Straight & Level 19 February


Camels.jpg“Being stuck back here in dromedary class is really giving me the hump.” Our sympathies for the chap with the bucket and mop at the end of this Il-76 flight


Iconic Cold War engine for sale

Thanks to a lucky reprieve by a scrap metal merchant some 45 years ago, you can now buy the prototype of one of the most illustrious jet engines in British aviation history on eBay. That is, if you can spare $165,000.

That’s the minimum price set by Jet Art Aviation for a truly rare artefact – the original prototype of the Bristol Siddeley Olympus 22R Mk.320, which powered the short-lived British Aircraft Corporation TSR2 and was the forerunner of the engine that propelled the supersonic Concorde.

Chris Wilson, managing director of Jet Art, says the engine was rediscovered sitting on a farm in England. The owner had run a scrapping business in the 1960s, and was given a load of several engines to grind into recycled metal, a task he fortunately decided didn’t deserve his usual diligence. “He said, ‘I’m going to keep one,’” Wilson notes.

By luck, the scrapper happened to pick the TSR2′s prototype engine, serial number 1, to spare from the grinder.

The discovery of such a rare find raised questions about how to price it. Jet Art’s insurance firm refused to set a value on it, Wilson says, arguing the object is, by definition, “irreplaceable”.

Perhaps fittingly, Wilson established the price based on its scrap value.

The Olympus prototype fits into a niche market for rare aviation objects. Asked who would be a likely buyer, Wilson says it is “more likely private individuals”.

“It’s an investment really for somebody,” he adds. “Items like this generally go up in value. Money is probably safer in a rare jet engine than a bank.”


Olympus 320 engine (1).JPGNose for it

After 5,000 flights, Rockwell Collins has donated its North American Sabreliner 50 test aircraft to Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The 1964 twinjet (N50CR), was bought by Collins in 1976 and used to test many avionics programmes over the years.

Among the distinctive features added by Rockwell Collins is a large nose radome to house airborne weather radar.


Not plane sailing

Boeing isn’t the only airframer plagued by a grounding problem, after the ship which conveys Airbus A380 wings from the UK to France slipped her lines on 30 January.

Calls about the Ciudad de Cadiz prompted an enigmatic admission, in Toulousian yuckspeak, that there was an “issue about its sailability” – to do with the fact that the water holding her up had clocked off from buoyancy duty leaving her perched on a sandbank.

This handed Airbus a problem of the utmost gravity. The gravity in question being the stuff which governs the tides and is one of the few things that Airbus can’t deliver on demand. So it’s had to bow to the lunar cycle and wait for high water to sort things out.


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