Work Diary

This page is to be used for our weekly update.

Whilst it appears that XS186 is almost complete, as indeed she has to be, to be able to start and operate safely, there is always plenty of work to do.

Each and every Saturday the crew meet and tackle what needs to be done as a priority, such as leaks, system faults, engine maintenance etc, with steady progress made towards completing some of the longer term aspects of the project too.

Saturday 24th July 2021

How nice is it to report two months of consecutive operations!

Holiday season is upon us so we are a bit up against it for crew members, but since when has that ever stopped us……

It did mean however that John, our P1 had to do a solo op on this occasion as Jonty, Ian and Paul had to provide adequate site safety and fire cover etc.

It was a fairly standard run up to the op, some refueling to carry out, a top up of engine oil and OM15, re-building of inflation kit and the usual Form 700 checks, which gave us no issues at all. So, even with reduced resources we were good to go at our allotted slot time.

John did a great job with a fairly tight taxy run manouver captured by our colleagues at the Metheringham Airfield Visitor Centre, many thanks to them!

Saturday 26th June 2021

Well, we thought it might never happen, but we finally got XS186 out of her slumber and after quite a bit of work, got her up and running!

It wasn’t without some difficult preparation after such a long period of enforced hibernation, with various bits of equipment needing repairs such as our trolley acc, inflation kit, and issues with fuel and on-board comms, the kind of things which were kind of expected, but still very frustrating and time consuming.

Credit to the crew on the day, with every one of them getting stuck in and staying with it right up until the planned start time. There were so many tasks but Lady Pete, Jonty, Ian, our P1 John and Paul all really earned their cuppa that day!

We hope to resume monthly taxy runs from now on so why not pop over and have a great few hours!

19th December 2020

I wish there was more to report at the end of 2020 in our work diary, but there isn’t, other than to update everyone that XS186 is wrapped up for winter, her Viper engine is inhibited and on Saturday 19th Paul went over to Metheringham to top up tyre pressures, turn the wheels (to prevent flat spots) and charged up the trolley acc batteries, standard stuff for a singleton visit, which is all we are allowed at the moment.

We will all be looking forward to better times in 2021 and can’t wait to get back to some form of normality, getting our hands dirty and listening again to the sound of jet noise from our iconic XS186!

XS186 stood patiently waiting for better times in 2021

XS186 stood patiently waiting for better times in 2021

Trolley acc getting some much needed charge to see it over Christmas / New Year

Trolley acc getting some much needed charge to see it over Christmas / New Year

If any of our followers are interested why not go to the simmarket website where you can fly XS186!

10th October 2020

I’m sure most would agree that this year is a bit unusual……and XS186 operations have been affected like eveything else has.

We have however, continued to carry out engine and indeed taxy runs throughout, albeit out of the public eye.

Ironically XS186 has been a model of good behaviour, so she has made our task relatively easy, despite the weather, time and our team resource limitations sometimes hampering things along the way. I vaguely recall back in 2004’ish, saying something like ‘this isn’t going to be easy’……..ha!

So, enjoy a clip of our most recent engine / taxy exercise!

1st August 2020

Back after a week off following our first engine run of 2020 a couple of weeks ago.

There was only three of us, but that’s no problem as there’s nothing spoling as such, so we set about re-charging the trolley acc batteries, although that didn’t quite go to plan and we ended up removing them to take away for charging at Jonty’s place.

Whilst Jonty then did the brave thing and volunteered to cut the grass around our hard-standing, Steve got to work re-securing the starboard ignitor box on it’s engine bay pins, following our engine run event where we had left the box loose in case it didn’t want to play and we had to remove it quickly!

He checked whether all was well on the other side too….conciencious, i like that.

Steve checking the port side ignitor box

Paul spent some time planning for up coming weekends, where we are planning for some paintwork renovation and general cleaning up of XS186, along with a slightly more ambitious project to replace the dreaded collector tank……for those who have done this job, it’s not for the faint hearted!

The last half hour of the morning was spent using the last of our cutting compound (polish) on some of the more faded areas of paintwork, which ended up looking a lot better. Still lots to do though, and hopefully next week we will get back to a few more crew and really get to work on her.

That was it off home again before midday, as per our lockdown rules!

18th July 2020

Well we did it – we got permission to start her up and get a bit of life back into the place!

With social distancing and many site restrictions it was always going to be tough, and we ended up with just four of us to manage the engine start exercise. The saving grace was there were no public around, save a couple of caravanners who decided they wanted to watch the spectacle of a jet starting up, at a safe distance – who can blame them….so no real crowd control was required.

There was some trepidation that we might struggle for time with so little resource, but the great work done in previous weeks stood us in good stead and by mid morning we were ready!

So with Ian in the cockpit looking after the levers, Jonty providing fire cover, Lady Pete on camera duties and Paul as general co-ordinator we checked through the Form 700 and decided to give her a go……

The first attempt almost worked, but after a billow of smoke and just a spit of flame, the engine rpm faded and the engine ran down………but there wasn’t really a problem, it was just that not enough fuel had made its way through the pipework system to replace all of the OM-11 inhibiting oil – nothing to ignite in other words!

So after a reasonable few minutes for everything to settle down it was time for a second try. This time there were no problems, a trouble free start with just a bit of high temperature due to the excess fuel that had made it’s way into the jet pipe from the end of the previous attempt, which gave us a nice jet of flame!

Ian ran XS186 through a few checks, flaps, air brakes etc, and a couple of full power rpm spells, which went great. Then, all too soon, as usual, it was time to shut her down. It was though, a great return to form, both for XS186 and the crew. Alawys a very proud moment when a bunch of people can make a lump of engineering parts work as they should again, well done all!

11th July

A very busy day today, lockdown has brought a new level of focus to what we can achieve in a 2 hour slot!

We set about getting newly charged batteries (thanks Jonty!) back into the trolley acc, but not before we sneakily used them to power our fuelling kit, decanting a few dozen litres of Jet A1 into jerry cans and then topping up the wing tanks on XS186. We also got the trolley acc straight back into action once the batteries were on board and set about re-calibrating the gauges again, which had decided to go ‘off-piste’ since we did them last……..aeroplanes eh…..

Whilst Ian, Paul and Steve and Pete toiled away on other actual aeoplane jobs, making final preparations for our engine run, which we hope will happen next week, such as sed checking, nitrogen tank top-up and fuel tank amp tweaking, Lady Pete’s husband jumped in and did a brilliant job of making the whole site look quite beautiful, wewl done to him for his green fingered help!

All in all a very busy and happy scene – long may it continue, but with a few more people around at some point please!

XS186 surrounded by all manner of ground servicing kit, great to see!

XS186 surrounded by all manner of ground servicing kit, great to see!

4th July 2020

We’re back!

After a very challenging period the Covid-19 threat seems to be receding, at least as far as most are concerned, so we are making the first tentative steps to a return to ops with XS186!

Our first Saturday back saw just four of us return to the fold (this is the maximum number of people we were allowed to have on site), each with quite strict limitations on our movements and actions, including no toilet facilities, no crew cabin access, a maximum of 2 hours working on-site only, and PPE requirements being in force.

It actually supported us getting stuck in, so with little ceremony we got back into the swing of things, Ian immediately tackling the wheel / tyre and brake cleaning and servicing, and a great job he did too!

Ian doing what he does best – engineering!

Steve had to deal with a water leak in our crew cabin, so a more domestic but equally vital piece of repair work. There was quite a bit of recovery work to do as the leak had made quite a mess of things, so credit to Steve for sticking with it.

Lady Pete had an opportunity to exercise her green fingers and set about de-weeding the hard standing and all around our crew cabin, making an instant and very noticable difference.

Paul extricated the ground equipment, trolley mounted compressor and trolley acc, from it’s storage tunnel and got Ian some air pressure for tyre inflation and removed the four heavy duty batteries from the ‘acc’ so Jonty could re-charge them at home over the course of the week.

After that, rather than the customary cuppa, it was time to wrap averything back up and simpoly head for home, with thoughts of how we are going to get ops back up and running going through all our minds……..our challenges continue, but we will overcome!

March 21st 2020

Well, not the best of starts to 2020, no engine run today as planned – can we get off this ride NOW………we’ll be back once the Covid-19 virus abates!

Saturday 7th March 2020

We had a weekend off last week, Paul was off to an Aviation Heritage UK meeting, so this week everyone was chomping at the bit!

Weather was not too bad for early March, not dry enough to cut the grass, but dry enough to do the important job, re-fueling XS186.

Those looking back through Work Diary records will have noted that we drained the small amount of fuel that was left in the tanks several weeks ago, so it was quite important we didn’t leave the tanks dry for too long. A small-scale refuel exercise had been carried out earlier in the week, by Ian, Jonty and Paul, but only to keep the tanks wet, just in case the weather on this Saturday frustrated us again.

So, it was all hands to the pumps, literally! First thing was to decant 200 litres into jerry cans, a job in itself when the wind is gusting……but made easier by having a battery powered pump, which made the job just a few minutes long. You may ask why we didn’t decant straight into the wing tanks………noooooo, we don’t do easy. We wanted to strictly control the amount going into each wing and ensure the gauges (stbd wing, port wing, and total contents) all read and stayed within calibration limits.


Plenty of juice for plenty of noise!

The operation was fairly time consuming, first with all hands helping to decant jerry cans into wing tanks, and then with Ian in the cockpit (why does he always get the warm cosy jobs?), and Philip relaying gauge readings from Ian to Paul, who was under the fuselage adjusting the Pacitor trimming unit.


Jonty and Paul decant jerry can contents into XS186’s wing tanks

Sounds convoluted, and it was, but we got there in the end, and with enough fuel to give us a couple of engine runs, and the gauges reflecting exactly what they should, we couldn’t be more pleased!

We all smelled of Jet A1 after that, so in anti-social mode (Jet A1 smells awful when it’s not burning) we did a bit of battery maintenance and then called it a day.

Saturday 22nd February 2020

Here we went again, more horrible conditions, still raining, still blowing a gale….at one point we almost lost Lady Pete, a particularly strong gust literally lifted her off the ground! Airfield weather, we just love it….NOT!

No chance of doing anything on XS186 without putting life and limb at risk, so we we limited our attention to setting up our new and temporary battery charger (thanks to Jonty), so our trolley acc and on-board batteries don’t start to deteriorate in the constant cold and damp.

We also got our fuel drums and pumps out and ready for use, XS186 needs ‘filling up’ before her first run of 2020 on the 21st February!

Only other worthy of note was the continued smartening up of the cabin interior, including more ad hoc AP manual research on our main undercarriage brake / wheel gen, oh…… and getting our petrol lawnmower up and running, in the expectation that we will actually be able to use it at some point….

That was about all we could muster so by lunchtime we were off to warmer places.

Saturday 15th February 2020

A pretty dismal day, the beginning of Storm Dennis, sounds exciting doesn’t it….well so far it’s just been a bit windy and rainy, but it was enough to put us off doing much outside.

We started by letting our newest crew member Steve, do pretty much all the work putting some new power sockets in the cabin, giving him warm words of encouragement obviously…….there was quite a bit of moving around of the fixtures and fittings, so lots of drilling, aligning…. swearing, that sort of thing.

That done we did eventually move outside to re-locate our runway caravan, so it gives us a bit more room to get around the site without risking walking across what we lovingly term our ‘Somme’ landscape. It went surprisingly well, considering its bulk and weight, and within a few minutes that was also done and suitably ‘chocked’ in place.

Our runway caravan during the move today

We took a look at our battery charger which has mysteriously gone on the blink since we moved it. That’ll teach us. We may have to call it a day if we can’t find a cheap fix for it. It is probably 40 years + years old, we should have left it in peace, but noooo, not us. We do have a back up plan for the short term, thanks to Jonty, so it shouldn’t slow us down from our plan to get XS186 back up and running during March. Watch this space for more info there.

Only other work was really done with Paul taking a few dozen more photographs and measurements in the cockpit, for a very interesting, but at this stage, secret project that XS186 is the main feature of……more will come to light on this in the near future!

Fingers crossed for no damage from Dennis this weekend so we can crack on with first engine run preparation next week.

Saturday 8th February 2020

What a great day today, one of those rare and brief winter periods where it’s just about tolerable enough on an airfield to get stuck in!

There were only three of us today, rare there are so few, but it didn’t stop us making the most of the conditions.

We started by changing the wheel / tyre on our runway caravan. Why? – the old dear needs to move….the first time in several years….to make way for a new pathway to our cabin, and one tyre at least has given up the fight. Paul had the tyre replaced in the week and so today it was just a case of fitting the wheel and checking / topping up the others, no problem.

Next job, the starboard ignitor box. It went faulty towards the end of last year, in fact the last run was carried out with only one serviceable ‘cracker box’ instead of two, not what we want to do as it results in a longer, and hotter start.

Anyhow, our newest crew member took the culprit to a ‘sparky’ friend and found a couple of minor problems, including some internal arc’ing, which was addressed by simply turning around the offending component to give it a bit more clearance……sounded like a very unlikely solution, but we re-fitted the unit, connected our freshly charged trolley acc and Ian pressed the relight button to test the ignitor (without having to start the engine). CRACK! – it worked perfectly! Another job done, things were turning out nicely… we had a go at another job!

We had been promising ourselves that we would drain our wing tanks at some point, which would allow us to ‘zero’ our cockpit gauge and re-fill the tanks knowing the readings were correct. Not always a guarantee with the JP’s capacitor type system. First job was to open main fuel cocks at both wing roots to drain the last few dregs of fuel we had in the tanks. It didn’t take long and gave us chance to clean up and lubricate the fuel cocks.

So with Ian in the cockpit on gauge duty, Paul underneath with the ‘fiddly’ screwdriver and calibration unit, and Philip there to relay readings and screwdriver directions, off we went. Well, after quite a bit of time trying to correlate screwdriver turns to gauge reading changes we got the hang of it and soon all three readings (port main, starboard main and overall readings) were reading zero and adding up to zero………don’t scoff, it’s not as easy as it sounds

The fuel tank contents amplifier (left) and calibration unit (right), not easy to access (note hydraulic pipework moved for access) – but with a lot of patience we coerced it into doing it’s job..

So, a pretty eventful day, along with other bits n bobs like getting our lawnmower running again, and a bit of Gloster Javelin work, it was a most enjoyable few hours!

January 25th 2020

A fairly quiet day today, all thanks to a legacy electrical problem in our cabin which stopped us charging our aircraft batteries and working on our fuel system…….not great…..

We did get our trolley acc charger fully re-installed and all cables fed through to where we keep our trolley acc, so once we get power re-instated (hopefully by next week)we will share our super efficient new process!

January 19th 2020

Wow, a cold one!

Didn’t stop us though, we got our long defunct weather station (anemometer someone shouted!) operating again, thanks to a new wind sensor bearing, batteries and a general tidy up.

We also made a good start on re-positioning our 24 volt charger (ex Cranwell) so we can charge our trolley acc without us having to move it around the site. Sounds complicated but after some more hole drilling and re-positioning of equipment it will all make sense….promise… to follow of it in operation, maybe next week.

Our faithful battery charger placed in it’s new position, we can look forward to some easier charging in another week or so…..

Final work was to take a wealth of pics of the marking detail and inside of XS186 for an exciting project that’s building in the background. More info to follow on this as it takes shape, 2020 could be a classic year!

January 3rd 2020

A new year and new adventures / challenges!

We started the year on our usual Saturday (3rd) and after getting hopeful feedback on our faulty ignitor box (which has been playing up on our last couple of runs), that we may have found the fault , and possibly even fixed it, we began the decade on a positive note!

So, with relatively mild weather we set about a couple of jobs. First up was removing and cleaning the handful of grease nipples on the nosewheel leg, so we could refresh the grease (Aeroshell 33) and ensure John can keep turning  XS186 on a sixpence……

All went well with the greasing so next it was everyone perched on the tail to get the nose up in the air, and Paul and Ian placing the fuselage trestle under so she could sit safely whilst we traversed the lower castoring unit through 360 degrees a few times, get that grease moving around. A few bounces too, to keep the oleo exercised, looking good so trestle back out and we let her be, till next time. Main legs next, and whilst we are at it, the brakes will get some servicing.

Only other job was to lay some new all weather path / walking boards around our crew cabin. Of late we have endured Somme like conditions yet again, so whilst the cabin has been getting some TLC we thought the outside could do with some attention too. What a difference within a couple of hours, it’s all very civilised now! Easier to get to equipment is next on the list……..2020 could be a much less arduous time getting around the place…

A week off next week due to ‘other activities’ on site, so the 18th is the next crew day

October 2019

Well, 2019 is drawing to a close, not a bad year, but we have been slowed by our biggest problem, the engine rpm creep which it turned out was caused by a faulty BFCU, quite a serious problem that would ordinarily finish an engine off…. This meant doing some fairly major work on the Viper engine (see History page).

Our crew cabin has also needed some TLC but by the end of the year it should be ‘shiney’ new!
Until then, a bit of a different engine operation, de-inhibiting the engine at the beginning of 2019, enjoy!

October / November 2016

Apologies for the lack of updates, we have had trouble with our blog pages and still do, so updates have not been possible, and we still cannot easily upload pictures, apologies for the ongoing inconvenience.

We have not been idle though, and are making steady progress with several key jobs. These are mainly around the fitting out of our storage ‘lorry body’ to make our operations a less traumatic experience when looking for parts or tools. Lighting, shelving and storage are all well on their way to completion and we are looking forward to comparative luxury from this winter onwards!

On XS186 the undercarriage work has slowed as we try to locate the last couple of parts needed to exercise the lock / unlock mechanisms. We are confident they will either appear or we make them……


The starboard undercarriage bay, with refurbished actuator and linkages almost back in situ to test

We also have our collector tank to refurbish now it has been salvaged from our colleagues JP at Cranwell.


Our hard fought for collector tank. Not in the best of condition but we have tested the pump and it purrs like a sewing machine……nice work by the crew!

Other than this we have been side-tracked by engine worries on XS186, as we continue to see rpm ‘creep’ on start up, which is only cured by a swift push forward and aft on the throttle, which seems to have a re-calibrating / settling effect on the fuel flow. Various testing and bleeding of the system, including bench testing of the rate re-set valve has come to nought. We will persevere but there is a concern that safe operation of the engine may be compromised if the problem gets any worse……..

October 8th

Today was a pre-planned trip to the Heritage Centre at Cranwell, good friends of ours who have worked well with us on mutually beneficial operations and events over the years.

Today was no exception, even though rain threatened to spoil the day initially, it ebbed away to leave us with a reasonable window. To do what you may ask……

It was to remove a part that we have been after for years, the collector tank and pump. It sits deep inside the fuselage under the trailing edge of the wing, and it’s a swine to remove…

Today it was the turn of Harry, Dick, Jonty and Paul.

We knew it would have to be removed the hard way, cutting heads from bolts long-seized, and moving or removing a myriad of pipes, cables, and other assorted fittings. All done in near pitch black conditions with sparks and dust everywhere once the action started!

Nevertheless, after several hours of struggle, especially by Harry and Dick, the tank was out!

We thanked the staff at the Heritage Centre for their hospitality once again, and promised to return with a part they needed for their JP in return over the coming days. Off we went with our part and on arrival at Metheringham, set about testing the pump and relays on a 24v supply. Everything worked brilliantly, so we will do a transfer of parts of the coming weeks, as the fuel pump on XS186 is decidedly noisy, and the Cranwell example purrs like a kitten!

Photo’s to follow!

October 1st 

The one job that really needed to be sorted out today was re-pressurising the recently collapsed starboard undercarriage leg, which made XS186 look like a very poorly aeroplane last week.


XS186 this morning, prior to the guys getting the new inflation valve on the job! A slightly wonky aeroplane…..

Ian had taken the offending part, a previously home-made adaptor to link the Turner adaptor to the inflation valve on top of the leg (via an inspection panel on the upper surface of the wing) home, to re-work it with a stronger valve connection. With that having been done it was a case of re-connecting the Nitrogen rig once again and trying the new fittings for size.

All this went well, once the inspection panel hole had been subject to a slight ‘modification’ due to Hunting Percival’s quite frankly rubbish design work, and with the team on hand to control the Nitrogen flow and Ian watching his handiwork to ensure it played ball the pressure was  built up……


The oleo back to it’s proper setting, the Nitrogen top-up having worked a treat this time, thanks to Ian’s lovely piece of engineering.

It was just like clockwork. up came the oleo and XS186 was all present, correct and aligned again!

It wasn’t before time, the weather took a very exciting turn for the worst so the wise move was to wrap up XS186 before everything and everybody was swept away!

Photos to follow shortly!

September 10th

The weather dealt us a bad hand this week, steady rain from the off meant there was no point in doing anything with XS186, water everywhere would only cause problems.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to do though – time to get the lorry body storage area prepared, so we can move our gear back in. We also found a candidate for a fuselage trestle…..

First of all the storage / workshop area. Since doing a deal to get it back, we made our minds up that this time around we get it kitted out properly, so sticking to that plan, it was further work strengthening the work-bench, prior to fitting a new top so we can have a vice and a pillar drill installed.

Whilst Philip  made good progress here, Howard set about installing power points and further lighting, aided greatly by Ted and Jonty who managed to ‘re-locate’ some fluourescent light fittings that were due to be scrapped and were perfectly ok. It all worked out great, and we even know where to walk now, or more importantly where NOT walk now, thanks to some very nice floor painting by Howard earlier in the week!


OK a work in progress, but the old place is taking shape!

Whilst this important storage and workshop piece was being played out, Paul, Harry and Jonty had spotted, whilst walking around in the rain, that an old Viper engine mounting frame might actually make a reasonable trestle. OK, it needs a bit of visionary thinking, but we have that, so they set about taking the un-required bits off, such as rubber mounts, shock absorbers and engine bearers. That went well enough so next it will get cleaned up and then we will re-engineer it so it fits under the front fuselage. All this will support our ambition to get XS186 off the ground so we can get the undercarriage cycling once more!

September 3rd

We knew we were up against it with the forecasted weather today, 100% chance of heavy rain by lunchtime.

It only made us more determined to get something from our morning!

Several of the guys set about re-shop fitting our now re-assigned lorry body. It had been stripped out to hand back to our hosts at FOMA, but through negotiation we now have it back, so a good opportunity to do the job right this time, and install work benches, lighting and racked shelving etc. In one morning we had the first work bench frame built and some shelving and lighting already in, with several more pieces planned, Great work from Phillip, Howard, Jonty and Ian.

The other guys, Ted, Harry and Paul set about the starboard undercarriage leg. First job was to test our now repaired Turner adaptor tool. We found with our first pressurisation attempt that the valve stem was too long, so we dismantled it, shortened the stem, rebuilt it and tried again……perfect!

Leginflation Sept16

Nitrogen rig ready for action on the starboard wing

With the leg now fully extending once it was off the ground it cleared the wing structure and fitted nicely into its wheel well for the first time. Quite a proud moment…… It was soon to pass when we couldn’t get it back down again! Nevertheless we persevered and got it cycling quite nicely eventually.

We’ve considered next steps on this multi-faceted piece and reckon we need the quite stubbornly stiff bicycle chain sections removing altogether from their runs, to free them up properly as at present they’re snagging the running gear and will undoubtedly cause us issues further down the line if we don’t get this right now.


The starboard leg fully extended and sitting nicely in it’s wheel well for the first time

By this time the rain had arrived, but not strangely for us, several decided to re-pressurise the port leg before we put the equipment away. Not the wisest of decisions in the now increasingly heavy rain, but Ted, Harry, Jonty and Paul dug deep and got the job done. We know now that the legs will cycle and seat correctly. Just the job of rebuilding mechanisms to finish, refurbishment of chains and tracking, and the electro-hydraulics to tackle……should be a walk in the park.


A very wet Harry adjusting the Turner adaptor to get the right leg height, on a now very wet aeroplane…..

August 27th

The weather forecasters managed to mess up many peoples plans again today, the impending doom of heavy rain all day actually only materialised at about 3.30pm, so it didn’t stop us having a good crack at a few jobs!

As the myriad of small jobs around the undercarriage bays is moving along at dare i say it, a reasonable pace, we thought it best to get some more trestles into operation. In preparation for some full undercarriage cycling tests at some point in the nearing future. Now, we only have the one complete trestle from our JP friends in Northallerton, and another in bits that the chaps up in North Yorks invited us to put together and use.

It turned out that the one in bits isn’t actually a full trestle, it’s about 50% of one. That will be a longer term piece than previously thought……but one or two brains are on it………

So we will call in a couple of offers re some more trestles if we can and see where that takes us. In any case our ambition to get the gear cycling this year may yet happen, watch this space!

In terms of actual work done on the undercarriage units – we got the starboard leg locking pin to fully engage now, and the leg itself is starting to cycle manually by hand, which would have been thought impossible a couple of weeks ago. The very fiddly locking mechanism for the starboard side is also just about done, and ready to re-install. All we need to do then is get the hydraulics and electrics working…..

We did try to get some Nitrogen into the starboard leg, but the Turner adaptor  ‘extra adaptor’ decided to give up the ghost, so that had to go off for a repair job in Ian’s workshop. The re-charge will have to wait another week.

So, all in all not the most productive of Saturdays, but we moved on with the starboard leg, identified quite a bit of work to do, set up further equipment repairs and got some direction on trestles and next stage jobs.

August 20th

A very blustery and occasionally rainy day, but when has that ever put us off…….it was engine run day!

We set about our pre-run tasks with the usual verve, and with some additional safety points noted we were ready by 11.00am. The safety points were that we had noticed a slight weep from the starboard brake line during last week’s work, so were very concious that this might sap hydraulic pressure. One to test once we had the system pumped up just prior to the run.

We also had a problem with the starboard undercarriage safety locking pin not pushing firmly home……which seeing as it’s a brand new one, shouldn’t be doing that….it appeared to be keeping the lock in place, but being super critical as we are it wasn’t something we would want to leave as is for long.

As it turned out, there was no weep visible under pressure this week, so no pressure loss either. The safety pin stayed in place throughout, and we even figured out what was wrong a bit later on, more of that soon.

With everything ready it was down to business, John Temple in P1 supported by Jonty Johnson in P2, and it was going to be a 180 degree turn and the usual checks and services run through. Before that though – Ian and Geoff wanted to try another bleed of the rate reset valve on the Viper, to see if air in the fuel feed system was causing our continued rpm swing on start up.

Trolley acc on by Ted and John pressed the start button. XS186 fired up, and once pressures and temperatures had settled, Ian set about a full bleed. Within a few minutes his work was done, Ian having found some air where it shouldn’t have been……and the support team removed themselves from around the aircraft so it could be put through it’s paces, marshalled very capably by Geoff of course.

She performed very well indeed, a lovely set of excercises and  manoeuvring!

Aug 20 run 2016

A busy pre-run scene, John and Jonty in the cockpit, with Ian ready to bleed the fuel system, Geoff on marshalling duty, Ted manning the trolley acc, and Dick on fire duties

nce shut down, the big debate was, did the bleed cure the rpm swing problem on start up? Well, we wouldn’t know unless we started her up again would we. So, whilst everything was still in place, we warned everyone clear again, re-attached the trolley acc, told the cockpit crew to re-do the business, and waited with baited breath…….

John duly did his duty and XS186 spun up. Now, for the last several starts, the rpm has been rising quite rapidly up to around 60-65%, and has needed a blip of the throttle to bring the rpm back to it’s 40 rpm ideal. It’s hard to tell too much from the outside at this juncture, so we let John go through his checks and after a few seconds close the engine fuel cocks and shut everything down.

All eyes were on John…….a thumbs up! It turned out that the rpm had risen at it’s previously enjoyed slow but consistent rate, this time still up to around 47%, before falling back to it’s 40% idle. Great news and a great morale boost for the whole team for a job well done. We want to do the whole thing again on the September run to see if there’s any more air we can extract and get it back to it’s original performance, but where we are will do for now!

Aug 20 run 2016 1

XS186 back in her parking slot following the very successful taxy run.

At this point it was back into the cabin for a spot of lunch and celebratory tea, whilst Paul diverted off to spend some time sorting out new storage and utilities with our Metheringham hosts.

After lunch it was a case of re-covering XS186, a real challenge in strong winds…..and not without it’s funny moments…..then for those that were left, down to further hard work on the port undercarriage.

So, Paul, Harry and Dick jacked and trestled the port wing, got the leg unlocked, and set about removing the old locking mechanism, greasing the numerous nipples, removing the very dicrepit looking safety lock operating ram and generally getting the mechanism and leg cycling again.

Aug 20 run 2016 2

An indication of what we are up against, this is a before shot of the port safety locking mechanism. Now out and being refurbished….

After three more hours of very hard slog the leg was moving quite nicely, better than the starboard one infact. Dick had removed the ram, Harry had removed the lock, and support person Paul was a happy man. It had been a very worthwhile session, especially as they figured out why the starboard leg locking pin was probably not pushing fully home…..if the bicycle chain mechanism that links the undercarriage together, yes you heard it correctly, bicycle chain, is not handled very carefully during cycling, it will stop the leg seating properly, by around 1-2mm, yes…… 1-2mm. Once it had been recognised as such on the port side it seated perfectly. Next week we will go back to the starboard side and fix that too!

August 13th

A reasonably pleasant day so it was down to some hard work for everyone!

Dick and Paul set about removing the original electro-hydraulic ram for the stbd undercarriage leg safety lock. It’s broken, and has been for as long as we’ve operated XS186. We have a replacement, but it’s dark, dirty work and you need the touch of a mid-wife, sounds like it’s made for Dick!

A couple of hours in, and the old unit was out……next job is to rebuild the new unit and get it all back together…..

Several more guys un-bolted the port leg undercarriage door and safety locking mechanism. Again, after several hours of swearing and mutual abuse come support, the door was off and the mechanism was as close to off as we dared, given that we have to put it back in place ready for our engine / taxy run next week! Good work by the team who have had to get used to working in uncomfortable positions!

Ted was working just as hard up in the cockpit. The mass of wiring and terminal blocks that were exposed when the port lower leg panel that was dismantled last week were slowly exposing the secrets of undercarriage cycling…….What seems like an overly convoluted method of lifting a leg, seems ironically like the designers were, lifting someones leg…………nevertheless, Ted was getting some comforting clunking of selonoids, and wiring diagrams were apparently looking more and more understandable. If you say so Ted……

More work to do after next weeks engine / taxy run, but we are getting somewhere with our biggest piece of project work for a while!

30th July & 6th August

Busy times – lots of activity on the undercarriage, but not a lot we can report on in terms of physical progress, though not through lack of trying!

Ted is making good headway with a myriad of wiring diagrams and tests galore in the darkest corners of XS186

Completely corroded bolts and greasing nipples are being removed, grease galleries cleared out, refurbished nipples replaced and re-greased by all and sundry, and there is a heap of the kind of work that just needs to be done without explanation, leave us to it for a bit, see you soon!

25th June to 23rd July

OK, apologies to our followers for lack of updates!

We have had a disruptive period, during which we were asked to vacate our storage ‘lorry body’ by our joint residents. We had to comply, but this has caused significant hardship and cost, as well as complete disruption to our work schedule and the postponement of our planned engine run on the 23rd July.

However,  not being the types to complain (much), we met the challenge head on and have completely re-sited our stores, which is several tons of gear. It’s been tough, but thanks to the stalwart efforts of all the crew, we have pulled out all the stops and overcome once more.

It is the case that during this period we have been unable to progress any of our tasks to any notable degree, but can now report we are back on track, and ready to take on our next engine run on the 30th July.

We plan to  return to normal service forthwith!

18th June

Taxy run day!

It was a test of our ability to uncover, prepare and carry out our a taxy run within 2 hours of arriving on site – due to time limitations on our P1 for the day, Ian Allaway.

After some immediate focus on the urgent and key activities of the morning, such as the charging of our trolley acc, the firing up of our compressor for tyre inflation, and the filling of our kettle……we quickly settled into a more relaxed routine, and had seemingly little trouble, a great reflection on the teams professionalism.

The run itself went very well. Geoff was to carry out another rate re-set valve and high pressure pump bleeds. These went very well so we are hoping the next run will have a surge free start…….

Hydraulic pressure was a bit spongy, which we thought might be as a result of a lot of old OM15 having been bled from the undercarriage circuit. This gave us a rather exciting start and finish of the taxy run, but nothing that couldn’t be controlled.We did agree though that we need Terry the Tug back on song, so we can exercise XS186 before a run. More on Terry in the coming weeks….

After another succesful taxy run, it was back to a working afternoon. So, in the limited time we had it was a fairly obvious choice for us to re-try our nosewheel leg cycling again.

The team quickly got XS186 elevated and safely supported, and in what appeared to be minutes the leg was moving very nicely indeed, locking into position with a solid ‘clunk’ at both ends.

Nose up Jun 16

Many years since the nose leg has been here!

It was only for us to contemplate the next stages of the work. Figuring out cockpit switching, removing main leg components and then the main legs themselves. Then putting it all back together. It should be quite a summer…..

With that in mind, we re-wrapped XS186 up, put away our ground equipment, locked up and headed home.

11th June

We are in full blown work mode now, so with the benefit of a couple of weeks of decent weather, and some learnings from previous weeks, progress is being made.

The majority of resource is being aimed at XS186 undercarriage work, primarily the nose leg. Last week we identified lots of areas that needed attention, but were still left with more questions than answers. This week we got a plan together for what will need to be stripped out in the cockpit, nosewheel bay and the main planes…….. the list is long.

Harry cockpit Jun16

Harry at work, having inherited the position of youngest and therefore most upside down work position o the day…..

We had found out last week that we may be able to manage the nose leg cycling on the hand pump in the engine bay. It could give us a nice slow and controllable action, reducing the risk of damage to an absolute minimum. So it was, the big success being the eventual release of the down-lock, which, with a bang, released its grip on the leg after what is probably decades!

The leg moved. Very slowly, but it moved! What a fantastic achievement, and another true milestone on our journey. The up and down locks weren’t the easiest of jobs to free off completely, but Harry stuck with it, and after several more hours of persuasion they appeared to come good, with reassuring ‘clunks’ at both ends of the cycling. We will check them again before our run next week to make sure there aren’t any embarrassing moments. We had to effectively ‘hot wire’ the selanoid too, so there’s work to do on the cockpit switching before we are happy with the system, but we are a good way there now.

Jonty and Philip weren’t idle either, both of them getting stuck into more rubbing down and more painting on our runway caravan.This is vital work if we are to make the vehicle publicly accessible, so credit to them for maintaining superb focus.

Jonty caravan Jun16

Jonty doing a brilliant job on the ‘glasshouse’ of our runway caravan

Howard’s landscape garden lawn areas got some serious attention by John Evans too, putting us in good shape for next weeks engine run!

Spirits are riding high now, so with some summer blessings weather-wise, there should be more good news ahead!

4th June

Back to almost full strength this week, and with the helping hand of decent weather, what a difference!

It meant that at least three of us could start to tackle the multitude of tasks required to get our long since dead undercarriage to work once more. The jobs list for this project is daunting. None of the originally damaged wiring was repaired, because we never expected to be in a position to try it out twelve years after we started all this madness……… The undercarriage hasn’t moved at all in all that time, although we have lubricated the grease and oiling points on an irregular basis, just in case. On this basis we reckoned the first step was to take each leg (in turn) out of the aircraft to service it properly. First problem, the nose leg has to be cycled up, to get to the securing pins, initial plan scrapped, move on!

A couple of hours was spent getting XS186’s nose off the ground and fully supported. Not easy without proper trestles, but we did it and she was solidly positioned for action by lunchtime.

Because the initial plan had to be turned on it’s head, we had to look at getting the nose leg electrical and hydraulic lines traced and repaired first . The cockpit controls have been seized (which actually served a purpose, it being safer that way), so Harry set about working these free, upside down in the cockpit……Paul got under the main planes and disconnected the main undercarriage legs from the nose leg pulleys, so if and when the nose leg retracts, it doesn’t pull the mains with it. That wouldn’t be a good day…..Ted got his electrical gadgetry out and with Harry, started to get the wiring traced and tested.

In the meantime the trolley acc and our infamous hydraulic rig were brought into action. Good to see the hydraulic rig earning it’s keep at last!

XS186 June 16

XS186 connected to electrical and hydraulic power supplies, great to see her and us back in action!

OK, nothing much works at all at present, but we will persevere. Nothing has stopped us yet.The first serious week has laid some good foundations, we know how to quickly get the aircraft off the ground, get services attached, know what and where to look next, and what the goal is in practical terms.

Harry June 16

Harry working on the undercarriage controls, dark, fiddly, and occasionally painful work, but they were working by the days end!

Whilst all this aeroplane shenanigans was going on Jonty and Philip were working just as hard on our increasingly impressive looking runway caravan. The main cabin area is fit for visitors now, but the same could not be said about the exterior….. so they decided to make a start on rectifying that too.

Philip made a great start on the doorway frame. This has looked decidedly ropey for years, being one of the few steel fabrications on the vehicle. Several hours of rubbing down, priming and painting later, and it’s a lot more welcoming. Jonty set about a similar task with the external frame of the watchtower, just about the only other steel component that’s visible to the casual visitor. This is a much larger job, but armed with steel wheels and primer / paint he made fabulous progress. We reckon a good third of the whole frame was restored in the one day. A humbling effort by both guys………respect.

Caravan June 16

The runway caravan watchtower frame, being slowly transformed from total rust to shiny metal and then original silver painted condition, impressive!

A great day, quite remarkable what can be achieved with the crew on-song and a bit of decent weather.

28th May

A bit thin on the ground this week, only four of us, Ted, Philip, Ian and myself.

Ian got straight to it, re-fitting the engine priming unit that he had taken off last week and tested at Cranwell. It was working fine under test, so we will try bleeding the rate re-set valve again on our next engine run on the 18th June.See if that fixes the rpm creep.

Ted tried to get his head around the now working ARC-52, finding out that the cockpit control box was actually causing some of the problems with getting a working channel. We have several spares, so after some swopping around we got to the best of the bunch and seemed to get to a fairly good place with all channels on-song!

Paul and Philip decided to use the XS186 restoration storyboards that Cranwell Heritage Centre had made up for the Jet Weekend, in our runway caravan. They are excellent quality and once in place, completely transformed the interior. That has really inspired us to carry on with the rest of the work on the caravan, both inside and out, especially as within five minutes of us having completed the storyboards, we had our first visitor, who thought it was great!

There wasn’t a lot else we could do without more man-power so we had another cuppa and called it a day. When we are back up to strength next week we want to move ahead with our under-carriage work!

caravan with posters

Our caravan, looking pretty damned good these days!

21st May

Still stuck into the big clear up……… Ted was trailer king again, having already transported the Viper engine that was on display, back to it’s owner in nearby Woodhall Spa, earlier in the week. Now it was the turn of the ‘stall’ trailers, two brutish vehicles that meant both Dick and Philip were needed to help un-hitch them and make the storage compound secure.

Paul loaded several boxes of ‘wine or water’ bottles into his car to take away for dumping.

That was all done by lunchtime, just right for a couple of guests…… Gareth, a local RAF technician had met us at the Jet Weekend, and agreed to meet us soon after to take a look at our long-dead ARC-52. He had brought along a colleague, Danny, and after a run through of what the issues were, they took along some headsets, and started tinkering.

Then there came a revelation……. within minutes they announced all was well with the ARC-52, infact they had even picked up RAF Coningsby. Well, our flabbers were gasted, but it was true, the intercom was working fine, several of the pre-set channels, and the manual selection option.Not even Gareth and Danny could really tell us what they had done, it was all so quick. In any case, we were extremely grateful, had a cuppa with them and that was that. We invited them back to look at more electrical work, but we shall see.

Whilst this was going on Ian was working away quietly in the background, removing the priming pump from our Viper, to take away for testing, just in case the shut off valve is sticking and it’s this that is causing our slight rpm creep on start-up.

All in all quite a good day, and it looks like we have seen off the last of our Jet Weekend jobs at last!

1st & 2nd May and 14th & 15th May

These two weekends, and the weekend in between are frankly a blur……

The crew have been pushed to their absolute limits, in terms of stamina, patience, learning and quite simply time and commitment.

Suffice to say, both the aircraft, the crew and wives, girlfriends and family could not have done any more, any better.

I could say a lot, but it wouldn’t do any good, as i would miss something really important, so over the coming days i will post pictures, snippets of information and links to video etc.

Eventually we will pull together enough of a historical record to do these past few days justice. Until then, please bear with us!

Key points for me so far are;

Jet weekend1

XS186 getting some well deserved attention, with Dick and Howard being kept busy too.

Jet car 1

The jet powered car at the 75th anniversary event on 15th May, with Lee at the controls it put on quite a show!

Jet weekend 2

The Lincs Fire & Rescue Preservation Support Services team show the crowds what they would do in the event of a rescue scenario…. impressive!


The Gazelle helicopter, which dropped in and out all day on the 14th May, and even had John Temple at the controls on one flight!


One of the key highlights, Edwin Nieass, pilot of XS186 in 1964, re-united with her after a 52 year gap! A pleasure to meet him and talk aeroplanes. Respect sir.


Our trusty fire team put on a great aircraft crew rescue demonstration, very polished and sure-footed!

Edwin and Claire

Edwin Nieass also dropped in at the Cranwell Heritage Centre, our partner site for the weekend, where he met Claire, who, along with Geoff was hosting our XS186 exhibition on site.

31st April

Today was spent getting the aircraft and the site into shape for the busiest May we have planned to date.

The many mop up operations, stall setting up and general dogs-body work that is required to participate in a complex, itinerary driven event are too numerous to list, so i won’t bother, other than to say it wouldn’t be possible without the dedication, skill, tenacity and resource-fullness of the crew, and their partners. Credit to all of them.

23rd April

Well we’re thankful to not have to sledge to Metheringham at the moment……

It was a ……reasonable day, so we were at least able to get around without being ankle deep in mud. When that’s a bonus you know it’s been bad!

We were actually a bit light on numbers, the busy social or medical life of some of the guys isn’t helping. Nevertheless, the guys did the name of the XS186 crew proud and really got stuck in.

Jonty saw enough of a gap in the weather as an opportunity to re-coat the roof of our cabin with rubberised paint, to stop the horrendous leaks that have plagued us for weeks. He really got the bit between his teeth and got almost the whole roof done in one session, just brilliant.

Philip finished off the interior of the runway caravan, touching up the last bits of wall and then clearing out all cupboards and storage areas, followed by the clearing of the watchtower so there is room for the P.A. speaker system, which is due to be dropped off and installed in the coming week. Jonty saw another opportunity, got a different tin of paint out, silver this time, and made a huge step forward with the window frames in the watchtower in the afternoon. This guy was on something, and the rest of the guys appeared to be on the same!

Paul got the nose cap of XS186 painted, and kept everything crossed re the weather holding off for long enough to let it dry.He was lucky for a change, and all was well.

Dick, Philip and Paul set about the largest of all the outstanding jobs, to get the ground equipment refurbished…….. Howard had carried out several repairs to the trolley acc and the fab three spent several hours welding (yes, welding…..a skill we didn’t really know we had, but we have!) cleaning, rubbing down and ‘making blue’ the Nitrogen rig, trolley acc and access steps. By late afternoon all three (pieces of equipment, not crew members) looked as good as new.

Steps Apr16

Just one of many items that got serious attention this week, the XS186 access steps – as good as new!

All of this was complemented by Howard having landscaped the area around the apron, de-weeding, mowing and trimming, as well as finishing repairs to our memorial ‘Soames-Waring’ bench, which can re-take it’s place in readiness for the first of our public days.

All in all one of the most productive days in many months. Fantastic to see, and we can see a chance of us being pretty close to ready for the 1st & 2nd May!

Mention should also be made regarding the huge number of jobs that are being carried out by crew members as extra-curricular work, not least Lynne, Ted, Paul, Howard, Claire, Jonty, and Philip. Jobs too numerous to list in full are being pursued to completion against tight deadlines, and these go largely un-noticed. They are however, very much appreciated!

16th April

Unbelievable. When most of us were getting up this morning the one thing we didn’t expect to be faced with was SNOW!

At 8.00 am most of us thought the planned taxy run would be called off. But, by the time we had congregated at Metheringham, had a cup of tea and rallied our ambitions, the weather had started it’s slow turn to something akin to Spring……..not before leaving the place looking like the Somme again though, truly awful conditions for anyone to have to work in.

Nevertheless, the guys were in the mood for getting things done. After several minutes of joviality when presented with a frankly superb piece of handiwork by Howard, who had made our tombola / prize draw drum, and all of it in XS186 crew colours, several guys including John Temple, our P1 for today, Ted our P2, Paul and Dick all set about the myriad of tasks required to gain the Form 700 signatures. A pre-requisite for any run.

Tombola drum

One of the many background jobs that many don’t realise go on, Howard’s superb Tombola / Prize draw drum, ready for action!

Whilst the aeroplane was being prepared, the very necessary background work was being done in preparation for our public days in May. Philip was happy to get stuck into the final coat of paint on the inside of our runway caravan. It was going to take a few hours, but other than a break later on during the taxy run he stuck with it. What a difference it made too. By the days end it looked superb, a credit to all the guys who have put in months of hard slog to get it to this stage.

Caravan Apr16

Final coat of paint on, the caravan main cabin looking extremely smart! Thanks to Philip for sticking with it.

Jonty split his time between helping Paul out, completing the Form 700 checklist, whilst  Paul was distracted with Jet Weekend logistics. Jonty then went onto preparing / painting our recently manufactured instrument panel stand. By mid afternoon that too looked great, the hard work put in by Harry who cut the metalwork and welded the structure being shown off very nicely indeed.

Panel stand Apr16

Our instrument panel stand, ready for action now, thanks to hard work by Harry, Paul and Jonty over several weeks

So, a little later than planned due to lots of ‘public day’ planning, XS186 was ready, as were our intrepid pilots. Due to lack of numbers today there was a change of duties for some, Paul doing the trolley acc connect / disconnect and marshalling, with Jonty on fire cover. Unfortunately, the low number of crew members meant no filming was possible as everyone was focussed on their steward duties.Safety always being the prime consideration.

XS186 Apr16

Jonty, not walking round looking depressed, but on a FOD plod, as part of the Form 700 checklist

The only test work today was to see if the recent rpm creep was still evident since we carried out the pump bleed during our previous run. So, everyone in place, all clear signals given, the trolley acc switched on, and John pressed the start. XS186 burst into life and once all start up temperatures and pressures were logged and warning lights were out, the cockpit crew ran through a full series of checks and control exercises. Again no issues to report, so it was chocks out and the planned straight ahead taxy with a 180 degree turn was started. That went very well indeed, John reporting that he maintained a slightly higher power setting and controlled the aircraft on the brakes more. The amassed crowd of onlookers commented how smooth the run was executed, so that may be a trait on future runs!

There was no report of rpm creep either, so all in all a great run.

So, not much time left now before our multiple taxy runs during the War Weekend on 1st and 2nd May, the Jet Weekend on 14th and 15th May, and the Commemorative Weekend on 11th June. Quite a bit of prep work still to do, but if the weather gives us a chance we will get stuck in again that’s for certain!

9th April 

Well the forecast was terrible again…… Paul and Howard decided to use the probable waste of another day to go get some fuel for XS186.

It was a very successful trip, the hard work put in by Howard and Ian on the pump, pipework, earthing leads and drum conveyancing kit, made the actual job of decanting fuel from the donor aircraft into our drums a piece of cake. Thanks to the guys who helped on-site too. By lunchtime they were back on site and the fuel un-loaded.

Whilst the intrepid fuel boys had been away the rest of the guys had been hard at it as soon as the weather had defied the forecast and brightened up by mid morning.

Ian and Dick had already plugged our Nitrogen rig into the charging point on the rear cockpit shelf of XS186 and topped her up to the 800psi required, no problems there.

Whilst Dick put away the rig, Ian made a start on a deep clean of the canopy, after several months of accumulated grime from the all weather covers had made it a bit gloomy. It was soon looking much better.

Dick moved onto the UHF / VHF aerials that Paul had started the previous week. After a couple of hours they were rubbed down, primed and painted, well done that man!

Philip, Jonty and Ted carried on in the caravan, Philip getting another coat of paint on the walls in the main cabin. It’s taking some covering, far more than expected, but one more should do it, just in the nick of time for the Open weekends in May.

Jonty continued with the loooong job of rubbing down the glass-house framework, not an enviable task but once done it will look very smart indeed.

