I’ve been on the road with work and haven’t had much stick time the past two weeks, and after tomorrow I have a house full of kids and grandkids for two more weeks, so I’ll have to make up an excuse for my pilot. I’ll fly some catch-up missions, but I fear he will be late getting to France.
MFair, Good Jericho story. We’ll be seeing you in the new year in France! 77_Scout, hope Aleck has a good voyage and journey to St-Omer. Fullofit, that was a great vignette with Dr. Girard-Mangin. You’ll have to remind Gaston that he’s married, but I’m not 100% sure it will make a difference. Maeran, terrific opening to the saga of Stanley, but then you’ve always excelled at this stuff! Mortuus, I am enjoying the beginning – especially since I found my battered copy of “Three Cheers for Me” by Donald Jack. Keep up the good work. Carrick, I’m glad you’ve been keeping the thread occupied through the pre-Christmas rush. Loftyc, I don’t recall that issue with the Aviatik, but it’s been a long time. Lou, Good job on the dead-stick landing. And I love the Norse lesson! And Wulfe, great description of Campbell witnessing his first crash. An Airman’s Odyssey – by James Arthur Collins Part Six: In which I meet a farmer and fly about in a defective machine.
The BE I flew this week, 2343, was past its prime. So said the Technical Sergeant, and so say all of us. I believe I wore it out on the 7th with a long flight. I was to fly for two hours, making a landing in an open field and returning to Netheravon. I decided to head towards London. Flying directly over the city was forbidden, but I thought I might see Windsor Castle and perhaps put down for tea and scones with His Majesty. The wind, however, had other plans and after an hour I was still only approaching Bracknell. Still, the area offered wide open farmland and I selected a large fallow field devoid of telegraph wires, poplars, and other protuberances, and settled the machine down gently. As I bounced merrily to the downwind edge of the field for takeoff, an older fellow on a motorcycle raced over the grass towards me. Dismounting, he came over to my aircraft and deftly climbed up onto the wing-root.
“Turn off that damned fan,” he shouted and I obliged, suddenly fearful I’d broken some law. “Wonderful piece of kit, this,” he said, patting the front of the cockpit rim.
“I hope you don’t mind my landing here,” I began. “You see, my orders...”
“#%&*$# the orders, man. That was a lovely landing. I intend to take my ticket myself.” Good God. The man was eighty if a day. “I don’t think the flying corps would take me, though. Come, you must have some tea.”
It was freezing and I was tempted and he insisted further and mentioned brandy and I’m a weak man. So it was I spent a wonderful hour with Mr. Sumner, who owned the large farm on which I’d landed. He was a wonderfully interesting fellow with a great fondness for things technical and he asked me enough about my machine to have me worrying he was a German spy. At length he drove me back to the BE in a wagon, together with a farmhand whom I taught to pull on the prop. Having successfully restarted without killing anyone, I took off and headed home, working on my story for Mr. Thomas, our instructor. The day ended with congratulations from Thomas and the Technical Sergeant on diagnosing a faulty sparking plug and successfully replacing it in the field.
Over the next several days I was to practice dead-stick landings. On the first day I took off into a clear sky, turned south and climbed to just over 2500 feet when the motor quit completely and would not restart. I put the nose down and turned gingerly back to the field but came up short, narrowly missing a fence and a line of chestnut trees.
All was made right in the morning, so I again took off in 2343, looping around far to the south to approach the field from the east. But just before reaching 6000 feet, the Renault died again, this time filling the cockpit with the smell of petrol. I sideslipped immediately to lose altitude and cool the engine, using a technique Jericho had discussed a couple of nights before. I pancaked clumsily onto the aerodrome and was told I still needed two decent landings.
So on the 10th I tried again, by now overly nervous. I came over the field high up, just east of my intended spot. Thinking I had lots of time I spiralled to the east and ended up too far away. Twice I nearly stalled and in the end I flopped the machine short of the mown field, breaking the left side wing spar. Captain Hampton-Lewis tore a strip off me for being a bloody fool and a rotten pilot and threatened to send me back – but came up short when he remembered I hadn’t transferred from the Army.
Finally on the 11th I managed a perfect landing, rolling right up to my intended spot on the field, and I the afternoon I repeated the show.
Starting the glide
Next day it was a free flight with orders to try tight turns but to avoid playing “silly bugger” with the machine. Aerobatics was frowned upon, but we were all keen to try our hands. Swany had discussed spins over dinner one evening. Our machines were the C type, which had a tail fin as opposed to the B type with only a rudder. C type machines were harder to spin. There were those who swore that spins were nearly always unrecoverable, but Thomas had suggested that one had merely to put the nose down, hold everything central, and pray. Oh, and avoid DH2s and Moranes like the plague.
So I climbed to 5000 feet over Salisbury and turned north. After entering a shallow dive to gain speed, I zoomed until I lost all airspeed and then gave full right rudder. The machine fell over and began to turn like a leaf caught in a whirlpool. Before I lost my senses due to the motion I pushed the stick hard forward. Almost at once the BE fell out of the spin and I regained control. I tried the manoeuvre twice more. Spins seemed like child’s play. I thought momentarily of trying a loop, but the lumbering aircraft dissuaded me and I returned to Netheravon content for the moment.