Re: First flight but not a Quickie
Chris Rayner <chris-rayner@...>
Hi Simon, what an awe inspiring experience! Where will you be displaying
this year? If you fancy throwing a few hundred pounds (sterling) worth of
fuel into it, you could call into Enstone for a coffee! Or maybe you'd
rather wait to do the same in the Quickie for tenth the price?
From: Q-LIST@... [mailto:Q-LIST@...] On Behalf Of
Sent: 29 June 2011 00:31
Subject: [Q-LIST] First flight but not a Quickie
I know this isn't directly Quickie related but I had a first flight today
that I thought I should share with you all. Although not a Quickie the the
aircraft is just as interesting none the less.
Today I flew a Fairey Swordfish MkII biplane for the first time. It was an
absolutely amazing experience. For those of you that have never heard of it,
it is a Second World War Torpedo Bomber that saw action with the Royal Navy
at the Battle of Taranto and helped sink the Bismarck during the Battle of
the Atlantic. It was also involved in many other actions during the Second
World War. The example I flew today actually took part in the Battle of the
Atlantic in 1943. It is unique in that it is currently the only airworthy
Swordfish in the world and it is still owned and operated by the Royal Navy
and flown on the military register to military regulations, more details can
be found at http://www.royalnavyhistoricflight.org.uk there is also some
info on wiki about the Swordfish.
The Swordfish is a rather large aircraft when you get up close to it and is
only marginally smaller than an Antonov AN-2 biplane. It has a single set of
controls in the pilot's cockpit as the rear cockpits were for an Observer
and a Telgraphist Air Gunner. The three cockpits are open to the elements
and it gets rather windy and noisy particularly the rear cockpits. The
conversion to type is fairly unique in that your first sortie involves
standing in the rear cockpit looking over the shoulder of a pilot
experienced on type. He demonstrates a take off, a few general handling
manoeuvres and a landing. He then taxis in and keeping the engine running we
swap cockpits, then I fly the same profile he has just shown me with him
looking over my shoulder although I should do a few more circuits when we
return to the field.
The Swordfish has a 750hp Bristol Pegasus radial engine on the front and
weighs around 7600lb. It is a fairly draggy beast and burns about 40
imperial gallons of AVGAS per hour at 90kt. (I'll never complain about fuel
burn again in anything else I fly!)
She is pretty docile for such a big tail dragger and leaps off the runway at
about 60kt. Climb is a rather sedate 70kt doing around 500fpm. Despite being
so big the controls are pretty light but does require fairly large bootfuls
of rudder to maintain balance in turns. She is very manoeuvrable and will
turn on a sixpence, the roll rate is surprisingly spritely for such a large
aircraft. As you fly along you can see the valve gear and springs tapping
away on the cylinder heads in front of you, a sight to behold especially if
you love mechanical things.
Unfortunately I had to cut the sortie short due to the oil pressure being
abnormally low as we levelled off and I elected to return to the field,
discretion being the better part of valour and all that! It turned out to be
an air bubble in the capillary to the oil gauge thankfully.
I rejoined the field and set up for my first landing. A fairly daunting
prospect when you are flying the only currently airworthy example of type in
the world (it's not your common as muck Mustang or Spitfire you know)!
The landing was fairly straight forward and I had a 12kt crosswind 50
degrees off the runway. I set it up for a tail down wheeler and managed
grease her onto the runway first time. The landing was a none event,
although you do have to get used being sat with your eyeline about 10ft off
Taxying is the most difficult aspect about operating a Swordfish especially
when there is a bit of wind to contend with. She has a large side area and
likes to weather cock when taxying crosswind. The tailwheel is free
castoring and the brakes are pneumatic. The pneumatic brakes inflate a
bladder that the brake pads are attached to, this then expands against the
brake drum giving you braking action. The brake lever is on the spade grip
of the control column and is differential when you move the rudder bar in
the appropriate direction. The problem with pneumatic brakes are that they
expend air faster than it is replenished by the engine driven compressor,
especially when taxying at low RPM so you run out of brake pressure very
quickly in windy conditions. You also have to anticipate the brakes as there
is lag in the system as the pressure builds and dissipates after you operate
the brake lever.
Overall it has been a privilege as a serving Naval Aviator to fly such an
historic and iconic aircraft, particularly one with genuine WW2 combat
provenance. It was an awe inspiring experience and I look forward to
displaying the Swordfish to the British public at airshows around the UK
this summer. As I write this and reflect on my first sortie I can't believe
how lucky I am to fly this wonderful machine.
On the Quickie front I hope to have my Q2 flying in August again and that is
another unique taildragger I can't wait to fly!
All the best.