Tuesday, 26 November 2013

20th Anniversary Taxy run

The 25th November 2013 was totally different day to the 25th November 1993. The weather was 'balmy' and almost spring-like and we didn't mind one bit!

Press and TV presence was plentiful and myself, Ollie Suckling, Al Stephenson and Brian Watmough all spoke to the camera.

ITV News Footage

Modern technology ensured the aircraft was getting the coverage she deserved in the fact that Lionel from Driver Skills.com on the airfield was able to employ his state of the art suction cameras all over the aeroplane. In addition to this he utilised his flying 'eye in the sky' camera platform. Any aerial footage on the day was thanks to Lionel. In addition to Lionel's cameras the TV companies installed their own and extra cameras were supplied by Ollie Suckling.

The first aircraft to run was the Nimrod and her crew put on an impressive display. We crewed into the Victor at 13.00 hrs and started engines at 13.25

Ollie slow taxied two circuits of the former V Bomber QRA pan at the end of the runway before a short blast of power and a gentle taxy down to the end of the runway for the main display.

The brake check crew comprising of Andy, Rick and Kayleigh gave the thumbs up for 'GO' after a quick once over and we then waited with engines idling for the correct time of 14.16 when she actually touched down. In fact we had been early so, we had over 10 minutes to wait.

At 14.15 and 30secs Ollie wound the engines up to 88% for a brake slip check and she stuck like glue to the spot with the weight of thrust burying her nose downhill. Satisfied that the brakes were good he then put the power on and up to 103% Combat Setting. The nose lifted and she accelerated like a rocket up to 110knots with myself calling out the speeds. Ollie then cut power and streamed the tail braking parachute. There were no crosswind problems and all was good. At first Ollie thought it was a 'no stream' as the pull was gentle at first but the pictures prove otherwise!

We carried the chute the full length of the runway with the inboard engines keeping the chute inflated and just before turning into the V Bomber QRA for shutdown the chute was jettisoned. I'm pleased to say it detached cleanly and dropped flat without apparently tangling the rigging lines and we turned in for shutdown checks and final closedown.

During the run the aircraft displayed no snags, all 4 engine alternators were on line and producing enough power for a small town and all other systems were normal. 20 years ago the Senior Engineering Office of 55Sqn, Sqn Ldr Sargeant suggested XL231 as a good bet for purchasing as she was one of the more reliable squadron jets. I'm glad we took his advice!

Once the shutdown was out of the way it was time to meet the press and TV, then Lindy herself had a good drink of champagne and we congratulate ourselves on a successful day.

It has been a privilege to operate and care for such a rare and charismatic aircraft, I hope we can keep going a good while yet!
The crew for this historic day were;
Captain, Flt Lt Ollie Suckling.
Co, Andre Tempest
AEO, Sqn Ldr Alan Stephenson
6th seat, Sqn Ldr Martin Withers DFC
Nav plotter, Mrs Christine Watmough on her Birthday!
Nav Radar, Sqn Ldr Mick Beer (standby AEO)
Crew Chief, Grant Sparks

Victor XL231 photo 'Nightshoot'

As part of the 20th anniversary of XL231 retiring from the RAF and 'retiring' to Elvington it was decided to take the opportunity of the crisp and clear weather to carry out a private nightshoot of the aircraft.

Myself, Olly Suckling and Gary Hancock donned suitable attire for the evening and posed as the 'models' for this significant event.

The private photoshoot was covered by Ian Finch, Andy Abbott, Andy King and Graham Buckle. I'm sure you'll agree the results speak for themselves!

The sky was gin-clear and the star patterns were all clearly visible and yes, it was cold!

As part of the pre-taxy checks for the following day we decided to function systems on the aircraft and she threw a little spanner in the works. Our mistake it turned out but, it caused a mild flutter of panic!

