Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rocket Assisted Take-off

Victor spectre rocket assisted take-off test flight

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

'Never Again' Victory!

So, many weeks, copious amounts of sanding paper, litres of paint and untold amounts of elbow grease later, I am pleased to announce Lusty Lindy is better than new in her new hemp coat.

XL231 'better than new!'
There have been a few casualties along the way - I've lost count of the number of sanders that have 'bit the dust' - they really were tested to destruction!

To celebrate the end of 'Never Again' my trusty boots have gone out with a bang, they have been with me every step of the way but the end is nigh! Christine put her pyro qualifications into action and the team gathered to see the boots off in style - the result was pretty impressive!

The end is nigh!

The left boot!

The right boot!

So what are we going to do with all our free time now??????? Well the on going maintenance continues and we will keep you posted but in the meantime I'm looking forward to not obsessing about the weather and not having to see another sander for a long time!

Look out for our next blog post which will be a re-paint in detail special but first a hot bath beckons!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

'Never Again' part 7

So with the sanding finished - I'm sure you heard the cheers wherever you are - painting and fine detail are the priorities.

We are racing against time and weather but I am please to announce the end is in sight, 1 more good day should see all the hemp and detailing finished - hurrah!

Focus turned to the nose - a real visual impact I hope you will agree. After painting the refueling probe last weekend we had to leave the red blank off to allow the paint time to go off, I returned the following day to carry on with the repaint to find that a 'Vulture' had decided to make the most of the 'unarmed' probe and %$£@ down the front of Lindy's nose - not amused! So after re-defending and cleaning the old gal up work could commence once more

Work continues............

What an improvement!
 With the starboard side of the nose finished, I turned the rollers to the port side -  XL231 really is looking better than ever even if she was without her name sake 'Lusty Lindy'.

XL231 without 'Lusty Lindy' nose art

It really is strange seeing her without her famous nose art, having carried it for almost 20 years it really is an important part of her history

But dont worry she had her identity back shortly......... To preserve her iconic nose art Ian had spent a long time masking 'Lusty Lindy' up. This enable us to get a really good finish on the hemp but preserve the original nose art.
XL231 'Lusty Lindy' masked up ready for painting
XL231 'Naked'!

'Lusty Lindy' 'Unveiled' following the repaint

I hope you will all agree that 'Lusty Lindy' really is looking her best and despite me saying 'Never Again......' after the last repaint the hard work really has been worth it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Movember the month formally known as November, will see the Victor Team do their best impressions of Freddie Mercury, Charlie Chaplin and Tom Selleck by 'attempting' to grow beards and moustaches for charity!

We have chosen to support Macmillan Cancer Support due to the ongoing personal circumstances of a member of the team.

The Team: Andre, Ian, Graham, Rich, Ollie and Brian

Why sponsor the Team? One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer, and it's the toughest thing most of us will ever face. Macmillan are the nurses and therapists helping you through treatment. The experts on the end of the phone. The advisers telling you which benefits you're entitled to. The volunteers giving you a hand with the everyday things. The campaigners pushing for better cancer care. The community supporting you, any time. The fundraisers who make it all possible......
All monies raised will be split equally between Macmillan Cancer Support and XL231 for her winter maintenance.
Please support the team and donate now.

We will be adding photos to the blog and twitter to show how the teams efforts progress and will add a graph showing how much has been raised.
Please drop us a line if you would like to join the teams fundraising activities.

Meet the Team!

This is where you will usually find Brian - at the controls of the tug! After serving his time on Vulcan's in the RAF he really is V-Force all the way through. On leaving the RAF Brian rebelled and banished the razor to the back of the cupboard. But 40 years on and a hectic summer of sanding Brian has stepped up to the mark and shaved his beard off - much to the annoyance of his wife!
Brian with beard!

We think Brian looks 10 years younger but Brian is more concerned about his chin getting cold! My 'designer' stubble is coming on and Brian is trying to convience me that a beard isn't just for Movember!
1 week in - Brian clean shaven for 1st time in 40 years!

Rich is going for his 3rd stripe!

Ian trying to give me a run for money on designer stubble!
So one week in and progress is going well. Fundraising has topped £200 but we are not stopping yet please support the team and the great charity Macmillan Cancer Support and make a donation using the link at the top of the page.
Almost 3 weeks down and we are starting to look a motley bunch!
Rich, Ian, Andre and Graham
Fundraising is going well but every penny counts so please donate anything you can spare. We must add that Flt Lt Suckling has failed on his bid for Movember, so will be paying the fine!
Thank you 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

"Never Again" part 6

Winter has decided that it is going to arrive early this year; snow in October, dark nights and generally cold, wet misserable weather are some of the things that we are now having to contend with on the final stretch of the repaint.

With both wings and the tail finished progress turned to the fuselage but when the temperature doesn't rise enough to dry up the condensation on the airframe until 11am and its starting to go dark just after 5pm we are having to squeeze a lot of work into a short time.

