Saturday saw our Dakota taxi testing out on the wide expanses of Elvington airfield. A relatively low key event, the day was planned to test further the reliability of the Wasp engines following our winter overhaul work. It’s one thing to be running stationary on a Thunder day, but another altogether to have her taxiing under her own steam for the first time in quite a while.
Our Devon has also been showing promise, so our volunteer engineering team decided to run her too. Sadly, she reverted back to her old habits, with fuelling issues returning unexpectedly, despite behaving perfectly at the recent Thunder day!
The tests went very well. While the Dakota is still not quite perfect, it did highlight the few remaining faults, mainlŷ ignition related. Just like old racing cars, it’s only when you run these old engines for real that the truth is known. With us for the day to train our staff on handling techniques was Dakota pilot and engineer Mark Edwards. Mark proved invaluable, his Dakota flying experience allowed us to quickly track down elusive symptoms and using his experience, the team identified the remaining snags.
Joining us mid afternoon was a pretty Piper Cub, complete with period D Day invasion stripes. The three old aircraft made quite a picturesque sight sitting in the Yorkshire sunshine.
It was great to see the old Dakota moving under her own steam, not resting against the chocks as the engines ran up. On the second run, Mark, with Andre Tempest in the co pilot seat and Graham Sharpe on board as engineer, ventured gently out onto the runway, the vast length of Elvington’s tarmac before them. A gentle run along part of it was a nice bonus after the hard work over winter.
Several visitors asked why we were doing this. Quite simply, just like old classic cars, these aircraft can suffer from ‘standing-itis’. Long periods of inactivity can develop faults, even on modern military jets. The more frequently they run, the more reliable these old aircraft actuallŷ become.
It’s hoped that by running the Dakota and others regularly we will help keep them fit. And as they enjoy the excercise, so more visitors will be able to enjoy the sight and sound of these big radial engines.
The inevitable question was also, “will we ever carrŷ passengers?” That’s something that has a whole list of hurdles to overcome in this modern age, perhaps a discussion for another time.
The final query was, “what happened to the BBMF?” Well, their Dakota decided that it would go unserviceable on Saturday. Proof that perhaps even a team of Royal Air Force engineers can’t make these old ladies run if they don’t want to…. The consolation prize, however, was a Spitfire flyby late in the afternoon. A Merlin is always a nice way to finish the day.