Ted completed the wiring and returned all fittings etc. back to their rightful places, plugged into our 12v supply, and we had light, lots of it!

Another pretty good day, especially considering we expected to be rained off yet again.

Engine / taxy run next Saturday so we may not get a lot done that day, but we are getting there, so a bit more luck from the weather and we should be in good shape.

2nd April

OK, not the best of starts, with steady drizzle for the first two hours and a painfully slow change to something like Spring-like weather by early afternoon.

Still, we were all up for some work, knowing that our Open Weekend and Jet celebration weekend are looming.

Philip got stuck into painting the inside of the runway caravan again, but he wasn’t alone today, Jonty, Dick and Paul got into the tower area and started rubbing down the metal glasshouse frame. Not the nicest of jobs, but it had to be done, and at least it’s one of the first places to warm up!

Ted was also lured into the work group, and once Philips paintwork had dried in what used to be the kitchen area, he got lighting switches and wiring into place. A bit of tidying up next time will see the place looking quite the part. Certainly a long way from how she looked a year ago!

Jonty and Harry also swopped the wheels around on the caravan to make them symetrical.

Howard, Harry and Paul moved onto the access steps for XS186, removing some very worn safety chevron tape and protective insulation, repairing a couple of bent frames, and generally cleaning them up ready for a coat of paint next week. They look better already actually.

In the afternoon it was good enough to do a bit on XS186, so Paul did some repair work to the nose cap, rubbed down and primed a couple of the UHF aerials under the starboard wing, and even managed to re-paint the air intake steps and part of the wing walks.

Nose cap in Apr16

Corrosion removed, just need a decent day to get some grey back on now!

Not a bad day really, good to see some progress!

26th March

A half reasonable day again, so it was time to take a good look at what we need to do to prepare for a busy display season. Almost incessant rain for so many weeks has left the condition of buildings and aircraft in a mess………the state of some of our equipment and storage areas is not good, but this is the huge handicap we face with being a totally outdoor operation…..

Ian, Paul and Dick went around XS186 and made an A4 page of jobs that need to be done, thankfully none of them will stop her performing, but several will take the edge off what is still a pretty striking looking aeroplane. These include new pen nib (exhaust) fasteners, new rear nav light holder, underwing panel refurbishment and several paint jobs, not least the nose cap and all wing walkways and cockpit access steps.

Philip made a start on some internal paintwork on the runway caravan, whilst Ted had a fresh look at the electrics now they can be looked at in a dryer environment. There are several material items to grab during the coming week, but once we get those we will see rapid progress in this front too.

Harry stripped the hydraulic rig, did some more adjusting to the idle governor and made a further list of items that need repairing, rev counter, exhaust manifold and silencers, spark plug leads, and a host of other cosmetic items.

Howard and Paul went around the rest of the the ground equipment and added yet more broken or weather beaten points that needed repairing or replacing, main items being the trolley acc and main aircraft access steps, but which also included the mobile compressor trailer and the Nitrogen rig.

All in all not an overly productive day, but a very necessary one, as we have been blighted by poor weather for so long, so we needed to prioritise our activities to be ready for our May/June commitments. The next month will be a busy one!

19th March

Winter slowly recedes, and there’s a tangible change in mood as bones shake off the chills and the shivers fade away.

Its engine run day!

After a busy week dealing with various organisational issues, and extra curricular activity such as Jonty and Harry taking our gearbox in for repair, it was good to get back to what we are good at.

There wasn’t time for very much idle chat this morning, by the time we had pulled out various items of ground equipment, got our trolley acc on charge, fired up the portable compressor for tyre pressure checks, set up the hydraulic rig for the fitting of a new carb gasket, and carried out a host of other site jobs to make it ‘public safe’, such as placement of signage, traffic cones, and ground crew, time was already against us.

As it was Pauls turn as P2, accompanying John Temple in P1 this week, the duties of Crew Chief were passed to Dick Dockerill for the first time. Not an easy or stress free responsibility in a fast moving and sometimes ‘shared task’ environment. It’s the Crew Chief’s role to ensure all pre-run jobs have been successfully completed before the Form 700 is presented for signature by the Fire Officer in Charge, both of the cockpit crew, and then the Chief themselves. Only at the point where all four signatures are present can the engine run activity go ahead.

Scene from the P2 position after todays run

View from the P2 position after todays run

So it was on this occasion there was a challenge – our fire support team from Lincs Fire & Rescue had been informed that we planned to bleed the HP fuel pump during the run, a fairly regular activity, but one that today we had to carry out without the original RAF spec drain tool (it’s somewhere in store, but where…..). A screwdriver and ‘soak away’ material would have to suffice……… Absolutely correctly our Fire Officer in Charge, Mark, challenged the safety of the operation. Several minutes of debate whilst the actual risks were clarified, counter-measures discussed and the experience of technicians (40+ years ‘on the line’ each, as it turned out) were taken into account. The outcome – we could go ahead, with a keen eye on Geoff during the operation!

As it turned out, the risk assessment was fine. After a trouble free start by John, the drain operation by Geoff, and the now standard run through of a 95% power run, there was a full systems check, and on this occasion, a 180 degree manoeuvre around the apron. The engine / taxy exercise was a complete success, so it was a big well done to the whole crew, especially Dick, who, with his baptism of fire in the Crew Chief role, completed it very adeptly.

Geoff carries out the fuel bleed, watched by everyone very keenly!

Geoff carries out the fuel bleed, watched by everyone very keenly!

Once XS186 had been pushed back into her parking position, it was time for our Fire & Rescue team to take on what we had been discussing for several weeks, training in the skill of crew rescue. Should this absolute last resort operation be required things would have to have gone very FUBAR, but who is to say it won’t ever happen……

The guys took time to understand the danger areas, what not to hit in the cockpit during a rescue, including the cockpit crew…… and where they could and couldn’t stand etc. After some initial trials with their accompanying dummy, it wasn’t really cutting the mustard, so in true fire crew style, one of their number stepped up and offered to take on the role of dummy…… commented, at least out loud………

Joking aside, what a team! by the time the guys had carried out the rescue two or three times, fire-men, and fire-ladies, had perfected how to move around the cramped, harness infested, comms lead and helmet handicapped crew members, and could get them out in impressively short times, and even better, without further injuries!

The Fire & Rescue guys re-assuring us all that should things go wrong, they are there for us!

The Fire & Rescue guys re-assuring us all that should things go wrong, they are there for us!

All in all a great day, with some successes such as our hydraulic rig being repaired and fine tuned by Harry and Philip, and some serious learning going on. Good signs that we will be ready to put on some great demo’s during our next run in April, and our busy ‘show month’ of May.

12th March

At last, a better day! We thought it would never come.

It was still cold enough to warrant a coat and gloves, but a virtual paradise compared to previous weeks, and it prompted some crew action!

Harry and Philip checked out some advice on Terry the Tug’s gearbox, and after several lines of investigation had been exhausted they reckoned the advice was probably right, the oil pump may be u/s, so we elected to take it to an auto transmission specialist for repair. Jonty and Harry will try and get it dropped  at a local repair shop during the week.

Ted and Paul uncovered XS186, and set about a range of tests suggested by a radio expert we have tracked down, which may guide us towards some idea of what the ARC-52 problem actually is. There was lots of switching, meter reading, and note taking, all of which Ted is going to document and feed back to our remote expert for analysis.

Harry and Philip had moved onto getting our recently ignored hydraulic rig out of storage, to see if we could fire it up. Almost never an easy task, today was no different………However, Harry is a crew member to his core, and with some old but good advice from Philip, and several hesitant and spluttering spins, the rig burst into life! There were plenty of wrinkles to iron out, cleaning of spark plugs (remember those) and carb jets, the drainage of old fuel and some adjustment of air / fuel mixtures. A couple of hours later and it was running like a sewing machine, great work by the guys. There is a further job to do, the carb requires a new ‘hand made’ gasket as it’s leaking fuel during start up, but that’s a job for next week.

By this time it was mid afternoon, so the only other job was to spin XS186 over to ensure all was well for next week’s engine run. Ted did the honours in the cockpit, with Paul on the trolley acc. She turned over just fine, and everything looked A1, a great end to an altogether more positive day, more of the same please!

Harry working hard on our hydraulic rig, and it all paid off!

Harry working hard on our hydraulic rig, and it all paid off!

5th March

Another lousy day, near freezing and steady rain. Not surprisingly the crew were a bit thin on the ground knowing that there wasn’t a lot they could do.

Just about all that could be managed was Ian re-fitting the now fully rebuilt blind six panel into our ‘training panel’, which looks great! Ted did some test work on the recently repaired jet pipe temperature gauge before it goes back in, though that will be on a day when opening the canopy won’t result in the cockpit being ankle deep in rain water…….

The continuous rain has started to affect our crew cabin, so Jonty and Harry braved the elements and did some leak tracing. We need to re-cover the roof with new felting as soon as the weather allows.

Our 'training panel', now fully kitted out and looking great!

Our ‘training panel’, now fully kitted out and looking great!

27th February

Back to the grind again, main job – to find out what was broken in or around the gearbox on Terry the Tug. So, despite near freezing conditions yet again, the team of Harry, Philip, Jonty and Paul set about removing the box and bell housing. Not the easiest of jobs, infact a real pain, with part of the floor pan having to be cut to gain enough clearance to drop the combination box and housing out, as well as numerous other parts having to be dismantled such as prop shaft, dip-stick funnel, kick down links and oil feed pipes. Nevertheless eventually out it came…….. and we fully expected to see a broken drive shaft or a myriad of broken component parts. But no, there was nothing to see. Absolutely everything looked fine. We can only assume it’s the torque convertor, which is a sealed unit, that is the culprit. That’s a job for Paul to get it tested or we take an expensive chance and try to find a replacement anyway…………

Harry inspecting Terry's torque convertor, not much to see, so we still search for the truth!

Harry inspecting Terry’s torque convertor, not much to see, so we still search for the truth!

With conditions being so cold we couldn’t make a start on any painting or such, so the only other job that could be looked at was some under wing repair work on XS186 by Paul, who got it as far as possible without being able to put any primer to it, that will have to wait until warmer climes.

Not much else to report on this week, and next week we are light on people again so we are all looking forward to warmer, more progressive times, and maybe a gearbox solution!

Terry's automatic gearbox stripped for inspection, everything looked perfect!

Terry’s automatic gearbox stripped for inspection, everything looked perfect!

20th February

A day where we were threatened from the start by bad weather, but one where we once again made the best of it, for as long as we could.

Paul had brought another ARC-52, kindly swopped by the guys at Aeroventure in Doncaster during the week, to see if this would give us any better a result……so a quick un-cover of the nose of XS186, the original ARC-52 was slid out of its mounting tray and the replacement put in, and then both of our fully charged internal batteries were connected up. Ted switched to ‘power on’ inside the cockpit, and waited. And waited………still nothing. Paul had a brainwave to change whatever radio related wiring loom we had, with it’s spare, just in case it was an un-discovered wiring break. Turned out we only actually had one spare and matching loom, so Paul and Dick set about disconnecting a myriad of other wiring harnesses to get to the one which had the spare……..eventually the swop was made and everything put back together. Power on, everything crossed…………still nothing……….XS186 can be EXTREMELY ANNOYING sometimes! So, that was the end of that job for the day.

Ted stayed in his cockpit position to remove our JPT gauge so he could re-fix the glass, which had succumbed to a bit of tapping from resident P1’s over recent months, thanks to a sparodic sticking of the pointer during engine runs. This sticking, despite the milli-volt tester displaying it’s sweep as absolutely perfect.

The rest of the guys got stuck into some very determined Terry repairs, including reversing polarity on various component parts to satisfy ourselves that we had literally tried everything. It was during one of these exercises in backward thinking, the unbelievable happened. Harry had turned the solenoid on the starter motor around, re-fitted it and jumped in the cab to re-try the start, for probably the thirtieth time, that day!

Incredibly, it turned over, and coughed into life, on first turn of the engine!

Buoyed by this frankly strange but nevertheless very positive turn of events, the rest of the guys whooped at Harry to take Terry for a spin, and watched as it was expected to trundle off into the now rain swept distance. That was when the trend of recent weeks bad luck was obviously still determined to hang out with us for just a bit longer. Thumbs down from Harry, the damned thing had no gear selection, WHAAAAAT, it was correct, despite most of us having given it a go, there was indeed no drive to the gearbox. Totally deflated, the whole crew trudged in their now rain-soaked overalls and jackets back to the cabin for a final cuppa, and came to terms with the thought of yet more engine / gearbox stripping………. not the greatest of days. Will we be back to fight again, you can bet on that!

Terry in lots of bits, just before starting, and the next depressing failure......

Terry in lots of bits, just before starting, and the next depressing failure……

13th February

After several weeks of very frustrating weather, and even more frustrating technical issues, it was good to have a day when we could actually get stuck into something positive, our Valentines Weekend ‘dusk taxy run’!

We really wanted this to be a positive day, so despite some still lingering problems, such as Terry the Tug being very u/s, and our ARC-52 radio being equally un-co-operative , we set out to re-dress the balance……… in the way that our crew have learned how to do so very well.

First mission, comms……..Ted, keen to be able to carry out his P2 duties effectively later in the day, explored the possibility of using the emergency radio as a standby intercom. It took some work, taking a 24v feed from the cockpit electrical distribution panel into the emergency battery circuit to power up the never used before emergency set…….the bold move worked! After some cockpit switch throwing, from main set and main aerial, onto standby settings, the intercom burst into life, a great piece of electrical re-engineering, especially as it proved that we had correctly re-wired the emergency circuits all those years ago!

Next, finishing our traffic control lighting. We had bought a set of dis-assembled traffic lights several months ago, but we had no real motivation to get them put together and sort out the switch gear, until now, when we knew that 30-40 cars would be arriving that needed controlling! Harry and Philip, fresh from another couple of hours working on Terry’s starter problem, elected to spend some of their afternoon building something instead of stripping everything… After some pretty impressive design and build work, a fully functioning, switch operated, previously 12v, now 240v set of traffic control lights were ready for action.

The rest of the crew prepared the aircraft or the site for the evening event, Dick and John sorting fluid levels, blanks and pressures on XS186, whilst Jonty and Paul cleared out and cleaned up the inside of the runway caravan so it could support pre-run crew and fire team briefings.

Ian and Howard kept on with some detailed engineering work on our newly built fuel transfer equipment, matter of factly mentioning it was ‘job done’ and ready for use by lunch-time, more great news!

After a 101 other smaller tasks it all started to hang together quite nicely, public safety measures in place, seating for a couple of dozen expected visitors, our trusty fire crew on site and briefed. Everything was ready, and it wasn’t yet dusk…….we’re getting good at this!

By just after 5.00pm we were all set. Paul took time to explain the evenings proceedings to the now 80 strong crowd, and asked the assembled to fall silent for a minute, to remember one of our strongest supporters and patron of the Friends of Metheringham from the very beginning, Peter Scoley, who had sadly passed away on the Thursday. The crowd did us proud, you could have heard a pin drop…….

Time to break the silence – and we had decided to shake things up a bit……..Ian, our P1 and Viper guru, had agreed to provide a little extra heat and light, by carrying out a start with the HP cock open, but no ignition on. This, as well as sounding like a false start, has the effect of dumping un-burned fuel into the jet-pipe, where it sits until another start sequence is initiated, this time with ignition on……… the effect is quite entertaining, and very unusual, reheat from a JP….mmmm. It was all very well managed and both the crowd and indeed the crew loved it. We reckon we may do that again one day later in the year……

The rest of the engine & taxy run was faultless too, Ian and Ted in the cockpit performing their duties just as well in the half light as they do in the usual midday slot, and Geoff looking the part with night ‘wands’ marshalling XS186 neatly into the corner of our hardstanding. A couple of full power runs later and it was time for shutdown, the whole crew having done a magnificent job over a long and tough day. The crowd liked it too, much better than being stuck at home in the warm!

A good crowd, a great day, an outstanding crew!

6th February

We’ve had enough now……….the whole place is getting pretty sombre after several weeks of rain……..made even worst now by bone chilling north winds……..just horrible.

All we could do was put in some more self flagellating work on Terry. Starter motor back off, solenoid replaced, refitted…….nothing again…….. More stripping and re-building of electrical circuitry, more battery power, still nothing…….. We reckon the engine is partially seized, but how and why?  We will find out, but we aren’t sure when! In the meantime, our noses run like drains, eyes water in the face of arctic winds and both hands and feet slowly lose all feeling…….. this is fun, yeah?

Howard and Ian started to put together our new fuel syphon / pump equipment, and realised there was some very necessary earthing work to do, so that’s gone off to be finished during the week by both of them.

Ian also took our ‘blind six’ instrument panel apart, after Paul announced we had found an altimeter to fill our final blank. The blind six panel needs a bit of re-working, but all in a days work for Ian…..

Ted put some quality time into revising his electrical AP, so if the rain ever does stop, we can get some panels undone and get investigating or radio issues.

That was about our lot this week, not the most inspiring of days, but until you have some bad days, you don’t appreciate the good ones!

30th January

An awful day weather-wise, and if we are honest, work-wise it wasn’t too impressive either ……

High winds and rain made it totally pointless un-covering most of XS186, other than to open the nose and try our new (to us) ARC-52, which in the event didn’t give us a squeak. The poor conditions meant we couldn’t really investigate the comms issue any further without exposing more electrical areas, which would only have made matters worst. Not a very auspicious start.

Un-daunted, we stuck with a plan to ‘dry spool’ our Viper engine, to keep the main bearing lubricated and  push some fuel through the system. That went to plan at least, so we cheered up a bit! The only other work we could do was install our newly acquired instruments from the great guys at East Midlands Aeropark, into our spare ‘training panel’, which leaves us with only an altimeter and a couple of switches before it’s complete.

Several hours were spent getting frustrated with Terry the Tug, who is utterly determined not to start, ever again……. a simple starter motor problem now appears to be something a bit more sinister, so more and more bits are being removed for investigation, including the whole of the front end of the vehicle so we could turn the ‘York Diesel’ engine by hand, followed by the full set of injectors, and several starter combinations (again)!

We don’t like feeling hamstrung, so we spent a bit of time planning some alternative options to progress during the week. Thankfully these activities went a lot better………. Jonty and Harry were going north to feed some ‘trike’ fetish on the Sunday, and agreed to drop in at our good friends at ‘The Standard’ public house in Northallerton, home of the increasingly spectacular looking XN458, to follow up on some joint agreements from last year. We left the Yorkshire lads with some JP fuselage decals, and left with a couple of trestles (on loan), a replacement fuel contents switch and a full set of under-wing XS186 serial decals. Result!

One element of a very successful trip up to Northallerton this week - wing trestles!

One element of a very successful trip up to Northallerton this week – wing trestles!

Paul got his head around a long standing issue, that of fuel transfer from bowsers to drums, to aircraft, and got hold of the sub-assemblies to make what is hoped to be a versatile syphon/pump system, as well as a starter motor solenoid so we can have another stab at Terry the Tug next Saturday………..

23rd January

This week is our once a year ‘banned from site’ week, when local farmers are shooting stuff in the area, deemed too dangerous to be around (and proven to be correct), so we take off and do something different. Take a look at our ‘Crew Adventures’ page for all the gory details! See you back here next week.

16th January

Back to it again today, still a bit of a quagmire, and near freezing temperatures, but that’s never stopped us before.

Our tug’s faulty starter motor was still away having some further attention, which if un-successful, will lead us down the road of getting a new one, so not a lot was done on this front today.

XS186 just had some clips replaced on the jet pipe shrouds that Ian had spotted missing a couple of weeks earlier. That was all we wanted to risk with such low temperatures, so our ‘No10’ was kept wrapped up.

The most attention was lavished on our runway caravan, which benefitted from a new set of ‘long vehicle’ chevrons! Even getting these hadn’t been an easy task – the age of our caravan meant the chevrons have been superceded by EU regulation size plates now…….. but Paul had eventually tracked down a supplier that could get hold of a set, and today they provided another small step in the right direction.

Final job was the further kitting out of our ‘trainee’ Jet Provost instrument panel, Paul having got a few more fittings for it over recent days. Ian took some time to get them installed, and next week a few final parts will hopefully come our way, and we will have a very comprehensive training resource for both new and existing crew!

Our caravan with 'period' vehicle plates back in place!

Our caravan with ‘period’ vehicle plates back in place!

9th January

The winter of 2015 / 2016 will go down as one of the wettest, that’s for sure.

Metheringham has suffered like lots of other places, the site literally having to be covered with walking boards, aka the Western Front. Without them we would soon make the buildings, vehicles, and our ourselves a complete mess. Nonetheless, we carry on.

We certainly wouldn’t uncover XS186 with so much rain and wind around. For an aircraft that’s stored outside, the weather causes us enough problems already, without opening up more opportunities for water to get into places it shouldn’t.

So, what could we do…… Ian had fixed the jet pipe drain shroud that had parted company with one of it’s fixing latches before Christmas. It was as good as new again now, so because we could do that job without un-covering the aircraft, Ian decided that with Dick’s help, they could set about re-fitting the shroud in it’s rightful place. Within half an hour it was in situ and drain pipework re-attached, job done.

The rest of the guys had been busy in the week, Harry having fixed one of several ‘saved’ starter motors for Terry the Tug that we have built up over successive years. Suffice to say this part has always been a weak spot for Terry, why, we have never managed to figure out…. First of course we had to put together the engine / gearbox that we had separated last week, whilst we had been fishing out the lump of starter that had gone walkabout in December.

That done, it was a simple job putting the now fixed starter in place, wiring it in and giving pride of place to Harry in the driving seat. It was he, who given that he is our young new brave, had spent the most time laid in the cold and wet underneath the tug, with almost frozen hands for the previous couple of hours, whilst most of the rest of us had offered whatever support we could, mainly telling ‘old men’ tales of previous winters tasks……….. Anyway, Harry was in the drivers seat now, he put the power isolation switch to ‘on’, pressed the heater plug on the diesel engine for the recommended 30 seconds, and pressed the starter. The starter hauled itself around a couple of times, but it was as if it was trying to turn the earth!……..not what we expected. Various theories abounded, perhaps the repaired starter wasn’t as ‘repaired’ as we thought. Or perhaps the on-board battery was too run down. In any case the only course was to take the battery off for charging, and to swop a repaired starter for a new one…….

Other than the above saga, it was a case of Ted removing our also faulty ARC-52 radio for a spell at home in his airing cupboard, just in case the fault is cold & wet related. If a spell in the warm doesn’t work, then this is another part that’s up for replacement, quite a round of faulty parts we are having!

More updates on progress next week…..

Ian working where he feels most at home, in the jet pipe access bay, re-fitting the now fixed jet pipe shroud

Ian working where he feels most at home, in the jet pipe access bay, re-fitting the now fixed jet pipe shroud

2nd January 2016

Enough rest, we need to get back to our labour(s) of love!

We have got a few problems to sort out in these, our first couple of months of the new year, when it’s historically quiet.

So, despite some light rain and it being a bit more like January temperatures, we set about some of our tasks.

Ted, Ian, Dick and Paul started by un-doing the front cover on XS186 and putting in the twin on-board batteries, so we could have a look at the intercom fault that was noted at the end of our last run. With power on, Ted ran through a number of checks with different head-sets and oxygen mask mikes. We couldn’t raise anything at all……. very odd, but despite our best efforts, including connecting up the trolley acc for extra amps, and trying a spare cockpit control box, we never got anything out of the three ARC-52 sets we have. This wont stop us doing engine runs, but it’s not ideal, and we like to have a 100% serviceable machine, so Paul has a mission, fix one of our existing sets, or find a working one……..not so easy these days, but we aren’t easily beaten.

XS186 partly un-covered whilst various radio combinations were tried out

XS186 partly un-covered whilst various radio combinations were tried out

Whilst we had power on Ted took a look at our JPT gauge, which is occasionally sticking and sometimes needs a light tap. With a milli-volt power unit connected up Ted reported that the gauge worked fine, smooth travel across the full range, so the fault may be further back in the sender unit. One for further reading up on, though we aren’t going to push our luck too much whilst it is ok for a majority of the time.

That was it on XS186, but Harry, Jonty, and Dick had also got stuck into a new job on Terry. During a start up a couple of weeks ago there was an ominous screech and a distinct lack of starting related noises……upon investigation the starter motor was found to have broken, literally, with a portion of it dropping into the gearbox bell housing!

Un-daunted, the guys set about un-bolting the gearbox, with all it’s related parts such as prop shaft and various ‘bolt on’ brackets etc. and slowly inched it away from the engine. With a lot of fishing around in dark corners the broken part was located and extracted from the bell housing, well done to the team! By this time the rain was getting heavier and the temperature was sending a chill right through us, so not wanting to start January with pneumonia, we elected to retire and put Terry back together next week.

All hands to the task, Harry, Jonty and Dick un-couple Terry's gearbox

All hands to the task, Harry, Jonty and Dick un-couple Terry’s gearbox

Not before Paul did a bit more work on the runway caravan, which had shown a slight leak through some pin-prick size holes in one of the side walls, so after a bit of light filling that should prevent any further water ingress, and it can be finished off and painted up when the weather allows.

Not a bad first day back, but our radio problems really are our Achilles heel at the moment, one that we really must try to get on top of this year!

26th December

Well even the crew deserve a bit of a rest, no work today!

19th December

A much nicer day, in fact positively spring like…… what on earth is happening to our weather these days. Anyway in the short term we won’t complain, and it removed any doubt around whether an engine/taxy run would be on.

We did have to take one point into account, our fire control team, the LFRPSS had to be back in Lincoln by early afternoon, to pull Santa, along with his sleigh, and no doubt several elves, through myriad streets to raise funds for our increasingly stretched emergency services. Well done them, and the least we could do was get our finger out and get XS186 fired up a bit earlier for these guys.

So it was that by 11.30am all was set, with just a single point noted as needing some attention during the ‘walk around’ checks, the engine jet pipe drain which had a broken clip. Nothing too concerning on a ground taxying operation, but for us it’s not as it should be, so once the run was over that’s someone’s next job…..nothing else to concern us on the day, so the F700 was signed by the on-board crew (John Temple as P1 and Jonty Johnson as P2), the Fire Officer from LFRPSS, and Crew Chief (Paul). We were set.

Fully charged trolley acc plugged in, and on John’s signal from the cockpit, Ian switched on trolley power and XS186 was asked to do her thing…….with a now hugely increased ampere-hour boost from our four trolley batteries she needed no coaxing, WOW, XS186 has never sounded so good!

Ted was on the outside keeping an eye on the trolley acc battery connectors to ensure this new set-up wasn’t under any strain, glowing battery connectors are never a good thing……. he need not have worried, they didn’t even get warm, excellent work by him. The trolley acc was pushed aside and Ian provided hand signal feedback whilst John ran through a full flying surface, lighting and yes, a full power engine run checks, just beautiful.

Then it was chocks out and Ian switched to marshalling duties. John released the brakes. XS186 was eased forward and as planned in the pre-brief, swung her around the limited apron space in a 180 degree turn, showing her at her very best. Once re-positioned it was chocks back in, and a brief run up to full power again. You won’t get up close to a full power engine run anywhere else like this, it’s quite a sight and sound.

XS186 looking great, and sounding great, on our final run of 2015!

XS186 looking great, and sounding great, on our final run of 2015!

Official duties complete, so John ran through pre – shutdown checks, gave the ‘shutdown’ signal and closed the high pressure fuel cock. Even the run down sequence is timed, and it was as advertised, so everyone was more than happy. A quick post-run de-brief, in which an intercom fault was noted, and an intermittent glitch on the JPT gauge, which is sticking and sometimes requires a tap to encourage it to swing (you should never need to tap a gauge, ask any ex RAF pilot!), so some more jobs in the new year.

That was it, the fire crew could depart, and Ian could get his trusty tool set out to remove the drain cover from the jet pipe, so it can be fixed over the Christmas break, this guy knows how to have fun! The rest of the crew jumped to their re-covering duties, by far the hardest part of any day, putting the myriad of bespoke covers over all of the dayglo-painted areas and cockpit / wheels etc. Harder than you think in typical airfield ‘breeze’……

Well, a great finish to a very successful year. XS186 has been a dream girl this year, hardly a murmur of trouble (that’s not an invitation XS186!) and lots of big plans for next year. We can’t wait to get started!

Watch a video of today’s run here;

12th December

No chance of anything meaningful this week, steady rain all day meant that other than some regular maintenance on the crew cabin, it was a total wash-out. We decided to save ourselves for next week……

5th December

Oh well, back to work this week……

But, it was blowing a gale, so no chance of even un-covering XS186 today. In fact, the only place we could do anything practical was inside our runway caravan. So, despite it being a bit cosy with four guys all armed and dangerous, we all got stuck in. Jonty and Philip put a brand new, hand made, window frame in, and panelled the kitchen area out, beautiful work!

Ted used the opportunity to finish off the installation of the main lighting system, working around Paul with his paint brush, who made a start on the interior colour scheme, nice…..

caravan brown Dec15

Lights in, and test wall in our runway caravan painted, what would you call that colour, mushroom?

The other guys, Harry and Howard busied themselves with repair and maintenance jobs in an effort to stay out of mischief…….by and large it worked, so, not much of an aircraft restoration day, but in amongst the several cups of tea were some interesting plans and ideas for 2016, so watch this space!

28th November

Not a good day for work today, with some very poor weather, so other than Ted, Howard and Philip doing some tidying up and arranging of new key sets etc. it was a day out and about at RAF Cosford for several crew members instead. For full details of a quite amazing day, read our ‘crew adventures’ page!

Back to normal operations next week!

21st November

OK engine run day! After a forced absence it’s always a tense time. We know that XS186 has a finite life, one day a critical component will go u/s and on that occasion that will be it, and XS186 will move into a new, quieter, chapter of history . Until that day it’s our job to make the most of what we have achieved, today is what that is all about!

So, with a good crew turn out and cold, windy but dry conditions, we slipped into well known ground crew roles. All the time with an interesting new backdrop………..

Several of the guys had to busy themselves with more mundane tasks, like the chasing up of a new tyre for our runway caravan, and the measuring up of a new window mounting frame for the caravan kitchen window, which we had found out was only being held in by a sliver of silicone sealer!

By late morning our trusted partners, the LFRPSS had arrived. We explained that todays run was a little more risk laden than a regular engine run, us having replaced a fuel vent pipe (that links the recuperator and collector tanks), had the jet pipe dis-connected along with associated thermocouples, and that we needed to re-calibrate the slow running adjustment on the Viper.

Just after midday and all was set. It was no small relief when XS186 fired up without a hint of second thoughts, helped by our now quadruple battery set, giving us an impressive Ah capacity. Ian was in P1 and Dick in P2, whilst Geoff had the opportunity to scare the less well informed spectators wit-less by clambering onto the port mainplane and opening up the engine bay panel to tweak the slow running adjustment, whilst Ian put the engine through a series of throttle settings, a seemingly mad pastime but quite safe if you know as much about Vipers as Ian and Geoff!

A thumbs up from Geoff to Ian that he could see the tacho was reading correctly (by reading it over Ian’s left shoulder from the mainplane, a common practice ‘on the line’ apparently!) and it was just down to Ian to run No10 through a couple of ‘slam’ max power trials, checking that there was no lag, or engine stall. Nope, no problems at all, a bit of smoke from the Venturi jet pipe exhaust / drain, which was expected as we had done a ‘dry run’ the week before, with fuel cocks open, so there would be a bit of un-burned Jet A-1 in the jet pipe. Final job, a short taxy forward just to try the brakes, then wheel chocks back in, and a final full power run before bringing her back to 60%. Pre-shut down checks complete and the hand across the throat from Ian to signal the end of a thankfully successful run. Well we’re back to all systems go again, no small credit to our ‘sooties’ and several weeks of traditional ‘aeroplane fixing’. Many thanks to the crew, not forgetting some serious trolley acc work carried out by Ted on fitting a new set of solid bar battery connectors, to get the very most of our new found ground power!


Ted working on the trolley acc batteries. Note our new arrival in the background!

XS186 - a soon after arrival at Metheingham photo of XS186, not seen before

14th November

Right, we were on a mission today, and we didn’t care that the weather forecast was horrible, we are missing our girl in full voice!

After a quick catch up regarding the imminent arrival of another aircraft at Metheringham, and all of the work that this meant for us…….everyone got into the days fun.

Ted started the complex job of fitting and connecting two heavy duty 12v batteries into our trolley acc, and despite gradually worsening weather, got the existing two and the new two batteries, linked up in parallel series (?) by lunchtime. The rather tangled web of connecting cables seemed to do the trick, and after a quick test to be certain that we had 24+ voltage we were able to connect everything up. This wasn’t before the large scale movement of XS186, our caravan and tug, to places of relative safety, in readiness for our new arrival at Metheringham……

Was XS186 going to make us look like a set of fools and refuse to spin up, or had we got to know what we were talking out and guessed correctly by getting new batteries……With rain falling steadily we erred on the side of caution and planned for a dry run up without ignitors, to see one way or the other.

Well the trolley acc gave a very re-assuring clunk when Ted flicked on the power switch, and Ian gave the thumbs up for a dry run. XS186 spooled up immediately, infact very impressively, with Ian reporting afterwards that the appropriate readings  for oil pressure and engine rpm picked up very rapidly! That’s more like it. With worsening conditions we didn’t want to push our luck though, so blanks and plugs were re-placed or re-covered and we left he alone until next week when we plan to try a full blown engine / taxy run!

Whilst the dry spool went very well, Jonty, John and Philip made great progress with the kitchen / storage area of our caravan, removing, cleaning, re-sealing and re-fitting the window in this area during the day, whilst Paul and Harry made a start on new external rain guards for the windows.

Ralph also reached a milestone by getting the rear wheels of Terry the Tug repainted between rain showers, Terry looking extremely smart these days.

Overall a very satisfying day, with all of us looking forward to a full run of XS186 next week!

7th November

OK, time to try to get to the bottom of our starting, or lack of starting problem to be more precise. Ted was back so we went through another charging process with our trolley acc, waited for it to turn green on the 24v charger, and moved everything and everybody into position.

Ian was on his own in the cockpit, whilst Ted kept his head deep inside the nose compartment, watching for anything untoward. The rest of the crew adopted their assigned positions, with just about everything that could be crossed, crossed.

Once again Ian gave the signal for trolley switch on, and Geoff did the honours. Ian pressed the starter. Absolutely nothing…….. well, not enough to pull the skin of a rice pudding as my mum used to say. Ted noted that the starter panel had managed to run it’s clockwork sequence, so nothing too worrying on the aircraft. Everyone agreed it must be the trolley acc batteries that had, by pure coincidence, decided to give up on us. It was a no brainer, Paul needed to get a coupe of new batteries.  Not cheap, but pretty critical.

So, nothing else for it but to do a bit on our ground equipment until next week. Harry, Dick and Paul took the rear bumper that Paul had painted last week, and got it fitted within just a few minutes. Half an hour later and both Harry and Dick had got rear lamps and reflectors fitted too. This piece of kit is really starting to look the part.

Paul takes time out to photograph Harry and Dick putting the rear bumper on the runway caravan

Paul takes time out to photograph Harry and Dick putting the rear bumper on the runway caravan

Fully kitted out rear bumper, all, bar the number plate, nice job!

Fully kitted out rear bumper, all bar the number plate, nice job!

Ralph carried on with the re-painting of Terry the Tug’s wheels and they look so much nicer, with all that TLC really paying off.

Not the best of days, but we got as much done as we could have wished for. Paul and Ted are on a mission to get us some batteries and fittings, so providing our thoughts re the reasons for all this ‘no show’ funny business are correct, we should see the light at theend of e tunnel by next week…….

31st October

Much better weather today, so we were determined to get XS186 fired up and ensure everything was working fine following the jet pipe work carried out recently.

So, whilst Paul took advantage of the pleasant conditions to dust off his spraying equipment and applied the topcoat to the runway caravans rear bumper, Jonty took over Crew Chief duties and got XS186 through the Form 700 requirements that would allow us to start her up.

By midday all was prepared and with our fire personnel in place and all safety measures signed off, Geoff gave the spinning finger to Ian and Dick in the cockpit……… uh oh……..there was a problem. Not enough power was getting through to even turn the starter. The high energy ignitors kicked in, but all that did was drain what little remaining power was in the trolley acc batteries. Very odd indeed, as it appeared that even though the trolley acc had been fully charged as part of the days normal pre-start procedure, the Ah (ampere hours) were next to zero. We didn’t want to make matters worse by trying to start XS186 with on-board batteries, as they just aren’t up to it, so we elected to wait until Ted is back next week so we can carry out some more diagnosis and get the right solution. We hope it’s just new batteries required rather than an on-board problem.

There wasn’t a lot else we could do other than some further work in the runway caravan, which is still progressing very nicely, and to catch up with some constitutional paperwork that will promote our inclusion into the aviation heritage arena next year. Fingers crossed for next weeks look at our power problem.

24th October

OK so the weather forecast for today was pretty dreadful, rain all day………… so when we got to Metheringham and it was dry, we reckoned on making the most of the little time we had.

The jet pipe that we had some trouble re-aligning last week came in for some serious attention, the jet pipe temperature thermocouples were disconnected and the jet pipe was eased further out to expose the attachments and allow a thorough servicing of all the moving parts, the experienced team of Ian and Geoff taking the opportunity to teach Dick the ropes around jet pipe maintenance. That job done the jet pipe was eased back into position, this time the sliding attachments behaved as they had been designed to, the rear bolts slotting in without a hint of an issue.

Jet pipe half out and Geoff ensures that the attachments are free moving from now on!

Jet pipe half out and Geoff ensures that the attachments are free moving from now on!

Further up the fuselage Paul was head and shoulders inside the belly of XS186, setting the scene for the installation of the now re-painted new (to us) fuel vent pipe. Old ‘P’ clip removed and temporary blanks loosened off, just in time for Harry to turn up and lend a hand with the task ahead. Within twenty minutes the pipe was in and secured, it was tested for leaks, and following the thumbs up, the inspection panels replaced, great job.

Harry working in less than spacious surroundings, but the fuel vent pipe is in!

Harry working in less than spacious surroundings, but the fuel vent pipe is in!

As both teams were congratulating themselves on jobs well done, it arrived. The heavens opened, and it was a few minutes of frantic clearing of tools and bodies from the scene, but not until XS186 had been covered up again…….. there are certain priorities……

Next week will see final checking of bolts / pins and wiring, and if we are lucky a engine run to test our handiwork.

There wasn’t a lot we could turn to once the rain had set in for the day, so Paul and Philip started on some painting inside the runway caravan, Jonty did some sanding of the benches ready for varnishing and Harry took some temporary measures to stop a leak from one of the window seals, a liberal spreading of grease! It’s only until we locate some rubber extrusion to replace a worn section that had been exposed by the downpour now drenching the whole site.

Ralph had just gotten the rear wheels of Terry the Tug prepared so the rain was particularly unhelpful in this area, Ralph almost being reduced to a naughty word, now that’s serious…….

17th October

A hive of activity today with the weather being reasonably kind again.

We had originally hoped to fit our replacement fuel vent pipe, but the need to remove some surface corrosion and re-paint it meant that was not going to happen, so alternative plans kicked in.

Whilst Paul prepared and primed the vent pipe along with whatever else he could find that needed a coat, including the runway caravan rear bumper that Harry had made off-site previously, and our new undercarriage parts, Ian and Geoff, our two ex JP ‘sooties’ decided to fulfil a long standing ambition to inspect the turbine section of our Viper 204. They took Dick along as he is always keen to pick up new skills.

The jet pipe - prior to it's dis-connection

The jet pipe – prior to it’s dis-connection

This job meant disconnecting the jet-pipe from the engine, sliding it back on a trunnion and using a mirror to view the turbine section. So, specialist tool box out and the various locking wires, bolts and straps removed, and the jet pipe slid backwards as advertised. Ian peered into the mirror, but instead of the usual horrible sight staring back at him, this time all he could see was the near mint condition turbine blades! Great news for all of us who naturally fear the worst whenever we strip anything down!  When it came to re-assembling the engine / jet pipe there was a bit of trouble getting the jet pipe rear mounting bolts re-aligned, so that job will need finishing next week, but overall it was a well executed piece of work.

The jet pipe dis-connected, the yellow strap supports the pipe and connects to an overhead trunnion

The jet pipe dis-connected, the yellow strap supports the pipe and connects to an overhead trunnion

Most of the rest of the crew busied themselves with the runway caravan, Jonty and Philip making a start on the old kitchen area, stripping out some shelving and making plans to transform it into a merchandise shop, very ambitious. Ted completed the fifth and final light fitting in the main cabin area, and lit it up just to prove it.

Ralph looked like he was starting a fairly close relationship with Terry’s wheels again, we are starting to worry about those two…..and Howard made some further progress with our fuel transportation equipment. A good day.

10th October

Well there was quite a bit of frantic mid week activity on the spare parts front, not least of which was a positive piece of news from our very friendly JP partners at the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre. Paul had been working with the leaders of the Centre to get the fuel vent pipe from their aircraft, XP556, in exchange for some much needed work to make good the canopy seal on 556, or ‘B’ to quote her unit code. It all came together very nicely, so by Saturday Paul had rallied the two best equipped crew members for small dark places he could find, Dick and Harry, and after meeting at Metheringham to pull together a tool set, it was off to Cranwell for the intrepid trio!

The trip was a total success, the pipe came out without a fight and the seal bought in by Paul fitted the canopy / windscreen gap like it was made for it all along, great job. The pipe will need a bit of cleaning up to ensure any surface corrosion doesn’t lead to future problems but that puts us back on track to resume operations in the next week or so.

Thanks to this aircraft XS186 will soon be back in service, thanks to the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre!

Thanks to this aircraft (XP556) our XS186 will soon be back in service, well done to the Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre!

Whilst the Cranwell trip was on the rest of the crew continued with Terry and our runway caravan restoration, Ted fitting the remaining lights in the caravan whilst Ralph made good progress with Terry’s wheels, which do seem to account for about half of it’s weight going on how many coats of paint are being removed!

It really should be noted too, that a further parts search around the globe by Paul managed to generate a whole set of main undercarriage leg locking mechanisms, previously thought about as obtainable as Woolly Mammoth do do, and critical to the next phase of the undercarriage work, as the operating arms of the mechanisms on XS186 are completely corroded or broken.

Generally a very good day, with parts coming in from all quarters that will help us to progress our longer term ambitions very nicely thank you.

3rd October

Back to getting stuck into some work this week, it’s what we do best.

Quite a bit of time was spent trying to get a collection of spare fuel pipework together to see if we could make up a new section to replace the bit that sprung a leak after our engine run last week. Consensus is we may be able to make up a new one from various bits n pieces we have. It’s not our preferred solution, we would rather obtain a spare from a supplier or another JP that wouldn’t miss it, but these options are becoming rare……..

Once we had done that, Dick and Harry got stuck into a full undercarriage inspection / lubrication exercise, part of the extensive preparation for undercarriage cycling tests in the coming months.They also identified several parts that need replacing, so a job for Paul to follow up, he’s the man for parts scavenging!

Dick in his natural habitat, a small dark place where no-one else can get!

Dick in his natural habitat, a small dark place where no-one else can get!

Ralph did some more wheel prep on Terry the Tug whilst Paul did a final bit of detailed yellow spraying. We are probably a bit obsessive with Terry, but if a job is worth doing…….

Ted continued working on the internal lighting in the runway caravan. It’s now got to the confusing mass of wires stage, so hopefully Ted will emerge from the morass one day soon, enveloped in light!

Ted's lighting job making good progress!

Ted’s lighting job making good progress!

Jonty worked around Ted to clear the caravan of anything that wasn’t bolted down, in readiness for a full internal paint job. Once this is done we can start fitting out the interior with display and other educational material. It’s all part of a grand ‘master plan’.

Howard and Philip developed our fuel transport system still further, combining various transportation / locking / stabilising devices together to make a single inter-connected apparatus. Very Heath Robinson, but seemingly very effective!

Overall a good productive day, with some of our longer term jobs like undercarriage cycling, fuel transportation and our caravan making excellent headway.

26th September

Engine run day!

We couldn’t have wished for better conditions, a calm clear day with typical September temperatures, very nice.

A pretty good crew turn out too, and aided by our now regular partners from Lincs Fire & Rescue who brought along at least ten crew members, it was quite a crowd, even without a public event!

There wasn’t a lot of time do much ‘other’ work as it was straight down to run prep, which without Ian and Dick, two of the busiest people on an engine run day, made it a bit different, with individuals getting stuck into relatively new tasks. Paul being P2 today meant someone else was in the Crew Chief position too, so it was a bit of a learning curve for both the regulars and a face we are seeing a bit more of these days, Harry, who made today his third working visit. Three more working visits and he becomes our youngest crew member…..

By about midday all was set, so after a few minutes briefing the XS186 crew, the fire control team and another new participant, Bill, who was doing some birds eye view filming with his ‘remotely piloted vehicle’, we were ready for off.

John Temple in P1 gave the signal to fire up the Viper engine, and all went as advertised, rpm building nicely, JPT showing text book readings and oil pressure, that had been reading a little low on the previous weeks dry run, making up for it by reading exactly what it should, John insisted XS186 knows when the boss is on board…… It was only a straightforward manoeuvre today as we were limited by a caravan owner who decided it was a good idea to park the obstruction within thirty feet of a live jet……. sometimes it really is a temptation to be a devil.

All activities were ticked off as complete and after a final run up to approximately 95% power, to rattle a few windows, it was that slightly depressing moment where the fun has to stop and the engine is shut down.

It was all hands to the pumps to replace covers, protecting the dayglo orange from the now bright autumnal sun, when our newest would be recruit noticed a small pool forming under the fuselage. It didn’t take long for us to figure out it was fuel – oh no, not after we had just put 1200+ Ib’s of the stuff into her last week!

Within minutes the access panels were off and some torch light was thrown onto the matter. Harry and Paul traced the leak to a split in a ‘vent pipe’ between the recuperator and engine fuel filter. Most odd but we didn’t have time to discuss why it was there, we had to stop it. Harry set about clipping the locking wires so the three foot long piece of pipe work could be removed, whilst Paul located an appropriately sized blanking plug that could stop the leak at source, not easy with a stream of Jet A1 doing it’s best to coat everything and everybody!

Nevertheless within a couple of minutes the leak had been stopped, the leaking fuel having been captured in our long since retired fuel collector tray, and it was down to some serious reference manual scouring to try to understand what we need to do to fix it and how, spare pipes don’t grow on trees, and this had made XS186 u/s for the first time in many months.

Still, there have been many bigger obstacles in our way before this one, so confidence is high that we will either make a new pipe from scratch, or obtain another from one of the several JP owners that we have good relations with. Watch this space…..

Also – keep an eye on these pages in the coming days for our first aerial view footage of XS186!

19th September

Back to reasonable strength this week, although some of the work was done off-site today…..

Howard and Paul had been liaising on a piece of work over recent works, to build a fuel transportation system, always a challenge for us in the absence of proper fuel bowser…….. if anyone’s listening!

Howard had done all of the leg-work and built a couple of trolleys that could move full 45 gallon drums effortlessly around the inside of a van, that in itself is a major undertaking!

So, first thing in the morning Paul and Howard set off to one of our local’ish airfields to ‘fill her up’ with Jet A1. The fuel filling was easy, although the bowser drivers had absolutely no confidence in our engineering prowess, until we pushed a full drum five feet into the van with a light push. Their jaws dropped and they realised who they were dealing with…..

A trouble free trip back and it was all hands to the pumps as soon as we drew up – transferring 430 litres of fuel from drums into jerry cans, and then from jerry cans into XS186. A kind of human chain seemed to automatically form between four or five crew members, syphoning out, carrying, lifting, re-syphoning in and checking for leaks and fuel levels in the wing tanks, bearing in mind this was the most fuel XS186 had carried since leaving service back in 1968!

A couple of hours later XS186 had the 430 litres on board and a fuel reading with this and what was already on board showed over 1,100 Ib’s, a real milestone for XS186, and seemingly trouble free.

After much congratulating on a job well done, it was time to clear the area and for Ted to take up the left seat to do a dry spool with HP cock open, just to circulate some fuel around the engine. All went well, though the oil psi seemed a bit low, which Paul, who is P2 with John Temple next Saturday will keep a close eye on……

We shouldn’t forget the continuing work on Terry the Tug, which whilst looking superb following it’s respray still needs to have it’s wheels tidied up and a few remaining bits of cosmetic work finishing. So, Ralph maintained the laborious task of rubbing down the wheel rims ready for priming / painting whilst Dick applied some new College of Air Warfare decals to the doors, our own signature on an otherwise original spec vehicle.

