Combat Veteran Lancaster not saved

Lancaster KB882


In a previous blog post I reported that combat veteran Lancaster KB882 was about to move from Edmunston, NB to Edmonton, AB for restoration.  One of my colleagues showed me a note today which reported two significant facts.  First, that the gofundme campaign had failed to meet its goal by a wide margin. As a result the move to Alberta is canceled.   Secondly, an Australian warbird enthusiast and entrepreneur is seeking to ship the Lancaster from Canada to Australia for restoration.  The theme he is adopting is that KB882 has been neglected and ignored by the Canadian government and is about to fall apart.

There is a little bit of wheeler dealing going on here since in one breath the Australian group are saying that KB882 is falling apart and in another they say it’s a viable project for return to flight status.   Whatever the reality is, it’s clear that the warbird community world-wide will be sitting up and taking notice of this.

I didn’t mention this before, but latest reports say KB882 flew 11 sorties with 428 (Ghost) Squadron RCAF from RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham.  Middleton St. George  is now Teeside International Airport.


47 Years Ago

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon - 21 July 1969

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the Moon – 21 July 1969

This is a slightly different view of an iconic picture – here’s why it may look a little different from the view to which we have become accustomed.

This is the actual photograph as exposed on the moon by Armstrong. He held the camera slightly rotated so that the camera frame did not include the top of Aldrin’s portable life support system (“backpack”). A communications antenna mounted on top of the backpack is also cut off in this picture. When the image was released to the public, it was rotated clockwise to restore the astronaut to vertical for a more harmonious composition, and a black area was added above his head to recreate the missing black lunar “sky”. The edited version is the one most commonly reproduced and known to the public, but the original version, above, is the authentic exposure.   (NASA / Wikipedia)


Those were the days.  I was looking at a picture the other day of N70700,  the prototype Boeing 707 (or more properly the Boeing 367-80 Stratoliner) which flew around this date in 1954. I started wondering about VC10s.  I remember seeing them around and about during my travels and indeed they served BOAC / British Airways until 1981. I always remember thinking how graceful they were.  I also have a vague memory of a Dr. Who story which involved VC10s or an airport, or both, in some way. I must confess I was watching it from the hallway so I don’t remember all the details.

There is one association that many Brits will have with the VC-10 and that’s mostly because of this bloke. If there was anyone you wanted to see jetting around the world in the First-Class compartment of a VC10 it was the late,  great Alan Whicker   (1921 – 2013).  He may have had an amazing title image for the series in the 1980s standing beside a runway as a British Airways Concorde took off (and all without ear defenders) but for me the VC10 is a symbol of British sophistication and grace in the air during my impressionable youth.

Alan Whicker, circa 1960 (BBC)

Alan Whicker, circa 1960 (BBC)

Opening Titles from Whicker’s World in the 1960s.
That undercarriage and the rear-mounted engines are saying VC10 to me. (BBC)

The VC10 was designed to operate on long-distance routes from the shorter runways of the era and especially was designed to maximise hot and high performance for operations from African airports. Allegedly a VC10 still holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a subsonic jet airliner at a shade over 5 hours.   I’m also fascinated to read in Wikipedia that the original plan for the Super VC10 involved lengthening the fuselage by 28 feet, although after some worries over production schedules this was cut to around 13 feet.

BOAC  “Standard” VC10 G-ARVF at London Heathrow (LHR), March 6th, 1964.
Photo by Ken Fielding/
CC BY-SA 3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons

And while I’m here, some rather charming YouTube footage from 1968. The second commercial, as  the comments suggest, seems to be fascinated by the main undercarriage of the VC10.  Who am I to complain?

The politics of the VC-10, the Boeing 707 and the intervention of the British government in aircraft production are fairly well summarized in the Wikipedia article on the VC10 so I won’t go into any of that here.

On  the lighter side, a couple of pictures of the lowest known pass by a VC10 at a UK airshow – G-ARVM appearing at the 1977 Silver Jubilee air show on 14-15 May at White Waltham airfield in Berkshire. – go to the Memories page.

Another footnote which I feel requires inclusion is this BBC News website article from May 2016 reporting that a collection of Alan Whicker’s personal papers had been  donated to the British Film Institute’s National Archive.


Sooner than I thought

So it looks as if Doc’s first flight ought to take place on Sunday July 17th 2016.  I wish them every success.

Doc’s restoration team performed engine runs and tests the week of July 4 in final preparation for first flight. (B-29 Doc Website)

“Doc” – Getting Closer

Boeing B-29-70-BW Superfortress 44-69972 "Doc"

Boeing B-29-70-BW Superfortress 44-69972 “Doc” runs its engines for the first time in many years in Wichita, Kansas in September 2015. (Screen Grab from livestream)

While I’m in the midst of describing things B-29 it would be remiss of me not to mention a B-29 that lives about 200 miles from me and which may be returning to the skies in the near future.   This is Boeing B-29-70-BW Superfortress  44-69972 “Doc” which has been under restoration to flying status for a number of years by a team of volunteers and Boeing veterans for many years.  In June 2015 when I went to visit the Kansas Aviation Museum I could see Doc’s highly polished metalwork gleaming from quite a distance away.   Back in September I witnessed (remotely) its engines running for the first time in many years.  More recently we hear that the FAA has granted a special airworthiness certificate to the venerable machine – see the story about it here.

Even better,  the Department of Defense has approved use of a “non-joint-use runway”  next door at McConnell AFB for ground testing and the first flight.  I look forward to this with some anticipation.

Read more about Doc’s story at his website.


After lunch today I wanted to watch something while I digested the pork ribs, bratwurst, coleslaw, baked beans and all the other trimmings of the household Fourth of July celebration.

I pulled out a DVD, not exactly at random. It was Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (or how I flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes) which I first saw in the cinema with my parents at the very start of my aviation craze.   There were always a couple of aircraft in that movie which never failed to get my attention – the Bristol Boxkite (apparently masquerading as a Curtiss)  and the rather lovely Demoiselle flown by the french entrant (played by Jean-Pierre Cassel)  in the fictional London – Paris air race.

I have to say I never realized until now that this rather lovely machine was not a figment of someone’s imagination – it was a real contemporary design by none other than Alberto Santos-Dumont.  That explains quite a lot really.

Santos Dumont Demoiselle (via Wikimedia Commons)

Santos-Dumont Demoiselle (via Wikimedia Commons)

It has the characteristics of an ultralight with a certain turn-of-the-century charm you associate with Santos-Dumont designs.    There seem to be a number of replicas around the world, and happily an original is preserved at the Musée de l’air et de l’espace at Le Bourget, France.   I find the wing-mounted radiators for the flat twin Darracq engine rather interesting.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

Alberto Santos-Dumont “Demoiselle” n° 21 (1909)
Flat-twin water-cooled Darracq 30 HP engine
Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace Paris/Le Bourget (France)Via Wikimedia Commons
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