I am now VERY pleased to announce that we have now completed all the sanding!
Lots of dust!
I really cannot underestimate the amount of sandng that is required in order to get a good quality finish and ensure future preservation. But with lots of sanding comes lots of dust....... we use a number of different methods to remove the dust; dustpan and brush, vacuum and jet wash.

Note the team hiding from the rain
as I wash the old gal!
Along with the jet wash the bad weather has given us a helping hand on occassion, to wash the dust away but in hind sight we probably did choose the worst summer in history to repaint a V-Vomber! 

But with the end in sight the hard work really has been worth it - XL231 'Lusty Lindy' is starting to look better than ever - I hope you all agree.
Port air brake painted

RAT Scoops painted

Adding the finishing touches
XL231 back to former glory

Fitting a repair patch
During the repaint we took the opportunity to fit a repair patch to the starboard trim tab. Pete did a fantastic job making and fitting the patch, with over 50 rivets it kept him out of mischief for a while. Once painted it looked like the patch had been there since her RAF days.

XL231 fuselage painted - just the nose left
So with the fuselage finished we are just left with the nose and 'Lusty Lindy' to paint. With the huge radome sanded and filled, the glazing frames preped and Lusty Lindy traced it is all hands on deck to get the paint on before the weather gets too cold. Whilst the temperature is still around 10 degrees we have a chance but if it drops unfortunately we will have to call it a day for 2012.  

Hopefully the next time you see 'Lusty Lindy' she will be in all her glory

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cockpit Tour

Last weekend we were delighted to receive a visit by Tony Elms. Tony is an incredible 3D Artist with a passion for aviation - see his amazing work HERE

During his visit Tony produced a 360 degree view of XL231's cockpit - CLICK on the photo below to 'visit' 'Lusty Lindy's' cockpit.

We would like to thank Tony for has amazing work and support of XL231

Monday, 8 October 2012

"Never Again" part 5

Starboard wing progressing well
The end is in sight!
After a lot of hard work the starboard wing is now finished - 'hurrah' I'm sure half of Yorkshire heard the cheer as the last roller of paint was applied! 

XL231's repainted starboard wing
I am also proud to announce that the tail is also finished. It now feels like we are on the home stretch with 'just' the fuselage and finishing touches to apply.
But with approximately another 50 litres of hemp paint to apply and a fuselage 115ft long the repaint isn't over just yet!

Rich starting the fuselage sanding
Over the past few weeks and months we have received a lot of very positive feedback which has really kept us going. We have also received a number of visitors and it is their reaction to seeing and visiting XL231 that really makes everything we do worthwhile.

Sanding continues for Graham
Two such visitors have been ex-Victor B2 armourer Mike Prime, with his dulcet south Yorkshire accent and amusing anecdotes his visits always bring a smile. Ex-Victor Crew Chief Bob Pope made his first visit to see XL231, since she came out of service, only last week. Bob Pope has the title of being the LAST RAF Victor crew chief. This was the first time Bob has been with a Victor since his time in service and it certainly brought a lump to his throat after sitting in 'his' seat once again. Bob spent many happy hours on XL231 and we hope he will be a regular visitor.
With colder weather and darker evenings drawing in we will be focusing our time sanding and getting it fully preped just leaving the hemp paint to apply. There will still be plenty of finishing touches to do; roundels, serial numbers, petrol pumps etc and of course the famous lady herself 'Lusty Lindy', so keep your fingers crossed that Autumn will be kind to us.
Wings & tail complete just the fuselage to paint!


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

'Tree Top Flying' Original News Reel Footage

Original news reel footage of Victors flying at 'Tree Top' levels and the Blue Steel Missile

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Test Pilot - John R Blatch

I recently exchanged a few tweets with Andre about the sale of XL164 at Gatwick. My father, John R Blatch, flew the jet in the 1960s and Andre asked me to write a brief blog about his time.

Flying Officer John R Blatch in front of his
Vampire Mk 9 (WR244) at RAF Deversoir circa 1953
Typically I suppose, I was rather dismissive of my father’s career when I was younger. Now, as an adult with my own children I look with some wonderment at his flying log books. After starting out as an apprentice mechanic, he became an RAF fighter pilot and went on to spend most of the 1960s flying pretty much everything the UK had as a trials pilot at Boscombe Down.

His log books would make most modern day RAF pilots misty eyed. I counted 8 different aircraft in ten trips in June 1959 alone. Types flown include 748, Anson, Argosy, B-47, Canberra, Devon, Dragonfly, Gannet, Gnat, Hastings, Hunter, Javelin, Fairey Junior, Lightning, Lincoln, Meteor, Tipsy Nipper, Oxford, Pembroke, Seahawk, Shackleton, Swift, Sycamore, Twin Pioneer, Valetta, Vampire, Venom, and of course the mighty v-force: Valiant Victor, Vulcan. That, believe it or not, is not a comprehensive list!

