Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

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fareastdriver
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Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#1 Post by fareastdriver » Sun Feb 07, 2021 8:40 pm

I may seem like digging up the dead but the beginning of Sycamore training after flying four jet bombers was probably the most terrifying time of my life.

To recap:

An Alvis Leonides 9 cylinder radial as use in the Provost T1 of which a lot of the studes had flown before. The difference was that this time you were required to be at max take off power all the time. There was manual control system using a rod poked through the rotor head which meant that control was in the heave ho level. To satisfy this there was a spring biased system using control wheels to make the helicopter reasonably controllable. There were 26 pints of glycol in a tank which had to be fed to another tank in the pylon in the correct proportions to ensure that when one lifted off one didn't go forwards or backward quite rapidly.

Some of us have flown them.

I have been told a few stories dating back to the S51. You can include those if you are still standing.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#2 Post by bob2s » Sun Feb 07, 2021 9:57 pm

Not flown,but flown in and maintained some a fair few years ago,was glad to see the back of them.
Maintenance wise it was a bloody shambles,could take hours to set the idle speed,and just as you were about to succeed the exhaust would smoke like buggery as one of the o-ring on the throttle butterfly gave way,engine oil was fed to the hollow butterfly as carby deice.Pilot had a mirror to see the toffee apples of the droop stops so that on shut down he could see them fly back into stow position.However should one droop stop stick there was a bullet shaped blade tip and an 1/2 inch thick piece of leather attached to the tail boom to direct the blade over the tailboom.Never ever approach a Sycamore from the front as the blades would chop you up,mast was canted forward 6 degree's. MR blades only had a life of 900 hours and the segmented brass leading edge would go off like a mahine gun in a crash.Ground resonance was some thing else, pilot I worked with said he once flew into an airport on scheduled flight to take over from another pilot due leave,off the aeroplane and walked to where the heli was to land only to see it land and just as pilot was winding off throttle it went into ground resonance,said there was not much left to fly so caught the next plane back home.
When it was working it was ok but if you had problems you normally had a host of them.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#3 Post by CharlieOneSix » Sun Feb 07, 2021 11:15 pm

I've never flown the Sycamore but my boss back in the late 60's/early 70's was the former Bristol test pilot 'Sox' Hosegood. This is an excerpt from his Royal Aeronautical Society obituary:
Sox was responsible for flying the later marks of the Bristol Sycamore and particularly the test flying to obtain its Certificate of Airworthiness – the first for a British helicopter. He carried out the test flying from an aircraft carrier to clear the Sycamore for operation with the Royal Australian Navy and in 1953 flew a Sycamore to The Netherlands to assist with flood evacuation work after the great North Sea Surge of that year.
This Red Bull Sycamore is the sole remaining airworthy one:


We had a Sycamore stored in our hangar for a while at Lulsgate prior to it going to a museum. I seem to remember that whilst there were the usual cyclic and tail rotor dual controls, the Sycamore only had a single collective lever between the two pilots. Instructors in the left seat must have been quite remarkable people! With left hand on the cyclic and right hand on the collective, I'm not sure I would have coped well with that!

I only flew in a S-51 Dragonfly once and that was as a passenger on an RN air experience flight from the Norton field at Dartmouth. It was my first experience of flying in a helicopter and I did wonder what I had let myself in for career wise!
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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#4 Post by Pontius Navigator » Mon Feb 08, 2021 8:48 am

I could not remember the Sycamore and thought twin rotor. Then remembered the Belvedere. That must have been a remarkable helicopter to have served for 8 whole years, 😁

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#5 Post by fareastdriver » Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:35 pm

The instructor had to put his hand under the right hand collective so that his wrist movement opened the throttle naturally as he raised the lever. Some instructors preferred to fly it LHS even when solo. My instructor used to do the handling display and he would fly it from the LHS. You needed somebody in the RHS for C of G reasons but he would not take a student in case they tried some of the manoeuvres themselves. Some National Service erk that had only just arrived would be offered the seat. He would possibly be entertained by the low passes and spot turns but looking down at the ground vertically from 100 ft during a torque turn used to get the wind up.

To carry out an practice engine off landing one had to approach the airfield at 1,000 ft. Close the throttle, lower the lever and bring it up two notches on the collective gauge, increase to 1,200 Rpm on the engine for a few seconds and then pull the slow running cut-out and establish 60 knots. It then went very quiet. At 100 ft one flared harshly and this stopped the forward motion by about 50 ft. Level the aircraft and just before the ground swallowed you up you pulled all the collective and landed it at the same time pushing the cyclic slight forward so the the helicopter ran on with a couple of knots. This was because the undercarriage splayed out at right angles and a vertical landing would wipe off the tyres or worse. Then the engine had to be started so the the rotor blades could be brought under control before they sailed and chopped off the boom.

