In 1942, when our Auster Mk1 was manufactured, the aircraft were simple, the mission straightforward and back then, technology only had a small part to play in operating safely and effectively. The cockpit dashboard had only enough instrumentation for the pilot to keep the aircraft pointing in the right direction and at the right height while keeping an eye on how the engine was performing. Times have changed!
Behold the latest update from the Auster maintenance team regarding progress on the reconditioning of our 1942 Auster Mk1. With the mantra “There shall be no play in the control system”, the team has been inspecting every aspect of the Auster’s flying controls – including the horizontal flying trim system. This trim control is provided by a pair of trim tabs located beneath the tail plane. The tabs are controlled by the pilot independently of the elevator via two steel wires that run up the inside of the fuselage.
With apologies for the terrible pun in the Blog title ………. time for a brief update on progress for our Auster Mk1 reconditioning project. We have replaced the undercarriage suspension rubber bands (a tricky job and not for the faint-hearted), so we now just need to recondition the wheels and brakes and then we can pop the aircraft back onto the ground.
The Flight was approached by Threshold.aero (an organisation well known for arranging photocalls, nightshoots and tours for aviation enthusiasts) to see if we could provide their users with the opportunity of photographing our collection of Army Air Corps historic aircraft. 35 keen aviation photographers of all ages joined us at the airfield proceeded to surround the aircraft to get their perfect sunset shots.
Highclere Castle is well know for its connection to Tutuekhamun and Downton Abbey. We were invited to particpiate in the weekend Festival on 8th-9th October, where we attracted a lot of attention, but maybe not as much as some of our visitors!
Auster Mk1 LB 312 joined the Flight in late 2020, flying into Middle Wallop from Netheravon. Since then, having completed an initial inspection, we decided to ground the aircraft pending a full technical review and associated reconditioning of the whole aircraft. The programme is making steady progress.
Along with the Victory Show in Cosby and Brize Norton’s Families’ Day, the weekend of the 2nd to 4th of September was a busy one for the Historic Flight. Sunday’s task for the Scout was to the Double Hills Commemoration near Paulton, in North East Somerset.
The Victory Show is held on a 100-acre site at Foxlands Farm, Cosby, Leicestershire. It provides Historical Societies and re-enactments through various forces from several eras and theatres during the period of 1939-45. From Airmen to Infantry, the Victory Show opens a window in time to the fabulous 1940’s.
Saturday’s task for the Scout was RAF Brize Norton’s Families’ Day. As the largest RAF Station, it is home to approximately 5,800 service personnel, 1,200 contractors and 300 civilian staff. With a ‘foot-print’ of that size, along with the usual flair with which the RAF embrace such events, as you can imagine, they put on quite the weekend of events for those that call the base home, along with their friends and family.
We recently welcomed two groups for a tour of our hangar, something we do as often as possible as part of our commitment to pass on Army Aviation’s history to the current generation of soldiers.
Capel Military Show is an event that celebrates and showcases the very best of military focused entertainment whilst raising funds for military charities and local projects. It features static and dynamic displays that promote the work of the UK Military, supports attending Military Reserve units in their recruitment and advertising opportunities and assists the work of the dedicated charities and youth groups.
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) was held this year at Fairford after a 2 year absence, with show days on 15th-17th July. An expected audience of 170,000 over the three days meant that this was an important opportunity for Historic Flight to be in attendance and on show, in order to raise our profile with aviation enthusiasts and the general public.
We were fortunate enough to receive an invite to take part in a static display at the National Memorial Arboretum for the Falklands 40th Commemorations along with a Westland (Sea Scout) Wasp helicopter XT420 from Navy Wings.
We discovered that our Scout had a bit of a “bounce” on the ground and decided to do a basic blade track to find out what was wrong.
Oh the joy of being an engineer in the HAAF! After the busiest winter maintenance period on record, we thought we were nearly there. Auster 9 – Serviceable. Sioux – Serviceable. Beaver – Serviceable. Scout – Serviceable. Ahh, no, Scout fuel leak from the sump!
At the end of the closed season maintenance period, it is time to do some ground runs on our aircraft. Today it is the turn of our Auster AOP.9
The Royal Air Squadron flew in to Middle Wallop recently to visit the Historic Army Aircraft Flight. CCF cadets of Embley School were invited to support the Squadron’s hosts for the day and some had an opportunity to fly. This is their story.
One lucky winner at a recent Boeing UK charity raffle, in aid of the Prince’s Trust, won a flight in the mighty Bell 47 Sioux helicopter on a re-enactment of how the Sioux would have been flown on operations in the jungle during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Friday 29th April was a rather different day for some of the HAAF. We were having a visit from members of the Royal Air Squadron (RAS). The visit involved a busy day of flying as we tried to give a Historic Flight to as many as possible, and which also kept the engineers rather busy.
