G-AVDF – the Last Test Flight 2020

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by Anne Hughes

It scarcely seems credible, but after 53 years since the first flight of the Prototype Pup at Shoreham in 1967, the whole of the test flight programme post restoration was completed between the two total lockdowns of 2020. It proved very emotional to witness the first flight on 19th May and we were ready to do the final test flight on 4th November.

The sun shone, and Francis Donaldson, the LAA’s chief engineer, was available to fly. This time Andy Draper, LAA’s design engineer, was joining Francis in the cockpit to see if DF would take to the skies with two on board for the first time since 1969. DF sat in the sun as both were strapped in, doors locked and starter key turned to the sound of gentle coughing from the engine and a reluctance of propeller rotation. Had DF succumbed to a virus? Perish the thought! After head-scratching and a further consultation with another engineer it was decided a flat battery was to blame and a jump-start, rather than prop swing, was agreed.

The Pup responded, then taxied out and, to the relief and surprise of all, we witnessed a take off in approximately 400 metres. An hour later Pup and crew returned with broad smiles, a thumbs up and DF was declared ready for a Permit to Fly to be issued.

There are more smiles to be seen on the faces of all who have strived to reach this point in the last 5 years and thanks go to all, including David Collings who saved her from a very uncertain future.

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