Students were not allowed to practice solo engine off landings and I cannot remember ever doing one. My instructor for that phase was a neurotic Navy lieutenant who would grip the cycic and collective whilst monitoring me so tightly that all had to do was go through the motions and he landed it for me.

He would then congratulate me on the landing.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#6 Post by Pontius Navigator » Tue Feb 09, 2021 4:17 pm

FED, bit of a bugger if the engine failed before you could climb to 1,000ft or increase rpm to 1,200?

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#7 Post by fareastdriver » Tue Feb 09, 2021 5:05 pm

It's low level engine off capabilities were virtually non existant which is why we never did any low flying. The 1,200 rpm was to settle the engine before you stopped it so that it would start before the blades crashed into the boom.

The reason for stopping it was because there was a link between the collective and throttle. Should you just pull back the engine to idle the collective would make it burst into life as you pulled in the final collective which make the exercise a waste of time.

If you did leave the engine at idle and it burst into life there would be insufficient tail rotor to prevent the engine torque spinning and landing in disarray either sideways or backwards.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#8 Post by CharlieOneSix » Tue Feb 09, 2021 6:36 pm

fareastdriver wrote:
Tue Feb 09, 2021 5:05 pm
.......The reason for stopping it was because there was a link between the collective and throttle. Should you just pull back the engine to idle the collective would make it burst into life as you pulled in the final collective which make the exercise a waste of time.....
The Whirlwind HAR3 was the same - once you were sure of making the landing area for a practice engine off landing the Wright Cyclone was shut down. With the Whirlwind HAS7 it was sufficient to keep the engine - Alvis Leonides Major - ticking over at idle while you did the engine off landing - on both types making sure you didn't land the two nosewheels first!

Years ago I was told that the German forces lost so many more Sycamores during practice engine off landings than during real ones they stopped the full engine off landings and did autorotations to the hover instead. Whether true or not I don't know....
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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#9 Post by fareastdriver » Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:05 pm

True! When they stopped using the Sycamore for basic helicopter training in 1966 the only unit to operate them was 32 Sqn. Communications Flight at Northholt. In about 1967 I went for a trip with Digger Barrell and I found out that they had stopped that a year or so before.

Not having flown the Sycamore for a few years I found myself ducking as the rotor blades seemed to just miss the roof.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#10 Post by Ex-Ascot » Wed Feb 10, 2021 7:01 am

Fareast:
Students were not allowed to practice solo engine off landings and I cannot remember ever doing one. My instructor for that phase was a neurotic Navy lieutenant who would grip the cycic and collective whilst monitoring me so tightly that all had to do was go through the motions and he landed it for me.
I had an instructor like that once. Honestly can't remember which aircraft. Cured him by just taking my hands completely off on landing a couple of times.
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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#11 Post by Pontius Navigator » Wed Feb 10, 2021 9:02 am

Ex-A, yes I heard one pilot saying how he much preferred a tandem seat arrangement.

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Re: Has Anybody Flown The Bristol Sycamore

#12 Post by fareastdriver » Wed Feb 10, 2021 10:49 am

One of the problems I had was that I was an ex V force co-pilot and had spent the last three years doing very little actual poling. I had been trained on the Provost T1 which had the same engine but that was all. I was learning to fly from 0 to 120 knots instead of 120 to Mach 0.9.

The night flying stage was just circuit bashing and I did about four circuits dual before solo. I found extreme difficulty doing it but I persevered to the satisfaction of my instructor and he sent me off solo. Things didn't improve and at one stage I was seriously considering firing off the schermulies and chucking this helicopter flying in completely. I didn't and after my three circuits I flew it back to dispersal to hand over to another solo student.

Handover was quite complicated. The new pilot would approach the starboard door which would be opened and then he would hold the cyclic stick steady. On this the occupant would unstrap, shuffle over the switches and buttons on the centre consol and sit in the LHS. He would then hold everything whilst the new pilot strapped in and then depart through the port door.

This being complete I started to take off my helmet and there was a bang on my nose. The reason was that the visor, a deep blue high altitude version, was down.

I lifted it and I could see for ruddy miles!

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