This page will record the business, social and extra curricular activities that some or all of the crew get up to outside of our scheduled work days.
Saturday 23rd January 2016
Because of our enforced break at Metheringham this weekend (game shooting in the area), we decided to take a trip over to our reasonably close East Midlands Aeropark neighbours, to say hello, do a bit of trading of aircraft stories, and with luck. maybe a bit of parts trading too!
We got there just after 10.00, on a cold but dry day, and we were seven strong on this trip, so our crew participation is getting better and better.
Graham and his helpers were there to make us feel very welcome, and they spent no time in getting us lined up for a whole series of ‘inside’ views of some really classic aircraft.
First on our list was the mighty Nimrod R1, quite a sight and a true British classic, this particular variant being one of the most secretive of the several variants. We could see why……. Banks of monitors and tracking devices for the no doubt very sensitive work it used to carry out made it all seem very clandestine. Very high tech indeed and very surprisingly, closed off even from the aircrew stations. We saw a few things that even now, I can’t disclose.
Suitably awe struck, it was off to the next and favourite for one or two, the majestic Vulcan! Ian went in to re-familiarise himself with it, and even after a 20+ years gap since he last climbed that ladder it seemed instantly familiar, Ian pointing out to Dick some of the gear he used to ‘tinker’ with whilst doing engine tests. Better than reading any manual!
Whilst several felt their way around the ‘coal hole’ that was the inside of the Vulcan, others took the time to look around another classic, the English Electric Canberra. This was a B2 variant, modified to T.17 standard, so from what was a real beauty, to a bit of an ugly sister to be honest……….but a fascinating glimpse and just a bit of a feeling of what a trip in the back of a 50’s bomber would have been like.
Drooling over for a minute, and a walk across the museum grounds to the VC10 fuselage. Even in part form only this aircraft is a thing of beauty, with a classic Vickers cockpit, apparently almost identical across the Vanguard and Viscount series too. With the rearward facing RAF seating still in place it was another glimpse of our great aviation heritage, several of us even strapping in for an imagined trip off to somewhere exotic…..
Now we really had our adrenalin pumping, so it was off for a good look around the inside of the AW Argosy, quite a beast actually and still giving good service as a light work shop. Then for some of us, a first. The Westland Wessex……. this is a vastly underrated aircraft, Paul and Dick sitting up in the cockpit were amazed it it’s excellent view and ergonomic cockpit. A real treat.
Final stop before lunch was the Vickers Varsity. We had already been in the example at Newark, and had been wow’ed at the wartime feel of it, but the still operational level fit of this one was something quite special. It really did feel ready to go, and I think we would have jumped at the chance had we been given it!
Feeling very privileged, it was time for lunch, so we retired to warmer surroundings and had a good chin-wag about all and sundry, including a look through some of Ian’s 1960’s RAF pics that he had dug out especially for the trip, nice!
After lunch it was down to some bargaining for bits, so we gave the Aeropark a batch of JP decals, a gallon of OM15 and some instruments, whilst getting two out of our three missing gaps in our own spare JP panel filled, and an ARC-52 for us to try out, our own still giving us some trouble……
Final bit of time was spent looking around the mighty Buccaneer, not many aircraft make you feel so small and weak! A fitting finale to a special day, and an altogether very worthwhile trip indeed.
We must give special mention to Graham and his helpers who made the whole day something quite special for us. We must have seemed like kids in a sweet shop, and that’s how it felt to be honest. Thanks guys!
December 19th 2015
That time of year again, they do pass by quicker as you get older…..
The crew Christmas dinner was held at the Finch Hatton Arms public house in a small village not too far from most of the crew members.
It was a good night, if a bit loud for some of us, but after a few drinks and plenty of food it will be remembered as a pretty good evening out, where most of us get to see each other in a rare, oil, paint or blood free state!
Below are some snaps of some of us on the night, if the devil were to cast his net…….
Saturday 28th November 2015
An all too infrequent break from our normal routine today. The XS186 crew were invited to a pretty special event, the launch of a children’s come adult’s storybook. It’s name…… ‘Jim the Jet Provost’
The crew have been friends with the books author, Amanda Cundall, for several years. Infact Amanda once spoke with us about ‘Jim’ being represented by XS186, but we quickly realised that XS186 having always been a ‘she’ (would a ‘he’ really have given us this much trouble….) meant there would have been a fundamental flaw in the storyline! Nevertheless our combined passions have formed a glue that holds us together to this day, so, when we were invited as guests to participate in the launch we didn’t need asking twice.
