Every now and again, my friend Roland who runs ‘Flaming Cactus‘, calls me up to knock out a dent in one of his Airstream vans. I pop round with a few tools and between us, we get things straight again.
This connection took me to Duxford on setting-up day before the weekend’s airshow. I hadn’t been to Duxford on foot, so to speak, since my father and I as prospective purchasers, had blagged our way into the front seats of a B-25 Mitchell that was up for auction. I’d taken the Avro to Duxford’s airshows in the 90’s but was always too busy to have a good look round. It’s a very impressive museum with public access to just about everything – a good move on the part of the curators.
It was nice to see so many Hurricanes. The major problem with restoration was always the lack of spar material – a complex system of formed tubes decreasing in size towards the tips of the wings; the same for the tailplane. During my time at AJD Engineering, I believe an investor was found to finance a minimum order from a potential manufacturer which equated to enough material for 40 Hurricanes. Out of that, Hawker Restorations was formed and continues to produce the type today.
Wandering around the hangars and looking into the Blenheim and Fury cockpits, the reasons for my decision not complete the revalidation of my license, became clear.
I’m at home with this vintage stuff – it’s infinitely more comprehensible to me than stacks of gizmo’s which keep your head in the cockpit instead of looking where you’re going. I know I was learning to fly for a test and being up to speed on new procedures – especially in comm’s – was essential. But it just didn’t have that allure anymore and 747 style circuits in an old aeroplane were, in my book, asking for trouble.
The Spitfire is a very comfortable aeroplane to sit in. In exchange for a trip in my Avro, I was offered a flight in one of the 2-seater Spitfires that was around at the time. I still have the letter with the offer but I never took it up – that was dopey – though I wonder if it still stands?
I’m sure I had more hair than that not so long ago.
I always dreamt that one day I would be able to afford to do a twin rating on the Dakota – now an unlikely event – but if the chance came up to get a front seat, I wouldn’t hesitate. We were treated to a wonderful display by this Dakota and 3 Beech twins. Radials are always a treat to hear start up, especially if there are lots of them all at once.
I had an excellent burrito for lunch – it was so full of goodies that I didn’t need to eat in the evening – and, as vintage aircraft buzzed about the field practising their routines in preparation for the days ahead, I headed home where, appropriately enough, I settled in for the next episode of ‘Narcos‘.