Thursday, 6 November 2014

Its been a year?

Actually more like 20 months, time flies.

While I have yet to have notable progress to report on the Super Solution, I thought it was time to update the progress on some of the racers previously shown, and illustrate their current status.

First up, the incredible Gee Bee QED built by Jim Moss, along with his dedicated group of friends and craftsmen. Jim passed away in September 2013, age 81, and sadly missed the first flight of his QED by less than a month, but the aircraft was completed and flown by his friends as a tribute to Jim.

The QED was flown initially by the very capable Carter Teeters, and the flying duties were subsequently taken over by Rich Alldredge who also headed the team of builders who completed the QED.

Rich and the crew, along with Jims wife Judy made the decision to bring the big racer to Oshkosh, which turned out to be a trouble free and speedy journey.

The QED was a highlight of Oshkosh, parked directly in front of the Vintage Barn, it was an incredible sight.

Rich Alldredge also flew the aircraft one day during the display, giving everyone a unique opportunity to see a QED fly. The racer is limited to under 300 KTs, so its barely getting out of first gear!
Jim was along for the spirit :)

Thanks Jim, you have been quite an inspiration!

Next up the beautiful Travel Air Type R Mystery ship, owned by Richard Seeley, built by Ron Souch, and flown by Jeremy Cooke. Based at Turweston in the UK, the racer first flew in 2013.

The stunning Type R Mystery Ship replica has since been displayed at a number of equally beautiful venues, including Shuttleworth, Old Warden. 

I have not quite worked out the significance of the #29, other than the year it first raced?

This aircraft has beautiful lines. Amazingly this now makes 2 airworthy Travel Air Type R Mystery ships in the UK, the other being the original ex Pancho Barnes R613K, which unfortunately does not get out much.

Sticking with the UK, recently flown was a replica of the 1930`s Percival Mew Gull racer, built over a period of 6 years, and flown this last summer by its builder, David Beale. 

The Percival Mew Gull was made famous by noted Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw, who flew one from the UK to Cape Town, SA, establishing a record. His book about the flight is a great read!

back to the States, still making great progress, the Gee Bee R2 of Mac Transtrum reached an amazing milestone recently, being rolled out with the wings on for the first time.

I remember how exciting it was to see Steve Wolf reach this point with Delmar's R2 almost 25 years ago, and its just as exciting to see Mac reach this point in the build. The wheel pants are a work of art!

Last, a Racer Replica which may not be widely known, the recently completed Wedell Williams Model 22.

Powered by a Menasco Bucaneer, this Racer is less well known than its big radial powered brothers, but it has tons of appeal, and I love the paint scheme. There seems to be some dispute as to whether it was blue or red, but I think the blue makes a nice change. The replica resides in the Wedell-Williams museum in Patterson Louisiana with another 4 Wedell-Williams replicas. 

Speaking of Wedell-Williams and replicas, this one is still patiently waiting to be recreated, the Wedell-Williams Model 44 flown by Roscoe Turner in 1934. The original still resides in the Crawford  Museum in Cincinatti.
Should anyone wish to step up the plate.....

These guys are all making me look bad, its time to re-engage with the Super Solution!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Golden Age Projects

Unfortunately I have very little progress to report on the Super Solution, I have managed to completely unpack the project, and it is currently standing by waiting for the Fuselage, Gear, and engine mount be completed, and then make its way to Canada.

Meanwhile it occurred to me that while I have not made a great deal of progress, some of my friends and fellow Golden Age racer builders certainly have.
I thought that anyone interested in following the Super Solution progress would also be interested in some of the other Golden Age projects currently underway:

GEE BEE  projects:

First Up, is the amazing Gee Bee QED, being built by Jim Moss. Jim has now completed most of the painting, and is in the final stages of assembly.

This is an incredible project, but without standing beside the aircraft it is hard to picture just how big this airplane is!

OK, so the QED never had this colour scheme, but it looks fantastic, and I am sure the Granvilles would approve.

Next, the Gee Bee R2 of Mac Transtrum. I was able to visit Mac a couple weeks ago, and view the current state of his project.

Mac has done all of the work on the Gee Bee himself, and his workmanship is first class. His welding, woodwork, and metalwork is beautiful and highly accurate to the original.
Mac also believes that fiberglass has no place in a Golden Age racer, and to date has completed a new set of aluminum wheel pants by hammering them into the same molds which Delmar Benjamin used over 20 years ago when he and Steve Wolf built their flying R2 replica.
Mac has made amazing progress in only 2 years so far, so it should not be too much longer until we see another R2 in the air.

Artwork in aluminum! only 40 hours of pounding, welding and filing separates these from a flat sheet of aluminum.

Below is the Gee Bee R1 of Harold Forth. I last saw this project in 2010, and at that time Harold had finished the fuselage, and was just starting on the wings, and tail.

