Sunday, 13 July 2014

Family Fun Day, Barton

Once again, the weekend weather has been kind to us. Yesterday I was rostered signalman in Consall 'box on the Churnet Valley Railway for the Real Ale Weekend, where I had a track circuit failure which meant Howard (my main mentor during training in the box) had to trek down to the motorised point to hand-crank it (the interlocking would not let me change it from the box as it thought there was a train in the section due the faulty track circuit). Later, the fault cleared. No doubt it will recur unless S&T (Signal & Telegraph) find the cause..

But today,  Malc and I fired up the little bikes for a day out at the City Airport (AKA Barton) Fun Day.

I was on my trusty Honda C90 and Malc on his Yamaha Townmate. We went the pretty way via Ashley, Dunham, and the Warburton High Level Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal. On previous outings we had noted a 'fireless' steam locomotive displayed beside the Cadishead bypass and this morning we stopped to have a look at it.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The fireless locomotive at Cadishead

During its existence, the Co-operative Society Soap, Candle, and Starch Works possessed several Steam Locomotives built by Pecketts of Bristol. When the Co-Op works closed in 1968 only one of these locomotives remained. This was an unusual 'Fireless' type, works number 2155, which was originally acquired in 1955 from Pecketts. The loco was used for shunting in and around the works, its boiler (or more correctly, its 'reservoir'), being pumped up with high-pressure steam from a boiler within the factory. It ceased work in the 1960s and when the works closed it was at first placed in a local recreation ground, and later moved to its present location.

After a good look around the locomotive, we continued to Barton Airfield (today known officially as Manchester City Airport, though it will always be 'Barton' to those of us for whom it was our aviation playground from the 1970s onward). I learned to fly there with Lancashire Aero Club in the late '70s and subsequently flew from there for many years.

One of the beauties of the little bikes is that you can whizz past queues of cars and park them close to where you want to be, whereas the cars get marshalled to distant parking areas. We locked them up behind the airport museum and went exploring. I met many folk I'd not seen for ages, not all of whose names I could recall! But one I did know was fellow Concorde guide and professor of Aeronautics at Salford University Thurai; always an interesting chap with his insight of aerodynamics and his curiosity about how aeroplanes are flown. We examined a flexwing microlight aircraft, an R22 helicopter, and had a look around the airfield museum (among the exhibits were some pictures of me and our group-owned Chipmunk that was based here for many decades).

We'd brought our 'snap' in the top boxes of the bikes, and soon it was time for lunch. But where to sit? The airfield was crowded and all available seating was occupied. But Lancashire Aero Club came to our aid! On recognising me, Cliff Mort, club chairman, invited us to sit at the LAC stand.

Cliff Mort, Chairman of Lancashire Aero Club (the oldest flying club in the world and the one that taught me to fly) invited us to sit at the LAC stand to eat our lunchtime sandwiches. In the picture above, Cliff and Chris Barham (former editor of 'Trim Tab', newsletter replacement for 'The Elevator' - the LAC newsletter known to members as 'The Everlater' due to its often delayed publication date) sit opposite Malc. Later, ex-Concorde guide and Barton PPL Vic joined us. Vic is now an active support volunteer for the local Air Ambulance helicopter.

After lunch we had a walk around the site including up to the control tower balcony for a view over the airfield.

The fine weather has brought the crowds; a view from the tower balcony

Looking out across the airfield from the balcony

....And a view back the other way towards the hangars. The Luscombe and the Moraine Saulnier that I  saw at Manchester Airport last weekend are on the apron.

Bucker jungmann, and Pitts S2A

Extra, and Pitts S2A

This autogyro later gave a spirited display. The Barton control tower is the oldest existing such building anywhere.

This is a nice toy - another view of the S2A

The Extra has more power than the S2A, but we preferred the latter's display. Both were quite excellent, however - not easy to choose between them!

This brought back memories; Yak 52 and Yak 50 of the 'Aerostars' aerobatic team, who left to display at the Wilmslow Show, returning later to Barton. I used to fly and part-own a Yak 52 at Barton for a few years some time ago. It was a very capable aeroplane of phenomenal performance; the experience of flying and aerobatting it are something I treasure.

The two Vans RV8s of the 'RV8ors' aerobatic team

The Pitts S2A in knife-edge flight. Surprisingly little rudder is required for this.

The Extra taxis in after his display

The autogyro display was good. The rotor on these aircraft is not powered, but 'autorotates' due the aircaraft's forward speed. Two things are vital with autogyros - maintaining rotor RPM by keeping the rotor 'loaded', and avoiding low 'G' . 'G' loading must never, ever, be negative as that unloads the rotor so slows it, but worse it flexes it downwards so it can hit the tail. Autogyros do have a horrendous accident record, but exponents such as Ken Wallace ( link to Ken Walliswho has built and flown them for decades show that correctly flown, they are quite safe.

'The Old Buckers', two Bucker Jungmanns fly their pleasantly relaxed display of close formation gentle aviating, reminicent of the 1930s. One of the aeroplanes is flown by Peter Gaskell, who was in our Chipmunk group for many years and who I have flown with many times.

The RAF's Battle of Britaim Memorial Flight's Dakota displays. This aeroplane was also due to put in an appearance at the Wilmslow Show today, but didn't. Maybe Manchester Air Traffic Control were busy and the Dak didn't have the time in its schedule to accommodate the resultant delay to get a clearance overhead the airport to get across to Wilmslow from Barton.

A Yak 52 on Barton's hallowed turf. This was me many years ago taxying in after another exhilarating flight, except that this is 2014 not 1998 and this is one of the Aerostar Yaks. It has a 3-bladed propeller, whereas ours had a massive 2-blade wide-chord 'paddle' propeller, original fit on Yak 52s

Our Yak52, G-BWVR over Belmont many years ago

 Victor Romeo's front cockpit. The lever with the white handle is a hand rudder control; John Askew, who formed the group, was a paraplegic. Didn't stop him winning the UK Aerobatic Championship at standard level in this aeroplane, though.

Team-mate Aerostar, the Yak 50. A single seat taildragger with the same Vendeneyev 9-cylinder supercharged, geared, radial engine as the '52, of 360 hp. Sounds glorious (from outside; from the cockpit it sound like a washing machine full of spanners).

What a fabulous day! Far better than I expected, and reminiscent of Barton airshows of years ago. Well done City Airport!

We headed home on the little bikes avoiding the exit queue of cars from the airfield, riding straight out past them all (they really are wonderful, these 'Steppers' [step-throughs] as we call them). It only remained to finish off the afternoon with a nice pint of Sam Smiths bitter at the Bird in Hand at Knolls Green on the way home!


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