Friday, 13 May 2011

Big Round Engines, Propliner Nostalgia.

Recently the second series of Ice Pilots has been screened on Thursday nights (Quest Channel).

Although the drama is accentuated and sensationalised for an audience by the production team, you can see the core of real drama and feel the tense situations of those flying in the Alaskan winters.

These old Radial engined propliners are so special, the sound of a Wright Cyclone, Pratt and Whitney or Bristol Centaurus in real life will always raise the goosebumps.

For a year or so I was very fortunate to be a little involved with a Coventry based company called Air Atlantique. Here they operated DC3 "Dakotas", DC 6 and many more old working aircraft, genuinely earning a living in coastal patrol and environment work and offering last minute, urgent cargo transport facilities in a way that the larger jets could not compete.

Having borrowed so many pilot story books from the mobile library as a youngster (my future father in law was the mobile library driver and on introduction by his daughter, remembered me as the boy who kept ordering Spitfire books over and over!).
My time at Coventry became a little bit of those story books, lunch breaks were savored amongst all of these old piston engined machines....the best perhaps, when you were in a meeting or in a classroom and had to halt all conversation because of the cacophony of a DC6 starting each of those four big radials just outside of the window, followed by another later pause as she thundered by on her take off run.... heaven.

Wing changes were often in progress on the DC3 aircraft, I think that the wings could be swapped to maximise the available parts and fatigue life. Each wing is held by a ring of 3/16" bolts around a flange section.

The Airline industry is always likely to be at the mercy of world events, this certainly became the case in the beginning of the new millennium.
For me it signalled a time to settle back to a more reliable career in something I had not really left, engineering. But always it will be in my memory that just for a while I was almost part of those aviation stories waiting to be read by the next generation.

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