Harold is also doing beautiful work, it seems that everyone who takes on a Gee Bee is a true craftsman.
I guess they have to be, there are no quick build kits available!

Yet another Gee Bee R1 well underway, by Lee Oman.

Lee is another all around master craftsman, welding, wood work, compound sheet metal, Lee is well versed in all of it.
As well as building a very accurate Gee Bee, Lee also races at Reno every year in the T6 class, so it should be an easy transition to take the Gee Bee around the pylons when finished.
(we will have to convince RARA that they should host a Golden Age class)

And to prove that there are other Golden Age racer projects out there beyond the Granville brothers designs, below is the just completed Mystery Ship of Richard Seeley.

I have followed this project from it`s beginnings, and it is a stunning example of the Mystery Ship, again no fiberglass was allowed anywhere near the aircraft!

Thats all for now, but I have details on quite a few other projects underway, including a Gee Bee Model Z, a Gee Bee model Y, and a Napier Heston racer!
All of the projects above are my constant motivation, I am amazed at the dedication shown by all the builders, and the level of craftsmanship exibited. Each project is a tribute to the original builders and pilots.
I had better keep some of the others in reserve, just in case I continue to make glacial progress on the Super Solution.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Remembering why

While unpacking, from the move, I came across a small pile of photos. Amongst them were the photos from a visit to see Jim Moss back in 2001, at Pierce County Airport, WA.
Jim was kind enough to push his Super Solution out, and I spent the morning taking photos and examining the aircraft end to end.
I can still vividly remember the effect the aircraft had on me, it epitomised the Golden Age, the lines were stunning, and the colours dramatic. It was everything I felt a purebred racer should be.
Late January 2001, the day was cold, a little misty, and the airport was deserted, the airplane looked incredible. It had only a very few hours on it, but it already had that intoxicating smell of oil, fuel, fabric, wood, and metal.
I was hopelessly in love, and the die was cast,

I have not seen these photos for years, and thought they were lost, but finding them brought back all the memories of that visit, and what the Super Solution meant to me from that day forward.

Every time I look at these photos, they make me smile, this became my Goal on the spot, and I can now say I am actually getting there, 3 years, and at least 3 countries later from first cutting wood to present, it may well take 3 more, but one day......

(a rather younger version of me!)

From any angle the Super Solution lives and breathes the Golden Age.

* and to add a footnote, the builder of this Thoroughbred, Jim Moss, now in his early 80`s and not content to say he built and flew the Super Solution, is now only weeks away from flying his new Gee Bee QED racer.
Thanks Jim!

Fall update

Matty built the original Super Solution in 45 days! it has been 4 times that since last I posted, let alone built anything.

It`s been a while, 6 1/2 months, and I wish I could report that the lack of updates are the result of full on productivity,
sadly, no, or not exactly.

The big news is that the Super Solution project has recently made an Atlantic Crossing, although not in the finest tradition of the Golden Age, at 250 kts, but in a 40 foot container, .......on a boat.

It managed to safely circumnavigate Somalia, which was my primary concern, it then rounded the Cape, and steamed on past Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast, (another concern) and then set course direct to Montreal. It took eight weeks, but arrived safe and sound.
The reason for this epic journey; after 8 years in the Middle east, we moved home, family, project and career from Dubai, to Canada.
I had to wind down the project progress mid March, and pack the various parts and components. This included crates for the wings, and other parts.
The Project is now relocated to a nice, warm large workshop in Eastern Ontario, and I hope that soon I can make some positive forward progress. There are some really interesting connections between my new job, and the original Super Solution, which I will try to cover at some point in the future.

While I have not managed any hands on work on the project, this does not mean that there has been no progress, and in fact there has been some very encouraging progress in the last few months.
I arranged with a highly talented builder in Australia to build the basic fuselage structure, and I recently received photos of the finish welded fuselage which has been removed from the weld fixture.

These are some pretty encouraging images, although the fuselage now located 1/2 way around the world from the wings was not quite in the original plan!

The landing gear assembly, cabane assembly, and engine mount are also now underway,
and hopefully will soon join the fuselage.
The description of the landing gear will be very interesting, as the research that has gone into the damping system and gear assembly is extremely thorough.
The dummy upper and lower wing fixtures which I prepared some time ago, and shipped to Toowoomba are now also being put to good use to locate the wing attach fittings.

There is an interesting tie in between the 1931 Ford Model A, and the Laird control system, any guesses? This too is now underway.

Hopefully the complete welded assemblies will be ready to ship in the coming months.
(if anyone is planning to have a Laird Super Solution fuselage sized hole in a container from Australia to Canada in the next 6 months, I would be interested in having a chat........)
My main focus now is to complete the tail surfaces, and re assemble the upper wing, as it was dismantled for shipment. (fortunate I had not glued the ribs in place)

Recently I have also managed to add some more original instruments to my growing collection, with an original Pioneer VSI, of the correct 1931 vintage, and also a second bubble face compass.
Other parts arriving include a complete set of PW R985 inner and outer baffles, and a complete induction system.

