RAMP RAMBLINGS………..By Keith Bradshaw. All photos by the author and Steve Jeal unless noted.
Hello and welcome to Ramp Ramblings No. 15 bringing you an update on what’s been happening here at the British Airliner Collection and beyond.
Let’s start with another episode of the popular “Gone but not Forgotten” British airline stories. This time around we feature Duxford’s local airline Air Anglia which for ten years, flying from Norwich, connected East Anglia with the rest of the UK and Europe.
Photo Credit RuthAS
Air Anglia DC-3 at Norwich in 1971.
Air Anglia was formed in 1970 by the merger of three air taxi companies based in the east of England, Anglian Air Charter, Norfolk Airways and Rig Air. With Norwich Union as the major shareholder flying started with the ubiquitous DC-3. Based at Norwich airport the new airline flew mainly in support of North Sea gas and oil operations using the DC3s and a selection of smaller types inherited from the original merger. A year later it started scheduled services to several UK cities from Norwich and in 1974 Air Anglia added the first of 10 Fokker F27 Friendships to its fleet expanding the scheduled operations around the UK, plus Paris and Amsterdam in Europe. One route it operated was Aberdeen to Jersey which at the time, at 2 ¾ hrs, was the longest flight flown by a turbo-prop aircraft in the UK. Thanks to its route into Amsterdam an agreement was made with KLM that allowed the Air Anglia services to be included on the KLM reservations computer system. This greatly helped to improve the passenger loads on these services. In 1979 Air Anglia entered the jet age when it’s first Fokker F28 Fellowship arrived at Norwich. The following year Air Anglia merged with Air Wales, Air Westward and BIA to form Air UK. So sadly, after ten years of operations the black and gold colours of Air Anglia disappeared from our skies forever.
Photo Credit Michel Gilliand
One of two Fokker F28s Air Anglia operated when it merged into AirUk.
So that’s what was happening at Norwich airport nearly 40 years ago, but what about the here and now at Duxford. The volunteers here at DAS not only look after the aeroplanes of the British Airliner Collection but also maintain our own equipment plus taking on numerous other odd jobs around the airfield. Recently our very old but incredibly useful pump up work platform has been placed into the workshop for a strip down and total overhaul. This will be quite a long job as time has taken its toll and a lot of work is needed until it looks as good as new again. Also in the workshop have been several commemorative benches that are normally dotted all around the airfield. As these wooden benches sit outside 24/7 in all weathers some have started to go rotten. These have been brought under our wing and Hugh, with a number of other guys, has been working remaking legs and slats to replace the rotten timbers. Then after a good rubdown, a couple of coats of preservative and a polish for the brass plaque they look good as new again and can be replaced back out on the apron.
Our old pump up work platform being refurbished in the workshop.
As we are based in East Anglia there is always something of a breeze if not a gale blowing here at Duxford so it’s important that the planes that are outside have their control surfaces secured so they don’t flap about in the wind and get damaged. To this end Norman, Richard and Paul have been making and fitting new gust locks to any of the unsecured controls. It’s the little jobs like this that are so essential but never really get noticed by the public. Another example of this going on at the moment is the fitting of axle stands to the aeroplanes. This is to take the weight off the aircraft tyres because as rubber sits in the sunlight it hardens and ages to the point that it starts to perish. Sadly, we can’t just pop down to Quickfit for a set Britannia tyres and just like cars nearly all the planes have tyres of a different size many of which are no longer produced. So, to save what we have and to keep the planes safe it has been decided they will all be sat on stands. Sounds easy but the stand has to fit where the jack used for wheel changes usually goes. Therefore, the only way to lift the aeroplane is by large wing/body jacks. All the aeroplanes in Airspace have now been fitted with axle stands and we are starting on those outside. The Viscount has been done and the next in line was the Ambassador, however once the jack had lifted the gear off the ground and the axle stand dragged into place it became apparent the stand was a couple of inches short!! So, the process was reversed and the stands have been sent away to a welding shop for adjustment, hopefully we can get them back and in place soon.
Main wing jack being fitted to the Ambassador to enable the axle stand to be fitted.
Assembling the Jack and lifting the Ambassador was one of the last jobs Sarah and Damien, this year’s two French students, got involved in before their time was up and they returned to France. We very much enjoyed having them and hope they enjoyed their stay with DAS. We trust they went home with some new-found knowledge of aeroplanes to help with their future studies and hopeful employment in the aircraft industry. We look forward to welcoming a new batch of students from the ESTACA college next year. We have obviously made a good impression on the students in the past as one of our “Old Girls” from two years ago, Louise, recently brought two of her friends from ESTACA over to visit us for the airshow, showing them around Duxford and her old haunts in Cambridge.
Louise, Chloe and David, all students from ESTACA in France, visiting for the airshow.
Elsewhere out on the ramp the Trislander has been re-united with its “Aspen unit” thanks to the kindness of Aurigny and BNAPS member Tony Smart. This is an electronic flight instrument system which replaced the traditional artificial horizon and compass in front of the Captain with an electronic version showing much more information. This was fitted to their Trislander’s by Aurigny along with an electronic map display to enable them to operate the aircraft in bad weather with only one pilot.
Like most aeroplanes it was not possible to lock the aircraft doors. As most of the doors could be secured from inside, volunteer Neil replaced the cockpit door handle with an identical item from a car that included a lock so that we now have a secure aeroplane! The Trislander has also had a much needed wash and was open to its adoring public who, using the newly built steps, could sit in the plane during the September airshow and for a small donation have their picture taken wearing the Captain’s cap!
