Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Chipmunk has its 'Annual'

Every year aeroplanes have to have a major service, called the 'Annual'. Every third year, it's a mega service called the 'Star Annual' (which used to be known as the 'C of A', or Certificate of Airworthiness check). Our Chipmunk has her Annual in February every year; it is done by Ravenair Engineering at Barton airfield near Manchester, where the aeroplane was based from the birth of our Group in 1979 until a few years ago. So the engineers at Barton know the aeroplane well, which is why she goes there for the Annual.

It was a lovely day today, so I decided to ride to Barton on the Bonnie to see how the Chippy was getting on.

As ever, please click on an image twice to see it full size.

My Bonneville at Barton today, outside the club house

The Chipmunk on jacks in the Barton hangar

The undercarriage legs have been removed so the mountings can be x-rayed for cracks, as they have to be every year

The Gipsy Major engine, 4-cylinder air-cooled, inverted, 145 bhp at 2,000 rpm from just over 6 litres!

Jacks support the front end, while a trestle holds up the tail

Tail cone removed, revealing the two tailplane struts which brace the trailing edge of the tailplane to the rear bulkhead. These also have to be x-rayed after a set time in service as they can corrode internally, and failure of a strut would be fatal for the occupants of the aeroplane. Note also the tail wheel suspension arm between the struts, also braced to the rear bulkhead

The left hand flap removed for checking

Right hand side of the engine. carburetor and intake manifold in black, exhaust pipe at the bottom, silver-painted oil tank bottom left, right hand magneto between that tank and the engine, starter motor above the oil tank

Our Chippy wasn't the only interesting aeroplane in the maintenance hangar. In the other back corner was this lovely Tiger Moth

In Barton's main hangar, next to the maintenance hangar, a twin turbine engined Sikorsky S76C helicopter belonging to Peel Holdings was parked until its permanent home over by the Police Helicopter base is completed

Here's a bit of Barton history! This Cessna 150 used to be on the Lancashire Aero Club fleet back in 1978, when it took me on my first solo flight. It has been privately owned for many years and has always lived at Barton

This Miles Gemini was hidden away at the back of the main hangar, behind some microlights. This aeroplane, too, is no stranger to Barton but has lived elsewhere most of its life

Over in the Harbit Hangar was this other Barton resident, a Pitts S2B. This aeroplane used to be owned by airshow display pilot Brian Lecomber. Brian wanted to leave the fuselage sides clear of the aircraft's registration so his sponsor's name could be applied there (Dunlop Tyres). But the Civil Aviation Authority insisted he use full size characters to display the registration. However, they said nothing about the spacing between the letters so Brian registered it G-IIII which, with minimal spacing, fitted onto the tail!

It was a lovely sunny day today, the first this year when it was warm enough to sit outside in shirt sleeves. So I enjoyed an al fresco bacon butty and cup of tea at one of the garden tables outside the Barton clubhouse and had an interesting natter to some old Bartonians!

It was sad to see the airfield so quiet on such a fabulous day; years ago it would have been buzzing! But that was when Lancs Aero Club held the lease; today it is owned by property giant Peel Holdings. Increased costs and ever-growing restrictions over the decades have taken their toll on UK GA. We old gits agreed that we were the lucky ones - we enjoyed GA in the glory days of the 70s, 80s, and 90s when Barton was our playground, nannyism and 'elfin safety' were pretty much non existent and costs, especially fuel, were far lower.

There's still a lot of fun to be had in flying; but it won't be on Barton's hallowed turf. The future is in modern technology; composite structures and up to date engine technology, and operating out of farmers' fields.

However, those modern designs are light and therefore not stressed for aerobatics. And they can be a bit bland. So maybe while the boring and expensive-to-run old US iron, the Cessnas and the Piper Cherokees, die off there will still be folk aerobatting Chippys and Tiger Moths.

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