Engineering laid bare
The Shuttleworth Collection’s Annual Engineering Open Days at Old Warden on 28-29 December 2018 presented a rare opportunity for close public access to selected aircraft during their essential winter maintenance. The engineering workshops were packed with a fascinating cross-section of types, along with engineers, pilots and volunteers, all willing to discuss the skills required and challenges involved in keeping the collection’s historic aircraft flying.
Sopwith Pup ‘9917’/G-EBKY, fitted with inert, display-only WWI Le Prieur air-to-air rockets, new steel cylinder liners and new aluminium pistons to replace its Le Rhône 9C rotary engine’s crack-prone steel ones, was displayed outside. On the first day, once Chief Engineer JeanMichel Munn had supplied freshly cleaned spark plugs, ‘trainee’ rotary engine pilot Scott Butler started and ran the engine for three minutes before heat build up required it to be shut down.
Outside the workshop-hangar, Spitfire LF Vc AR501 had its engine cowlings and spinner removed. Just after its last flight of the season, oil had been seen dribbling from the air intake. Wear to the seals on the throttle spindle can cause this fault, which was being investigated.
The Spitfire’s stablemate, Sea Hurricane 1b Z7015, was jackmounted inside the workshop to give regular undercarriage retraction and extension demonstrations. The aircraft was also extensively de-panelled, allowing close examination of its unique tubular construction and rare Merlin III engine. At the back of the workshop, sole-surviving Parnall Elf G-AAIN’S extensive restoration was underway. The quality of the workmanship on its bare fuselage was apparent, as was the care lavished on the many painted components drying on a ‘washing line’ that ran the workshop’s length.
Keeping these historic aircraft airworthy is costly and in 2018 the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society (SVAS) launched its Mercury Engine Appeal Fund to ensure the Lysander and Gladiator’s continued operation. The SVAS has been funding the cost of Collection aero-parts but, for several years now, with insufficient income from membership fees. The difference has been subsidised with money from reserves which are being depleted and now both the Lysander and Gladiator’s Bristol Mercury engines need major overhauls. Drawing from the aero-parts budget could take the pair ‘offline’ for up to three display seasons. To avoid this, SVAS has set a £100,000 funding goal, and by the end of December the appeal was halfway there (www.svasweb.org/ keepthemflying).
Shuttleworth’s 2019 air display season begins on Sunday 5 May. See www.shuttleworth.org/events for the full calendar.
Scott Butler running up the rebuilt Le Rhône rotary engine of the Le Prieur rocket-fitted Sopwith Pup
Undercarriage retraction tests were demonstrated on Sea Hurricane Z7015, mounted on jacks and stripped of its main access panels
Skilled workmanship evident on the Parnall Elf's fuselage, laid on its side to allow the cockpit structure to be viewed
Funding is needed to overhaul the Lysander's (and Gladiator’s) Bristol Mercury engines