Registered Charity Number 1075858

Newsletter To the end of 2007



The past few months have been a very quiet period for the museum.  Although a great deal of work has been done there has not been a frenzy of activity.  One of the reasons was the awful weather during the last “summer”, it always seemed to be raining at weekends. Some jobs intended and scheduled for the summer had to be held over for a better period of weather which did not materialize.

Following on from the National Aviation Heritage Skills Initiative, a number of training session have  held at the museum during 2007, so far all of the one day courses have been fully attended by museum members.

The museums only flying exhibit, the Ercoupe 415 is now based at Rochester.  It’s now earning its living and is on loan to a company based at the airfield. The company operates it on the museums behalf.  This arrangement was made in late 2007, it meant that the annual check had to be completed, this was duly done without any problems.  A donation per flying hour is paid to the museum.

Since late August 2007 we have carried out two full engine runs on Shackleton WR982(J), one took place on the 25th of August and the other on the 1st of December 2007, this run was carried out in the dark and provided an interesting view.  A fuller report follows later in this newsletter.

We would like to offer a belated welcome to four new members of the engineering volunteers;First to Tom Davidson, Tom has been with us for some while and has been involved in all aspects of the museum. Next we welcome Dave Cawthorne, Dave has already made a considerable contribution to the engineering work.  John Stevens joined us in the summer and has been involved in the Buccaneer, Provost and the Shackleton, he’s

always ready to tackle any task. Lastly, we extend a warm welcome to currently our only female team member Kirsty Frampton, who like the others has been very flexible and contributed a great deal already.

Tom and Kirsty carrying out corrosion treatment on the HunterT7

The table below shows the days that the museum is open during this year.

Open Days during 2008


 23rd, 30th 


 13th, 27th


 11th, 25th


 1st, 15th, 29th


 6th, 13th , 27th


 10th, 25th


 14th, 28th




New Artefacts

A number of parts have arrived in boxes; these have still to be unpacked, Christmas again!  A number of items related to the Lightning radar have been sourced, there is almost enough to build a version of the test rig used by 2nd line units to service the AI23(BCD)  radar.  A new model now “flies” from the ceiling of the model area; this is a large working model of a Lancaster.  A Rover APU, probably from a Victor, has also been acquired.

A new addition to the engine display is a Rolls Royce Proteus, pictured below arriving at the museum on the 12th of November 2007.  This now resides with the other engine exhibits in the main engine display area. 


Engineering Work

Hawker Sea Hawk  XE489 (WM983)

The repaint of this airframe was one of the tasks that suffered badly due to the poor weather during the summer months.  That added to a number of “promises” to carry out the work that came to nothing.  A plan will now be put in place to try to ensure that progress is made this year.


No sooner than the last update was penned and almost 6 months have passed! There is much to report since last time. Over the past 6 months we have been very busy with rebuilding the cockpit floor, finishing No.1 engine bay, preparing the ferry ventral tank for fitting, as well as progressing the refurbishment of the re-heat pipes


and many other small jobs that continually occupy ZF579's crew. Not to mention general care and maintenance for her.

The leading edge checks were completed ahead of time with no problems found, the panels have now been refitted and the repairs to the wing tank fuel venting system were completed by way of replacement with new valves procured from Saudi Arabian Lightning spares.

The cockpit floor and associated flying controls bearings were ordered from aviation supplier Sywells, these have been replaced, finished and re-laid, along with a brand new brake control cable. The ejection seat has also now been re-fitted after a check over and few minor issues sorted out, completing the cockpit, ready for the open season. We were very pleased to find that all of the airframe structures under the cockpit floor, although grubby, were in a pristine condition and corrosion free.

Our attention then turned to mothballing No1 engine bay until installation of the engine in the summer. For this we needed to fit the ventral tank, it really needed to be overhauled; the skins were in pretty poor condition due to corrosion. The corrosion was removed and the skins re-flatted to a high finish once again!  We then fitted the tank, effectively mothballing the engine bay.  The tank now looks and operates as good as new and the completed engine bay is sealed from the elements.

No.2 engine bay is not quite finished yet, still requiring a month or so of work. The top hatch will be opened in the next few weeks in order to finish this bay ready for engine install in the summer.

Attention will continue to focus on the treatment and inhibition of the re-heat bays, since they are very dirty and dry. The work encompasses degreasing, cleaning, eliminating minor surface corrosion and then re-painting with 650 degree high temp paint for protection against the heat. This is 75% complete. Once complete, we will refit the new Air Turbine Gearbox and numbers 1 and 2 jet pipes. Mechanically ZF579 is almost done. We really are on the home straight now and hope to be ready to make a decision about engine fits by autumn. Cosmetics wise, she's not too far off either. We will repaint leading edges, wing tops and elevators this summer, to complete the cosmetics. Bar minor jobs left, the end of a 10,000 man hour restoration is in sight. As with any machine of such complexity, we will always be very busy looking after and pampering this Lightning, especially when Mother Nature does her best to try and undo our hard work!!


