How aviation began

Bleriot in hangar.JPG

The Wrights may have been first with their Flyer, but the original doesn’t still fly. This Bleriot monoplane, powered by its original Anzani engine, seen here in the Shuttleworth Trust hangar at Old Warden aerodrome, Bedfordshire, still does.

Mind you the Bleriot – and all the other treasures there – are only wheeled out under ideal conditions, which means virtually calm air on balmy summer evenings.

When I was there yesterday the breeze was too high for the Edwardian aeroplanes to fly safely, and also for the crop of First World War “kites” to venture into the air, but read on for a touch of what Shuttleworth did show off…

Westland Lysander take-off run.JPG…like the Westland Lysander, here bouncing along Old Warden’s grass on its take-off run.

Because of the stiff breeze and thermal turbulence we have had to move into the 1930s for machines with a sufficiently beefy airframe and engine. Like the Hawkers Hind and Demon, for example…
Hawkers Hart and Demon.JPGYou can see the Hurricane presaged in the fuselage shape, and hear the Merlin developing in the the Rolls-Royce Kestrel engines.

But aeroplanes are not the whole story at Shuttleworth. If it’s motor transport, if it’s old, if it can still be made to work, it’s here…

Hillman Minx at Shuttleworth.JPGRemember the Hillman Minx? No? Probably not. Here (above) with “blackout” covers fitted to the headlamps. How the hell could the driver navigate around the airfield at night with those?

BSA dispatch bike.JPG…a wartime BSA dispatch motorbike with a host of other much older goodies…

…and going back into the realms of Horseless Carriages, here’s the starter for this machine: it’s the mechanic. He has to spin the flywheel by hand and hope it fires up before too many spins flood the carb…
To start, spin flywheel.JPGI think it’s an early Peugeot. Here’s a better look a what makes it tick…
Peugeot horseless carriage.JPGReminiscent of a steam engine in the sum of its parts?…but no, this is an internal combustion engine, and it still works.

Back to aviation: the sound of the wind in the wires…lots of wires…

Bristol boxkite in hangar.JPGThe Bristol Boxkite.

Shuttleworth is amazing. It’s not a museum. It’s touchy-feely. You can smell the partially burned low-octane avgas. You can hear it working, see it flying.

Thanks again Tim Brymer and Clyde and Co for making this annual pilgrimage to Old Warden such a delight.

One Response to How aviation began

  1. David Connolly 19 August, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    “Hillman Minx” ?…I only know Saucy Minx, the breezy meteorologist with the warm front, that always lowers my strata-Q minimums on base leg. Cavo-Clearly, I must get out and up more.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=IijUSl-SJfM&NR=1