Watch this page for news items as they develop. The RAF Centenary Flight of the Navigator Press Release is due in Summer 2014 - details will be published here.
Wed 16th Jan 2014 - The fuselage and wing kits arrived from the US in 2 large boxes. They will remain in storage until the empennage kit is complete after an estimated 200 hours of work.
Fri 31st Jan 2014 - Van's Aircraft has issued a Service Bulletin which requires the fitting of 2 reinforcement plates to the Tail Spar. For existing aircraft, this will require a significant amount of work due to the internal location of the modification. However, for this aircraft the bulletin has arrived at the perfect time, enabling its fitment during the build process.
Fri 21 Feb 2014 - The first parts of the aircraft are consigned to the scrapheap! A valuable lesson was learned today whilst riveting the Fin Spar to the 'Doubler' - check the variable PSI setting which feeds the riveting gun. Thankfully the replacement aluminium parts are only $50 (£30) - the order was placed at 1300hrs and confirmation of shipping was received just 5 hours later. The Van's technical and logistics support is very impressive.
Fri 28 Feb 2014 - 'Royal Air Force One Hundred' is formally launched at RAF Northolt. RAF 100 is the banner under which all formal RAF Centenary events will fall. Follow this broad-ranging project on the RAF Centenary page of this website.
Sat 03 May 2014 - Meeting of the FOTN Team in the Skunk-Works (followed by a liquid lunch in the local). The first look at the riveting work by Light Aircraft Association Inspector for the Project - Will Butler. To my utter surprise he is very pleased with the quality of construction so far and particularly the riveting!
Sat 31 May 2014 - I flew to Aero Expo at Sywell Airfield and met with Trevor Pegrum, the Head of Garmin Aviation Europe. The newly-released line of equipment was on display and is incredibly impressive, not just in terms of functionality, but how light it is and how little space it takes behind the panel. With this newly developed technology, the competition is at least 2 steps behind. Can't help thinking that support from Garmin is absolutely essential for the success of this project.
Thu 05-Mon 09 June 2014 - A long weekend away from the Skunk-Works as I chair the RAF Cosford Airshow Flying Control Committee. A great show on the Sunday with over 60,000 attending. The Station hope that it will have raised over 200K for RAF Charities.
Fri 06 June 2014 - The RAF Centenary Flight of the Navigator Team are delighted to announce the confirmation of technical and equipment support from Garmin. The company are the global leaders in navigation and communication technology, and the installation of their latest lightweight avionics into the RV-7 will produce an aircraft that is at the cutting-edge of long-range navigation capability. The ‘design-freeze’ for the selection of equipment is likely to occur in 2015, this will allow for utilisation of the very latest Garmin products as they are developed. Initial analysis by the FOTN Team and Garmin has provisionally selected a ‘Glass Cockpit’ comprising 2 large-screen Multi-Function/Primary Flight Displays, a certified Navigation/GPS/Communication/IFF unit, integrated auto-pilot and Satellite Communication. As the design develops, further information will be displayed here!
Sun 29 Jun-Fri 4 Jul - This week I led the 2014 RAF Halton Aero Club Expedition to Peenamunde, Germany. 8 aicraft, 16 Club members (with a mix of flying experience from PPL student upwards) landed at 12 airfields ranging from grass strips to international airports. From a FOTN perspective, this took 6 days, 18 flying hours and 505 litres of fuel to fly 'just' 1600 Nautical Miles in my Grumman AA1 (which with an upgraded 150BHP engine is no slouch) - a timely reminder of the scale of advanced technological requirements for this circumnavigation. In 6-days in 2018, I expect to be departing Australia to cross the Pacific!
10-13 July 2014- A weekend away from the Skunk-Works. I am priveledged to be the Military Commentator at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RAF Fairford). 3 days of display flying and 20 hours in the Commentary Box - an outstanding event run by the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprise with the help of hundreds of volunteers plus 800 members of the Air Cadet Organisation.
