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RAMP RAMBLINGS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL.

Ramp Ramblings………. By Keith Bradshaw. All photos by the author and Steve Jeal unless noted.

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Photo : public domain.

Well, dear reader, here it is ! The Bumper Ramp Ramblings Christmas Special I just know you have all been waiting for. Let’s kick off in traditional style – Steve and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year. We hope to see you all at Duxford sometime over the next twelve months when you are visiting the British Airliner Collection.

It’s usual this time of year to look back over the past year and forward to the next so I thought we would start this edition of the Ramblings with something similar. 2017 started with the good news of a successful repaint of the Britannia and later in the year the delivery of our latest addition, the Trislander. Both of these planes have attracted a lot of interest over the year. After a visit from the Monarch Airlines management they were so impressed they planned to use the Britannia (Monarch’s first airliner) in their 50th Anniversary celebrations next year.

As we all now know, sadly this will not happen as Monarch went into liquidation during 2017. However there are tentative plans afoot by the ex-Monarch staff to have a ‘virtual anniversary’ in April, which will of course feature our Britannia. It will soon be the only aeroplane left in Monarch colours as all the others are passed on to other airlines or returned to the lease companies. Watch this space for further details next year.

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It is always a shame when a well-established airline disappears. DAS had a very close relationship with Monarch and its loss will be greatly felt. Over the years Monarch engineering regularly sent working parties up to Duxford to help out on the Brit and current and ex cabin crew always manned it during the flying displays. Because of this close bond we have been offered a large amount of Monarch memorabilia which we hope we will be able to use in future displays on the Britannia. There is also the chance of a rather large item coming our way so once again watch this space in the new year! Here are a few memories of a well -loved airline that has now joined the ranks of those who are no longer with us.

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Photo: Monarch Airlines.

The airline started flying in April 1968 with a fleet of Britannias which operated until 1974. Our Brit joined Monarch in late 1968 and operated the final European passenger flight by Britannia in 1974 after which she was leased to Invicta as a freighter.

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Photo – Monarch Airlines.

Cabin service on a Britannia.

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Photo: Mike Freer.

Monarch entered the jet age with Boeing 720s (the shorter version of the B707).

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Photo:  Pedro Aragao.

BAC 1-11s, Boeing and Airbus jets were also operated over the years.

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Photo: Adrian Pingstone.

Airbus A321, these were among the last types operated and were due to be joined by Boeing 737-MAX for the 50TH Anniversary of Monarch in 2018.

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Photo:  Martin Dewey.

Finally back to the Britannia, DAS volunteer, Martin Dewey (in the middle) and the rest of the restoration crew pose with Monarch Cabin Crew in front of our Brit on its post-restoration public debut in 1982.

So we say goodbye to an old friend and hope those ex-Monarch employees who have helped us over the years will continue to support the Britannia in the future. Seeing this picture from Martin Dewey bought back some memories, not just of the horror that was eighties fashion, but of when I was a member of DAS first time around. I joined in the late seventies when DAS was nothing like it is now. Indeed you could say the same about Duxford itself with the hangars full of aeroplanes but closed to the public due to dangerous roofs. If we wanted to go in the hangar we had to wear a hard hat!!!

 I was put on the Britannia team which consisted at the time of the crew chief Roger, me, three teenage school kids two boys and a girl, and another lad even younger. The young lad took it upon himself to repaint every white legend in the cockpit which took him forever with a small brush and a pot of paint. Even now, years later you can see what a good job he did. DAS had no money, there was no power on the planes and we were basically left to get on with it best we could. The problem on the Brit was it had arrived at Duxford fitted out as a freighter so there were no passenger seats, galleys or internal fittings. Luckily the early sixties saw many a Britannia being broken up so were able to beg steal or borrow the missing parts from the scrappies.

Roger used to take the school kids down to Stansted, where some of the Brits were meeting their end, and he would stand guard whilst they slipped through the fence (security and Stansted were very different then ! ) onto the dump to see if they could find any suitable parts for us to ‘recycle’. Always reminds me of Oliver Twist and Fagin!

Earlier mention of the Trislander brings me back to the Trislander special that was posted a few months ago. Those of you who read it may remember that a new airline was about to start operating the Trislander’s smaller brother, the Islander, in the Channel Islands. Air Alderney has indeed taken delivery of its first turbine-engine Islander and plans to operate from Alderney to Jersey, Cherbourg, Lee-on-Solent and Brighton ( Shoreham ) as soon as the CAA issue its Air Operators Certificate.