The nose wheel steering is only operable on internal hydraulics ie the pumps being run by either the APU or main engine electrical busbar supplies and this we know. However, with ground power on and hydraulics running then the nosewheel steering is in-active. Normally we use an older type ground power unit and it does not matter if the lead is still attached to the aircraft but, this time we were using a more up to date item and its interlink system took out the steering. We naturally were concerned and after shutting the aircraft down deduced the ground unit was the problem. We then re-started and physically removed the lead once the APU was on line and thankfully all was then back to normal. It is quite surprising how running such a complex aircraft at night has a totally different perspective on daylight operations.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

XL231 'Lusty Lindy' 20th anniversary taxy run update

Victor XL231 will be run on its 20th anniversary of arriving at Elvington and in honour of the late Mr Gerry Tempest, subject to weather and serviceability as planned on Monday 25th November. The aircraft is intended to be started at 13.45 with a runway demonstration in both directions. The final run will be (subject to weather) with the tail braking parachute used. Once the display is finalised and the aircraft made safe the flightdeck will be available for viewing (subject to donations).

Just prior to the Victor's display, Nimrod XV250 will also be demonstrated on Elvington's runway.

We anticipate an enjoyable day for all concerned, any ex-Victor personnel please make yourselves known to a member of the Victor team.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Mk10b autopilot

An annoying snag was sorted out on Sunday when Rick and I decided to nail a problem with the autopilot which had not engaged for some time.

Powered up & ready!
The autopilot powered up and indicated it was ready for use but would not engage and I decided to replace the 3 main control boxes located behind the co-pilots seat and to the right of the 6th (crew chief seat).

These boxes are the Servo Control Unit, Platform Control Unit and Locking unit. The latter two boxes are a 'doddle' to swap, the first one however entailed removing the 6th seat, in order to remove it. However, this was achieved okay and all power supplies and fuses checked out and no problems were found and a power-up tried.

Frustratingly, the autopilot did not engage!  So, wounded we retired to consult the books and I replaced all 3 original boxes.

3 Auto piilot control boxes
Rick, after studying the diagrams suggested the pilot or co-pilots autopilot disconnect thumb buttons may be the culprit and dived down into the bomb aimers compartment to locate the associated terminal block. These were found and continuity check through the co-pilots button proved it was working. The same could not be said for the captain's and it showed no circuit. In effect it was in permanent 'trip' selection.

Rick isolated the two wires to the switch and put in a link to simulate the switch and BINGO the autopilot engaged!

Auto pilot engaged rudder channel selected
Auto pilot engaged
Auto pilot disengaged

We tried it in all functions in roll, pitch and yaw and it functioned as advertised and yes, we were rather pleased with ourselves, we've just got to sort out the switch or find a replacement.
Roll to port
Roll to starboard

ADF (Automatic Direction Finding) system

Following help with difficult to find spare parts from 'Vulcan to the Sky', it was decided to service the ADF system (Automatic Direction Finding)  in XL231 and bring it back into a fully serviceable spec. The system did work and receive but the ADF motorised loop would not track onto a bearing and we had a blown power transformer box for some unknown reason. It had blown the 7 amp control fuse and for avionics on a Victor that is quite a hefty fuse. Most are between 1 and 5 amp. The really heavy load equipment tends to be 10 amps and higher.
Rick ( Avionics - read his story HERE) removed the ADF receiver and some of the control boxes and Steve Hancock removed the ADF motorised loop and re-fitted another unit. NO mean feat as it is in the spine of the aircraft under a removable dome which, we daren't remove as we don't have a spare. So, it was decided to go 'the hard way' and tackle it from below. This means climbing over the Bombay tanks and getting up into the roof of the Bombay, on a clammy and sticky day not enjoyable!  It took Steve about an hour but, he managed it.

Receiver, Loop Aerial & ADF Indicator as removed
ADF Loop Aerial
ADF Loop Aerial
Rick, fitted a replacement receiver unit and a replacement transformer box and 'Bingo' it worked fine with full, Auto DF and manual tuning working well.

ADF Bearing Indicator

ADF 4 Channel Tuning Unit

Listening to the channels on the old AM network reminded me of being a kid, as its a very similar effect to how you used to walk around the room trying to pick up something audible! Its just the same effect with the DF loop as it comes round onto a bearing.  Great to have it working properly again!