RAMP RAMBLINGS………..By Keith Bradshaw. All photos by the author and Steve Jeal unless noted.

Welcome to Ramp Ramblings 14, your regular update to what’s going on here at DAS together with other news and stories .

Just before the Flying Legends airshow in July, a long term temporary resident here at Duxford, the BBMF Lancaster emerged from the hanger where the Aircraft Restoration Company had been carrying out a major check for its final engine runs. Pleased to say, all went well and later that day the Lanc departed for home at Coningsby and re-joined the airshow circuit the following weekend. Well done all.

Final engine runs before being handed back to the RAF BBMF.

Sadly she was not booked for Legends itself but will appear at the September Battle of Britain show here at Duxford. Legends was a good show with all the DAS aircraft and Military Vehicle Wing receiving many visitors. If you were one of those who bought a boarding pass or ride ticket, thank you very much. Every last penny goes on keeping the planes and military vehicles in as good a condition as we can manage.

One of the stars of the show was the P-51 Mustang ‘Berlin Express’ which flew the Atlantic a couple of days before the show to appear here at Duxford. On the Saturday during its flying demonstration there was a bizarre incident when the middle part of the canopy shattered, the pilot later describing it as like suddenly flying a cabriolet version !!! Happily plane and pilot escaped unscathed.

Pop goes the canopy!

Going back to the Lancaster, just after the war there were very few civil airliners available and the airlines naturally wanted to resume operations. So Avro and Handley-Page converted some of their bombers, Lancaster and Halifax, into airliners calling them Lancastrians and Haltons. This was done by removing all the turrets, fixing the bomb bay doors closed and fitting seats instead of 500lb bombs. The noses were extended to provide luggage space.  Ninety- one Lancastrians were produced with 30 going to BOAC as long-range airliners. One of the routes BOAC used them on was London-New Zealand, carrying just nine passengers. This trip took three and a half days –  a journey which now takes just 24 hours!!

Photo Credit: Canadian Government employee.

A Lancastrian Airliner. 

Our new Trislander spent the show in the conservation hall at the AirSpace hangar. Although not open, as she was still fuelled, the public could get up close to see our new addition and I’m pleased to say she attracted much interest. However to get her into the hall and out again was a major effort for the volunteers as Aurigny had parked her on the ramp not far from the tower. We had an issue regarding towing the aeroplane so our only option was people power.


Positioning ‘VT’ in the conservation hall.

So thanks to Simon, Keith, Peter, Paul, Dave and Norman, she was positioned inside the hangar a few days before the show. Getting her out again was even harder as the ramp outside the hangar slopes up to the apron so Rebecca from the office was called in to help! The final move from outside the hangar to her temporary display position on the grass by the VC10 was finally accomplished by towing. By then sorted out the issue with a tow bar. She has now been defueled and as you will see later has been positioned in the line-up of airliners outside on the ramp.

We are very pleased here at DAS to be joined once again by two students from the French Transport college ESTACA. For several years now we have hosted students from the aerospace section of the college who have to spend time abroad as interns somewhere in the aviation world.   So this year for six weeks we have  Sarah and Damien hopefully learning a little about aeroplanes and their restoration. As newbies it seemed appropriate that they carried out the first job on our newbie , the Trislander, when they removed, painted and refitted one of the spinners and also replaced the old corroded rear view mirror with a new one.  This mirror was used by the pilot to keep an eye on the tail mounted engine. The mirror used is actually a wing mirror from a Morris 1000 car!!!

All the newcomers together, Trislander, Damien and Sarah.

Over on Concorde all the Zonal Units are now on board and give a good impression of just how much test equipment was carried during the flight trials. It is interesting to note that this August marks the 40th anniversary of Concorde coming here to Duxford, Was it really that long ago ? Still it gives us the excuse to use this wonderful picture of XDN at the 1974 Farnborough Airshow. With a few more things to be added the revamp of Concorde is nearly complete and hopefully will continue to enthral visitors for another 40 yrs. A film company will be using her in a TV documentary about transport. Filming will begin late in August so watch out for us on your telly in the near future.

