Barnes Wallis’s Cold War fridge
Brooklands, that fine museum on the grounds of the old racetrack and aircraft factory, has unveiled the restored Stratosphere Chamber, built back in 1946 as part of Sir Barnes Wallis’s research and development department at Vickers.
The 15.2m-long atmospheric lab, designed to test aircraft at high altitudes and extreme temperatures, had been in a state of decline since its closure in 1980. However, it has been restored to as close as its original state as possible, with the help of a grant from the Association of Independent Museums.
Constructed by Vickers Shipbuilders, its purpose was to test components under the conditions prevailing at 70,000ft (21,300m) – the height at which Wallis’s planned supersonic jets would fly. However, much of the work carried out was on pressure cabins for post-war passenger transports, including the Viscount, Vanguard and VC10. Complete aircraft – including the Scimitar and Sea Vixen, as well as helicopters, naval guns and trawlers – were also tested there.
The chamber was reopened on 13 March by the inventor’s daughter, Mary Stopes-Roe, and visitors are now able to see all areas surrounding the structure, including its elevated control room and refrigeration/vacuum plant room.
Museum director Allan Winn – formerly of this parish – says the exhibition is a “wonderful tribute” to volunteers, staff and contractors who completed the restoration, “but also to Barnes Wallis and his team, who created and utilised this extraordinary chamber”.
Hot on the heels of India’s decision to nix its deal for 12 AgustaWestland AW101 VVIP helicopters on corruption grounds, helicopter makers are already eyeing a future opportunity to ferry the country’s leaders about. At the recent India Aviation show, Sikorsky showed a model of its VVIP-equipped S-92 – helpfully labelled with an Indian flag – while local airframer Hindustan Aeronautics had a model of a proposed VIP variant of its Dhruv helicopter. When somebody pointed out that the Dhruv is much smaller than the AW101, a HAL official quipped that several Dhruvs can be had for the price of one AW101.
Never mind bird strikes – fish strikes are the latest hazard for aviation, according to a report in Associated Press.
A Tampa-based Gulfstream GIV flown by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was nearing rotation when the crew saw an osprey with something in its claws fly in front of the aircraft.
They next heard a thud and aborted take-off. When inspectors arrived, instead of finding feathers and pieces of osprey, they instead discovered its prey – a sheepshead, a 25cm silver fish. It is believed the bird had been sitting on the runway, about to enjoy its lunch, when it saw the Gulfstream heading towards it.
The osprey made it out of the way, but dropped its meal into the path of the jet.
What’s my line?
From the aptly-named files: what better choice for the president of Canada’s newly-opened Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence in Alma, Quebec, than Mr Pascal Pilote?
A candid comment from David McMillan, former top man at Eurocontrol: “Watching European ATM developments can make geology look like Formula 1.”
From Twitter, an overheard conversation between cabin crew and a passenger boarding a Delta flight: “What kind of plane is this?”; “757”; “Good, I didn’t want to be on that missing 777”.