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

Welcome to the Ramp Ramblings bumper Christmas special, as it gets colder and the festive season approaches I thought I would top and tail this edition with a couple of “Winter Tales”. So here we go.  

Many years ago, in 1978 in fact, we had one of the coldest winters in recent history. The snow fell  continually all across the UK for several days. I was working for British Airways on the ramp at Heathrow and was waiting on a stand at terminal one for one of our BAC 1-11’s to arrive. The airport authorities had decided that with limited snow clearing equipment and de-icing fluid stocks they would only keep the runways clear of snow and would leave the taxi ways and stands covered in compacted snow. This had worked fine for a couple of days but the compacted snow changed into sheet ice. So as my plane came down the centre line and applied some nose wheel steering to turn onto the stand he went straight on, more lock straighter on, eventually the nose wheels were almost at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. The pilot had to stop way past the turning and be pushed back by a tug fitted with chains! After several more similar examples the airport authorities called in anyone within 20miles who had a JCB digger to clear the snow and ice. The way they did it was to force the front bucket through to the tarmac and then just drive along scooping up the snow and ice. However they failed to inform the JCB drivers that the taxi lights stuck up above the level of the tarmac, so these all got scooped up as well !!!! The following year the authorities bought some more snow clearing equipment.

Back in the summer a company called Falcon Airside Group kindly donated to us this baggage conveyor, electric baggage truck and two baggage trollies. Over the winter months these will be cleaned up and repainted in appropriate airline colours for our planes and should look very good  when they are placed alongside them making something of an airport tableau.

One of our members, John, had not been too well and let slip he always fancied a flight on a Rapide. Well in a twinkle of an eye Ian Easterbrook got on to our good friends at Classic Wings and they arranged for a flight just for us. Everyone who took part really enjoyed it particularly John as the pilot circled his house several times during the trip!!

Before I get onto the restoration news there have been a couple of major decisions made by the IWM that will affect us. Firstly they have agreed we can have a fund raising “Airliner” day next summer , which will celebrate all things Airline and Airliner. Hopefully this exciting day will include many added attractions to entice people to visit us. Full details and the date will be published shortly. The second thing that has happened is the IWM have announced their rough plans for Duxford covering the next 20 years. The part that interests us is that they see the Land Warfare hall being demolished and the entire Airliner collection, including those in Airspace, being moved down to that end of the airfield. As yet there are no details available but let’s hope it includes a nice big hangar!! The reason for the move is that they want to develop the middle of the airfield as “Historic Duxford” taking it back to how it would have been during WW2 and we were therefore in the way.

Have any of you been watching “The Crown” on Netflix? Well the Viscount airliner shots were done here at Duxford , they also filmed on some of the other aeroplanes so look out for them as well.

Another little snippet of news is that the Aircraft Restoration Company have built a large new hangar down behind Airspace. This is now housing the BBMF Lancaster that is with them for a major overhaul. The hangar is not open to the public but there is a small annex attached to the side which has a viewing window in it. It’s not very well signposted but now you know where to go if you want to see the Lancaster stripped down. It is planned to be in the hangar until the end of March.

OK what about the airliners, well the Britannia continues to receive a lot of attention with a working party from Monarch Airlines recently refitting the elevators, just the trim /servo tabs to go back and her tail feathers will be complete.

Corrosion on the flaps is being cut out and patched, also the Prop spinners are receiving attention. The biggie for the Brit however is that the IWM have agreed it can go into the conservation hall at Airspace for the first two weeks in January to allow us to repaint the yellow and black on the fuselage. To this end sanding down of the paintwork has already begun in preparation for the repaint. Also on the Brit, each engine air intake has a three- piece blank fitted to keep the birds and weather out. These were beginning to look rather tatty so they have all been removed and then de-riveted to enable the perished rubber seals to be discarded. The metal backing plates were then paint stripped and re painted, new seals were cut from sheet rubber and the whole lot riveted back together again. This very fiddly job has taken the input of a lot of people over a long time with the mainstays Chris and Dave pleased to now be able to move onto other things! 

