For the first Air Show appearance of the season for Huey 509 we went north of the border.
(Arrival of Huey 509 at Perth – photo courtesy of James Simpson)
Gill Howie and Berry Vissers, of Squadron Print fame on a visit to Huey 509 whilst in the Wesham area were telling Phil and Becky about the 'Heart of Scotland Air Show' at Perth. Gill and Berry were part of the Organising Team for this event and asked if Phil would be able to take Huey 509 there. It’s been a while since Huey 509 breathed Scottish air and Gill and Berry have been great supporters of the Huey since her arrival in this country back in 2005 so plans were made! The air show is in its infancy and so the team felt it was the least we could do to show support for such an event.
It was decided that 509 would fly up but she would be supported with the motorhome and shop. A request was put out for crew for the weekend and Keith Thomas volunteered to do the fly 509 up to Perth and fly the displays. Phil would fly with Keith in the left hand seat and then co-ordinate everything on the ground for the arrival of the motorhome driven by me. Jo and Nina who had volunteered to keep me company on the five and a half hour journey.
Phil and Keith lifted shortly after two o'clock. Phil and Jo had already loaded everything into the motorhome that we needed for the weekend and also attached the Smart car with the 'A' bar to the back of the motorhome so in no time we were on the road. We hit very heavy traffic northbound on the M6, not the best start to our journey, and stayed with heavy traffic way up beyond Lancaster so our journey time just got longer and longer. We stopped off at Southwaite services just south of Carlisle to refuel the motorhome knowing that we could then head off without the need to stop again.
By this time the traffic had thinned out considerably so the driving was much easier. Onto the A74(M) we headed to pick up the M73 just before Glasgow. Here progress was slowed due to extensive road works which continued for some miles. Up to Dunblane and onwards past the impressive Sterling Castle. The countryside around us was stunning, but we could imagine what it would be like in the depth of winter.
At around seven forty five we turned into the entrance to Perth airport and saw Phil waiting to direct us. Before we could park up for the night we had to wait for the arrival of a Pitts special. Once it was in position we moved the motorhome to its pitch for the night. Once parked up we sorted ourselves out and sat down for a bite to eat and a well earned drink.
Friday had been warm and sunny all day and looked pretty much the same when we arose on Saturday morning. Phil and I went off in the Smart to recce the layout of the flight line, parking and other attractions. We found an ideal pitch at the centre of the flight line close to the commentary point and VIP tent. Phil dropped me back at the motorhome and beetled back to park in the spot we going to use.
Must to the consternation of Jo and Nina I upped sticks and set off at a snails pace over to Phil.
We parked up and the challenge to erect the awning began. Phil took the lead and directed in the art of putting together the frame and the sliding in of the side and front wall. In a short while everything was in place and the girls started to put out the shop stock. Whilst we were doing this there was a steady stream of cars arriving in the morning sunshine.
At ten o'clock Keith and Phil went off to the pilot's briefing, half an hour later they were back with a time slot of 15.46 with a duration of ten minutes. This gave us plenty of time to talk to the public who came to the stand. Late morning and Keith Phil and I went over to the Huey which was parked up by the entrance that the cars were coming in. We untied the rotors and watched the blades and retied them to the tail. Phil then did the pre-flights with help from Keith. The M60's were attached to the pedestals but were secured in the down position for the display.
There had been brisk trade at the shop which continued steadily for the rest of the day. Phil and Keith went off for lunch and then headed back over to 509 to get ready for the display. Nina and I grabbed a quick bite to eat and I then set up my tripod and video camera up on the roof of the motorhome. From the roof I had a full un-interrupted view of the airfield which would be ideal for filming the Huey's display.
Shortly after three thirty Keith pressed the starter button and the mighty Lycoming whistled into life. From my vantage point I could see the tail rotor pick up speed with the main rotors lumbering into life. Final checks made by Phil outside the machine Keith then proceeded to make his check on the response of the various control now that the Huey was running at slow ground idle. He then checked the engine response when he called for power a reduction in power. As the previous display continued Keith was given permission to hover taxi towards the start point of his display. He was kept in the hover for quite a few minutes whilst the ground crew and vehicles were moved off the flight line.
Given the green light Keith flew towards the main runway and turned left. He dipped the nose and beat up the runway making one heck of a noise on his approach, once past the Huey then goes into silent mode as did a right handed wingover the bring the Huey back down the main runway once again. This time the noise of the attacking blade was even loader as he now had a long approach to the centre point. A wing over at the other end he came back to deftly fly slowly down the runway whilst slowly spinning the aircraft to give everyone armed with cameras to get photographs of 509 from all angles. He then headed off the make some more noise before coming back in to the centre to do a spiral climb to then make yet more noise with the fort eight feet rotors. No matter how many times we hear that awesome sound the hair still stand up on the back of our necks.