Photo Credit: Richard Vandervord.

Back outside on the ramp, the VC10 has become a film prop again, exactly what for is shrouded in mystery but look out for the Christmas ads later this year. In preparation for the filming we spent a nice sunny day washing her down to get rid of some of the grime that has accumulated since the repaint the other year. Despite the amount of time she has sat outside the paintwork is looking good. On the days before filming a lot of preparation work was done ready to swing the VC10 through 180 degrees for the filming. To do this required the Herald to be moved out of the way and whilst we had the loan from the IWM of Harmon and his tug, we also moved the Britannia over a little to enable the Trislander to be squeezed in between it and the Viscount.

Trislander in its final position between the Viscount and Britannia.

Harmon’s tug was not big enough to move the VC10 so Brian from the Military Vehicle Wing brought down their large AEC recovery vehicle and did the honours. Not easy with no power steering Also, the tow bar would not fit over the hook on the front of the AEC, so Brian had to do the towing with the VC10 attached to the back of the recovery truck making his life even harder! Of course with all this work going on other problems came to light, such as a seized step steady jack on the VC10. So Paul and Sarah spent the afternoon stripping it down cleaning and re- greasing so it could go back on the steps for the filming.

With Brian driving and Harmon directing the VC10 begins her move.

The film crew had previously spotted a small BOAC baggage tug and trailer that normally lives in AirSpace alongside the Comet. They asked if they could use that in the filming as well, so a deal was done and all we had to do was get it from Airspace to the VC10 out on the ramp. Sounds easy but took most of the afternoon!!!

The Tug was on display on axle stands so firstly we had to get a jack to lift it back onto its wheels, the jack jammed under the tug when it was lowered so a bit of jiggery-pokery had to go on to get the tug on the ground and the jack out from under it. This achieved, we tried to push the tug but it wouldn’t move.  The handbrake was stuck on! After we fixed that it became apparent how heavy a small tug made out of quarter-inch inch steel plate really is, taking four of us to move it. \

Eventually we got it out through a side door and used a DIY wooden ramp so we could tie it to the pick-up truck and tow it the rest of the way. Thanks go to Keith, Peter, Richard and Chris for this, and we hope the film company were pleased with their prop. Filming took place as scheduled the next day and all went according to plan.

On the Thursday the whole process was reversed and by the end of the week the VC10. Herald and all the props were back in their original positions.

VC10 turned through 180 degrees looking  as if it’s ready to be pushed back for another flight.

VC10 in its temporary position facing the Britannia.

Whilst I was up the cherry picker cleaning the roof of the VC10 for the filming, I couldn’t resist taking this picture of the Herald and Britannia both looking very smart in the sunshine. There is still some work to do on the Herald’s wing/body fairings along with numerous other jobs to finish her off.

Herald, Britannia and our little yellow tug enjoy the July sunshine.

Sarah, one of our French students spent a day on the vinyl cutter machine and has produced all the decals regarding towing limits for the nose wheel undercarriage doors. With these now refitted we’re  another small step towards completion.

With undercarriage bay and gear cleaned the completed doors were refitted.

Elsewhere on the ramp the Trident is getting some attention to the damaged and corroded under wing panels. Also a renewed effort is being made to finish off the paint refresh which was started a couple of years ago.

The paintwork refresh continues whilst the cockpit windows are being resealed to keep the rain out.

Volunteers have been working on the Ambassador touching up the paintwork on its central fin as the paint has started to flake off. Funnily the two outer fins are in perfect condition it’s only the centre one that needs attention.

Those of us of a certain age will no doubt remember the travel posters British Railways used to have on their stations – very stylised and Art Deco looking. Not so widespread at the time were similar posters for air travel used by airlines and high street travel agents (not many of those left !) to promote flights to exotic and far away destinations. So to finish off this month here are a couple of posters which reflect on a bygone era, so much nicer than a TV ad   !!

Photo Credit: Boston Public Library. 

Photo Credit: Kristian Sagia.

Photo Credit: San Diego Air space museum.

Photo Credit: Trialsanderrors.