Gemma Thorns, Assistant Conservator Technology

By Gemma Thorns, Assistant Conservator Technology

Recently the Engineering and Furniture Conservation Team undertook the exterior cleaning of three large aircraft in the grounds at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield. This was no mean feat, as given their size they presented the conservation team with quite a challenge. The aircraft to be cleaned was the Avro Vulcan B.2A, the De Havilland Comet 4C, and the “Lothian Region” BAC111-510ED. Each of the aircraft had interesting and significant working lives before arriving at the Museum of Flight, and so it is important to keep them in good condition.

The Vulcan was the world’s first delta winged bomber when it first flew in 1952. Our Vulcan made the headlines when, due to a fractured in-flight refuelling probe, the Vulcan diverted to Rio de Janeiro. After seven days internment the aircraft and crew were released. On the nose can be seen two mission markings and a Brazilian flag commemorating her unscheduled stopover.

Vulcan being cleaned at National Museum of Flight

The Vulcan

The Comet was the first jet powered passenger airliner, the prototype first flying in July 1949. Our Comet was the last Comet to fly in commercial colours when she flew from Lasham, Hampshire to East Fortune in September 1981.

The Comet aircraft being cleaned at National Museum of Flight

The Comet

The BAC111 was a British short-range jet airliner of the 1960s and 1970s, and was one of the most successful British airliner designs, serving until a widespread retirement in the 1990s. Our “Lothian Region” BAC111 was used for the shuttle service between Edinburgh and London

The Lothian Region BAC111 being cleaned at National Museum of Flight

The “Lothian Region” BAC111

Luckily the week the team assembled on site was dry and fairly sunny, which made the cleaning much easier. Splitting into smaller teams, and with the help of volunteers, we used hoses, a power washer, mops, brushes and aviation detergent to remove the build-up of dirt, lichen and moss from the aircraft, using lifting equipment to access the higher areas. The final areas of cleaning will be carried out later in the year.

The Vulcan aircraft being cleaned at National Museum of Flight

The Vulcan

With the conservation cleaning almost complete, it is clear to see that the aircraft has greatly benefited from the work, and they can now be seen gleaming in the sunshine once again.

A guest post by Norm Webster, Flight Display Director for the Airshow at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

Take a look at some of the fantastic images on the air display and on the ground activity that were taken of Scotland’s National Airshow in our Flickr Group and check back on the Airshow here for announcements of our 2015 show.

Not long now until the Airshow!

We are fast approaching display day and the pace here is hotting up.  It’s a busy time for me – I’m also planning the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), which takes place the week before the Airshow at National Museum of Flight, but in reality begins on Wednesday when aircraft start arriving from all over the world.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane 7D2645 by Philip Tyler. Taking part in the air display for the Airshow on Sat 27 July National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane 7D 2645 by Philip Tyler.

As for East Fortune, I thought I had a plan – I had a plan for the programme, but, as always in the air display business, things change.  In this case, the cancellation of a display aircraft due to lack of serviceability.  I’m working on a solution and hopefully we’ll be able to plug the gap with something similar, but it still gives me a bit of a problem until I have a solution sorted.  Other than that, the admin that surrounds the display seems to be coming together quite nicely.  Crew accommodation is now sorted, crew transport is planned and crew meals are ordered.

Trigg Team Pitts S1D Specials by Philip Tyler.  Taking part in the air display for the Airshow on Sat 27 July National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Trigg Team Pitts S1D Specials by Philip Tyler.

As for me and my team – we’ll be in the same hotel we have used for the past two years so we know we’ll be well fed and looked after. I spoke some time ago about the challenges we may have with sharing so many aircraft with the Sunderland display. Well it looks like that is now sorted to everyone’s satisfaction and I can carry on with my planning accordingly.

Looking at the long range weather forecast – well I don’t think it will be Caribbean weather (and I don’t mean hurricanes), but I think we’ll be OK. Obviously there are never any guarantees with weather forecasts, especially this far ahead, but I do admit to feeling better about it than I did at this point last year.

