In this month’s edition:
- Southern Strut’s New U.S. Twin – Steve Hutt
- Project Progress Report: Tony Batchelar’s Aeronca Chief – Richard Griffiths
- Bringing Merlin III 30443 Home – Tony Palmer
- From Dave Websdale’s Archive
Southern Strut’s New U.S. Twin
I’ve just returned from a great holiday in the U.S.A. We flew into Washington D.C. But the main theme of the holiday was visiting American Civil War history sites such as Gettysburg, Antietem, Fredericksburg and Richmond. While planning the trip I did a quick search for EAA local chapters in the vicinity and came across the EAA Chapter 186 (www.eaa186.org). EAA 186 are a very active chapter that has many and frequent events and it was my good fortune to find they were having a meeting and BBQ on the very day we were going to be driving by. So, I thought there was nothing to lose, and dropped them a line to see if they’d mind if I dropped in to say “Hello”.
I soon received a very hospitable reply from Sande Miller-Long (Vice President of EAA 186), saying I was most welcome, explaining how to find them and what was planned for the day. So, on 30th August, enroute from Frederick, MD, to Fredericksburg, VA, we dropped into Manassas Regional Airport to meet the folks of EAA 186, and had a lovely time comparing notes on the differences between flying in the US and the UK.
EAA 186 is a relatively large chapter. Although not everyone is involved all the time and some members have moved away retaining their membership just to keep in touch, they do have around 250 members. One very impressive fact Sande told me was how many Young Eagles flights the chapter flies – around a thousand per year! Young Eagles is an EAA programme to encourage young people into aviation by getting them up in the air. Sande said there was only one EAA chapter that does more Young Eagle flights than them, and EAA 186 are hot on their heels.
EAA 186 members fly from airfields all around the Washington D.C. area but their chapter base is at Manassas Regional. As bases go, it is pretty amazing. We’d be well pleased to have something similar. The EAA 186 Chapter House is airside at Manassas Regional, next to the control tower. They have a small hangar that they hire out to members for final assembly of airplane build projects and they have a large meeting room with computer/flight planning desk and kitchen facilities plus attached decking overlooking the runway. The decking is the perfect venue for their regular BBQs.
Manassas Regional is an interesting airport. It is probably 50% bigger than Shoreham and has a wide mix of traffic, from small experimental a/c up to large biz jets. Being so close to Washington D.C. makes it a popular business entry point to the capital. Proximity to Washington does impose some constraints on flying. Airspace restrictions and rules mean they have to submit flight plans for all flights into/out of Manassas and comply with special procedures. Apparently the locals manage ok with these constraints but it does put off some visitors from dropping in.
You may recall many months back that we, that is LAA Southern Strut, agreed to establish a ‘Twinning’ programme with similar groups around the world and I volunteered to co-ordinate it. Well, I’ve not had much time to move this forward since then. But this visit to EAA 186 was too good an opportunity to miss, so I put the idea to Sande of EAA 186 twinning with the LAA Southern Strut and the idea was very well received. Sande said they tended to use the term ‘sister’ organisations but the concept is exactly the same. Sande is very keen to move the idea forward.
Since then Sande and I and Richard Griffiths have exchanged some emails and we are going to sort out announcements to go on our respective websites. This is just the beginning of the things of course and it will be a long term process. Getting connections going between the two groups would be good so we need to take advantage of any opportunities that arise in the coming years. Hopefully we will get some EAA 186 visitors to the UK that we can meet up with and likewise if any of us get to visit Washington. And I’m sure EAA 186 members go to Oshkosh and Sun’n’Fun just like we do, so that’s another possibility to meet up. Do let me know if you have any ideas/opportunities and I will do my best to help make the most of them.
It’s a bit ironic that on my recent holiday, Manassas was the one place we visited where we didn’t have the chance to visit the American Civil War history sites, so I’ve got a good reason to visit Manassas again!
Project Progress Report: Tony Batchelar’s Aeronca Chief
Tony Batchelar is restoring an Aeronca Chief in a workshop near Ripe. He has just got to covering the aircraft using the Poly-Fiber system. As this is new to him (how many people have covered an aircraft?) he spent a day working on an aileron in the Poly-Fiber tent at the Sywell fly-in. That provided the basic knowledge, but covering the fuselage with its complex curves is a big step up.
Time to call in the expert! Mark Masters is a well known aircraft restorer, based at Lee-on-Solent agreed to visit for a morning’s informal training session with Tony, his sterling helper Javid Azadi and me (Richard Griffiths). He had actually covered Tony’s Aeronca a couple of decades ago so should know what he is talking about.
The big learning points were; take time to practice before working on the real thing; care needed in glueing fabric to ensure smooth edges; developing good brush action to prevent dope dripping through the fabric; the need to think several steps ahead in laying out tapes to get a good finish; sharp pinking shears are invaluable; that it is all going to take a bloody long time!
After he left we had a practice on a scrap tailplane and in a couple of hours had the base fabric covering on with no wrinkles. Javid’s skills developed in covering model aircraft really came to the fore. The process is actually very satisfying to do – when it goes right.
Bringing Merlin III 30443 Home
The story started with the investigation into finding a Canadian Tiger Moth silencer with heater muff (air to exhaust heat exchanger) for my Moth. I have the Canadian Front manifold which would bolt directly to the Canadian silencer. It did have one, it will be easier, it will be quieter and I will have a heater. Via the Moth club I was put in touch with a member in NZ who in turn had been buying parts from a guy in Canada. After a bit of 3 way discussions the guy in NZ gave me the Guy’s in Canada email and told me to deal direct. This guy sent me pictures and price including shipping for the exhaust and then sent me his complete list with pics of his stock. My eyes popped out when I saw that he had two RR Merlins. I inquired about the price, it seemed good but I asked around and it appeared that it was a bit under book price but no one had said in what condition the engine should be for that price. He also had some round engines i.e. two off 9 cylinder Jacobs and a Continental and other stuff.