Mentioning Airspace leads nicely on the Concorde. This now has working nose droop, landing lights and thrust reverser buckets all of which can be seen in operation quite regularly, check our website for dates of the demos. The much mentioned revamp will hopefully take place in February with a planned re opening date of the 12th , our Concorde’s first flight birthday !! As part of the revamp the non-original Concorde passenger seats will be removed a small number of the original type that were fitted for the test crews put in their place. These original seats were found in the back of one of our storage sheds and will need quite a bit of restoration before they can be fitted , this has been started by Joe, David and Roger. We now also have on display alongside Concorde Brian Trubshaw’s ( the test pilot) “space suit”. The crew wore these for the first few flights as there was some concern the pressurisation system may not be up to the job of flying that high. As we now know there was no cause for concern and the crew were soon back in shirt and ties. Also in Airspace Keith, Sarah and Ian have been busy revamping the Comet’s forward galley, there was a plan to build the missing unit by the entrance door but sadly with space at such a premium in that area it would have restricted the cabin’s exit too much.

Outside on the ramp the Trident is having its undercarriage legs cleaned and painted, also some holes in the wings are being attended to and patched up. I came across this picture of A BEA Trident from 1971. The Cabin crew are waiting for the passengers whilst through the door you can see the engineer waiting for a cup of tea, It’s good to know some things haven’t changed over the last 45 years, engineering is still fuelled by tea!!

On the Viscount meanwhile, efforts are being made to attempt to keep the rain off of those magnificent Dart engines and to that end Norman from the Viscount crew has been making up some new tight fitting panels. Work continues at quite a pace on the Herald with the undercarriage and wheels being cleaned and repainted with new pipes and hoses being fitted to the main legs.

The wings have now gained their rebuilt wing tips which just leaves the area from the engines out to the tips to be renovated and painted. Inside the revamped passenger window trims are all being removed by Frank and Richard for a bit of fettling to make them fit better. Keith and Paul have re-laid the galley floor covering so the interior is very nearly finished.

We had a visit back in the Summer by a party of ex BIA/AirUk staff who were amazed and in some cases overwhelmed by the progress we have made on their old steed. If we get a good spring the Herald will hopefully be pretty much done by the first air show in May.

So let’s have a “plane fact”, What have the VC10 and a submarine got in common ?? They both have periscopes! If you get a chance to go on the VC10 be sure to walk right to the very back of the cabin where there is a display of the two periscopes that were carried on board, one long , one short . The short one could be fitted into the cabin floor so the crew could look into the freight bays if they suspected smoke or fire. The long one could be placed in a frame which then allowed it to be extended through the roof of the fuselage either side of the fin to check the top of the fuselage or the engines. The access panel for this can be seen open by the on board display.

If you have a favourite Airliner and find it closed when you visit Duxford please drop into the office (behind the VC10) and if anybody is available we are always happy, for a donation, to open it up and show you round. Please note this only applies on Tuesday-Thursday when the office is open.

So to finish off here is the second “Winter’s Tale”, There is an excellent series of books on the market called Victor Boys, Lightning Boys, Harrier Boys etc. all in the same format of a collection of stories related by servicemen who were involved with these aircraft when they were in service. I have read them all and this story came from one of them, Harrier Boys I think, but I’m not sure. Any way picture the scene, a very wintery airfield somewhere in Germany where the snow is so bad there has been no flying for several days, everyone is very, very bored. So the Ground crews decide to build a giant snowman outside their hangar. As they stand back to admire their handy work a Military Police patrol (also bored) comes around the corner in their Land Rover. Well the sight of this huge target was too much for them and they promptly rammed the snowman totally destroying it, leaving  with huge grins on their faces!! The next day they couldn’t believe their luck as the Ground crews had again made a huge snowman at the far end of their hangar. This was even better as it gave the MP’s a bit of a run up to ram Mr Snowman again. Only this time it didn’t fall down, the Land Rover did. The wily Ground crew had built it around a concrete post , who’s grinning now !!!! 

So as the suns sets on another year at Duxford

All that’s left for us to say is we Wish you all  a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, see you in 2017