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GarethJones
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xx Brough and the Buccaneer
« Thread started on: Sep 25th, 2010, 7:23pm »

I started work at Brough as a graduate apprentice in 1970. My first placement was in 028 dept in B shed which was Buccaneer final assembly. At the time it was full of new build aircraft and Navy retros. I think the first one I worked on was XW529. I spent many happy hours wirelocking hydraulic pipes in the acc bay and bomb bay, most times the right way, occasionally the wrong way, which was usually picked up by an inspector, Eric Sharpe if I remember correctly.

After a few weeks I was given the job of replacing the fire extinguisher bottles in the radio bay of an RN retro a/c. After about half a day struggling with this I finally emerged triumphant and went back to my fitter and said what shall I do next. He said b****r off back in the radio bay and dont come out till Thursday dinner time. Thats a two and a half day job on the bonus scheme and you're going to f**k it up for everybody. So I spent the following day and a half reading a book by the light of an inspection lamp.

I went out to HOSM with one of the aircraft to finish off the snag rectification and that was the first time I saw the aircraft flown. The custom and practice on the delivery flight when the aircraft was off test, was to fly between J hangar and T hangar and I can remember standing there watching this thing hurtling towards us at about 50 ft, almost silently till it passed over our heads with a deafening roar followed by the eery whirling sound of the trailing vortices. At the time I had no idea how the whole build process worked but I had already grasped this was a bloody complicated piece of machinery and I was really impressed (and still am to this day) that the aircrew had the confidence and trust in our ability to built it, and then after only 3 or 4 production test flights, fly it so low and so fast.

I think the highlight of my experience with the Buccaneer was to attend a presentation by Wg Cdr Pinney after the RAF first took the aircraft to Red Flag. Most of the time I worked on supporting the in service aircraft and we got used to the customers complaining. However on this occasion it was clear that they were absolutely delighted with the way the aircraft had performed and the proof that their tactics and training had paid off. It was a brilliant presentation, some of the video was stunning and it was one of the best morale boosters I ever had.

About 5 years ago (or maybe more now) I went to a presentation by Graham Pitchfork which was also a very entertaining and informative evening and his book is equally good. While I was there an ex Brough colleague, Dick Chandler asked me what I thought of the Buccaneer display at the Yorkshire Aircraft Museum in Elvington. Dick was one of the original Buccaneer production test pilots and a real gentleman and he was quite put out when I said I was not impressed. At the time two aircraft were displayed together at Elvington, one in Gulf War camouflage and both armed. I did not want to upset Dick so I thought I had better explain. I said you can only see the outside of the aircraft and the weapons. The really impressve thing about aircraft in general and Buccaneers in particular is that they are asolutely full of stuff - engines, pumps, pipes, wires, relays, valves, levers, fuel, black boxes, etc. I suggested that what they should do with one of the aircraft is take off all the panels and doors, put it up on jacks and let the public look inside the bomb bay, acc bay, radio bay and engine bays and then they would realise just what a complicated piece of machinery it is. It never fails to impress me, even today, after working on aircraft systems for nearly 40 years, just how reliable these things are.

I have to stop there, but if I think of anything else to add to a systems engineers view of the Buccaneer I'll type it in another time.
Regards,
Gareth
« Last Edit: Sep 25th, 2010, 7:24pm by GarethJones » User IP Logged

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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #1 on: Sep 25th, 2010, 8:47pm »