Sun 27th July 2014 - Work has started on the last piece of the Empennage Kit. 7 hours spent in the workshop today on preparation of the component parts of the Rudder. This is a small landmark... Very small!
Late-August 2014 - Another landmark reached. 4 Years to go to the event. The amount of work to do to get there is enormous, but I have no doubt that this will rush past. A recent meeting with the RAF Benevolent Fund has uncovered some exciting prospects for Patronage of the Project. Watch this space for further news! Meantime, the Bank Holiday Weekend is set aside for some serious rivet-banging...
Sat 30-Sun 31 Aug 2014 - This weekend saw the annual pilgrimage to the Light Aircraft Association Rally. Around 1000 aircraft (mainly Experimental Category types) flew into Sywell over the 3 days. There were some stunning RV aircraft and some interesting modifications that I will try to gain some more detail on. Also, a great opportunity to stock up on some of the aircraft building essentials from the trade stands. For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn
Mon 15 Sep 2014 - During a 2 hour engineering inspection, the empennage was passed and signed-off by LAA Inspector, Will Butler. This follows 7-months work on the rudder, fin, horizontal stabilser and elevators. This successful 'pre-closure' inspection now leaves these parts ready for the riveting of the skins and completion. For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn
Mon 29 Sep 2014 - 2 weeks after the pre-closure inspection, the horizontal stabilser (or tailplane) is closed-off and complete. The riveting in this phase is more difficult than previous areas as both sides of the rivet are not visible. Holding the bucking bar 'vet-like' with one arm inside the skinned part of the tailplane with the riveting gun outside has its challenges! For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 5 Oct 2014 - Following 9 hours work today, the Vertical Stabiliser (or Fin) is closed-off and complete. Although smaller and with better access than the tailplane, around a dozen of the 250 rivets had to be drilled-out. Despite this, I'm pleased with the end result. Photos will be posted on Facebook during the regular fortnightly update.
Sun 12 Oct 2014 - Another weekend's work has got the Rudder to the point of bonding the trailing edge and 'angle riveting'. This looks like the most complex part of the build so far and has the most scope for trashing a part of the empennage with well over 70 hour's work invested! For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 2 Nov 2014- This weekend I rolled the leading edges of the rudder and elevators. What a horrible job! After 9 months of carefully protecting the aluminium skins, I was required to used all 14 stone of me, a 1" steel tube, 2 vice grips and a roll of duck tape to finish the task. On the other hand, installing the fibre glass tips was a pleasure! These fairing were sanded to fit very easily with an 18" Permagrit tool. To help the pop rivets, I used some Epoxy Resin on the joints and then filled the small gap with the first coat of micro-balloon slurry. The rubbing-down starts next week once the resin has cured. For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 16 Nov 2014 - The last 2 weeks have concentrated on composite material work. I have decided to fill all 17 flying control surface end recesses with foam, fibre-glass and epoxy filler. This will include elevators, tailplane, rudder and fin (and eventually the wings, ailerons and flaps). Whilst this could add a month to the build process, I estimate this aerodynamic 'clean-up' will add around 2 MPH to the aircraft's cruise speed. Over the long 15-hour Pacific Ocean legs this will provide an addition 30-mile range which is 29 miles further than I can swim! For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 4 Jan 2015- After a prolonged Christmas absence from the workshop, the fibre-glassing, filling and rubbing down of the empennage is almost complete. The filler is a lightweight epoxy-based aviation product called Poly-Fiber SuperFil and is much easier to use than the automotive products that I knew all too well during my youthful ownership of rusting 1960/70s cars! This composite aerodynamic clean-up should be complete with just another day or 2 of work. After that, I will build the wooden wing supports and then the wings will be moved into the workshop! Watch this space... For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Wed 14 Jan 2015 - Breaking News! After 10 months and 370 hours' work, the empennage is finished. 30 metres of bubble wrap will protect the precious parts until ready for fitting to the fuselage (estimated as Spring 2017!). With a day of recalling O Level Design & Technology and Woodwork (thank you Mr Aanenson of St John's School, Upton Park, circa 1982), the own-design wing rack and trestles are also ready. All being well, they will be supporting the factory 'Quick-Build' wings in the workshop this weekend. For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 25 Jan 2015 - Almost to schedule... the wings are in the workshop! Shipped looking almost complete straight from the Van's Factory, there is still a lot of work to complete in mounting the ailerons and flaps, making and installing brackets, pitot system, control runs, fuel lines, wiring conduits, and riveting the bottom skins. I'm hoping to complete this phase in 3 months... For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Sun 15 Feb 2015 - One year into the build and 453 hours logged. With the work on the wings well under way, it's back to 'O' Level metalwork again! Check out the photos on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/raffotn these are the hinges for hanging the ailerons, the pushrods that will eventually connect them to the control column and the lightening holes in the wing ribs that it routes through. Starting to look like real wings now! In other news... we are pleased to see a great article on the Flight of the Navigator project in the February edition of the Royal Aeronautical Society journal AEROSPACE. With work on the Press Release, TV production company and some very exciting developments with the Project Patron, things outside the workshop are taking shape too!