I considered that I should go ahead and started plans to go to Canada to look before I purchased. However they were still about 3 feet deep in snow at that time and there were no direct flights from Gatwick to Edmonton until spring and lambing made a hole in the diary. So I booked through Canadian Affair to fly out on June the 30th returning on July 8th , and then planned how to execute the whole thing, i.e. how to pay the man, pay the shipper, what was the most economical procedure. I got an estimate from a Canadian company such that I took the crate to their depot in Edmonton near the end of my week in Canada, they then shipped it to Southampton (more of that later), I paid up front for all charges except any taxes due this end.
So the day came when I boarded the plane and while I was waiting for it to take off I checked my email to try and find a girls address in Red Deer (which is a few miles South of Edmonton) who I used to go to school with, and I also had contact with after school when she married a friend I knew through drag racing. She had got in touch on one of these internet ex-school sites and I tried to find her address as I was unlikely to go to Canada again. After an email to Friends Reunited and a troll though the Red Deer White pages I had all the info before it was time to switch off the phone.
I had a window seat and as we went over the top I marvelled at the sights below with huge glaciers, Mountain ranges and I could pick out shadows on the ice which looked like polar bears or even people.
I landed and had to wait ages for my bag. In sitting still for so long had a bad back which was not good as I had to do a lot of lifting and building of crates etc. I picked up my rental car eventually as it was a cheaper deal if it was off site. I had to get a courtesy car to and from their dept. but it was less than 2 miles from the airport. I had downloaded a Canadian map into my Tomtom GPS and had pre-loaded the guys address, so press the button and follow the commands. As I was approaching his house I had been seeing a huge thunder storm in front and that’s where we met and had to sit in the car for a few minutes until it passed. I was looking at a strange contraption outside his house that looked a bit like one of those double adult side-cars of the 1960s.
The Merlin was in his garage so it was straight out to see it and see if it turned over. The guy put a pair of mole grips on the hand crank drive and turned it while I held onto the prop spline cover and felt movement, and then decided it was enough in case we damaged something. We then went about 5 miles away to a private farm strip where he had another cache of bits, the round engines were buried in piles of junk (aviation artefacts). The best Jacobs engine had been rebuilt in 194*? Was still in a very robust packing case and in perfect nick and it turned, we also turned the Continental but the other Jacobs did not but it was complete with all the bits. This guy had loads of stuff including 2 shaft drive flat twin WW2 Harley Davidsons which I had not heard of and a 1930 super charged front wheel drive V8 Cord at his home.
So next day it was get some materials to make the crate, mainly ¾” ply, screws etc. The original crate it had been in for about 70 years was looking a bit sad and would not comply with the latest regs. for timber used for shipping. I went through all his other stuff that I was interested in i.e. instruments for the Merlin and the Tiger.
So it was a few days building the crate, buying extra bits etc. I had to do a lot of very early in the morning internet cash dealings for Bristell UK and the Merlin project. It became obvious that any thought of other engines were going to be impossible as crate number 1 was taking more hours than we had estimated. We completed it on the Friday evening and got it loaded on Alex’s trailer after much thinking, as moving a 900kg box by hand needs a lot of thinking.
Alex had planned a trip down to the Reynolds-Alberta Museum on the Saturday morning where we had a private trip around the areas where the public were not give access to by the son of the founder. So much stuff including a brand new Merlin III engine!!, an EP2 which is what Jim Pearce had in the hanger in Shoreham that it shared with my Avid, which my daughter and I had a ride in. We looked around the other exhibits and then I went on my way down to Red Deer to see my school friend and husband for 30 mins. and a cup of tea and then to Canmore in the Rocky Mountains for a whistle stop tour.
I got there at about 6.00 pm to find I did not have a bed, but after much effort got a motel. I then had one of the best steaks I had ever had while watching the Calgary stampede on the TV, and then into the mountains. I went up about 20 miles into the mountains along unmade roads into unbelievable views in stunning light conditions at the end of the day. I heard wolves in the woods, what a day.
Next morning it was many hundreds of miles though the park, seeing bears, walking next a glacier, driving an extra 300 miles to get around a forest fire, etc.
On the Monday it was back to Alex’s house and we towed the trailer down to Edmonton to the Canadian Pacific dept. and said goodbye to the engine and then straight back to the airport without even 30 mins. spare.
When I got in touch with the shippers a few weeks later I found that the crate was in a bonded warehouse in Essex. So after paying the VAT I went with Peter Harrison to pick it up and bring it home, and then to find a way to get it off of my trailer.
To be continued if you want it to be? Tony Palmer
From Dave Websdale’s Archive
I took this photo in 1980 at the Lec private airstrip in Bognor Regis.
You had to drive down beside the factory and cross the main south coast railway line to gain access to the airstrip.
We were given access to the company’s hangar for the BBQ.
Wednesday 1 October 2014 Strut Monthly Meeting at The Swiss Cottage, 7:30 for 8pm
Your chance to quiz Phil Hall the LAA CEO about the future direction of the LAA
Wednesday 5 November 2014 Strut Monthly Meeting at The Swiss Cottage
For the latest list of events, go to the Events page on the Strut website.