Sunday, 19 May 2013

The #TwitterVForce revolution

@victorXL231 first joined Twitter around three years ago. In an age where people share their every waking moment on social media we thought we better join the 21st century.

With scepticism and little idea of how Twitter worked we took the plunge and who would have guessed that we would have ended up here; with over 2300 followers, some great 'Twitter' friends which have turned into many 'real' friends and our own #TwitterVForce revolution.

Through the magic of Twitter, below are just a few of the fantastic people we've had the pleasure of "meeting" some of them in person and some of them virtually!  

@alexbirtwisle the nephew of Wing Commander Barry Neal, who played a substantive role during the Falklands Black Buck Raids and who has taxyed Lindy on many occasions. Read his story here!

@Reay75 who first met XL231 over 50 years ago whilst serving with the RAF at Wittering. We have since been able to reacquaint Ray with the aircraft he learnt his trade on. Read Ray's story here  

@JamesBlatch who's father John R Blatch was a Victor Test Pilot. James very kindly shared his father's story HERE

@FlyingPodcast who introduced me to the world of podcasts - another new experience! My first podcast!

@Scoutbloke who photographed the disbandment of the Victor Fleet at Marham.

Victor Disbandment photo by Steve Cockayne (@Scoutbloke)

The Twitter revolution continues with the formation of #TwitterVForce to promote & raise awareness of the V-Force preservation projects, of both the Avro Vulcan & Handley Page Victor.

Vulcan XH558 (@XH558)

Vulcan XM655 (@XM655)

Vulcan XL426 (@XL426) 

Victor XL231 (@VictorXL231)

iRod Holmes (@ROD558)

XM655MaPS (@XM655MaPS)

Thanks to a huge amount of effort by Rod and Dave we now have a #TwitterVForce blog and forum make sure you sign up add them to your favourites!

If you haven't already signed up to Twitter I hope this blog may have motivated you to check it out and find some of the fantastic Tweeters I haven't named in this post (you know who you are!)

And just to prove how the Twitter V-Force revolution is continuing to grow, whilst writing this piece I've been followed and tweeted by @42BTYRA who's father served as ground crew on Victors!

Monday, 13 May 2013

May 2013 Taxy Run's - Battle Group North

Battle Group North, Elvington. May 11th - 12th 2013.

At the beginning of the year we hoped to be able to raise enough money to refuel XL231 to a satisfactory level, enabling us to carry out displays and engine runs for 2013.  We were immensely pleased to be able to do this with the help and support of team members, colleagues, friends and supporters - Thank you one and all.

Battle Group North, Elvington. May 11th - 12th 2013.

Saturday 11th May was to be XL231's first 'debut' for the year. Resplendent in her new and fully authentic, early 1980's to end of service, Hemp and Light Aircraft Grey colour scheme she shone like a new pin. The crew was; Myself in the left hand seat, Flt lt Olly Suckling R/H seat,  AEO Sqn Ldr Al Stephenson and the Crew Chief, Chief Tech Grant Sparks.   Passengers for the test run were; Christine Mellor (6th seat) John Hawkridge (ever suffering electrician) in the Nav Plotter seat and Brian "tow bar" Watmough in the Nav Radar seat.  After going through the checks in the Flight Reference cards with Al Stephenson reading them out, the engines were started without any fuss. No snags were picked up and I taxyied the aircraft around the massive 52 acre concrete pan, to test out brakes and steering. Once we were satisfied that all systems were in great shape, the engines were taken up to high power in pairs to check that the engine air bleed valves closed above 90% RPM. The AEO reported all four engine alternators were on line and their loads and busbars fully synchronised. I taxyied the aircraft around the pan a few times before taxying back to the Crew Chief and see-in crew and the aircraft was shut down serviceable for the next days full runway display.
The Crew: Rachel, Ollie, VIP, Andre, Al (photo credit: Rachel Semlyn)
In addition to XL231 the Museum's extremely well maintained Nimrod MR2 XV250 was skilfully displayed by its crew on the runway.  That wasn't all for the day as Olly and I took the Museum's Buccaneer S2 Prototype XN974 for a 'spirited' display down Elvington's 2 mile runway, I have to say that I really enjoyed myself!