A good day, as usual pushing a few boundaries!

Terry adorned with new College of Air Warfare badges, very smart!

Terry adorned with new College of Air Warfare badges, very smart!

12th September

A fairly quiet week in terms of turn out, but not quiet for those who were there!

Jonty and a more often seen face these days, Harry, took on some safety work on the runway caravan, replacing potentially harmful bolts (if you brushed by them without realising they were there), that were securing an aerial mast brackets with more appropriate counter-sunk Allen Key bolts. During this exercise they found a potential leak area around the baseplate of the aerial mount, so Jonty sped home to get some sealer so the offending area could be treated. It needs some more riveting to make it less vulnerable to the elements, so that can be the follow up piece of work.

During the search phase for suitable bolts etc. Jonty and Harry decided it was a reasonable time to make the lorry body actually accessible by human beings, only the very bravest of crew and water had any chance of getting more than a few inches into the storage area up until that point. Several hours later the lorry body had a floor a real person could actually walk on again!

John Evans decided the grounds around XS186 were looking less Chatsworth’esque than usual so he set about rectifying that, and got them looking very Capability Brown’ish again by the time it was time to go.

Ted did some more work on the caravan lighting, though an ex JP visitor distracted him somewhat, as they do, so more work to do when there’s less JP talk, always a challenge for us lot!

5th September

Right, not a bad day weather wise, and though we didn’t have a massive turn out today, there were enough of us around to kick start our Autumn work schedule.

Howard had been busy in the week building a prototype trolley and ramp assembly to enable transportation of 45 gallon drums safely and legally. An impressive piece of joinery and engineering appeared to do the job perfectly, Paul and Howard being able to manoeuvre a fully filled drum effortlessly around the inside of a vehicle and remove it from said vehicle equally safely. Wonderful. Howard was able to leave with a couple of tweaks to make to his design, make a second set of the same so we can transport two drums at the same time, and we are ready for the trip!

Jonty really got the bit between his teeth and set up his ladders against the runway caravan, broke open our rubberised paint and spent the morning sealing the caravan roof. He did a great job and a few hours later he, and the rest of us, were confident nothing will get through that lot.

Jonty hard at work giving the caravan roof a water-tight coating

Jonty hard at work giving the caravan roof a water-tight coating

Whilst Jonty was on the roof, Ted was wiring up the first of the interior lights in the caravan, succeeding in getting the first lighting strip up and running and the rest well on their way. Paul was doing his paint thing, preparing and priming the new rear bumper that has been awaiting its turn for several months.

Thanks to Ted, the first of the interior lighting bursts into life, so all weather op's here we come!

Thanks to Ted, the first of the interior lighting bursts into life, so all weather op’s here we come!

Ian took the first look at the undercarriage on XS186. There’s lots to do before we are ready to do any cycling of anything here. Replacement of several hydraulic pipes is first on the list, cleaning of the many grease points and  actual greasing of all the galleries, shackles and pinions, and a thorough plan to cater for what could go wrong and how to fix it if it does. First job was a thorough cleaning and general lubing of the major component parts, so in the coming weeks we can plan removal of corroded or damaged bits and fit new or repaired items.

So, a very productive day, and everyone felt they had made a great start to our Autumn schedule!

29th August

A day given over to planning today, lots of jobs are being taken on in the coming months, but they don’t just  happen all by themselves.

Just a taste of what’s to come are work to allow full undercarriage cycling on XS186, removal of the jet pipe for precautionary inspection of our Viper’s turbine blades, and mainplane (underwing) paintwork to finish off. For our support area, caravan electrics and a lot of external renovation, a concrete base, access door and lighting for our storage area, a new fuel transportation and storage solution, further development of XS186’s operations envelope and many many more smaller jobs on Terry the Tug, our ground equipment and ground works. So, to make this happen we spent quite a bit of time arranging equipment, time and goals, something we are pretty good at………

So, next week top priorities are first – getting a fuel trip organised, including the building of suitable transportation equipment, yes equipment to transport bulk fuel literally built from scratch. Then, ensuring the runway caravan is externally sealed from the elements , so the roof is to be ‘rubberised’. Not least though, XS186 will start to receive some focus on her undercarriage to prepare it for retraction tests. We know this is a real challenge, lots of anecdotal feedback from ex JP riggers to say this is a tough area to master……… that’s never stopped us before though has it.

22nd and 23rd August

Another special weekend for the crew, a fairly normal prep day on Saturday and another Sunday outing to honour our annual meet with the local Citroen Specials Club. We at least try to have an engine / taxy run and BBQ with the club once a year, though classic English summer weather and XS186 serviceability in previous years has rather dampened things in the past…… That was history though, so this year we have had a truly excellent record with XS186 (now I’ve gone and said it haven’t I), and we planned to have the BBQ at Paul’s house just in case the rain came again.

So after a straightforward day on the Saturday, which saw Terry the Tug adorned with new decals, the runway caravan prepared for another briefing session, and another thorough site clean up, on the Sunday we were well prepared. A fully fuelled aircraft, charged up trolley acc and the first time crew of Ian Allaway in P1 and John Temple in P2 were ready for when the five Citroen Specials turned up. Beautiful vehicles every one, a credit to their owners who must pour as much time and effort into them as we do with XS186, so a well deserved place was to have them aligned with our own labour of love for a brief photo shoot before the run.

Terry the Tug, back to stock condition with original markings, for a tug a great sight!

Terry the Tug, back to stock condition with original markings, for a tug a great sight!

The run itself was supported once again by our new partners, the  Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Preservation Support Services team, who turned out in force and impressed everyone with their approach and experience. This group of talented individuals will feature more prominently during coming events, hopefully not to fight real fires, but to display their own unique skills and comprehensive equipment levels. We are really looking forward to working together to build an ever more interesting, varied and safe display.

The run itself was trouble free, though with John taking instrument readings and him being a complete stickler for accuracy, it was noted that idle revs are running slightly hot, so a bit of work for our sooties in the coming days!

XS186 looking great and doing her thing for the Citroen Specials Club

XS186 looking great and doing her thing for the Citroen Specials Club

Once the ‘S’ turn and systems / power cycles had been completed XS186 was shut down, safety pins and blanks / flags returned to their ‘ground’ positions, and once the hot bits had cooled down, covers replaced.

The Citroen Specials with XS186, an impressive line up!

The Citroen Specials with XS186, an impressive line up!

Within an hour we were done, so it was everyone back to Lynne and Paul’s for a BBQ for the 25+ guests and crew. A pretty good day, with XS186 on great form and the BBQ plan working out too!

15th and 16th August

Big weekend for the crew and XS186 – Saturday for prep, and Sunday for our biggest public event to date.

Saturday was a great day, with Terry the Tug finally getting it’s respray. Sterling work by Ralph, Dick and Paul in the morning saw Terry’s primer coat rubbed down, the masking done, and the spray area damped down to reduce the risk of dirt inclusion. In the early afternoon Paul chucked three litres of two-pack hard wearing gloss at it. By mid afternoon Terry was transformed!

Later that day the terrific trio set about re-masking the front and rear bumpers, flatting the chevron’ed areas and letting Dick loose with his matt black spray can. If that tug had any feelings it must have felt pretty special at that point.

Terry was de-masked before they left and final touches and fittings would be addressed the next day.

Philip maintained focus on the caravan interior, cutting a small area of bowed panelling out to re-position it, a skill that appeared to be total double dutch to most of us, damned impressive though! He also installed a new wipe board so we could hold our first crew briefing in there the following day.

The rest of the guys busied themselves with the often over-shadowed, but ever so important jobs such as the charging of the trolley acc, and the de-weeding and general tarting up of our modest manouvering area.

A milestone day, if you’re a follower of Terry’s fortune’s at least!

Terry - resplendent in it's new colour yellow scheme, and with freshly applied chevrons front and rear.

Terry – resplendent in it’s new  yellow scheme, and with freshly applied chevrons front and rear.

The next day was the big one – a charity inspired classic car rally had chosen Metheringham as it’s key staging post for the weekend, and as we were available we had agreed to stage an engine / taxy run for them.

Crew turn out was good considering this was extra-curricular activity, and given that we had done a lot of preparation work the week before, such as re-fuelling of XS186, and lots of ground works, the only jobs left for the morning of the run were de-robing of the aircraft and Form 700 checks of fluids, pressures and positions. Not forgetting of course the final smartening up of paintwork on Terry, now something of a vision as far as general airfield handling equipment goes…….. all very sad but strangely satisfying when you’ve spent several hundred hours getting it there.

We also had the added bonus of the Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Preservation Support Services team, a fully supported fire service who had been liaising with Paul over several previous weeks to provide fire cover for all future engine / taxy runs. This was their first event with us, so an important briefing and opportunity to embed some best practice for all of us. To underline the importance of this new partnership we held our first ever pre-run briefing in the almost completed (interior-wise at least) runway caravan. We were pretty sure this will be an added benefit of having the caravan, somewhere where there’s no distraction from tea making or general banter to dilute key messages and instructions, no reasons for groups working together to have missed anything, which in a large crowd scenario could prove disastrous……

Our new partners, the Lincolnshire Fire Service Heritage Group, Anthony Middleton, Lauren Burland and Michael Evans- great support, thanks guys and girl!

Our new partners, the Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Preservation Support Services , present were Anthony Middleton, Lauren Burland and Michael Evans- great support, thanks guys and girl!

So, John Temple in P1 and Dick Dockerill as P2, and by 1pm we were just about ready, just a slight delay in the last of the 72 classic cars arriving, which we reckoned was pretty damned good! At 1.30 pm John was given the thumbs up and he pressed the starter button. XS186 did her stuff and wound up to ignition speed, the two ‘cracker boxes’ doing their stuff and breathing life into the Viper once again. Pressures and temperatures normal, so John went through a full systems cycle, flaps, speed brakes, ailerons, elevators, rudder, nav lights, taxy lights and a full power check to show the massed ranks of spectators what she can do. Dick had his head down ensuring a good record was kept of the gauge readings, as always one eye on the JPT, never take your eye off the JPT!

Next was the short but sweet taxy run, Ian marshalling John across the pan in an ‘S’ manoeuvre and making the overall spectacle very impressive. Parked up, nose wheel chocks back in place so John ran XS186 back up to 95%, a little bit closer to the crowd this time so a great activity to finish on, before returning the engine back to idle speed, then back to 60%, the optimum setting for shut down.

The classic car group seemed very, very impressed and gave us a great round of applause, which was appreciated by the XS186 crew alike. All in all a great day, well supported, well managed and executed by all of the guys. I think we’re getting good at this!

Same time same place next week for another classic car meet, fewer vehicles next time but we intend to make it just as memorable!

8th August

Not a lot to report on this week, but some quite nice progress on one or two jobs.

First bit of good news was the P2 brake reservoir on the rudder bar foot brake. You will see from last weeks update that Dick did his upside down in a dark hole with two spanners and OM15 everywhere trick. This week it was checking that the trick had worked, and we were chuffed to bits to find there was no sign of OM15 seepage at all. Massive well done to Dick on this, and for the support provided by Ted and Ian on the component rebuild too.

Ian and Paul finished off some final prep and painting of our new windsock pole, and by lunchtime that was installed too.

Whilst this was going on Dick had turned his attention to the big job of the morning – the decanting of the remaining fuel stock into XS186, as it turned out about 600 Ilb’s of Jet A1, all syphoned from jerry cans into the main tanks at 30Ilb’s per can……..not something for anyone with less than 100% determination…..

Ralph spent some time getting Terry the Tug into shape for it’s imminent respray, such dedication to the cause should result in something quite breath-taking in a few days……

Paul shot off at lunchtime to do yet another interview for a local magazine so Ted took some time to do some more cockpit training with Ralph.

Quite a nice days work, and XS186 is looking good for our next couple of weekends engine / taxy runs!

1st August

Full steam ahead again this week, not bad weather too, so it was down to some serious work.

Howie had beaten the rest of us to Metheringham by some margin, quarter to eight he had started with his petrol lawnmower, the guys insane…..

The rest of us arrived at a more sociable 9.00am and after the regulation cuppa it was up an at em!

Biggest job was to remove the two main windows from the runway caravan. The poorly sealed frames were thought to be the reason for the continued leakage problems, so many feet of knackered sealer and several dozen rusty screws later the first window was out, not a pretty sight but after an hour of scraping and cleaning on both the window frame by Jonty and Philip, and the caravan itself by John Evans, the newly sealed window was ready to go back in. That went well, so it was straight onto window No2. Piece of cake now everyone knew what to do and this was done even quicker and back in before lunch. Let’s see if that cures the leak….. The final few minor repairs were discussed, these will be completed next week all being well, and then the caravan will be handed over to Ted to get the lighting and power supply installed.

XS186 had a bit of attention today too – Ian had brought the brake pedal assembly back so we could swop the reservoir onto the aircraft as the replacement washer hadn’t worked last week. Dick is built right for rudder pedal work and he was upside down in the cockpit before we had thought about how to go about it. Old reservoir out, you could see why it had been giving us trouble. A nick in the aluminium body just in the wrong place, was letting OM15 past the sealing washer. Half an hour later and Dick had the new reservoir in place, bled the system and declared that ‘we had a pedal’. We need to play the waiting game again now to see if that’s fixed the seepage.

Paul set about the big clean up on the fuselage sides of XS186 with cleaning compound, getting her spick and span for the up and coming engine / taxy run days on the 16th and 23rd respectively. A bit each week will see her looking her best by the time we get to the big events.

Ralph progressed some of the many fittings on Terry the Tug, painting the headlamps, wire guards, mirror arms and wiper arms black, and then making a start on rubbing down the wheels ready for priming, this is going to be one smart tug!

Ted did some long awaited cockpit training with Dick once the cockpit was clear again, walking Dick through the start up procedure and pressing the tit to give XS186 a dry spool up. Ted also spent a bit of time checking out a set of traffic lights that Paul had scrounged of evilbay, most likely use is to control traffic flow whilst taxy runs are underway, but there’s some switch work to do first so Ted needs to do some electrical shopping again.

An altogether pleasing day, with further big days planned in the coming weeks, not least the painting of Terry the Tug, and a trip to get some fuel at some point soon…..

25th July

We were a few people light this week, but that didn’t mean that nothing got done……

Ian and Ted took off the front fuselage cover to check if the replacement aluminium washer on the P2 brake pedal had stopped the seepage of OM15 – in a word, no. So, Ian took away one of our spare pedal assemblies to strip it down and see if it was ok to change the whole reservoir.

That left Ted with his fiddly cockpit comms lead job. Back in the halcyon RAF days XS186 would probably have had the canopy removed and seats taken out to fit the comms leads that fasten to the bulkhead wall behind the ejector seats. In todays world that really isn’t very practical. If we were to break something or run into technical problems with the canopy or seats we might not get it fixed in time for our engine runs that start in a couple of weeks. The RAF would have rolled out another JP….. anyway Ted got the comms leads installed and with some assistance from Dick they were tested and given the ok as fully serviceable!

Our other two loves got some further attention, Philip getting a ground coat of paint on the inside of the caravan, very nice. Ralph was doubly motivated by our rapidly improving Terry the Tug, and put in some hard work on the myriad of fixtures and fittings that have been stripped off the vehicle in preparation for its repaint.

A bit of a work in progress day really, but when the crew is back to full strength next week we’ll be having a look at some of the bigger tasks that we must get sorted whilst we have the weather

18th July

Back to work, and a big milestone day in a couple of areas. Terry the Tug was at last ready to be primed…..a bit of an unknown as several of the guys have spent many many weeks stripping numerous coats of paint to get back to the original scheme, so we could clarify as far as possible what our repainted scheme should look like once we’ve done our best.

The other big piece of work which is really coming into it’s own is the runway caravan. The interior has been in the care of Jonty and Philip primarily, with some good support work by the rest of the team along the way. Today saw the final strengthening of the bench seats cum storage boxes, and final tweaks before they set about the place with paint brushes and hand over to Ted for the electrical shenanigans to start…….

First the tug – Ralph, Dick and Paul spent the morning making final preparations, rubbing down the occasional speck of rust or the residue of one of the coats of paint that had to be completely erased to avoid the severe crazing seen during previous painting attempts. By lunchtime it was rubbed down, masked up and ready to get it’s coat of colour coded primer (yellow is a horrible colour, poor coverage and a magnet for every  flying insect within a 10 mile radius). After lunch Paul donned his spray gun and by mid afternoon Terry was looking something like it’s original condition. Staggeringly there wasn’t a single sign of crazing anywhere – credit to the accuracy of preparation work by the guys. If I say so myself quite a sight.

Terry looking very smart in it's new colour coded primer - excellent work by the team!

Terry looking very smart in it’s new colour coded primer – excellent work by the team!

The runway caravan had made it’s milestone with equal vim – Jonty and Philip measuring, sawing and screwing like a couple of whirling dervishes before finally pronouncing the woodwork complete! The caravan has never been that robust, not even from the factory, it’s certainly been rebuilt to last, and thanks to our joinery team we will have a visitor facility to rival that of many much larger organisations. The team swopped between looking at Terry’s new coat and the caravans new interior and it’s fair to say they are both a credit to the teams who have put in plenty of hard graft to get them to this point, a pretty damned impressive couple of pieces of kit now.

Impressive doesn't quite cut it - better than new is more like it - special thanks to Jonty and Philip!

Impressive doesn’t quite cut it – better than new is more like it – special thanks to Jonty and Philip!

More work was being done to erect our new windsock pole, Ian having made some fixing brackets and a windsock mount from spare bearings and bits of scrap metal, re-born as a fully articulated mounting that would have cost money that is better spent on Jet A1! Next week should see the finished product up and flapping.

Ian and Ted spent some time re-fitting and re-trying the two ignition boxes that came back with us from Northallerton,  them having spent a cosy week in Ted’s airing cupboard. Unfortunately they still don’t want to play – possibly the capacitors at fault. More work to do here methinks. It wasn’t to be Ted’s day actually, as he turned his attentions to changing a temperamental intercom lead on XS186. This is one of the original fittings the fixing screws were corroded solidly into place, so even after some pretty determined tactics the lead remained firmly connected to it’s mounting block. XS186 must have been reminding us that she deserves some of the attention…..

All in all a pretty damned impressive day other than Ted’s electronic challenges which I know will not beat him for long. Nothing beats us for long.

11th July

Engine run day.

Quite a nice day for it, warm and slight winds – and one of the highest turn out’s of crew members for several weeks, great to see!

It was an easy task with so many hands to de-robe XS186, though we did have one unpleasant surprise, our pitot tube ‘remove before flight’ cover was missing, apparently stolen…….the first item the crew have ever had taken in over 11 years of operations. We hope the thieves are satisfied with their prize. If they ever read these pages they will see how hard fought for every item has been and I hope they feel a pang of guilt.

Nevertheless we carried on regardless, and there was a very pleasant surprise indeed to follow. A gentleman turned up out of the blue, introduced himself as Bill Greenwood and told us that he had worked as a ‘sparky’ for Airwork Services at RAF Manby at the time XS186 had been there, with no doubt at all that he had worked on XS186 as one of the 26 aircraft they had on strength at the time. A lovely link between the past and present, with Bill being able to recall lots of detail about his days at Manby, and us being able to not fight him too hard to hang around for the impending taxy run. The run itself, with John Temple as P1 and Jonty in P2 went exceptionally well, a couple of full power runs with no issues to be worried about, and a quite demanding S turn across the pan. Bill admitted it had brought back quite a few memories from 47+ years ago, when they were last in the same place, and we remembered again why we do what we do.

Our special visitor Bill Greenwood, on the left, dropped in to say hello to an old colleague after a 47 year gap

Our special visitor Bill Greenwood, on the left, dropped in to say hello to an old colleague after a 47 year gap

We covered  up XS186 again, had a play with our Hydraulic rig, which started without too much trouble for a change. We could only assume Bill had re-ignited some of our old kit’s mojo.

Ralph and Dick couldn’t resist putting an hour in on Terry, keen to stick to a plan to get it masked up and a coat of primer on next weekend if the weather holds, and Ian discussed the plan to replace the P2 brake pedal seals which have been seeping OM15 recently. Fingers crossed for a good weather day next Saturday!

4th July

We don’t mind the odd jaunt off to assist or have a look at something new, but we do miss our home after a week or two away.Back to the stuff the guys are paid to work on, if they were paid…….

So it was, we thought we had better get Terry the Tug back into a condition we can be proud of, it’s been avoiding full crew attention for some time now, and although Ralph and Dick have put many hours of hard graft into removing many many coats of paint it was clear several more hours were needed. Enter stage left Paul and Jonty, who soon got stuck in with the previously named duo. They had a tough but progressive day and Terry is probably a single Saturday’s work away from being ready for priming.

The other guys cracked on with the runway caravan interior, not limiting their efforts to Saturday’s either – sensing the scale of work they have taken on, Jonty, Philip and John Evans have elected to put in a day during the week to keep the pace of progress. Over the last week the panelled walls are all but finished and the second and last bench has been started from scratch. Not long now before it will be usable as a training / public relations / museum / commentary box venue – the motivation, seeing the job through……..respect.

Ted and Ian decided to test some of the components we had been given in return for various parts fitted to XN458 the previous week, we had a Viper starter motor and two BTH ignition ‘cracker boxes’, all of which had survived in situ on ‘458’ for Lord knows how many years! The cracker boxes had suffered quite a bit so gave us nothing, but Ted said to give them a week in his airing cupboard, strip and rebuild, fit new earth leads and to try them again……he’s not often wrong. The starter motor had been kept fairly dry, tucked in the small enclosed bay behind the bang seats, so was in quite good order. Faced with 24 volts for the first time in decades it sprang into life like it thought a Viper was depending on it, maybe one day it will again…… a great end to the day!

27th June

An eventful day for the XS186 crew – for a majority of us it was a long trip to North Yorkshire for another one in our series of adventures. For full details look at our Crew Adventures page!

We shouldn’t forget though that some of the crew are needed back at base, to keep on top of the weekly chores, and on this occasion it was Ralph who ensured cabin was tidied and cleaned (so much easier when there aren’t the rest of us making the place look untidy). Howard took on the landscaping tasks, cutting the grass and making the place look the part, in readiness for our next engine run on the 11th July!

20th & 23rd June

The work noted below was truly impressive to see, showing the guys know exactly what we are aiming for with XS186, and the sheer dedication and effort put in on the associated equipment is making our operation a pretty impressive set up. A massive well done and thank you seems to still under-value what the crew do, so this record is here to record what they’ve achieved for ever… respect.

So, today was back to business as usual for Paul and same old grind for the rest of the guys. Jonty showed us the outcome of some sharp bidding on ebay – a very impressive set of access steps for our runway caravan at a bargain price, no more clambering up the side of the caravan from bits of wooden pallets to get in!

Philip and Jonty had arranged a further delivery of wood to finish of the previously mentioned nearside wall of the caravan and were soon hard at work with saw, nail gun and glue. By the afternoon it was a carbon copy of the off-side wall.

Ralph removed the last few parts from Terry the Tug, mirrors, light guards, handle surrounds etc. before we mask him up for priming in the coming days (Terry, not Ralph), what a milestone that will be after a painstaking operation to take numerous coats of paint off, right back to the original canary yellow scheme, so we can ensure the respray and subsequent decal markings will be absolutely representative of the original.

Paul dived in to getting tools, nuts and bolts, spare parts and manuals together for the following weeks trip to Northallerton, again by mid afternoon all was set.

It was only right that we should give the Viper a run up with ignitors off, to keep the main engine bearing lubricated and ensure the changeable weather had not left it’s damp mark on the electrical system, always a concern for us with XS186 being an outside kind of girl…so Ted did the honours and everything worked as per the manual – an excellent end to the day before we double checked we had everything in place for the following weekend, and locked up.

As if to underline their level of determination Jonty and Philip decided to put in an extra shift during the week, and the fruits of their labours are pretty impressive, one side of the internal seating being rebuilt and tried for size in the day!

Amazing work - we will be operational in a very short time at this rate!

Amazing work – our runway caravan will be operational in a very short time-frame at this rate!

30th May – 13th June

The guys were working totally under their own steam for 3 weeks, with no interference from Paul. As Paul is me – I will refrain from commenting as to whether the guys preferred it that way……..

Anyway, from what I could see on the 20th June there had been one or two developments over the time I was away, the arrival of a mock up Rolls Royce Olympus engine amongst other things…. but to maintain focus on our work – Jonty informed me that the runway caravan had given us further problems. The nearside wall had shown signs that it was leaking water when it rained. This must have been a tough blow for the guys as we had planned to take a look at this side of the vehicle at the end of the summer when we could renovate it at our leisure. But an active leak cant wait for convenience, so without fuss Jonty, Dick and Philip completely dismantled the nearside structural wall and supporting timber, fixed the leaking walls and window and rebuilt the whole structure in three weekends………… my gob was well and truly smacked!

Ian had been kept busy making various parts / fittings for our trip to Northallerton on the 27th so all I needed to do was pull his handiwork together on my return on the 20th June.

Ted had removed the ejector seat harness quick release buckles as they have been sticking intermittently – not something you want if there’s an emergency

Some detailed work had gone into preparing our storage area for concreting too, so a bit more digging out and we will be arranging a drop off of a fair few cubic metres of the grey stuff – Dick will love it…….

23d May

This week was a bit of a rapidly changing one – we realised between us that June is going to be a bad month for us, with several guys away over the weekends, including Paul, Ian and John Temple, so the opportunity for engine runs would be about … none…..

On that basis we reckoned we had better get one in so we weren’t leaving XS186 feeling sorry for herself for too long between blasts.

So, all a bit last minute but we had Ian to give us P1, and it was Ralph’s turn in P2, so off we went with our usual prep, including re-fuelling, levels, pressures and comms checks. Within an hour we were almost there, only slightly delayed by the arrival of a local radio expert who is going to look at our vintage and original ARC-52 set. Lots of talk about frequencies, dummy loads and ‘aerials not antenna’s’ – all very dutch to us to be quite honest!

By 11.30am we were ready, and with everything in place it was time to complete pre-flight checks, a thumbs up from Geoff on the trolley acc and for Ian to press the starter. No problems with the start up, everything ran like clockwork, including the TDU………bum, bum.

A short taxy forward to test brakes and a full systems run through confirmed no snags to be too concerned about, though there is still a slight OM15 bleed on the P2 left foot pedal, but we have a spare pedal set thanks to Andy Blair of XN549 fame so we are going to do some component changes to see if we can sort this one out.

Other than this the only other pieces of work were the stripping down of some parts of XS186 for the photography of some key bits for fellow JP projects and the stalwart joinery job being done on the runway caravan roof, which now has a beautifully domed contour and appears to be watertight once more, though the two experts in this area, Phillip and Jonty are still looking at re-covering the roof, just to be certain.

Howard took to the now very green and jungle like landscape around XS186 like a whirling dervish now that he has fuel again, and by the end of the day the place was ready for a bowling match. An often under-valued part of what we do is keeping the site spick and span, we shouldn’t forget it doesn’t do itself….

The office for Ian and Ralph today, where it all happens!

The office for Ian and Ralph today, where it all happens!

The little seen emergency release handle, photographed in the out position

The little seen emergency canopy release handle, photographed in the out position

16th May

Well thanks to more extra curricular work by Jonty, who was able to pull together a builders yard full of roofing materials and timber, it was a pretty good start to phase 2 of the runway caravan roofing saga!

Philip and Jonty worked like demons to install pillars and cross beams into the roofing space, and thanks to an ingenious tensioning process, the roof was re-formed into a beautifully concave profile which frankly looks amazing. These guys are something else when it comes to joinery. Very very impressive!

We still need to re-felt it but at least rain water will run straight off the roof now, so great progress and if we can maintain focus on this we will have covered all bases before too much damage is done.

Whilst all this as going on Ted did cockpit checks and levels on XS186 as there may be a chance of an engine run next week if circumstances allow, Ralph did more stripping of the Terry the Tug variety and Howie mumbled something about no fuel for the lawnmower so he couldn’t stop our beautiful Lincolnshire surroundings taking on the shabby chique look. Oh well there’s always next week……..

9th May

Back to reality with a bump this week….

Terrible weather during the week left us with a sobering sight. Our runway caravan is still letting water in from somewhere, we aren’t sure exactly where, but we can see the roof profile is allowing water to pool and it could be finding a way through an as yet un-recognised hole, or even coming in by being blown through the gaps around the skylight windows. In any case it was time for some serious thinking, and the outcome – we put a concave profile back into the roof by means of some very nifty carpentry suggested by Philip and acknowledged by Jonty as a sound plan.

More ordering of wooden battens and to be absolutely sure we are re-felting the entire roof, by the time this is done not even water will get where that water got……..

Other than this significant piece of head scratching it was some fairly mundane bodywork to Terry the Tug, the removal and cleaning of the taxy lamp covers on XS186, and the preparation of some more bits n bobs in readiness for our trip up to Northallerton in late June.

Not a highly productive day but crucial in terms of how to progress our runway caravan’s restoration, watch this space.

2nd – 4th May

What a weekend!

All hands to the pumps on the Saturday in preparation for the big Open Weekend on the Sunday / Monday.

Regular jobs included a re-fuel, checking of comms, levels and pressures on XS186, followed by a dry spool to ensure the recent damp and cold weather had not left any lasting problems. All was well, phew…….

The rest of the crew helped bring the runway caravan round from it’s restoration spot (with a bit of help from Terry the Tug) from the nearby barn, to it’s prime position adjacent to our storage lorry body, where the Open Weekend commentators could take advantage of the panoramic view it offers. Whilst in it’s temporary spot the guys thought it rude not to erect a windsock and mount the superbly crafted new sock made by Jonty’s partner Diane. Very smart indeed! Thanks once again to Jonty in particular for the Herculean efforts made by him on the caravan in the run up to the weekend.

Our mobile control tower, complete with windsock, ready for the big weekend

Our mobile control tower, complete with windsock, ready for the big weekend

Our ‘wine and water’ stall arrived in the afternoon and was up in a flash and ready for the couple of hundred wine or water bottles the following day. The rest of the time was spent supporting the Friends of Metheringham in putting up more tents and generally making the site spick and span for the expected several hundred guests.

If only the weather had held it’s part of the bargain – on the Sunday it was like a scene from the bible, torrential rain from the outset…….. enough to put off almost anyone but the hardiest visitor. The guys stuck to it, though strong winds as well as the rain made it almost impossible to put out merchandise unless they wanted to spend the day picking it out of the next field!

The afternoon cleared up a bit and surprisingly the public did us proud and still turned out in reasonable numbers for a go at the wine and water, a reasonable amount of money being taken after the dismal start to the day.

The Monday was a different story – clear blue skies from the outset!

The crew were in fine shape for what was the main event for us, the engine / taxy run.

Buoyed by the good weather and much improved foot-fall, the guys and WAG’s got stuck in, manned the stall and XS186, and put our customer friendly hats on!

Whilst the public show is always a bit of a time for showing off our handiwork, this year was a bit more than that. We had invited the family of a very special guy, and since his passing his family have turned out to be equally special. The Soames-Waring’s.  

Several weeks of clandestine communication and preparation supported a couple of really quite touching moments for Don Soames-Waring’s wife Bobbie, together with their son Jonathan and partner Angie, as well as grand-children Joseph and Jasmine. A memorial bench was un-veiled with an appropriate plaque and nicely adorned with XS186 ribbons, which Bobbie kindly cut for us, and (un-expectedly for the family) we had put Don’s name under the canopy rail of XS186, which had several of the family and indeed crew members getting sand in their eyes for a bit…… very memorable times indeed.

The un-veiling of XS186 with Don Soames-Waring's name under the canopy rail - respect.

The un-veiling of XS186 with Don Soames-Waring’s name under the canopy rail – respect.

As well as the Soames-Waring’s we also had the pleasure of another famous pilots relative, a Bob Hawes, nephew of Bill Shrubsole no less, the founder of the Macaws display team in the 1960’s. Another great privilege and worthy of a special announcement over the public tannoy!

All too soon is was down to business so we invited our special guests to make themselves comfortable whilst we busied ourselves with preparations for the engine / taxy run. Much had already been prepared and it seemed just minutes before the cockpit crew of John Temple and Ted Burrows were strapped in by Geoff and signing off the Form 700 as all ready to go.

Ground crew in position, with Paul having announced what was to come over the PA, Jonty on fire cover and the rest of the crew and previously commandeered military vehicle personnel in the vitally important public safety positions around the hardstanding, it was all systems go.

All went brilliantly well, full power engine runs, full control checks and a short straight taxy, limited by public safety restrictions, were nevertheless very impressive, the crowd being very appreciative. So, much so infact that due to popular demand the crew were asked to re-prepare for another run an hour later! What could we say, YES of course!

Jonty watches XS186 go through her paces whilst manning the Co2 extinguisher

Jonty watches XS186 go through her paces whilst manning the Co2 extinguisher

This run went equally well, and showed we could do a quick turnaround at zero notice without a problem.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with various visitors, guests and exhibitors, all of whom showed us a great deal of appreciation for the hard work and impressive performances on the day. What many don’t realise is the incredible amount of hard work that is put into these events to make them look as smooth and well managed as they do, so a huge thank you for the XS186 crew!

As if to underline the above there was a considerable amount of post event work to do, and several crew members spent many hours cleaning up the site, stall and associated paraphernalia, so once again thank you to them.

An altogether great weekend, only slightly marred by a damp first day but more than made up for by a frankly superb second one!

XS186 during the engine / taxy run - quite a spectacle!

XS186 during the engine / taxy run – quite a spectacle!

25th April

Full speed ahead with work on pretty much everything we can lay our hands on now!

Most resource is still on getting the runway caravan into a usable state, ready for the Open Weekend next week. A couple of weeks ago we wouldn’t have risked moving the caravan at all, so weak was the structure and roof whilst the rotten bits of it were removed, but that was before Jonty and his merry band of helpers got stuck into the rebuild. Now, it’s fast approaching better than original, with Jonty in the main doing a truly spectacular job, showing another aspect of the huge range of talent the crew has between them.

This week it was the final ceiling section being installed, so once Ted had threaded the relevant lighting wiring through the appropriate holes it wasn’t long before the team had the panel in place and Jonty nailed it into position. It’s cosmetic work to make everything look pretty now, and the manufacture and installation of new seating, so no rest just yet!

Ralph and Dick maintained an exhaustive work rate on Terry the Tug, and even though it wont be in primer for the Open Weekend it’s frankly a humbling experience seeing what these guys have achieved, working outdoors in all weathers.

Paul went about his ferreting for bits in the lorry body, pulling together several important parts for the impending trip in June, to Northallerton. Ian complemented this by bringing several parts down that he’s fabricating from scratch, a skill that the rest of us can only sit back and admire, the guy is a wizard I tell ya! Whilst Ian was doing his own digging around at home he happened to come across a brand new undercarriage indicator, like you do, so he struck a deal with Paul and within the hour the instrument was in XS186, with the poorer original installed into our training panel.

A busy old Saturday, and no doubt another to follow before our weekend of PR…….

The roof and walls now in. A truly spectacular piece of work by Jonty and his helpers

The roof and walls now in. A truly spectacular piece of work by Jonty and his helpers

18th April

Back to work this week, but the weather is starting to be kinder so moods and motivation are on the rise!

The majority of work is still being carried out on our runway caravan and Terry the Tug, a couple of degrees more in temperature being required before we can attempt some re-touching of paintwork on XS186.

The runway caravan (what are we going to call it?) is coming along in leaps and bounds now, Jonty doing a frankly incredible job on the re-panelling of the walls and ceiling. The wall panels are all in and two of the three ceiling panels now. We refrained from providing a photographic record this week as next weeks results will be of the more or less finished product (in terms of panelling) and we want Jonty to have his crowning moment!

Ted was heavily involved too this week, putting in cables for the lighting system and helping with Paul to support Jonty with the 8ft x 4ft  panels, a tough task working above head height!

Whilst this was going on Ralph and Dick maintain good progress on stripping back the old paintwork on Terry the Tug. It may be that Terry isn’t ready for the Open Weekend on 3rd and 4th May, but we would rather it be a ‘work in progress’ than rush what is likely to be an incredibly good respray if we maintain the eye for detail that these guys have got. What we do need is a good photograph of Dick in his personal canary colour scheme at the end of the working day!

We did get some work done on XS186 today, which is our main reason for being here – Ian and Ted checking and topping up the nitrogen pressurised hydraulic system ready for our next run. Whilst there the guys checked out whether the switch that was found in the ‘off’ position was the reason the starting system was un-co-operative last week. With fully charged batteries the switch was returned to it’s negative and the starter button pressed. The engine spun up without a problem……. we can only assume therefore that it may have been a slightly low voltage issue that led to the lack of starter system co-operation. A learning point for us – always ensure the trolley acc is fully charged before every run! It was good to see activity building on our labour of love once more though, well done guys!

The guys hard at work topping up the nitrogen pressurisation system on XS186

The guys hard at work topping up the nitrogen pressurisation system on XS186

11th April

Taxy run day! – though it appeared initially like the weather had other ideas……….. heavy rain and blustery winds made it feel like a bad January morning. Still, we sat tight, all of us being too long in the tooth to take airfield weather as something that would remain the same for more than a few minutes.

Well it was more than a few minutes, but by late morning the blue stuff was showing through and we needed no second invitation to get out there and get XS186 ready for action!

All went like clockwork as usual, Jonty, Dick and Paul even got some fuel decanted into the main plane tanks in the face of howling winds, the equivalent of pouring jelly down a straw, blindfolded……

In superfast time the aeroplane had been towed into position by Ralph. Not on his own, with Terry the Tug, and all was ready, including our P1 and P2, John Temple and Ted Burrows respectively. It was their last opportunity to train as a team before one of our biggest public events on the 4th May so we were all keen to ensure everyone, ground crew as well as cockpit crew, knew their drill, especially fire control, marshalling and public safety measures.

So, with the Form 700 recording zero snags, it was time to make some noise!

Ian on the trolley acc gave the ok to start…………but almost unheard of these days there was nothing when John pressed the starter button. Both John and Ted scanned the array of instruments and switches, double checking against their pre-start and actual start check lists. Everything appeared fine as far as the formal lists were concerned. Eventually after what seemed like hours but what was actually just seconds, one switch was found to be in the rather un-desirable ‘off ‘ position, a flight instrument control. We won’t know if this switch being ‘off ‘ was the culprit until Ted has checked out the electrical system AP, a manual with which few men have had such a disturbingly close relationship, but suffice to say once this had been tripped and the signal given to try again, everything ran as advertised by Hunting Percival!

The run itself was a trouble free event, John carrying out a good ‘teardrop’ shaped manoeuver as we had a slightly more limited space than usual, backed up with 95% power runs and full systems checks, all of which went well. After 10 minutes of noisy fun John cut the HP cock, and let the Viper run down. Once shutdown checks had been completed and Ted had finalised P2 paperwork, including the vital fuel used and remaining calculations (it’s not cheap operating a jet, even on the ground!) the cockpit crew extracted themselves so the whole crew could do combat with the still strong winds and refit the six main airframe covers and numerous blanks.

A de-brief over lunch, a couple more lessons learned, and whilst most of the guys could do little else with XS186, Jonty, Ted and Paul took advantage of the couple of hours that the afternoon offered to crack on with more runway caravan work, another wall panel being cut and glued / nailed into position and some good planning done for a productive few weeks ahead!

XS186 post run - as if butter wouldn't melt.......

XS186 post run – as if butter wouldn’t melt…….

Definitely a work in progress, but slowly the caravan starts to regain its strength and shape

Definitely a work in progress, but slowly the caravan starts to regain its strength and shape

4th April

Thanks to Jonty for our update this week;

Though we were low in numbers, we were high in spirit as the quest began to rebuild the interior of our runway caravan. As per usual our day began with the muster of troops, Ted, Dick, John, Howie, Ian and Jonty. The obligatory brew and putting the world to rights session began, followed by planning the day’s work.
We trundled our way to the barn where the beast currently lives and began to measure,measure and measure again. The first cuts were made and the sheets of insulation material began to fill the empty spaces in the ceiling and walls. Ted began to do the same with the wiring for the lights. After a well earned break we completed these tasks and stood back to admire the work.
Following lunch out first finishing plywood panel was measured carefully and fitted into place. With aching arms and hands the remaining troops cleaned up the mess left by the insulation and cutting.
Wiring in, insulation finished, first interior panel cut and fitted. As the light began to fade we called in a day and headed for home proud of our day’s work!
Roof insulation in, wiring in, and the first of several panels in, great progress today!

Roof insulation in, wiring in, and the first of several panels in, great progress today!

28th March

Bit of a different Saturday this week – lots of activity in the background, with materials being arranged and delivered by local suppliers, including polystyrene sheets, plywood for walling and glasswork for the now repaired rear access door.

However, due to logistical problems with a couple of companies a lot of the critical material for the next steps in the runway caravan restoration were only due to be delivered during the coming week, so we were left with a slightly frustrating situation….what do aircraft restoration teams do when they find themselves at a loose end…….

With some spur of the moment phone calls the majority of those available on the day followed up on a plan to visit some of our JP colleagues up in North Yorkshire, only two and a half hours drive away. Why – well Paul had stumbled across Jet Provost XN458 at the Standard Pub in Northallerton in 2014, and both the aircraft and the team of individuals had made a positive and lasting impression. Here was an aircraft that just like XS186, was rescued from a very uncertain future. Some great work had been done to ensure the airframe was stopped from further deterioration and as our visit today would show, a lot of excellent work had been carried out to restore fittings and panels. What was clear however was that a bit of a helping hand wouldn’t be a bad thing. Are we in a position to help? Of course we are! Over the years there isn’t much we haven’t seen and had to fix – why let our own experience and resource go to waste now that we have it.

So with five crew members packed cosily into Paul’s car it was off to North Yorkshire. By late morning we were there and immediately set about making notes re what we could do to help on a follow up visit later in the year. Two of the key members of the XN458 team, Paul and Dave, were happy to show us around the aircraft and spares shed and impressed us greatly with their passion and determination. These guys deserve a break after some hard times and the standard of work on the instrument panels showed us that their hearts and minds are in the right place. We are pretty sure that with a 3 month period to pull together various bits n bobs, and some further liaison work with the guys up in Yorkshire we can make a difference to this aeroplane.

So after a lunch kindly laid on by the XN458 team, it was time to consolidate our notes, take away the exhaust pen nib to repair it back at base, and set off back to a blustery Lincolnshire.

A good day and one that reminded us of our own roots, when the sheer scale of the work required was a daunting prospect. We can’t do a lot in the overall plan these guys have, but let’s see what we can do.

Many thanks to Ralph today – who elected to stop on at Metheringham and work on a very special piece of newly received site furniture that we will talk about more in a few weeks time……

The day trippers in front of XN458 - a reminder of our early days with XS186

The day trippers in front of XN458 – a reminder of our early days with XS186

21st March

Still quite changeable so not yet good enough to get down to serious aeroplane restoration, but it keeps us focussed on our other ‘loves’.

At least now we are seeing progress, after several long weeks of soul destroying work which has involved the removal of much rotten wood and dodgy paintwork.

So, this week it was time to start re-building, we are much happier doing this!

Jonty and Paul water leak tested the several square yards of fibre glass work that Paul had completed the week before. Not a drop of water seeped through, so it was full speed ahead with Jonty’s next round of work, fitting the many strengthening battens that will support the new internal walls and put some strength in the distinctly wobbly side wall of the runway caravan. All of this went extremely well, credit to the long hours of measuring and cutting that’s been keeping Jonty busy for several weeks, it looked superb by the days end and we can look forward to fitting the polystyrene filling and then the actual walls shortly. Once Ted has fitted new 12v electrics.

Whilst this was going on inside the caravan Ian was making final adjustments to the tow bar that will allow us to move the unit once Jonty’s handy work has re-instated some strength into the structure. That went well too, albeit the kind of heavy duty task that can and has reduced several  heavy duty drill bits and files to scrap. It’s a tough old brute this caravan, the chassis will still be around long after most of us have gone…

Terry the Tug had Ralph and Dick attending to it’s slowly disappearing paintwork again, there’s not a lot left now other than the very first coat of golden yellow which we are taking a very painstaking look at to record original markings where possible. You know us lot, it will have to be ‘just so’.

Ted took off the cockpit covers on XS186 to take a look at the regularly visited brake reservoirs and seat harnesses, both of which occasionally provide us with some head scratching moments, but at this stage at least all seems well, so back on went the covers, until the week after next when we have a dry run in readiness for our next engine / taxy run proper on the 11th April!

Just part of the superb structural rebuild work undertaken by Jonty

Just part of the superb structural rebuild work undertaken by Jonty

Our heavy duty towbar now in place - you wouldn't want that on your toe....

Our heavy duty towbar now in place – you wouldn’t want that on your toe….

14th March

Back to the grind this Saturday, cold and grey but none of the wet stuff so we were able to do a bit.

Ted got XS186 uncovered so we could try to get a couple of minor snags ironed out. An intermittent fault on the P1 intercom, which was probably just a bit of dirt on a socket or plug, checking a new ground controller headset that Paul got hold of for the mobile control tower (all we need now is the radio for it to plug into!) and putting some power onto a spare Artificial Horizon that had turned up in the week. Suffice to say as per most things that are cheap it didn’t work, but it went straight into one of the few remaining gaps in our spare instrument panel that is used as a P2 procedures training aid, so it was still worth getting.

Jonty and Paul moved on with the runway caravan, Jonty cutting new roof braces and assisting Ian with a repair patch for one of the access doors whilst Paul got all itchy again cutting out numerous fibre glass strips to patch the leaky roof and side walls. By midday great progress had been made across the range of jobs and the conversation moved onto how we will be water leak testing the roof and walls, fitting the internal brace work, getting hold of polystyrene filling for the cavities and then re-boarding the walls and ceiling. Once we get to the re-build phase there should be a bit more interesting to look at, perhaps a few before and after photographs to indicate how far we have come in just a few weeks.

Ralph continued the work on Terry the Tug and it’s not far off looking the worst it has ever been as the remaining paintwork is removed and we get to the next stage of a full re-prime before it regains it’s yellow peril look,complete with it’s new found code ‘160’ (see updates below)!

Not a lot else to report even though it was a tough old day for several of the guys, work being at the ‘nothing to show for a lot of hard graft’ stage, but watch this space in the coming weeks as we get onto the next, more rewarding phase…..

7th March

Lovely day, a bit breezy and cold, but what can you expect in early March.

There wasn’t a lot planned today other than the engine / taxy run, and with our P1 John Temple confirming he was available for the day all was set to make it a full maneuvering event.

It didn’t take long for the guys to get XS186 un-covered and the long list of checks completed, everything from the four fluid level checks for engine oil, gearbox oil, OM15 hydraulic and brake foot pedal reservoirs, to the dozens of traffic cones, warning signs and extinguishers that need to be carefully placed to prevent spectator damage, whilst providing close quarter support should anything go awry during the taxy operation. Terry was driven over and hitched up to XS186 to keep Ralph current on his towing duties and to check that whilst in motion their was nothing loose or leaking, with the aircraft not Ralph…..

By 11.00am everything was set, John in P1 and Paul in P2. Harnesses were tightened, pre-start checks completed, the sign given to Geoff on the trolley acc to switch to ground power, cracker boxes tested and with a 3 second squeeze of the starter button, off we went. Everything went to plan except the temporary thermocouple lead that had been placed in the jet pipe to provide a feed for an electronic exhaust temperature gauge in the cockpit was blown out by the force of Viper at full tilt. Luckily it wasn’t an issue as the reason for it being there, the unknown serviceability of our new JPT gauge was answered very quickly, it was in perfect working order, beautifully smooth movement and temperatures looking exactly as per the manual.

After a full power run and a check of the flying controls and lights went off without a hitch, the outward thumbs sign was given to Geoff and the nose chock was removed. John released the parking brake and eased the throttles forward getting to just over 60% before XS186 was off under her own power. A quick dab on the brakes to test they were working and the aeroplane was skilfully moved around the pan, a slight S bend turn being tried this time as we explore the different options in the very limited space we have. Having got the aircraft to the far corner of the pan the chocks were re-instated and another full power run executed, much to the delight of the small crowd that had dropped in for the days activity.