The venue – RAF Cosford Museum, what a great place to launch a book about one of our country’s great’s!
Because of the distance and likelihood of the day being a very long one, only three of the crew could give up the complete day, so it was that Paul, Jonty and Dick set off at an un-holy hour to be at Cosford for 10.00am.
There were several dozen guests already there but we shoe-horned our way in, and after a quick look around the ‘test flight’ hangar, with such illustrious backdrops as TSR-2, Bristol 188 and yes, even a humble Mk3 Jet Provost, we took our place and listened to some very inspiring words by Air Vice Marshall ‘Dusty’ Millar, as well as the books publisher, illustrator (Spencer Trickett) and Amanda herself. The ‘Jim the Jet Provost’ book has been in gestation for quite a while, since 1981 infact, when the idea of ‘Jim the Jet Provost’ was no more than a twinkle in Amanda’s creative eye, so to get it into actual print has been quite an achievement for not only Amanda, but her support team, and definitely not least her husband Lee, who always seems to be on hand for any number of tasks, a true crew member!
There was lots of hand-shaking, back slapping and well deserved praise for lots of people, and it was very satisfying indeed to see that XS186 had got herself in there, yes she had found a place in Amanda’s heart! In the latter half of the book, which is innovatively given over to an in-depth history of the JP in all it’s guises, sat a great photograph of XS186 with a pleasing caption and thankyou to our project. Praise indeed from someone who knows and appreciates the long haul mentality and attitude that is required for any piece of work that has to be done well.
After tea and cake (so it was similar to a regular Saturday in some respects), we had chance for a good look around RAF Cosford Museum. It’s a sometimes breath-taking place. Truly iconic aircraft are placed together in well themed surroundings, including all three V bombers, the only place you will see that. The prototype Jet Provost as well as the Mk3 previously mentioned, and a Mk5 version too, meant the JP was well represented. Recently retired types such s the VC10 and Dominie showed that Cosford is still actively helping to restore and renovate our most recently disposed of airframes too.
After several hours of aeroplanes and an admittedly warm feeling that we had done well to get where we had with Amanda’s book acknowledgement, we set off for home, a very good day indeed!
Saturday 27th June 2015
Well it was a long time in the planning, but it happened pretty much as hoped.
Today was a trip up to assist in the restoration programme of a T3 Jet Provost, XN458 based at The Standard public house in Northallerton. The distance between Metheringham and Northallerton meant it was never going to be anything more than a token of assistance as part a much larger task, but from small acorns as some say, and the XS186 guys know all about daunting tasks and not giving up because of the size of a challenge……
So, an early start from Lincolnshire put several crew members and their wives or girlfriends at the Standard before 10.00am, so far so good. A warm greeting from the landlord got us off on the right foot and once tools, equipment and spare parts had been un-loaded it was straight down to business.
It was a key ambition of the day to get XN458 back on her feet so to speak. Her main oleo legs had long since been deflated and seals had given up the fight so Ian’s previous handiwork back at base to make up oleo supports paid off immediately as Paul, John Temple and Jonty set about jacking up the port wing initially, and then the starboard, to fit the support brackets. It went far smoother than we could have hoped and within an hour XN458 was looking prouder than she had done in many years!
No sooner had we completed the undercarriage work than it was time to address the next set of priorities, the re-fitting of the exhaust pen nib section, also repaired previously at Metheringham and now able to fitted with minimum fuss by the same undercarriage team. The sorting of various brackets and supports for both main plane flaps went well, though trailing edge sections need manufacturing at a later stage.
Ted got to work on the taxy light covers in the nose section, and the emergency pull handle cover on the port fuselage wall. Both manufactured and fitted during the day, great job.
Next task – fitting the ejector seats. These were pretty much ready to go, so between four of the crew they were hoisted aloft, aligned with the already fitted rails and slotted into position. This allowed more comfortable access to the broken mountings for the main instrument panel, skilfully removed and replaced by Dick, not an easy task for anyone but nothing more than a couple of hours of hard graft for him. This allowed Paul and Dick to position the already refurbished main panel, and within another hour both the panel, top shroud and lower ‘leg’ panels were in too!
