Chaos is the usual outcome of a flurry of snow in the UK and last Sunday’s wintery blast didn’t disappoint. I was rostered for a trip to Finland, with a short stop in Oslo before continuing to Helsinki. A taxi came for me at 7:00 to catch the 11:35 from Gatwick; under normal circs, bags of time.

At Stansted we found that the M11 had been closed – a lorry fire apparently, so we broke off east to catch the A12 at Chelmsford and then continue south for the M25. 4″ of snow had by now accumulated on the already frozen overnight rain and, at one roundabout, we went off down a slip road we weren’t even pointing at! Well, if we were all over the road, the chances of the rest of our day going smoothly were not good. Sure enough, we were soon watching the snow creep up the side windows as we sat for an hour or two on the A12. Some strangely parked lorries a few miles ahead and through which we eventually had to weave, was the only sign of incident. Once over the Dartford Crossing – clear as a bell; you wouldn’t have known it had been snowing at all. I got to Gatwick at lunchtime and checked in to a hotel to catch the next day’s flight.

Still, I got a ring-side seat at Sofitel and, now acquainted with the management of the 737, was able to get a picture in my mind of the landing attitude (it’s all about attitude) – I didn’t touch-down at Heathrow and Luton because (taking my eye off the Flight Director) I’d started the round-out too early. Too high and too fast, I’d just kept on flying and over-shot).

By the time we got to Oslo – another delay made us 45 minutes late – I’d missed my connecting flight and had a further four hour wait for the last flight of the day to Helsinki. At the appointed time, I sauntered off to Gate E11 and somehow contrived to go through Gate F14, which, I discovered, was a sort of no-man’s land; nobody was about, all the doors were locked and I couldn’t get back as everything had closed behind me. I found a button labelled ‘Poliisi’. That got some attention and I was quickly surrounded. After a kit inspection and a little chat – I was clearly just a simple soul, blundering about in a fog – they escorted me back to Norwegian territory; I’d no idea where I’d been but there was a lot of sucking of teeth and talk about the Schengen Area. Anyway, it turned out that the girl at passport control should have asked me where I was travelling to and re-directed me, but my remarking on the delicious looking contents of her packed lunch had distracted her. I only just got to the aeroplane (Go to Security. Go directly to Security. Do not pass comment on anyone’s lunch) and arrived at the hotel in Pikkala at 1:00am.

Then up again at 5.00am and to work, where the outlook from the tent was bleak to say the least…

Photo: Sue Saunders

…. and in sharp contrast to mesdames adventures in Sri Lanka, I notice.


504 To 737.

.. is quite a big jump. But it was great fun!

In the olden days, it was always the idea that if I’d got oil pressure, I’d got an engine and, if I’d got airspeed, I’d got an aeroplane. Then things got a bit more sophisticated (though the same rules applied) with a few more instruments to tell me where I was and how things were going, generally.

I’ve always had trouble with artificial horizons. The black lines that stay still are the aeroplane; the coloured bit that doesn’t stay still is the bit outside the window. There’s something in my brain that doesn’t register this properly (a bit like my ruler problem) and I really had to concentrate to get it right on the 737. A glass cockpit seemed to make things a bit easier, especially after I’d adjusted the seat so I could see the Flight Director without the column blocking the view.

My route was Gatwick to Stansted, with a touch-and-go at Heathrow and Luton respectively. After a bit of a wobbly start down the runway (the rudder’s quite a long way back and by the time you think it’s not working and push a bit harder, it suddenly bites) we got off and did a few orbits at 5000ft just to get a hang of the general handling. Following the Flight Director down to Heathrow’s runway, I got within 40ft of touchdown, looked up and instinctively started to fly it like a light aircraft – mistake. We floated down the runway and I had to throw it away, open the taps and head for Luton where – I did the same trick again though this time, I got down to about 20ft before running out of tarmac and binning it. We were getting light on fuel by the time Stansted was on the nose so I nailed the dot to the cross hairs, picked up the ILS and didn’t look up until we’d crossed the threshold. It didn’t get us down on the numbers, but I turned off at the last exit without scrubbing the tyres. Not bad for a teenager!

I collected the jury-rig bits for the disc assembly and had a few hours working out fits and clearances and then getting to grips with how to mount the caliper.

