Sunday, February 12, 2012

That Spitfire Model Story

While going through all the collection of letters and documents which were carefuly kept by my Mom, I came across two letters of Dad's regarding the model of the Spitfire which was shown in an earlier posted photo with my terrific cousin John Hall.

And so the model got built all those years ago. After Dad died in 1982, his model Spitfire went to one of his best friends, Pete Bonell who subsequently donated it to a small aviation museum at the airbase in North Bay, Ontario. Below are 2 photos of the model in the museum.

As the years went by, the museum really wasn't open very much. My brother Gord took on the project of getting the model back (which took some time) and then wanted to restore/refurbish it with a possible view to flying it.

And here it is on Gord's floor at his home in North Bay. He also sent the specifications of the model - those appear below the photo. It was a long labour but I'm sure it has been most satisfying for Gord and I thank him for the dedication it took.

We'll see what happens this year with the model. Should it fly, I'll let you all know.

PS - I asked brother Gord to contribute a piece to this part of the blog on how this all came about. I've also included a couple letters which are self-explanatory.

"Here's more information. I'm including the letters to and from regarding getting the plane from the museum. Pete and I went there in early April, 2010 to see it and ask Cpt. Newman about its return. Following the correspondence, I picked it up in late June, 2010.

"Pete had mentioned that the original Super Tiger .60 glow fuel motor that Dad had installed ran "hot" and he and his son had removed it to try it in another plane. No luck - it seems it had a faulty bearing. They then prepared it for installation and donation to the museum.

"When I examined it initially, I discovered that 2 of the servo motors (controlling the ailerons and the air actuated landing gear)) were missing. The retractable landing gear was no longer operable (time had taken its toll on the small diameter tubing inside the wing) and the remaining servos (for the rudder and elevator), while working, were somewhat below today's standards.

"I investigated a replacement for the glow fuel motor, but concluded that I would have difficulty testing it in the living room of my condominium. Today's brushless, electric motors weren't available when Dad built the plane. These motors deliver excellent, reliable power and are more than equivalent to the original Super Tiger motor Dad had intended.

"Once that decision was made, it was on to acquiring the motor, speed control and batteries, figuring out where everything was going to go, and get on with the building. During the process, I checked all the screws, nuts, and bolts and ensured that the control surfaces were operating properly. The installation of 3 new, digital servos for the ailerons, rudder and elevator was the final step.

"I touched up the nicks and dings that had occurred to the paint over the years and painted the new parts I had installed. It would have been almost impossible to match the original paint, so I opted for colours which were "close". This way, the work I did will be clearly visible to anyone looking closely.

"I even contacted Dave Platt (the original designer of the model) regarding the plane's likely Center of Gravity. He emailed me back right away, wishing me luck, and suggesting 28%. After figuring out what that meant (28% of the length of the root chord of the wing), I checked and the plane balances. That meant that all of my calculations regarding the weight of the original components which had been removed (motor, fuel tank, throttle servo, fuel lines, and fuel in the original versus the electric motor, speed control and batteries which I had installed) were correct.

"It has been a very satisfying process to have my hands on a model that Dad spent so much time on (he was a great builder). I've been careful to do my best, to make this plane fly. After it flies successfully, I'll take on the task of getting the retractable landing gear operating. I'd like to simply repair the system already in place. If that's not possible, an upgrade to electric retracts is the answer."

And here are the 2 letters -

May 12, 2010

Lt. Col. Francois Beaupre
Base Commander
Canadian Forces Base North Bay
Hornell Heights
North Bay, ON
P0H 1P0

Chairman of CFMAD

Dear Sir,

I am writing today with a request for my father’s (Lt. Col. P.V.K. Tripe) Spitfire which is currently part of the museum’s collection at CFB North Bay.

The Spitfire, which was constructed shortly before his death, was given by my family to Pete Bonell after his death. Pete donated the plane to the museum, where it currently resides, suspended from the ceiling.

The family has great interest in this plane for sentimental reasons (my father flew Spitfire’s during World War II, initially for the RAF and later the RCAF) and I have a keen interest in radio control aircraft. It’s our hope to see the plane fly again.

I discussed the matter, yesterday, with Captain R. Doug Newman, who was kind enough to provide access to the museum, and he suggested I direct this enquiry to you as Base Commander. I understand the museum committee is meeting later this month, and, as there is another model of a Spitfire at the museum, it is our hope that this plane can come back to us.

I have included my address, phone number and email address below and will await the museum’s response.

Your consideration of this request receives our thanks.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Tripe
North Bay, ON