Jonty and John Temple had been hard at work on the tailplane and elevators, repairing and fitting trim tabs and operating arms etc. A myriad of smaller tasks, such as fitting of a new port wing-tip lens, re-fitting of the existing green lens to the starboard wing-tip, old windscreens removed and new windscreens installed, the replacement of a host of smaller components in the cockpit and the manufacture of an external power source access door, were countered by the removal of some parts that the XN458 team had kindly agreed to swop for the parts we had brought with us, such as a starter motor for the Viper engine and ignition boxes (removed by Dick).
The final major task was the fitting of a set of canopy rails obtained by Paul only a couple of days earlier via some complex wheeler dealing. This was a fiddly job, not all of the adjacent fixings were present so it was a somewhat temporary fit until more parts could be found. Nevertheless thanks to some bracket manufacturing on-site, the rails were fitted to the canopy and after much cleaning and re-aligning by Jonty and John Temple it was ready to be tried on. Well, no-one said it would be easy, and it wasn’t! After a couple of hours we were still struggling with alignment, securing the rails and not being able to make the running of the canopy smooth (because of the afore-mentioned issues). The only negative to the whole day happened, as the canopy was being ‘exercised’ it made contact with one of the ejector seat tops and when two non flexible objects are forced into the same spot the inevitable happened, the canopy cracked……. the team were devastated. Repairs were put in hand and another lengthy spell of investigation took place – to no avail, we couldn’t work out what was wrong at all. To this day we are still trying to figure out what is wrong with either the seat or canopy alignment, no doubt one day all will become clear. One thing is for certain, we will figure it out and we will fix it.
Mention has to be made of the massive effort put in by Paul, landlord at the Standard, who kept the whole XS186 crew fed and watered, or beered, throughout the day. He was a credit to his team, and even managed to do several jobs in between running the pub and looking after us, a true stalwart!
Together with another key XN458 team member they made their JP look even more fantastic as a result of several hours of rubbing down and priming the week before. Well done guys, she looks great!
So after a mainly good day, it was a 40 minute drive over to Saltburn, to a house that Lynne had organised for the night. Several more hours of good eating, drinking and random discussion rounded off a very hard and eventful day and everyone slept well, exhausted was a good one word description of what we were that night!
Next morning it was a hearty breakfast for everyone and after a thorough clean up it was a trip around Saltburn for some, and a long drive back home. Quite a weekend, one we won’t forget in a hurry and hopefully one that has helped to motivate and inspire the XN458 guys to even greater things. I’m sure we will stay in touch, get the canopy issue sorted out, and in no time at all see XN458 in glorious new colours.
Saturday 17th January 2015
Because we couldn’t attend Metheringham today we decided to take a trip over to our nearest major aircraft museum at Newark, which is just over the border in Nottinghamshire.
What a great decision that was!
It was Paul, Ted, Jonty, Dick and Ralph who attended, with Ralph getting the chance to meet several of his old friends as he used to be a volunteer at Newark Aircraft Museum before joining the XS186 crew.
We started modestly with a cuppa in their homely café, before being offered a look around inside Vulcan XM594. You don’t turn an offer like that down, so one at a time we clambered up the steel steps that led up into the rear crew compartment. Those V bomber rear crew guys didn’t exactly have a sight seeing trip sat there in their black hole, looking at back lit screens with angle poise lamps to cast precious little UV light across their instruments and plotting tables. Definitely a feeling of WWII bomber about the Vulcan, it must be an Avro thing. The chance to look through the front windscreen of the Vulcan never fails to shock either, I think someone once said flying the Vulcan was like flying a house by looking through the letter box………….
Suitable impressed we moved on, it was time to see how the RAF trained their navigators in the traditional arts, including plotting by astro compass and visual bomb aiming. How did we do that, by clambering on board the superbly restored Vickers Varsity. Another throwback to a period only just post WWII, the cockpit of this machine looking distinctly like that of a Wellington….at every turn a piece of history, with astro domes, drift sights, seat parachutes, bomb aiming sights and map desks, with the smell of worn leather and canvas still permeating throughout the whole cabin. A very special experience.
But our hosts hadn’t finished with us yet – next it was a look in the Saab Viggen, a brute of a fighter jet, with a totally different, clinically sharp kind of feel to it. Those Swedes know how to make aircraft and I wouldn’t like to be facing one, no matter what I was up against it with. The height of the Viggen gave a couple of the guys an un-expectedly good vantage point to view another aircraft that held a special place for both of them, the Gloster Javelin. Ted had worked on Javelins during his National Service as an armourer, so seeing this one with four Firestreaks hung under the giant delta wings must have brought back a few memories. Paul has always had a soft spot for this relatively un-sung and frankly un-loved type, but the sheer scale of the aircraft can’t fail to impress.