I’d thought initially that I’d use the bolts on the hub carrier to attach a plate with a block drilled for the radial mount caliper but, I’m not confident of its rigidity. It wasn’t a giant leap to realise that, utilising the hub as a base and bolting to it a block, machined to take the caliper, would make a better job of it.

I’m trying to avoid any alteration to the existing casting – other than drilling a couple of holes in it. In order to get things to fit and make sure that the edge of the disc is in line with the edge of the disc pads, I’ll have to add a bit to the disc diameter – 280 to 300mm.



Smukt Og Tort.

Well, this barometer set into an outside wall in Skudeneshavn had a bit of catching up to do; it was definitely fine and dry (and what a difference that made!). I noticed two things. Firstly, although the instrument was made in Stavanger, Norway, the language is a mix of Norwegian and Danish. Secondly, there’s a curious inverted circumflex on the ‘o’ of Tort which I couldn’t find any reference to and made me a bit unsure of my translation. It could be a stylised tilde or a local variation on the umlaut. In Danish, diacritic marks can alter completely the meaning of a sentence: jeg stód op (‘I was standing’), jeg stod óp (‘I got out of bed’). Tricky.

Winter is the time to come to this little port on the southernmost tip of Karmøy because there’s no one about and photographs are happily devoid of distraction.

Skudeneshavn has a strange feel to it; 225 wooden houses and a population of just over 3000. If there was a Norwegian version of ‘The Prisoner’, this is where it would be set. The Skudefestivalen – a gathering of around 600 boats, especially vintage types, is an annual event, as is the Skudeneshavn International Literature and Culture Festival. Unfortunately, I missed that by only 2 weeks.

Back in Haugesund, I paid a visit to the Billedgalleri.

It was quite small, unpretentious (the one Munch print was not given special wall space but displayed in amongst other less well-known artists’ work) and represented artists from only Norway. An exhibition of Norwegian paintings and prints dating from the early 1800’s to the present day made up the gallery’s permanent collection.

Naturally, seascapes figured prominently, and interiors were also strongly represented.

This austere group was painted in 1904 by Ola Frøvig; 1 year after the Wright Brother’s first flight. It hardly seems possible that these two events belong to the same century, never mind decade!

Much cosier was ‘Red Interior’ by Fredrik Kolstø, painted around 1912. There was also an exhibition of contemporary local artists’ work, most notable of which were the woodcuts carved straight into the floor of the lower gallery…

… and from which prints were subsequently taken.

Thomas Kilpper was the man responsible for this novel idea.

As the moon rose over Vestre Bokn on the last day of November, I watched the Havila Phoenix sail up the Karmsundet; that was my cue to pack up the kit and make my way home.

An early flight the following morning from Haugesund to Oslo in a Scandinavian Airlines Bombardier CRJ 900 was a real treat. Not only did I have 2 seats to myself, but the weather was perfect and we flew along just underneath the inversion – the greyish  line in the picture above – which gave us a really clear view of the landscape.

And, back in the workshop the following morning, I made good progress with the mock-up of the Hillman disc brake arrangement. What I propose to do next is to get the laser cutting people to make up a dummy disc, a hub plate (the green bit) and a number of rings 10mm wide and in various thicknesses so I can build up an accurate pattern using the rings as shims. I’ll also get them to cut a couple of the caliper mounting brackets in 1.5mm mild steel so I can bend them to shape and fabricate the pattern for the final dimensions.

There’s no stopping me (so to speak).





A Fine View.

As I’d hoped, I had a couple of hours free every day between visits to the two cable connection sites. Sometimes I took the scenic route back to the hotel to get a feel for the landscape. As you leapfrog from island to island, each one seems to have its own character.

One minute you could be up in the Pyrenees, the next on Dartmoor, and then on the Isle of Wight; it’s ever-changing.

There was something of the mythological about parts of the landscape – quite eerie in places.

This apple tree (the clue was windfalls) sported both foliose and fruiticose lichens. I learn also that lichens in general are excellent indicators of air quality. As they’re rootless, they draw all their nutrients from the air around them; if it’s polluted, they die or don’t grow in the first place.

So I took a few deep breaths next to this rock and felt a whole lot better for it. There are surprises around every corner.

I took a wrong turn – always fun – that turned out to be a 10km cul-de-sac, almost at the end of which was this little hamlet.

One of the hazards of going to work along these roads is meeting lorries – not just ordinary lorries, articulated ones as well. There are few passing places and going off the road will get you well and truly stuck in the oggin or in a ditch. Looking as far ahead as you can is your best insurance.

