I totally agree with you Barry I also live in darkest Basildon. They
occasionally fly overhead on route to some airshow or test run. I
always dash out of my workshop just to see and hear them. Can't they
be allowed to fly lower like the bloody helicopters do?
I was in at what could be described as the 'Last of the Many' as I
served with RAF 31 Squadron at Hendon and we had the 601 and 604
Squadrons( Counties of London and Middlesex) stationed there in 1949.
They moved to North Weald to get Vampires which had a habit of melting
our Tarmac! John Cunningham came in and was told where he stood! Road
Menders??? What next?
We had three Spits on charge as we maintained a taxi service for Air
these beasties were for the top brass. In addition, we had Devons to
replace our aging Ansons but collected a Air Officer Commanding in
Chief of Coastal Command's VP-981.
It's almost 60 years now but 981 is still flying after a spell as the
hack for theBBMF and one of the Spits-JM-R( Jimmy Robbs) is in San
Diego and airworthy.
Two of the Devons are at RAF Cosford.
31 is still very much active with Tornados at Marham. Our sister
Squadron there is 617. Nothing fancy, Dambusters, Pathfinders and Sank
the Tirpitz but really not in our class.
Nil Illigitimi Carborundum
Not quite in the same league, I know - but recently I'm seeing quite a
few Apache, or similar attack helicopters.
They are just a little too high to make if they are fully armed or
I often wonder I they have me on the cross hairs of that damned
accurate & effective FLIR targeting system....
One thing is for sure, miltary aircraft - jet or prop have a sound
that's totally different to the average private & commercial stuff...
I don't know what they are, but somewhere nearby they fly (or flew - I
haven't seen any for a while) large dark grey four-engined military
transport aircraft. A few of them had a noise-suppression system such
that if they are coming towards you you can't hear them _at all_, if the
wind is in the right direction.
They also fly/flew very low, which could lead to unusual situations - on
a couple of occasions I have cycled over the top of a hill and seen a
huge grey totally silent aircraft flying (they half fill the valley)
Most weird to experience, more like a dream than reality.
[about twelve and ten years ago, near Limpley Stoke, Wilts, if any
air-bods could identify them for me]
-- Peter Fairbrother
Could very well be - Lynham is only about 15 miles away.
Does anyone know about the noise-suppression system? I was told they
were experimenting with/testing it. Whatever, it worked!
-- Peter Fairbrother
I'm nowhere near old enough to have seen those prop warbirds in
service, but my dad took me along to many an airshow in my youth.
I completely agree - even though I've only ever seen and heard it a
couple of times - nothing beats the song of the Mosquito....apart from
the Lancaster, of course.
For a more up-to-date evocative engine noise I'd go for the English
Electric Lightning....level flight halfway up the tarmac at North
Weald, then nose up 90 degrees and full throttle. Oh yeah, that's rock
Stephen Howard - Woodwind repairs & period restorations
I believe there are more airworthy ones now than when they made the
film 'The Battle of Britain'; you can just about have one made to
order if your pockets are deep enough. All big aerial donks make nice
noise, but Merlins are special, spit-mounted ones doubly so.
I served my time working on those V12 Roll's
Awesome engineering, when they went for testing they had 11 test beds
side by side, all open except the last one which was in a separate
They had to run 5 hours at flat out, no exhausts, just straight port.
Setting the mixture was a bit frightening at first for a young
apprentice, you had to lie on top of the running engine, full length,
with a 18" long screwdriver and a 3/16" and 1/4" whit ring spanner end
welded to another 18" long rod to get at the mixture screws.
As you were doing this your mate took the revs up and the idea was to
get 6" of blue flame out the ports at 2,200 rpm. That set the mixture.
You then cut a mag off whilst running flat out and it had to drop 200
revs, if it dropped more the running mag was too far retarded and less
meant it was too far advanced. So the mag had to be pulled and the
vernier coupling moved a couple of holes, then the next mag was done.
There were big thick test books hanging on nails going yellow with age
because the guys doing these knew all the wrinkles without referring to
When they had finished test and cooled down they were washed in petrol
to clean them and the rocker boxes pulled and the tappets set. Sounds a
lot of work to set 48 tappets but they used to do a set in about 10 or
15 minutes tops. No feelers, just feel the play and adjust by feel and
after a couple of engines you could get to a thou by rocking the
That trick alone won me a few bets when we had the truck garage and
were rebuilding engines every week.
IIRC the tappets on a Triumph unit 650 cc engine were set to a gap
that you could just feel it tick, on the inlet, and so that you could
just hear it tick, on the exhaust.
Always seemed funny to me that the clearances were as close as that,
on an engine that had that many gaskets stacked in between the parts of
the top end.
John, I'm afraid that you would have been "blacked" in our crew room
for giving out that information ("Sounds a lot of work to set 48
tappets but they used to do a set in about 10 or 15 minutes tops").
The production bonus time for setting them in our hangar was 180
minutes - for each bank!! So given our "relaxation" allowance a "good
days" work for each engine. The Lanc was popular.
Timing the Mags was one of the first jobs each young "sooty" was given
- those "vernier couplings" confused many. I've known the job go into
the second day if a couple of "poor sparks" were involved. Of course
I've also caught some of the "brighter" ones messing about after a few
minutes having forgotten to tell me they were finished.
As you say, awesome engineering. Shall we start the "which is best -
Packard or Rolls" discussion, always good for a few hours "technical
passion" when I was younger. If you believe the ex Navy guys I used to
work with there must be hundreds of Packard Merlins in deep water as
their standard fix for a "bad one" was "lost overboard".