Photo credit Markus Vitzethum.
Boeing 747-400 EFIS display. This is the EADI (Electronic Attitude Director Indicator) below it would be a similar screen the EHSI (Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator)
Something we haven’t seen here in ramp Ramblings for a while is a “Technical titbit” So having mentioned the EFIS on the Trislander let us look a little deeper into just what EFIS is. EFIS. or to give it its full name Electronic Flight Instrument System, was first introduced onto production airliners in the early 1980’s. Both Boeing with its 757 and Airbus with the A310 elected to drop the electromechanical Attitude Director Indicator and HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) or Flight Compass from its instrument panels and replace them with TV screen digital versions. Originally these were quite large and heavy as they used a cathode ray tube display just as was used in domestic TV’s at the time. The EFIS screens on the Boeing were about 6” square. As time and progress in electronics and LED screens advanced the CRTs were replaced with much lighter and more reliable LED versions. These advances also allowed the display screens to be made larger, for instance on the Boeing 777 they are about 9” square. Conversely, they could also now be made smaller to fit even light General Aviation aircraft still at an affordable price.
Photo credit Flugkerl2
Trislander Aspen EFIS.
The Aspen unit EFIS display on the Trislander combines the artificial horizon and compass display from conventional cockpits with the ASI (Air speed indicator) to the left of the Horizon and the Altimeter to its right. The compass also shows all the radio beacon information along with TAS (true airspeed), ground speed, OAT (outside air temp), wind strength and direction and on the righthand side the VSI (vertical speed indicator) info. All this being combined on one instrument right in front of the pilot makes his workload much easier as he only has to glance at one instrument not several scattered across the panel. This kind of instrumentation is now commonplace on even the smallest homebuilt aeroplanes as It’s lighter, cheaper and more reliable than conventional analogue instruments. The larger units on today’s airliners can display even more information such as flap extension speeds, aircraft stall speed for different flap configurations, autopilot and Flight Director information plus all the turning points on the pre- planned route from the FMS (Flight Management System) and even colour radar.
Big VT and little VT get ready to greet their public at the September airshow.
Back at the airliner collection corrosion removal continues on the underwings of the Trident. Most of the black cheat line has been repainted by the Tuesday boys with the Wednesday team doing the white fuselage top, just the fin to go and at least the fuselage will look presentable again.
The VC10 fin and tailplane have also been receiving similar work by the Thursday volunteers, as has the Herald, with work on its flap support tracks and the completion of the wing body fairing fitment. On the Britannia two large underwing panels which were not in as good shape as originally thought have been remade.
Mentioning the VC10 reminds me to tell you that the film crew returned for another session which again needed the VC10 turned around! The TV advert will be aired sometime in November, watch out for the screening to learn the full story!
VC 10 on the move in glorious sunshine.
With just a few panels to replace the Britannia revamp is almost complete.
Over on the BAC1-11 there was a continual hydraulic leak from the pump we have fitted to raise the rear airstairs. When the aircraft was in service the steps were raised using pressure from an electric hydraulic pump. As we no longer have a usable hydraulic system on the aircraft we replaced this electric pump many years ago with a hand operated unit, it is this that was leaking.
Despite Keith and Damien replacing the pump’s internal seals the leak soon started again so it was decided to replace the whole thing. A new unit duly arrived looking identical but when it came to be fitted it was found all the pipe unions were of a different size to the old ones, so several hours had to be spent swapping them all around to finally give us leak free airstair operation.
Photo credit K.Krellis
Our Dove sitting outside before it was “strung up” in the Airspace hangar.
Those of you who are regulars to the airshows here at Duxford know we open all the airliners on those days for public viewing. However, that is not quite true as there is one of our aeroplanes nobody ever visits, our Dove, (could be because it’s suspended on wires from the roof of the Airspace hangar!) With its first flight in 1948 this is the second oldest plane in our collection and has for many years been “flying” in the Airspace hangar.
Our Dove “strung up” in the Airspace hangar.
In 1942 a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Lord Brabazon to decide on the aircraft designs which would form the backbone of the British aircraft industry after the war. The Dove submitted by de Havilland was one of the chosen designs. The type first flew in 1945 and remained in production until the mid-sixties by which time 544 Doves, Devons and Sea Devons had been built for the civil and military markets. Our Dove spent its entire operational life with the Flying Unit of the ARB/ CAA checking navigation aids at airports across the UK. It was based just down the road at Stansted and operated for the ARB/CAA from 1948 until 1972. It came into DAS ownership in 1984. A very successful British type the Dove sold all over the world but there are now just a handful left flying. It is still possible to take a flight in one, with the sole presently airworthy UK example being based at Headcorn in Kent with Aero Legends who offer passenger rides in this beautiful little aeroplane. Full details can be found on their website.
Aero Legend’s Devon during its previous life with Air Atlantique at Coventry.
At the last show of the season there was a very large crowd present and many of them took the opportunity to tour the airliners, also our sales stand, bookshop and military vehicle wing guys were kept busy during the show. Thanks, must go to all the stewards, shop assistants and those DAS members behind the scenes who made the two days a success for the collection.
Well to quote the end titles from a famous cat and mouse cartoon “That’s all folks” Bye for now Keith.