There are bonuses though. The landscape is truly remarkable…

… and never ceases to amaze and delight at every turn. Haugesund itself is full of charm, especially down on the waterfront where old and new wooden residences and boathouses line the dockside.

It has a lively arts culture….

… and, something the Norwegians are necessarily very good at, a fine bridge spanning the Smedasundet.

As I was on my way to the art gallery, I thought I’d do a bit of an arty shot, just to get in the mood. Nestling in the shadow of the bridge, I found what I was looking for; the statue of Marilyn Monroe, by Nils Aas.

The sun was in completely the wrong place to get the right picture and I found this side of the work slightly troublesome because of the shoe on the plinth. Once I realised that the shoe was just cast aside, it worked, but it tripped me up initially.

And on further examination, there was evidence that some wag had been at work.

My hotel is about 100m from the Karmsundet water’s edge. I’m on the fifth floor but, during the night I’m sometimes woken up by a very gentle but deep pulsing sound. If I look out, it’s a ship passing by….

… like the Havila Phoenix – the one I’m working with; she slipped past my hotel window a couple of days ago on her way to the cable site. She looked ‘in fine trum’ as Para Handy would say.


There I Was…

… upside down, nothing on the clock…. well, not exactly. A trundle round the houses in a Cessna 152, demonstrated to me and my instructor that I still knew which way was up. My only ‘moment’ was when, as the main wheels (defying all probability) ‘kissed’ the grass on landing, I instinctively pulled the column back that extra inch to keep the tailwheel on the ground. It must be 25 years since I last flew a nose-wheel aircraft so I think I’m excused.

The Mazda-engined racing car project is underway; the MX-5 has been stripped and the Locost chassis has appeared. It’ll need a couple of tweaks to the front end before we can shoe-horn the engine in but everything else will remain the same. As far as the body goes, I’ll have to pay another visit to the fibre-glass guys as I’ve forgotten most of what they told me.

I’ve made a bit of progress with the idea for a disc brake conversion for the Hillman. Learned Counsel pointed me towards Wilwood four piston calipers as a starting point and I roughed out a dummy disc to see if there was room for everything. It’s tight, but achievable (the red pot and the washers are to support the caliper to check I’ve enough clearance). There’s a brass grease cap on the bottom kingpin bracket that may need some redesign to give me a little bit of extra leeway with the disc mounting bell. I’ve either got to weld the disc and the bell together or bolt them. If I weld, they’d have to be machined true afterwards. Bolting would save a lot of trouble but, if the assembly wasn’t true then I’d have to machine anyway. The jury’s out on that at the moment.

At least I’ll have time to think about it all as I’ve been sent back to Norway, though to a different place.

Haugesund is on the West side of Norway. Its City Hall features in the Norwegian edition of Monopoly and a statue of Marilyn Monroe stands in the harbour (according to her birth certificate, her father came from a nearby village). There are other attractions – an art gallery for instance – which I’ll try to squeeze in between visits to the electronic gear I’m looking after. A power cable runs under the sea between two of the many local islands and, as the cable-laying ship buries it all in a trench on the seabed, its integrity has to be monitored. Part of my journey to and fro, involves a very steep descent into the Karmøy tunnel; over 5 miles long and nearly 500ft deep. This takes me under the island of Fosen and, in the middle of it all, there’s a roundabout bringing in traffic from a different direction. It’s an extraordinary feat of engineering.

Working here in the summer – around August, September time – must be glorious, though at this time of year it’s a different story. It looks tranquil enough but, I was there on this spot when the hail came down. I usually curse my hard hat; not this time.



Purely Academic Of Course…

… just something to keep the old synapses snapping away. I thought I’d investigate the possibility of converting the Hillman’s front drum brakes to discs – that should help. The brakes as they stand, with a bit of hydraulic assistance to the old pushrod system, are quite good – almost as good as my first car’s brakes (a 1962 Mini) but it would be nice to have a bit of extra stopping power for the inevitable emergency.