The engine, until recently stored in Los Angelos, will now be travelling to eastern Ontario.

With my 5406 Ground Adjustable propeller now assembled and complete, I have 2 spare hubs available. I would be interested in sale, or trades.
Both extra hubs are 30 spline 5406 Hamilton Standard units, and are complete with all hardware and brackets.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Super Solution Artwork

I have found that while I do for the most part enjoy the build process, I have also really enjoyed meeting, speaking with and corresponding with air racing enthusiasts, full size and RC builders, and historians associated with the Laird Super Solution, as well as lots of people who just love antique aircraft.
For me this has been a great side benefit, and makes it much easier while building in Dubai.
There is almost no interest in Antique or sport aviation in this region, so It is a real pleasure when I can speak with like minded individuals.
I am also amazed at the amount of really talented artists and illustrators who have chosen the Super Solution as a subject.
The other day I was surprised to be contacted by Jim Newman. Jim is the artist who drew the Laird Super Solution Cutaway drawing for the EAA museum many years ago.
I have this drawing front and center in my little shop, and refer to it constantly, it has been a huge asset, and I am very thankful Jim made the effort at the time they were building the EAA replica to produce this fantastic drawing.
There is even a picture in the EAA Super Solution book, (now long out of print) of Jim with clipboard in hand recording the details of the Super Solution.
It is a real pleasure to be in contact with Jim, who is a former RAF pilot, and is still active in aviation.
Jim tells me he currently has a number of these posters available, so if anyone is keen I can provide Jim`s contact details on request.

I was also recently sent some CAD drawings by an RC modeller from Slovakia who is in the process of recreating the Super Solution digitally, and is extremely detail oriented. The drawings to date are amazing, and highly detailed as well. I am really looking forward to seeing the model he builds from these.
It is great to see the interest level still high for this wonderful aircraft, and lets hope there are many more RC models built and flown.

I have also corresponded with, the artist of this beautiful drawing, Lyle Brown. I love the way he has captured the aircraft, it looks like it is basking on the ramp, ready to leap forward!
If anyone is interested in a copy of this beautiful drawing, it can be ordered via:

finally something other than wings!

The original (and the EAA replica) had steel airfoil shaped ribs, and an all welded constuction.
I would guess that they hydroformed the originals? and the EAA ribs were made over bucks.
As I do not currently have a 1000 ton press in my garage, I decided to go the alternate route and use a big hammer.
I began by having a set of 1/2 inch thick steel rib templates water jet cut.
But when they came back from the water jet cutter they were pretty crude, and while the basic profile was there, they needed alot of clean up, and the edges radiused.
This was my first experience with water jet cutting, so I am not sure if this was a fair example of the process, but I would be hesitant to use it again over laser cutting.
I had to make two form blocks for each rib profile to allow the 025 4130 material to be sandwiched in between.

I then made up a set of templates to cut the 4130 sheet blanks out.
Next I cut the blanks out, bolted them into their respective pairs of steel form blocks and proceeded to whack the ribs into shape. After having recently made so many aluminum ribs and formers for the ailerons, I forgot how much harder you have to hit steel. The ribs proved to be a good workout.
The various vertical and horizontal fin ribs are now formed, still to complete are the flanged lightening holes, but these are on hold as I have ordered a set of combination punch, and flanging dies, and they are enroute via dogsled or similar based on how long they are taking!
I have left the ribs slightly long to allow for an exact fit on assembly.
Once the holes are all punched an flared, I can build some basic assembly boards, bend the various 4130 tubes and start to fit the ribs.
I now have a set of very heavy steel rib form blocks, stored away gathering dust along with every other one off fixture no longer needed.
Maybe I should put up a photo of my fixture graveyard, although I find it rather painful to look at, so maybe not.

wing fitting attach locating assemblies

I decided that I needed to build fixtures to mount the wing attach fittings to the fuselage.
As my basic welded fuselage is currently being fabricated in Toowoomba, Australia, this presented some issues with matching wings to fuselage.
(a small distance issue)....
The best way I could think of to accomplish this was to build dummy wing sections of the upper and lower wings, and mount the actual fittings in place. This then ensures that the wings will bolt to the fuselage exactly. (fingers crossed)
I built the lower wing fixture to be stub sections of both the Left hand and Right hand wings. The tube in the leading edge was for alignment only, but the tube behind the rear spar locates the aileron spar, and diameter to ensure there will be no longeron to aileron interference issues. I removed the fittings from the LH and RH wing spars and used them on the fixture, so all should line up on assembly.
Should being the operative word.
The top wing only required a spar assembly which locates the center attach fitting, and the rib profiles each side to set the incidence.
I plan that a side benefit of these two jigs will be to use them to fabricate the wing to fuselage fairings, as it is much easier to fit fairings on a stub wing assembly than to have the actual wings in place.
I boxed up these two jigs and shipped them off to Australia, where they are now on hand for fitting fitment.


