Site Updated:

Engineering Section

Engineering update January 2012

Since our last engineering update on the Association’s Lightning F.6 XR724, many volunteers have offered their help with her upkeep and maintenance, and the nucleus of a new engineering and maintenance team has now been formed.  As a result of this much has been achieved over the last 2 months. 


Before continuing, it should be emphasised that because of the lack of numbers of engineering personnel over the past few years and the consequent infrequency of servicing, it has been necessary to start by going back to basics, including cleaning the aeroplane.  For those who imagined that we could proceed straight to a reheat engine run once we had sufficient engineers, I have to say that the reality is very different and safe operation of the aeroplane will only be possible after following strict servicing schedules.



A good day on 6 November 2011 resulted in AC & DC being applied to ‘724 and many electrical checks being carried out, including the fuel pumps / cocks / transfer pumps being swirled and tested successfully. Many of the cockpit instrument items were switched on & tested as well.



The next step was to apply air to the air turbine gearbox (ATGB) via our Artouste Mk 102 jet engine (see previous engineering reports).  Since our last update this has been overhauled yet again and the batteries serviced and charged.  The Artouste once again ran very well on the day, although slight technical adjustments had to be made before we were happy to apply bleed air to XR724’s air ducting system.


The Artouste was then started throughout the day 6 or 7 times and warm air applied to ‘724’s air ducting system.  It may come as a surprise to some, but not to us, that not a drop of water came out of the ATGB outlet.  This is because a combination of sealing the outlet against water ingress with an expanding bung plus siphon pipe draining it several times a year has indeed helped preserve our air turbine gearbox and her impeller in remarkably good condition.

These Artouste runs also enabled the AC & DC alternator & generator to be spun over and the aircraft electrical supplies to take over from the Houchin ground supply via XR724’s electrical switchover contactors etc.

The next thing on the list was to take XR724 for a steady tow round the pan to exercise her oleos since having new tyres and main wheels fitted by Darren Swinn & myself.  This was duly done by Dennis & Jessica Wood, who arrived back with windswept red faces.  This was not due to the speed they achieved, simply to the typical biting Binbrook wind!  Our Douglas conversion of the David Brown aircraft towing tractor had done her stuff yet again.

Between Artouste runs, volunteers took the opportunity to apply plenty of elbow grease in cleaning XR724’s airframe.  Quite a few tubes of T-cut, plenty of WD40 & Waxoyl plus a good helping of volunteers sped this job on a bit and the rear port fuselage and cockpit now have a shine once again.  The photographs speak for themselves.  This is an important part of the work, as with the airfield being declared an area of outstanding natural beauty, neither the Local Authority nor the owners of the land want to see the aeroplane looking as though it has been abandoned.  If it is obvious that she has been actively looked after, we are much more likely to get everyone’s cooperation in the future should we need it.

No doubt the usual armchair engineer detractors will say that this was a waste of manpower but not everyone is qualified to do the skilled engineering work and, in any case, a clean airframe is something to be proud of and encourages people to want to contribute their time and skills to work on it.  It also helps to prevent corrosion in an aeroplane currently in open storage.  A chance for a photo opportunity for the volunteers with XR724 parked on the diamonds was a thank-you from us for all their hard work on the day. 

The next engineering day on 20 November 2011 also went well, with yet again more general cleaning work done to XR724 in the interests of preservation.  Most of the fuselage, including both main planes & tail planes, the cockpit and the starboard side of the fin have been cleaned with T-cut  and WD40 applied.  All that now needs protection before the worst of winter hits us once more is to finish the underside of the port main plane & port side of the tail fin, either at the next volunteers meeting or before if we can make the time.

Work also began on the No.1 reheat pipe, which was prepped for removal with the intention of overhauling it in the new year.  As this work goes on I shall post more details as they become available

The next engineering meeting was on 11 December 2011 (see Charles’ separate article and photographs on the forklift servicing).  Much was achieved as two local fork lift engineers turned up & did a great job in getting our side-loading fork lift truck up and running once again.  The two big batteries were swapped over from the Artouste and oils and coolant checked over & topped up where necessary.  We found that the automatic gearbox was slightly low on automatic transmission fluid, as this has to be checked at tick-over engine speed in order to show the correct ATF levels.


We then moved lots of items to get the forks out of the garage and went for a full check over the lifting control system, which all appeared to be in pretty good working order.  Grease was duly applied to all moving services and an new keyed ignition switch was mounted in the control panel.  The braking system on the forks was found to be in poor shape with very little brakes to be had which is not good, for obvious reasons.  In consequence, the braking system will have to be overhauled in the near future.

Since our last engineering day on 11th December 2011, XR724 has had to have her spine covers retied down twice after the high winds blew them off to one side, so all seems to be fairly well protected for the coming winter months

Other things we need to do before the weather gets any worse include getting the cockpit section from XS899 off her trailer and under cover.  There is also plenty of ground equipment to be overhauled during the coming months, but at least with all that being under cover at the farmhouse, working on it should be a bit more comfortable than up on the airfield.

Well that’s all for now.  We hope you’ve had a good Christmas and we wish you all the best for the coming year.  Keep an eye on the website for the next engineering/volunteers days; all are welcome and we hope you can see that there is work for everyone, not just those with specific aircraft engineering skills.    

John Watson


A video of volunteers activity was taken on November 6th 2011, courtesy of Ian of Ltd. This shows the enthusiasm and commitment  of those involved. Many thanks to Ian for his superb video.



Copyright © 2010 The Lightning Association.  Designed by David Evans