I think I have always been interested in aeroplanes, I used peddle from Brighton over to Shoreham Airport to watch the Air-show from the outside (I had no money). My mother paid for me to have a joy ride in an Auster when I was 11 years old but I cannot remember much about it, whereas I can definitely remember my first solo.
I have been Strut Co-ordinator and treasurer for many years and that is only because no one seems to want the job and the last thing I would want is the oldest and the first Strut to fold. We do want new blood so if one of the more enthusiastic members of the strut wants to take over one or both of the positions feel free.
I have been flying since 1994, although I remember having a trial lesson with Toon Goose Aviation about 35 years ago and a couple with the Pothecary’s just after that. I did my flying training with Barry Avaition but it was a bit disjointed with different instructors and some of them lacking certain qualities and then there was the British weather which really did cause mayhem dragging it out.
Once you have the licence what do you do with it? I was at the Shoreham airshow and I came across a certain Dave Grint showing off his plane and told me about the strut and the PFA and it sounded great, so I turned up one night and started to meet the members.
I was looking for a project and Brian Williams was looking to sell the remains of his Avid which had been damaged in France when he had landed with his wife on board when a gust lifted the plane but with the airspeed below stall it fell back down and damaged the tubes adjacent to the undercarriage. The insurance company had written the fuselage off and he had purchased a new a set off wings and a new fuselage from the factory and rebuilt the plane using his Hirth flat four engine.
So I purchased the remains and there started a productive??? period of my life. I had to go over to Ian Charlton’s farm to pick up the plane and then began the search for a suitable 4 stroke engine which could be used which would still make the plane a 2 seater as the MAUW was only 911 lbs. Ian Charlton was also looking for the ‘Golden Fleece’ so we joined forces which has led to a long friendship. I looked at Honda’s, Suzuki’s, Moto-guzzi v twin’s but ended up with the BMW R100. There had been other people who had done this, Mike Handley in the West country had put one in a microlight biplane and a guy in the USA had put one in an Avid but it had suffered with over heating problems. We thought it was because the engine was effectively being used backwards ie the carburettor end of the engine was facing forward. So I drew up a reverse cam and got them made by Piper Cams and the heads were reversed so that the exhaust faced forward into the incoming cool air, also a new casting was designed to couple a Rotax C box to the BMW. A cush drive was designed using a clutch centre and a new dynofocal engine mount had to be designed / stressed and manufactured as well as many other peripheral parts. When it was all put together and ran I found that the torsional vibration from the prop at about 1700 rpm was completely unacceptable(to me) the magnetic compass would spin during this phase of the envelope.
I was attending Sun & Fun about this time and I was watching the flexiwing microlites on the flight-line and noticed one that had a 582 Rotax engine but was super smooth at tick-over because it had a centrifugal clutch. I tried to buy a clutch but it was not suitable so I designed one to fit within the envelope of the casting, gearbox and BMW flywheel. This has had about 3 iterations and it seems to be reliable as it is now. When we were doing this about 15 to 13 years ago Ian and myself did an in-depth talk at one of the Forums held at Cranfield and we had approx 80 people in the tent as I guess it was the ‘big white hope’ of the period for a light, cheap engine.
An then Farry came along and he also had an Avid which he kept at Ian’s taking over Brian Williams slot. We got together and ended up collaborating on the Jabiru 3300 engine into the Sportcruiser project and the nose-leg reinforcing and co-owning 2 such beasts which has led to the setting up of Bristell UK.
About this time I was thinking about buying something old and interesting to re-build and saw a Tiger Moth project on the internet in the USA, not exactly what I was thinking of but it sounded good value. So I ended up buying it, I flew over to Essex in CT and stayed with the owner for 4 days while I loaded it all in a 20’ container which was taken away on the last day and I retrieved it about 6 weeks later at Southampton. The project is progressing but slowly but has been speeding up lately.
This came about with out us planning it: we were attending a show in Germany and Farry liked the interior of a certain plane and we went along to find out if we could get one just like it and ended up walking away as UK agents for the Bristell. For those that do not know Milan Bristella designed the Sportcruiser previously and then started his own company to produce the NG5 and we import the Speedwing version which has a shorter wingspan than the LSA version which was designed for the USA market.
One of the best places flown to was the Scilly Isles, it was like another world and we took a boat over to Tresco which was beautiful and was where my first wife’s grandmother was from.
I now live in Hailsham where my wife and I have an Idyllic house, farm, hanger and 600 metre airstrip which came about through sitting at Ian and Ann Charlton’s farm during a visit and thinking “I would mind some of this”.