Keith’s ten minute display just whistled by and soon he was settling 509 back on the ground from whence he had taken off. All was secured and Phil and Keith returned to watch the rest of the displays which included a Spitfire and the only surviving Hawker Hurricane from the Battle of Britain. The display finished on time and the crowds began to thin. We packed everything up and then freshened up for the evening meal and disco that had been laid on by the organisers for the aircrews. It was a good evening and a chance to relax after a long and busy day.
Sunday morning dawned grey and damp with a very low cloud base. At the pilots briefing several game plans were hatched to make sure that the public would have aircraft in the sky. At that moment in time the only things that could take to the sky would be rotary aircraft. Phil and Keith had come up with various scenarios with the organisers if the situation didn't improve.
Gradually as the morning wore on the cloud base rose high enough for the Air Show Director to start the displays. Though not having the altitude to play with they had had the day before the display pilots put on spirited shows to entertain the public. The Huey had been allocated an earlier slot in the display schedule as we were hoping to fly back to Wesham. There were two main considerations for the flight; the first was the weather and the second was the Huey would need to refuel at Carlisle airport, but before five thirty.
With not much time Phil, Keith and I headed over to the Huey to prepare her for flight. The M60's were remounted and the pre-flight checks made. I left Phil and Keith to do the start up as I headed back to film the display. This time I decided to film from the ground and handheld rather than having the restriction of the tripod. Over the noise of the somewhat reduced crowd the unmistakeable sound of the Huey's turbine could be heard. Keith lifted up in to the air and manouveured around to the display line. When turned on to the runway to start his display the sound got louder and louder. It was far louder than the day before. As per Saturday he had been given ten minutes so he did the same routine as the day before but much, much louder. We put it down to the lower cloud base keeping all the sound down.
As Keith continued to make the Huey sing its famous song there was no improvement in the weather. At the end of his display he repositioned the Huey to the refuel point and then parked it up on the ground by the control tower. The rotors were secured, covers put on and the machine locked up. Decisions were made and we were all driving back in the motorhome. Keith and Phil reappeared looking very despondent but there was nothing we could do about it.
It was all hands to the pump and the awning was taken down and everything packed up in to the vehicle. We hit the road at five o'clock for the long drive south. I did the first stint behind the wheel. We stopped off at Annandale services for a brew and a bite to eat. Phil then took over the driving to get us back to Wesham.
It was half past ten when we pulled into the yard. It had been a long but very rewarding weekend. There was still the need to get the Huey back so we made provisional plans to bring 509 back the following Friday.
The following Friday (By Phil Connolly) ..............
Neil and Simon caught the 7.48 train from Preston to get to Perth around midday. The Preston train was late into Edinburgh so by the time the two of them got to platform 16 for the Perth train, they saw it disappearing into the distance.
With an hour to spare they walked into the town centre and found a bar for a drink and a bacon roll. An hour later they were on their way to Perth. From the station a short taxi ride of 15 minutes and they were at the airport.
Arriving at the airport the Huey was unlocked and checked over by Neil. He then checked the NOTAMS and the weather on route. Final checks and Neil asked the tower for clearance to start which was granted. Neil pressed the starter and the engine came to life (at which point as per usual the hangars apparently emptied as everyone want to watch the old girl depart). Once they were happy Neil finally lifted 509 into the air at half past one and set a course to Carlisle. One hours flying over sun drenched countryside 509 landed at Carlisle airport.
Whilst Neil oversaw the refuelling Simon went for look around the aircraft at the museum. On his return Neil told him to climb in the front right hand seat as he was to fly the Huey back to Wesham. Somewhat lost for words Simon climbed in and strapped himself in. The rotors had been untied and brought to the three o'clock position. Neil went through his final checks before starting the turbine. He spoke to the tower and pressed the button. All was good so with Simon shadowing on all the controls, he lifted 509 into the Cumbrian sky. He set a course south. Neil was explaining all the while what he was doing to keep the aircraft trimmed for flying. He then relinquished control to Simon. Neil shadowed Simon's moves so if he felt it necessary he could take control back. Neil gave Simon new directions to follow and altitudes to climb over the hills. Forty minutes later Neil took back control for the final approach and landing at Wesham. When I saw Simon climbing out he had a huge grin across his face. Neil too was grinning from ear to ear ...... we had finally done what we had been planning for awhile, to give Simon a good stint of stick time something he's not had the chance to do before. So two missions accomplished in one day, now that's what I call a result.