Battle Group North May 11th - 12th, Elvington.

For the main display on Sunday I decided to offer the Captains seat to Olly, he didn't take much persuading!  I was in the right hand seat.  We had several guests on-board for the display including; Vulcan XH558's pilot Martin Withers and Yorkshire Air Museum founding Trustee Rachel Semlyn in the Nav plotter position, the Nav Radar seat was occupied by an invited guest of the Museum.  The day wasn't the greatest, gusting winds and on and off heavy rain showers. However, the aircraft was started and checked over without any problems and Olly very confidentally taxyied her out of the pan to a tight turn through the intersection to the runway. He taxyied her completely naturally and at the Eastern end of the runway turned her fully, in one go, on the runway. The power up, high speed run up to 85 knots in a wall of spray was extremely well carried out and we kept on the centre-line for the whole run. At the Western end we turned for a brake check by the fire crew and some of our team and treated them to a high power departure with a clean pair of heels!  The taxy back in was fine and the aircraft threw no snags at us, I noted all the compass headings as being correct on all systems at shutdown, not bad for an aircraft that last had a compass swing in 1993!   The only noted snag was the Starboard landing lamp had rattled its bulb to pieces during the taxy back in!

Battle Group North May 11th - 12th, Elvington.

Battle Group North May 11th - 12th, Elvington.

All in all a first class effort by all concerned and we celebrated with a good bottle of Champers and YES, XL231 did also have a drop, Olly poured some on her Port underwing tank!

Photos courtesy of Amy Parkin - Thanks Amy :)

May Taxi Run Footage

Footage from yesterdays run, full blog piece to follow later.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Pre-taxy preparation

As XL231 has been stationary as regards moving under her own power for longer than anticipated it was decided to inspect and recify any brake defects as well as any tyres that we did not feel were safe enough to use.

In the end we changed only one wheel on the Starboard undercarriage and cleaned and inspected the braking system. With a complex multi-piston hydraulic system (same as Vulcan B2) leaks and weeps inparticular are going to happen especially, as she is not in daily use. Weeps can be lived with, leaks cannot.

The Stb'd braking system is extremely dry as regards fluid loss and did not require much apart from a good look-over. The Port side required a little more attention.

The front inner braking unit has always been a source of minor leaks from the day XL231 left the RAF. We have always cleaned and monitored it and with use it generally stops. However I noticed the fluid was showing a bit more than I would have liked and so it was decided to remove the brake unit and 'nail it' once and for all. The tube nuts which connect the supply piping are easy enough to undo and replace bonded seals on, but only when removed from the aircraft and this entailed a trip to the bench and hoping the offending tube nuts wouldn't shear off as they are only made of alloy! Luckily they didn't and I replaced one of them with an item that I had removed from XL190 in (well, more years than I care to remember)! The bonded seals were renewed and the whole assembly wire-locked back together before refitting, after John had done his spring cleaning bit!
The main reason I deferred removing the brake unit is the fact that it takes pints and pints of OM-15 hydraulic fluid to bleed the air out until the fluid runs clear. Its a messy job but must be done 100% because any air left, in particularly the maxaret 'anti-skid unit', will render the brakes likely to grab and flat-spot or blow a tyre, an expensive mistake and also likely to un-impress any airfield manager!
I have bled all of XL231's brakes previously after we replaced every hydraulic wheel cylinder seal and I enjoyed it not one bit!

Incidentally we are LOOKING for replacement mainwheel tyres, cuurently we have several spares but, there are 16 on the aircraft, it is the same wheel and tyres as a Vulcan B2, any leads or help would be appreciated.