I have now managed to complete the assembly of the second aileron, and I am quite happy to see them assembled and moving nicely.
I am happy that they have turned out almost friction free, and move easily, but this also makes me concerned about flutter. I am quite amazed at how much weight is required fwd of the hinge points, somwhere around 4 pounds per aileron! but this can not be determined exactly until I rivet the ailerons together, and this will have to wait until the inspection.
So with the fittings now all attached, and the wires in place, the only part left to do on the lowers is the leading edge and tip plywood, which again shall be after the inspection.

When I stand back and look at these two wings with ailerons I am just amazed at how much time they have sucked up!, I think I could have finished a single seat Pitts in the same time these have taken. But they are done, and the balance of the top wing is much easier to complete.... I hope.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Top wing progress

With the ailerons worked out I thought it was time to start the steel parts for the top wing.
More jigs!

I really envy guys building RV`s, their parts come in a box, mine are somewhere in steel sheets.

Anyway, the top wing has a central attach fitting, built up of plates and tubing, with bent up U channel fittings holding it all together.
I made up matching sets of steel plates, and match drilled them. I then bent up some steel u channel fittings.
They had to be bent to match the lower taper on the front and rear spars.
I then made an assembly and welding fixture. This has an aluminum channel base, 2 stub spars, and a channel to hold the fore to aft tube.
I wanted this fixture to be very solid, as the plates and the tube are quite thick and so require lots of heat when welding.
Once all the parts were made, and securely bolted in the fixture they were welded.

Regards the actual welding, all finish TIG welding is done by my good friend Christiano.
Chris is an extremely talented welder, and machinist, who moonlights as a Boeing 777 Captain.

Once the assembly popped out of the jig I put it on the wing, and amazingly it fit.
With this central fitting now complete I can work outwards in both directions, making the wire tabs and I strut attach fittings.
Once the tabs are all done, I can measure and order for the top wing drag anti drag wires, and get them underway.
I will also work out the wing tip lights, which I am looking forward to.
I shall try not to burn the wing down in the process.

EFIS 1931 style

It is interesting to see exacting replicas, or restored antiques, which have modern instruments installed in them.
I know of one fellow who is currently planning on fitting a full glass cockpit to a 1930`s Monocoupe. Ouch!

Well I have been trying to locate all of the original instruments, and have so far managed to find most of them.
The original SS had a mix of Pioneer and US gauge instruments fit, some were quite unique, others fairly generic.
Probably the most unique was the Pioneer Turn and Bank with the "shiny steel ball" 
This was only made for a very short time, as I believe the ball would become magnetised and the compass would always point at the T&B. 
(Not an ideal result in an airplane designed for cross country racing)

I managed to locate this exact T&B
Another fairly hard to find instrument is the Pioneer Bubble face compass. They do come up time to time, but they are getting very expensive. I was lucky to locate this one some time ago.
I have also found the floor mounted second compass which was installed for the trans continental record flights.
I will be interesting to see if they both agree after rebuild, I guess this aircraft needs 2 correction cards.
I have had mixed results to date with the balance of the instruments, I have most of the engine instruments, with the exception of the correct RPM gauge. 
I have also found a few suitable Lunkheimer primers, and the correct Scintilla mag switch.
Regards the flight instruments, again I have some, but not all.
I have the correct pioneer ROC, but I have yet to locate the correct Altimeter and ASI. 

I would really like to hear from anyone who may have the correct ASI, ALT, or Tach and would like to sell or trade them. I do have plenty of other instruments for trade. 

Here is a list of all the instruments as originally fit:

Pioneer floor compass and drift meter
Pioneer Airspeed 50 to 350 mph 175 at bottom dead center
Pioneer turn and bank 3 1/8th No dog houses shiny steel ball
Pioneer rate of climb +/- 2000 fpm 1000' at bottom, 2000' at 3 O'clock
Pioneer tachometer 600-3000 rpm. 1900 rpm at Bottom dead center
Altimeter, insensitive 0 to 15000' setting know at bottom dead center
cylinder head temp 0 to 600 F
US gauge oil temperature 2 1/4 0 to 100 C 50 degrees at top dead center
US gauge oil pressure 2 1/4 0 to 120 psi 60 psi at top dead center
US gauge fuel pressure 2 1/4 0 to 10 psi 5 psi at top dead center
mag switch scintilla vintage

Once I have all the correct instruments I will send them off in one shipment for rebuild.

Based on the available visibility I may as well fit a DVD player in the panel, at least you could watch an inflight movie!