I started my craft apprenticeship at Brough in 1971,after the usual year in the training centre and a short time in toolroom, I worked for a brief time on Buccaneer fuse frames in K Shed. After a spell on Harrier combat tips and ferry tips I got a move onto Buccaneer Air Intakes, I stayed on here till the end of the contract, having a spell on nightshift because the last two aircraft were required in a hurry.
After that I worked on Buccaneer spares and repairs, including Air Intakes, Engine cowls and Canopies. The lovely smell of opening the boxes of returned canopies after a birdstrike, with the blood, guts and feathers smeared everywhere.
I only got one visit to H.O.S.M when I was working on Skyshadow, I had to go to fit some new fasteners on a door, and the pod was on a Buccaneer doing trials. I didn't get to see one fly that day, but saw a Phantom instead.
We had quite a few Buccaneer flypasts over the years, the last was I believe a fourship to mark the retirement of the Bucc, they approached the factory from the Humber Bridge end and overflew the site, then breaking off for individual fast runs, as steady as a rock, a memorable sight.
The first and last landing of a Buccaneer at Brough was when Rick Phillips delivered XV168 back home on our too short runway. This was also a memorable sight as portable arrestor gear had to be used to stop it, after a couple of circuits he brought her down and took the wire perfectly, without having to use the general office building to stop.
We had a visit from Brigadier Gert Havenga for one of the RAeS lectures, and he gave a talk about the Buccaneer S50's in S.A.A.F service in the bush wars, it was clear from his stories that they held the Buccaneer in high esteem.
I think thats enough waffle from me now.
Regards Paul.
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Goosey
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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #2 on: Sep 25th, 2010, 10:46pm »

Waffle on it,s stories like yours and from all different sources and backgrounds that make this site so interesting.I agree what you say about being able to see into the buccs inner workings and bays some were even good to hide in while bulling up on aoc,s inspections.even some of the things that were fitted to the bucc and no other aircraft seem to have been forgotten crash trip system etc a pioneer to many systems reliable and a credit to its designers and builders.
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GarethJones
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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #3 on: Sep 26th, 2010, 12:52pm »

I will waffle a bit more then. The Buccaneer was always a bit of a Cinderella in the RAF, it started off as being a reluctant choice after TSR 2 and F 111 had been denied to them. Here are a couple of examples.

One of the systems I worked on was the windscreen wash and wiper. The washing system was quite effective but the control valve was pretty unreliable. It was quite a clever design, being basically a pneumatically controlled on/off valve but with a pneumatic timer built in. Unfortunately it was not very well engineered and the tolerances on the seal grooves were not very good so it tended to leak or stick, with the result that the wash tank would be emptied all in one go after the button was pressed.

The wiper also worked quite well but had a limitation of a max speed of 450 knots I think. Above that the motor was not powerful enough to overcome the air loads on the blade and arm. Sometime, I think around 1980, Structures Dept noticed that fin fatigue life was being used up at an alarming rate on some aircraft. It was discovered that aircrew were snaking the aircraft with the rudder at high speed, using the windscreen washer alone to try and clear the screen of salt or flies at speeds above the windscreen wiper limit.

At MoD's request an investigation was started to try and increase the performance of the wiper and its motor but this took a while, a tech report was written, costed proposal submitted to MoD and after further delay was eventually deemed too expensive to pursue. Several years later the same issue was raised again when the flies in Germany were particularly bad. The same answer was fed back through the system but because of the time lag, there was now a different man in post in Germany and the flies had gone away, so nothing happened again. If you looked through the windscreen wiper files there were about 4 cycles spread over 10-12 years of the issue being raised, an answer fed back, a decision being made to do nothing and then the problem being raised again. Rotating staff through posts in the RAF might have had some advantages but the lack of continuity was often a problem and long term judgements were often lacking.

Another system I worked on was synchronisation of aileron droop and tailplane flap. A conscious decision was made early in the design of the aircraft to keep these systems simple and reliable and rely on the aircrew to pick up any mis match from the cockpit indicators. If the two surfaces got more than a few degrees out of sync the pitch forces became uncontrollable and several aircraft were lost for this reason. Pilots were not infallible and sometimes it was not practical to select each system in small steps or continually monitor its progress.