As so often is the case it was soon time to shut down the engine, the 10 minute run having used another 100 litres of Avtur, but the operation had gone superbly well and the crowd loved it.

After a bite to eat it was time to get the covers back onto XS186 and there was just enough time to drag out an old friend, though I use the term loosely, the hydraulic rig. Now this is a piece of equipment you don’t play with for fun. The Coventry Victor flat four engine is started with a hand cranking handle, and if you get the swing wrong it will break your wrist….. Nevertheless, Paul buoyed from his just cockpit experience elected to give it a try, and with only the third or fourth swing the rig clattered into life, a near miracle! The crew were so happy they left the rig running for a bit and had a bit of a play with the contraption just to show it that we had warm feelings for any piece of machinery that was willing to co-operate.

Once the myriad of post run equipment had been tucked away, it was time to call it a day, a good event and one that showed the crew are in good shape and working well together.

Philip Itsaboutlincoln Gresham's photo.

To see a short clip and photographs of todays run follow the attached links.

28th February

I’m getting worried now, three Saturday’s of decent weather, we must be due a perfect storm sometime soon, just hope it’s not next Saturday!

Back to this week and more hard work, the whole site being a real hive of activity. It’s great to see after the long hard winter months that curtail our outdoor activities so dramatically. What we would give for an hangar…….

XS186 had her cockpit cover removed so Ted could replace our sticky EGT gauge, the replacement having checked out ok on the milli-volt test rig. The real test will be the next engine run so we’ll set up our digital EGT reader to run alongside the analogue version, just in case. Whilst Ted was in there he did some work on the internal comms.  The system being totally original means it’s 40+ years old so needs a bit of coaxing along, as anyone of similar vintage will testify……. Howard was also on XS186 for a change today, removing the taxy light and emergency canopy release perspex to make patterns for new ones. Not for XS186, but another J P, more of this story in future weeks!

Across the pan the rest of the crew got stuck into some serious hard work on Terry the Tug and our as yet un-named runway caravan. Dick and Ralph started taking the troublesome paintwork on Terry back to the original scheme to remove the paint reaction problem caused by the subsequent six or seven coats! An interesting bit of detail was uncovered during the operation today, Terry had, and now has, a serial number, a clear 160 being uncovered on the near side door. In true crew style we will of course be returning it back to original!

Jonty, Paul and Philip continued their work on the caravan, Philip finishing the door repairs, Jonty treating the numerous wooden battens that will be installed once Paul has finished the fibre-glass work on the aluminium cladding, which he progressed well with, and not forgetting Ian who was able to drop in briefly, but long enough to drill out the fixing points for the caravans towing eye.

An altogether productive day, not the prettiest of work, but what will follow in the coming weeks will be amazing!

Dick hard at work on Terry, the code 160 clearly visible, and soon to be re-born!

Dick hard at work on Terry, the code 160 clearly visible, and soon to be re-born

21st February

Positively spoilt we are, another reasonably mild day…. for February. Good enough to get stuck into more repairs on our runway caravan anyway and some tentative moves towards getting jobs lined up for XS186.

The lions share of work continues to be on the runway caravan (what are we going to call it?) with Philip getting both access door repairs well underway now that the wood has arrived. By next week the final touches will be made and they will be as good as new if we know Philip, which I think we do.

Jonty made rapid progress cutting the numerous side-wall frames to size. These will be treated with wood preserver next week and then bonded to the aluminium side panels the week after, once the original location points have been cleaned, the chemical corrosion removed and the area weather sealed with fibre-glass.

Paul did some work underneath, preparing the rear chassis for fitting of a new rear light panel which is being built off-site by an outside contact that Jonty has tracked down.

Whilst all this activity was in progress there was a shift in thought on Terry our Tug. The refinish programme has been a bit protracted, mainly as a result of terrible problems getting new paint products to sit on top of so many previously applied coats. It’s that bad we’ve thought of re-naming the tug Joseph….. There’s a ground swell of opinion that we should stop messing about with it and strip the original coats right off and start the repaint on a bare metal finish. A brave move but one that I think is fast becoming the more attractive prospect. Let’s see how the next couple of sessions go. Dick volunteered to give Ralph a hand with Terry so things should move fairly rapidly from this point!

There was a bit of XS186 related activity – Ted blew the dust off his electrical box of tricks and did some testing on a spare exhaust temperature gauge that we got hold of over the winter. We have a slightly sticky needle on our existing gauge, it soon loosens up with a light tap, but we know it will get worse so it doesn’t hurt to be one step ahead does it. The plan is to fit the gauge as soon as is practicable as we need to set up a digital monitor to run in parallel, just in case the electrical one doesn’t read as it should, or god forbid doesn’t read at all!

Ian was back for a few minutes following an enforced break from our rather dubious company, and it only took a minute before he was being asked to bring all manner of engineering bits n bobs to help things along with the fitting of a military towing eye to our rapidly developing caravan.

An altogether healthy days work, though next week should be one where we will see some more visible progress one several items.

14th February

This is more like it, reasonably warm compared to previous weeks, and no wind, so we could point XS186 in whatever direction we wanted for our engine run.

First of all though, we had to put in a bit of hard labour, man-handling all of our ground equipment out of our storage area and into a holding position ready for the day’s post engine run activity, a photo session…….more of that later.

So it was that XS186 was fully de-robed. She never fails to impress once all her markings are exposed to daylight and today was no exception, looking every bit as good as she did back in 1967!

An hour later all checks had been done, Ian as P1 and Jonty as P2 were ready in the cockpit. It was Geoff on external comms and marshalling and as Jonty, our usual stand-in fireman was on P2 duties, Paul stood up to take the fireman’s role.

Master on, trolley acc switched LP cock on, HP cock open, throttle set and the ignitors both tested ok, time to squeeze the start button. XS186 burst into life and soon came up to idle revs. Temps and pressures where they should be, so Ian pushed the throttles forward and gave it 95% power, the nose dipping as the brakes strained and the chocks were leant on. Everything still looking good, though during flying control checks we did have a temporary illumination of the hydraulic failure light. We think we have a bit of air in a line somewhere. A job for the spring to bleed the system completely.

Ian gave the sign to Geoff to remove the chocks and flashed the nose taxy lamps to signal he was ready to release the breaks and take a short taxy to test the brakes. On Geoff’s signal Ian performed the exercise and all went very well, Geoff replacing the chocks once Ian had been marshalled into a new parking position.

Jonty made his final jottings on his knee pad as temps and pressures were re-recorded during a second near full power engine run, and then it was shut down time. A great run and everyone was happy, including a couple of local pilots and on-lookers. It’s always nice to see a few people out and about during the traditionally quiet winter months.

After lunch it was time to address a shortcoming – we have no formal photographs of XS186 without the usual crew members crawling all over her, just a symptom of the near continuous work required to keep the aircraft fully serviceable. Likewise the myriad of ground equipment is rarely presented in a way that is publicly viewable, and lets face it, as far as the hydraulic rig is concerned most of us would rather keep it in the dark…..and finally the crew themselves, who rarely take the spotlight in any numbers, modest lot that they are.

With Tony our resident world class photographer in attendance the crew, aeroplane and ground equipment were choreographed into various positions and Tony snapped away, all the way shouting at us to behave like grown up’s, which is not easy for any man, especially around jets and mechanical objects.

Within an hour we were all snap happy and glad to be more of a manly distance apart from each other and Tony gave us the thumbs up so he could get off and start pulling together the best of the photographs. It’s wasn’t just an ego brushing exercise either, the very best pics will be used in our first batch of leaflets, which will be ready for going off to the printers once we get all the photographic material added to the already collated narratives. Another sign of our small band of brothers turning into a more publicly aware organisation.

Final job was to put away all of the equipment and re-cover XS186. This job alone is a good couple of hours work, so by 3pm we were all well and truly worn out and barely had the strength to finish off a last cuppa. Life would be so much easier with a hangar, if any rich Jet Provost fan is out there?

Most of the crew, XS186 is where she is today as a result of these guys, and a few absent friends

Most of the crew, XS186 is where she is today as a result of these guys, and a few absent friends

XS186 awaiting her crew - a great looking aeroplane!

XS186 awaiting her crew – a great looking aeroplane!

XS186 surrounded by the myriad of ground equipment that support the operation

XS186 surrounded by the myriad of ground equipment that support the operation

7th February

Well at least it wasn’t snowing……. infact it wasn’t a bad day really, cold but dry, so we got a chance to get our hands dirty on XS186 anyway, which is always a good thing.

Another good sign is the re-appearance of some local air traffic – a couple of flypasts, one by a Jodel and another by our friendly Air Ambulance. Always a nice touch, thanks guys!

The best we could do for XS186 was de-robe the main planes to access the fuel fillers so we could put a couple of hundred pounds of Avtur in,  one of the preparatory actions for next weeks engine / taxy run!  Ted, Paul and the whirling dervish that is Dick soon completed that job, before Paul and Howard re-attached the protective covers that block out the harmful UV light that we know can do massive damage to our dayglo colour scheme.

For Jonty and Philip the whole day was spent working on our runway caravan, and they made absolutely fabulous progress, Philip fitting new bottom door frames and supporting Jonty with some precision timber cutting, whilst Jonty finished cutting out the last of the rotten wall frames and offering up the new ones to give us an idea of what the new structure will look like. These guys have got real skill, and a level of self motivation and determination that’s an inspiration to the rest of us.

Ralph and Paul shot off to a local trailer manufacturer as Ralph had learned that they had an old military hitch that would fit our caravan quite nicely. If only we could persuade the supplier to let it go to a worthy cause….. Within 10 minutes it was in the back of the car, thanks to the supplier having a family member who had a bit of a soft spot for vintage aircraft, and as it turned out, a Lightning and a Harrier cockpit in his workshop, small world!

The rest of the team spent a bit of time on Terry the Tug, who had mysteriously lost it’s grip on it’s own throttle cable at some point, so that took a bit of time to fix before we got him up and running. If we get the caravan towing hitch bolted on next week it might be a good opportunity to give XS186, Terry and the caravan a bit of exercise….

The port wing undressed and awaiting it's Avtur fix

The port wing undressed and awaiting it’s Avtur fix

31st January

What a horrible month it’s been, this week it was the weather again, near blizzard conditions through large portions of the day.

This made it almost impossible to do any meaningful work outdoors, so it’s just as well that we have our runway caravan and Terry the Tug parked indoors in our nearby farmer’s barn. This made the decision on what to work on fairly straightforward.

So, it was down to more stripping out, and with large sections of the vehicle structure being water-logged it’s really not a pretty sight, but we won’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs now will we. Credit to all of the guys for mucking in on jobs that don’t always feel comfortable, most of us are happier with mechanical objects rather than wooden battens and plywood facias, but we’re sticking to it, inspired by those of us that have got an eye for joinery, namely Philip and Jonty at the moment.

By lunchtime we could really see that the rotten wood was being cut back far enough to reveal cleaner, drier areas, and the source of the leaks had been identified as several drilled holes or now corroded away nails whose holes had been letting water in over lord knows how many years. Another week of this depressing demolition work should see a clear canvas on which to work and the drying out and re-building can start to bring this piece of RAF history back to life.

There are still some early signs of progress though, Philip doing a great job on preparing the two access doors for new bottom frames, and Jonty bringing a host of lighting related spare parts that he had tracked down during the week.

During a lull in the snow storm a brief window of opportunity arose and it was just long enough for Ted and Dick to take the cockpit covers and blanks off so we could give XS186 a dry spool over, just to keep the Viper’s main bearing lubricated.

Things were a little sluggish on the first attempt, the on board batteries not giving enough voltage to get the engine through it’s 3 stage starting sequence. Only one thing for it, some trudging through slush to get the trusty trolley acc out of storage and hook it up. The clockwork starting mechanism had re-set itself so Ted pressed the starter again, safe in the knowledge that there was ample voltage to hand this time – XS186 spooled up without a problem, smiles all round! Just in time to un-hook and get the covers back on before the next white-out, a very, very difficult environment to work on so credit to the guys.

During the breaks we discussed future trips, the Metheringham Open Weekend, our leaflets that are in design stage and lots of other bits n’ bobs – the kind of stuff we don’t normally get to cover off, so at least we are clearer on what we want, even if we can’t get to actually progress much of the work at the moment!

A grim sight, not the crew members, the wall and ceiling, both of which need major repair work

A grim sight, not the crew members, the caravan’s wall and ceiling, both of which need major repair work

24th January

This year is taking a bit of getting going.  We were told that last week’s event had not been concluded, so a further shooting session had been organised, which we had to respect and keep a safe distance from. Following some negotiation it was agreed we would be out of harms way if we camped temporarily in a nearby barn where luckily for us our new runway caravan and Terry the Tug had been parked, in order that they be dried out pending restoration work.

So it was that tools, heating, power supplies and of course our tea pot were transferred over from our cabin to the barn before the shotgun wielding farmers turned up.

Once we had settled in and had finished the first cuppa in our new caravan it was down to whatever we could get our hands dirty with. Dick and Ralph set about trying various interior and exterior mirror combinations on Terry the Tug, to give us better views of what is happening with XS186 as we pull her around the hard standing. Ralph followed this up with a thorough cleaning of the engine bay and a now regular fuel dipping of the diesel tank so we get an idea of how accurate the fuel gauge is. Those who are regular followers will recall we had a bit of an episode a few weeks ago when Terry ran dry on a trip around the site, and we learned the hard way that some gauges love to play games with you.

Howard made a start on stripping the light fittings and then the ceiling out of the caravan to find out where a leak was coming from, as it turned out a leak that had completely ruined the whole ceiling structure and much of one side of the caravan wall….. oh well we love a challenge and this one is going to give us one! Paul carried on after lunch and succeeded in stripping out the off-side (it’s a vehicle not an aeroplane so no port and starboard!) internal structure and most of what was left of the ceiling. The whole thing looks a complete mess at the moment.

Jonty and Dick then set about looking at the trailers braking system, Jonty jacking up the caravan and stripping down all four wheels to find all of the brake units in superb condition and after a bit of persuasion the operating rods in fully working order too!

We have a bit of a problem in that the original brake operating system was pneumatic, and we don’t have an air feed system to feed it so we need to investigate our options if we want to get the thing back on the road. Did I mention that before?

Anyway, whilst Jonty was doing his brakes Dick decided to see if the broken handbrake cable could be made good. After much digging around underneath the caravan and several pounds of removed grease later, he had uncovered the fixing mechanism and decided that after some cable surgery we could re-connect the tangled mess back together.

After a couple of hours the thing was nothing like it’s former condition, and with the crew summoned into position Dick gave us all a lesson in operating a fully serviceable hand-braking system, the first restored system on the caravan, a great start!

The rest of our day was spent looking at what we should tackle next on the caravan, not forgetting that XS186 is sat waiting patiently out on the pan, with Jonty making some impressive plans for locating original lights and fittings, and the crew feeling quite pleased with what they were able to achieve in less than ideal conditions.

Hopefully back to more aeroplane related actions next week, and our next planned taxy run on the 14th February.

17th January

We couldn’t attend Metheringham and XS186 today due to another event taking place on-site, so we went on a crew adventure – see our ‘crew adventures’ page for more details!

10th January

2015 continues to provide a ‘traditional’ feel, by that I mean winter conditions those of us over 40 would remember as typically horrible!

Extremely gusty conditions led us to debate the wisdom of an engine / taxy run at all, as XS186 would be subject to lots of side force during any turning manoeuvres, including it’s flying control surfaces, which if caught by the wind could cause the controls in the cockpit to deflect un-expectedly and potentially harmfully to both the aircraft and/or the on-board crew. An initial idea to try our first ‘hot’ change over i.e. the extraction of one P2 for another whilst the aircraft was under idle power, was a definite no-no.

With the above risks in mind, we decided to do a run, but limit the exercise to normal power and system checks, with a short straight taxy to keep the risk factor low.

We had an important meeting planned for 11.00am so it was probably the shortest period in which to prepare that we have had to date. But, there were plenty of us around so the 21 points on the Form 700 were signed off in an hour and twenty minutes, not exactly F1 but with the average age of a Jet Provost experienced air/ground crew person being between double to triple that of an F1 driver/pit person, we don’t do too badly.

We had a couple of ex-Cranwell ‘liney’s’ down as guests on the day too, and they seemed quite happy, well as happy as liney’s get anyway……

So, the engine run went ahead, with Ian as P1 and Ralph as P2 – a flawless start and power/system checks completed, Ian gave the thumbs out signal to Ted, who was on marshalling duties, and once all was signalled clear Ian eased the throttle forward and XS186 moved off. Having felt increasing side forces from still very strong winds Ian applied some right foot, which in a car would not have been a good thing, but in a JP simply applied the right brake and eased the aircraft into gentle right turn to keep the wind on the nose. This gave one of our site marshall’s an interesting few seconds as previously well positioned traffic cones and warning signs threatened to become airborne, but some rapid signalling saved an awkward moment and all was well. Just goes to show though, you never stop learning.

Soon it was time to shut down, and soon after an appreciative gathering exchanged very positive views on the event, it’s always nice that spectators appreciate the time and effort taken to get to the amazing position we are in.

Still, no time to rest, so it was down to a formal discussion over our Group constitution, annual report and lots of associated documentation, such as a collection policy, aircraft and crew insurance, our land agreement and detailed standard operating procedures! All of these go towards us being able to formalise our status as a stand alone heritage aviation group, and today wasn’t a bad start. A few more hours work on the  paperwork and we can submit it, along with our applications, to several of the national and local aviation heritage movement’s support organisations. Ay you’ll see, even though the amount of work on XS186 will (hopefully) reduce, we don’t intend to stand still.

Once most of the crew had packed up and gone home after a busy and ‘different’ kind of day, the remaining stalwarts, Paul, Ted, Ralph and Dick had to go about getting the covers back onto XS186, in near gale force winds…….

It wasn’t a pretty site – Ted spread-eagled across the main planes holding the covers down as best he could whilst Dick and Paul fought flailing straps and buckles that threatened to take eyes out and leave life long scars. Eventually after what seemed like at eternity XS186 was covered, her dayglo protected once again from the elements. Several of them will have nightmares about that operation for weeks to come. There was still the mobile compressor, trolley acc and associated bits and pieces to put away and cover up so by the time this had been done the four musketeers were ready for a relaxing cuppa, a catch up on the day’s proceedings, and a chat around plans for next Saturday – when we won’t be allowed on site at Metheringham due to a nearby shoot, so it’s off on a crew trip – watch this space for a review of what we get up to next!

Thanks to our visitors for posting the video below, a brief ‘bite’ of todays event!

3rd January

Into 2015, but hopefully not as it was today, with a steady downpour getting rid of the snow, but making the whole site a complete quagmire.

Still, you have to show that we wont be beaten, so it was a case of making a start on whatver we could, with several of the crew helping to jack the runway caravan up and swopping wheels around so we have the right front / rear combinations, and making tracks into understanding what we have and more importantly don’t have left of the pneumatic braking system, turns out it doesn’t look like very much. Maybe the previous owners didn’t need it to move off their airfield site and had them dismantled. In any case it’s a pragmatic look at what we can get to work without pneumatics if we want to ever use the caravan on a public highway.

Last weeks realisation that we would have to get the caravan under cover to allow the ceiling to dry out and identify where the leaks are led to Paul and Ralph approaching our co-hosts at Metheringham to ask if we could borrow a corner of a barn for a couple of weeks. The discussions went well and within a few minutes we secured some space!

Ted had time to do a bit of electrical circuit checking in the 12 & 24v bay before the rest of the crew took over with a Heath Robinson approach to hitching the caravan to Terry, not easy given that our caravan doesn’t actually have a tow hitch suitable for the task, so it was down to a ratchet strap and a careful drive across the site with the two vehicles connected very tenuously! We got there though and all was well with both the caravan and Terry under cover eventually. That move should really help promote some good work over the coming weeks.

The continuing rain meant there wasn’t a lot else we could do, bar have a chat with a recently unfamiliar sight in the shape of Nick Spendlow, our Fire Chief who dropped in whilst on a visit back home from Saudi Arabia!

Final points were several actions search missions that we need to go on for replacement runway caravan parts and a discussion around future weeks engine runs and crew meetings where strategy for 2015 can be finalised.

Our runway caravan finally under cover, which will allow us to dry out the soggy roof panels and fix the leak(s)

Our runway caravan finally under cover, which will allow us to dry out the soggy roof panels and fix the leak(s)

27th December

Credit to the guys, it may be Christmas, when most people are sat at home full of turkey, mince pies and dodgy drinks, Not the crew though – a good turn out – especially as there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground, which put paid to pretty much anything meaningful.

So, it was down to making a brew, and swopping bah humbug stories for an hour or two…… though the guys did elect to have a closer look at some of the work required on our runway caravan ceiling which is looking decidedly soggy at the moment. Looks like we will have to get it under-cover to get the whole thing dried out a bit before we decide the ultimate course of action.

In the meantime it was down to some long arms and brushes to sweep the snow off the roof that was not making the drying out process any easier!

Our obsession with our new found levels of reliability with Terry the Tug still hold us captive, and another chance to fire up the engine without re-course to Easy Start, or jump leads was taken,, once again smiles all round as Terry behaved like a thing re-born!

In honour of our new found love for a previously inanimate (or comparatively so) Tony put together a brief video of our one and only….

Hands and feet suitably frozen, it was back into the cabin for another brew, talk of what 2015 will bring, a very man-like wishing of a happy new year, and time to retire to home until next year.

A very happy new year to all our followers!

20th DecemberWell we got there in the end – engine run day, and a good turn out!

Bright, breezy and cold, and XS186 would have to be turned into the wind, so to make this happen Terry the Tug would be needed. It was time to give it a try after a week of rest to see if starting issues had kept away…… YES! there was no problem at all, still no Easy Start required, no jump leads either, it fired up as sweet as a nut – and to those that know the history of Terry’s starting shenanigans and the knack to getting it’s old Ford ‘York’ engine started, they were roughly on par with tickling trout or even tougher – starting the hydraulic rig…….. so this was confirmation of a real milestone having been reached.

Whilst XS186 was prepared for the engine and taxy run, several of the crew moved across to the new runway caravan and started planning the various renovation tasks to bring it up to a usable standard. Repairs to the doors, ceiling, a window, the 12v & 24v power supplies, water, gas and lighting to name but a few. Not an overnight task, but we’ll stick at it and 2015 will see it transformed. We haven’t decided exactly what the best use of all this extra space will be, but it will become clearer as the various points get ticked off, and the control tower section makes a brilliant vantage point for film work, wait till you see the video from the day!

Once the caravan discussion had reached a useful conclusion it was back to the focus of the day and within an hour all was ready with our star, the form 700 checks signed off, the crew at their respective stations and John Temple with Ted in their P1 and P2 positions.

Thumbs up from Geoff on the trolley acc and XS186 fired up brilliantly, no reports of anything amiss so it was a full run through of flying controls, a max power check which you can’t help but smile about whilst XS186 wakes up the neighbours for miles around, if indeed there were any…..

Then it was chocks out, a test of the brakes, and with Geoff now on marshalling duties XS186 was moved off across the modest size hard standing before being guided into a 180 degree left hand turn and back to the starting point. The turn having been brilliantly executed by John in the limited space available, the nosewheel was re-chocked, another full power run carried out, a quick re-run of flying controls made for the benefit of the cameras, and it was time to run through the pre-shutdown checks. The HP cock  was closed allowing the Viper 204 to run down, the guys in the cockpit keeping a eye on run down duration, and proceedings were finished off with fuel quantity checks, cockpit fire extinguisher pin being put back into place and all electrical power switched off. A great run to finish off 2014 – and one that the crew all agreed would be dedicated to Zena Scoley, who with Peter allow us to use their land for our activities, and who recently passed away. Zena will be sorely missed by many people, rest in peace lady.

As if to remember that the unofficial motto of the crew is ‘progress’ – it was too easy to finish the day at that, so after a lunch break it was back to doing a bit – Howie showing us the fitting technique for our new nose wheel cover (very posh – well done again Howie!), Ted returning to the cockpit to re-fit the 8 day clock that had been away being fixed, whilst Dick, Jonty and Paul took to filling buckets with soapy water to wash away the years of accumulated grime that had been left to build up on the runway caravan, we even got to polishing some of it too – at least we can see what needs to be done to the outside now!

All in all a great day – and with the crew already talking about 2015 tasks, and our move into more awareness related activities (follow us to see what we mean) it should be a great year.

Thanks for following us this, our best year to date, see you in 2015!

A busy scene just prior to todays engine run

A busy scene just prior to todays engine run

Link to the video of todays engine / taxy run!

13th December

Many thanks to Ted and Jonty for updates on today’s activities!

The day dawned cold and bright as Ted arrived to unlock and by the time Jonty arrived tea had been brewed, cabin heater was on and Terry was up and running, no need for Easy Start, battery charge or jump leads. As the other members of the crew arrived we were treated to gasps of wonderment as they caught sight of the new acquisition, the runway caravan!!!

Howard and Philip were soon planning modifications and improvements. Jonty and John removed the window frame from the back door whilst Ted and Philip started sorting the broken door locks and Dick took a new and re-vitalised Terry for a run around the estate.
Jonty then took the frame away to fit a piece of ply to replace the broken window, a big help in keeping out the ever worsening elements at this time of year.
Just when everything appeared rosy Dick appeared on foot having had Terry stop at the furthest point on his route. A rescue party was despatched and Terry returned at the end of a tow rope behind the farmers tractor. Lack of fuel was quickly diagnosed and after some negotiations between Howard and the farmer a Jerry can of diesel appears and Terry bursts back into life……
Jonty and John refitted the window frame with the wooden pane of glass firmly in place, Ted and Philip finished repairing the door locks, then Jonty and Dick set about cleaning the outside of the red and white peril until it started to get too cold to carry on.
An altogether enjoyable day with a lot being learned about the caravan and a good inroad being made to making it habitable.

Jonty and John's handiwork on our runway caravan window, now protected from the elements until a glass version is organised

Jonty and John’s handiwork on our runway caravan window, now protected from the elements until a glass version is organised

6th December

We reckon it’s one of those periods where we shouldn’t really get out of bed at all.

Everyone was keen to get XS186 fired up and blow away a few cobwebs, get our minds back on what we do best. As soon as we turned up at Metheringham it was obvious someone else had other ideas.

The site was full of caravans, parked all over our hard-standing area – not a chance of starting the aeroplane with so much cheap plastic and plywood about….. Turns out the influx of traffic stoppers were overnighting there for the Lincoln Christmas market, several bumper years having exhausted Lincoln’s overnight accommodation capacity by some margin. It didn’t cheer us up to hear that, and all thoughts turned to what we could do to keep our now idle hands and minds busy.

Terry the Tug got our attention as Paul had turned up with a new starter motor and Ian had come with a fistful of new heater plugs for Terry’s engine. It was all hands on fitting the starter, replacing worn out heater plugs and all the ancillary bits that went with it, such as fabricating a new manifold gasket, cleaning out fuel filters and feed pipes and re-testing circuits and wiring. With all this attention for Terry we were sure we could feel XS186 sulking, and we didn’t blame her.

It took till mid afternoon to get everything back together under the bonnet of Terry, and we fully expected the engine to burst into life at the flick of the key – no, not today…….. we reckoned there was an air lock in the fuel pump as fuel was not reaching the injectors – but we couldn’t see where to bleed it, so the day ended as a damned frustrating one!

Only Howard and Philip kept us cheered, with the start of a nose wheel cover taking shape – this will help to protect our newly fitted nose wheel tyre for a few years to come.

So, it was down to a quite different activity to save our spirits on the Sunday – and one that came at us quite out of the blue over the course of the week, quickly changing from random phone call to the delivery of a full blown new project stream.

Paul took a phone call from a colleague and learned of an ex RAF runway caravan turning up at a local salvage yard. It was due for scrapping unless someone put their hand in their pocket to save it. What else could we do…….

Come 10.00am several of the crew met with the salvage yard owner, who had been good enough to bring the runway caravan up to Metheringham on the strength of a sale – by 10.15am the deal had been done. The impressive looking beast was man-handled into position in front of the storage body, and for the next hour Paul, Ted, Ralph and Howard investigated every corner of the contraption – verdict – well worth saving, and a great deal of potential!

Our new runway caravan - an impressive beast, well worth saving and loads of potential!

Our new runway caravan – an impressive beast, well worth saving and loads of potential!

29th November

A still subdued crew turned up at Metheringham with a stoic but respectful attitude, mindful of the need to keep a respectful quiet, whilst never forgetting that all those affected by last weeks loss would have wanted nothing less than for us to carry on regardless.

Work was limited to finding out what was going on with the steady deterioration in Terry the Tug’s ability to start up, whilst Howard and Philip carried out some cosmetic cover work, applying orientation markings to make the job of covering the aircraft a bit easier.

Ian ran up the engine with ignitors off, to keep the main bearing lubricated during this period of enforced but completely appropriate quiet.

The starter motor had been removed a couple of weeks earlier, and Paul was off tracking down a new one in deepest Norfolk  today, so the rest of the guys mucked in and dropped off the inlet manifold from the 2.4 diesel engine, Ted carrying out various continuity tests and direct power application to see how many of the manifold mounted heaters were lighting up. As it turned out only one from four was – small wonder that the engine fired up at all really!

So it was a bit of searching for spare bits and pieces amongst our mechanically minded crew which may, after a bit of bench repair work might provide some much needed heat where it’s most needed. There weren’t enough replacement parts found to warrant a re-build during the day so it will be a collective round up of everything we can lay our hands on during the coming week, and a return to the task next Saturday, weather and engine run prep permitting….. Paul dropped in a message saying a starter motor had at last been tracked down, so the glimmer of hope is that we will have a much healthier machine this time next week!

22nd November

Due to the sad loss of a truly kind and generous friend, todays activities were cancelled. Our deepest sympathies go out to all those touched by this passing.

15th November

A grim looking day, but the imminent looking rain never actually materialised.

Quite a good turn out, which would have been great to get a big piece of work done, but the overnight rain had left things very damp underfoot, and XS186 was dripping water from every edge so working on the aeroplane in those conditions would have been asking for a bout of pneumonia  just in time for Christmas, which none of our better halves would have appreciated very much….

Instead it was a site clear up – with only Ted and Ian working on anything aeroplane part shaped – re-adjusting the nose wheel in it’s forks and putting in the internal batteries so another fuel contents check could be carried out. We also appear to have a minor OM15 leak from somewhere in the braking system. It doesn’t affect the braking pressure, but it needs the P2 brake pedal reservoir topping up every couple of weeks – only an egg cup full, but nevertheless a concern. One for us to go feeling around in the dark recesses of the lower fuselage for a leaking union somewhere…… definitely a drier day task.

The rest of the guys had a go at moving some heavy duty kit into less untidy looking positions, not least of which was our bomb trolley’ish looking contraption, which in the event was used on the day for moving by far the heaviest item of the day, our 250Ib bomb!

Those familiar with the history of XS186 will know this is one of two devices that were found in the engine bay of our aircraft when we teased open the engine bay doors for the first time, and which took a significant effort by us to remove at the time. One slip would have seen this or the even larger 500lb sibling go straight through the engine bay decking and would probably have finished the idea of a ground runnable project in one go. We treat them with some caution even now, not because they’re live or anything, but one of those on your toe could ruin your whole day….

Howard and Philip changed our well worn red and white warning flags for new ones, any excuse for Howard to do some more stitching, and Ralph gave our cabin a complete Spr…. Autumn clean, which made us al feel strangely guilty when we marched in with our mud caked boots on. Still, the feeling soon passed…..

The rest of the day was spent discussing various plans for better days, some of which is aeroplane related, others are even more ambitious.

Big week next week, penultimate engine run for 2014< Ian in charge for that one, and John Temple providing P1 expertise  on the December run.

Ian re-assembles the nose wheel - note the special jacking tool which allows the nose to be lifted from this point

Ian re-assembles the nose wheel – note the special jacking tool which allows the nose to be lifted from this point

8th November

Back to almost full house after several weeks of crew diversionary activity, good to see we are back on track.

Pity the weather wasn’t in as good a mood….. it started grey, got greyer and then drizzled constantly throughout almost the whole day.

Did it stop us, hell no – we had a nose wheel to re-build now we had a new inner tube, and Terry to look at following a bit of a problem last week with the starter motor going on strike.

First stop – new inner tube, that turned out to be a false start with the promised ‘good substitute’ inner tube turning out to be too small despite the size being stated as the same. Well we didn’t want to leave XS186 on trestles any longer so Ian and Ted put the original inner tube back in (which actually still inflates but doesn’t look very healthy) and rebuilt the wheel so we could get it back onto XS186 as a temporary measure, whilst Paul goes back into hunt mode for a more suitable replacement.

The re-fitting went ok, although there’s an adjustment to make to get the wheel to sit squarely in the forks – a bit much in the worsening conditions, so that one was put off until a hopefully drier Saturday next week.

Whilst this was going on the rest of the crew was being put through a detailed training session by Howard – how to remove and re-fit our suite of aircraft covers. Now we have protective sheets that would impress even the harshest of critics,  they need to be kept in tip top condition if they are to last for a few years, so a good half an hour in the pouring rain was spent clipping straps together, slackening and re- tightening webbing  and  generally making the aeroplane feel loved. We all felt though that it was worthwhile – if a jobs worth doing it’s worth doing right!

Terry the tug’s starter motor was removed by Dick and a fair portion of the afternoon was spent stripping it down to component parts, re-building it and finding that the toothed drive was still sticking. Looks like it may be a new starter that’s required, so Paul added that to the shopping list for the coming week. It’s turning out to be an expensive month, just in time for Christmas…..

Ted suggested cranking the engine on XS186 without ignition on, and given that it’s been a few weeks since our last proper engine run, everyone agreed it would be good to get some oil flowing.

So, with minimum fuss a couple of recently charged batteries were fitted in the nose and Ted assumed the position to give the starter button a squeeze. The Viper came up to 10% without a hint of trouble, and Ian confirmed the sequencing was spot on at 32 seconds. Fuel readings were a bit strange, but they settled down after a few minutes so we assumed the damp may have been playing a few tricks with the electrics.

So, with that, the weather got even worse, the guys decided there was little else to get even wetter for, covered up XS186 and we all went home to dry out and get some warmth back into our damp old bones!

The nose wheel temporarily back in place until a better replacement tube can be found

The nose wheel temporarily back in place until a better replacement tube can be found

25th October

Down to a couple of crew stalwarts whilst a good proportion of the crew went off on a jolly to Bruntingthorpe for the day – to read all about our adventure go to the ‘Crew Adventures’ page!

It was Howard and Ian holding the fort, Howard getting stuck into stencilling XS186 onto our fuselage and tip tank covers, and surprising everyone by adding some beautifully crafted sections into our rear fuselage cover to hide a bit of dayglo that was  showing around the base of the fin. There’s nothing showing now, and those covers aren’t going anywhere they don’t want to!

Ian called in to tell the assembled crew of one that he was working on breaking down the nose wheel so he could change the tyre. As it turned out the inner tube was very badly perished, so it’s a bit of world-wide search for a replacement whilst XS186 stays perched on her home made trestles for another few days.

That was about it for this week, but back to something like full strength time!

All covers appropriately stencilled, we cant forget who it is under there now

All covers appropriately stencilled, we can’t forget who it is under there now – note the lack of nose wheel….

18th October

Still a bit light on crew again this week with man flu taking it’s toll on some of the guys, clearly a life threatening illness like this is best kept within the confines of your home, so credit to the guys that sacrificed their day to not pass it on.

The guys that did make it still took on the planned activities though, namely the removal of the nose wheel from XS186 so Ian could take it for tyre removal / replacement. A slightly more troublesome than imagined operation, the extraction of the axle bolts not helped by the build up of paint applied over previous decades which acted as a welded joint between fittings. Still, it was no match for the combined efforts of Ian and Ted using a mix of original RAF tooling and some home designed and made accessories……….

Of course one of our longer term frustrations is that we have no proper aircraft trestles, so a job like this involves rather more basic support structures, i.e. wooden pallets shaped to fit around the aerials and fittings under the fuselage, topped with our one good wing trestle top to make the contraption a little more stable for XS186. The aircraft will have to be left for a week without a nose wheel whilst the work is carried out  so further stabilisation was required, especially as the forecast for the coming days is very windy! Full confidence that XS186 was not going to take to the skies again during the week was restored in us all when we transferred one of the concrete railway sleepers from under the wings to the rear fuselage tie down point and the nose leg forks were suitably supported. A good piece of work carried out by Ian, Ted, Paul and Ralph.

Whilst the guys dealt with the nose wheel and associated picketing, Howard and Phillip made some final detailed adjustments and some drainage holes in our main plane covers, proudly noting that they are now well and truly FINISHED!  When they worked out the number of hours taken to make the covers it came out at over 130 hours of hard labour, and to be fair, a commercial operation could never had made a more impressive set of covers, these guys are the best you’ll get at what they do.

With little else to warrant de-robing XS186 for the crew took to the cabin to finalise planning for our trip to Bruntingthorpe next week, and to progress some further plans for an exciting new development, watch this space!

The nose wheel removed, as if butter wouldn't melt......

The nose wheel removed, as if butter wouldn’t melt……

11th October

A quite beautiful morning, crisp and a slight fog with a clear sky slowly winning its battle to break through.

So, with a slightly depleted crew due to hols and other commitments it was down to business – preparing for our planned anti – det run!

Before that there was a bit of time to get another coat of paint on the inside of the starboard engine bay door, though with Dicks OCD it was only a step away from something from Michelangelo………. and for Howie to achieve his long fought for goal of finishing the last couple of patches on our wing covers. All was well and we only stopped to take some time out with our crew patch supplier who came to show us progress on our new high quality crew polo shirts, very impressive too.

After  a quick cuppa it was back into preparation mode, Geoff, Ian, Ted, Dick and Paul getting the aircraft ready, Howie finishing off his cover-work and a couple of our female helpers Claire and Pam who had turned up, donned their high viz vests to look after security for us, though today’s run was just for us, unusually no public around .

The run went marvellously, Ian in P1 and Ted in P2, a short turning taxy run showing XS186 at her best.

Fuel levels are getting low now so we agreed a re-fuel is required before our November run.

So without further fuss the crew dropped into post run de-brief, pushed XS186 back into her parking place, got the full suite of finished covers back into position, and retired to the cabin to discuss our impending trip to Bruntingthorpe in a couple of weeks time, another re successful day !

4th October

We thought it was too good to last and it was, back to what you would expect for October really, cold temperatures and heavy skies that promised deal breaking amounts of rain at any point.

Nevertheless, the crew jumped to it and did what they could in the limited time available before the heavens opened.

Jonty and Dick removed the starboard engine bay panel, just like the week before’s mission on the port side – spent much of the morning rubbing the inside of the panel down, and managed to get a coat of paint on in the comparative warmth of the crew cabin, much to the disgust of Ralph, whose spotless kitchen area  was temporarily given over to dust and paint brushes, ooops.

Ralph had a crack at some more painting on Terry the Tug, before the threatened rain turned into reality and that ended that job.

Probably the most productive day was in our old cabin, where Howie and Philip had retired with the new wing covers to carry on with fitting the wear patches, another good days stitching saw them almost complete, and will they be glad to put away those needles for the last time……

By this time the rain had put the dampeners on any further work, so we were just in time to welcome a local company that is making our new crew badges – they’re looking really nice, so a final tweak and check next week and the crew will get some very smart new polo shirts and overall badges, a more deserving crew I cannot imagine!

27th September

A nicer day altogether, so chance to start on a new range of jobs…but…. how can this be you may ask yourself, XS186 is all but complete you may think………oh no, on a restoration of this standard it’s never really over – but don’t tell the crew……

Paul made a start by removing the port engine bay panel, straightforward enough, just four pip pins to remove and it was off! Jonty set about free’ing off one of them that was a bit ‘sticky’ – not surprising for these things, they need lots of grease if they are to remain free.

Jonty and Paul got stuck in and after a couple of hours of rubbing down, some wire wheel work by Ian on the steel fittings and the digging out of the RAF interior green from the depths of the lorry body, it was over to John Evans and Paul to get a couple of coats of the quite attractive matt green on. Paul re-fitted the panel later.

Howie and Phillip reviewed their brilliant stitch-work on the wing covers, decided that they would benefit from some wear patches to cope with the inevitable rough handling over what we hope is many years, and over the course of the day almost  completely sorted the starboard wing cover, and vowed to return to sort the port side out next week, solid gold!

Ralph really got stuck in and got the last bit of corrosion sorted on the hard to access roof area, and then a coat of yellow on 50% of Terry the Tug, committing to another session for the other half next week. He’s starting to look much smarter now………. Terry I mean,  not Ralph.

That was about it, although Howie, committed as ever, elected to take home the air intake blanks and exhaust blank to give them a fresh coat  of red, probably their first for a few decades. By mid-week they were back on and looking absolutely fabulous. XS186 is a very lucky girl these days, and I wonder how close Howie is getting to her, he’s managed to completely cover her from the elements now, if that ain’t love……..

XS186 at dusk, with freshly painted exhaust blank re-fitted by Howie

XS186 at dusk, with freshly painted exhaust blank re-fitted by Howie

20th September

Another grey and this time damp day, regular rain showers putting paid to any hope of a productive day on XS186’s paintwork, which was the original plan.

Instead it was down to a determined but brief stab at some adjustments to our main plane covers by Howie and Phillip, a brave effort under not very nice conditions, credit to them.

Ralph, now back in the fold after a couple of weeks break put in another valiant effort on Terry the Tug’s paintwork before that too was rained off, all very frustrating but perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical after several months of pretty favourable conditions that allowed such a great spell on XS186’s paintwork.

Focus switched to getting Terry started up, but that too was an initially damp and dull affair, the team of Dick, Ian and Ralph perking up only slightly once Terry’s battery had been on charge for a while, at which point the yellow peril  gave in to the voltage boost and coughed into life….. a minor success at least.

The sheer euphoria, or was it just delerium eventually got the better of the crew and with one of them spotting  a set of golf clubs in our store-room (don’t ask what they were doing there…..) it was time for a bit of Ryder Cup practice, but with a rather strange fairway and several very large handicaps…..

Several of the crew finally snap, we just left them alone for a while.....

Several of the crew finally snap and take up golfing in the rain, we just left them alone for a while…..

13th September

Quite nice for mid September, a bit grey but the threat of rain never materialised.

It was an engine run event, and a bit of a last minute change of plan was to bring a new experience into the crews rapidly expanding repertoire….

Ian, one of our two sooties has a daughter, Tracey, who had won a ride in XS186 several years ago during one of our fund-raising events, and they had asked to cash in the win, and we were only too happy to oblige!

It is of course an exercise not to be taken lightly for an inexperienced P2 occupant, the threat of an emergency, what to touch and what to definitely NOT touch and to be able to get out in a hurry if required (though not via the black and yellow handle).

After a thorough safety briefing and the kitting out in full flying suit helmet and mask Tracey was ready. Her dad was next to her as P1 so we were confident he wasn’t going to let anything go wrong if he could help it, and as it turned out everything went like clockwork. A couple of full power engine runs and a short taxy seemed to go down well, and the two Allaways both appeared at home in the cockpit, well done both!

Another major milestone was reached today, the main plane covers had their straps attached and bar some minor rubbing patches to apply, were ready to fit. It’s been a major undertaking over several months to get the tip tank and the associated main plane covers designed and made, and sincere credit where it’s due to Howie and Philip for their absolute dedication to the task. What they have achieved is remarkable and the result of their efforts is the long term protection of our fantastic colour scheme from the elements, we couldn’t ask for more.

In comparison to the above the rest of the day seemed fairly quiet, but John kept on top of our green and pleasant land around the jet, Ted removed our 8 day clock to see what was wrong with it and there was much planning for the coming weeks completed, including the preparation for painting of some interior panel work on XS186, Terry the Tug’s paintwork, the making of engine bay door stay holders, intake blanks painting and several other groundworks projects. It seems like there’s always something, but it keeps us out of mischief…….

One of the new main plane covers made by Howie and Phillip, superb work!

One of the new main plane covers made by Howie and Phillip, superb work!

6th September

Nice to get back to normality again, no film crews or correspondents to cater for, just the dreary weather to contend with, light showers keeping things fairly low key.

Biggest event of the day had to be the fitting of our tip tank covers for the first time, just a brilliant piece of work by Howie and his assistant Phillip, our precious and unique dayglo now protected from the evil UV rays. The wing covers are moving along rapidly too, maybe a couple more weeks of hard labour by the stitching twins and we will have 100% protection, XS186 will look very grey again at that point but the relief of all that lovely orange being protected will be felt by all of us.

Some good progress made in other areas too, Ted and Ian fitting silica gel sachets into our two ignition boxes to prevent a re-occurrence of damp getting into the components.

Paul identified a couple of repairs on the final section of the starboard wing (underside) so set about them some filler as the didn’t really warrant the removal of sections, which would have brought some risk to the fuel tanks.

John provided some landscaping support and kept the ever present grass cum jungle threat at bay.

All in all quite a good day, and all looks set for an engine run next

30th August

Quite a change today, no engine run, and not really much to get stuck into for various reasons.

Just about the only activites were the chance to bring our ‘cracker box’ out of it’s forced hibernation in Ted’s airing cupboard to see if some internal dampness had been dried out. The guys worked together to install it, get some battery power on, and once hands were clear (those things can kill) to press the relight button ………………… Back to two boxes, fantastic news, must spend some time locked in a warm dark place myself, se if it works!

That and the sterling work being carried out by Howard and Philip on our biggest cover  project, main planes and tip tank covers. These are going to be impressive bits of kit when finished, we all wait with baited breath to see the finished products, brilliant work guys!

Other than the above, the only ask was to de-robe XS186 for the benefit of a nice couple that Paul had invited down to explore the subject of an XS186 DVD……. so a bit more posing, camera angle talk and showing off our handiwork. They, Steve and Kath that is, will be back in October to make a start on what will surely be our biggest media appointment to date…….

23rd and 25th August

We are getting used to the media monster now, but having a part in a feature film is another first for us!

Saturday was another pre-run prep day, so most of the crew can carry out their duties with their eyes shut, it’s not recommended though………. the run coming up on the Monday was to capture XS186 taxiing in to a stop, at which point a young lady is pictured removing her Mk1 bone dome and exiting the aircraft, all of about 10 seconds of cinematic fame.

Prior to all this one important job that was carried out was getting to the bottom of the port side ignition box, so pretty much all of the integrated system was checked, new HT cables, new ignition plugs, the full monty – everything led back to the ignition box itself. So, Ted elected to take the box home, dry it out in his airing cupboard and see if a bit of warm and dry would tempt the unit back into working order by next week. In the meantime we would operate with only one ‘cracker box’.

Anyway back to the Monday- on the day it took hours, and hours, and hours to get that 10 seconds of film, we all hope it will be worth the work, jet fuel and wafer thin patience we all had by the end of the day. xS186 performed perfectly though, two runs, because the sound wasn’t right on the first one- we didn’t dare tell 186, it would have caused a tantrum we’re sure…….. and another piece of XS186 history was written, with thanks to all of the guys for making it happen and to John Temple and Dick as P1 and P2 respectively. The filming is planned to be finished shortly so as soon as we are given permission to share some details we will post them here!

Back to more important matters- let’s hope that cracker box works next week.

John and Geoff discuss the trappings of fame between takes.....

John and Geoff discuss the trappings of fame between takes…..

16th  and 18th August

Thanks to Ted for this weeks update – Following the concern around some electrical systems staying on after the Master switch was turned off last week Ted examined all the electrics  but couldn’t find anything physically wrong to account for the stubborn system glitch. So, he sorted and refreshed the fuses in the rack, put a battery in the nose and connected up. Immediately there was a loud clonk……though the nose light did not come on…. Next the battery switch in the cockpit was flicked on and she powered up normally. It was switched on and off several times and all worked OK, this is a very strange aeroplane sometimes………. Not easily beaten on any occasion XS186 did have a bit of a fight back, the Low Fuel Pressure light was not coming on, a blown bulb – Ted replaced it but this didn’t cure it so Ian (our sooty) investigated the pressure switch, had a fiddle around and the light came on! (we need to investigate that further, hopefully its only a loose connection). The guys connected the trolley acc and did a dry start, all running through OK at 33 seconds, disconnected and everything switched off.
Time for a cup of tea and then set up for a proper run with Ralph as Crew Chief, Ian in the cockpit and Jonty as Fire Marshall. The trolley acc was plugged in and switched on. The engine started fine, though we are operating on one ignitor at the moment, another small snag that hasn’t yielded any clues as to why as yet so needs further investigation – Ian ran it up to about 60% power and then shut down with a total running time of 90 seconds, all electrics switched off OK.
So, the original electrical fault may have been the hold off relay that had stuck on but there was no way of proving it and all seems to be working fine so it was OK to start on the following Monday, our appointment with Look North!
Other work – A blown tail light bulb was replaced, Dick & Ralph put 2 containers of fuel into each wing so contents readings were  250/260.
Ted refitted the Rebecca, emergency radio and main radio back in the nose, oil levels were re-checked and sed checks done, the No.2 position port brake motor reservoir was been topped up and pumped. so she is all ready to go again with minimum fuss next time.

