This is traditionally our busiest time of the year. We start the annual maintenance straight after the last flight of the season which is usually after the Remembrance Day flights are completed. For the fixed wing, the bulk of the work is carried out by Wiltshire Air Maintenance with us assisting as required. For the helicopters we do the work and Weald Aviation come and inspect certain parts of it.
So, meet the team. Colin Gillespie is the Chief Engineer supported by Phil Russell as his deputy and Avionic engineer. The team of engineers are Dave Currie, Bob Gillan, Dave Smith and Kerry Thompson. Avionics support is provided by Phil with Mick Williams, we also have Ben Cartwright who assists as required. In the support crew, Chris Ballard has worked tirelessly in our tool store and brought order from chaos. Alistair Mellor, Neil Knowles and Paul Ibberson-Groves look after our Skeeter with Alistair also proving support to our spares database. Elizabeth Gillespie and Lindsay Murray-Twinn are in the middle of cataloguing and indexing all of our publications and are preparing to move into the spares back room to begin a stock check. The main crew day is Friday, Colin and Phil also do most Thursdays during the winter season and Colin, Elizabeth and Lindsay are in for a few hours on Wednesdays. This all sounds rather good, but it has had consequences. We have had to get insurance for the larger crew, so a bit more expense.
So, what has happened or is happening at the moment? First up, our fixed wing, the Auster and the Beaver. The Auster has had its annual service and is ready to fly. We have spent a lot of time incorporating a new radio modification to bring the aircraft up to a modern communication standard. The Beaver is almost finished its annual service and is also almost at the end of having a new radio modification. The modifications involve building the new cable looms from scratch then running them through the aircraft. Literally hundreds of metres of cable have been made into looms and run through the fuselage, front to back.
The Sioux had a huge mag drop on it’s last start (11 Nov 18). The aircraft was closed down and the fault was investigated. As a result the magneto was replaced. It has also undergone a Primary and Minor service which is almost complete. The hydraulic pump found to be faulty when inspected and rotated by hand as part of the service. The pump has also been replaced. The Main Rotor Head and mast were removed to enable us to remove the main blades. This allowed us to do some Non Destructive Testing on the blade roots and hub sleeves. The Tail Rotor hub and blades were also removed for Non Destructive Testing. The sides of the cockpit were paint stripped for respray as the paint was badly damaged. 12 hydraulic pipes were at end of life so we had to get 12 manufactured and then we replaced them.
The Scout was relatively easy this year, just an annual service. We did a couple of minor niggles which had been reported. The undercarriage dampers were refilled and bled to help prevent ground resonance on start up, this worked well. We also did a compressor wash to improve the engine performance.
Looking ahead…. Next winter (2019/2020) we have to face a Major Maintenance on the Sioux and the Scout. The Sioux will be carried out in-house but the Scout will go away and cost many thousands of pounds. After that its plain sailing!!!! Well, not really as elderly aircraft always have a trick up their sleeve to keep us on our toes. Its fun, that’s why we do it. Onwards, adapt and overcome…