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Britten-Norman also recently delivered two new Islanders to the German airline FLN who use them for flights from the main land to the Frisian Islands. In addition to this B-N have announced a series of upgrades to the Islander with an additional window, new instruments and propellers, so there’s life in the old dog yet!

Another memory from an earlier article about the RB211 engine has sprung to mind. I had meant to use this story in the engine article but to be honest I had a senior moment and forgot!! As we are having a bit of a catch up I’ll tell you it now. It’s well known the RAF used the RB211 engined Tristars for troop-carrying and air-to-air refuelling. What may not be generally known is these aircraft were not new when the RAF took them on, but were ex-airliners flown by Pan Am and British Airways. Because the RAF did not have enough trained engineers when the planes first arrived, we at BA sent a group of guys to Brize Norton to help out with day-to-day maintenance. If any heavy work was required, the RAF flew the plane back to Heathrow and it was worked on by BA engineers.

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An RAF Tristar dangles the Dunlops at the Fairford airshow in 2012.

One day one of their planes arrived with the request that all three undercarriage legs were replaced as those fitted needed overhaul. As you can imagine this is not a five-minute job so it was a few days before the Tristar was sitting back on the ground with three new legs fitted. The BA engineering foreman rang his RAF counterpart at Brize and told him ZD951 was ready for collection. After a long pause the RAF engineering officer said “You mean ZD952”, “ “No,” said the BA man. “ I’m looking at your plane through the window and its ZD951” After an even longer pause the RAF guy says, “ I say old chap, can you refit the original legs ? It appears we have sent you the wrong aeroplane !” Good job it was only taxpayers money covering the cost !

Our planes have been receiving attention over the last couple of months so to bring you up to date on what’s been going on, here’s a quick summary. Both the Britannia and the VC10 nose undercarriage bays have had birds using them as a home. Despite the netting we have in place they have managed to find an entrance hole and roost at night. I think the netting will now be checked regularly for holes !!

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VC10 wings getting a lick of paint, seemingly by a headless volunteer!

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Sunday volunteers hard at work painting VC10 wings.

The VC10 has also undergone cleaning and corrosion removal on the bottom surface of the wings. These have now been repainted and look good as new. Work has started on the structure of the fuselage inside the back of the rear freight bay where the hydraulic system was located. Leaks and fumes over the years have done a good job of stripping the paint in this area so it will be cleaned and any corrosion removed before repainting. By the time you read this it is hoped you will have seen our VC10 in the Heathrow Airport Christmas ad. With a Petula Clark soundtrack, the bears, our VC10 and BOAC shoulder bags it’s one of the best Christmas ads around. If you missed it check out their website www.heathrow.com/heathrowbears and enjoy.

Those of you who read the last Ramp Ramblings will remember we had a problem with the Ambassador axle stands. Well that has now been overcome and the Sunday boys have not only got the Ambassador up on stands but have done the same with the Britannia as well.

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Britannia main landing gear, note how the track of the front and rear axles are different, if anybody knows why this is I would love to know. If you have the answer please drop me a line on kbrad1@hotmail.co.uk.

Ever since the Ambassador restoration was finished there has been a problem with water getting in via the radome. Several attempts have been made to fix this but now the bullet has been bitten and the radome removed to allow a permanent fix to be made. LZO looks a little odd with it missing so hopefully the repair will be finished during the winter and she can soon look her best again.

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The radome on the Ambassador was hinged and inside could be found the aircraft battery and also a locker for diplomatic mail. There was no radar fitted – the crews just avoided flying through rain clouds.

The Concorde revamp is coming towards its end, but one of the units the team wanted to display was the data tape recorder. This unit used one-inch magnetic tape to record test data for later analysis. The one that was fitted to XDN had been removed before its delivery to us so we have had to make a mock up using the unit at the Brooklands Museum as a reference. This has been a great team effort with many volunteers across the different days, plus the guys from Concorde Heritage coming together to contribute to the final unit. It is now back on the aircraft complete with rotating tape reels and lighting. We do have the original tapes from XDN but due to their historical significance these will be kept in safe storage and replicas used instead.

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The Concorde data tape recorder.

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Norman, one of the many who worked on the tape unit turning the tape drive spindles.

David Glen has recently donated a collection of photographs taken at Duxford. In amongst them were a number of shots, from the John E Clark collection, of some of our planes arriving on their last ever flight into Duxford to join the British Airliner Collection. John, who sadly is no longer with us, was a leading light at DAS in getting the VC10 donated to us by British Airways.  We are so used to seeing these aeroplanes parked up on the ground it’s great to see some photos of them still in the air. So as an early Christmas present here are a few for you to savour. 