So all was left in a slightly less than 100% serviceability, but nothing that would stop our planned run for the TV cameras on the 18th.

The 18th was all very polished – we are getting good at this operating a jet business!

The reporter from Look North turned up on time and we were already prepared, so once Paul had his few minutes of fame in front of the camera it was back to the activity that everyone felt more comfortable with.

It was John Temple in P1, Jonty Johnson as P2 and comms were looked after by John Evans and Paul, with hand signal marshalling only as a result of  XS186 stretching her legs a bit more these days, with a 180 degree turn now well within John’s capabilities as the braking system becomes more and more like an old friend to him.

The manouvering went perfectly and our man from the media was chuffed to bits, as were the crew, a short but great mornings work, with many thanks to the prep work that went in before, and on the day.

Watch this space for the Look North article and some more exciting media updates over the coming days!

9th August

You couldn’t make it up, glorious weather for weeks and weeks, we book a bit of R &R time to have a BBQ with our local Citroen Specials Club, and rain that Noah would have looked troubled with came in, right on cue. So, that was the end of that plan……. The only saving grace was that it was the Sunday, so we did have our Saturday to reflect on.

We had taken a bit of an indulgence really. One of a steady stream of journalists, this one from Radio 4, had arranged to pop up from the big smoke to do another interview to compliment previous coverage of our now imminent Proms debut on August 20th.

So, we ran through another engine run preparation routine, and planned our longest taxy operation to date, a full 180 degree turn, with radio mikes and running commentary alongside, even John and Ian as P1 and P2 respectively had to watch their language as they had a cockpit voice recorder installed!

The run itself went very well, John getting  further acquainted with XS186’s handling characteristics, and our correspondent getting what he was after as far as we could tell.

Ian did report a strange electrical fault after shut down, lighting and other electrical services staying on after the Master power was turned off?

Ted wasn’t available on the day, something about a second Lancaster he had to look after………. so it will be next Saturday before we find out if it’s a simple fix or not. We hope so as the local TV news channels now need us!

Post run, we ended up on Radio 4 with a 5 minute slot, not a bad piece of work by our correspondent, some might argue he didn’t have a lot to work with…….. listen to article here.

2nd August

A dismal day with regular light rain showers but no time for moaning as we had a visit to prepare for.

During the week we had arranged for a young lady from a local newspaper to pop in and do a piece on our project, so today was the day, and as we were determined to give our headstrong journalist a scoop, we set about preparing XS186 for a short notice engine / taxy run.

By 10 a.m. a lot of the work was done, trolley acc charged, levels and pressures  checked and topped up, sed checks done, and paperwork completed.

Our journalist turned up and we spent an entertaining half hour talking about ourselves, not something we are altogether comfortable with but we got into the swing of things and by 11 a.m. we had divulged most of our innermost secrets, that should sell a few copies…….

We took the opportunity to form another first for the crew too. Geoff and Ian, long standing friends since their 1960’s RAF service had not worked together in a running Jet Provost for 45 years. Time to remedy that one. Both guys dropped into a long since forgotten routine, but it seemed to come back to them like it was only yesterday, even XS186 knew to behave in such illustrious company.

Ted was on external comms and overheard quite a bit of old fart talk, you know, these seats are a lot smaller than they used to be / i’ll be glad when all this noise dies down and I can go for a sleep, that kind of stuff.

Our budding world correspondent seemed more than happy with the show we had put on especially for her so we will assume offers of film work and a BBC documentary will be just around the corner. Until then though we’ll continue in our modest way.

There wasn’t a lot else we could do in the weather conditions, so after changing a navigation light bulb, discussing next weeks car club BBQ and putting away the ground equipment it was time for an early bath with a nice feeling that a little bit of recognition for the many years of hard work is starting to appear. I cant think of a more deserving team anywhere.

XS186 at rest after her engine run

XS186 at rest after her engine run

26th July

Quite nice conditions allowed a mixed bag of activity around the site, though not much could be done on XS186, mainly as a consequence of having to rely on suppliers to deliver on stuff like decals for the wing undersides and wing cover stitching.

So it was Jonty that opened up this week before having to shoot off to another appointment. Ralph gave Terry the Tug a bit of tlc, and gave him a good run around the site to keep the battery in good shape.

As the main wing cover material is away being stitched into two giant sleeves Howie and Phillip took the opportunity to progress the tip tank covers still further, not long now until the Velcro fasteners are attached.

Because our wing decals are still work in progress Dick helped out Ted and Ian who fitted a voltmeter to our trolley acc, an added safety and maintenance benefit which behaved as advertised during an engine spin up. The trio moved onto a refit of the loose fitting protective covers that have been put over the main planes to stop UV light damage to the dayglo sections we painted several weeks ago, and then Dick finished off by checking the brake pedal reservoirs to check that we are not losing any more OM15 from the brake circuit…………. All looked fine.

John did another sterling job on trimming the grass around our hard standing and. Had a bit of debate around some more ground works that are needed to keep us in the good books with our Visitor Centre colleagues, it’s a bit like a marriage but without the perks…………..

19th July

Back to the grind this week, with the weather trying its best to dampen our spirits. Well it need not have bothered because as soon as we had a few minutes of respite from the downpours we still did what we could, the steady stream of visitors helping to keep up morale by appreciating our work ethic and the very obvious results that are shining through.

The often interrupted schedule gave us the opportunity to stand in awe of the now quite spectacular nose oleo charging unit built by Ian during the last few weeks, a piece of engineering that Heath Robinson would have bowed his head in deference to. We can test it when the amount of rain dripping from the fuselage down the operators neck becomes more tolerable…..

Paul, Dick and Jonty set about fitting yet more decals, Dick applying the emergency canopy release set and Jonty having a crack at the main undercarriage door on the port side, though some dodgy paintwork needs to be sorted out before a new decal can be applied. Ted supported the operation by studying every detail of our archive of XS186 photographs to ensure the work we are doing is maintained at the very highest level of accuracy. We have to the rivet counters happy too.

Stars of the show were once again Howie and Philip who made great progress in the horrible conditions, making the first cut of our wing cover material as well as progressing the tip tank covers. It’s a big piece of work for these guys so credit to them for sticking with it, the crew even eased the pressure on the timeline for completing the main covers by wrapping up the mainplanes in protective sheets so the short spells of intense sunshine and therefore UV light doesn’t start to compromise the dayglo sections in the meantime.

The day was cheered further by a visit from the local paper who sent down a photographer to capture  a few crew shots. We reckon word is getting around, some of us better get a haircut and a pair of trousers (private joke)!

12th July

Well despite the site having a caravan rally we were very lucky to have none parked on our hard standing, so our planned engine run could go ahead!

There were no major snags to deal with so the guys that we’re not tied up with levels and pressures duties decided they could still fit in a couple of jobs!

Ian had a repair patch he had built at home and he set about riveting this into place, starting and finishing the job within a couple of hours. That frees the remaining section of this wing for painting and the final application of decals and dayglo. No-one will see this area really, unless they’re very small or still move around on all fours, which limits that to small children and some NCO’s, but we know it’s there so it will get the same attention as the rest of this aeroplane.

Paul and Dick trawled through several hundred decals to find wing related items and they were applied too.

Howie and Philip set about the tip tank cover stitching like a couple of seamstresses on crack, these guys are incredible, almost makes you wish you had a dropped hem.

Ralph got Terry the tug fired up though it turned out we didn’t need to move XS186 very far to get her into wind, so Terry’s services were not required.

So, by 11.30 all was set, on this occasion it was Paul that decided he needed a go as P2, to get chance to see what the guys get up to in the cockpit these days. They claim to be busy in there during an engine/taxy run but is that really the case, or is there time to do a crossword or read another chapter of  ‘Tales of an airframe fitter’ …………

Well from what went on it is a fairly busy time in there so credit to the team for building some great FRC’s for our static ops. A standard run with a short forward taxy to test the brakes and our newly fixed handbrake, working for the first time in at least 46 years………… no problems at all.

After 10 minutes of indulgent playing it was time to shut down and run through post shutdown checks and to get out from under the sweltering bone domes in the now very warm conditions.

A post run de-brief and it was time for tea and cake, though special mention has to be made for Pam, a regular visitor for engine runs, who saw the opportunity to ask the massed hordes of caravanners if the appreciated our efforts enough to drop a few coppers into our donations bucket, £45+ later the crew stood open mouthed, Pam can come back any time!

A great day thanks to the usual hard work by crew and some as yet non crew members!

XS186 looking very smart, taken just after her engine run

XS186 looking very smart, taken just after her engine run

5th July

A miserable start to the day, rain stopping play until about midday for most of us.

When it did clear the still slightly light crew made a start on what was to be a reasonable day after all, interspersed with the occasional flypast from aircraft in and out of the Waddington airshow just up the road. Those that popped in for a look at us included a Chinook, a Hunter with Gnats in attendance and a longer distance view of the unmistakable Vulcan doing it’s stuff very nicely by the looks of it!

The three that really got stuck in and stayed at it all day were Ralph , Dick and Paul, who between them made a great job of completely forgetting lunch, and instead got on with preparing and painting another underside section of the starboard wing. It’s almost completely grey on that side now, another week or two should see it ready for a roundel and yet more dayglo!

Ian made further progress with the repair patch on the final section of the same wing, and with Geoff did a repair on a fuel tank access panel too.

Howie and Phillip took another step forward with our tip tank covers, making a mirrored pattern from the almost fully shaped starboard side to fit the other, you guessed it, port side.  Long summer nights of stitching lay ahead for Howie, it’s a lost art and it’s quite fascinating watching this ancient craft(sman)…….

Paul went on to make a start on refurbishing the undercarriage leg on the starboard side, an area that not enough time has been spent on to date, for good reason really, probably one of the most uncomfortable and  awkward jobs there is, but it’ll get the same tlc as the rest of the aeroplane that’s for sure.

It’s been a while since our last engine run, a few things got in the way of our last plans, so a provisional attempt is pencilled in for next Saturday, roughly the 4th anniversary since XS186 resumed her ‘live’ status!

Philip and Howie hard at work on the tip tank covers

Philip and Howie hard at work on the tip tank covers

28th June

A nicer day than forecast, none of the wet stuff and reasonably warm, so the slightly depleted crew of Paul, Dick, John, Howie and Phillip  cracked on.

Probably the most important and indeed trickiest job of the day was the re-visiting of tip tank cover manufacturing  that had been started last year, but had been taken over by the higher priority of the building of our ground equipment shelter.

The shelter being in good order now meant Howie and Phillip could re-turn their attention to the covers. Some intricate folding, cutting, stapling and stitching made the place look like an explosion in a dress makers for several hours, but credit to the guys these covers are going to be pretty amazing once completed!

Paul carried out several small repairs to the underside of the starboard wing prior to the plan to paint both sides over the coming few weeks.

Dick made a start on mods to our spare instrument panel to make the recently acquired fire warning panel and machmeter fit. Once he had reached a point where no more could be done he fired up Terry the Tug and took him for a long drive around the site, and by the time taken several local villages too………….

John brought up the rear again and volunteered himself to maintain the grounds around the aircraft, doing a superb job of making the whole place look a picture for a local website host / photographer.

Fingers crossed for the weather to stay ok and we can maintain progress on the tip tank covers and if all goes well our next phase which is finishing undersides of the wings and making up full main plane covers!

19th – 21st June

If there was an award for hard work and determination this crew should win it.

As the weather had been forecast as good over several days, several of the crew decided to take the opportunity to do a bit of paintwork………….

On Thursday Paul, Dick, Jonty and Ralph rocked up (that means arrived I’m told by the kids on the street), and whilst Jonty and Ralph dressed up XS186 in what has become an all too familiar Joseph’s multi coloured outfit, Paul and Dick set about the task of  final measuring and flatting of the area soon to be changed dramatically………

By the days end the fuselage and one tip tank were completely cocooned in sheets. The starboard wing was ready for final masking lines and the port wing was marked out for flatting. Still lots to do before a drop of paint could be spilled though.

So it was that on Friday morning Paul, Jonty and Dick were back to finish the job, though by lunch time it was looking like another day was needed to get all the prep work done. But, as is so often the case, once faced with a challenge it was time for sleeves to be rolled, socks to be pulled and the legendary XS186 work ethic to kick in.

By late afternoon the three had nailed the job of preparation, and all Paul had to do was draw his final ounces of stamina to spray the wings with three coats of dayglo.

Considering the paint job was carried out in open uncovered conditions, with every flying insect in Lincolnshire being chased away by Dick before they could take their terminal dive into the giant orange flower, the whole operation went very well indeed, and by early evening the job was done, the masking removed and the site cleaned up. Suffice to say the terrific trio were pretty well finished themselves. But what a great job!

The next day it was back to a normal crew meet, and with due indifference from the crew re the paint job, well we wouldn’t want to give any of the painting crew ideas of self importance would we,  it was straight back to the grind, with inspection panels being re-attached and final touches being made to the frankly superb work done over the previous two days.

The rest of the guys cracked on too, Ian making further progress with the nose oleo charging rig, Ted checking out several of the electrically powered flight instruments, Ralph and Dick making a start on the painting of the main plane undersides, Howie and Philip shuttering the storage area ready for concreting and John stepping into the breach and cutting the grass around the hard standing area. All in all a truly superb team effort over several days, and a major step towards the final stages of restoration for XS186!

XS186 with upper main plane dayglo sections painted

XS186 with upper main plane dayglo sections painted

14th June

A nicer day at last!

Several jobs that had been subject to weather dependencies and therefore untouchable for weeks, were now back on.

Ian had been busy in his home workshop and brought quite a tasty looking oleo charging rig down to try out for size on the nose leg. A bit more bracketry and pipe work  and we’ll have yet another piece of purpose built ground equipment!

It must have set something off with Ian as he turned his attention to our hand brake on XS186, which has never worked. A couple of hours of digesting the contents of the Dunlop parts manual and the priceless Vol 1, followed by some tinkering with the main brake valve operating arm, and Ian, together with some test support from Paul and Ted, had got the system working by hand. A bit more homework from Ian to adapt the cable system and we will be able to test the solution properly, watch this space!

Whilst all this was going on Jonty, Dick and John were busy measuring up the starboard wing for the application of the dayglo markings. Lots of work still to do here, including much flatting, stripping of panels, and masking over the coming days, but there is a plan, weather permitting, to get the painting done in the next few days!

The other guys, Howard, Ralph and Phillip set about the site, using the rare dry spell to cut the grass and smarten up the site in general.

Paul had been to the Newark Cockpitfest in the morning and had brought back several parts that will help to progress the spare instrument panel, so cockpit crew can be provided with classroom training.

Ted made a start on testing some of the flight instruments, an area that we haven’t focused that much on, but one that will make the cockpit crew experience even more enjoyable!

7th June

I don’t know what’s happening with summer this year, its been temporarily pushed back behind a second winter!  A heavy sky that delivered several torrents of rain early on meant it was never going to be an easy one.

Nevertheless, the team had noted that an engine run was due, and that’s exactly what would happen given a half reasonable gap between the showers!

By 10:30am the sky had smartened itself up slightly and that was all we needed to jump to the pre-start routine. Within half an hour all was ready, sed and FOD checks done, levels and pressures ok, comms working fine, Jonty on fire cover, Paul on external comms and John Evans taking care of chocks removal, as we planned to do a brake check on our recently re-bled and apparently now working P2 pedals as part of the exercise.

Before we got into pre-start checks Ian wanted to try his recently finished main leg charging valve, so a quick removal of the inspection panel and Ian was in there. Paul set up the nitrogen rig and they gave it a try. Not a problem, the set up worked fine and the port oleo came up to it’s rightful position, a great job again by Ian, surely that was the suspension sorted now………

It was Ralph’s turn for a go in P2 and within minutes of making himself comfortable all was ready and the Form 700 signed by P1, P2, the fire cover man (Jonty) and crew chief (Paul).

Expecting the worst in conditions that would make a duck happy Ian pressed the start button – XS186 fired up instantly!

The usual systems checks were completed without any problems and within a few minutes Ian gave the sign for chocks away. John did the honours and once clear Ian released the foot brake and the aircraft moved off with no need for coaxing at all, Ian later reporting that she felt great!

A small turn to starboard to test differential braking, no problems, and it was time to shut down the engine, about 200litres of fuel having been burned in just over 10 minutes.

The aircraft crew reported no problems but everyone had noticed that the nose wheel leg had depressed a long way at full power settings, apparently having lost pressure in the oleo. Did someone say we had seen the last of our suspension problems…….. That will need sorting out, so Ian once again was asked to see if he could come up with a charging rig for the nose oleo charging point!

Overall a good day given the rather extreme weather and the crew being at it’s minimum number for an engine run, two on board and three on ground crew duties.

Please can we have some decent weather next week?

31st May

Warm but overcast meant a chance of at maintaining momentum on a few jobs, so with a slightly depleted team due to other commitments the guys got stuck in.

Jonty and Ralph took on the uncomfortable task of decanting 200+ litres of fuel into XS186, with Dick joining them to assist later on, not easy with the fuel having to be moved from 200litre drums into 25 litre drums and then into the aircraft, what we would give for a decent bowser!

Ian, Ted and Dick had previously set about our P2 position brake problem, continuing with the bleed operation to try to get rid of the air in the system. All told it did look like the pedal had improved by the days end, so next week we shall give it another try and see what transpires………..

Ian, having been a hive of industry back home over the previous few days had almost completed a completely home-made adaptor set for the main oleo leg charging points, which a small contingent of the crew helped to try out on the now slightly sagging port main leg. A further tweak looked like it would make it absolutely perfect, so a couple of the crew replaced the inspection panel and re-joined Ian as he had also brought his welding gear down with him! So, with a joint effort that included Geoff, Jonty and Ralph even Terry got a bit of tlc and got his bonnet hinges repaired.

With little else to start before it got too late and a reasonably successful day behind them the guys called it a day, next weeks engine run being the main focus of pre-occupation.

24th May

The weather is having a whale of a time with us this May, we were in danger of our cabin becoming a floating home by 12:00 noon and there was certainly little hope of doing any work outside for most of the day without flippers.

So a short and sweet session, but the crew who turn up rain or shine did what they could, Dick spending some time putting the final touches to a full 30 inch RAF roundel for display in the cabin , and both Ralph and Paul making up a donations bucket for us, well actually for the aeroplane.

Ian had brought down the first cut of an adaptor set he is making for re-charging the main wheel oleo legs, and for a short period post midday, made good progress matching unions up. The rest will be done as homework and we all know he’ll come up trumps at some point in the near future!

Likewise Dick got a brief window of opportunity to see if our P2 port side brake pedal was indeed the problem which caused our loss of hydraulic pressure on the Open Day run. After several top up’s and pumping of the pedal it was clear the reservoir behind the pedal was faulty, typical faulty master cylinder behaviour……………… this will mean a new reservoir or at least new seals in the original, not an easy task and one which may take a while to action as we have no spares!

Ralph took it upon himself to mount the crews fire training certificates on the cabin walls, and made a great job of them, now at least we look like we know what we’re doing.

So, with little else left to do, the guys wrapped up by early afternoon as another deluge of rain turned up. Fingers crossed for a better Saturday next weekend when preparations will start for our next engine run, on Saturday 7th June.

17th May

A much friendlier day altogether with calm and sunny conditions, so, weather inspired the team gathered and made a fresh start on several jobs that had been generated during the Open Weekend.

The return of our engineering guru Ian prompted an investigation into why we can’t get our nitrogen rig to connect with the top of our port oleo leg, despite getting intimate with a Turner adaptor. After a prolonged period of head scratching and colourful language it was deemed worthy of a trip down to the hydraulic bay at RAF Cranwell for a chat, we’ll see what that brings next week.

Something a whole lot easier to understand was the need for a fuel filter change, with Ian and Jeff making short work of the operation and after a bit of help from Ted in the cockpit, carried out the post swop bleed and wet start exercise to ensure all was well.

Paul removed a couple of under fuselage panels to see if anything obvious could be seen that was causing a loss of hydraulic pressure and subsequent brake pedal failure, a symptom that was experienced during the preparation for the Open Weekend engine / taxy run. Nothing was found so a manual cycling of speed brakes and flaps was instructed, both of which seemed to work ok, very strange, so next weeks plan is to set up the hydraulic rig to test the system at full pressure, see if that tempts the same symptoms out…..

Ted continued his cockpit work and checked out the ignitor boxes to ensure we had both working, which after a fuse change in one of the circuits we did!

Ralph and John took on another recently forgotten job and made some further progress on Terry’s repaint, whilst taking on some heavier duty work by replacing one and freeing off the other bonnet hinges, which suffer from exposure to the elements, a bit like the rest of us do…………

Lastly but definitely not least, Howard brought down a surplus petrol driven mower from Pauls gaff, and after a thorough clean up and some fresh fuel fired up just fine, so a couple of hours later and after several shouts of abuse from the rest of the crew for being the noisiest gardener in town the pan was as spick and span as it’s ever been.

So, not a massive leap forward in terms of jobs completed, but a great start to our post event operations, well done guys!

10th May

Back down to earth with a bump this week, the english weather teaching us once again not to be too ambitious, with strong blustery winds and frequent rain showers stopping play on XS186 completely.

Instead it was the not very exciting but necessary job of packing away the four stalls that had served us well over the previous weekend, with Jonty, Dick, Howard, Ralph, Phillip and Paul making short work of a difficult job in poor conditions.

Next it was a clean up of the crew cabin, with everyone mucking in, and within a couple of hours we could see the walls and floor again!

Finally it was preparation for the next trip to Redhill for more fuel, this time Jonty and Dick will be making the long trip down to Surrey with some of the crew being on hand on the evening to welcome them home and assist in the de-canting.

With the weather still not playing along, it was decided to have an early bath and the guys packed up for the day and looked forward to some fuel activity during the week.

3rd, 4th & 5th May

Work of a different nature this weekend, pre-open weekend preparations were the order of the day on Saturday, with a record four stalls being built by the crew ready for them and their WAG’s to manage over the following two days.

The full complement of ground equipment was rolled out, with Ralph applying some final blue touches and putting the first of our newly completed wing trestles out on display.

By the days end everyone considered us ready for anything and we retired confident our static engine run on the Monday was well in hand.

Sunday was a long but satisfying day for the limited crew that were available, with Tony, Paul and his other half Lynne managing all four stalls, busier than a one armed window cleaner they were, with Dick doing a fantastic job on XS186 guide duties, all four of them refusing to give up the cause and take a break till the day was over.

Then it was the Monday, a different ball game……… the crew were there in force to enable us to carry out our first engine run as part of a formal public event. Lovely weather helped the day and several hundred people were on site…………. no pressure then.

Lynne with  Ralph’s wife Pauline, Tony our media man and Jonty’s partner Diane settled themselves in for another busy day on the stalls whilst the crew fell into their normal pre-run routine. By 11:00am, an hour before the allotted time slot, all was ready and Tony had moved to his new crows nest photographers position atop the crew’s cabin.

John Temple arrived and a pre-run brief was held. Paul decided to throw in a swerve ball and pushed the idea of a short taxy run, just 20 feet straight ahead, to show the now massed crowd that this aeroplane was not a static exhibit!  Everyone agreed it was feasible and safe, so this was added to the schedule. It meant new duties for Ralph and Dick on wheel chock removal  and re-positioning and Paul on marshalling, what a day to try that out……………..

Then it started, the dreaded XS186, i don’t want to play today routine. These pages are littered with the stories of days spoiled by our tendency to tantrum aeroplane, and it started to look like another one! First of all we lost brake pedal pressure on the P2 stbd side. Nothing we could do about it now except ask John Temple and Ted if they were ok with P1 brakes only, they were. Next our previously perfect comms didn’t work in the P1 position any more. Several combinations of wiring were quickly tried, and eventually a splitter lead was employed in the P2 position to give John the comms he needed. Good thinking by Ted on that one.

So, at 12:00 noon sharp all was set, trolley acc on and John gave Jeff the thumbs up, the ignitor was pressed to test we had our twin set of sparks, nothing again! Luckily as Ted was in P2 he was able to carry out a swift series of fuse checks, replace a couple and all was well yet again.

Finally when we did fire up for some reason there was a reluctance for the Viper to ignite immediately, but the crew had the presence of mind to use the relight button to provide an extra ignition source and after a couple of extra seconds she fired up and all was well, not without drama though!

The run itself was faultless, everyone knew their duties and carried them out perfectly and professionally. The crowd loved it, being so close to a fully working jet put smiles on lots of faces, and everyone considered the event one of the highlights of the weekend.

Credit has to go to the whole crew and indeed their wives and girlfriends who turned up whenever they could to assist in stall duties, and even stayed on for hours afterwards to help clear away the debris of the weekend. It was a tough but satisfying three days, we have a couple of faults to remedy on the aeroplane, nothing new there, and we earned over £500 for our cause as well as a modest but welcome £35 for our beloved Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance.

Well done to the whole crew for a great performance at our first public event!

Why not follow our project in pictures, click on the link below for a weekly pictorial record of the project

XS186 - a soon after arrival at Metheingham photo of XS186, not seen before

26th April

Back to reality this week, with miserable weather to match for most of the morning, though it did brighten a bit later on.

Tea and biscuits down and the guys were up and about tackling jobs that now need to be done if we are to make the best of the coming Open Weekend on 4th and 5th May.

Jonty and Dick fuelled up XS186, whilst Paul polished up the starboard side of the aircraft, making her sparkle in the fleeting spells of sunshine. The port side will be done next Saturday.

Ted carried out some minor wiring work on the standby compass lighting, not critical but a nice touch to have finished, especially if we go for an evening engine run / taxy later in the year.

Ralph impressed everyone with the brilliantly refurbished wing trestles he brought down, and set about painting the stands that they will sit on later on this year when we look at undercarriage cycling!

Right in the middle of all this activity we were pleasantly surprised by a visitor of the rotor variety, the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance dropped in to see us, landing close by to the crews pan and giving us all a brilliant view of the Eurocopter in action. They had called in to do a recce of their planned parking slot for the Open Weekend, and to have a cup of tea of course!  After a few minutes of aeroplane style chat they were ready for off, the crew being pretty chuffed with the rare opportunity to see the helicopter close up and personal,  infact it was the second encounter with an Air Ambulance for some of the crew in the same number of weeks (see our crew adventures page)!

Some site tidying after lunch and planning for the following weekend was enough for us all and at our usual time of about 4:00pm it was time for home for another week, all of us looking forward to the coming public event.

Some of the crew in front of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance, and it's pilot Tim

Some of the crew in front of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance, and it’s pilot Tim

19th April

Another big day in the projects archive, time to give XS186 another chance to stretch her legs. All the factors fell into place quite nicely for a change, no caravans despite the fact it was a bank holiday, our new P1 John Temple available and absolutely up for the challenge, no mechanical issues with the aeroplane, and a good compliment of crew to ensure the myriad of duties and checks could be carried out.

First up it was time to top up the tanks, which with several hundred litres now available was something of a pleasure, Jonty, Dick and Paul bringing overall contents on board up to around 500 litres.

Ted finished off a few bits n bobs in the cockpit and carried out comms checks, Ian did the oil and fluid levels, Dick carried out sed checks and in about an hour all was well and ready for the big event.

With the need to bring our P1 John up to full speed with cockpit drill and to have an experienced marshaller in place if the aeroplane was to move under it’s own power, it was agreed that Ted would take P2 position and Ian adopt marshall responsibilities, water off a ducks back for Ian and chance for John and Ted to work together at least once before our (potential) first public event in a couple of weeks time.

Everything set and John was in the driving seat, checks complete and the button was pressed……………..nothing………………

It was reminiscent of a scene from several years ago, all the jokes were rolled out re pilots being the problem, as our previous P1 Rob would testify, and everyone waited with baited breath whilst helmets came off, Ted’s meter came out and diagnostics began. Thankfully it was nothing serious, a blown 20 amp fuse in the master start circuit. Blown fuses are not unexpected when they are 40+ years old, so a replacement was fitted and a dry run carried out without ignitors, no problem.

So it was all systems go again and this time all went to plan, and within a few minutes flying surfaces tests were complete and John gave the signal for chocks away. Ian did the honours and gave the thumbs up…………………….. we shouldn’t have worried, but you do don’t you, with only just over 60% throttle XS186 moved away really well, looking very spritely infact, almost like she wanted to go flying………This initial taxy was just to test the brakes and they performed well so the aeroplane was brought to a stop and shut down by John. A quick de-brief whilst John and Ted stayed in the cockpit and all seemed ok to develop the exercise a bit further.

The next phase was to push XS186 back to the far corner of our modest pan, set off, try a planned turn to the right and stop. The incentive was that Pauls car was placed beyond the stop position, kind of a safety barrier and an incentive to ensure the brakes on the aircraft had been serviced correctly!

Again, there was no need to have worried, except that this time Paul really was, but John handled the operation with ease and XS186 looked the best she ever has.

Quite an achievement for all concerned, the crew were as proud  as they could be and rightly so, this project is going places!

A busy scene around XS186 during preparations for the taxy runs

A busy scene around XS186 during preparations for the taxy runs

12th April

Resumption of normal activity, and there’s always plenty to do with a 50 year old aeroplane!

Increasing amounts of our time will now be taken up with preparation for the Metheringham Open Weekend over the early May bank holiday, so first job was to get the starboard wing roundel applied. The same team as last week took on the task, but with much colder weather conditions the whole task just seemed harder. Not easy dealing with intricate work when you lose all feeling in your fingers. Nevertheless after some painstaking work it was in place and looks just as good as the other side, despite it having to broach an inspection panel that someone put there…….it didn’t stop Dick though, he’s a dab hand with a scalpel!

Jonty and Dick also pretty much finished the measuring up for the dayglo sections that will adorn the main planes over the coming weeks, brilliant work, especially by Jonty.

Ralph made a good start on cleaning up our ground equipment so it will all be on top form by May, assisted by John this week. Even the hydraulic rig started up quite easily, i think it just likes a lot of t.l.c. ………… and Ralph seems to provide it………………worrying really.

Howard and Phillip continued with some groundwork planning, Paul changed a host of now corroded screws with stainless replacements,  Ian did the same, and finished off re-fixing an underwing access panel aswell, and Ted made some final touches to the trolley acc then tidied up in the cockpit, in readiness for our planned engine run next week.

All in all a productive day and good progress on prep for the Open Weekend, well done guys!

Why not keep up to date with our fantastic Flickr photographs, thanks to Tony!

XS186 - a soon after arrival at Metheingham photo of XS186, not seen before

5th April

Big day today, XS186 has been under the care and maintenance of the crew for 10 years, happy birthday old girl!

The guys have achieved some pretty amazing things over that period, and their will and ambition are as strong as ever, a real credit to historic aviation.

To underline the above it was a damned fine day in terms of progress too, undaunted by the odd light shower the whole crew got stuck into some meaty tasks. Most exotic was the fitting of our first main plane roundel, port side, with Jonty, Dick and Paul doing some very exhaustive calculations to ensure not only the roundel was going on in the right place, but that the myriad of dayglo stripes that will follow will also line up perfectly too. Actual application went like a dream, no problems at all.

Howard and Phillip put in the final weatherproofing touches to our equipment shelter in readiness for the inevitable April showers.

Ralph fulfilled our promise to repaint our old now dis-used cabin prior to the Open Weekend in May, so as to hide it’s slow crumble into oblivion, surprising what a coat of olive drab can do, wouldn’t have it in my living room though……..

Ted decided to expand on the trolley acc’s safety features by fitting a safety switch that will prevent power surging by inadvertent switching on / off of the unit whilst connected to the aircraft, a tip he’s picked up from the newer units at the BBMF.

Fitted in amongst all this activity was an opportunity for a celebration, Ted firing a lethal cork across the cabin before helping us all to toast this very special 10th anniversary with a bottle of bubbly.

As if to join in with the spirit of the occasion XS186 decided that now her brakes had been serviced she was all co-operative n stuff. We pulled the crew together to push her around the pan, expecting the usual eight man operation to move her a couple of feet……… but not this time……… with barely a grunt she glided around the pan with only a couple of the guys being needed, wow,  things really are looking up for us!

As if this wasn’t enough we also got to hear that Radio 4 had played a sound-bite of XS186 starting up (paste the link below into your browser and go to 59 minutes in), many thanks to our technical wizard Tony for that, a brilliant piece of publicity that generated several dozen extra visitors to this website!

The first wing roundel in place, beautifully done!

The first wing roundel in place, beautifully done!

29th March

A bright, sunny and fairly warm day today, perfect for tackling the jobs that seem so daunting  and avoidable when there’s frost or rain about.

So, the traditional cuppa and some of Tony’s world class home made biscuits and we were out of the starting blocks.

Jonty and Dick set about marking out the port wing to support the application of our RAF roundels, a more complex job than most would anticipate, as the roundels have to line up with multi-directional dayglo stripes  and we can’t get these final pieces of the jigsaw wrong now can we. By the afternoon the port wing was all ready for the roundel, the starboard side is a job for next week. Great work guys.

Ian dismantled the starboard lower instrument panel to get access to the back of the triple brake pressure gauge so we could bleed the pipelines, which Paul was convinced was causing the knocking and faulty readings. After a lot of fiddly, OM15 soaked bleed operations the pipes were re-attached by Paul and Dick and the pressure rebuilt by way of the hydraulic hand pump in the engine bay. Time for a test………………perfect, nice when a theory works out in practice!

Ted set about fitting a safety relay on our trolley acc to guide users of it to switch the equipment to the correct mode for starting or charging, very sensible and the right thing to do with this potentially damaging and lethal piece of kit.

Ralph started repainting our newly refurbished wing trestles, the various sub-components being laid out and primed. I can sense some more blue looking equipment on the horizon…………

Finally but not least, Howard was back this week and with Phillip made short work of the final roof panel for our ground equipment shelter. This has been a real success story, the future of  our gear is far more safeguarded from the elements now, and with an access door being planned as the final phase this should give us great peace of mind re security in general.

All in all a very successful day indeed, great progress on a whole range of jobs, and the return of accurate brake readings means rapid progress towards taxy operations!

22nd March

Well, what a day, not a lot to report on the work side of things, but a pretty important day for the XS186 crew’s history page!

John Temple, an ex RAF and current commercial pilot agreed to drop in and give the left hand seat of XS186 a try. It was the first opportunity in quite a while (since Rob Fullerton was there over a year ago) for a qualified turbine rated pilot to take up the position, and we were all keen to see how the occasion would work out.

In an effort to not make John feel like he was in at the very deep end Paul suggested Ian and Ted, our most regular crew combination, fire up the aircraft first, with John manning the ground comms, to get a feel for a typical engine run.

First things first though and the crew need no instruction on how to prepare these days, everyone slips into role instinctively, all Paul has to do is wait for the guys to complete their tasks and sign off the Form 700, note any tests that are due, or known faults and it’s decision time, whether the aircraft and crew are good to go. On this occasion, despite having a faulty brake pressure gauge and requirement for a fuel tank pressure feed test it was all good, so signatures on the dotted lines and it was time to press the button.

All went like clockwork, with no issues that warranted further action to report , not withstanding the usual strange behaviours like asymetric fuel consumption and a slightly sluggish % rpm indicator.  Eight minutes after start up and Ian shut down the Viper………. time for John to take up his position.

Ted kindly moved from P2 to ground comms and Ian swopped from P1 to P2 to walk through the pre-start and engine start FRC’s with John. All ready again, more signatures to confirm everyone was happy, and John squeezed the button. XS186 decided she liked him and fired up without a problem, a great start!

A full series of system tests, flaps, speed brakes, flying controls and lights all worked fine, both Ian and indeed John looked pretty satisfied with everything, ran the engine up to 95% a couple of times to scare the scattering of spectators and Johns family who had dropped in to provide some support, and then all too soon it was that not so nice moment, and shut down.

A thorough de-brief between our newest P1 and P2 combo and it was all back to the cabin for a cuppa and a chat around future XS186 taxying plans……. all very exciting once we get that brake problem sorted…….

A bite to eat and it was time for off for John, the rest of the crew taking what remained of the very cold afternoon to carry on with the fuel storage area preparation. A pretty good day all in all and perhaps the start of a new and exciting era?

John Temple, the crews newest qualified P1 prior to his first time in the left hand seat

John Temple, the crews newest qualified P1 prior to his first time in the left hand seat

15th March

Windy but fine and dry, so the covers came off XS186, the seemingly never ending list of jobs was dusted off and the crew set about tackling them.

First on the list was to jack the aircraft up and see if the new brake valve that Dick fitted last week had done the job and stopped the constant pressure feed to free off the main wheel brakes. Well it had helped, the port was reasonably free turning, but the starboard less so. We think it’s just a case of more exercise for the brakes really, at present it’s a case of the system being idle for months at a time, and nobody likes that  do they. Fairly promising overall really, though the handbrake doesn’t seem to be doing anything even though everything is moving as it should…… this aeroplane can be so frustrating sometimes!

The brake gauge is another saga, a strange knocking sound has started eminating from the rudder bar area every time the toe brakes are applied and the triple brake pressure gauge is slowly losing any semblance of common sense. We think there’s a leak in the gauge circuit and it’s sucking air in but we can’t find anything yet, sounds like several weeks of head scratching and swearing coming up again…….

Whilst the brakes were wearing Dick, Paul and Jonty down the other guys were cracking on, Ralph getting Terry the Tug and the hydraulic rig up and running in quick succession now refurbished throttle assembly had been re-attached to the rig that is , and not to be outdone, Ian and Ted got XS186 set up for a dry spool of the engine, which also went superbly, so plenty to be cheered up with there.

Howard and Phillip made further progress with the ground equipment shelter, the roof is all but finished now, so just a final section to fit and then on with  the entrance door, which looks like it may be a difficult task……well done to these guys for really sticking to this job, absolutely superb work.

A couple more jobs were addressed, Paul finishing the wing roundel template, Jonty cleaning out a newly obtained fuel storage tank which will soon be taking it’s place in the equipment shelter and Ted doing some battery charging rig testing, followed by some research and information gathering around some up and coming jobs that need tackling.

Overall quite a productive day, bar the brake gauge problem, so all looks set for an engine run next week, all being well with the weather etc.

8th March

Not quite the balmy spring day that was promised by the the forecasters but good enough to not slow us down, unlike the plague of caravaners (is that what a bunch of them are called?) that had descended on the site. Still, we know our site has to make a living and if this is part of it then so be it, doesn’t mean you have to like it though does it!

All kinds of jobs to carry on with so off we went, Paul and Ian lending Dick a hand to change the hydraulic junction box that feeds the braking system, to see if this cures our permanent brakes on situation. Not an easy job in the belly of the aircraft under the cockpit floor, lots of stuff to beware of, wiring looms, rudder controls, junction boxes and OM15 washing around once the inlet and outlet pipes had been disconnected. Still it would have been silly to think Dick could have let it beat him, and within a couple of hours the old unit was out and the new one in! It was a three man effort in the afternoon to get the system bled, with Ted replacing Ian, and after an hour of good old fashioned pedal pumping all four brake pedals were working fine. A good tip is to check the reservoirs that sit behind the toe brakes as these could suck air into the brake system and could prove a real problem if left to run dry!

Whilst this was going on Ralph carried on with the wing trestles, re-shaping one of them to make it a better fit, Ian took a throttle linkage part off of our hydraulic rig to refurbish it at home as it’s looking a bit worn  Paul took a few minutes to work on the main plane wing roundel template, Ted put the final touches to our new charging rig and the daring duo of Howard and Phillip made steady progress with the ground equipment shelter. With a good Saturday next week (now that’s the kiss of death) the roof should be all but finished!

So, next week we will test our braking system as we ran out of time to jack up XS186 to test our handiwork. If this works out out ok we are set for an engine run on the 22nd March.

Some XS186 history, the log book entry noted in last weeks blog!

Some XS186 history, John Creasey’s log book entry noted in last weeks blog!

1st March

Quite a nice day for March so spirits were up and the consensus was to get stuck into some work, once the chocolate digestives had been eliminated.

Ian, Paul and Jonty set about jacking XS186 up to do some winter servicing on the brakes, as it turned out not before time as both units were sticking quite badly. A bit of persuasion got the discs moving freely and within an hour both sides looked nicer and moved much easier. There is something strange going on though as when hydraulic pressure is built up the brakes are coming on slightly, even without pedal pressure being applied, that needs looking into a bit further, but it’s nothing that will stop a static engine run. The great news is that Ian’s home made jacking tool worked perfectly, thanks Ian!

As we get to grips with all things undercarriage we will work towards getting the aircraft up on trestles so we can do some undercarriage cycling, and to help us get to this end Ralph carried on with the renovation of our wing trestle tops. Once these are re-covered and painted the inevitable ‘Ralph blue’ they can be fitted to an existing set of stands we have. Just a fuselage trestle to either manufacture or obtain from somewhere then? Clearly in the mood for painting Ralph also did a great job of decorating the now completed end of our ground equipment shelter, very nice it looks too.

Next item to receive some attention was our love it or hate it, well just hate it really, hydraulic rig. Driven by a tempremental Coventry Victor flat four petrol engine, it really doesn’t like us at all, even though John once again lavished  lots of love and attention on it, put fresh fuel in, stripped and cleaned the carb and gave it an Austin 1100  Basil Fawlty talking to, no, it didn’t want to play. Paul and Ralph spent far too long cranking the engine over by hand, the engine coughing and spluttering it’s way through the hours without firing properly once. Eventually for absolutely no reason Paul took a plug lead off to see how strong the spark from the magneto was, it was ok, so plug lead back on, next turn, fired up instantly. What is that all about…………. anyway we ran it for half an hour and then shut it down, mumbling away to ourselves about it being a female as we pushed it back into it’s completely undeserved but rapidly forming all weather shelter.

Talking of shelters, ours is really looking the business now and the jokes are starting to flow re which is the best place to sit for a brew now, so many thanks have to go to Howard and Phillip for their stoical approach to the build.

Ted made rapid and impressive progress with our battery charging unit, by the end of the afternoon we had a charging rig that can be plugged into our trolley acc and on board batteries at the same time, giving us rapid and convenient turn around facility for the first time, no more removing batteries to take home and charge for days on end, heaven!

Finally word has to go to one or two visitors we had during the day. John Temple, a local commercial pilot and instructor came to check us out and may be joining our crew as a P1 option, keep tuned to see how things progress there.

Second visitor worthy of note was John Creasey, who at age 11 (which was a long time ago) noted that he was sure XS186 had, in some way been a small part of his life ? 

As it turned out she had, and over the weekend John’s log books came to light, confirming that all those years ago in 1967 XS186 had been ‘spotted’ by him at Finningley Battle of Britain airshow, another piece of history slots into place, so we will be publishing his log book entry for posterity later, what a great end to a good weekend!

The XS186 storage facility takes shape!

The XS186 storage facility takes shape!

22nd Febuary

We are back!, well we never actually went away, but our website did………

So, we were blessed with a quite lovely winters day, some wind but blue skies and reasonable temperatures. What could have been better than an engine run, nothing……… we did it.

It’s a strange but very pleasant feeling when we prepare for an engine run these days and crew members naturally fall into a well understood routine, even if individuals are faced with doing irregular tasks, with such great teamwork and enthusiasm. So it was again, with Jonty and Dick kicking things off by refuelling XS186 and then carrying out sed checks and blanks and flags removal.

Ralph fired up Terry the Tug and once he and John had checked and topped up tyre pressures he exercised XS186 with a few laps around the pan before positioning her into wind.

Ian and Ted then prepared themselves in the cockpit, readying the comms system, checking instrumentation and removing the safety pin from our in house designed and built fire control system, one of very few kit deviations from an otherwise original specification rebuild.

The other guys, Geoff, Paul, Howard and Phillip readied the site, setting up public safety measures and clearing the running area whilst Tony set up his filming equipment to record the run like only he can.

Within an hour all was set, so after the compulsory pre-run cuppa it was everyone to their positions and time for off.  Trolley acc on and an initial starter button press didn’t give us anything, a bit odd, but there was no panic and Geoff switched off the trolley acc so Ian could carry out a ‘dry run’ on internal batteries, that went fine. We guessed there was just a bit of damp in a relay somewhere so once the starter relays had re-set it was trolley acc back on and another try. Perfect!

A lovely run, with all systems looking fine put a smile on all our faces and after two runs up to 95% power and 80 pounds of fuel burn, it was time to shut down. Report from the cockpit after was that there’s a slight fault on brake pressure on the starboard side, we think this could be a bit of air in the system, so we’ll bleed the brakes next week to see if this cures it.

It was still only lunch time so after topping up energy levels several of the guys carried on, with Howie and Phillip doing a brilliant job progressing the ground equipment shelter, Paul, Dick and Ian having a ‘greasing’ session on the undercarriage units, Ralph doing some wing trestle work and Ted continuing with the building of our super duper battery charging rig, which wil be able to charge multiple batteries simultaneously and our trolley acc if required, impressive stuff.

All too soon it was late afternoon so the guys had to wrap up the aircraft, put away the ground equipment and contemplate our next session, which if it goes anything like today will be great!



8th February

Well at least we got onto the site today, or most of the crew anyway, but it wasn’t very nice, the wind was so strong it was definitely not a good idea to uncover XS186, one slip and someone would have looked like Mary Poppins and probably have done some damage to themselves and even worse the aeroplane! 

So we did what we could, Ian and Paul managing to try out the jacking tool for the undercarriage and getting all excited when it fitted and worked perfectly, well done Ian. We can start on the next phase of aircraft suspension now, the trestles for the main planes, for which all the basic raw materials are there, but they need putting together and painting blue……..once that’s done we can have a crack at undercarriage testing…….should be interesting.

Another minimal risk activity was re-fueling, which Dick, Ralph and Paul took on, ensuring that none stood downwind of the fuel kit in case of spillage. In the event there was no problem and another job was ticked off.

Ian brought a very interesting piece of equipment with him, a previously scrapped, old and heavy RAF 24v battery charger…… this might be perfect for our aircraft and trolley acc batteries, so Ted had a look around it, changed a few components to make it fit our aircraft battery conections, plugged in, and hey presto it worked a treat! We can look forward to much easier re-charging operations now, and because we have a number of RAF connectors kicking around we will be able to make the charger plug straight into the trolley acc or both aircraft batteries simultaneously, very flash, not literally though…..

Whilst all this experimental stuff was being looked at Howard, Ralph and Phillip made a start n the ground equipment storage facility. Now to most people the building of a wooden structure would take hours of measuring, cutting, nailing, and swearing, and then some dismantling followed by more measuring, cutting nailing and swearing….oh no, these guys knew what they were doing, and at the end of day one the end wall had been measured, battened, and the wall in place. Very very impressive stuff, so confidence that by the summer we will have a weatherproof storage area that no longer looks like a stormy day in Belgium 1917 is high, well done guys!

1st February

Once again other users of the site prevented the crew from attending on the Saturday, but several of the stalwarts including Ralph, Ted, Ian and Jonty stuck to it and did a stint on the Sunday instead!

The horribly muddy conditions around the site made the most basic tasks difficult and before long the cabin was also a soggy mess, nevertheless the guys uncovered XS186 and took the opportunity to set up a dry engine spool to help keep the main engine bearing lubricated. The recent cold conditions had taken it’s toll on the aircraft batteries though and there wasn’t really enough power in the on board units, so the trolley acc was pulled out of it’s muddy hole and rigged up to the aircraft.

Even this task was hindered, by a loosened battery terminal, so the starter relay rejected the idea and part of the day was used repairing the broken part, and eventually getting the dry spool carried out.

Ian tried the new undercarriage unit, and it needs a bit more tweaking, so another heavy engineering session should see this piece join the already comprehensive set of tooling we have in stock.