Sun 1st Mar 2015- On the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/raffotn you can see a sneak preview of the avionics layout... Still only a PowerPoint mock-up but a good idea of how the the panel will be filled - courtesy of sponsorship from Garmin. 2 x 10" Primary Flight/Multi Function Displays plus certified Nav/Com, autopilot and back-up instruments. The other photos show the wings in the garden after spraying the areas with zinc-chromate that will be inaccessible after the lower skin, flaps and ailerons are fitted. The left wing (except the fuel and wiring work) is almost complete and will swap with the right wing over the next few workshop days.
Sun 18th Apr 2015 Filming begins! A major landmark took place at the weekend with a camera crew from London-based tv production company Princess Productions visiting the RV-7 Skunk-Works to commence the filming of the project. They have some great plans for a 4-part documentary covering all aspects of the aircraft build, test flying, planning and execution of this world speed record attempt. Their next scheduled filming day will cover the arrival of the fuselage, in particular, the 4 blokes it will take to lift it over my garden wall!
Sat 23rd May 2015 Q. What do you do when one long list of jobs is ticked-off? A. Write another longer one! Take a look on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/raffotn for the list that should see the wings finished within the next month or so. Away from the workshop, we had a good meeting with the RAF Benevolent Fund on Wednesday this week and will hopefully have some exciting news of a high-profile project Patron very soon... In the other photos, after much sucking of teeth I finally decided to drill the ribs (5 of which are already closed-off by the skin) to install the wiring conduits - a few missed heart beats and bruised arms, but all went well. And finally, the bottom wing skins are primed and ready to close the wings off.
Sun 5th Jul 2015 Behind the Line! Well, it has been a busy 5 weeks since my last post and for good reason. Aero Expo at Sywell; teaching my Daughter to map read in the Brecon Beacons; the RAF Junior Ranks Pilot Scholarship Scheme; the RAF Halton Young Flyers event; the RAF Cosford Air Show and the 2015 RAF Halton Aero Club Expedition are all important events and time in the workshop has been scarce. Interestingly, the Expedition (Exercise Island Hop) saw 6 aircraft fly approximately 1500 nautical miles in 5 days, over 10 sorties, flying as far north as the Orkney Islands - in marginal visibility, with thunderstorms and strong winds, it was a challenging week. In comparison, every sortie in the 2018 circumnavigation will be further than this entire week-long event! For photos, visit the new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/raffotn AND 'LIKE' US!