579, undressed of her winter protection, and ready to roll at a recent open day

Hawker Hunter T.7 (XL591)

Good progress has been made on this aircraft; a lot of corrosion treatment work has been carried out.  The major improvement has been the completion of the hydraulic system.  We can now open the canopy and all other services are functional.  It still needs a battery to enable the canopy to be opened using the switch in the nose wheel bay, but this issue will be addressed in the next couple of months.

Avro Shackleton WR982 (J)

Early in the cold days of 2007 it was discovered, or more accurately, re-discovered that Avro Shackleton MR III WR982 was 50 years old in this year.  A plate found in the nose wheel bay identified the build as being completed on the 11th of June 1957. Records show that she was ready for collection in February 1958.

Since that time the engines have only had sporadic work done on them and some had not been run for 3-4 years.  Amongst the engineering team there had been some casual discussions about the prospect of reviving the engines for a “birthday” celebration. It was put to Peter Vallance that we should celebrate WR982(J)s 50th birthday with an engine run.  He warmed to idea and eventually agreed that it would be a suitable event to add to the museums calendar.

There were a number of issues with the aircraft, most of which would need to be resolved prior to any attempt to run the engines again. Amongst them was the perennial one of overheating.  It was thought that the correct operation of the radiator flaps would partly resolve the overall overheating problem.


When a survey of the operation of the radiator flaps on each engine was carried out it showed that some worked and some didn’t.  A decision was made to renovate all of the seized rods and levers to alleviate those problems.  Dave Cawthorne took on the task of renovating each engines radiator flap rods etc. This was completed in late July.

It was decided to combine an event already in the museum’s calendar with the effective birthday celebration for WR982. The event already scheduled was for a Royal British Legion BBQ on Saturday the 25th of August 2007. As a part of the overheating investigation, radiators on the No.3 engine has been removed, flushed and replaced.

No.4 Dave Cawthorne tackles the inlet plugs on No.4

With all of the mechanical work completed on the radiator flaps it was found that No.2 control unit was faulty and would only close not open.  No spare was available so another method had to be devised.  The first engine to receive the plug clean treatment was No.4.  So, with two people working on the plug clean (Peter Mills and Dave Cawthorne) fairly swift progress was made. The speed improved even more when Tom Davidson and Kirsty Frampton volunteered to do the actual cleaning of the removed plugs. No.1 engine was next to receive the treatment; once again Dave Cawthorne took up the task of removing, cleaning and refitting all 24 plugs.
The engine fuel primer pumps are a constant source of problems, for these pumps the only lubricant the impeller gets is from the AVGAS that passes through it. A quick check of the two pumps (one per side) showed that the starboard pump was faulty and the port side sounded very rough.  The starboard pump was removed and sure enough the impeller was found to be jammed.  A spare pump was tested and found to be in good condition, this was refitted to the aircraft.


On Saturday, with just a week to go it was time to test the condition of the engines on the starboard side.  Fuel was pumped into the No.1 tank in the starboard wing root.  The first engine to be started was No.3; it failed to start! Various attempts were made until finally it fired. However it would wind down immediately the primer fuel was removed.  After several minutes in this state the engine very hesitantly and roughly ran up to approximately 1800 RPM.  It appeared to be a fuel starvation issue. After a few minutes the engine was allowed to come to rest, it clearly needed some attention! With No.3 stopped it was time to try No.4, this engine again refused to start and only one cylinder fired a single time.  Another attempt was made to start No.3 using a slightly different method, it started much better but was not happy idling and generally it’s response to the throttle was very poor.  So, with one week to go we had one engine sort of working, one that really didn’t want to go at all and the two were unknown. Sunday saw two engineers assessing the results of the previous day’s activities; the first task was to investigate the non-start problems with No.4. Since there was little doubt that primer fuel was reaching the engine the next most likely cause of the problem was obviously ignition.  The first check of the boost coil was to simply listen to it when it was switched on.   No sound could be heard coming from the location of the coil.  It was removed and after a couple of adjustments it was at least trying to work! It was refitted to the engine and a quick test confirmed that it at least “buzzed” as expected. A later test found it had failed again and the unit was replaced by a “donated” unit from WR974.

A decision on the timing for the run on Saturday the 25th of August had been made; the run would not commence until 7 p.m.  This was fortunate as there were a considerable number of tasks to be completed before we were ready.

Andy Scrase had been away during the week before. When he arrived on the day he was briefed on the progress and the outstanding jobs.  Andy soon added to the list, he had concluded that there was a problem with the No.3 engine fuel control system.  Dave Tylee got onto checking the rest of the magnetos whilst Dave Cawthorne got to grips with the exhaust plugs on No.3.