By this time pretty much everything that could be done was done so the guys re-wrapped XS186 and let Ralph loose in the cabin to clear the mess and hope for better conditions next week!

25th January

This weekend was a non starter for several reasons.

We are asked on occasion to not carry out our weekly crusade, for reasons that are as dear to some Lincolnshire folks as old aeroplanes are to others. A shooting event in nearby woods is the reason this time, so Saturday was cancelled and we agreed Sunday would be our day of fun instead. Well, that didn’t work out either, several of the crew members including Paul and Dick amongst others just couldn’t move stuff around.

As it turned out mother nature had her own ideas anyway, and as i sit here writing this blog, it looks like Lincolnshire is slowly sinking into what looks like all of the puddles slowly joining up to make a new inland sea.

I am though, fairly sure i can hear the faint sound of tinkering, and one thing is for certain, there will be stuff getting worked on, planned and thought about if i know the crew.

As it stands there’s 70 litres of fuel stood in my garage waiting to be loaded, and a set of wing roundels being arranged…………….. the tinkering is getting louder……

Next weekend is also a changed day, Sunday is the working day.

18th January

No warmer this week and a bit rainy, but it is January so we shouldn’t moan……..but we did anyway. By half past ten  it had dried out a bit so we sprang, or wrapped up and shuffled, into action.

It wasn’t dry enough to unwrap XS186 so we chose the next coldest pastime we could find, taking the rear nearside wheel off Terry the Tug to see if we could get the tyre off and find out what had happened to cause the extremely annoying slow puncture we had been trying to ignore for several weeks.

No problem with the wheel obviously, but the tyre was a different matter. After a couple of hours the split rim was as fixed as ever, numerous lever, screwdriver, hammer and swear word combinations failed to dislodge the locking ring. Dick, who has history with HGV wheels was apoplectic, and when we dared to suggest a trip to our local Bush Tyres depot it was like we had insulted his kinfolk, Howie had to resort to physically lifting him off the wheel, with hammer and lever swing wildly all the way, surely the funniest moment of the day!

So having calmed the tyre / Dick stand off situation Howie and Paul loaded up the wheel (with tyre still firmly in place) into  the van and off they went. Within a half hour and a quite reassuring round of swearing by the experts the tyre was off and we could see the 40 odd years of corrosion that had been holding the wheel together…… grim. A very interested chap at Bush was more than helpful once he learned of our little operation, fixed the nail induced puncture in the inner tube and gave us some good advice re what to do to get the whole thing back together, once the corrosion was removed back at base of course.

A drop off at a local builders merchants on the way back resulted in quite a haul of materials to start our ground equipment shelter in a couple of weeks time, so all in all it was a good trip, and the crew jumped to it on the van turning up at Metheringham and got the wood and roofing stored away in no time.

The troubled relationship between Dick and his wheel/tyre was resumed, it was definitely a grudge match, and despite a lot of work being required on the wheel rim components several of the crew, including Ted, Ralph, John and Paul all got stuck in to help Dick show the corrosion a lesson in tenacity and how to win a battle, Dick won…… Even when the hardiest of us had decided it was probably time to pack up for the day, it was Dick that reminded us who and what we are, that tyre was going on that wheel, and that wheel was going on that tug, tonight.

By 3:30pm the light was fading but the air compressor was being fired up and the tyre was going on. Within half an hour it was back together and Terry was back on all fours, a great lesson for us all in the worthiness of  true grit. Thank you Dick.

Ian had also been busy and had brought what looked like a piece of Tiger tank with him to fashion a jacking block for the undercarriage on XS186. By the days end he had started to turn the block into a thing of beauty, just a couple of minor mods and it will charm the undercarriage into lifting on it’s own.

So, despite a difficult start and not having much of the aircraft to work on, the crew excelled yet again and we finished the day as proud as could be, well done guys!

Terry, looking as if butter wouldn't melt with n/s tyre fixed on back on

Terry, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt, with n/s tyre back on

11th January

Much nicer today, a bit brass monkey and we had to use walking boards if you dared to leave the pathways because it was so boggy, but what the hell, if you want to wait for ideal conditions you might be waiting for ever.

So it was straight to work for our first engine run of 2014, and everyone was hoping it would be a good start to the year.

By late morning all checks had been done, XS186 was towed into wind and we decided the only non standard test was a wet start, so we dumped a bit of fuel into the jet pipe to see if temperatures would be affected, or the un-burned fuel would just generate a bit of smoke on start up.

It was Dicks turn to be up front with Ian, so pre-start instructions were completed and off we went.

XS186 fired up instantly, a great relief after so much wind and rain had battered her ceaselessly over the past few weeks. Once we were happy that the un-burned fuel in the jet pipe had caused no problems it was a run up to 95% to wake the local populace up a bit, and then a full flying control and electrical systems check. Again it was 100%, even our fuel gauges had individual totals that matched the overall reading, wow, we are getting good at this!

All too soon it was time to run power up to 60% and once the jet pipe temperature had stabilised, close the fuel cock and shut down. If all goes this well during 2014 we should have some great events.

All that was left to do was pull together some plans for a couple of jobs. Paul needs to get hold of some Jet A1, Terry the tug needs a wheel off so we can rectify a slow puncture, that will need a giant wheel nut spider, so there’s a plan to bring one next week and get the  job done, as will the manufacture of a jacking point by Ian, so we can do some brake and bearing servicing, as we have started to hear a bit of a knock on the port wheel during towing. Plenty to keep most of us out of mischief……

Watch the engine run on You Tube!–kg

4th January 2014

Well for those expecting an exciting round up of a busy days engine run event i’m afraid it will come as perhaps not such a surprise that mother nature had other ideas today….

Steady rain that started several hours before daybreak meant the ground was already literally underwater in most areas, and it continued throughout the day without respite. This effectively put an end to any previously arranged plans, as uncovering XS186 would only have opened up all kinds of uncomfortable possibilities on the electrical and indeed health and safety front.

Instead it was simply an opportunity to celebrate…………………. why?

Well, because 2014 hosts a number of important anniversaries , including this week being the 50th anniversary of XS186 having rolled off the production line from Hunting Percivals factory at what is now Luton Airport.

It’s also the 10th anniversary of XS186 arriving at Metheringham in April of this year, seems like yesterday….NOT!

So other than Ralph sticking to it and putting up some shelving for our cockpit crew kit and Howard and the boys unloading some raw materials for ongoing building preparations, it was down to some event and infrastructure planning for the rest of us and an opportunity for Ted to pop a bottle of bubbly and for the crew to toast a truly amazing 2013, and to hope for just as successful a 2014 !

The engine run planned for today has of course been re-arranged and all being well will go ahead next Saturday the  11th January.

Ted marks the 50th birthday and the start of our 10th year as a crew!

Ted marks the 50th birthday of 186 and the start of our 10th year as a crew!

2013 Year End update

What a year it has been, with many positives and as with any epic, the occasional downer!

Perhaps the big three have been attaining a new and very welcome level of reliability with XS186, after a couple of years of hard slog to overcome electrical and fuel tank issues.

The acquisition of our new cabin was a real morale boost, one that we didn’t know we needed until we got it and made it our own. It’s a haven on the rougher days and a great social spot several times each and every Saturday.

Third one for me is the great progress made on XS186’s paintwork, with main plane upper surfaces prepared and painted, as well as fuselage and tip tank dayglo having been applied. The undersides are progressing well now and 2014 will see the wings completed and roundels / dayglo applied here too hopefully.

Of course none of the above would have been possible without what we all know is the finest group of guys you could wish for, all of whom have dedicated a portion of their recent lives to the XS186 cause, and to who i will always look on as a determined, visionary and proud crew, thank you guys!

28th December

Shall we have a Saturday off and spend it stuffing more turkey sandwiches and mince pies down……………………

The sun was out, so we joined it, wrapped up warm to protect ourselves from the sharp conditions and off we went.

Ian crawled underneath the starboard wing and worked on the template for a 6 inch square repair patch for a section of the damaged skin, which along with a bit of crush damage to the roof of the nose wheel bay is one of the few remaining areas of damage left from XS186’s dark period of de-commissioning and ordnance disposal training at North Luffenham (see the history section for more detail).

Paul took over on the starboard wing once Ian had retired to hunt down some rivets for his repair patch, and carried on with the wing paintwork preparation, now approaching the final stages before priming is carried out, though we will need something less than brass monkey conditions before we take that particular task on.

Ralph and his colleague Phillip, buoyed by the fact that the mouse trap was clear following the cabin door alterations did some more wood work and installed shelving in the cabin and lorry body whilst Howard also drew on Phillips knowledge to draw up an ambitious plan for the enclosure of our ground equipment area, with the blocking off of an open ended area, a security door and even roofing. We’ll have the most molly coddled hydraulic rig in the historic aviation world by the end of 2014, lets hope it appreciates it and decides it’s going to start up in future without giving half of the crew sprained wrists and hernias…..

Ted got XS186 uncovered and used the dry conditions to get the trolley acc connected up and explore an unexplained voltage drop in the main fuse box area. Nothing was really forthcoming and seeing as the drop is not really causing any operational issues at present it didn’t cause us to dwell on it, just something to watch out for. Whilst the power was on it was a good opportunity to test our aircraft and ground crew headsets together with associated leads etc. and as the results were pleasing we finished the days tasks on a high.

Al that remained was to load up the trolley acc and aircraft batteries for re-charging during the week, and the Jet A1 carriers for Pauls fuel collection run. If these pre-run tasks work out and the weather is kind to us it’s an engine run next week!

A happy Christmas and New Year to all our followers!

21st December

A fairly quiet day but in true crew style, it’s not a real Saturday without a challenging  job to take on.

Several of the guys were on family duties, but some of the stalwarts including Ralph, Ian and Geoff, turned up and decided that given the fairly hostile weather conditions they would leave XS186 covered up and do some home improvements to our crew room. Now we may as well admit it, the cabin is a pretty friendly place and everyone radiates towards it on a regular basis. Unfortunately its warmth and the abundance of biscuits and cakes seems damned well impossible to resist as far as the local field mouse population is concerned too. Every week we reduce their number further, but they keep on throwing themselves onto our trap and the body count keeps rising. So, every week we close another gap, seal another hole and generally work towards making the place tighter than a Yorkshireman’s wallet.

Anyway, back to the days task and most would have put the fire on and done some light dusting…… no, lets take off the heavy duty door and fit a new precision engineered bottom section to see if that will keep our little friends out.

Anyway, they attacked it in the style only we know how and by early afternoon the door was back together and back on. Only the passing of time and the lack of snapping traps will tell us if we have at long last made the place truly our own.

Whilst operation Fort Knox was being acted out, Howard continued his picnic table rebuild and Dick turned up to help out the team in their various tasks, so all in all, whilst it was not appropriate to play kite flying with XS186’s covers the guys did make good use of the day.

Next day is between Christmas and New Year when we will start preparations for our first engine run of 2014 on the 4th January!

14th December

Winter’s here, not a bad start with clear dry conditions, but it got worse with increasingly strong and colder winds as the day went on.

Still, if it’s dry we crack on, so main jobs of the day on XS186 were Ian replacing several inspection panel captive nuts on the main planes particularly around the areas where the RAF roundels will be applied, so we don’t have to start drilling and riveting once the paintwork is finished, Paul would not be happy…… Assisted by Jonty, Ian got more than a dozen changed, with a similar number to go. The critical areas are now ready for paintwork preparation and application of the painted roundels over the winter months, using our refurbished marquee as a kind of mobile spray booth!

Whilst work on the main planes continued, with upside down Paul really getting stuck in and almost completing the rubbing down of the underside of the starboard wing, the rest of the guys got some infrastructure work completed, Ralph and his helper Phillip fitting new vents to the cabin and Howard making great progress with rebuilding the picnic bench that came our way as pile of wood a couple of weeks ago. All this building work will stand the crew in good stead next year when we plan to hold more events and widen our spectator base.

Ted did a repair on our battery charger so we don’t get let down with power problems at a critical moment, and then did some work on our spare instrument panel to prepare it for mounting in the cabin as a crew training aid.

As the weather worsened and the jobs available to start dried up the guys made for home, although die hards Howard, Ralph and Paul hung on with their respective tasks until the light started to fade. Cold and tired the guys packed up and wished each other well before heading home.

There are worse views

There are worse views

7th December

After a worrying day of of very high winds earlier in the week it was good to turn up at Metheringham in calm and dry conditions yet again, and to find that other than an attempt to weathercock slightly in the wind, XS186 was unaffected, more than could be said of some of our garden fences and sheds.

Howard quite rightly pointed out that we have some great tie down points within spitting distance from the aircraft, so why don’t we use them…… nobody likes a smart arse do they, but he is right, so we brought the tie down points (concrete railway sleepers) to the picketing points under each main plane and Howard made XS186 secure again.

Next concern was to diagnose what was wrong with one of our two ignition circuits, the engine run the previous week having relied on just one working box. Ted and Ian got to it, whilst being very cautious of the fact that ignition boxes are potential killers if touched too soon after operation as they retain residual voltage for a couple of minutes. They tried a couple of power supplies, the on board aircraft batteries to start, and then the trolley acc. None of the power supplies really seemed to be giving enough ooomph to generate the familiar sharp cracking, and although they were down on voltage slightly, there should have been enough power for what we were doing. Several tests later and it looked like it was simply a fuse in the main fusebox on the starboard cockpit wall that was losing voltage on the outgoing side of the circuit, most odd, but that was all we could find. By this time the voltage was dropping on our trolley acc too, so a quick try with a good fuse and it sounded better, so we will charge up our batteries and try again next time to make sure it’s ok.

Once the above had been played out and the sparking risk removed Paul and Ralph took up re-fuelling duties, partly replenishing a now very low fuel state following our recent runs, Ralph following up by re-labelling our fuel cans to keep them properly labelled and legal.

Next job was to do a bit more digging with our radio issues, Ted, Paul and Tony sliding out the internals on all three ground units to see if there were any key components missing. Other than all three having the same single fuse removed, which we don’t know the reason for, we couldn’t see anything wrong, nothing burned, fused or disconnected, so Paul agreed to go back to the five manuals we now have to investigate the missing fuse location, is it part of the RAF de-commissoning process we wonder?

Other than these ongoing issues it was down to some more building maintenance, with the painting up of a new notice board in the cabin, some anti-rodent skirting being installed (little blighters are still getting in somehow!) and repairs to some outdoor seating that came our way.

By this time we reckoned we could do no more, so it was time to re-cover XS186, put away our ground equipment and look forward to our crew Christmas dinner, scheduled for Thursday night, lord help the venue……..

Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December

Saturday was changed for Sunday, if we were god fearing we would have expected to be punished for working on the Sabbath but we have had plenty of that on the days that we are supposed to be working anyhow, so we’ve run out of fear!

As it turned out several of the crew turned up regardless to carry out a couple of site jobs, some of them cleaning up the area around the side of the cabin, cutting grass and clearing away various bits of scrap material that had accumulated over several months, whilst Ralph did a similar job in the cabin. Ian brought his welding gear down and repaired our crew access steps, welding the castors into position so we don’t feel like we’re pushing a particularly vicious shopping trolley around the site any more.

All in all the site looked pristine on Sunday morning which was absolutely beautiful, clear skies, no wind and a nearly full crew by mid morning.

We had a visitor from Bruntingthorpe, Julian, a bit of a whiz on radios, who gave us lots of good advice on where we might be going wrong with our comms plans. The original idea for the day had been to fire up XS186 to try to get the ARC-52’s communicating ground to ground, but Julian’s advice was that we didn’t need to miss the engine run by being locked away in the cabin with our problem child, so the radios were put aside for a short time and the run was soon in the final stages of preparation.

By late morning all was set, with Ian as P1 and this time Jonty as P2. All checks complete so it was time for off. A slight hiccup with what appears to be a fault on one of the two ignitor boxes during checks was considered, then rejected as a minor fault that would have little consequence on the engines ability to ignite, maybe a little slower but nothing too concerning. So it was down to business and in the event XS186 fired up almost instantly. She sounded great, and the fantastic weather conditions only helped to make the whole spectacle very impressive, with several high powered runs, full systems checks, and even a relight exercise, which went exactly as advertised. Ian and Jonty did a great job in the cockpit, and Geoff communicated all the activities via hand signals without a problem. The crowd was very appreciative, and it’s noticeable how numbers are starting to increase now. Word is indeed getting around that these days can be very much worth attending due to the ‘up close and personal’ touch we try to promote.

After approximately ten minutes of unadulterated noise and power it was time to close things down, Ian bring the power setting up to 60% before closing the fuel cocks and running through shut down procedures. Lincolnshire returned to it’s quiet and sleepy Sunday morning.

The crew busied themselves with pushing XS186 back into her parking position and then fitting the various blanks and covers, once some of the sizeable crown had been given chance to take a (supervised) look in the cockpit and engine bay areas.

All in all a good day, though following a couple of hours of tinkering with radios after the engine run the news from our guest was that there is still more to do before our radio kit will do what we want of it. Oh well, just another job to follow up.

Video of the event;

XS186 getting lots of attention prior to the engine run

A busy scene around XS186 prior to the engine run

23rd November

Mediocre weather at best with occasional spots of rain and quite cold, but not enough to put us off our planned engine run.

It was straight to it once the regulation cuppa and biscuits had been wolfed down. Dick crawled under the wings and fuselage to carry out sed checks on the wings  and collector tank, as well as checking the engine bay drains for any surplus fuel left over from our previous run. All clear on all counts, great.

Ted got things set up for the main reason for the run, a comms check to see if our ARC-52 would transmit, with both cockpit crew headsets and a ground crew set being positioned ready for the run. We have three ARC-52 sets so all three units were lined up so we could change them during the run.

The rest of the crew busied themselves with the myriad of other checklist items, including levels, pressures, blanks and bungs, FOD plod, trolley acc charging, public safety measures and a few more. Once done Paul went through the form 700 and all was signed off as A1.

A few minutes spare before the run gave Tony the chance to get a rare crew shot with almost all of the guys present, just Geoff and John Evans not being around, and of course Tony being behind the lens.

Once the preening had been stopped it was Ian as P1, with Ralph taking a long awaited turn as P2 for this one. a thumbs up was given and Ian fired up XS186 without a problem. All instruments showed good readings so the on board radio was switched on and Ian pressed PTT to transmit for a test. Nothing……. undaunted Paul and Ted whipped out the set from the nose compartment and in went set No2. Another try……..and nothing. Final go with set No3, and as you would expect by this stage……nothing again. Clearly we are somewhere short of radio nirvana.

So, once our original set was back in, which at least gives us hard wired comms, a couple of full power engine runs cheered everyone up and gave Ralph chance to experience the thrill of being at the sharp end. All too soon the 15 minute time slot was used up, fuel consumption being a prime consideration, and it was time to shut down.

All had gone well technically, besides the useless radios, and a rear navigation light which was also found to be u/s, so this was swiftly changed and checked and signed off as fine by Dick and Ted after the run.

So, the completion of paperwork and putting away of ground equipment pretty much used up the rest of the afternoon, so by 3.00pm it was time for home, another successful engine run completed, and some work to do to get at least one ARC-52 up and running.

A motley crew L to R

A motley crew L to R:  Nick Spendlow, Ian Allaway, Ted Burrows, Paul Flynn, Jonty Johnson, Dick Dockerill, Howard Rolfe and Ralph Kirk

16th November

A really quite lovely day for November with light winds and the big sky of  Lincolnshire looking its grandest for us.

We needed no encouragement in these conditions and everyone set to work on the days tasks, Dick taking on the most important job of re-fitting the now fixed (thanks Ian!) flap jack. He barely paused for breath and within a couple of hours the jack was back in position, so Ian jumped onto the port wing and pumped up the hydraulic pressure  using the hand pump on the port inner engine bay wall whilst Ted operated the electro-hydraulic switch in the cockpit…..perfect. A great job made to look easy with the impressive levels of skill and experience the crew have these days.

Ian moved onto the nitrogen walkaround rig, and fitted the now fixed nitrogen bottle connector. He connected the walkaround kit up to the large rig to pressure test it but oh dear, whilst the connector was leak free now the nitrogen just moved onto the next weakest point, or several points, and more fittings sprung leaks including the regulator and yet another union. Ian counted to 10…….. several times……… we were sure it wasn’t too far off being thrown through the window but he pledged to take the whole thing apart yet again and sort it out…………… next week….we didn’t argue.

Ralph finished putting the merchandise board up in the cabin and got most of our sale items mounted, very nice it looks too.

Ted put a stronger valve fitting on our now fully operational compressor and then stripped down our trolley acc, making the wiring in it much neater, and then fitted a new  ‘power on’  light,  so another item is now working again for what must be the first time in several decades.

Paul used the lovely weather conditions to continue with wing preparations, making great progress. Between stints under the wings he helped Dick fit out some more of our spare instrument panel, at least two thirds of the instruments and fittings now being in place.

Howard got yet another fixed item back from Ian, a support bracket from a broken marquee frame, so once Howie had replaced it the crew members positioned the frame over one of the wings of XS186 to test out whether it will give us some all weather paint spraying capability. Yes it does, so we are now considering the application of wing roundels during the winter months……. you cant keep a good team down, although Sandra (Ian’s good lady) is certainly trying, with another world beating cake adding a few more milligrams to the wafer like frames of the crew………….

9th November

No rain today, but the legacy of some very heavy rain over recent days meant the site was very wet, and within minutes the place was a mud bath.

Nevertheless we made the best of a bad job, and whilst we decided it was best leaving XS186 under cover and  free of mud there was plenty of other work to do. Ian and Geoff stripped down both of our nitrogen walkaround kits to a pile of parts in order to make one good one, aided by our recently acquired new pressure gauge and valve spring, the originals having been calibrated for low pressure use (up to 35 psi) rather than the 70 psi plus we need for tyre and oleo inflation. As per usual more problems were found, with a leak from the nitrogen bottle connection that Ian will try to sort during the week with a new home made connection.

Ted brought down a new tyre inflator and changed the connections from the old one, passing it onto Ralph so he could use it in conjunction with our air compressor to top up the tyres on Terry the tug, the hydraulic rig, XS186 and just about anything else he could find that needed air in it ! Once Ralph had completed this he moved onto the installation of our merchandise board in the cabin.

Dick finished off changing the inspection panel screws on the upper main planes to stainless machine screws, and then worked with Paul who had been buried in the back of the lorry body searching for spare cockpit fittings & instruments, to rebuild our spare instrument panel so we can use it as a training aid for the crew.

Finally it was the horrible task of returning our ground equipment to it’s muddy hole, pretty much all of it having been extracted for Paul to remove the main trolley acc batteries for re-charging, and Ian having used the big nitrogen rig to test the walk around kits earlier.

Next week is the last week before our engine run on the 23rd November, so it will be an XS186 dry run, the re-fitting of our flap jack, and testing of our walk around kit if Ian is successful in his engineering tasks. If the weather improves we might even have a go at some more wing work……..

2nd November

Our luck had to run out with the weather sooner or later so today was it,  with a cold grey start and light rain, which only got worse as the day progressed.

We did have some jobs to do that could continue unabated, Dick lacquering the filler caps he had so expertly painted the previous week in the warmth of our cabin, whilst Ralph worked at the opposite end making some room for a display board and having a general clear out.

Ted had brought his box of tricks and pulled together a combination of fittings to get our compressor back up and running, so that gets us back on track with underwing preparations once the wet stuff stops.

Paul got down in the lorry body and got some of the darker recesses cleared out, the lorry body now looking positively roomy, and Jonty braved the cold and wet to replace the first 40 upper wing inspection panel screws with stainless steel replacements, which makes a huge difference to the overall look of the wing surface with fewer rusty set screws to spoil the finish. Another batch of 20 screws should see the upper surfaces done.

Tony made it down after lunch and got a few shots of the scene, but with murky conditions meaning there was no chance of seeing XS186 undressed today it was all very brief and it wasn’t long before it was time to close up and plan for a better week.

With not a a great deal else we could do we waved off the rest of the afternoon and went home to get warm and dry.

Dicks beautiful paintwork on one of the four fuel filler caps

Dicks fantastic paintwork on one of the four fuel filler caps

26th October

Another reasonable day got us all out and about again, and previously planned or started jobs got some further attention.

Ted completed the coaming lights wiring job, and whilst he was in there he added a further part to go toward XS186 achieving 100% rebuild status, with the fitting of the artificial horizon screening cover. This cover was a sort of stowable shield that restricted the pupils view of the instrument so various aircraft attitude / pilot aptitude exercises could be carried out. Not something the crew will have to contend with, unless the forecasted gale has worse consequences than imagined!

Dick took on a very intricate piece of work, the repainting of the four fuel filler caps, which are red, yellow, and silver, with very fine stenciling to boot. It was the quietest we had ever heard him for several hours so we know what kind of jobs to give him from now on. In all honesty the man has great skills though, and by days end all three colours and the stenciling had been completed, and the caps re-fitted. No time to lacquer them this week so that’s a job for next Saturday.

Paul took over the compressor from Jonty after he had used it to pump up the mains and nose tyres and carried on with surface preparation of the starboard wing underside, knocking off another couple of percent of this long and laborious job. Progress was somewhat curtailed when the pressure regulator decided to part company in Martin Baker style, and various components ended up all over the site, including on the cabin roof! Re-fitting of the various bits only succeeded in proving the unit had broken beyond repair so several of the guys have set about a plan to do a homemade fix over the next few days.

This was not the only compressed gas work going on, as Paul got hold of a new nitrogen gauge and Ted identified a spring that needed to be changed on our walkaround nitrogen rig so we can use it for tyre and oleo inflation. We should see some good progress on this job too fairly soon.

Howard picked up where he left off last week with the installation of our tall floodlight. We had identified the need for this during our recent evening engine run, when it was realised that the pan was too dark, all of us being aware that a jet of some description was operating in the area but never being quite sure where it actually was, so after much hauling, drilling, wiring, cleaning, testing, and cursing by several of the crew who took on their own element of the job, it sparked into life and made a lot of grown men appear utterly euphoric. Must be the time of year.

Final task was debated around for some time, but as the afternoon drew on it was recognised that the wind was getting ever stronger, so the choice became obvious, we had to turn XS186 into wind and do some picketing. If not the thought of what might happen if the wind speed increased to gale force was too horrible to contemplate. So, Howie, Jonty and Paul used Howies van to transport two concrete railway sleepers from across the site to place them under the main planes and picket XS186 to them. Everyone felt much better about XS186’s survival prospects once these were in place.

Week 14th -18th and 19th October 

Quick mention in dispatches for Ted and Jonty for their help in the week, pushing XS186 back on the pan when other users of the site needed to manouvre their lorries around, and for further work to get electrical power back on following the downpours on the previous Saturday & Sunday, thanks guys!

This Saturday was quite a contrast to the last, with grey skies but reasonably warm for the time of year, and not much wind, so it wasn’t long before the area was a hive of industry.

Dick got stuck into one of the jobs we have been avoiding all year, removing the leaking flap jack in the port wing root. it’s been a steady drip all year, and as the worlds stock of OM15 starts to be affected we reckoned it was time to fix it. The removal of this jack is probably one of the worst jobs on the whole aircraft, but it didn’t get the better of Dick and by lunchtime it was out. Even more incredible was that there was no blood drawn, quite a feat. Ian is taking the jack away to find out what is causing the problem, no doubt at all it will come back as good a new, no pressure Ian…….

Ted took on an equally daunting task, the diagnosis of a fault with our instrument panel coaming lights, as for some reason they had a permanent feed, very odd.

This meant removal of the coaming and it’s associated parts, but un-deterred Ted had the cockpit area in bits in no time and after some head scratching and wire tracing he had got the better of the feed problem, and isolated the errant wire. A case of picking up a new feed next week, and this is another niggling job done.

Paul and Ralph decided to use the dry conditions and completed the wing walk painting, and very smart it looked too. So much so that Dick got in on the act in the afternoon and they decided to apply several sets of decals that had been in stock awaiting their turn. Within an hour various parts of XS186 had been cleaned up and the ‘do not tread’ decals applied to the air intakes, and F34 avtur labels put on the wing and tip tank filler cap areas. This aeroplane looks so good it will not be long before she will be totally indistinguishable from her 1967 photographs.

Of course whilst these jobs were being carried out on the aircraft, several of the guys took on equally important ground equipment tasks, Ian stripping down one of our portable nitrogen rigs, so we can fit a new gauge and regulator in the coming weeks, thereby giving us a rapid nitrogen inflation tool rather than relying on wheeling out our compressor or large nitrogen rig every time.

Jonty and Ralph had a brainstorm and decided to have an October spring clean in the lorry body store, doing a brilliant job so we don’t have to climb over piles of boxes and equipment to get to a spanner any more.

Howard made Paul’s life a whole lot better by making a secure, and safe, fuel can holder. Paul can now pick up our Jet A1 without the constant fear of spillage in an accident. Until we get offered a fuel bowser this is a real boon for us.

Howie then set about a new task, getting some flood lighting plans put together so future night runs can be enhanced by some moody lighting, should look great!

Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th October

What a weekend…………

We had planned to swop our Saturday for Sunday this week, for logistical (you’re not playing with your boys toys for both days !) reasons.

Despite some atrocious conditions Paul didn’t figure that the removal of a Saturday would cause such severe withdrawal symptoms, and several of the crew just couldn’t do it and turned up anyway. The last couple of panels were re-fitted to XS186, although it was too wet to finish the walkway painting.

Ted made further progress with some electrical work in the cabin, though the regular downpours made it a frustrating job, with all electrical power eventually being lost due to rain water getting pretty much everywhere. Still, it was less to do on the planned big day, and credit to the crew for sticking to it.

Well, Sundays weather was  no better really, heavy rain all morning, which was enough to call the afternoon run off, but then a glimmer of hope around lunchtime got us all giddy, and Paul made the idio….. management decision to maintain the plan for an evening run.

By mid afternoon word had got around and the crew started to arrive. Some had been there most of the day anyway, obviously no homes to go. Credit to the crew WAG’s too, for bringing plenty of refreshments, Dick for the emergency NAAFI services, and both Ian and Ted for temporary electrical power supplies.

By 5.00pm it was all systems go, with re-fuelling, re-positioning, and the multitude of other jobs all being completed in steadily worsening conditions………….

Despite the pan being more suited to a Short Sunderland display by 7.00pm the crew were in full engine run mode, and those that know us also know that nothing will stop us by this point. With Ian as P1 and Ted as P2 it was time to give it a try, so with a thumbs up from Nick the fireman Ian pressed the button and XS186 burst into life like it was a Spring morning!

A 95% power run followed by full testing sequence for all systems couldn’t sway the beast, and it was reported that there were absolutely no snags, and all temps and pressures were good. About time too!

After much noise and flashing lights it was time to shut down, although some were slowly sinking into the mud so perhaps not too soon, and a round of applause for a great team effort in truly foul conditions. The hard work didn’t stop there either, with ground equipment, aircraft covers, safety gear and signage all needing to be re-positioned in the now torrential rain, all without a single moan. What a team, what an aircraft, superb!

Check out the photographs taken by Tony on this wet, windy, and very noisy night!

XS186 brightening up a grim Autumn evening

XS186 brightening up a grim Autumn evening

Saturday 5th October

A return to something like normality today, most of the crew were back from their various holidays, commitments etc, with just Dick still being away, and once again the weather was being kind, so it would have been rude not to take advantage of mother nature.

We decided to open our tin of vintage walkway paint that we had obtained from Paul Spann, an ex JP stalwart, and apply it to the inner main plane areas, one of several new detailed paintwork opportunities that now present themselves to us following the wing paint of last week. It turned out to be a bigger job than anticipated, the old material being as stubborn as you can imagine to rub down, but Ralph and Paul got there in the end. The application of the new paint wasn’t really any easier, Ralph doing a great job applying two coats of what looked like little more than gritted tar….. Nevertheless the finished product looked fabulous, and once some adjacent fillet panels have been re-fitted and receive the same treatment (to match exactly the 1967 photographs we have of XS186) that’s the walkways done.

Whilst this was being done Ian and Jonty got stuck into the re-fitting of the remaining inspection panels and wing tip fillets, tapping out the threads and putting in new 10/32 set screws.

Ted made good progress on getting a new power supply into our cabin and was then joined by Harry, an ex RAF radio tech, invited by Ian to look at our continuing UHF ground station saga. It wasn’t really a very good prognosis……….. we have nowhere near enough power to generate a signal from our ground station, and require something akin to a small nuclear reactor to give us the required ooomph. It seems the simple but raw power available to users of this kit back in the 60’s is all but gone, unless bucket loads of money is thrown at a commercial suite of power transformation units. Unless someone out there knows any different?

The rest of the day was spent covering off the various preparations for next Sunday, with Howard doing a lovely job of making an already beautiful setting even nicer by mowing the grassed areas and de-weeding the hard standing area, and various fuel and battery jobs getting organised, just some of the many detailed tasks that go to make up a hopefully successful engine run event!

Why not check out lots of great photographs of XS186’s progress on Flickr, with many thanks to our world class photographer, Tony!

Whatever it was it looked serious, Ian and Paul debate if that wing is shiny enough!

Whatever it was it looked serious, Ian and Paul probably debating if that wing is shiny enough!

23rd to 29th September

What a week……. a bit all over the place to be honest, but we kind of got there in the end.

Monday was a hard day, with Dick, Jonty and Paul doing a quick breaking and entering job (more of that later…..)  and then finishing off the detailed masking so Paul could spray the wing top surfaces. All three guys did a great job, and the spraying went very well, without a hint of overspray and no runs! Paul was pretty worn out at the end of the day, but XS186 was de-masked and all looked great. It was a tense overnight period, Paul laid in bed in the crucified position waiting to find out if the paintwork had suffered with the cold night and morning dew, but once again concerns were un-founded and the paintwork held up just fine.

Saturday came along and it was a limited number of guys on the day, due to various commitments, so Ted, Ralph and Ian held the fort.

Ralph kicked off the day with a big game hunt for the culprits who had eaten some of his paint rollers but without any success. It did result in a tidying of the cabin though! The evidence of the incursion was there but the entry point could not be found so an eradication plan was drawn up. If it works the cabin should look great with a mouse head on the wall…

Most of the morning was spent sorting out ‘key’ issues, as Paul was absent and had not left the lorry body keys (tuts all round) , this meant no access to tools and lubricants etc. so this put some limitations on what the guys could do on the day. Nevertheless there were one or two jobs that could be taken on, Ted fixing the lock on the old cabin which Paul and Dick had to break off to gain access earlier in the week due to this key being missing too…….

Ian started replacing the freshly painted inspection panels onto the freshly painted wings and was later assisted by Ralph in this task. These had been removed for the paint job and had been painted separately.

Ted & Ralph removed the cockpit cover briefly so that the control services could be locked, these having been left unlocked following previous work on the aircraft due to the delicate condition of the paintwork. After a brief visit from John and a friend it was an early finish for the guys and it was off for home.

Paul arrived back in Lincolnshire on the Sunday, and having a couple of hours to spare he headed for Metheringham and was able to make a bit more progress with various fillet panels, fitting three on the port side so lines can be marked up for the walk way paint next week.

So overall a pretty good period over the course of the week, albeit a bit frustrating at times………. next week is the last opportunity to prepare XS186 for the evening engine run, which, all being well, will go ahead on Sunday 13th October, with the distinct possibility of two runs during the day / evening!

Newly painted port wing with inspection panels back in position

Newly painted port wing with inspection panels back in position (flaps are fully down)

21st September

Final preparations for the top surface wing painting today, and it was primarily Jonty, Dick and Paul double checking and rubbing down the final few patches, removing inspection panels, positioning flying surfaces correctly, such as flaps fully down, ailerons at full deflection and speed brakes out,  and wrapping XS186 up in whatever material we could find, so only detailed masking and a final wipe over is required on the 23rd, the planned painting day. If she had feelings they would surely be hurting at the moment, wrapped in multi coloured sheets and looking very much like something that needs reporting to the fashion police. Never mind the pain will hopefully be over by late Monday.

Ralph did a great job of preparing some of the fillet panels that fit between the wing, tip tanks and fuselage, using a fine bead blast to remove corrosion from some of the steel fastenings and setting the several dozen panel screws up for their paint job too. He also made a repair to the roof of our cabin that had let a bit of water in over the previous few days, so hopefully a liberal dose of sealant will have rectified the minor roof felt damage.

Howard turned up, fabric in hand to continue with tip tank cover manufacturing, which is a more complex job than we anticipated, but one which we know Howard will master after a few more sessions, and maybe the occasional expletive.

Ted i’m afraid drew what is currently the short straw, and continued to mull over what could be preventing our new radio from working, testing various theories and  getting not a flicker from our ARC-52 sets. They’re being looked on as unwelcome relatives at the moment, sitting in the  corner of the portacabin doing nothing all day and sucking the life out of batteries and crew members alike. Not the kind of behaviour the crew allow for long, so they are on a final warning and will be getting some detailed attention next week if Ian can get Harry, an ex radio man, down to Metheringham.

Not pretty but it had to be done, XS186 ready for painting

Not pretty but it had to be done, XS186 ready for painting

14th September

We really have been quite lucky with the weather this year (cue the tsunami now), but it has bolstered our usually frustrated efforts with the paintwork jobs on XS186, and we were able to progress main plane preparation dramatically  thanks to the efforts of two crew members in particular, Ralph and Jonty, who did absolutely sterling work on both wings, leaving just a modest amount to do next week around final nooks and crannies, inside inspection panels etc. Great work guys!

Whilst the hard work was being done there, Geoff whipped off the engine access panels and fitted our now rejuvinated emergency battery, which sits snugly by the side of the engine, a location which although no doubt thought of as reasonable by Hunting Percival’s dwarf orangutan at the time, is something of a challenge without the required dangling skills. Nevertheless Geoff did it, and it allowed us to try the emergency radio we have recently obtained. Paul and Ted activated the various circuits and hey presto the radio bust into life, Paul trying just a couple of short transmissions to ensure Ted could pick up the signal on a scanner, but keeping it very short, the pre-set frequency being the international distress channel……..

The main ground radio that Paul had picked up during the week was also connected up to a 24v supply  and between Paul and Ted they tried several different combinations of radios and control boxes, in an effort to get the ground station communicating with XS186.

Unfortunately the radio had it’s own agenda, which was that it was not going to play, so it looks like we need to pull in a radio expert to show us how it should be done. Ian has a contact from the vintage RAF radio world, so that’s a plan for the coming weeks to push along. UHF comms between a ground station and the aircraft will really bring an added safety element to taxi runs as it will fill a comms gap we have when disconnecting the intercom hard line between cockpit and ground crew.

Initial actions are now underway with tip tank cover manufacturing, and a night time engine run, which may well happen during October, watch our Events Page for details shortly.

7th September

Well, after several weeks of noise and excitement, it was back to a bit of hard graft, and as the weather continued to hold it was time to implement the final preparation phase of ‘operation wing paint’.

Ted removed all of the fuselage to wing fillet panels to provide full access for Paul, who set about the final flatting of the port wing top surfaces  and made reasonable progress, just the odd small repair to carry out here and there on that wing. Next week will warrant several of the crew jumping in with the work on the starboard wing,  and if all goes to plan that should lead to the actual painting phase at some point in late September.

Ted then checked out the emergency battery which Jonty had cleaned up at home over the last couple of weeks. Several of the cells are pretty well exhausted so it’s going away for the equivalent of a battery ‘mini break’, so it should return after it’s re-charge, ………….. re-charged…..

Jonty continued with the much needed cleaning of XS186 with our Farecla’ compound, lovely material that allowed him to make great progress. He completed the whole front end and rear quarter windows, the original light aircraft grey rubbing up a treat. By the time we have our next engine run XS186 should look fantastic!

Ralph took the opportunity to break open a can of non blue yellow for Terry the Tug and put another coat on the front section, so good to see some progress on this long term piece. As a treat Ralph gave Terry a run around the site, just to keep the brakes etc.  in good order.

Howard made initial measurements for the next set of all weather covers, this time for the tip tanks, which are liberally covered in dayglo and will suffer if not protected from the UV light. We should see some progress on these in the next couple of weeks.

Another weekend of having a quite depleted workforce next week due to illness or holidays etc. but we are making great progress and we’re looking good for having XS186 in really good shape by the time Autumn arrives.

31st August

A much better day weather wise meant there was the briefest of initial tea breaks today, before it was time to go through our now familiar pre-start checks. Within a few minutes the now well rehearsed routine was finalised, with all the required signatures on the Form 700.

Confidence in the much improved behaviour of the electronic suite in the nose, along with Ians comments about the previous weeks runs that he found looking at several engine instruments as well as an additional volt meter (which we have temporarily attached to the potentiometer on the opposite side of the cockpit) a challenge whilst there was a lot of other ‘stuff’ to keep an eye on, led us to take a chance on a P2 to keep an eye on the volt meter and give Ian some company. The short str….. lucky nomination was Dick, who has proven himself to be very focused and reliable, so there was no hesitation from Paul in requesting that Dick take the right hand seat, and even less hesitation from Dick in accepting!

With the pre-briefing over, and the growing number of the general public who are present at the runs safely tucked in behind the security cordon, it was time to go. Ian pressed the starter and Ted kept his eye on the cut out relay in the nose. There was a slight manual adjustment needed to tempt the cut out relay into action, but with the required ‘tweak’ from Ted all clicked into place and Ian swopped thumbs up with Ted.

XS186 was put through the routine of thrust changes and the generator circuit behaved impeccably. Who would have thought this was the adolescent like diva of an aeroplane we have had to contend with in past weeks!

After a very enjoyable routing Ian gave the signal for shut down and everyone kept a keen ear open to see if the generator retained the minor problem of last week. No, it behaved perfectly, so we couldn’t really have asked for a better outcome.

After quite a bit of congratulating it was time for a cuppa, de-brief and a few minutes of feeling good about all the hard work the crew have put in to get ourselves, and XS186 back up and running.  Then it was back into putting the myriad fixtures and fittings back into the nose, with Ted and Dick completing the task and following it up with a full test of all the crew headsets, microphones, helmets and oxygen masks, all of which worked perfectly. The Rebecca navigational equipment was also tried out, and incredibly, for the first time both of the cockpit instruments read the same, the first time the system has ever worked that accurately. It was time to buy a Lottery ticket.

Jonty, who had brought his son Rob down for the day, got stuck into polishing the whole of the port side of the aircraft with Paul  and between the three of them they made a great job of it. Maybe the starboard side will get a treat too if 186 behaves again!

Ralph won us a tenner on the Lottery the previous weekend so that was a nice surprise too!

So, plans are now afoot regarding some formal engine run dates, and hopefully an evening run, which is a very spectacular event. Watch our Events page for more details soon.

In the meantime the next two to three weeks will see concerted efforts to complete the preparation and then paint both main plane upper surfaces.

24th August

Initially not the best of prospects again today, the crew turning up in the pouring rain, including Ralph, our National Lottery syndicate manager, in his new car………. hold on a minute……………….. Anyway, we’ve seen it all before and with the mere threat of the rain easing it was all systems go, with Ted fitting our last cut out relay, and the rest of the crew slipping easily into their roles, Jonty and Dick covering sed checks, re-fueling, blanks and drains, Ralph covering tyres, and Ian on oil levels and cockpit checks. Paul set up on video so we could capture the moment if all went well………

In record time all looked good, and with a first time opportunity for Jonty on fire cover it was time to give XS186 another try, with the cut out relay in place.

All went very well, an immediate start, and Ted got a generator output of 28.5 volts, an ideal reading, and no adverse behaviour from the cut out relay. Thumbs up for full display routine with Ian cycling flaps and speed brakes, trying out the navigation and taxy lighting and flying surfaces, and then a run up to 95% power rating, enough to impress the dourest observer.

All too soon it was time to shut down, so Ian went through the checklist and closed the HP fuel cock. A slight problem……… as the engine ran down it was noticeable that the generator was being fed by the on board batteries when it should have been running down with the engine. The cut out relay contacts were still sticking, not as seriously as they were previously, but enough to make us all very wary of the potential for further problems if we don’t manage the affected generator carefully at shut down, at least until we find out the reason behind this ongoing but now minor problem.

It won’t stop us continuing with our engine run schedule going forward however, so the positive mood was firmly in place and we look forward to another run next week, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the fault, and have a bit of fun too of course!

XS186 at rest after another blistering engine run!

XS186 at rest after another blistering engine run!

17th August

Changeable weather conditions threatened to curtail our plans for today, with rain showers spoiling things for the first hour or so, but un-daunted the crew took to the task as soon as conditions allowed, and within an a few minutes of things brightening slightly the crew had put away the hob nobs and slipped into engine run pre-flight checks mode.

It would be difficult to witness a more polished and well understood regime these days, and as per usual there was nothing to get in the way of our first run. So once the aircraft had been turned into wind using Terry the Tug it was a case of Ian in the cockpit, Ted in the nose cap, Paul on fire cover and Geoff dealing with ground to cockpit comms via hand signals, due to the fact that radios are still not installed because they would impede Ted in his diagnostic role .

First attempt on internal power only was a bit of a sorry affair, internal batteries only is a bit of a long shot, but worth a try. Anyway, we were ready for this and quickly brought up the trolley acc, which brought in the muscle required, Ian doing the business and firing up XS186 without a problem this time.

Teds expression in the nose wasn’t good though, and a thumbs down was explained as a complete lack of any voltage coming from the cut out relay feed. The good element of this run was that XS186 was not suffering as in the past, with no ill effects on the electrical system running down, and all other systems running perfectly, so we had a real treat in that the aircraft could be put through some hydraulic cycles etc. We did however need to carry on with thinking through further options, one of which was to try the voltage regulator recently obtained from Cranwell Heritage Centre, just in case the one we had already changed was also faulty.

Paul and Dick jumped straight to the job in hand and within half an hour the regulator had been changed, reflecting the level of expertise the crew now have with all things electrical in the nose! So, what would have been regarded as an arduous task in past years, is now reasonably straightforward, and we were ready for another try.

Once again the crew slipped into operational mode and Ian was given the thumbs up. This time things went even better, with Ted given a barely subdued triumphant thumbs up as the engine revs came up through 30% to 60%, we had reasonable and stable voltage!

Ian ran XS186 at various power settings up to 80% power and all looked well, so at that we decided not to push our luck, and shut things down.

What a day, two engine runs, a problem potentially solved (although we shall see when the cut out relay is re-fitted next week) with another engine run planned for next week all being well, to try all of the many refitted items once they are all re-connected. Things are looking up and the mood has jumped up in anticipation of a return to ops. Well done the crew!

10th August

A reasonable day meant a couple of usually neglected jobs got some attention…….

Paul attacked the difficult underwing paintwork on the starboard side, and made good progress, with an end to the months of rubbing down now in sight once a couple of small repairs have been carried out.

The hydraulic rig, a source of much head scratching and hard work over the years, was heaved out of it’s hiding place, and between the crew it was stripped of it’s spark plugs and magneto, the fuel drained out, all parts cleaned and adjusted, and then re-assembled.

Several swings of the starting handle were showing promising signs, but it took the rigs master, Ralph, to show everyone how it was done. Yet again it was a couple of his swings that coaxed the brute back into life, and within minutes it was chugging away merrily. The rig is going to brought back into use to help maintain and cycle the various hydraulic services, just in case the aircraft is still not able to operate from engine driven supplies.

Whilst all this was going on the cabin work continued, with John painting the insides of the window security boards, and Howard, having given the crew some instruction on the fitting of our new fuselage cover on XS186 and then giving the grass and ground works a good clean up, so the site is well prepared for a possible engine run next week.

27th July and 3rd August

Two weekends of holiday disruption meant that our updates for these two weekends have taken on a low key style, but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened!

The arrival of our new capacitors for the engine driven generator meant that Ted and Ian could get them fitted, and the generator re-installed in readiness for a carefully planned engine run on the first available date, likely to be the 17th August. This will be a carefully managed operation to try to understand what is causing our cut out relay failures. A repaired trim tab operating arm was also re-installed on the starboard wing aileron by Ian.

The starboard wing received it’s long awaited coat of primer, and the sense of an approaching top wing surface paint job is palpable now, with discussions ongoing around the planning and materials that are needed.

Howard completed the rear fuselage cover, so our new dayglo paintwork is now well protected. XS186 is surely the best protected of any externally stored aircraft?