Two of his ‘V-Bombers’ Victor XA918 & Vulcan XM648
 from Boscombe Down circa 1965
Of the V-Bombers, he flew the Victor the least, but took up 10 different airframes, of which XH673 survives as a gate guard at Marham and the aforementioned nose section of XL164 is up for sale…

Victor XL164, Farnborough 1960s

His Victor trips include log book comments such as ‘Auto Pilot Stability’, ‘Handling – 180,000 lbs’ and ‘Window Drop’.

Vulcan XH534 at Farnborough 1960
I continue to trace the aircraft he flew, I have a pretty comprehensive list that shows most ended at the scrap yard, some were lost in accidents but a surprising number remain in tact, with one Harvard KF183, still in service I believe.

A more varied flying career it would be hard to find. Dad is still going strong by the way, now 81.

James Blatch

Monday, 17 September 2012

Major Fairy Tales from the land of Dragons!

It’s October 1982, the Falklands Conflict has come and gone and a new fresh faced J/T arrives from his fitters course. St Athan, near Rhoose Airport (as then) South Wales was like Marmite to RAF Technicians, it was either you loved it or you didn’t. Other words do come to mind I recall hearing from others but I loved it. This was a choice to return to Saints as I came from Devon, was currently seeing a girl in Devon so was easy to get home for weekends, hours of work were regular, even flexible, you got pestered by an odd exercise and Mineval/Taceval, but I was happy, Saints was a chosen posting since I was there before as a mechanic and knew the score.

No3 Sqn Vulcan Majors Patch

To others, Saints wasn’t their idea of fun, many a time new “fellows” would come to say they wouldn’t be there long, it wasn’t the real RAF and they would escape!
3 Sqn RAF St Athen patch

As a mechanic I was on No3 Engineering Sqn Vulcan Majors. I spent a happy time there, good mates; wonder where they all are now. 
No 3 Engineering Sqn Vulcan Majors

No2 Sqn
Victor Majors Patch
I gained experience and was selected for and completed my fitters course, returning to unit and be posted to, what, no Tin Triangles?.... but No2 Engineering Sqn Victor majors. No difference you may say, but yes, Vulcans were maintained by an all RAF techie force, Victors were maintained by half RAF, half civilian. This meant my boss was a TTO III, a Welshman to boot!

So, the Victor Major service, the details, I can’t recall how long we had them for, (two at a time I do remember) 3 month turnaround comes to mind. Jobs to do, strip out LRU’s for bay servicing, system inspection, rectification and modification. Ah the mods, we had good ones to do, (translates to awkward), SRIM 3992 the removal of defunct “Blue Saga” and fitting RWR and PWR, sounds simple.

No2 Engineering Sqn Victor Majors
The wiring went from the nose to the tale, the top of the tail, we all know the “pointed bits on the tail”. So remove all the trunking along the route, days tasks in itself, sort the cabling, loom it in; without twists. Oh what fun, lying behind the Nav’s desk laying cable in the summer, all day, hey I was slim then! The mods involved all the trades, leckies for the power supplies, riggers for the airframe mods to accommodate our kit, so all in all a team job. It was always a sense of job well done when it all worked, oh apart from a leckie who set off the fire bottles with a Megger as he was testing the fire wire, but that’s another story, I can still see the image in my mind of the jet emerging from the haze of the extinguishant and a red faced leckie...oooopps.

Some jobs on the SRIM were good some were bad, I always enjoyed putting the looms into the rear freight bay as it allowed me to make a tidy job with lacing cord! I have satisfied my OCD in 231’s cabin even now on one of the main visible looms in the roof and over the door! Even now I’d say I could spot “one of mine”. To a point when I started helping out on XL231 I looked in the back of the freight bay to see; I found the looms, but I already knew 231 hadn’t come through Saints in my time on 2Sqn, it came just after I went, (to No4 Engineering Sqn Phantoms in 1985 as a docs controller with Cpl tapes!) There were Tywraps used to attach the looms, ohh a gash attempt it was too! Some months later, back in the freight bay I was fitting the RWR Receiver and PSU we had obtained, cutting off the protective bags around the plugs and sockets I found some masking tape around the cables. We used to identify the cables with written masking tape as connectors were only on one end and we had to attach the other end on. Removing and unwrapping the tape i see the writing, shock of shocks it was mine! We would have numerous mod kits and prep several at once so it must have been one I had prepared and done before moving to Tooms! (4 Engineering Sqn Phantoms)

My time on Victor Majors was enjoyable, the mix of RAF and civvie worked well mostly, England and Wales Rugby match weekends increased the banter somewhat. I bumped into one of the boys some years later at Lyneham, he had gone from being a Radar J/T to being Capt on Fat Alberts,(Hercules) he did well!

So now comes the question I guess, which was best, my Vulcan time or the Victor ones? Having worked on both and frequently hearing comments that the Vulcan was better. I am firmly going to sit on the fence, on paper the Victor does perform certain tasks better, but I still look at the Vulcan in the sky today fondly, and my times and experiences were equally memorable.

Rick Gill