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From the John E Clark collection.

Don’t often see a flypast that low anymore!

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From the John E Clark collection.

Trident 2 VFB taxies in for the very last time on its delivery in 1982.

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From the John E Clark collection.

With a puff of smoke from the tyres Captain Outram brings SGC gently down on the Duxford runway for the last landing of its career.

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From the John E Clark collection.

With runway space at a premium full flaps and spoiler were used to bring our VC10 to a halt in April 1980.

Finally on this update trip, not one of our planes but a key part of our fundraising efforts, the DAS charity bookshop has been revamped to allow more space for people to wander round and check out our superb collection of pre-owned books, models , pictures etc. Our man John who runs the shop has most of his extensive stock (much more than is on display) on his computer so if you are looking for a particular book or even a certain subject drop him a mail on bookshop@das.org.uk and see if he can help you. For the more technically minded we also have a large number of aircraft manuals and brochures etc for sale.

As you can imagine there is quite a large turn over of books during the year and John is always looking for new stock, therefore if you have any books you would like to donate to the cause please drop him a line. All proceeds from these sales go towards keeping the airliners in tip top condition so every book counts. For those of you new to Duxford the shop can be found at the end of our offices behind the VC10. It is open most Sundays and at various times during the week, if you are coming along and plan to visit on a weekday drop John a line to see if it will be open to save any disappointment. Also if you are still looking for a late Christmas present check out our ebay shop link on the home page, if you fancy a set of Concorde passenger seats our man Dermot only has a couple left contact him direct on dasebay@sky.com. These make a great addition to any office or ‘man cave‘.

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The revamped and well stocked DAS Charity book shop.

As I said at the beginning of this edition. this time of year is a time for looking back and forward to the new year, well we’ve done the back bit so what does the forward bit hold for us ?

The biggie in 2018 for anyone interested in aviation is the 100-year anniversary of the RAF. At the time of writing several airshows are intending using this as a theme, but the big two will be the only RAF organised airshow of the year at Cosford and the Air Tattoo at Fairford. This event which normally runs over two days and is the largest military airshow in the world has been extended to three days with Her Majesty the Queen carrying out a review of the RAF on the Friday. This day will also be open to the public complete with several hours of flying displays. I would suggest if you are thinking of going get your tickets early as they will certainly sell out. The website you need is www.airtattoo.com Those of you who prefer civil aviation from the past may be interested to know that Propliner magazine is again producing an annual which should be available around April their site for ordering one of these excellent bookzines is www.propliner.co.uk

There are a number of anniversaries next year amongst the airliner collection. In July it will be 70 years since the world’s first turbo-prop, the Viscount prototype, flew and 60 years since our Comet first felt air beneath is legs when it took off on its maiden flight from the de-Havilland factory at Hatfield. The Comet was delivered to BOAC, who in early August 1958 positioned it empty to New York. On 4 August it left New York for London carrying the first ever group of passengers to fly NYC-LON on a jet airliner beating Pan Am and their Boeing 707 by three weeks for the title.

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Photo:  Pete Barr-Watson.

The world’s first jet airliner and with BOAC, the very aircraft to fly the world’s first NYC-LON jet service. After use by BOAC it was sold to Malaysian-Singapore airlines and then went to Dan-Air prior to them donating it to the collection.

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Photo:  ClipperArtic.

Although beaten into second place for the title of first jet passenger service across the Atlantic, Pan Am and its Boeing 707s were eventually far more successful than the smaller BOAC Comets.

Another of our other airliners has a 55-year anniversary. Our Herald first flew on 29 May 1963 from the Handley Page factory at Radlett and our BAC 1-11 has been here at Duxford since 4 March 1993, 25 years ago. With all these anniversaries I think we will be pigging out on celebration cake for some time next year!        

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 From the David Glen collection.

Our Herald arriving at Duxford in 1985, note the gliding club that was here at the time.

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After being here for 25 years our BAC 1-11 has seen many a Duxford sunrise.

And finally Chris in the Xmas spirit, dressed for the occasion.

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So that’s it for this year’s Ramp Ramblings, I hope you have enjoyed them and look forward to some more in the future. To finish off as we started a very Happy Christmas and New Year to you all hope to see you in 2018.  Season’s greetings Keith & Steve.