The cabin is still receiving some final touches, with several of the guys carrying out final adjustments, so all of the security boards for the windows are now fitted and locked. Very smart!

20th July

A grey but dry day meant the guys could march on with a couple of planned jobs, the primary work on XS186 being the rear fuselage cover that Howard made fantastic progress on, with the hems, protrusion pockets and cut outs being completed. Only the fastening straps and a couple of detailed finishing sections need to be done, and these should be completed over the next two weeks.

Jonty, Dick, John and Ralph carried out a full pre-start actions check list, which is part of the development journey for the guys who are not usually party to the paperwork aspect of this vital pre-engine run activity. All checks were completed without hitch, which allowed us to pull XS186 around the pan later in the day, exercising the undercarriage oleos and brakes, and preventing flat spots forming on the tyres.  The check list was completed correctly, so an exercise well worth carrying out.

As the crew are awaiting the arrival of new capacitors for the engine driven generator, in the hope that these may cure the over-voltage issue we still have, some of the crew were given the opportunity to using some spare time and they headed over to Cranwell Heritage Centre to change the faulty cut out relay from XS186, for a good example on the Cranwell machine. All went well, and the acquisition of some useful additional parts and wiring was also very welcome.

A mention should be made for Kingsbeech, a subsidiary company of Ashcroft who they and we regard as real ‘problem solvers’ in the field of electronic components and systems.  They have done a great job of locating replacement capacitors for us, not an easy task for 40+ year old components!

The rest of the day was spent putting some finishing touches to the cabin interior, with new cupboards being fitted and the security shutters being tried out for size. Planning for the re-priming of the starboard wing was agreed, and this will help fulfill the ambition to get upper wing surfaces painted during September if all goes to plan.

13th July

Not sure what’s happening with the weather these days, glorious sunshine all day again, i can only assume we will be under water or entering a new ice age within a few days  in repayment for such generosity!

Anyway, some progress today on the electrical issue, Paul sweet talking his way into yet another JP and managing to get hold of what must be one of the last available cut out relays in the UK, and then assisting Ted and Ian who explored electrical circuit theories using on the board battery power supply. Slowly but surely we are eliminating possible causes of the problem……

Once the electrical avenue was exhausted for the day Ian and Geoff moved onto some trim tab control work, removing the starboard operating arm to do some work at home on it over the coming days.

Ralph and Jonty worked in the searing heat to finish the installation of mountings for our cabin security  windows, and trimming off of the window fittings themselves, and did a marvelous job, with just the hasp and staple fittings to install now. Ralph also fitted several internal bits and bobs, such as fire extinguisher and attendance board etc.

Howard did another great stint at our rear fuselage cover, and thanks to the work last week and some local help the cover is in one piece and is trimmed to shape. The hem line sewing, some strengthening sections to fit and the actual straps to attach and the whole of the fuselage and it’s dayglo scheme will be fully protected, a marvelous effort.

6th July

Another nice day so it was back to fair weather paintwork preparation for Dick, who made another great step towards upper surface wing re-painting, completing the starboard wing sanding. With some help from Jonty they got the access panels that had been removed (to flat the these too), re-positioned aswell. Paul did some detail painting around the tip tank filler caps, and Jonty made a start on the caps themselves, finer detail that makes a good job great!

Discussions have started around the wing upper surface re-painting now, as this will be another challenging paint job, with complex dayglo sections and national insignia overlapping in some areas.

Following some advice from an ex JP ‘sparky’ several of the crew once again set about trying to diagnose possible culprits for our ongoing electrical fault, Ian removing the engine driven generator to remove the built in capacitors so they can be bench tested over the next few days, whilst Ted investigated the possibility of repairing our second damaged cut out relay, seeing as we are finding it impossible to trace a new replacement at the moment. This fault is going to be a long hard slog to fix…….

The other big task was the rear fuselage cover, which Howard made a good start on with our guest sewing machinist, Pauline, who is Ralph’s wife, who attended XS186 specially. Thank you Pauline! Various protrusion pockets and cut outs were made, and no doubt the progress will continue apace now.

At various times the crew assisted in the fitting of attachment points and brackets for our cabin security windows, which are really starting to look the part, and once fitted will provide much needed peace of mind if we ere to keep our equipment and manuals etc. on site. A new kitchen unit and fridge also arrived and are really making the nice finishing touches to our new home!

29th June

With the return of Ted from hols it was time to try out our recently fitted replacement electrical components, the voltage regulator and cut out relay, and seeing as the weather was reasonable all looked ok to go for the necessary engine run, which is the only way to test if they actually work.

The now clockwork pre-run preparations were covered in good time, with all service items such as fluid levels and pressures looking good. We were pleased to see our P1 back on the scene after a long absence due to work commitments, Rob, who kindly agreed to step in and cover the P2 position on this occasion, so Ian could adopt P1 for this run.

With the trolley acc in place the thumbs up was given and XS186 fired up very promptly, but within just a few seconds Ted, who had his head buried in the nose compartment, gave the sign for engine shut down. Ian carried out the rapid shut down procedure and once the area was safe the crew adopted the all too familiar head scratching position, thanks to the cut out relay arc’ing out yet again and welding it’s contacts together. The problem seems a very difficult one to diagnose, with all feeds seemingly correct, so the apparent ‘shorting’ of the circuit  appears groundless. Further work to test the circuits will continue, but this particular issue is one of the most frustrating the crew has ever faced.

Un-daunted, the rest of the day was used by the majority of the crew moving our ground equipment back into it’s new home between the lorry body and the cabin, and Dick continuing with his rubbing down of the starboard upper wing in readiness for final priming. The next stage of the quite ambitious painting plan is to get the upper main plane surfaces painted this summer, with the dayglo and national markings being applied as soon as possible thereafter.

The most enjoyable part of the day was surely the visit by Amanda and Lee. Amanda is the author of a soon to be published book, entitled ‘Jim the Jet Provost’.

Recent discussions between Jonty and Amanda around the similarity between the stories of XS186 and ‘Jim’ were built on still further, and it was agreed the ultimate goal will be to link XS186 to the books title role, so a natural step is to christen XS186 as ‘Jim’!   The crew and Amanda were all very positive and enthusiastic about the concept, with the opportunities the relationship might bring to both our projects being very exciting.

So, with little fuss at this stage it was agreed XS186 can indeed be named Jim, with  a more formal ‘christening’ planned for early next year if all goes well with the no doubt arduous publishing journey.

A very pleasant end to a challenging day, and perhaps the start of another chapter in XS186’s history…….

21st June – 26th June

A week of much activity thanks to several of the crew being available for extra time over and above the Saturday and fairly common Wednesdays that several of the crew members have put in recently.

Earlier in the week Ralph and Jonty had continued with some more interior painting in the new cabin, which is taking some covering, so plenty of further updates on the progress of this labour intensive job to come.

On Friday it was Paul and Jonty who dedicated the day to cutting templates for the tip tank dayglo sections, so we can get the all important consistency in the dimensions. The starboard tip tank was fully prepared, so just the same exercise to carry out on the port side now.

Saturday was the usual hive of activity although the day was interrupted on a regular basis by torrential downpours which kind of slowed wing preparation down. Paul sanding the underside and Dick top-side made reasonable progress and when play was stopped, the guys simply switched to more interior cabin painting, so progress was still made regardless.

Between the showers Jonty finished painting the final side of the lorry body so we now have all of the cabin and lorry body exterior paintwork completed too.

Ian was on hand to maintain at least a semblance of engineering activity on XS186, taking off the wing fillet panels that fit between the tip tanks and the wing tips, to make the planned wing paintwork a neater affair, and to allow him to carry out some minor repair work on the fillet panels themselves.

Howard gave us an update on early phase of XS186’s rear cover, which is about to start taking shape now all of the raw materials have arrived, and whilst he was in measuring mood he also made a start on planning the materials gathering to allow us to build a shelter between the cabin and lorry body to house our ground equipment.

We should also mention a very interesting fire training session by Nick, our resident fire officer, who ran through a comprehensive training programme with all of the crew members who were present, with some classroom and practical modules completed. Once we successfully complete the ‘live fire’ exercise we can be re-qualified, so a very useful day altogether.

On the 24th Paul, Jonty and Dick did the majority of final preparations for the painting of the dayglo stripes on the rear fuselage and tip tanks, including masking or covering the whole aircraft, and on the 25th it was all systems go, with all three finishing off the final detailed line masking and then over to Paul to spray the colour. All went pretty well, no major issues or suicidal insects to spoil things, and a couple of hours later the aircraft was painted, de-masked and cleaned up. Wow…….. XS186 is looking truly amazing these days, special thanks to lots and lots of hard work by the three musketeers!

Thanks to Ralph and John Evans who also put in a couple of hours to progress the security shutters, which are coming along nicely!

The hard work continued on the 26th with Ralph putting in a sterling solo performance, finishing the interior walls on the cabin, so we can start moving our belongings across into our now painted out new home!

XS186 with dayglo applied to the rear fuselage and tip tanks

XS186 with dayglo applied to the rear fuselage and tip tanks

15th June

Not a very pleasant day, with frequent showers and a strong wind, making just uncovering XS186 a hazardous task!

The guys made a start without Paul being around first thing, as he sped over to Newark aero-jumble to check out the JP spares situation.

Ted finished off the re-fitting of the ancillary equipment in the nose following last weeks installation of the new regulator and cut out relay. Dick made a brave start on the port wing top surface, flatting off the now very worn primer coat from several years ago in readiness for a fresh coat, and the other guys, Jonty, John, Ralph and Ian all continued with various tasks on the new cabin, including the interior painting, and window security boards.

Paul returned from his Newark jaunt with nothing at all for the first time in many years, and the work continued, with the port wing top surface being finished by Dick and Paul, and Ralph getting a fresh coat of primer on between showers.

Ted made a start on the installation of an electrical umbilical from our old cabin to the new one, but a fair bit to do there.

The rest of the guys made a good deal of progress in the afternoon with the interior paintwork, getting the first of two coats on about two thirds of the walls, with a strong suggestion that there may be a mid week session to nail the rest!

We are limited by no electrical expertise next week as Ted is away, so there’s little chance to fire up XS186 without his diagnostic skills to hand. It may be a day focused on XS186’s paintwork, weather permitting……

8th June

A grey and cool day but at least it didn’t rain.

It didn’t take long before we were all out and about, with Jonty taking on the template work on the starboard side of XS186, matching it as closely as possible to what had been done the previous week on the port side.

Paul took on the last regulator bolt, left over from last week, and did it put up a fight, with several other crew members having a go at it, before it eventually surrendered to Paul after a couple of hours of being sworn at………….

Ian and Ralph took on the final water connection job, following the eventual discovery of the stop tap last week.

By lunchtime some great progress had been made, with Jonty having templated up the starboard fuselage, the replacement regulator ready to be installed and the water supply connected in the cabin and working without any sign of leaks.

After lunch the team carried on at pace, with Ted fitting the regulator and cut out relay, Paul flatting the templated fuselage area that Jonty had prepared, Ralph making a start on the flatting of the upper port wing surface for re-priming and Jonty moving onto templating both tip tanks for their dayglo stripes.

By 4.00pm there was some great progress in lots of areas, and the crew felt some really positive steps had been taken towards moving XS186 and our cabin towards some new milestones.

With a bit of luck and fair winds the team can look forward to some impressive days ahead.

1st June

Another nice day, not as bright and sunny as forecast but good enough.

Main job on XS186 was to remove the suspected faulty voltage regulator, and if possible fit our spare unit, and the newly arrived spare cut out relay. Dick made good progress on removing the attachment bolts on the regulator, but the fourth proved problematical, and despite several of the crew trying different angles and hand crafted tools, the fourth bolt is still in place. Main issue is access, with another unit, the change over relay very much in the way. General consensus is this unit will have to come out before proper access will be gained, so that job is on the cards for next week.

Main other work was the long planned preparation of the rear fuselage for dayglo stripes. This is a long winded process of checking and double checking lines of preparation against historical photographs of XS186 to ensure absolute accuracy, a great job for those with OCD!  Jonty and Paul set about the task and using templates to check the overall ‘look’ got the port side set up and the area flatted down with wet and dry. That side is now ready for the final masking and once the same exercise is completed on the starboard side we are ready for the big job of masking the whole aircraft off and spraying both sides. We expect this to happen towards the end of the month, which will hopefully coincide with another arrival, that of the raw materials for a rear end all weather cover! This is an absolute must to protect the dayglo from the damaging UV light, which causes severe colour ‘washing out’.

The rest of the guys were busy with work on the new cabin, with Ian and the guys fitting our water pipework, which is now only one step away from the big switch on, once a waste trap is fitted and the water is switched off. This seemingly small step of switching the water off took several hours of searching for the stop tap, which turned out to be in a totally different location to the one suggested, and was found totally by accident by Dick, after searches with a metal detector and much probing and digging found nothing but some not too ancient tools and bucket parts !

Ralph and Phillip continued with painting of the final side of the cabin, now officially painted, and the lorry body to match. A bit more paint is required to finish this, the 10 litres having been stretched out much further than originally thought anyway. It was nice that a visitor from the RAF Ingham Heritage Group who put us in touch with the previous owner of the cabin, dropped in to see us, and on seeing the building was almost dis-believing when he saw the transformation, thinking we had got hold of a new one. Testament to the great work done, and ongoing.

Not to forget the great work being done by Howard, who is doing an excellent job getting the site looking spick and span, this week removing two extremely heavy railway sleepers from the original parking spot for XS186 by the old squash court hard-standing that were used as tie down points. This helps to keep our site owners happy who have long bemoaned the problems these cause for their site mowers, no longer!

25th May

A beautiful day, warm and sunny, no wind to speak of.

Main aeroplane related work was a brief engine start to try and identify what is going wrong in the nose with the generator circuit.

Our usual preparations were made, running absolutely as clockwork, all of the crew being well versed in the many preparatory actions, Paul completing the checklist and sign off procedure that would be so important should anything go wrong.

The engine start went ok, and Ian, who was working as P1 alone in the cockpit today was happy with the engine. The reason Ian was working alone was that all radio equipment had to be removed for Ted to gain access to the many electrical system components during the actual engine running operation, in order to monitor voltage readings etc. This meant no radio comms between ground crew and pilot, so all unneccasary risks were removed in case anything was to go awry. This included having no P2, as if anything was to go astray the time taken to communicate it to a cockpit colleague might be time that was not available……………

Anyway, all seemed well initially, but then after about a minute things started to look unstable. Ted noticing some arc’ing in a cut out relay, followed by a steady increase in output voltage, and then a generator circuit 10 amp fuse blowing. He gave the signal for an immediate shut down, which Ian carried out.

After all systems were deemed safe, a further round of speculation and interrogation of the circuit diagrams ensued. The cut out relay contacts had fused together, so that was one component that needed replacing, and it is assumed that the voltage regulator had failed, causing the over voltage issue, so that would need changing too. Luckily we have a spare voltage regulator, and Ted came up trumps and located a replacement cut out relay on the now infamous ebay, so within a couple of weeks we may be able to test out our theory (and hopefully cure the problem)!

Whilst all the aeroplane shennanagans was being played out we should not forget the ongoing great work on our cabin, which profited once again from some TLC from Ralph and Phillip, who over the course of the previous Wednesday and today completed the 3rd side of external painting and the ceiling, as well as pulling together almost all the plumbing items required, so all being well water should be on next week!

Well done to all of the crew for a productive days work.

18th May

Well the weather threatened to make today a complete washout, but we were pleasantly surprised.

Temp:Day started cool at 9.3C (felt like 6.4C) but rose to 11.8C by the end of the day.
Wind: Started from NW @11.3Knts then after lunch swung round to the SE dropping dow.n to less than 3Knts
No sign of rain promised in the forecast.

So, buoyed by a better start than expected the crew did what it’s best at and got stuck in.

Jonty carried out sed checks this week, with little to be concerned about in the results, Paul put some fuel in (thanks to Ian) and removed some of the radio gear with Ted so they could do some more investigative work following the semi-abortive engine run last week. A stuck relay and blown 10 amp fuse was discovered quite quickly, and this led to a couple of dry spools of the engine with no signs of any problems once the fuse had been replaced and the relay had been tripped back into position.

This put us back into a position where another engine start can be tried, to see if the generator fault is still extant, so next week will be used to do that, all being well with weather, and no caravaners.

Whilst Ted and Paul were playing with XS186 the rest of the guys continued with the cabin, a final small floor repair being carried out by Ralph and Phillip, who then gave us some access points for utilities, and Jonty finishing off the utility trench, doing an enviable impression of a WW1 trench digger.  All three then took up paint brushes and made a start on the final olive drab top coating, and very nice it looks too!

Next week it may just be time to start  hooking up our water and electric, so fingers crossed for successes in all areas!

15th May

Several of the guys decided to put in another extra shift today, to maintain our rapid progress on our new home. Thanks to Jonty for the update below.

No painting today but good progress made nevertheless.
Phillip re-sealed all the windows, carried on filling, preparing and repairing as he went along. Ralph, Ethan ( Jonty’s partner, Shelley’s son) and Jonty himself had a good shift about in the lorry body, removing the bottom set of shelves, taking the remaining loose framework out of new HQ and re-fitted it in the lorry body. Replaced all the moved items to their new home and fitted a temporary top on the new workbench. The window frames we moved to the high timbers that span the lorry body, the loose cement re-bagged  and the floor swept. Ethan de-stapled and washed down the back wall of the new cabin whilst Ralph and Jonty cleaned up the floor area.  HQ is beginning to look more like home.

11th May

Our engine run day. The weather started pleasantly enough, although it wasn’t to last.

Pretty much all the crew turned up, and despite the lengthy delay since our last engine run, the crew took up their regular duties with the minimum of fuss, Ralph getting the trolley acc and Terry the Tug up and running, to pull XS186 into wind, Dick and Jonty doing the sed checks, John mucking in with blank removals and tyre pressures, Ian and Geoff checking and topping up engine oil, OM15 hydraulic fluid and gearbox oil levels, Ted carrying out all comms checks, Paul generally overseeing affairs and Tony recording all of it for posterity. Howard made good the perimeter so we didn’t singe the public.

We shouldn’t forget Phillip, who is fast becoming one of the fixtures now, steadfastly working his way through what was left of the cabin preparation (for painting).

We were soon prepared and by late morning we were ready to go. Geoff was on comms with Ian and Ted as P1 and P2 respectively. Ian gave the signal for engine start and all appeared to run up to starting speed without a hitch. The main reason for the run was to check to generator failure that had cut short our previous run, to see if changing a circuit fuse had cured the fault. All was not well…………. the failure light flickered and did eventually go out, but slowly the electrical system started to shut down again, first with non operative speed brakes (they are electrically controlled from a switch on the throttle lever in the cockpit) quickly followed by gauges showing faulty readings and the headset comms fading. Faced with these obvious faults and the potential for damage to systems and therefore crew safety, Ian and Ted quickly decided to shut the engine down.

As soon as the area was safe the crew descended onto the scene and the usual lengthy debate began around what the fault could be. Ted retired to the old cabin to re-digest the electrical systems manual yet again, whist the rest of the crew busied themselves with more manual labour, carrying on with utility trench digging, which was pretty much finished off by Dick, Jonty,Paul and Phillip, until a brief but torrential downpour even put a stop on those proceedings too.

A couple of exploratory power exercises on XS186 didn’t give us much of a clue, and whatever fault it is means that the power is drained from the aircraft’s on board batteries very quickly indeed, so the test window is very small before all usable power is lost. Ted has a couple of ideas for next week, so it’s still fingers crossed for a breakthrough. In the meantime we had to content ourselves with the short 2 minute run, which was better than nothing, but not much.

Once again we await the outcome of further investigations next week and keep everything crossed for another engine run opportunity as soon as possible.

In the meantime we can all be very happy about the great progress made on our new home, which is ready for external painting now.

4th May

The weekend was given over to the Metheringham Open Weekend event, so work on XS186 and the site was a little more subdued than is the usual case on a Saturday, as part of the team effort is to be welcoming to our public, and to answer the many and varied questions about our XS186 project, including an ex Rolls Royce employee that had worked at RR Anstey, where our Viper engine had been stored for several years before disposal.

In spite of these distractions, the braver souls amongst the crew decided to carry on regardless and still managed to put in a very useful days work, with Jonty, Dick and Tony all putting some seriously hard toil into the utility trench, where they hit reinforced concrete (probably an old airfield building that had been demolished and dumped there many years previously)! Suffice to say the consensus was ”we’ll just work our way through it”. Does nothing stop these guys…….

Ralph and Phillip continued on both the interior and exterior of the cabin, doing some great work filling and priming the final few holes and gaps, and fitting final finishing pieces to the cabin corners.

All this was of course done under the watchful eye of the Friends of Metheringham, and was interspersed with regular Open Weekend duties. Next Saturday the 11th is hopefully given over to operations, with a planned engine run.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that this website received its 6,000th view this week, quite a nice feeling, that in little over one year the site is generating so much interest!

1st May

The more astute will have spotted that the date above is a Wednesday. This is because some of the crew have decided that Saturdays are not enough to keep their ‘fix’ satisfied, and have decided to put in the occasional mid week stint too! Our mid week update is therefore supplied by Ralph (the blue) Kirk.

Four members of the  ground crew took advantage of the glorious weather to do some more work on the cabin. Jonty busy removing old fascia boarding and fitting new sections where required, and doing a splendid job, John helping to dig more trench for the services (very hard work so a little at a time is sensible), then sealing the split areas and skirtings on the cabin exterior ready for painting. Ralph was busy fitting an end panel to keep the technical manuals in place in the shelving, and measuring and cutting staging for extra worktop  in the kitchen area. Dick carrried on digging more trench for the water services (what a dedicated lot we are). Ralph went in on the following day to tidy up odds and ends. We shall soon be ready for painting, hoping the weather holds out, Isn’t it all exciting!

27th April

Weather: Temp at starting time + 7c rising to +10c, wind was northerly (meaning cold!) at 7.5 – 12.5 knots, and rising pressure from 1010 to 1014 mb, thanks Ted.

The only work on XS186 today was from Dick, who carried out his sed checks as reliably as ever, and Ted who set up battery power and carried out a couple of dry spools to ensure the work we had done in the last couple of weeks was still sound, as indeed it was, with both spools being faultless. The weather was too cold for any other cosmetic or paintwork on XS186 today, but plans are starting to be drawn up to make a start on main plane and dayglo strip painting on the rear fuselage, as soon as the weather warms up a bit.

The rest of the crew set about our new cabin with a vengeance, Ralph and our new helper Phillip installing a very nice worktop and sink, and then turning their attention to helping Jonty, who did a great piece of restoration work on the first of two cabin roof facia sections that need repairs.

Howard and Paul went to get some wood for Jonty’s work and then Howard smartened up the whole site, moving everything from old piles of rubbish, to the two bombs that had laid in the grass for many years following their removal from the engine bay of XS186. One of the bombs in particular, a 500Ilb’er was a tricky piece to move manually, but with some help from the rest of the guys it trundled across the site on an old trolley behind Howard’s van, and was placed in a more convenient spot prior to the Open Weekend at Metheringham (next weekend).

Paul and Dick made a start on the digging of trenches for the utility supplies, digging the full length of the water pipe course that just needs more depth now. Next will be the electricity cabling course to dig out, and we can start installing the utilities.

Terry the tug was given a run around the site to keep the cobwebs out, and Paul took the trolley acc batteries to get them up to fully charged, ready for the planned engine run on the 11th May.

20th April

Another nice day, is this a taste of things to come or just a brief spell of non winter…………. either way, with Ted having figured out our new weather stations capabilities, we can start to record and post weather essentials from next week.

Motivated by some good progress last week, the crew were raring to go, and quickly set about the days tasks, although not before several crew members sorted through boxes of spares kindly donated by a long term Jet Provost ally, Paul Spann. His JP has gone onto a new owner, so Paul was passing on his ‘stock’ of parts to our project, and very welcome the many electrical, instrumentation, test and charging, and aircrew equipment were. Many will find themselves onto XS186 in the coming weeks where originals may be getting worn out etc.

Onto the jobs in hand and Paul, supported by Ian got the remaining nuts onto the fuel valve that was fitted last week, followed quickly by the very awkward transfer piping clips and tank sender unit. By the afternoon it was ready for testing, so Paul started decanting fuel back into the starboard wing, and another success, not a drop leaking anywhere after 25 litres (before the fix was made the drain valve was leaking almost immediately on fuel being pumped in)!  More fuel will be put in next week and main fuel cocks opened to allow the fuel to drain into the collector tank. If this works then it’s all on for an engine run, at this stage planned for Saturday May 11th.

The rest of the guys were equally busy, Ralph building a new sink unit in the cabin and helping Jonty and several other crew members move the ground equipment into the new storage area between the cabin and the lorry body. Heavy work well carried out by joint effort. The area in front of the new building is now looking great.

Howard and Dick spent some time measuring up XS186 for a new all weather cover for the rear end (to protect the dayglo stripes that we are hoping to apply this year). Paul left armed with all we need to track down the necessary materials so great to see some progress on that piece. Howard finished his shift by doing some grass cutting, making the whole area look very tidy.

The good weather tempted Jonty and Dick, with a bit of help from Paul, into tackling the damaged concrete area on the eastern edge of the quadrangle. Material left over from building the cabin footings was completely used up, with only a very minor edging piece left to complete, and the quadrangle made absolutely safe for XS186 to taxi around, great work guys!

A good weeks work and once again very tangible progress towards a resumption of engine runs and our new home.

Paul and Ian debating the fitting of the fuel transfer pipe clips

Paul and Ian debating the fitting of the fuel transfer pipe clips

13th April

A much friendlier day today, weather and job wise!

Ted was rightly dreading taking the engine start button apart, that being the presumed culprit from last week. As it turned out Dick noted that he had some difficulty with the TDU electrical connection last week, so Paul checked it out, and hey presto, that was the problem all along, the electrical plug was not quite fully home. A quick tighten, re-connection of the trolley acc, and all was well again!

Buoyed by this easy win, Paul and Ian set about the job of replacing the u/s fuel drain valve in the starboard wing. Not a nice job at all, but with some help from Dick along the way a replacement valve was almost fully fitted, with just a couple of difficult nuts to fit next week. If this goes well the crew can look forward to re-fuelling the starboard wing for the first time in several months.

Whilst this was being done Ted got on with re-fitting the ARC-52 radio, standby radio, and Rebecca trays, and then the units themselves, testing our comprehensive collection of headsets once all was back in place.

Dick checked out our wing mounted Rebecca aerials, and confirmed all was well there.

Of course our new home received a bag of TLC again, Jonty and Ralph having put in a good stint on the previous Thursday, Ralph doing some final floor repairs whilst Jonty finished the ceiling and floor cleaning. Ralph and his colleague Phillip continued the focus, with a great piece of repair work to the front skirting and door area, whilst Paul finished the two corner pieces of the cabin.

Howard and Jeff set about fitting our new hi-tech weather station, and did a great job, so we now have a better forecast of impending weather  situations. With Howard on a roll he started the fitting out of the new cabin with some of our artwork, and it soon made a difference, it’s really starting to take shape now.

So, weather permitting next week we hope to get XS186’s starboard wing tank back together, with a view to re-fuelling her, and start re-routing utilities to our new home.

Maybe an engine run is in the air…………

4th April & 6th April

The crew had two sessions this week, Thursday being the day we used the haulage company ‘David Stanley Transport’ to pick up our cabin from Hemswell, and move it to Metheringham.

All went really well, and the cabin was located perfectly, even providing an opportunity for us to get our ground equipment under cover in the not too distant future too,  if we can build a shelter between the new building and the existing lorry body.

Even though the weather was very cold the crew used the few hours we had in the afternoon to get three broken windows out and replace them with intact ones. This was far more than was planned so credit to all of the crew  for their hard work on a non standard work day!

The Saturday went equally well, with regard to the cabin at least, with Ralph fixing a dodgy section of floor, Howard and Ian making the door lockable with a couple of scrounged locks, Paul sorting  two damaged corner pieces and a section of exterior skirting, and Jonty making good headway with the cleaning up of the interior and windows. A friend of Ralph, Phillip, dropped in and gave us some joinery assistance too, which was well received and made things a lot easier.

Other than some utility connections to arrange the cabin should be fit for habitation within a month at that rate!

Contrary to the above, XS186 was not so keen on playing ball. Paul had brought fully charged trolley acc batteries on the day so power was no longer an issue. A quick connect up and engine spool confirmed our worst fears however, the starter panel was still not working properly, with a 50% short sequence.

The next step was clear, badly behaving starter panel back off (again!), and put on the original starter panel but with the refurbished  No1 resistor from the badly behaving  panel we had just removed …………… complicated, but it seemed the right approach.

In record time Ted and Dick had the panel off and resistor swopped. In equally short time the replacement panel was back on and we were ready for another go! Paul jumped into the cockpit, Dick on the trolley acc and Ted inside the nose cap where all the action takes place……………… but alas not on this occasion. On pressing the starter button there was absolutely nothing.

With looks of disbelief all round it was a case of checking all connections etc. but nothing obvious could be seen, so it was decided, as it was quite late at this stage, that we would look again with fresh brain power next week. XS186 realy needs to give us a break at the moment and play straight, maybe next week.

The cabin getting some serious TLC!

The cabin getting some serious TLC!

30th March

A slight improvement on recent weeks with the weather allowed the crew enough opportunity to finish the site preparations for our new home. Dicks concrete footings looked the business, and Jonty made a good start on exposing the utility feeds to our current cabin, so we can take these existing feeds off to our new home. Once the general rubbish had been cleared and Terry the Tug was moved from its usual position (to allow access for the cabin transport)  the site was pronounced fit for our new home.

Despite snow showers Ian and Dick pulled out the stops and got the engine driven generator, that had been removed for inspection seemingly ages ago,  re-fitted. Several crew members helped to get the trolley acc out of hibernation and got power onto XS186, although a couple of dry spool attempts didn’t really inspire, with the engine spool cycle not completing it’s 35 second run, possibly as a result of slightly run down batteries in the trolley acc.  Paul took the batteries away for re-charging so the spooling can be re-attempted next week.

Due to the less than friendly conditions that persisted it was decided to wrap things up, and the rest of the day was spent arranging for the big move on Thursday.

23rd March

Despite our best hopes and prayers no-one was listening………………. another pretty dreadful day weather wise. Near freezing conditions, and snow, with our freshly dug footing holes filled with water, and the whole site a complete quagmire. Most men would have walked away. But this is the XS186 crew.

Jonty and Howard turned up trumps with a concrete mixing board, with Howard quite rightly suggesting that due to the severe weather conditions we wouldn’t  be able to use it anyway. Had he forgotten…………. ?

The rest of the guys turned up, each of them with building site tools, and once the compulsory cups of tea had been sunk, the now legendary tenacity that is the crews hallmark kicked in, and despite the conditions, they pitched in and carried on measuring, digging, mixing and carrying, in what could only be described as trench like conditions.

With Jonty having arranged the materials, Ian providing surveying experience (with further Jonty support), Dick showing his vast concrete trade experience and Ralph managing the ground equipment movements, it was simply a case of everyone getting stuck in. A full six hours later all four footings had been filled, a brilliant piece of work executed in what was probably some of the worst conditions ever experienced during the crews near 10 year residency.

Even Ian’s other half Sandra must have realised how tough the day was going to be, and had sent Ian down with a quiche and roast chicken for the guys. As usual there was nothing left, thanks Sandra!

So, despite no respite in the weather the crew have progressed with the ground works and all being well the cabin move is set for Thursday 4th April. Never was a home more deserved, by a truly inspiring crew.

16th March

The awful weather really set in for the weekend this time, the rain making any prospect of working on XS186 a total no show without causing more harm than good.

However, the impending move of our new cabin meant we just couldn’t afford to not get stuck into preparing the site for the cabins arrival, so it was one of those working through gritted teeth occasions, with everyone doing whatever they could, in the pouring rain, to help measure  and peg out the site, dig and shift the soil and rubble in the footing areas, clear the rubbish and break up dozens of bricks for hardcore. Within minutes all of us were drenched, but to a man everyone stuck at the task, and two footing areas were prepared and a third started, before exhaustion and the threat of pneumonia became all too real.

Following the arrival of £70 thanks to two consecutive National Lottery wins (thanks Ralph!)  the next stages of the cabin move were also able to progress, with Jonty set to follow up the days window shopping visit to the local builders yard with the arrangement of  a delivery of all the siting materials during the week.

John Evans is looking to build some shutters for the windows so we maintain some security, and Paul is locating as much ‘olive drab’ paint as he can find, so the cabin and lorry body maintain the sites wartime, or at least military look.

We just need some decent weather now ……………

9th March

What a contrast to last week. A steady downpour of rain kind of sums it up.

Faced with impossible conditions it was a case of running through the plan for the siting of our new cabin, and assessing what materials will be required to position it, i.e. concrete, hardcore, sealants etc. That went well enough and it’s just a case of paying up front for the haulage and, if the weather lets up, sinking the footings for the four cabin legs.

The only aircraft related work was the return of our generator after Ian had it checked out (all appears ok, so it’s a case of re-fitting it and firing up XS186 to see if previous exercises have cured the fault).

Following the removal operation last week we now have a faulty fuel valve which Ian took away to fix, so we have that one as a spare again.

Lets hope for better weather next week, so we can get the generator re-fitted, and get on with further prep work for our new home.

2nd March

A lovely weather day today, reasonably warm for the time of year and no wind, almost unheard of at Metheringham!

It certainly got us all going and we set about testing a few theories on the generator fault, although none were succesful………….. credit to Ted and Ian for putting plenty of effort in though.

We ended up taking the generator off again, and handing it over to Ian to get his work colleagues to maybe take a look at it.

Undetterrred, the rest of the guys got stuck in, Ralph, John and Howard making some preparations for our new cabin, Jonty continuing with the big clean up of XS186’s paintwork, and Paul taking on the unenviable task of getting the starboard outer drain valve out. Not easy at all given that the connecting pipes between tanks 3 and 2 have to be disconnected first and several ‘poppers’ removed from the seats. Nevertheless he persevered and eventually out came the valve. A bit of cleaning up so we could see what would happen, and some fuel poured into the valve cup, and hey presto there they were,  a series of holes in the valve holder!

We have a spare valve so its a case of getting that one fitted, re-connecting the pipes and re-inserting the poppers, and we may have a working starboard tank again, fingers crossed etc..

Buoyed by a kind of success, Ted and Jonty continued on  in a good mood and managed to get our tempremental old starter panel out and a refurbished starter panel back into the nose in what seemed like a record time, again not an easy task but made to look it.

So, maybe we didn’t actually fix much today, but it felt like we made a lot of progress towards getting somewhere. Thanks guys!

23rd February

Further investigations today, mainly around the lack of electrical power, and the starboard wing fuel leak.

Much checking of fuses, circuits and relays only resulted in the discovery of one blown fuse, whose replacement made no difference to the problem circuit. Suffice to say the only course left open to us is to put the meter on the generator output terminals and see if it’s the generator itself that’s at fault. If it is we may have a real issue as it’s internal components look to be working fine………. that’s one for next week once we have re-charged the trolley acc as we almost bled it dry this week.

The starboard wing fuel leak is another tough one. Paul released the valve from the wing skin and Dick fed some fuel into the tank. There was the expected leak, but despite freeing the valve from its seat it wasn’t possible to track down the source of the leak. There wasn’t much time to do anything about it but the decision was taken to remove the drain valve assembly on the chance that it is this component that’s leaking……………….. a tough job indeed, but that’s never stopped us before.

A useful chap turned up, Harry, who is a UHF radio guru, and he made some interesting comments around what he might be able to do for us re a ground radio station, and thanks to Tony’s hard work Harry left with a CD of the ARC-52 / PTR-175 manual to help him along!

The rest of the guys continued with panel refurbishment and smartening up of XS186’s paintwork, so progress is steady elsewhere, but we need to get these niggling issues sorted that’s for sure.

16 th February

Well I did the taboo thing, dared to say that all was well last week…………  the team went through their checks like clockwork, and tested a theory about the fuel leak, which is looking like it’s going to be a tough one to fix,  reason being almost as soon as fuel is pumped into the wing tank, it comes out of the drain holes in the wing structure, which we are reckoning is because  the feed pipe between the outboard and inboard tank  has lost a seal (maybe). Further investigations on this one before we are sure. Anyway once drained it was not a problem as our port wing tanks are impressively full.

The aircraft was towed into position, and we had a break, during which we discussed some detail around our new cabin with the Chairperson of Friends of Metheringham, which seemed to go well. Then it was back to the task in hand.

Back to my stupid comment last week……….. all was set for a hitch free start, but oh no, the starter panel decided it wasn’t going to work again, despite last week being perfect! Nevertheless we maintained our calm and with a brief tap the starter fired into life and we were away.

However that was just the start of our problems. Ted and Ian in the cockpit were carrying out post start checks and highlighted that the generator warning light was staying on, to be followed moments later by a drop in electrical  power,  loss of comms, a drop in engine revs, and then an un-commanded engine stop.

Everything off, and several hasty system checks found nothing obviously wrong, so after some debate it was agreed another engine start would be attempted, but this time with the trolley acc being left plugged in and switched on, to maintain electrical power. This would tell us if the as yet unknown fault connected to the generator failure warning was directly leading to the engine stopping, i.e. with external power left on the engine should start and maybe keep running?

The aircraft started hesitantly but it came up to power, and with the trolley acc power maintained, the engine seemed to operate normally. We knew though that the aircraft was relying on external power only, because the generator warning light was illuminated again, and that it therefore wouldn’t last long, so Ian made the sensible and correct decision to run up to 60% as per standard procedure before shutting down.

Keen to find out what was wrong the crew jumped into action and in a short space of time a team made up of the newer crew members and a couple of the old lags had got the generator off. We hoped to find that the quill drive may have snapped, as happens from time to time, but no, it was intact. So Ted took a look at the brushes and commutator, again all looked well. So, having run out of time we put the generator back in place and retired for the day, all of us being slightly miffed again, and perplexed too, why a fault such as this happened at all.

Could be some midnight oil being burned over this one…………….. the joys of operating a vintage aircraft…………………..

Thanks to all of the crew for persevering on the day, as per usual the guys were brilliant in the face of adversity!

Towing XS186 into position for the ill fated engine run

Towing XS186 into position for the ill fated engine run

9th FebruaryAnother reasonable day prompted more work on XS186, and  Paul, Jonty and Dick made good their ambition to get the paintwork tidied up and Farecla’d almost the whole of the port side, bringing the paintwork up to a far nicer standard than she has been left in for several months. Weather willing the operation can continue in the coming weeks.

A fair part of the day for the several of the crew was taken up draining the fuel from the starboard wing so we can take a look at what is leaking, but the leak needs to have stopped first as it’s not a nice environment to work in when there’s fuel all over the floor and it’s dripping down your arm, credit to Ian for sticking with it!

Ted got into some detail on the ARC-52 / PTR-175 wiring diagrams, and will no doubt be helped by some great information flowing in from our newest crew member Tony, who seems to be able to get blood from stones on a regular basis.

Ralph had a good day on preparing several underwing to fuselage panels which have laid untouched for many years now, so it was great to see these panels progressing rapidly toward completion.

As the crew are planning a static engine run next week, we decided to try a dry spool, despite the trolley acc batteries being not quite fully charged. It wasn’t a problem as it turned out and XS186 turned over both times without a hitch, we are not going to say all is well though, that’s too risky!

Some of the day was spent planning the move of our new cabin, so we should see some movement on this fairly quickly, watch this space………

2nd February

Cold but dry conditions tempted us out of the cabin and into work mode today, so it was back to the required routine,  Dick carrying out the sed checks, and unusually there was a bit of water in the collector box, probably down to the cold conditions causing condensation in the internal tank, but we’ll keep an eye on that.

A couple of previously noted jobs were looked at, including the collector tank shut off valves that are supposed to have test lights on the instrument panel, but they have never worked. So, Ted circuit tested them and they had a feed so after further checking in the manual we realised the  lights can only be tested whilst the engine is running, so that’s one to be noted for the next engine run.

Ralph showed off his handy work with a beautifully made frame for our engine specification board, so that will go on display this year and we are sure everyone will be very impressed with it. Ralph continued with preparing some of the underwing to fuselage panels whilst Paul continued to sand down the starboard wing, only to find that his sanding caused some sort of problem with the fuel tank and another leak started! Oh well more fuel fixing……

Several of the guys helped put the compressor back together following the fitting of a new capacitor, so that went ok and we have air back on line again now.

Ian spent some time with Dick showing him the ropes on a fuel filter change, so Dicks aeroplane education programme continues!

Rest of the day was spent planning what we can do in the coming weeks, with a full paintwork polish lined up, UHF aerials painted, engine bay panels getting painted on the inside, a patch to repair some damage in the nose wheel bay,  the wings finished and the dayglo stripes completed. Still plenty to do!

26th January

Well we couldn’t go to Metheringham today (local farmers were shooting nearby so we are banned from the site on these occasions), so it was off up to Hemswell to look at our potentially new cabin. The weather wasn’t ideal, with a few inches of still frozen snow underfoot, but that’s never been enough to stop us before, and it wasn’t going to stop us this time either!

We met up with the guys from RAF Ingham Heritage Group and slid our way across the old RAF Hemswell site, around the peri-track, past the old missile site, and into a little known area of the airfield. The cabin was about what most of us expected, there’s a bit of work to do, but its a solid structure and the work is well within our capabilities, so now it’s time to get some heavy duty transport organised and get it on site at Metheringham asap.

The guys from Ingham were great, as was Paul, the site owner, truly like minded guys, so we look forward to meeting up with them again. We even got chance to walk around a very wintry RAF Ingham,  it’s a very atmospheric and nostalgic place and we wish the Ingham Group all the best with their challenging and ambitious plans for the site. We would be the first to encourage people to visit and help promote their cause.

There wasn’t a great deal else we could do on the day, so it was off home for us all, with some time to spend on looking for cabin transportation!

19th January

A couple of inches of snow and freezing temperatures effectively put a stop on any work today, but as is the norm for the crew most of us turned up anyway.

Most of the time was spent arranging a trip through Lincolnshire to view a potential crew cabin, and we are hopeful on this front as our current home is a little on the tired side……watch this space for more updates on this one.

Ted brought in a new capacitor for our faulty compressor so we will get this fitted asap and hopefully get back to our main plane refurbishment.

Paul brought in the long awaited jacket that is being considered for the crew ‘uniform’ but it’s quite lightweight spec would only be any good for moderate temperatures, so another jacket is being ordered that is a bit more protective and we’ll review our options then.

12th January

Reasonably good weather again prompted us to roll out our compressor and continue with underwing preparation for painting, but with only having spent about 20 minutes sanding the panels, the compressor decided to give up on us, and it looks like a new capacitor is needed. Ted is on the case.

Dick carried out his well practised sed checks and all was reasonable other than a bit of extra dirt in the drained fuel, but this may be because we have more fuel in XS186 than we have had for a while, and we did pull her round the pan last week, so the side walls of the tanks may be getting a bit of a wash. We added to current contents with another 50 litres, so the tanks are probably at their highest level ever!

Ian’s hand cranking fuel pump repairs worked, and the pump is working fine once primed and we have refined the refuelling process, so the routine can be practised and become part of ‘standard operating procedure’ now.

Dick was on fire today, and went on to finish fitting the speed brake hinge bolts, which we have left off since getting the speed brakes working last year. It gave the crew chance to cycle the speedbrakes too, which need regular exercise to prevent them seizing up.

Paul and Ted got stuck into a review of the ground radio kit we have, although frankly it looks like a long and winding road ahead on the ground ARC52 rig…..

Howard and Ralph got Terry up and running, despite the low temperatures.

Quite a bit of time taken discussing the possibility of a new cabin too, so quite an interesting day.

Take a look at our new flickr page, with lots of great photographs taken by our newest potential crew member Tony.

5th January 2013

Happy New Year!

Most of the crew turned up today, all in good spirits and determined to make 2013 a good year. First thing to do was to ensure tyre pressures and sed checks were done, after the dreadful few weeks we have had we were concerned these might have suffered. However, all was well, better than expected infact, so we took the opportunity to top up both wing tanks with 60+ litres of  recently obtained Jet A1, and to check if the previously erratic gauge reading would behave.

Could it be that we have entered a new year with XS186 behaving for us, well the fuel gauges acted perfectly, so that’s not a bad sign!

Buoyed up from the good news some of the crew set about building our ground station radio assembly, and made good progress, getting the cage constructed and the PTR-175 into position.  Still plenty to do yet, but a great start.

Ralph and Howard  got Terry the Tug up and running, so we took XS186 on a trip around the pan, just to keep oleos exercised.

Other than this it was a planning session for what we want to achieve this year, so we can make good progress. Providing the weather works with us…

Final word has to go with our P1, Rob Fullerton, who bid us a temporary au revoir, as he goes off to Japan to take up his new job. All of the crew bid him bon voyage, and we hope to see him when he returns on annual leave throughout the year.

29th December

Still restrained from working on our aeroplane………..

Couldn’t stop Paul from getting on his bike though and spending some of his Christmas in Birketts of Lincoln, tracking down the bits that we will need to get our ground station up and running.  And after what seemed like an eternal trek hauling a radio transciever over a few hundred yards from Birketts back to the car, the crew are a PTR-175 radio better off.  Just need to get all the wiring to match up now, although thanks to Tony, one of our new potential crew members, we now have a manual to guide us ………….. over to you Ted!

22nd December

No activity these week, something about  festivities and presents to buy instead, surely there’s plenty of time left to do all that stuff yet?

15th December

Quite a nice day considering what we have gone through in previous weeks, so we took on the re-calibration of our fuel tank gauge, which had gone haywire during our last attempt at re-calibration. Never a nice job given the amplifier unit is buried in a black hole with access limited to double jointed midgets with S shaped screwdrivers…..

This was not an attempt at getting absolutely accurate readings, we may never know that now, or at least not until we drain the tanks back to zero and start again! More a case of knowing the gauge is reading a calculated minimum so we know we have a reasonable minimum for safe running. It went well, with minimal tweaking of the amplifier unit and all readings making apparent sense……..for now……….. the consensus is we will drain the tanks next year to get back onto an even keel.

All that remained was for a quick run up on the starter, which Paul carried out, and which also went very well, and a quick run around the site for Ralph and Terry the Tug, no fuss there either.

A visitor from RAF Ingham Heritage Group, Brendan, came along and we entered into some discussion about buildings for our site, which  always gets us very excited, so we may make some much needed progress in 2013 on our dream subject, under cover working!

Some of the crew making the most of some decent weather

Some of the crew making the most of some decent weather

8th December

A chilly but bright day got the crew in the mood for a bit of excitement, so it was decided early on to try to fire up XS186 and see if we could get the still dodgy combined fuel contents gauge reading to behave. First job was to turn the aircraft into wind, which Ralph, Howard and Terry sorted out for us. Dick, one of our newest crew members was put in P2 for his second dry run experience with Ian, to see if everything looked ok with No10.

The initial dry run with ignitors off went surprisingly well, given the awful conditions during the week with lots of rain etc. so it was an easy decision to go for a full run.

After quite a bit of preparation on Ted’s part, given that he would have to spend some time with his head stuffed deep inside the fuselage, a couple of feet from the engine,  we were all ready. Jonty was ready for his first ‘live’ run this time as P2, having had a few dry runs on previous dates, so after a full cockpit brief,  all was set with Ian in the drivers P1 seat .

The first press of the starter brought an all too familiar silence…….. Once again the starter panel decided not to comply with our simple request!

Having been here before we decided to wait and try again. Hey presto, no problem at all and No10 burst into life!

The longest engine run to date, at 15 minutes, was recorded, and Ted tried time and time again to re-calibrate the amplifier unit, but despite his efforts the readings were still reluctant to correspond as they should, so another session will need to be arranged to try again. Nevertheless, it was a good run, with no other system issues, and a professionally carried out exercise.

Just as we were about to leave we all got a bit of a surprise, with the arrival of Father Christmas to wish us well, as some of the crew disperse for the festive season! It was a fantastic visit and one we will smile about for a long time,thanks FC!

We also have a new photo archive on Flickr, where some fantastic photographs will be posted by Tony, a potential new crew member with a level of photography skill that most would be envious of, thanks Tony!

Many thanks to our Jonty for bringing along some festive cheer today!

Many thanks to our Jonty for bringing along some festive cheer today!

