Bob Coles took early retirement from the Full Scale Layout Department of the Design Office in 1992 and since then has worked privately to assist the 'warbird' community in the south of England. This involves repairs, the design of missing structure and modification drawings, for World War II aircraft. He works in conjunction with a retired stressman to obtain Civil Airworthiness Authority approval of his design work. Such is his reputation that the CAA now gives only a cursory look at the drawings before granting approval. Although this takes little time, the CAA still charge the standard fee! The majority of his work has been for Stephen Gray's 'Fighter Collection' at Duxford, and although specialising in the Hurricane, an aircraft Bob has been studying since encouraged by Sydney Camm when he joined the DO in the early 1950s, he works on a wide variety of interesting problems on American, Russian and other foreign types as well as British. Bob enjoys this home based work very much because it brings him into contact with many interesting people in the 'warbird' community, and their projects. The following story recounts a recent experience which Bob assures us is true...
Read My Elipse
Security, linked to the prevention of terrorist threats, is beginning to affect us all. This year the Media Accreditation pack (the Acc Pack) for the SBAC Farnborough week included a separate declaration for the Hampshire Constabulary; but I didn't expect a visit!
One June morning whilst deep in thought and attempting to plot the somewhat tricky retraction geometry of a Curtiss P-40N undercarriage leg (this is the Kittyhawk/Warhawk series of aircraft), there was a tap-tap at the front door. My drawing board and 10 ft x 4 1/2 ft lofting table were covered with geometry details for this leg which retracts directly aft and at the same time rotates through approximately 90 degrees. The object of the exercise was to double check that the undercarriage door, a replacement design, wasn't going to close prior to the wheel getting up into its 'nest'.
Answering the door I was confronted by Kenny, our local beat Bobby. I know Kenny quite well, having had a few friendly discussions with him at the time, a few years ago, when I thundered around the village driving a 454 cu in Chevrolet 'Chevy' Corvette Stingray rated at about 350 BHP and sounding like a Banshee. Some of you may remember seeing this vehicle, blue in colour, in the Ham Common works car park.
"Hi," said Kenny, "My boss has sent me along to see if you are who you say you are. "Oh," I said, "Yes, I'm definitely me; or I was whilst having a shave this morning...Is there a problem?" "Don't really think so but the boss says he's been watching you for some time." Now curious I invited Kenny in for a cup of coffee. He immediately spotted my drawing board with all those mysterious lines and shapes. "Cor, look at that," he said, and I could tell he was thinking maybe, just maybe, his boss was onto something big. "What's up with your boss then?" I asked. "Well, he believes you are a member of the notorious and fearsome Al Gebra cult...and here we have it! Maps (as he called my geometry) marked up with Xs, Ys and Zs. We've been trying to crack this code for some time! Also, we know Al Gebra is a world-wide organisation," he said, pointing to some Greek symbols, theta, phi and delta, "because of these secret code names referred to as 'unknowns'. We have determined these 'unknowns' belong to a 'common denominator' of the 'axis' of evil with 'co-ordinates' in every country." "Crikey," I said and at the same time pinching myself to see if this confrontation was just one of those bad dreams...it wasn't!
As I arrived with the coffee Kenny was inspecting my setsquares, compasses, protractors and calculator. "What are these, then?" he asked. Still thinking this might all be a funny dream I glibly told him that they were weapons of 'math instruction' and, getting into the swing of this whole strange affair added "And if God wanted us to have even better weapons of math instruction he would have given us more fingers and toes. After all. statisticians love to inflict 'plane' on every 'sphere'; we have to 'differentiate' their 'root', make our 'point' and draw the line somewhere."
I am convinced that Kenny now realised he was getting out of his depth; but seconds later he spotted something more tangible. Standing on the end of my lofting table was a complete 40 mm cannon shell. Some 14 inches high and with a mean-looking sharp end, this had been used to help create some authentic looking dummy cannons for a tank-busting Hurricane Mk IV rebuild. It was jolly lucky he hadn't also noticed one of my souvenirs, a genuine Kalashnikov AK 47, hanging on the wall. Kenny moved in to take a closer look at the shell. "Bl**dy Hell," he muttered, slurping coffee down the front of his tunic, now probably convinced that his boss was onto something. I explained to him that things were not always as they appeared. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say "There are always three side to every triangle." However, Kenny was looking rather nervous and decided to leave, somewhat more rapidly than he arrived. Taking a final gulp of coffee he made for the door.
Passing through the porch on the way out he failed to notice a couple of underwing rocket rails standing in the corner. These are acting as pattern parts for a future Tempest rebuild...but that's another story! In the relative safety of outside Kenny informed me that he would send the boss along to take a look for himself. "Okay," I said, but as yet nothing has happened; I'd better hide some of this kit, just in case!
ps I made it to Farnborough.