Then And Now.
John Gaertner of Blue Swallow Aircraft in Virginia sent me a reminder of his trip to the farm from where I operated the 504k...
... which prompted me to go and see what was going on at the factory where we built the Avro.
The eagle-eyed will notice that some time has passed since Mr Watson and I were last photographed together - some 25 years, I think. The aircraft in the process of restoration behind us is one of two SE5a's, a static and a flying example.
I always liked the SE5; the cockpit is roomy and there's a handy shelf for sandwiches on which the instrument panel is supported. The hole in the shelf on the right is for the height gauge - in modern parlance, the altimeter.
Still hanging on the wall was one of the panels from Penrose's Mew Gull which came in for repairs after a landing accident in the 90's. I seem to recall that there wasn't much of the original record-breaking structure left by that time. It may have even been the second time we'd worked on it.
In the hangar adjoining the woodwork shop, where a year or two ago it was not unusual to find sometimes three brand-new Hurricanes in various stages of assembly, Hawker Racing is now in business.
Specialising in the repair and maintenance of Coopers and other exotic competition machinery, the workmanship is a joy to behold. Engines are rebuilt in a clean room next door to the main workshop, before running up on the in-house dyno.
Back on Earth, the new-to-me rear springs were next on the list for attention and I plumped for the cheapest and quickest (though not permanent) solution to advance the project. I decided to cold bend each of the leaves to reset the camber.
A simple setup in the vice - a couple of lengths of steel bar, a bronze bush of the sort commonly found on traction engines, and some scaffold tube did the trick.
The operation was quite hot work, signalling that there's plenty of boing left in them - for now at least. I read as much as possible on the subject of leaf spring refurbishment and selected the ideas that seemed to make sense. Some folk are happy to clean up and paint the leaves, others recommend grease on each leaf in the final assembly and still others say, buy new. I also read that old leaves are more likely to fail if they're encouraged to newly slide in a manner they're not accustomed to.
I cleaned off the rust and grime, assembled the leaves without any oil or grease and painted the exposed areas with a coat of Kurust before a quick blow over with some graphite grey paint. I also turned up a new set of bolts and bushes for the spring clamps.
With drive shafts and hubs all assembled, I can lock the diff and replace the oil seal that sits behind the propshaft hub.
Now and then I wonder how I got this far.