1st December

The first really cold day of this winter was enough to restrict normal activities, and we decided to take a bit of time out to have some real discussion, and do some proper planning for the coming months.

Plans are now forming to establish an aircraft display routine that spectators can follow with display boards, and  a commentary on what XS186 and our array of ground equipment is doing via a PA system. If possible we will establish a ground to aircraft radio link, and this may be wired into the same PA system.

Further information boards will be developed from the currently single ‘history board’ to provide more technical data in modern formats.

The crew will get new kit that will enhance our ‘look and feel’  which should go well with the completion of the paint work on XS186 and Terry the Tug.

It was agreed that during the inevitable ‘write off’ days of this winter we will develop al of the above and look forward to putting on a real show on our engine run / taxi run days!

24th November

A very grey and cold day threatened once again to curtail our best laid plans, but very slowly the fog lifted and the temperature increased.

A dry run without ignitors was attempted, but once again there were a few problems with the starter panel. General consensus was that the extreme damp and cold had got into the starter panel coils. After a couple of taps it was clear No10 did want to play, but just needed a bit more TLC, or for the temperature to go up a bit!

Dick made good use of the engine drill by having his first cockpit session with Ian, and was very pleased indeed with his experience.

By noon our plan to start XS186 was back on, and having carried out full servicing checks, and Paul being happy with everything, including the weather conditions, Ian and Ted took up their P1 and P2 positions respectively, and thankfully all went very well indeed.

The engine fired into life very impressively, and all temps and pressures looked good. The whole crew were extremely pleased with the 7 minutes of action, and once again No10 re-paid call the hard work by the crew with a great performance.

Thanks to the whole crew for a good day!

17th November

A day of standard checks and maintenance as the cold turn in the weather puts a lot of jobs out of contention. Sed checks mainly.

A fuel top up and tank contents experiments were carried out, to improve our understanding of how voltage can affect the gauge readings. We are starting to get to grips with ow important steady strong power supply really is now.

Ralph did some more lorry body work, providing yet more space for us, and Terry the Tug had her cobwebs blown off for the above towing

10th November

Pauls supposed second week off, but he turned up anyway, albeit briefly so he didn’t pass his cold on to everyone!

The weather wasn’t good again but dry enough to give XS186 a run up on the starter with ignitors off, just to keep everything lubricated and one of our groundcrew, Ralph, clued up on cockpit procedures with a detailed session with Rob. All went like clockwork, and for the second time in a month both the aeroplane and crew performed well during the run up.

Ian brought in the prototype hydraulic tank cap removal tool down, so some rapid bench work there from last week, and it looked a pretty good fit, so a bit of tweaking and finishing to make it look the part and it can be added to our growing stock of Jet Provost specialist tools.

Pressures on several of the crew to be away early meant a brief exercise of XS186 around the pan on the back of Terry the Tug, no issues so she was re-parked and re-covered and it was time to pack up, go home and hope for kinder weather next week.

3rd November

Horrible cold and wet day, drizzling with rain most of the morning so nothing much could be done. It cleared up a bit after lunch so Dick and Jonty fitted the static pitot points, there’s really only Dick can do that job and at least it got him out of the rain!

Dick went on to fit the access panel to the last remaining wing tank on the starboard side, so we have fully enclosed tanks again now.

Ian measured up the hydraulic reservoir cap in the engine bay for a new spanner, so the fiddly C spanner can be replaced with something a bit more user friendly, we shall see what turns up from Ian’s Alladins cave of a workshop no doubt!

With not a lot else that could be done it had to be egg banjo time, a treat not to miss, Ian will be taking orders at this rate and we won’t get him onto the aeroplane at all!

27th October

A horrible dull and wet day made it unrealistic to attempt any major work on XS186, so it was another session in the lorry body where a real team effort helped make our new storage facility almost complete! A bit of finishing work on the last couple of crates of parts, and we will have the stores we have always craved.

Whilst most of the crew busied themselves in the lorry body, several of the guys managed to get the now pleasingly regular sed checks completed, and some general cleaning up in the cockpit was carried out.

Others used their time constructively by liaising with the site owners on a planned  move for our crew cabin. If the plan comes off, it will provide us with a dedicated crew room (that will need a complete refurbishment!) located in a manner that will help us construct an associated storage facility for our ground equipment. It will not be without some hard work, and electrical, and water services need re-routing, so the conversations held this week have moved the plan forward nicely.

20th October

The great lorry body clear out continued this week, and with relatively balmy conditions there was a bit of cosmetic paintwork completed too.

The lorry body is really taking shape, with shelving and parts bins sprouting up all over the place, mainly thanks to some hard work by Ralph and Howard. Once done the crew should have a pretty amazing store room.

Paul took on the repainting of the two centre fuselage side sections of XS186, where a bit of corrosion had been taking hold around the static ports. Good conditions and some nifty spray gun work saw a good result, so the dayglo bands can now be attempted if we get another mild spell…………..

An opportunity to develop one of our crew members cockpit knowledge was taken, and Rob spent a detailed day with Jonty, running through a full external checklist, followed by a couple of dry engine spools. Feedback was very good, and another crew member begins their voyage of adventure in an ex military jet!

13th October

Definitely a day with a difference……and a noticeable downturn in the weather too, pretty cold and a bit damp.

Some anticipation of an engine run was thwarted by the fact that the site was swamped by caravan visitors, so that was the end of that ambition!

We nevertheless took the opportunity to take the lead in the pre-planned mass clear out of our ‘lorry body’ store. It was a daunting task, but with a huge effort by Rob, Dick, Ralph, Jonty and Paul, the whole store was emptied.

The task of separating out the items we will still need for XS186, the equipment only fit for the skip, and the remaining spares for the recently departed XS177 was only half completed, such is the wealth of parts and materials we have amassed over the years. We will have to persevere and finish the job over the following couple of weeks. Maybe then we will actually be able to find what we are looking for!

Hopefully our missed opportunity for an engine run will be satisfied in the next couple of weeks, fingers crossed!

6th October

We are keeping it quiet, but it’s not rained on us for several weeks now…….. Consequently, our cosmetic progress continues apace.

Graphics for ejection seat warnings and the canopy release rescue arrow arrived, and were carefully applied by Jonty, Paul and Dick. They look superb and are a real boost to the teams pride, helping to make XS186 nose section almost complete.

With Teds return this week, we were able to confidently connect the remaining radio sets and ancillary items in the nose, and with Ted in the cockpit on the starter button we went for an ignition off engine start…………………… perfect!  Another success.

Whilst we were on a roll it was a good opportunity to re- calibrate our fuel contents gauge, which has both starboard and port readings but has never shown a correct overall contents. With Ted and Paul working together on the amplifier and gauge respectively,  the midwife like touch of Ted on the calibration screws paid off, and within minutes we had a perfectly calibrated gauge. Tick another job off!

Ralph and Johns meticulous work on Terry the Tug continued, with well over half of the panel area now showing new colours, and most of the rest being well prepared too. We stole some of Ralphs time to re-prime a couple of areas on the main planes of XS186 and around the static ports on both sides of the rear fuselage that were showing some signs of light corrosion. The static vents were a real pain to remove  but our newest crew member Dick, is made for small spaces, so into the fuselage he went, whilst the jet pipe was still in there!  He did a great job though, and both static vents were out in a jiffy.

Several other regular Saturday jobs were completed, including sed checks, and moving XS186 back into wind  and it as time to pack up after a VERY successful day. Well done the crew!

Dick bravely goes where not many men would dare, to remove the static vents.

Dick bravely goes where not many men would dare, to remove the static vents.

29th September

Another reasonable day, if a bit gusty, but for an airfield site, not bad!

The chance was taken for a bit of drama on the cosmetic side of things, and the large No10 decals that adorn each side of the cockpit were brought out and expertly applied by Jonty and Paul. It really does make a massive difference, and XS186 looks a lot more like her Finningley 1967 photograph all of a sudden (see our history of XS186 page)!

Jonty also turned to the nose bay, where the previously removed radio trays needed re-fastening (now that the starter panel has been replaced). He completed this, so we can re-install radios and Rebecca sets next week and give her a turn on the starter to see if our hard work on the starter panel has paid off.

The rest of the crew, although low in number this week, had a good tidy up around the site, in readiness for a planned engine run on the 13th October, if all goes well in the next week or so.

The return of No10 !

The return of No10 !

22nd September

Time to get on with rectifying our starter panel fault, with Ian bringing back a replacement re-calibrated starter panel

With Jonty having stripped out the radio trays and labelled up the wiring loom, both Ted and Ian removed the faulty panel and fitted the refurbished unit. Unfortunately some sort of  fault elsewhere on the new panel left us with no sign of life yet again, so a decision to put the repaired No1 relay from the refurbished panel  onto our faulty panel was taken, as we knew the rest of the original panel was fine.

It worked, and other than re-fitting several bolts and fittings we may be back in business (subject to our next full engine run attempt of course)!

Jonty and Paul took advantage of another fine day to start measuring up for the large No10 for the nose of XS186, and the rear fuselage for the dayglo markings. After a lot of photo interpretation they made a pretty good job of a set of templates for the front and rear fuselage. We just need a good weekend to get these markings applied now, not a great prospect at this time of year……

Ralph and John also took advantage of the reasonable weather and continued with the top coat of yellow on Terry the Tug, as well as a run around the site to keep the battery charged up etc.

15th September

Well, what a day.

We knew there was a possibility that the arrival of Rob on the day would provide an all too rare opportunity to taxi XS186 for the first time since our restoration began.

Other than the starter panel issue, which Ian and Co continue to work towards rectifying, there was no reason not to, except the fact that several crew members were missing on the day, including Ralph, Jonty, Geoff and John. We do know however that there will never be a perfect day when every crew member is available, so the decision was made, lets do it………

First we put Ian and Rob into the cockpit for a full static run to test all systems and instrument readings etc.  No problem, everything looked good, although as expected Ted needed to coax the faulty starter relay into operation.

The crew had a brief break, and it was a crew change to Rob and Paul, giving Paul a chance to fulfill his life long (or what seems like a life long!)  ambition to be there for XS186’s first roll under her own power.

Again the start went reasonably well, all readings settled down to normal, so it was brakes off , and Rob eased the throttles forward slowly. Nothing happened at the 50% setting, so the power was increased through 60%, but still nothing………..but, as the power reached 70% and the cockpit crew (and no doubt all those watching) expected there to be a problem, she moved.

Very very slowly she was pulled from her static slumber and became a moving machine again. It was a proud moment, and the hard work and ittle reward over the years kind of melted away.  Only 30 feet or so was covered but it was enough to prove we  achieved what  many many people said could not be done.

Rob took the aircraft to the edge of the apron, and with Ian’s marshaling and Nick providing fire cover, all systems were checked over and XS186 shut down.

The crew will continue now, finishing the cosmetic work, and developing the powered events and crew training schedules, so both the crew and the public can witness an increasingly spectacular XS186!

She moves! The first ever taxi run on 15th September 2012

8th September

A nice day (for September) proved ideal to take on a couple of the more delicate jobs, especially as we need to wait another week or two for our starter panel to be returned to us, courtesy of Ian’s hard working colleagues, and hopefully all working, so well worth the wait.

The days technical work was presented to Ted, who had tracked our starboard wing tank fault to the connecting co-axial cable between tanks 2 and 3 during the morning session . The only option was to solder the tiniest co-axial sections anyone has ever seen, together again. Undaunted, Ted took on the job, and after a few hours of work, the job was done, and not only did we have a starboard tank reading but the combined contents reading also decided to show up, result, well done Ted!

Because of very light winds Paul and Jonty decided to re-paint the dayglo stripes that have looked a real eye sore for several years now. All went very well, and thanks to a bit of begging and borrowing of materials the painting was completed, and very smart she looks too! Just the number ’10’ to re-apply and the front end of XS186 will be almost complete.

Ralph and John carried on with painting Terry the tug, and there’s a massive difference in how he is looking now, credit to the guys for persevering on this long term job.

Ian did some checking out on the engine bay, so I think there may be plans afoot on some fittings in there……..

1st September

Our work on the starter coil did not make a great deal of progress this week (our focus being taken by the removal of the final fuel tank panel on the starboard wing). Ian is working with his colleagues at his place of work to refurbish our spare starter panel,  the fitting of a fully servicable unit being the preferred option at this stage.

Ted did refit the starter push button in the cockpit, as it was removed to check out the starter fault a couple of weeks previously.

Back to the fuel tank, and fully expecting that the fitting of our one spare sender unit would cause a burst of activity on the gauge, it was a subdued crew that was faced with another lack of positive change. More work to do to find out what could be happening there.

Other jobs were the trying out of new orange vinyl on the forward fuselage, although it was half expected that this would simply direct us toward re-painting the already faded originals, and that was indeed the case, so at least we now know what is needed. Paint!

Ralph made good progress with the hydraulic rig and Terry the Tugs repaint, and Terry is looking smarter by the week! John and Ralph made a basic wooden structure to better protect our ground equipment too, so this will be a real bonus as we already look towards what autumn might bring.

25th August

We carried on with pinning down the fault with No1 coil today. Knowing it is sticking is one thing, but why is it sticking?  Turns out it is probably that there just isn’t enough voltage getting to it, as we have a few volts drop between the trolley acc and the starter coil, enough to stop the contacts being pulled together anyway.

We have a couple of ideas to explore. We need more voltage, so a 6 volt battery wired in series to the 2 x 12 batteries we already have may do it. Ted had a great idea around putting a spring into the coil to assist it’s travel, which may be an option. Or, we take a feed from the ground power socket / main power feed, so we are getting the original and higher voltage into the coil.

Ian in the meantime pulled together our spare starter panel bits, with a view to doing a refurb on the whole thing, so we have a good quality spares option if we need it.

Anyway, whilst we have Ted looking at that, Paul, Jonty and Dick continued with wing tank panel removal, and had a pretty good day it it, with only 4 stubborn screws remaining in the problem starboard wing panels. Once these are out we can check out our faulty sender unit and replace it if required, which will gives us proper starboard tank readings for the first time in a while.

Ralph continued with Terry the Tugs repaint, and very smart he is looking too (Terry, not Ralph!)!

Old and new paintwork clearly showing, thanks mainly to Ralphs dedicated work.

Old and new paintwork clearly showing, thanks mainly to Ralphs dedicated work.

Ian and Ralph did some work on the Hydraulic rig too, to cure a fuel seepage problem, which we should have sorted by next week.

Jonty had his first experience of a dry engine run in the cockpit too, as part of the starter panel diagnosis, and did very well, so well done that man!

18th August

It was time to get to the bottom of what spoiled our, and lots of other expectant guests and support teams (thanks to the fire crew for their very patient support!) fun last weekend.

Fully charged trolley acc connected, and a positive attitude on…………… checks completed, push the starter…………nothing…………………… well at least 186 was being consistent.

The long job of testing each relay and connection started, and went on most of the day, before we eventually managed to trace the fault to No1 coil on the starter panel. Not our first suspect, but it could have been worse.

At the moment the coil will respond to a light tap and whatever is sticking seems to free off, so we will persevere with this and see if regular engine spools cure the fault. If not it will be the starter panel out, and we can change the coil for the single spare we have in stock.

Quite low numbers of crew meant not a lot else was attempted, so sed checks done and spare starter panel stripped was about it for this weekend.

We WILL be planning our next engine run shortly, so watch our events page for more details shortly!

11th & 12th August

Well, quite a weekend. If only the story finished on a good note……..

In true XS186 CREW style, a large part of Saturday was spent making sure all was professionally prepared for the main event on Sunday, the first ever taxy run for XS186 since her retirement in 1968!

All went reasonably well, with some crew members putting up our events tent, then moving onto carrying out fuel sed checks, re-securing all access panels under the main planes, and carrying on the many minor checks that would make Sundays run more straightforward. A dry engine run was carried out to ensure all was well. Great, no problems!

Final action was to tow XS186 around the hardstanding. Not an easy task on such a small area, but we got the aircraft into a reasonable ‘into wind’ position.

All was set, and on another fine day, and a Sunday for a change,  the crew got stuck into final preparations.

Guests arrived, other halves turned up for the planned barbeque, and Bobbie Soames Waring and her grandson Joseph arrived. Honoured guests indeed, and our link to the legend (as far as we are concerned)Don Soames Waring.

Then it happened…………… a brief engine run, planned to bring Rob Fullerton our P1 up to speed didn’t happen. The engine starter was dead. No need to panic, XS186 has been tempremental before………….. but this day was different. No matter what we did, the fault could not be identified with any certainty. Several hours were spent  tweaking the possible culprits, the starter button in the cockpit, the crash switches and the time delay unit (TDU). None of the remedies we tried worked.

After all possible options were exhausted the crew had to admit XS186 had got the better of us for the day. Not an easy thing for the crew to accept, but for now she was the stubborn victor.

The crew will start to dig deeper next week, and we are all sure things will be back on track shortly, but the day was undoubtedly spoiled by our labour of loves rather awkward Sunday operating hours!

Full credit to the crew and their partners for putting a lot into the day, before and after the event, for little reward, thank you guys.

5th August

Quick update from a reasonable day, but one on which only a limited amount was possible on the aircraft. This was mainly because our manpower was put to work on concrete laying!

Nevertheless, a successful day on groundwork, some preparation on Terry the Tug and our dayglo stripes on the forward fuselage were measured up by Jonty, with us having an ambition to replace them this year.

28th July

The weather stayed fine so it was all systems go for the two main goals today. Least exciting but important was the arrival of our concrete, thanks to Graham, the son of Pauls partner Lynne. He drove over from Preston with a van full of concrete mix, and spent half the day filling in some giant craters in our hardstanding area. Not before Paul and Jonty had spent a good deal of the morning clearing the site though. Hard work for all three guys, but vital for future taxy operations to be carried out safely.

We will need the same amount of material again to finish the job, but we can get the rest delivered quite quickly, and Dick, our newest potential crew member is apparently a red hot concrete layer. Over to Dick on this one then!

The rest of the day was all about a planned engine run. The usual preparation was put in, including a thorough walk around and levels check for our P2  Ralph, with P1 Ian.

Jonty did another sed check, and we were pleased that the water content continues to reduce / improve. Jeff did the fuel drains and the other guys did tyre pressure checks, comms set up, site security and clearance, and that was it, we were set.

After a couple of failed starts due to an LP pump ‘malfunction’ things were rectified and a full and proper start was achieved. Hydraulic control checks were all ok on speed brakes and flaps, and electrical services checked out fine.

Minor faults noted were a sticking oil pressure gauge, which turned out to be nothing more than the instrument glass slipping and stopping the needle from moving. Ted fixed this quickly and we can re-test next time. The starboard foot brake is not working initially and needs the handbrake to be applied and released to open the sticking foot brake valve. We will need to check this out at a point as soon as possible, although it shouldn’t stop operations at this stage.

Ralph enjoyed the opportunity to take his position as P2, and we can look forward to other crew members taking up the same opportunities soon.

21st July

A different kind of day today, with reasonable weather and a need to do a bit of groundwork. Not something we do a lot of, although Howard does do plenty of  grass cutting.

Our groundwork this week was cleaning out the many deep craters in the hardstanding, in readiness for the arrival of several bags of concrete on the 28th July, which will make the hardstanding surface better for our taxy trials!

It was hard work, but a pretty good job was done, and Paul, Rob, Jonty, Dick, Ian and Ralph all did their bit.

In the meantime Ted had a stage 2 session in the cockpit with Ralph, preparing him for his first cockpit experience as P2!

Once the hardstanding work was completed several of the guys turned to XS186 and whilst Jonty completed another sed check session, Paul, Ian Dick and a couple of the other crew members carried on with starboard wing tank work, and filled both port and starboard tanks with another 50 litres of Jet A1.

A pretty good day and we all left in good spirits after quite a hard but enjoyable time.

14th July

The weather threatened more than it delivered today, and it gave us chance to get some work done, though regrettably the engine run planned for the day was cancelled due to a Carlight Caravan Club meeting being moved onto our hardstanding, because of their grass site being waterlogged. Undeterred, the crew did what it does best and got stuck into some more hard graft!

Paul and Jonty did the first full round of sed checks, all six wing tanks and the collector tank,  for a while, and found that some of  the almost constant rain this year is getting into the wing tanks, so we agreed to increase the regularity of our sed checks to ensure the fuel filter is not ruined too quickly, and sealed the filler necks until we need to re-fuel again.

Dick and Ian re-fixed some underside panels that we found had not been correctly fitted before, so they looked much better after they had finished with them. Both Dick and Ian assisted the other guys with various jobs, and helped dig out the remaining under fuselage-wing fairings so they can be painted and fitted over the next few weeks.

Ralph continued with Terry the Tugs respray preparation, and we discussed getting the yellow paint to make a start as soon as possible on the repainting.

Ted persevered with the starboard wing tank panels, and to his and Jontys credit, and a after a massive effort and many broken screwdrivers bits got the second panel off. The fuel tank piece of work is one of the toughest we have ever undertaken, and  it takes incredible perseverance and determination to see it through. The guys we have are the best in the business, and jobs like this really show their mettle.

The engine run is being re-planned and the next round of jobs, including the filling of some holes in our hardstanding, in readiness for taxy trials are also in planning stage.

7th July

Well weather wise it looked promising at first, then it started to rain and a promising start to the days work was suspended. After a briefly brighter period and a bit more work, the rain returned, and that’s how it went during the day.

Robs tea ad coffee making skills came to the fore, proving that he is not only a steely eyed jet pilot.

Ralf worked on de-rusting the tug whenever he could and with some help from Ian they ran the engine.

Ian also carried out some work applying sealant to the access steps in the air intakes, checked over the engine bay and he and Ted discussed mods to the Grolly bar that will allow continued efforts to remove screws from the starboard tank panels, using various techniques with the Grolly bar. With what we have to work with at the moment the end result of today (after a sterling effort by Ted and Jonty), was ‘screws removed 3, screwdriver bits broken 5’. Good job Ted  got a pack of 25!

Dick probably had the most successful day painting all the aerials, with some assistance from Jonty, although they will need another coat.

The crew finally called it a day, and which point the clouds cleared and the sun came out, typical of 2012 to date!

Paul was off site this week, but did manage to pick up a spare jerry can and a delivery slot for some ‘almost free’ (delivery cost only) concrete that we can use to improve the apron where XS186 stands and will hopefully taxy in the near future, so not too bad a week overall.

30th June

Bearable weather conditions allowed a bit of cosmetic work this week. Ian and Geoff replaced the intake step anti-slip surfaces which were starting to look a bit shabby. They look great now!

Ted got stuck in with the starboard wing tank panels again. Not a nice job, but very important if we are to find out what is wrong in those tanks on that side. Credit to Ted for sticking with it, and one of the three panels is off. Two to go……

Paul and Jonty made a good job of cleaning up the windscreen seal area, and applied the yellow and black paint to the emergency canopy release handle on the starboard fuselage.

Ralph and John fitted the new battery bay locking mechanism, and made a start on wat looks like a respray for Terry !

Overall quite a productive day, well done the guys!

23rd June

After the excitement of last week it was back to the grind today!

The weather wasn’t too good, very windy and rain showers, no change there then.

Ted got on with drilling out the 36 set screws that hold one of the wing tank panels on the starboard wing, so we can start to understand what is causing the leak from it. It’s going to be a long hard piece of work and both Paul and one of our new helpers, Dick, made a start on one of the three panels too.

Ralph and John fitted our new battery to Terry the Tug, all went well on this straightforward job, so the rest of the time was spent exercising the Hydraulic rig, working out some requirements for our next set of jobs on Terry,  and clearing up the area where we store our ground equipment.

Lets hope the weather eventually turns and we can take another stab at the wing panels next week.

The date for out next engine run is decided and can be found on our Events page!

16th June

The big day!

For many months now XS186 has been in a dormant state, and whilst work has continued with several systems such as flaps, airbrakes, ejector seats and several other areas, some of the crew have been working behind the scenes to overcome paperwork issues, such as insurance and a Licence Agreement with our site owner.

We were at last able to resume operations on the 16th June, thanks to the above being concluded, so it was all hands to a myriad of jobs on XS186, and the site in general.  The difference between the 16th June and a  ‘usual’ Saturday was that the work took on a new meaning.  The goal was to re-start the engine and check that all was well, after a 9 month enforced snooze.

As usual XS186 does not like to do things the easy way, and no sooner had we topped up her fuel tanks than the starboard tank started leaking.  Did it leak…………. for several hours, until Jonty and Paul managed to drain enough fuel back out to find a dryer level. That’s another job to add to our list, but lets leave that for another day.

With Jonty and Paul now regarded as mobile fire hazards thanks to several litres of fuel having been poured over, sat in, and splashed on them, they kept a reasonable distance and the rest of the crew completed the long list of other pre-start duties including;  fuel filter change, oil priming, fuel bleed, sed checks, hydraulic oil top up, fuselage PX24 drain, comms set up, tyre pressures, wet and dry engine spools, aircraft turn into wind, and preparation for rate re-set valve adjustment, amongst many others.

Some new arrivals who had turned up following last weeks Open Weekend also mucked in with our Howard, and did a sterling job of clearing some encroaching grass/weeds from our already limited pan.

With Ralph having turned XS186 into wind with his usual precision in Terry the Tug, it was time to get our cockpit crew into position, so it was Ian as P1, and Ted providing technical support as P2.

We should have expected it, as a couple of issues then arose with the starting sequence, which after a couple of false starts decided to cure itself, and hey presto, we were delighted when XS186 busrt into life!

All went well with Ian and Ted reporting no issues. Temperatures and pressures were good, and a run through the hydraulic services brought no problems, as did lighting and other electrical services.

A couple of full power (well, 98%) checks which impressed everyone showed no surging, and that was it, time to shut down after about 12 minutes, and a congratulatory round of appluase for ourselves for persuading her to perform after her long break.

A few pictures from  the day will serve to remind us of an eventually successful and very enjoyable day. Thanks to the whole crew!

Several crew members and the fire crew busy with preparations for the engine run

Several crew members and the fire crew busy with preparations for the engine run

Jonty and Paul draining the starboard fuel tanks to salvage the JetA1 before it leaked away, following the start of a leak somewhere in the wing.

Jonty and Paul draining the starboard fuel tanks to salvage the JetA1 before it leaked away, following the start of a leak somewhere in the wing.

9th June

The Open weekend was definitely an event made up of two totally different halves!

The Saturday highlights were that Ian and Geoff got stuck in during the morning, and got the access panels for the speed brakes repaired, fitting new anchor nuts and making the panel fit much better.

The low point was later when the weather turned vicious, and the remaining crew members and WAGs left on duty in the afternoon were subjected to torrential rain, very strong winds and consequently very low numbers of visitors. The heroes of the day, Jonty, Ralph, Paul, Pauline and Lynne put in a tough shift, and despite the atrocious conditions, made the most of a bad lot. Consensus was that the XS186 stalls were the best on site, and  no-one could have asked for more from this team.

The Sunday was a different game altogether, and although no work was done on XS186, a great day was had, with lots of new contacts made who could prove very useful to the project and our crews strength and skill set. For more feedback on the weekends events look on our Events page!

2nd June

Time to give XS186 a clean up in readiness for the Open Weekend on the 9th and 10th June. Paul and Jonty gave her a good clean down, and it was a good opportunity to identify and replace missing or loose bolts / screws and make sure panels were secure, in readiness for our attempt at an engine run on the 16th June.

Ted did some drilling and tapping to get the majority of damaged threads rectified. Once this was done he took some time to ensure ejection seat harnesses were serviceable, as we need to be sure we have 100% safe systems if we are to attempt our very first taxy trial later in June or July. All was well.

Ian carried out a ‘sed’ check on the collector tank, and whilst there was a bit of water in the bottom of the tank, it was less than last time and expected really. A spell on a sticking low pressure pump valve, the lock on the nose cap, and the port air intake access step saw these parts back to a servicable standard too.

A fuel top up on the tug, and that was another day done. It should all start to come together in the next few days for a return to ops!

26th May

The sun came out, so off we went, with fine adjustments to the flap system,  this time with a polished set up of the hydraulic rig and several of the guys working together, including Ted, Ian, Jonty, John and Paul. At the same time a much needed training session as carried out by Nick for the guys on ground crew duties, covering  blanks/plugs and locks, as well as hydraulic checking / filling and fuel filling responsibilities.

All went well, and Ralph made further progress on the tugs paintwork too.

Other than the practical stuff Paul asked the guys to consider our new legal agreement, and this took a bit of time to sort and sign up to, but the up-shot is, we are about to become operational again, at last!

Thanks to Howard too, for keeping the grass at bay, as it tries its best to engulf everything, the site certainly looks better for his attentions.

19th May

Slightly better weather conditions, with no rain but November-like temperatures, saw us tackling the front connection for the flap feedback cable. It was a case of connecting up our hydraulic rig, which performed pretty much perfectly, cycling the flaps through full up- take off – full down stages, measuring the cables travel on each cycle, and eventually cutting the cable to the desired length to fit to the valve assembly lever.

It was a bit fiddly but after a couple of goes it was done, and thanks to a true team effort once again, with Ted, Jonty, John and Paul operating the various systems on the aircraft or rig, we now have a fully operational flap system!

Ralph was also busy, working on the tug, finishing the cleaning off of all the previously (badly) applied yellow paint, rubbing down the bits of corrosion and priming them in readiness touching up these areas, so she is ready for her public showing at the Open Weekend in June.

Jonty carried on the painstaking starboard under-wing rubbing down, not the easiest or most comfortable of jobs, but  we are getting there now, with well over half of the under-wing area done.

12th May

At last some respite from the wet stuff!

We got some work done and moved a few jobs on. Ralph got the Hydraulic rig out, gave it a good clean up and got it fired up, in readiness for some operational use next week all being well. The job we need it for is the flap feedback cable (teleflex) which we have now got in succesfully thanks to good work from Ian, after much swopping of bits from the several boxes of parts we have.

However, trying to adjust the flaps using the hand pump circuit was never going to work, but that didn’t stop us trying! All we need is another good day and the rig to behave, and we should get the adjustments made and that’s another job done.

5th May

Not a lot to report this week as the weather was pretty unstable yet again, and crew numbers were down as a consequence. The guys that were around dodged the showers to run the tug up and do some site work to keep the place looking ship shape. Back to more crew next week, so pleeeeeease can we have some better weather!

28th April

I sense a recurring theme in April………….

Once again rain stopped play, but completely this time, as the rain never let up all day. Discussions around what jobs we would like to carry out was the order of the day, and the arrival of our crew polo shirts was the highlight, so come the Open Weekend in June we should look the business.

Nothing else to report but we all sincerely hope to have some better news re our insurance quotes which will give us the boost we need to get back on track. And some decent weather would be nice of course.

21st April

The weather well and truly knocked us out this week, with heavy rain most of the day, and Paul was not able to make it at all, but the die hards stuck it out, and between showers at least managed to get some more smartening up of the tugs paintwork completed. If it would stop raining long enough to go and have a proper look I would comment on the no doubt great work that the guys continue to carry out!

14th April 2012

A bit better weather today, but we were very low on crew members due to holidays and work commitments, with just Paul, Ralph and John being available.

Nevertheless we got stuck in and made a start on smartening up the tugs paintwork , most of which is on the rubber window seals!  Not our work I hasten to add, we would never allow such shoddy workmanship.

As a personal reward Ralph and John gave her a run around the site, much to the delight of the big kids, who were Ralph and John!

Paul got chance to attack the corrosion on the underside of the starboard wing and made some good progress, as well as removing the jammed teleflex cable, allowing a second go at installing the new one next week,  so considering the low numbers of crew members we could see progress.

7th April 2012

Changeable weather conditions prevented a determined effort on wing refurbishment (our main goal for this year), with rain showers and a  cold wind making things quite uncomfortable.

Nevertheless we gave it a go and our new orbital sander went to work on the underside of the starboard wing, whilst Ralph set to work on removing some minor corrosion from the top surface, and between occasional damp patches and got enough of a dry spell to get some primer on the newly cleaned rivets.

Ted took a look at lighting for the E2B compass, whilst Howard set to work landscaping the area around the aeroplane, removing unsightly grass sods that have started to spring up out of the concrete patch where we park.

Jonty and Paul managed to get the previously fitted (but unsuitable) teleflex carrier out of XS186 so our refurbished spare should now go in (although we all know it won’t be quite that straightforward!).

Finally we had a suspicion that XS186 port oleo had dropped, but as the concrete pan is not exactly bowling green flat it was hard to be sure, and the oleo lengths were within 2mm of each other. So, we took her on a tour of the pan on the back of Howard’s van, and after a series of further measures we were satisfied that and oleo drop was insignificant at this stage. We have our trusty Nitrogen rig at the ready should there be any further movement anyway.

31st March 2012

A fairly short day today, given that we had to prepare for our Casino/Auction Night. We still got a bit done, Jonty having his basic cockpit training with Ted, and Ian setting up our new orbital sander. The trolley acc was set up by Ralph and Howard, ready to apply power to XS186 for the evening event, and final preparations for the merchandise board were completed.

By 3.00pm we had left to smarten ourselves up, and in what seemed like a few minutes we were all back again!

Many thanks has to be handed out to the crew, and their WAG’s, what a fantastic job they all did!

The girls made a great buffet spread, and it deserved a bigger crowd on the night, but small acorns and all that!

24th March

A lovely day today. As the weather wasn’t getting in our way for a change several of us took a look at a hydraulic leak from the port wing. It’s the flap jack area but for the life of us we can’t see where the source of the ‘drip’ is. Looks like a strip down job, at which point i’m sure there will be no sign of a leak and butter wouldn’t melt!

We also took a joint bash at getting the teleflex cable problem sorted out, and Jonty was the man this week, stripping out the offending carrier tube to get it into the capable hands of Ian, who i’m sure will bring it back with a smooth as silk action……. no pressure Ian!

Howard had his first ‘in cockpit’ familiarisation session with Ted, one of several who have had this, as we get our act together and all crew members start working towards various qualified roles.

Other jobs today were around preparation for our Casino and Auction night on the 31st March, and Ralph, John and Howard progressed the very impressive looking merchandise /information board. I think we wil probably have a few pictures of it once kitted out?

Ted cleaned out some accumulated dirt out of the seat pans and put in our cockpit rear view mirror, leaving very little left to do in there now other than proper stowage of the seat harnesses and the last few touch up jobs.

A few more days  like today and we will be on a roll, fingers crossed for good weather next weekend!

XS186 and Jonty's Morris 1000, a nice 'period' shot on a glorious, and progressive day

XS186 and Jonty’s lovely Morris 1000, a nice ‘period’ shot on a glorious, and progressive day

17th March

What started out as a bit of a damp and un-promising start actually turned out to be quite a good day today.

Not having had much luck with the aqquisition of new tools for under-wing work, we turned our attention to getting the hydraulic rig pump back on, and in a flash of inspiration, to get it plumbed into XS186 to see if it worked…….

Well at first it didn’t, but after much head scratching and manual thumbing to understand the rig and aircraft systems, we worked out there couldn’t be much wrong other than an air lock, so bled the systems. Hey presto!

The rig pump runs at a very nice 1800 rpm,  which  is perfect for the JP (well it should be as it’s a JP pump we fitted to it!). The flaps and speed brakes were tried, and all worked perfectly, which generated Ian a much deserved round of applause from his crew-mates for his superb engineering work on the drive shaft.

Well we all felt pretty damned pleased with ourselves, for what on the day was a real team effort, so had a bit of a crew photo shoot (now that we have Martin Bakers finest to sit on), and as the weather was threatening to turn again, we wrapped XS186 up and called it a day, but what a day. Success certainly smells sweet when it comes, so a big well done to the whole crew!

We can look forward to getting some jacking / trestling now we have controllable hydraulic power, so a retractable undercarriage on XS186 for the first time in many decades can be considered our next mechanical challenge!

Ralph gives the thumbs up for fully working 'rig driven' hydraulics on XS186

Ralph gives the thumbs up for fully working ‘rig driven’ hydraulics on XS186

10th March

The weather stayed fine so it was time to start tackling some of the tougher, less desirable jobs……………

Problems are inevitable with new jobs being started, and today was no exception for Jonty and Paul, with the orbital sander no longer working, and the ‘grolly bar’ used to remove stubborn bolts and set screws not up to the job on the starboard wing tank panels (we need to change a tank sender unit). I sense some drilling out of set screw heads will be required, not a nice prospect.

Having dropped the idea of doing the above this week, it was time to try to connect  the flap control teleflex cable. This was no better, and Jonty / Paul were frustrated by the cable becoming completely stuck, that one will need some figuring out before it’s fixed….

So, the only real successes were final tweaks of the canopy and ejector seat fittings by Ted, a bit of new skill learning by Ralph, with some light shot blasting of steel parts, before immediate priming, and a bit of general maintenance on the tug, and JP tyres.

All in all quite a slow day in practical terms unfortunately, but we are making headway with our event planning for the end of the month,  and we have a number of tasks to re-address next week with some new tools, and renewed vigour.

We also have some breaking news, click on the just published news article below!


3rd March 2012

Steady progress today, as several of the crew were unavailable for various reasons.

Ian, Howard and Ralph worked together to re-fuel and then fit the pipework and hydraulic pump to the Hydraulic Rig, after Ian fitted new flexible hose unions during the week. Unfortunately the home engineered pump drive adaptor needs some minor work to make it ‘fit for purpose’,  so Ian will sort that out and we will have another go when it’s back.

More minor work on Terry the Tug to get it ready for regular use was carried out, i.e. lamp replacement, re-fueling etc, was also completed.

Ian then switched to assist Paul and Ted in a couple of PX24 inhibiting runs on XS186, just to make sure any water in the engine systems is flushed out – mission was accomplished, and she still sounds great even at 10% power dry cycling!

By far the most difficult job today was the adjustment and locking of the canopy now that both ejector seats are in. What a nightmare, but we  got it done and all is back to fully secure and fitting well.

Many thanks to our slightly depleted crew today!

Oh almost forgot, we WON THE LOTTERY! – OK so it wasn’t the big one, but it was £20, better than nothing and every little helps as they say!

XS186 with seats in, and canopy re-fitted

XS186 with seats in, and canopy re-fitted

25th Feb 2012

A lovely day today, positively Spring-like!

It was time to put the ejector seats in. Andrew, our friendly neighbourhood teleporter driver was on hand, and as ever, did us proud with his millemetre perfect control.

We had no idea how the job might go, as none of us had tried to install a JP seat, or any other ejector seat before, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the first (starboard) seat went in without too much trouble, and the port seat dropped in almost instantly!

There’s still quite a bit of connecting up of oxygen hoses, lanyards and harnesses, and this will be done next week hopefully, as we had to focus on cleaning / touching up the canopy and re-fitting it, as this is a very fiddly piece of work and we only just got it back on in time.

Other than the seats it was time to spray some PX24 into the engine, hopefully preventing any corrosion damage whilst XS186 has to contend with her forced inactivity on the engine run side of things.

Further work on the Hydraulic rig pump, changing pipe fittings and starting the Coventry Victor engine to keep it exercised.

All in all quite a good day, but still work to do to finish off what we started today.

Nick, Paul and Trevor (hidden behind the seat) manouvre the starboard seat onto its rail, aided with perfect control on the teleporter from Andrew

18th Feb 2012

The weather was a lot kinder to us today so we actualy got the tool box open and got some proper work done!

Terry the Tug saw some real effort, with Jonty, Ralph and Howard getting her new rear window fitted, Howard also filling the cooling system, putting the battery on, and starting her up for the first time in several weeks. All went superbly well, no leaks and she sounds and runs great. Ralph was a happy tug driver!

XS186 was uncovered for the first time in what seemed like ages, and we started preparing for ejector seat installation, with Ted carrying out the last of the wiring and trim tidying, because once the seats are in there won’t be a lot of room to do that kind of work any more. Ted and Paul released the canopy rails after a bit of fiddly work, so the canopy should come off easily next week.

Jonty masked off the ejector seats and re-painted the previously worn looking seat adjustment handles, which look a million dollars now. The seats are ready to go!

Paul and Ian fed the new flap teleflex cable through the long and winding carry tube, and that too seemed to be fine, so just the bellcrank ends to fit next week and we may have a fuly working flap system!

Work continued on the Mk3A Hydraulic rig too, with Ian and Geoff making progress towards fitting the new hydraulic pump onto the rig. Not easy with all the unions being seized solid! More engineering work for Ian to turn his hand to.

All in all a very productive and rewarding day, well done to us!

Terry the Tug, now mobile again, drives off for a high speed run with Ralph at the wheel, Howard as Navigator……

11th Feb 2012

Well, this weekend made the -5.5c temperatures of last week look quite balmy…………….. it was -15c …………. No point in expecting a no show this week, as Ted noted, it’s regarded as a challenge to our dedication, and we all know who will win through on that one.

We had Howard, Ralph, Ted, Ian, myself, and even John turned up, despite a painful back complaint. The rather challenging conditions would have stopped most people at that point………… oh no, not us.

Trying to uncover XS186 was downright dangerous, so she was kept wrapped up, but the tug could be worked on. Despite the fact that any skin contact with the metalwork could have proven very nasty, we did a bit of information gathering from data plates, Kept the battery charged up,  and put what anti-freeze we had in,  following fitting of the water pump last week.

At the temperates being noted, by lunchtime it was time to wrap up and return to non life threatening surroundings. Some great photos taken by Ted though,  as his was the only camera that carried on working after more than 30 seconds outside……….

OK so it’s a bit nippy. Stopping moving was dangerous though, so we thought we may as well carry on…….

XS186 in quite beautiful, but truly arctic conditions.

4th February 2012

Weather conditions were somewhat challenging today, -5.5C and being an airfield it felt colder than that!

Nevertheless, we had Ted, Ralph, Ian, Howard, Jonty and myself turn up, just amazing guys, talk about absolute commitment !

It was not worth de-covering XS186 as we couldn’t feel our hands to do the fiddly work that is required, so we focussed on fitting our re-furbished water pump onto Terry the Tug. Even that was a challenge when your face becomes numb with cold, but we stuck to the job and by lunchtime we had the pump fitted, all the front end rebuilt and even checked out the pre-heater plugs whilst we were there.

Special thanks to Howard this week, being an ex AA man showed, and he did us proud!

By mid afternoon we started to feel the cold in parts of our bodies that we really shouldn’t feel the cold, so it was time to batten the hatches in readiness for the threatened snow storm, clean up and retire to a more civilised world. Maybe next week will be kinder.

XS186 wrapped up to protect her from the extreme conditions. The CAW (College of Air Warfare) markings are clearly recognisable

28th January 2012

Both ejector seats were given a final check over. We found some minor touch up work needs to be done to the seat raising handles before their installation on 25th February. The handles won’t be very accessible once the seats are in. Nothing is once they are in! Jonty made a start on this job and it’s looking good.

Terry the Tug had broken rear window removed by Ralph, John and Jonty. We need a replacement, and a local dealer has agreed to cut a new glass for us. This may get done in time for next week, fingers crossed. The rest of the ground equipment was given an airing and Ted took some photographs, which you can see on the ‘Ground Equipment’ page.

The elevator teleflex cable has never worked, due to the cable being broken, but we now have a suitable new length of teleflex, so the carrying tube needed a clean out. The only thing we could find was a brewery pipe cleaning brush. Myself , Ian and Howard gave it a try and it worked a treat! We now just need to thread 20 feet of cable, cut and fix the cable ends to the elevator and operating valve, and we should have a fully operating flap system, simples!

XS186 was towed around the hardstanding area, just to stop her tyres getting flat spots and to exercise the oleos and brakes. Terry the Tug is unserviceable at present so Howard did the honours with his now suitably equipped van (it has a NATO tow hitch). We didn’t count on one wheel getting stuck in the mud, which gave us a few nervous moments, and turned his lovely white van into a mud pie!  All was well though and XS186 was returned to her parking spot.

Ian, assisted by Geoff, continued to amaze with his engineering skills and turned up with a now fully serviceable hand driven rotary fuel pump, thanks to some precision engineering and new seals. The hydraulic rig moves ever closer to being compatible with XS186 thanks to new drives being manufactured from scratch !

Ted applied electrical power via the onboard batteries and all systems worked without a problem. Testament to many hard hours of work on the whole electrical  system by Ted.  Just a bit of electrical tidying in the cockpit still to do, in readiness for the seats to go in.

Peter, who lets us keep XS186 on his land for engine runs, braved the elements and kindly paid us a visit during the day to see how work was progressing. It’s always great to see Peter, as he’s such a positive and supportive influence, thanks Peter!

28 thoughts on “Work Diary

  1. Jonty says:

    Well done lads. Looks great with the seats in. I shall be back with you next week. Will need a rest after two weekends with the grandchildren. Be gentle with me. Cheers. Jonty.

  2. Jonty says:

    Glad to hear you were able to remove the teleflex cable from it’s shrouding. Shall I bring the Vaseline or will biscuits do. Did you manage to hide the blue pain?. Will be reporting back for duty Saturday come hell or high water. Shouldn’t have said that should I! FB.

    • xs186 says:

      Hi Jonty
      For a few hours afterwards it was a case of skin grafts being required!
      It will be good to have you back, we were a bit low on manpower last week, but things should be on the up again this Saturday.

  3. Jonty says:

    Great to hear that you got the teleflex cable back in today. Sorry I couldn’t be there but dont think I would have been much use today. Hope i sent my text to the right number. See you next week all being well. Jonty.

    • xs186 says:

      Thanks Jonty, it was a pretty good day, just the front end of the teleflex to fasten up and it’s done. Hopefully see you next week, and fingers crossed for similar weather!

  4. Jonty says:

    I would just like to say a huge well done to crew mates Ralph and Paul and WAGs Pauline and Lynn. It was an amazing weekend and hard work. Sticking it out through the extremes of weather was worth it. It seems that Terry will be getting his new battery soon. Nice one team. I enjoyed myself greatly, even though I ache all over and am suffering from sunburn and rust. That what It’s all about. Cheers All.

  5. Paul says:

    Thanks Jonty, it was a long hard weekend, but as you say, very satisfying, and great to know that our hard work will go directly towards building on the great work we have already done.
    By the time we have recovered it will be time to literally blow the cobwebs out and the fabulous work done at the weekend is what will allow us to do that.

  6. Jonty says:

    All I can smell is Jet fuel. Despite washing everything twice, me included. Then I realised, my work boots were behind me. Ha ha.

  7. Ted says:

    Thanks all for your sterling efforts. It was great to see, hear and feel that Viper engine burst into song again after a lean nine months, and lets not forget the AFAR guys without whom our engine runs would not happen.

  8. Jonty says:

    You trying to get your council tax reduced Paul? Haha. Well said Ted. So good to have a great team around us. It was wonderful to see and hear the old girl burst into life. Made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. A great motivator too. What rain!

  9. Jonty says:

    Will there be enough concrete to build our own runway or maybe a nice patio outside out HQ?. Well done Paul. The best scrounger in the business.

  10. Ted says:

    Just like to say a big sorry to our firefighters on the 12th, they were roasting in their gear, if it is any consilation I felt like putting a match to it by the end of the day.

  11. Jonty says:

    Thank you to all you guys for giving me the chance to be P2 for the engine run today. It was a mind blowing experience. I will never forget it. Glad we were able to do it before the fat bloke in the red suit disrupted the day. Thank you all again.

  12. Jonty says:

    Sounds like you had a really successful day. Glad you discovered the glitch. Well done chaps. Sorry I missed out on all the fun. See you all next week.

  13. Jonty. says:

    Wow chaps. What a busy two weeks you’ve had. Looking forward to being back in the fold next week. I hope you’ve left something for me to do. Have a good week all.

  14. Ted says:

    It is hard to believe that it was only at the start of 2013 that we went to look at the Portacabin, so much seems to have happened in that time.

  15. Jonty. says:

    Hi guys. Sorry I’ve missed the last two weeks. Been full of a cold so was told to behave and stay indoors. I still have no voice, some folks think this is a blessing. I’ll be back with you on Saturday. You are so right there Ted. We have come a long way in the last year. Do you think this will be reflected in our New year bonus?

  16. Ted says:

    Almost certainly Jonty, but as no one was there on the first, God only knows where it would have gone.

  17. xs186 says:

    Such a shame guys, the bonuses were laid out in crisp £10 notes in the cabin, it appears however the mice are not yet defeated, went to check yesterday and everything had gone….. still, there’s the 2014 bonus to work for……nobody said it would be easy!

  18. Jonty. says:

    Well done for getting it back Paul.

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