A wander around the rest of the exhibition hall, looking at lots of classic British types such as the Supermarine Swift, Hawker Hunter, Gloster Meteors, Bae Sea Harrier, HP Jetstream, Dominie and Canberra was drool overload, so the famous five took a break and re-fuelled back in the café.
Once batteries had been re-charged it was off again, the guys at Newark surprising us once more by opening up their Mk3 Shackleton so we could have a clamber around inside. What an amazing aircraft, everything built for the long haul, with galley, toilet and sleeping facilities all tucked in alongside a myriad of radar and sonar screens, flare tubes, sonar buoys and those huge Avro main spars that are never easy to get over!
We thought we were aircraft interior done, but no, still more. This time it was up into the F-4 Phantom simulator, the actual cockpit area being from a real Phantom, now unfortunately dormant, but still one of the most impressive cockpits in the ‘fighter’ world, not a computer screen in sight. Just lovely.
There were too many other types to mention all of them, but beauties such as the Jaguar T-bird, Mig-23 and 27, Sea Hawk, De Havilland Heron, Dove, Vampire, Venom and Sea Vixen, the not so beautiful Fairey Gannet and Westland Wessex, and rare or odd types such as the Saab Draken, Avro Anson, Monospar and Tiger Moth, all made the day thoroughly enjoyable and educational.
We should make special mention of our hosts, especially Howard and Alan who gave up their time freely to explain, guide and assist wherever possible, as well as sharing some hair raising anecdotes picked up from the many aircrew that had visited their ex steeds over the years, and the ladies in the café who kept us fed and watered throughout the day. We will of course recommend a trip to Newark to anyone, though we felt we had been treated to an extra special day today. Thank you Newark Aircraft Museum!
Saturday 1st November
A first for the crew – and a sign of the influence that our American ‘friends’ have on our social calendar – Halloween…..
Paul and his other half Lynne decided that a bash at their place for the crew would be a good idea. Not doing things by halves Paul and Lynne spent the whole day preparing their home, or ‘house of horrors’ as it became.
Come 7.30pm the guys and their WAG’s started to turn up – and to be honest it was pretty amazing to see. It’s certainly the case that most of the crew do EVERYTHING to the best of their abilities, including getting made up to look like a Munster, devil, ghoul, corpse or sewn together walking dead person!
It certainly raised loads of laughs and even a few admissions of being quite scared by the whole event, with wailing ghosts, screaming virgins (not many of those though), and the rattling of lots of skeletons. Lord knows what the neighbours must have thought, although with a headless corpse laid in the front garden, and an impaled dead body laid on the dining table it hopefully didn’t take long to get the idea!
It was a long night, with Herman Munster and Frankenstein not returning to their respective ‘places of rest’ until about 3.00am, but very memorable. Infact I for one am still having nightmares….
Saturday October 25th 2014
This year just keeps on getting better.
We have been trying to arrange a trip to Bruntingthorpe for some time, to grab a chance to meet some like minded individuals, chew the fat, talk about jet engines, OM15 and why the hell do we do this stuff week in week out, y’know the kind of thing….something always got in the way up to now, but not any more!
Paul and Ted drove down with Ralph, Jonty, Dick and Diane (Jonty’s partner), and we got there about at 10.30am, in plenty of time to see the Lightning boys open up for business.
We got the chance to get up close and personal with XS904 and XR728 early on, and took particular attention to XS904 as it was this bird we would see much more of later…. the Lightning is a pretty amazing machine, it makes a Jet Provost look a bit tame to be fair, but we wont say anything to XS186…
After a constant stream of questions and anecdotes, the crew left the LPG boys to complete the finer details of a pre-run check list and went off on our own for a tour of the airfield. You feel like a kid in a sweet shop to be honest, as you wander around there are several Boeing 747’s, a VC10, Nimrod, Victor, Super Guppy, Starfighter, Sea Vixen, Sea Harrier, Canberra, Gnat, Iskra, Jetstream, Sea King, numerous cockpit sections and a gaggle of Hunters, Buccaneers, and of course Jet Provosts, at least five runners as far as we could tell, with another under rebuild! All these aircraft are literally at your fingertips, nowhere else can you get up close and personal with ground running aircraft.
