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    Re: Bygrave and Chichester
    From: Douglas Denny
    Date: 2009 Aug 1, 10:35 -0700

    My interest in the Bygrave helical slide rule too Gary, was stimulated when I 
    read Chichester's book 'The Lonely Sea and the Sky'  many years ago.
    
    I have been hoping ever since to find one, perhaps one of them would turn up 
    in an antique shop or 'car boot sale',  but now realise that fond dream is 
    far from ever becoming a reality.
    
    It is very strange that they are now so incredibly rare considering they must 
    have been made in reasonably large numbers from the early 1920's up to the 
    mid 1930's, and were also an official piece of navigating 'kit' for aircraft 
    navigators in that period for the RAF, so must have been made in fairly large 
    numbers rather than just a relatively few for experimental purposes. They 
    were also available to buy privately.  So what happened to them all? It's 
    most odd.
    Even the most arcane scientific apparatus and instruments are usually 
    preserved or survive in private hands to be sold on or given away to others 
    rather than just binned.
    
    Are all those RAF Bygrave slide rules still locked away in some old, musty, 
    forgotten RAF or government store at the back of dusty shelves awaiting some 
    storekeeper to find them and be told to put them in an auction of 
    ex-government surplus.  (Still dreaming you see !).
    
    Whilst the skill and amazing endeavour of what Chichester achieved is not to 
    be denied an any way, (and you have now confirmed by your own practical 
    flying test in a Tiger Moth); which was immediately apparent to me when I 
    read of the exploit, and it has continued to amaze me still - with what he 
    wrote I was also filled with the astonishment and feelings that Chichester 
    was idiotically reckless in what he did,..(I think) to the point of insanity.
    
    Given that he writes in a style which is deliberately meant to make his story 
    not just interesting but no doubt boost his (Chichester's) reputation, and 
    sales of the book, and hopefully have the reader clutching the book with 
    white knuckles in anticipation of events unfolding; nevertheless, he exposes 
    a devil-may-care attitude of quite serious stupidity and ignores issues of 
    high importance which any right-thinking person would not consider 
    reasonable, and certainly not anyone who knows anything about flying and the 
    consequences involved in flying solo in a single engined aitrcraft with a 
    'dodgy' engine over large stretches of water.  
    ----------
    
    I had a personal friend who taught me to fly, he was the Chief Flying 
    Instructor at Bembridge flying school, and who very nearly lost his life when 
    the donkey of the Cessna 150 stopped en route, mid - Solent, as he was flying 
    back to Bembridge from Goodwood,  (The Solent is the sea - only four miles of 
    water between the Isle of Wight and the mainland) -and after turning downwind 
    towards the mainland to maximise his ground traverse, he did not make it and 
    was down in the drink only a matter of some hundreds of yards from the shore, 
    ..and with the SAR helicopter already above him searching for him in the 
    water (he had made a mayday with the SAR only a few miles away at Gosport) - 
    but they only saw him at the last minute before he sank under the waves 
    almost unconscious.  The only reason he survived was because a plastic bag 
    with polystyrene packing in it which had been carelessly thrown in the back 
    seat (the radio had just been changed) floated past him as he was thrown out 
    of the open windshield opening (the windshield had gone on impact with the 
    water) - and he happened to grab it as it went by.
    --------------
    
    The probability of engine failure in modern times with a brand new aircraft 
    with engine properly run-in might be very low; and one might make a 
    reasonable choice of that risk of probability being very low indeed for 
    engine failure; but it is still one _I_ would not take under any 
    circumstances.  Two engines for me at least over water every time thank you!)
    
    ... but Chichester describes in his book earlier engine troubles;  and 
    compounds his recklessness when on Norfolk Island when about to take off. He 
    tried swinging the prop to test the compression of the cylinders and he 
    found:-    "No4 bad enough, but No 3 had no compresion at all"  .... so he 
    had just flown to Norfolk Island with a seriously flawed engine already and 
    yet _still_  tried to take off !
    
    He then spends a few days taking the engine apart where:-   "a man named 
    Brent, who turned out to be a crack mechanic, gave me enormous help with the 
    plane... holding the detatched cylinder head, he said: "Your lucky, aren't 
    you? Look at this!"  The exhaust and inlet valves had been changed over, 
    (Note: this is incredulous in it's own right -Douglas) ...and the metal 
    seating of exhaust valve had begun to unscrew and was already a third of the 
    way out. "It's a wonder it did not come right out and jam the valve port open 
    or shut, in which case the motor would have broken up", he said ..."
    
    I am very highly impressed with Chichester's brilliant navigational skills and 
    the sheeer courage and tenacity with his achievement of such an amazing feat; 
     but at the same time am excoriatingly critical of his cavalier attitude to 
    his own fate.  I think he must have been slightly insane.
    
    Douglas Denny.
    Chichester(City) England.
    
    
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