RAMP RAMBLINGS……….By Keith Bradshaw, photo’s Steve Jeal.
Welcome to the Christmas edition of ramp ramblings, an update of activity by DAS on the British Airliner Collection at Duxford.
With the unexpected spell of good weather running well into November, the opportunity was taken to paint a bit more of the white top coat on the roof of the Trident. The engine cowlings, that had been removed for repair some months earlier, have been refitted and the rest of the nacelles painted to match the shiny new silver paint of the cowlings. A leaking cockpit side window has also been resealed so the Captain doesn’t have to sit in a puddle anymore!
The Herald also benefited from this last spell of good weather when the undercarriage legs were steam cleaned ready for painting. Inside new cabin lights and covers have been fitted and the passenger service unit panels are being removed for recovering of the trim.
DAS not only looks after the airliners but also has to do maintenance on its buildings. One of the Porta cabins had suffered a leak in the roof which had brought the ceiling down, so over a couple of weeks members have fitted a new roof and ceiling panel showing they can turn their hands to anything when required!
Back outside on the planes, some new lighting is being added to the interior of the Britannia and its elevators have been removed to the workshop for repair over the winter.
These are huge flying controls, there are two each side of the tailplane and each surface is about 12×5 feet in size. Each of the four elevators required four men to lift them onto the pick up truck for their trip to the workshop. Unlike modern aircraft, which use 3000psi of hydraulic pressure to move the flying controls, the Britannia had no power assist. All the primary flying controls (Elevators, Rudder and Ailerons) were manually moved by the pilot. So how did he move these massive control surfaces? Bristol had fitted the Britannia controls with a servo tab system, so all the pilot actually moved was a small control surface hinged from the rear of the elevator ( or rudder or aileron). This servo tab only being about 6 inches wide could easily be moved using conventional control wires and pullies. When the pilot wanted the nose of the aeroplane to go down he would push the stick forward which would mechanically move the servo tab up. The change in aerodynamic pressure and lift this caused would make the servo tab and hence the trailing edge of the elevator move down. The movement of the elevator would cause a large change of pressure and lift across the combined tailplane/elevator assembly causing it along with the tail of the aeroplane to move up. Pivoting the fuselage around its centre of gravity thus moving the nose down just as the pilot wanted. As a well known Meercat would say “ Simples” !
Elsewhere on the Britannia the undercarriage legs have been receiving attention with some long term in depth cleaning and repainting, also the main gear doors have started to be refitted. With Monarch Airlines celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, it is hoped to have “The Brit” restored to its former glory in time for their celebrations as this was the type they started operations with.
The Viscount is to star as a prop in a forthcoming documentary film, so a number of seat units have been removed to make space for the camera crews. The interior will also get a general tidy up before filming starts. Many of the airliners have appeared over the years on both the silver screen and TV.
Looking after a large fleet of old airliners, most of which live outside, is akin to painting the Forth rail bridge, just when you think its finished its time to start again ! A couple of recent examples: having declared the Ambassador finished in the summer it has now sprung a leak where the radome meets the fuselage. It transpires part of the radome is made of wood, and having rotted, it is this that is causing the leak. However it is of a very complex shape and will take some careful shaping and replacement, one for the Chippies !
The other example is the BAC 1-11. The snag list had just about been finished when the rear airstairs failed to retract. These are hand pumped up using a hydraulic system. Investigation found a burst pipe which needed to be manufactured and replaced. Examples like this go a long way to explain why it seems to take so long to finish a restoration. If only we could concentrate on just one project and not the entire fleet things would proceed at a rapid rate of knots. If you would like to help hurry things along come and join us, contact details can be found at the bottom of the DAS.org.uk home page.
On behalf of all the members at DAS we would like to wish you and your families all the very best for a Happy Christmas and hope you can visit us sometime in the New Year.