I popped along to The Great Collector’s spares department and hauled out a front hub, drum and backplate to test out a few ideas on the bench. Measuring up took an age – as you can imagine – but at last I got some idea of how much room I had to play with; not much. The disc part of the brake I’m not really concerned about because I can always fabricate that to suit the position of the caliper. It was the mounting of the caliper and getting one as slim as possible that would stop a vehicle that, fully loaded, weighed in at 1100kg and could be discreetly tucked away and covered up with a racy, ribbed aluminium faux brake drum (I would put them on all four wheels in the interests of balance – both aesthetically and to preserve the corner weights as much as possible).

I know my sketch isn’t terribly clear and I certainly wouldn’t scale from the drawing, but this is where I got to at close of play. I’ve drawn the caliper mounted horizontally on top of the disc – it would be on one of the sides – but that’s so I can see what’s meant to be going on. The radial mount caliper I’ve selected is one of the Wilwood range; their website has a convenient set of dimensional drawings to study, but I think I’ll run this by Learned Counsel before I get too far down the road – he’s bound to set me straight.

Talking of whom; he slipped off with Counsel early one morning and bought this Healey 100/6. I haven’t seen it in the flesh as yet, though by all accounts, it’s a jolly nice one.

That explained why he roped me in the other day to get his Austin 10 going; he must be making room for his new toy.

Many years ago I got the urge to do have a go at carving. I managed to get hold of a very nice piece of lime and set to work. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise and the result has been sitting on a bookcase looking at me for the last 20 years. I glanced at it the other day and was reminded that my PPL hadn’t got long to go before it would be at the point of no return and I’d have to take all the exams if I ever wanted to go flying again. The thought was also prompted by a visit from an old flying chum who was putting his Pitts Special back together.

The local flying club’s only over the hedge from me, so I popped in on the way back from town; just to get the lay of the land you’ll understand, purely research of course….





My Butter…

… has become more difficult to spread so winter is fast approaching. A couple of domestic jobs turned into the usual nightmare. Changing the kitchen mixer tap took 5 hours; I had to make up a special tool to get at the brass assembly retaining nut carefully located in the least accessible position and of course to get at that, I had to disturb all the plastic under-sink pipework which, now brittle with age, leaked on reassembly – another trip into town to get a twin-sink manifold kit.

Which, due to a manufacturing error, also leaked. I hate plumbing….

…except this sort. I spent a peaceful Saturday morning welding up a stainless steel manifold for a pig feed unit.

An excellent piece of Hake with steamed cabbage and boiled new potatoes at Andrew Edmunds in Soho to celebrate a family gathering was a welcome indulgence after my exertions in Norway and then it was back to the grindstone.

The engine and gearbox from this MX-5 is destined for a racing car project based around a Locost chassis – the project being instigated by Learned Counsel and The Racing Driver. I’ve done a preliminary sketch for a proposed body..

.. the bulge in the nose is to accommodate the MX-5 camshaft covers. I think it’s going to fall to me to make up the prototype, so I’ll be learning about fibreglass; something I’ve only messed about with in a very small way for alterations to my old Jodel cowling.

We had fun finding the ECU and then stripping out and removing as much of the wiring loom as we could whilst still being able to start the engine. In comparison with my Mercedes, where everything you touch (electrically) appears to be connected to everything else and will stop the engine if you so much as think about interfering with it, the MX-5 is a joy to work with. The saga of my Merc has (hopefully) concluded. I got a secondhand engine wiring loom from Poland and took it along to Ed who, coincidentally looks after a racing MX-5, and asked him to fit the loom and give the Merc the once over as it hadn’t shown any sign of wanting to start since July. On the phone, a couple of hours later, Ed mentioned that ECU testing firms were not necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. The loom hadn’t made any difference but, in taking the ECU apart, Ed had discovered some very corroded connections which he’d cleaned up and re-soldered. The engine then started and ran perfectly.

The throttle body motor was probably also faulty, so I got a complete assembly from eBay and fitted it the following evening. Result? The engine ran for about 2 seconds, died and I was back to square one!! I don’t know what he did but Ed soon had it going again. I’m hoping that the Merc is going to be back on song because the Peugeot 407 I bought in the interim is driving me nuts. I use cruise control all the time and the Peugeot system is not intuitive, neither are the rest of the ancillary controls, so I’m looking forward returning to the simplicity of the Merc.

Because I’ve been away so much, I’ve not been able to keep an eye on The Great Collector’s activities. A dawn raid on Sunday morning caught him at breakfast where he confessed to having tripped over a very nice 2.5 litre Riley RMB – irresistible, he explained, with a look as though butter wouldn’t melt….