The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome
No. 4 Summer 2000
Dominie flies after 28 years rebuild
Bob Moore takes a graceful "Old Lady" back into the sky
Hundreds of spectators at Sywell saw the DH 89A Dominie lovingly restored by Rex Ford and the team at Fordaire, fly at the end of April for the first time in 28 years. It was under the control of test pilot Bob Moore, who describes what it was like.
Bob Moore's test flight at the 'sharp end' of the Dominie
I remember the day the aircraft arrived by truck from Germany. "A DH89 Dominie" claimed Rex pointing to a pile of wreckage. Having unloaded it, (it was heavy), it was obviously going to be a long job.
Here we are many years later and the aircraft has finally flown. Whilst the pile of rubbish was being transformed into a beautiful aeroplane, I leisurely gathered what little information I could about it. The results would make a very thin book. Basically the DH89 is prone to swing on take-off and landing; has 'interesting' stall characteristics making a mishandled 3-point landing bad for your health, and marginal engine-out performance. Pilots of a past generation certainly earned their salary.
The seating and upholstery has been completely restored
Rex showed great faith in choosing me to do the test flying. I have not flown a Dominie before and as there are no dual control aircraft, I would have to teach myself. Aware of the value of the aircraft both in financial terms and in human effort, I would have to be careful. I opted for a few fast taxi runs to gauge the handling and if all went well then a short flight. So much for the plan.
For a light aeroplane, this is a big one. The 3-point attitude is very steep placing the cockpit a long way off the ground. This was reinforced as I struggled up the cabin and squeezed into the cramped office. Once seated the steep angle was again apparent, the view forward over the strangely shaped instrument panel was non-existent. I also became aware of the precarious position I occupied as any mishap leading to a noseover would be painful.
Starting up was easy, careful not to overprime and then just listen to the music of those lovely engines. A few minutes to warm up and then taxi out. You don't have enough hands for throttles, brakes and control column. The castoring tail wheel makes the aircraft sensitive to cross winds and unequal power from the engines. She is best steered by a combination of rudder and differential power. When all else fails the brakes save blushes.
At its light weight, the aircraft was very lively, not hard to keep straight but the pitch change from three point to flying seemed enormous. Gingerly I opened the throttles. Keep straight, tail up, a quick check of gauges and we were airborne. Immediately back with the power and we sedately climbed away. Wonderful! The view was superb and the sound of those engines!
Bob Moore alone in the cockpit and
running up the Dominie's engines
prior to the long-awaited flight.
First impressions were good solid stability, almost ponderous. One quick circuit was enough to check controls, engines and trimmer and then we were on approach. Small snag, couldn't get the flaps down (finger trouble), bigger problem C150 ahead stubbornly refused to vacate the runway in spite of firm instructions from Air Traffic.
Finally all was clear and the first landing. A bit fast (allowing for ASI error) but a smooth arrival. Hazy recollections of taxiing back to meet the relieved and happy faces. The aircraft had performed almost faultlessly, just a slight mag drop, a little low on max rpm, one oil temperature gauge u/s and those flaps.
How did it feel? Wonderful! This is a beautiful aeroplane, it certainly ranks with my all time favourites the Canberra PR9 and the Hunter F6. She is a credit to de Havilland and to Fordaire's dedicated team who have worked so hard to return her to the air.
Thank you Rex for the experience.
- Bob learned to fly aged 17 on a RAF Scholarship. He joined the RAF in 1966 serving for 23 years retiring as an instructor on Nimrod aircraft. He joined Monarch Airlines in 1990 and is currently a Captain on Boeing 757 aircraft.
'It seemed a good idea at the time'
says Rex on why he bought the Dominie
In August 1994 I became the owner of the remains of DH89A Dominie CN-TTO and shipped it from its store in Northern Germany to Little Gransden.
So began the slow task of rebuilding it, and in many people's eyes my own degeneration into insanity and stupidity.
The aircraft had been completely stripped off all metal components in preparation for a rebuild. Our first task was to identify, clean, inspect! re-protect and refit using in excess of £5000 of new bolts/nuts etc. while at the same time inspecting and repairing the wooden structures. In reality we completed one item at a time while locating the next components to enable the final picture to emerge from the jigsaw, and as the pile of parts went down the task became easier.
In between we relocated to Sywell Aerodrome as with its three runways it offered a better home to operate from.
On 6 April 2000 at 12:58 in the command of Roger Moore this graceful, elegant lady took to the air 28 years since she last flew.
It's time for a well earned beer!
What prompted me to take on such a task I do not know, however it did seem like a good idea at the time. This aircraft was complete, appeared in better condition than I would have expected, was still configured as a Dominie and deserved lots of T.L.C.
This story cannot be complete without due thanks to all those kind people who provided help and assistance, without them it would have been a non-starter.
Mark and David Miller, Ralf Jones, John Bennett, Charles Huke, Ted Biggs, John Featherstone, Mungo Chapman, Bob Batt, Brian Mills, Phil Lowe and the C.A.A., thanks to you all.
History of DH Dominie G-AKRP
|1945||Built at Brush Coach works, Loughborough, Leicestershire for RAF|
First flown 3 January 1946
|1948||Sold to Shorts Brothers and Harland and based at Rochester.|
|1955||Converted to Mk IV|
|1958||Sold to the French Senegal Registered F-DAFS|
|1959||Sold to Morocco Registered CN-TTO|
|1972||Withdrawn from use|
|1974||Sold to French collector but stays in Morocco|
|1979||Sold to American syndicate but ends up on Bremen docks after wrangle over shipping charges|
|1980||Rescued by Bob Wirth and stored in his barn in Northern Germany|
|1994||I now own it|
|1998||Engines started after overhaul|
|1999||Accepted onto UK register as G-AKRP|
|2000||6th April First post-rebuild flight and has now completed 6 hours of air testing|
6 June new interior finished
June Expected to be issued with Certificate of Airworthiness