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RAMP RAMBLINGS 8

RAMP RAMBLINGS……….By Keith Bradshaw.

Welcome to Ramp Ramblings number 8, with it being airshow season there is not too much to report on the restorations at this time as it seems we are either preparing for a Duxford show or clearing up after one!! Just the September show to go, this will take place on the 10/11th and as usual will be advance ticket only, go to IWM.org.uk for yours. The airshows are our major source of income as we are not sponsored by anybody, do not receive any grants neither do we get any of your gate money. So many thanks to all those who have in the past paid just £3 to board all ten of our airliners that we normally open on airshow days, every penny has been reinvested in our collection. Please support us again at the September show by either visiting the airliners, having a ride in a military vehicle, with our military vehicle wing, or by visiting our shop for a huge selection of books, models, aircraft parts and memorabilia. If you are a cockpiteer we may well have that missing instrument you have been looking for. Talking of the shop, you do not have to wait for an airshow to visit as we open up most Sundays. The shop is located in the single story building behind the VC10. John our “Mr Book” would also be pleased to help you out if you are looking for any particular book or type of book we may have in stock. He can be contacted on bookshop@das.org.uk

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So what can I tell you about the restoration progress, the Herald continues to slowly improve each week with the interior now finished just awaiting the seats as the carpet was refitted recently. These have all be cleaned and restored and just need refitting. Externally the propellers and repainted cowlings have been refitted and the red stripes were painted by our crack painters just days before the last airshow. The fin has been reunited with the rudder in the workshop to enable the AirUk logo to be completed and the tailplane has been given another coat of paint by Frank and David. With all this progress on the back end its hoped the tail feathers will be refitted before the September airshow and then it really will look like an aeroplane again.

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Work on the Concorde revamp has started slowly, we are awaiting the fitting of a new electrical supply to the aeroplane. As this is part of the museum infrastructure we need the IWM to supply this, It’s on their list of works but obviously with a site the size of Duxford things take time. Once that is connected we can commence in earnest with a rewire to supply all the new displays. One thing that was missing was a test crew station where the images from the CCTV cameras fitted in the nose were monitored. These were used to record the build- up of ice on the wings and show it in real time on TV monitors. We have the monitors but the crew position was removed prior to us taking delivery of the aeroplane, so we are making one from scratch. Heritage Concorde have supplied us with a set of monitors which they hope to have showing a short video of the ice forming on the wings during flight.

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Readers of previous Ramp ramblings may remember us replacing our clapped out wash van with a new trailer. Well this has finally been fitted out with the wash rig and we now have two wash brushes that have water pumped to them even at the top of the aircraft fin. What’s more unlike the old system if you turn the water off at the brush the pump doesn’t blow itself apart with the back pressure, a great improvement!! This new set up has been in use on a couple of the planes and works very well. You would not believe how quickly the aircraft get dirty. A legacy of being so close to the M11. This rig has been used to good effect on the Britannia and after a polish the Monarch yellow is looking good. The same however cannot be said about the white fuselage roof as the paint has become too worn to polish up. Therefore  plans are afoot to scaffold the fuselage sometime in the autumn and completely repaint the white as we did last year on the VC10.

As well as remembering some classic British airliners our collection also celebrates the fact that in the 40’s through to the 60’s there were so many constructors involved in the British aircraft industry. After the war there about thirty such companies with evocative names like Avro, De Havilland, Handley Page, Vickers, Bristol, Hawkers etc, where are they all now? Well sadly due to numerous reasons, which are outside the remit of Ramp Ramblings, in 1960 they were forced by the government to re-muster as just two large companies, Hawker Siddeley and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). A couple including Handley Page refused and such they were therefore no longer invited to tender for government contracts sadly leading to their demise. It was this restructuring that led to the strange arrangement that some aircraft started off being made by one manufacturer then renamed as being made by another, eg. De Havilland then Hawker Siddeley Trident, Avro then Hawker Siddeley 748, also the proposed Bristol supersonic airliner became the BAC Concorde and the Vickers twin engine bus-stop jet became the BAC 1-11.

In 1977 the government were at it again, merging the two companies to form British Aerospace, Bae, which in turn was later in 1999 merged with Marconi and rebranded BAE Systems, so from around 30 companies in 1945 we now have just one. What’s more BAE produced the last example of a British airliner (the 146/RJ series) in 2002.This was to have been the last re-incarnation of the 146 series, the RJX. It was unveiled to the public here at Duxford but despite having orders from British European BAE decided to quit the regional airliner market and the project was cancelled.

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Since then no large British airliner has been made, our major input into the worlds civil aircraft market being the fact that every Airbus that has ever flown (now over 16500 examples) had its wings made here in the UK !  Over at Derby Rolls-Royce pulled out of the narrow bodied airliner engine market but continue to supply around half of the engines for the new wide bodied airliners such as A350.A380 and the Dreamliner.

However not all is lost as down on the Isle of Wight Britten Norman have been making their Islander series of small utility aeroplanes continually since 1965, having constructed over 12500 examples and continue to make them to this day.  The Islander family has been in production even longer than Boeing’s B737. I am sure it is a contender for the longest continual production run of any aircraft other than the Antonov AN-2 which is still in production in China having first flown in Russia in 1947!  It is certainly Britain’s record holder. This leads nicely into this editions “Plane Fact” as it’s an Islander flown by Loganair that operates the world’s shortest commercial flight. Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands. The airfields are just 1.7 miles, that’s right 1.7 miles apart and the flight is scheduled to take two minutes, however with a tailwind it has been flown in 47 secs !!

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If you would like to know more about the sad demise of the British aircraft industry you could do no better than get a copy of “Empire of the clouds” by James Hamilton-Paterson, maybe the DAS bookshop has one in stock !! If you want further information on the British Airliner Collection or wish to comment on anything in Ramp Ramblings, please feel free to contact me on kbrad1@hotmail.co.uk and I will do my best to answer your queries.