The problem was that the position indicators were driven by desynns which did not lend themselves to being integrated into a system which could work out there was a discrepancy in position. We spent ages and lots of money trying to adapt what existed when it would have been much cheaper, simpler and more effective to start again with a clean sheet of paper and 1980's technology. I seem to remember the final report on the system was issued after the aircraft had been withdrawn from service - such is life.
« Last Edit: Sep 26th, 2010, 1:17pm by GarethJones » User IP Logged

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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #4 on: Sep 26th, 2010, 8:25pm »

Here are a couple of pics relating to the flybys I mentioned in my earlier post, both pictures are copyright BaE. First is XV168 touching down on the runway with arrestor hook roughing up the tarmac!!
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Secondly is a fourship flyby, I can't be sure of the date as it's not stamped on the back. It's not the final flyby as some other pics in the sequence have Capper Pass chimney in the pictures.
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Regards Paul.
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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #5 on: Nov 6th, 2010, 11:42pm »

I started in the Aerodynamics Department in 1979 - fresh from University and loaded down with my course text books that I never looked at again. I did a little bit of work on the Buccaneer, mainly accident investigation work though not the Red Flag incident. It as an interesting time with the ACT Hunter Phantoms, Harriers, and the AST412 studies culminating in the Pilatus PC-9s bid before settling into Hawks of various persuasions.

The Buccaneer was a remarkable aircraft aerodynamically - particularly the area ruled low drag - apparantly there was a bit more of a reduction possible with the rear fuselage shape. An airflow instability around the tailplane fairing caused snaking at high speed that curtailed the aircraft's upper speed range. It was never cured - neither was the sideslip contamination on the static probe that made the autopilot unusable. The simple reliable flight control system with light control forces ("You hold the stick like a princess holding a navvies prick" was one graphic description I heard from a test pilot) and the non-linear gearing coupled with the aircraft's very solid contruction probably gave the pilots a lot more confidence in low level flight compared to the F-4. I know the comparatives rides were studied as on paper the aircraft should have been very similar based on wingloadings but I don't think a definite conclusion was made. I don't think the stability at low level was looked at either but the high tail may have helped.

I remember the RAeSoc to see the Lossie Buccs when they were stationed at Waddington or Scampton and chatting to the aircrew. The asked what we were working on for them and when I said solid state replacement for the autopilot they said "What? We never use it!". I admitted that we knew that and why but we weren't allowed to improve only replace. So I asked what they could do with and they said a flap interlock to stop assymmetric flap deployment which I believe we eventually did just before it went out of service. It was so frustrating how development and support was constricted by the upper echelons and gives us even now a bad name with the Services.

Anyway the highlights were always the beat-ups. In particular the day XV squadron visited to celebrate 25 years of Bucc service. We trooped out to see a 4 ship fly sedately over going towards HoSM. We went back in muttering "Was that it?" Half an hour later after beating up HoSM they came back.... Not many saw them as it was a single multi-ship pass but one had to knife edge to get between a chimney and the hanger roof and the pressure wave of another was seen from inside the DO as it ran the length of back office roof and a fitter fell from the rafters in B shed in shock.

The Lossie squadrons visited on the way North after taking part in the Queen's Birthday flypast for the last time. Again a very tidy diamond 9 flew sedately over followed immediately by at least three others running down the Humber and barrelling between the Hangars and over our heads and setting off a lot of car alarms.

A few impromptu passes by our Test Pilots and other visitors also kept things interesting. One of our pilots was berrated for a particularly noisy low pass in an F-4 by the site director. Next time he flew over low and fast with the engines throttled back before kicking in the burners when he tucked in behind C block and out of site of the general offices.

As my daughters are wont to say these days "Good Times".
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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #6 on: May 5th, 2011, 7:54pm »

I was chatting with an old colleague from Brough today and he has prompted me to add to my reminiscences of the Buccaneer so here are a few more.