Breitling Wingwalker by Philip Tyler. Taking part in the air display for the Airshow on Sat 27 July National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Breitling Wingwalker by Philip Tyler.

The crews will be getting all their display documents this week, so any last minute changes can be sorted (and there are always last minute changes).  Once that’s done, hopefully all I will have to do is wait for the day – and help run RIAT in my copious free time.

Two man gyrocopter, part of the air display for the Airshow on Sat 27 July National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Two man gyrocopter.

I hope that those of you who attend enjoy a fine day out – I’ve always been very impressed by the organisation of this event by the National Museum of Flight team, and I hope that you find the flying display as exciting and as interesting as I have always intended.

See you there.

Jungmann aircraftA guest post by Norm Webster, Flight Display Director for the Airshow at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

Take a look at some of the fantastic images on the air display and on the ground activity that were taken of Scotland’s National Airshow in our Flickr Group and check back on the Airshow here for announcements of our 2015 show.

As I mentioned previously, airshows need a lot of people to make them work. As the Flying Display Director (FDD), I can’t hope to keep my eye on every single thing that’s happening and so I have a team to help me. Right at the top of the list is the Flying Control Committee (FCC). These are my flying and air display experts. Anybody can be a Display Director, but it takes a very experienced aviator to be a successful Control Committee member. I’m really lucky in my team – I have a previous boss of the Red Arrows and probably one of the most experienced test pilots in United Kingdom. I know that any advice and guidance that I get from them will be correct, timely and worth its weight in gold.

Their job primarily is to ensure that the display pilots are all suitably qualified, experienced and fly an accurate and above all safe display. It’s a bit like the race control committee at a Formula 1 Grand Prix: the director holds the reins but it’s the control committee that issues the yellow and red cards and dishes out any punishments.

OV 10 Bronco

OV 10 Bronco.

As well as the FCC I have a small team of air traffic controllers, two experienced display controllers and examiners. Finally, I have a commentator: a key man if we are to make the display a success as he has to keep the audience informed and entertained at all times. Our commentator is a veteran of the Royal International Air Tattoo and the editor of several notable aviation magazines.

One of the peculiarities with running a display at National Museum of Flight is that we can’t use the airfield. At most flying displays the co-ordination problems begin and end with the aircraft in the display: when must one aircraft take off if it’s not to conflict with another aircraft’s display; and can I land any aircraft between individual displays to save time and ensure the programme runs smoothly. Not a simple task, but manageable.

De Havilland DH 84 Dragon  © Paul Johnson

De Havilland DH 84 Dragon © Paul Johnson.

Now put a major international airport into the equation. Not only must I now produce a display aircraft taxiing plan for the air traffic controllers, I must now de-conflict my aircraft movements with airliner movements. The airlines pay a large amount of money for smooth air traffic services and would not be pleased if I managed to make their aircraft late because it had to taxi the length of the airport behind a single-seat vintage biplane. So I spend time meeting and talking with the controllers at Edinburgh airport to make sure we have a plan that works.

With the plan in place I can now get my aircraft in to and out of Edinburgh airport, but they are still 20 miles away from the National Museum of Flight. A Hawker Hunter takes a lot less time to travel 20 miles than does a De Havilland Dragon, so how do we manage that? Simple: every aircraft flies from Edinburgh airport and enters a holding pattern a few miles away from National Museum of Flight. We can now call the aircraft in as we wish, knowing exactly how long it will take and happy that the next aircraft to display is already in the hold, ready to go.

HMS Gannet SAR during a rescue © Royal Navy

HMS Gannet Sea King SAR © Royal Navy.

What the spectator sees is a flawless display, with short gaps between items and a constant flow of spectacle and commentator information. The amount of planning and preparation, and the sheer professionalism of the Edinburgh airport and display air traffic controllers in making the display happen, should be completely indiscernible to the spectator.

Next week – What do you mean, you want a hotel room? Display pilots and their requirements.