With fuel in the port side a test could be made of the primer circuit to No.’s 1 and 2 engines. The primer line was “cracked” at the rail on the inlet side of the engine. No.2 produced a very satisfactory “squirt” of fuel.  No.1 did not.  The most likely cause was identified as the solenoid operated valve between the pump line and the output to the engine primer rail.  Unfortunately, access to this unit on No.1 is very difficult and required a major effort to remove a large partof the

airframe from behind the engine. 

By early afternoon there remained only two jobs outstanding, the fuel control on No.3 and the primer valve on No.1. Finally, enough airframe was removed to allow limited, but sufficient access to the primer solenoid and valve on No.1. The valve was cleaned, tested and returned to the aircraft.  The primer system was checked again; this time there was a good flow of fuel from the primer rail on the engine. By now the time was approaching 5 p.m. and the fuel control system was still in pieces.  A part of the fuel control consisted of a chamber with a diaphragm; when this part was dismantled the chamber was found to be full of debris. Finally, the idle jet was removed.  At one end of this was a bearing that the jet revolved around.  This bearing was seized solid.  A quick trip to the workshop and an attempt was made to release the bearing; heat was applied to the bearing.  Soon it was moving fully; with the bearing held still, copious amounts of lubricant were applied. With this complete and the various items removed now cleaned, re-assembly began.  The whole assembly was refitted and ready for testing by 6 p.m.

Testing consisted of turning on the main tank fuel boost pumps and opening the No.3 fuel cock.  This revealed a couple of fuel leaks that were quickly fixed by tightening the appropriate nuts.  Cowlings were now fitted and the engine was ready.  So, with about 45 minutes to spare the aircraft was finally as ready as we could make her in the time.

The start order has traditionally been 3,2,4,1.  This was revised to 3,4,2,1, depending upon the circumstances. A normal start of No.3 was commenced; with only a few blades turned it started and immediately settled into a smooth 750rpm idle!  The extensive work carried out on the fuel control was vindicated.  Next No.4 was primed, boost coil activated and the starter motor engaged; despite much “cranking” it refused to start.  After a couple of attempts it was temporarily abandoned. Focus now turned to the No.2 engine; again suitably primed it was turned and without any fuss it fired and settled into a good idle. Next, No.1 was prepared and turned, despite an initial slight cough and it too refused to start.  After a number of attempts this was again temporarily abandoned and attention returned to No.4.  After a short discussion the starting procedure was changed this time.  Normal starts put the fuel cock on, magnetos on, prime the engine, starter motor on with the boost coil activated.  This time the start was commenced with the magnetos off and no prime.  After a few seconds the magnetos were switched on, almost immediately the engine fired, with the application of a small amount of prime she burst into life. 



Now with three running it was back to No.1.  The same revised procedure was adopted for this engine.  The result was the same, a couple of coughs when the magnetos were introduced and then a little prime and she was away.  Now we were cooking! There was much jubilation both inside and outside the aircraft, after more than 6 years we had again got all of the Griffons running. 

All four “turning and burning” in the late sun

There is very little to compare to the sound of four Griffons growling in unison!

All too soon it was time to start closing down; in fact No.4 anticipated this and started to die on its own, judicious use of the primer kept it going just a little longer.  She was allowed to die after a minute or so.  No.1 was closed down next, its spinning propellers changing from a light-reflecting disk back to individual blades. Now with just the two inboards running smoothly, both were given a bit of throttle and wound up to nearly 2,000 rpm.  Both behaved magnificently! A quick magneto check revealed only a slight rpm drop, well within limits. Finally, they too were run down and allowed to come to a stop.  The silence was both awesome and sad.

What had started in the back end of 2006 as a wish had been fulfilled in that late afternoon sun of an August day.

Happy 50th Birthday   WR982!

The full text of the work carried out to bring the Griffons to run condition can be found on the Shackleton page of the web site.

1st of December 2007, 7 p.m; the sound of a Griffon once again filled the air, the first night run of WR982 had begun! Very soon all four engines were growling at the night sky. To follow up on the successful run in August Peter Vallance had readily agreed to sanction the first night run.

  A number of preparations had been made throughout the day, these were the usual checks plus additional work in bringing more of the lighting circuits into operation.


This time all four engines started almost immediately and in no time it seemed all four were spinning. Even the temperatures on No.3 behaved, not rising far into the nineties.  With the aircraft lit from the front the props made strange patterns in the pools of light.  All of the additional lighting on the aircraft caused it to


be likened to a Christmas tree, however, the remark “where’s the fairy” was not so welcome!  For about 10-15 minutes the Griffons continued to growl away until the temperature on No.4 began to rise to unacceptable levels. This engine, along with No.1 was shut down.  The two remaining running engines were opened up to about 1800 rpm and the pulsing sound rolled across the dark fields to mix with the jet noise from Gatwick.  No.2 was brought to idle and then finally shut down, only No.3 still turned happily in the cool air.  Shortly, this too was brought to idle and then shut down.  The GPU sounded unusually loud all of a sudden.

This unique engine run would be remembered by all who witnessed it for a very long time!