Another week completed. The Sioux completed the airtest and all is good. We fly a full airtest every 3 years so normally that would be the end of that. However, the engine is on condition for calendar life so we will complete a “Power Climb” annually to check the engine performance as well as EFD monitoring of the oil system and external corrosion examination and other checks. A SERVICEABLE Sioux – yeeha. Great work by Kerry and Nick on the Sioux crew.
One aircraft out, next? The Scout looks probable for next out. B1/B2 and B3 maintenance checks completed. Blades x-rayed. Two fuel pumps in the process of replacement. Radio modification underway but causing a few issues with the new loom fit. Bob and Guy are beavering away (wrong aircraft pun) with Phil and Mick playing with the looms.
The Auster 9 had her pre-maintenance ground run on Friday. Straight back into the hangar and an oil drop when warm. Followed by compression checks on the cylinders. Annual maintenance now underway led by Nick.
Dave and Steve are literally beavering away on the Beaver assisted by William. They had a few issues rigging some of the controls so that was a challenge, now overcome. Control checks next and panelling up. We then need a full CAA checkover and full airtest.
Oh Dear – our poorly Chipmunk. Despite fitting a replacement generator and voltage regulator she is still poorly and not playing nicely. Once greenies have capacity after the Scout, there will be much head scratching and playing with electricity. We also have a huge magneto drop to resolve, so no Chipmunk any time soon.
Jay is currently making a new instrument panel for the Auster Mk 1. This is plywood covered in leatherette. The Mk 1 will be worked on as the summer progresses and we have more bodies available.
The HAAF engineering crew are very experienced but looking after 6 different aircraft types is a fun challenge. They all swap between the aircraft quite happily as long as we supply biscuits to refuel at tea break, which is also when the stories begging. An article on the crew may well follow?
Our Sioux, XT131, has had an interesting winter period to say the least! She was due a Primary Service (annual inspection) and some NDT (Non-Destructive Testing). We also found some unexpected issues along the way, which is not unusual when playing with aircraft, certainly of this vintage (just like our engineers).
A Primary is quite a detailed series of inspections, checks and lubrication tasks. The methods used for conventional NDT include visual testing, penetrant testing, magnetic testing, ultrasonic testing, radiographic testing and eddy current testing, but all share common features in that the materials under test are not harmed in any way. We had to strip the Sioux so we could remove the engine frame and tail rotor blades for testing. So, a great winter had begun.
During the Primary we decided to replace the engine mag plug housing as it has been leaking (when the mag plug is removed) for a few years. On removal, we found a large shard of metal wedged in the plug housing. We believe the metal was from the Freewheel so an investigation was started. During the strip and examine, one of the freewheel springs had a piece missing which matched the shard found. However, further examination of the lower planetary gear drive revealed some of the plastic bearing cages had disintegrated, resulting in the rubbing together of some roller bearings. At this stage, we decided a gearbox replacement was the only option.
So all complete and we have a serviceable Sioux? Oh, but no. We completed a 30 minute ground run after the gearbox change – all well. But, back in the hangar and a fuel leak from the main fuel supply pipe! So, we have to find a pipe and then complete a 3 yearly full flight test. Watch this space for more news…
The period between mid-November and April is traditionally the maintenance time for our HAAF aircraft. This year was no exception but was to prove a “bit of a challenge”.
It started off by getting an early start on a “major” on the Beaver. Oh dear, that consumed people and patience. Then we started on the Sioux and the Auster Mk 1. The Sioux had issues and the Auster even more. So more people and patience consumed. We solved most of those on the Sioux and decided the Auster Mk 1 was a long term project after all.
Ever the optimists, we began work on the Scout… Oh dear, the effort to improve the radio and intercom was a “bit of a challenge”. Spot the emerging theme?
Oh well, on to the Chipmunk. Ooops, the generator and voltage regulator are not playing, none in stock and getting into the cockpit to remove them is a “bit of a challenge” for old men who don’t fold and bend very easily.
Never mind – we shall start on the Auster 9 and ground run the Chimunk… Ooops, the hangar doors have jammed, cannot get an aircraft out. Another week lost, a “bit of a challenge”.
We lost time because of bad weather. We lost time trying to get some fuel. We lost time for staffing issues (holidays, as if volunteers can have holidays). We lost time because of complexities of aircraft we had forgotten about and had to relearn, a “bit of a challenge”.
This winter has been a “bit of a challenge” but we shall get there and fly the aircraft. That is why we love doing this. After all, where is the fun if it is not a “bit of a challenge”!
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