girl a much needed spring clean. The VC10 has also had the refurbished baggage belt loader placed on display alongside ,looking like its ready to receive the luggage for its next trip to New York.

The Ambassador is having a bit of a spruce up here and there where the paint has been affected by the sun, also other little maintenance jobs on it are being attended to. The Herald which came on a storm last year has hit a bit of a wall at the moment as the wing false work needs a lot of work before we can replace the flaps and ailerons, but now the weather has warmed up a bit we can get back to that and hopefully you will be able to see some progress in the near future.

John Overhill, one of the Viscount team has sent me an update on progress there, so here is his report on flap maintenance. “ As part of ongoing maintenance, the flaps of the Viscount have recently been manually lowered in order to remove all the old grease from the moving parts including chains, sprockets ,telescopic rods and rollers. Following the clean fresh grease is pumped in via the grease nipples and other lubricant applied as necessary. Access to the manual lowering mechanism is situated mid- way along the passenger cabin and as a result it was necessary to remove the carpet runner, carpet and part of the floor in order to gain access to the hatch which exposes the mechanism for the winding handle. 

Photo credit John Overhill

Turn 156…only 288 to go!

With 444 turns of the handle to lower the flaps totally this has provided excellent exercise for the crew. We are of course looking forward to returning the flaps to their normal position when maintenance has been completed with another 444 turns! Following this the hatch, floor, carpet and carpet runner will be refitted.”

Photo credit John Overhill

The Viscount flap motor which has to be turned by hand. The green shafts either side are the flap torque tubes which transmit the drive from the motor out to the flap gearboxes.

Many thanks John for that update, also in the long term there are plans to repaint the Viscount roof and replace all the passenger seat covers as the existing ones are badly worn.

We have not been idle during the winter, all the ground equipment we had kindly donated  to us  last year has been restored with the baggage trollies finished and just the little electric tug to finish off. To make our old RAF blue mercury tractor look more civilianised Todd has started to repaint it in a fetching yellow and black scheme.


Keith has also spent some time with Brian bringing an old  engine start trolley , or Trolley Acc, back to life, but only as a static exhibit. These trolleys were used for starting planes such as the Ambassador so we have displayed  it next to LZO.

It’s not just the planes we spend time on we also have all our equipment to look after as well. Jose has just spent a couple of week getting our old steam cleaner going again, however it still has  exhaust smoke like a battle ship but at least it cleans again! New public information boards are being made up to go on refurbished frames, many people have been involved with this including Paul, Norman, Fred and Richard. Our bookshop has had all new shelves fitted and John has laid it out such that the room is much more airy and inviting, so be sure to drop in for look whenever you are at Duxford. The shop is at the end of our building behind the VC10. Still on the non- aeroplane track ,but as they say “now for something completely different” .Two of our volunteers, Les and Steve, are involved with an Indian charity who help out poor and homeless people back in India.

One of the ways they do this is to bale up plastic that cannot be recycled and turn the bales into building bricks. This used to be done by hand but thanks to the ingenuity of the DAS volunteers Steve and Les have now built the charity a machine to do the job. Another way DAS is helping people is the news that this summer we are again taking on students from ESTACA, a French engineering college. A small number of students will spend a month with us for work experience and to improve their technical English. We have offered this scheme for several years now and it has been a great success for both the youngsters and us old ‘uns having a young pair of hands to help out on the fiddly jobs !

Back to aviation, those of you who like to read about the old airliners of the past may be interested to know that “Propliner magazine “ is again producing an annual full of stories and news about these grand old ladies of the sky , check out their website for news on how to get your copy.

In the last edition of Ramp Ramblings I told the story of Court Line, this seemed to go down very well. No more so that with our own Tom Flett who told me later he worked for Court Line and actually flew their first TriStar over from Lockheed’s in Palmdale to Luton Airport ! It’s a small world alright!

As you seemed to like this piece here is another trip down aviation’s memory lane. This time let’s take a look at British Eagle who flew between 1948 and 1968.

Photo credit Andre Wadman

Douglas DC-6

Formed by Harold Bamberg with two Handley Page Halifax freighters flying fruit and vegetables, by 1953 the airline was flying scheduled services from its base at Blackbushe using ex BEA Vikings. The following year it formed Lunn-Poly travel agents and began offering inclusive tours to Spain and the Mediterranean. By 1957 a fifteen day trip to Spain cost from just £32-50. Transatlantic flights commenced in 1958 using a fleet of six Douglas DC-6s and then Bristol Britannias. The Cunard shipping line took a stake in the airline and this enabled it to purchase two Boeing 707s in 1961 for use on the transatlantic routes. For the European services Viscounts joined the fleet which now had its base at Heathrow. However when the arrangement with Cunard ended this loss in investment plus the ending of MOD trooping flight charters led to increased costs which forced the airline to close its doors in 1968.

Photo Credit RuthAs

Bristol Britannia and Vickers Viscount at Manchester

While we are taking a nostalgic look back we should remember it’s not just the planes and airlines that have changed so dramatically but also the uniforms of the cabin crew who worked on them. Early airlines only ever had male stewards, a hang over from the cruise liner days. It was Boeing Air Transport ( never heard of them? They reformed into United Airlines, bet you’ve heard of them !) who in 1930 introduced the first female Stewardess’ and gave them a somewhat military nurse’s type of  uniform.

Photo credit Insappowetrust

Uniform of the world’s first Stewardess’ flying with Boeing Air Transport

The first European airline to introduce stewardess’ was Swissair when Nelly Deiner joined them in 1934. Sadly she was to lose her life the following year in an air crash.

Photo credit Swissair

Nelly Deiner joined Swissair as the first European Stewardess in 1934

With not much commercial flying until after the second world war the uniforms of the late 40’s and early 50’s retained the military look.

Photo credit Finnair

Finnair Cabin crew board their Convair Cv-440 for the first Helsinki-London flight in 1954

As the 60’s approached things started to change until by the 70’s some American airlines were outfitting their crews in some of the most outrageous uniforms ever seen.

Photo credit Archives of N. Zealand   

National Airlines of New Zealand crew in 1959……..

                                                              Photo credit Archives of N. Zealand                                                             

……..and in 1965 

Photo credit Kurt Clarke

United Airlines crew in 1968 on the wing of one of their Douglas DC-8s. Glad they took their shoes off!!

Southwest Airlines of Texas and Pacific Southwest of California both went for a uniform that looked like something out of the  StarTrek TV series.

Photo credit Sandiego Airspace Museum

Pacific Southwest Airlines cabin crew in 1970

But as they say what goes around comes around. So we finish this brief look back on a more colourful time in commercial aviation with a picture of the 2014 Aeroflot uniform as the airline’s stewardess’ welcome the Manchester United Premier League cup world tour in 2014. Apart from the hat etc there is not much change from the original Boeing Air Transport uniform we started with!

Photo Credit Norio Nakayama

Finally in this edition a quick note to remind you all the airliners will be open for cabin tours, with the purchase of a one off boarding pass, at the Duxford May airshow. Don’t forget all Duxford shows are now advance booking only so see their website for ticket details. That’s all for now, the next edition will be a Ramp Ramblings Special, you will have to wait and see what the subject is , but hopefully it will be worth the wait !!

 See you at the airshow…Keith Bradshaw