Aviation Historian 10
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T.Buttler - On Heaven's Doorstep
VICKERS "VESPAS" FOR IRISH FREE STATE AND CHINA: A repeat order has been placed by the Irish Free State Army Air Corps with Vickers (Aviation) Ltd., for four "Vespa" Army Co-operation machines fitted with Armstrong-Siddeley "Jaguar" engines. A "Vespa VI" (Bristol "Jupiter"), as shown here, has also been sent out to China for the purpose of special demonstration flights to the representatives of the National Government of China.
The first Vespa built, originally registered G-EBLD, became the much-modified Vespa VI, re-registered as G-ABIL in January 1931.
Following its sojourn in China, G-ABIL was modified again (note the filled-in upper wing centre section), fitted with a Pegasus engine with Townend ring and redesignated the Vespa VII.
Uwins in the cockpit of G-ABIL in 1932. The “O-5” on the Vespa’s fuselage is the marking it wore while operating under “B Conditions” (without a valid Certificate of Airworthiness). In May 1933 G-ABIL went to the RAF, with which it was given the serial K3588 and used for high-altitude and supercharger research.
TESTING THE ALTITUDE BREAKER: Mr. C. F. Uwins flying the Vickers "Vespa" (Bristol "Pegasus") above the Bristol Channel. The English end of the Severn Tunnel can be seen in the foreground. 1932.
Uwins at the controls of record-setting Vickers Vespa G-ABIL above the Bristol Channel in 1932.
"PER ARDUA AD ASTRA": The Vickers "Vespa" (special supercharged Bristol "Pegasus") on the way towards 44,000 ft. Piloted by Capt. C. F. Uwins, it gained the altitude record in 1932 with a height of 44,000 ft. An Italian Pegasus-engined Caproni subsequently raised the figure to 47,353 ft.
The Vespa during one of the high-altitude flights made in September 1932. Uwins reported that on the earlier flights a degree of aileron control had been lost owing to differences in expansion and contraction of metal parts in the wing, but that other than that, the flights were “uneventful to the point of being boring”.
On top of the world - the original Flight caption for this photograph of Uwins wearing his heated flying suit, goggles and oxygen mask in G-ABIL, states that it was taken "to give people an idea of what he looked like when he looked down on this vale of tears from 44,000ft”. He was in fact looking down on the Vale of Evesham.
In the cockpit the spade-handle grip of the control column had a safety switch which the pilot had to keep in position in order to keep the engine running. The object was to ensure that, in the event of the pilot losing consciousness, his grip on the switch would relax, with the result that the engine would automatically cut out, eliminating the possibility of a full-power dive and giving the pilot time to regain consciousness and re-establish control. The device had successfully been called into play on a number of occasions.
The starboard side of the cockpit accommodated the Rotax control box for Uwins’s heating equipment, with switches for goggles, clothing and oxygen.