My speciality for most of my career was engines and engine related flight systems such as starting, fuel supplies, controls and bleed offtakes. I had a long engineering association with Rolls Royce spanning nearly 40 years. A story told to me by my original boss Ray Gadd was that in the early days of the Buccaneer Spey development there were regular liason meetings with Rolls Royce held at Holme on Spalding Moor. In those days technology was much simpler and it was the norm for people to use a blackboard and chalk to explain the issues to the rest of the meeting participants. However Rolls Royce seemed to have mastered the art of baffling everyone with science, inferring that the problem was under control or a fix was available and then at the end of the meeting rubbing the blackboard clean. A few hours or days later it would dawn on people that Rolls Royce had missed the point or were not really doing what they had said in the meeting. However because the backboard had been wiped, there was no evidence. Ray came up with a cunning plan to overcome this problem. At the next meeting he arranged for one of the HOSM photographers to knock on the door and come into the meeting room half an hour before the end. Much to Rolls Royce's dismay he took a photograph of the blackboard and the evidence was preserved for all time and, at the next meeting the HSA team could say, ah but, last time you said this was the picture......

After a few years or so at Brough I was quite happy with my contacts with Rolls Royce and quite comfortable in dealing with that great British engineering institution. However we were at the time considering the sale of Buccaneers to Australia and investigating quick acting blow. On a blown take off, the unstick speed was lower, but the engine thrust was significantly reduced so acceleration was slower. The theory was to accelerate down the runway unblown but in the blown flap and droop configuration and at the critical moment open the BLC offtake valves and the aircraft should then be able to be flown off. There was great debate about whether this would actually work, i.e would the BLC system be able to drag the airflow down on to the drooped surfaces. Flight testing showed it was feasible and worked so a meeting was arranged with Rolls Royce to discuss this and the other performance issues relating to Australia. This was to be a very high level meeting and Roy Boot the Brough Technical Director and Chief Engineer at the time would be attending. I was not at all overawed by the prospect of meeting Rolls Royce but it was with some trepidation that I boarded the DH Dove with Roy Boot, Ray Gadd and others and set off to fly up to East Kilbride. This would be the first time I had ever been in a meeting with Roy Boot who very rarely ventured down into the bowels of Systems Engineering. I sat opposite him in the Dove and he must have thought I looked nervous. He said to me 'Don't worry lad, Rolls Royce might think they are god's gift to engineering but they still have to go to the toilet for a shit just like the rest of us.'
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xx Re: Brough and the Buccaneer
« Reply #7 on: May 5th, 2011, 8:41pm »

Here's another one about a Buccaneer at Holme on Spalding Moor. It had been on maintenance or a mod programme for some time and eventually came the day it was put back together for systems testing. When it came to doing fuel tests there was a problem as each time it was refuelled there was an overflow. There was another minor snag in that the fuel flowmeter did not work properly but 'the works' said they would address that when the refuel overflow was fixed. Technical advice was remove the gravity filler caps and see which tank was responsible, then change the appropriate high level float switch or refuel valve or both and try again. This went on for several days and still the aircraft overflowed each time it was refuelled, but it was not always the same tank. One of my colleagues from Brough, Eric Lewis was despatched to HOSM to help and for a while was as baffled as everyone else. On the floor under the bomb bay was a 40 gallon drum into which fuel was being drained during the component changes. By now this was nearly full and Eric noticed that the surface of the fuel seemed to shimmer. He stuck a finger into the fuel and found it came out with slivers of plastic sheet stuck to it. The mystery was solved. When the aircraft was being maintained someone had put a polythene bag over the end of a pipe and somehow this ended up in the refuel defuel gallery. When the aircraft was refuelled the bag would get pushed by the fuel flow into one or other refuel valve at random and partially jam it open. When the aircraft was defuelled to change a component the bag was sucked back until it came up against the fuel flow meter impeller and jammed that. By now the bag was pretty well shredded. After a thorough flushing exercise the fuel system was finally declared serviceable, and 'the works' were reminded to cover off open pipes with approved blanks in future.
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