That made our day, but then we were told a Buccaneer was ready to fire up and did we want to stand by and watch the aircraft being put through a full power engine run – we checked our watches, were we interested – YES WE WERE! A lovely chunk of brutish british engineering, XX894 was towed out to an open area and with minimal fuss the air start connected, the crew inserted, and up she came….. a lovely demo of wing folding, bomb bay door rotating, arrestor hook dropping, full flying control checks and a burst of full power – absolutely marvellous!
Severely impressed, we walked back to the LPG QRA hangar, had a bit of lunch, and accompanied Lightning XS904 on a short trip over to the taxy way where she was chocked up, final checks carried out, and the bunch of grinning Jet Provost crew members were told to behave and watch the proceedings from a reasonably safe distance. We were informed that XS904 was having a bit of an issue with No2 engine starting, so we should expect a bit of trouble – and as if she was related in some way to XS186, trouble she indeed was……no chance of No2 engine starting, even after several gallant attempts. Slightly down-hearted we waited to see if No1 was going to play ball – we didn’t have to wait long – it fired up without any trouble……. we were subjected to an awesome display of power, several full afterburner engine runs, the ground and our internal organs coming under severe vibration and our ears struggling to cope, even when defended – these aircraft are AWESOME!
All too quickly it was shutdown time, though we learned later that the few minutes of aural delight had used about 2,000 pounds (weight) of fuel, that would have lasted a year and a half on XS186…..respect.
It didn’t stop there though – we were invited to take a seat in XS904, whilst it was still warm, and didn’t need asking twice. Some once in a lifetime photo’s for sure.
After another cuppa, many more anecdotes, the handing over of a donation to the LPG cause, and a photo shoot with our hosts, it was time for home. It has to be said, we had been treated very well, had taken a huge dose of inspiration and been shown and gave absolute respect – so, to all the guys at Bruntingthorpe, a massive well done and thank you from the XS186 crew!
July / August 2014
We thought it about time we started to spread the word regarding our little 10 year venture, and this has been helped along by a chance contact between our media guru Tony Bennett and BBC Radio 4.
During April BBC Radio 4 were supplied with and played a sound bite from one of our engine runs…………. nothing too dramatic there you might say, well it’s snowballed a bit since then.
That very same sound is now part of the BBC Proms and will be included in an orchestral piece to be aired on August 20th at the Royal College of Music!
That in turn has started to wake up the media, and we find ourselves amongst the press on a regular basis these days, some of our brushes with fame are noted here;
April 15th 2014
It’s not often the crew get chance to go out and about in the quest for aircraft related causes, but today was one of them.
Several months ago the Kent/Surrey/Sussex Air Ambulance Service were put in touch with Paul by Nick Spendlow, our Fire Chief when he learned of their intention to dispose of some time expired fuel. Not an organisation to look a gift horse in the mouth Paul quickly came to an agreement with the Air Ambulance team to take the fuel off their hands, so once the protracted regulations had been met with regard to transporting said fuel it was off to Redhill to collect it, a 300+ mile round trip!
So, at 9:00am in the morning Paul, Dick and Jonty set off and got to Redhill by late lunch time. The Air Ambulance service were typically great, and Larry at the Operations Centre was really helpful and patient whilst the guys did a brilliant job of decanting the fuel into 205 litre drums. After Dick made the load 100% safe and Paul made a worthwhile £80 donation to the Air Ambulance Service it was back around the M25 and to Metheringham, and by the time the intrepid trio got back it was 8:00pm.
It was a sight for sore eyes when the van crew saw Ian and Ralph awaiting their return at Methy, and with a sterling effort all round the fuel was unloaded and made safe by 9:00pm, a very long but 100% successful trip.
A truly intrepid feat by a good proportion of the crew, underlining the core determination that permeates throughout the whole team, well done guys!
December 12th 2013
Our first Christmas outing for several years was a great Christmas dinner evening out at Sylvia’s cafe in Heckington. Almost all of the crew managed to get there and their WAG’s too, so it was an opportunity for other people to prepare and serve them with lovely food for a change!
Lots of cracker, and a bit of leg pulling was had and the staff couldn’t have worked harder or been any more cheerful so a big thank you to the girls there. Watch this space for the odd, and i mean odd photograph!