Wed 22nd Jul 2015 A long weekend away from the RV-7 Skunk-Works... and for good reason. It was a privilege to be the Military Commentator at RIAT alongside Ben Dunnell in the commentary box - actually, the weather was so good, we commentated from outside! Five full days at RAF Fairford, including a 4 hour public display on the Friday and 8 hours on the Saturday and Sunday ensured a lost voice and moderate sunburn! The other photos are the Halton Aero Club's Tecnam Sierra which was supporting the RAF Junior Ranks Pilot Scholarship Scheme reception and a major highlight, one of the final appearances of the Vulcan. Around 200,000 attended one of the best Air Tattoos ever. For photos of this fantastic event, check out the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/raffotn
Sun 15th Aug 2015 Back into the workshop with help from Garmin, RGV Avionics and a fellow RV-7 builder, Abe. After an extended RIAT/summer hols break, the project is full steam ahead again. The first of the Garmin products have arrived through UK agent, RGV Avionics of Gloucester Airport. The 'Angle of Attack' (AoA) pitot probe and aileron auto pilot servos are works of art that are being installed into the wings before closing-off the lower skin. During the world speed record attempt these wi...ll enable high accuracy of aircraft trim and centre of gravity, which will maximise the SPEED! RGV Avionics have pledged technical support for the installation of this complex Garmin mission system, and my sincere thanks goes to the team. The final 2 photos are of the modification required to feed fuel from the 'tip-tanks' to the main wing tanks - I had been dreading this job, as the only access was through the 1.5 inch fuel filler hole! Thanks to local RV-7 builder, Abe, both tanks were completed in just 2 hours. Onwards and upwards!
Sun 6th Sep 2015 The annual pilgrimage to the Light Aircraft Rally at Sywell has reminded me that this Facebook page is now one year old! A big thank you to all those who have viewed and 'Liked' it over the past 12 month - keep up the 'Likes' and 'Shares' please! Amongst the 1000 visiting aircraft were some stunning RVs with some interesting modifications and ways of completing these rocket-ship aircraft. It was also a good opportunity to view Manuel Quiroz's RV-6 (the current UK Record Holder for circumnavigation of the earth (www.chasingthemorningsun.com)) - I particularly liked his 'pee-tube' modification and have taken numerous photos to make its installation easy... Meanwhile, in the RV-7 Skunkworks, today I installed the last of the long-range tip-tank fuel lines... almost time for the fuselage
Sun 19th Oct 2016 A high-tech aircraft deserves high tech-tech testing... The final task in the build of the wings is a pressure test of the fuel tanks. The connections are sealed, a balloon is placed over the vent pipe and the tank pressurised with a bicycle pump to approx 1 PSI. After a soapy water test of the visible joints and rivets, the balloon is measured and left for 48 hours... I'm pleased to say that 2 days on, it's the same size! With the task list now ticked off, the wings will be ...returned to RAF Halton and the fuselage moved into the workshop. Although there's still some way to go, the final part of the jigsaw will look good in the RV-7 Skunk-Works. Just a little bit of O-Level woodwork to build the trestles before I'm ready...
Sun 30th Nov 2015 The fuselage has landed! After a few weeks of re-arranging the RV Skunk-Works, work has recommenced. The Quick Build fuselage is beautifully built in the factory, but don't be fooled - there is still at least 2 years work to do! The work list will get me close to the stage where the plumbing and wiring could commence, but even that is looking like 4-6 months work... The plans and subsequent
photo are a great example of how 2-D paper turns into 3-D aluminium. In other news, the website has just had its 10,000th visitor - sorry, but no cash prize this time!
Sun 2nd Feb 2016 The Garmin avionics 'design-freeze' is complete! My sincere thanks goes to Trevor Pegrum and Alistair Ingason of Garmin who gave up a whole day of their time to assist in the selection of this cutting-edge avionics equipment - their expertise and advice is second to none. Garmin's kind provision of this equipment and technical support has brought the reality of breaking this world speed record one step closer to reality. My thanks also to Nick Pinn and the camera team who uno...btrusively captured the technical evaluation and safety analysis marathon - this was a defining day in the Project and should form a large part of the documentary. We have selected 2 G3X multi-function displays, GNS 750 certified Nav/Comm and Sat Comm systems - the precise layout will be shown HERE once we have put it into our instrument panel planning software. Although it may seem a little early to select this equipment, the fuselage is at an advanced stage of construction and I need to start cutting metal very soon for its incorporation. For pictures of the day at Garmin HQ, visit the www.facebook.com/raffotn