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Post Info TOPIC: The Queen of the Skies


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The Queen of the Skies

........or how did you see it.......

My Association with the HP Hastings


Shortly after joining No.2189 (Calne) Squadron Air Training Corps I realised that this would give me a fantastic opportunity to get some experience of flying, I lived with my father, mother, brother and sister in a married quarter at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire. My father asked if I would like a trip in a Hastings, he had flown to the Canal Zone, to Kenya where there was a Mau Mau uprising and various other places and I thought I would like some of this action, well I wasnt able to fly out of the country but I was able to fly on these two hour continuation trips that Lyneham operated with their aircrews.


At the age of 14 all I had to do was to get my father to sign an indemnity form for the RAF, wear my cadet uniform and report to Air Traffic Control, the rest was basically climbing on board a Hastings and off into the deep blue yonder. On the 24th of July 1953 I took the first of these trips in TG530, this first time was a cross country trip lasting two hours, an amazing experience for a 14 year old. None of my school chums had done this as most modes of transport for RAF families serving overseas was still by troopship.


The people who lived around us were all service families some were Master Pilots (Warrant Officer rank) some were signallers, navigators, flight engineers or AQMs others were technical or other trades associated with the RAF. My father was a Fitter IIE when he arrived at RAF Lyneham from RAF Upper Heyford in 1950, he went on a man management course for 6 months at RAF Millom and was promoted to Warrant Officer i/c ASF (Aircraft Servicing Flight). Everything centred around the Hastings aircraft, my back bedroom window faced parallel with a runway, so if the wind direction was right I saw a plethora of aircraft coming and going. The number of the house I lived in was 14 Hastings Drive! I lived for a Hastings and very nearly died in one, in fact my last flight in the RAF was in a Hastings on 14th November 1968 returning from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire to RAF Wattisham, Suffolk.


I flew in them by day and night, I very nearly clocked up 100 flying hours in them, at Watchfield we dropped two underslung jeeps by parachute, I even took control of one in the left hand seat for 20 minutes. I recall the continuation training, you take off do a circuit or two, make a final approach, touch and go again, often you would have to have the tyres checked at the end of the runway by a rigger, he would check for cuts, bulges and wear, plus that the tyre pressures were correct. All the time on the move on the ground you would hear the hiss of the pneumatic brakes biting on the brake discs, the additional power surge from two of the engines to turn the kite back on the track.


A blue and yellow electronic Stop follow me Jeep (Land Rover) would pave the way for the pilot to take the aircraft back to the runway or dispersal. The nose up attitude of a Hastings on the ground must really have been at an elevation of 25 - 30 degrees, I realised this angle only too well at Duxford, Cambs some three years back. In those days you were fit and young and nothing got in your way, but a dickey heart and a few old bones 50 years later takes its toll!


Learning about the Hobson RAE Injector almost ad nauseum and I still never fully understood it, but Mrs Shillings orifice did brighten up proceedings a tad! The magneto drops and how to clear them was a different story especially if you were not within earshot of any technical officer, both magneto switches off at the same time and then BANG! back on again simultaneously, the panacea for all ills! Or the After Flight inspection where you found a broken exhaust stub or worst still if you found one on a Before Flight inspection knowing one of your colleagues had missed it.


The refuelling was best left to the other trades to do (yes we all mucked in like a team), the fuel cap covers removed with a GS screwdriver if the Dzus fastener wire wasnt broken or the screwdriver slot that no longer had a slot had to prised up and co-erced round! The 100 octane AVGAS was delivered from bowser to aircraft tank, with a brass nozzle and a click over lever for convenience whilst always earthing the nozzle to the wing by crocodile clip. Mainly these were all up loads so you just informed whoever was doing the refuelling to fill her up if the Flight Engineer (Gingerbeer as we knew them) wanted a specific load then it was down to the engine bod to dip the tanks with a small epee like dipstick which would inform you quite accurately the amount of fuel in each tank. This would always be followed up with a fuel gauge check on the Engineers console just to make doubly sure the correct fuel load was applied. Once the brass tank castellated screw caps were replaced and tightened it was time to replace the cover assuming you could get those overworn Dzus fasteners to work. All complete, then was the time to sign the Aircraft Log the RAF Form 700, I wonder how many times I put my signature to this form?


If the outward appearance of the engine cowlings looked clean, ie not sooty but looked the colour of a hazelnut then all was usually well, but to hear a spluttering engine did not bode well, oil leaks would have to be investigated, oil scavenge filters dropped and checked for foreign bodies and replaced or out would come the engine to be replaced by another. Propellers were by and large OK, it was the spinner back plate that caused the problems, this also had large circular holes in to assist in the cooling of the cylinders. the slightest crack then off would come the prop to replace the aluminium spinner back plate and then replace the prop.


But perhaps the worst job was to be on the wing either refuelling or rectifying a snag in the noon day sun in the desert. No shelter, just searing heat, I recall the shade temperature in a Ghibley (sandstorm) at El Adem where the temperature was 115F, the heat of the aluminium through your bondu boots was quite unbearable and then to be sandblasted at the same time is all part of lifes quirks of fate!



'The Queen of the Skies'



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