Have a good day
On Thu, 5 Jun 2008 21:20:22 +0100, "Andrew Mawson"
Well, this is a temptation that's just too hard to resist. I may
get 'drummed out' of UKRME for blatant OT postings..but I'm too old to care
any more and I just *know* there's a forgiving spirit out there! Well,
it's all engineering, isn't it?
I served in the RAF in Malta some years back when the sub-aqua club
let it be known that they had found a Spitfire Mk5b in 30ft of water not
far off-shore. I was responsible for the preparations for the base's
annual Battle of Britain celebrations at the time so I persuaded the
Station Commander that it would be a good idea to recover the Spit and use
it as a decorative centre-piece. I was promptly given a couple of weeks
off regular duties and, with RN help, organized an expedition to recover
Although, in spite of extensive and systematic searches, we never
found the tail section, and the starboard wing almost came adrift during
the final lift aboard ship, this was successfully achieved. A week or so
later we displayed our trophy in the centre of our open-air ballroom,
attended by senior members of the Maltese Government, with whom, at the
time, our relations were somewhat strained. We cleaned the engine
externally, from overhead to the underside (12 o'clock to 6 o'clock) on
the starboard side only, leaving the port side 'as found'..with sand,
shells and marine encrustation. After cleaning it became clear why the
aircraft had ditched...there was a neat row of three or four machine-gun
bullet holes through the glycol coolant feeds which ran along the top of
the engine, which had seized as a result.
We later learned that the pilot, a Canadian, had been chased in a
figure of eight around the two small hills on the island of Gozo, just a
few miles from Malta, by a pair of ME 109s. This had happened in the early
morning and had been witnessed by a fisherman and his son, who had picked
up the pilot and brought him safely back to shore. We rapidly set about
trying to find both the pilot and the son with the intention of reuniting
them as guests at our B of B Ball. Finding the son was no problem on a
small island like Malta...the pilot was a different matter. After hurried
searches in RAF records in London and various appeals on radio stations and
in the Canadian press, we learned that our pilot, having survived his
ordeal with the ME 109s, had shortly afterwards returned to the UK and had
been posted to a flight testing Spits at Castle Bromwich, a major
production facility, and that he had been killed in a flying accident a
couple of weeks after getting back. Ironic!
We recovered two 20mm cannons and four wing-mounted machine guns,
all fully armed and with live rounds still in their feed panniers and the
breeches of the weapons. One of my jobs was to oversee the dumping of any
ordnance overboard into deep water during the triumphant journey back to
shore, it was the simplest and safest means of disposal. At one stage,
with everybody safely else below decks, I did 'enjoy' one distinctly
pant-wetting moment when I was actively involved with an armourer in
removing a cannon shell from the breech of a weapon still trapped in a
drooping wing. There was suddenly a loud 'bang' as the shell exploded a
foot from my ear and I unexpectedly found myself, quite instinctively, six
foot from where I last remembered, cowering behind a hatch. It wasn't an
explosion of the propellant, but exposure to the hot sun which had caused
an internal pressure change and the shell case to split, jetting scalding
hot 'chocolate sauce' propellant in a stream on to my neck! The weapons
themselves were in an astonishing state of preservation. Everything was
covered with a thin shell of iron-hard marine growth a couple of
millimetres or so thick. However, we soon discovered that if struck
carefully this could be removed and after a few days work the weapons were
restored to 'as new' condition, as though straight from the armoury shelf,
aided by the fact that they were well oiled when originally installed in
the aircraft. Although we dumped the ammunition overboard, we saved a
number of the metal belt links with an optimistic view that we might even
get to fire them again, simply as a demonstration of what was possible.
However, although we had cleaned the barrels, the armourers felt that the
weapons might be damaged by firing so this plan was, very reluctantly,
abandoned. Additionally, one of the conditions of the recovery, which had
had to be approved by the Maltese Government in whose territorial waters we
were operating, was that everything recovered should be handed over to them
after our celebrations were concluded, and there was concern that we might
be breeching this agreement if the weapons were damaged. Seven years ago,
when I last visited, 'my' Spitfire was in one of the museums at the tip of
the Valletta peninsula.
In conclusion, we also found a Junkers 87 (Stuka) dive-bomber with
the remains of the pilot still in the cockpit. However, this aircraft was
considered a war grave and left completely and respectfully undisturbed.
Perhaps most exciting of all, at the time, was the discovery of a superbly
preserved Blenheim bomber, in shallow water, and the knowledge that the RAF
Museum at Hendon was desperate for an example of this aircraft.
Unfortunately, our political relations with the Maltese Government of the
day had deteriorated in a short space of time and it seemed very unlikely
that we would be given permission to recover this aircraft also, since it
too, was just inside Maltese territorial waters. However, ...cough.....if
a ship should accidentally catch it with an anchor chain and move it a mile
or so into international waters, that would be an entirely different kettle
of Turbot..........but I was posted to Washington DC shortly afterwards so
I don't know what happened to the map I passed on to others....but I seem
to think we now have a Blenheim at Hendon but I think that it was found in
As a post-script, at the time I was dating a British schoolteacher
in Malta who took her annual holiday from work in order to be the Spitfire
expedition cook...she passed all the tests and is now my dear old darling
Chris Edwards (in deepest Dorset) "....there *must* be an easier way!"
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