It's a fact that if you live in the vicinity of a military base, especially if you're inside a Military Air Traffic Zone (MATZ) visitors from outer space are not uncommon. Aliens will of course be interested in our defence and offence capabilities and will be always on the lookout for the latest novelty from the Skunk Works. However, their reconnaissance fly-bys don't always go according to plan and bits of spacecraft or equipment operating remotely from the mothership can turn up in the garden from time to time.
I once had the Avro's carburettor hot-air box fall into someone's vegetable patch as I departed White Waltham after a show. Chap traced the 504 back to me and obliged by popping the contraption in the post. But that, for obvious reasons, is not something I could do in these circumstances.
After a careful examination of the downed UFO, I noticed that a portion of it could be encouraged to fold outwards to reveal a sophisticated auto-levelling and flight alignment system which I could only assume must have gone wrong at some point in the mission. Even more extraordinary was that this otherworld device was annotated in Roman script announcing it to be a "Kismet". It then dawned on me that I was looking at something that aliens had obviously abducted way back in 1943 or thereabouts, and then (just like the chap near White Waltham) kindly dropped it back following their poking's and probing's.
It didn't take me too long to work out how the instrument could be used - but I was still slightly suspicious because on the engraved face I noticed that the word 'caster' is spelt also as 'castor'. This is the sort of mistake - being unfamiliar with 17thC English and the Greek - that an alien would make. I shall be keeping a close eye on the "Kismet" for signs of unusual behaviour.
I mentioned a week or two ago that The Great Collector's new Sunbeam wasn't running very well. We traced this to the tappet clearances having been set wrongly - .003" instead of the book value, .015". Unsurprisingly, it was difficult to get it to run at all. With the tappets reset it started immediately, but still wasn't right and all symptoms pointed towards the carb. The Claudel-Hobson is a complex piece of kit. The throttle is a rotating barrel instead of a butterfly and there's a 3-in-one jet which must not be interfered with. An extra 'power' jet adjacent to the main jet and drawing fuel directly from the float bowl under acceleration and high-speed motoring, is an unusual feature. Fortunately, another Sunbeam Tourer of the same vintage and just down the road, was undergoing some fettling and the carb was available for comparison. In particular I wanted to take note of the slow-running and balance air screw settings as these are on the block side of the carb and very awkward to get at in situ.
What was also immediately obvious was the lack of end cap on the throttle barrel shaft bore which would unhelpfully draw in air. I turned up a period looking bronze cap and soldered it in place. The centre body gasket was also damaged and needed renewing. The choke cable had been fashioned from a guitar string. It now has a new galvanised cable and ferrule.
The Other Wright Brother was busy over the Christmas period working his way through his collection of model aeroplane kits - he has 42 to go (if you think that's mad, I know someone with over 90). This old Guillows Boeing Stearman kit is being converted to electric power with 3-channel radio (just visible in the cockpit).
My annual Christmas treat is to bring home one of Big Sister's Christmas cakes. First baked in October and then fed every couple of weeks with the finest cognacs and liqueurs, it's quite literally a heady mix. The problem is that over the years word has got around and from now until at least March, I can expect visitors.