British Phantom Aviation Group (Official Topic)

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A rare shot of XT597 in pre-Raspberry Ripple days. On show at RAF Coltishall on 15th May, 1982. Many thanks to Mark Taylor for supplying the pic.

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The British Phantom Aviation Group are pleased to announce our first confirmed events for 2020. XV490 will be appearing at two events at Newark Air Museum. Firstly- a new addition to the Newark calendar- is the Cold War Call Up, dedicated to remembering the years of the cold war. Secondly is the aircraft's annual appearance at Cockpit Fest. XV490's cockpit will be open for visits, the BPAG team will be in attendance, ready to chat and answer your questions and exclusive Phantom merchandise will be available. Hope to see you there!

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More shots of XT597 in the pre-Raspberry Ripple colours. Both taken at RAF Valley, ground shot 30/11/82 and approach shot 07/11/81. Many thanks to Steve Bond for the pics.

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As the Christmas break will soon be upon us, the British Phantom Aviation Group would like to take a moment to send everyone our best wishes for the season. Thank you all for your support and enthusiasm during 2019. We will return in 2020, in what is shaping up to be busy and eventful year. Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year to all.

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A couple of the Tiger 360 team attended Manston again on Monday, primarily to attend to other matters but the chaps were also able to put a couple of hours in on the airframe before the end of the day.

In order for disassembly to proceed, the outer wing sections will have to be removed. However, the wingfold system is hydraulic and the pins are still in place. Therefore, D101 L&R panels have to be removed in order to access the system, connect hydraulic power to withdraw the wing lock pins. Heavy corrosion of the panels unfortunately meant cutting into the wing instead. However, as the panels would have to be replaced with refabricated versions, this is of no concern. Opening the wing revealed the extent of the corrosion underneath.

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Leading edge flap actuator access panel also removed. Again, serious corrosion underneath. Speedbrake lock and closure panels removed.

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In conclusion- a useful and informative exercise and definitely time well spent, that has given us further insight into what we're up against.

On a brighter note, we have received approval from DFTDC Manston to move the aircraft from soft ground and onto an area of hardstanding. This is an important step toward dismantling as being on hard ground will allow us to bring in lifting gear to faciliate stabilator removal and- vitally- will give access underneath the fuselage for the engine removal kit. Once the engines are out, we will have access to the main wing spar.

Next step will be to prepare a movement plan and risk assessment. Then once the mainwheels are changed and nosewheels inflated, the aircraft should be ready to move. Many thanks to BPAG Chairman/Technical Director Paul Wright and Tony Clay from the 74 Squadron Association for their hard work.

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The BPAG engineering team were at Manston again last weekend, continuing the work of preparing the airframe for towing onto firmer ground. This session was very much a battle against corrosion and seized parts. Also, due to rain and high winds, activities had to be curtailed around noon on Sunday. However, despite these issues, good progress was still made in three vital areas.

Outer wings- Both returned to folded positions using a combination of a handpump tapped into the hydraulic lines, penetrating fluid, 20 ton jack and brute strength manpower. Both wing sections are now ready to be progressed for removal next time.

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Ailerons- Removal of dump masts is necessary to remove ailerons but again corrosion was an issue, forcing the decision to cut away masts as well as drilling out most screw heads. Hinge pin on LH eventually extracted and aileron removed. RH needs more persuading.

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Fuselage panels- Removal of access panels started, in order to assess internal structure and to give eventual access to lateral control run and bypass ring areas to facilitate wing removal.

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Finally, over the 20+ years that the aircraft has been at Manston, the undercarriage has sunk into the soft ground. With the main wheels needing to be changed before towing, the turf surrounding them was excavated to allow inspection and assessment. Wheels and brake packs currently refusing to separate so more work needed.

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In conclusion, this was a difficult weekend. But as corrosion was predicted to be a hinderance at some point, it was not entirely unexpected. Resolving the outer wing situation is a major step forward and completion of work on the other areas was only prevented by the weather. Many thanks to the BPAG & 74SA members and volunteers who gave up their time and energies to further the cause. Thanks also to Nigel Hodgson, Tony Clay and John Kendal for the photos.

Extra manpower is always welcome on these occasions, so if you would like to volunteer to be part of any future BPAG work parties, please email BPAGvolunteers@gmail.com and tell us a little bit about yourself. Thank you in advance for your interest.

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A useful recent discovery under the skin of ZE360- an untouched section of the original blue paintwork. Should come in handy for colour matching.

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Another busy couple of days at Manston recently. BPAG and 74 Sqn Association volunteers made more progress with ongoing issues and an important step forward.

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Side panel removal is continuing successfully, despite corroded fasteners eating through drill bits in a matter of minutes and the tailcone is now also partially disassembled.

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The RH aileron finally gave up its fight to stay in place and was removed and we have gained access to the leading edge flap actuators on both sides.

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However, the biggest achievement of the weekend, which simultaneously gave us a milestone moment and an end to a major area of concern, was the replacement of both mainwheels. Using a custom built puller fabricated by the BPAG, the LH was the easiest of the two to remove, exposing the brake pack (which is free enough for towing purposes but will need cleaning and restoring later) pressure plate and bearing, which is turning nicely. RH wheel put up more resistance and had to be forced free with old fashioned muscle power. RH brake pack seized unfortunately so had to be disassembled for further attention. RH bearing also turning OK but will need around 10 new rollers due to damage from water ingress.

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With the main wheel replacement taking priority, the outer wing and CL tank removal had to be left for another time. This was a price worth paying though, as resolution of the wheel issue has removed what could have potentially been either a serious hinderance to the restoration effort or, in the worst case, put it in jeopardy entirely. We are all collectively breathing a sigh of relief. Many thanks to all our volunteers for giving up their weekend to further the cause. Thanks also to Tony Clay & Nigel Hodgson for the photos.

Finally, needless to say, all this activity unfortunately comes at a price. Our volunteers are generous enough to meet their own expenses and provide their own tools and materials but the aircraft still requires parts, equipment and resources that we will have to provide. So, this is a general appeal for support. The BPAG and the 74 Sqn Association would be extremely grateful if you would consider donating funds to the ZE360 Restoration Fund. Any amount, however small, will be much appreciated and will really make a difference. You can donate via bank transfer to the following-
Account Name – Tiger360
Sort Code – 30-96-26
Acct. Number – 53212368
Alternatively, donations can be sent via PayPal to the BPAG merchandise address- phantomerchandise@outlook.com Please include a note that your donation is for ZE360.

We have reached a landmark point now that the main wheels are changed and with your support, we can reach the next one and be closer to moving the aircraft to safety. You are all as much a part of this as we are. Thank you.

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absolutely fantastic dedicated work going on, well done one and all

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Many thanks. Still got a long way to go but last weekend was a real milestone.

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This month's issue of Aeroplane magazine has a four page article on ZE360, how the preservation effort came about and the progress so far, written by our colleague from the 74 Squadron Association, Tony Clay. Many thanks to the magazine and staff at Key Publishing for the inclusion. In the shops now.

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Due to current circumstances, we have been informed by DFTDC Manston that the facility is closed to all external visitors for up to 12 weeks. The British Phantom Aviation Group and the 74 Squadron Association have therefore put the preservation effort of ZE360 on hold until further notice.

This new development will fundamentally change our planned timetable but this is obviously due to circumstances beyond our control and we would like to apologize to our volunteers who may have gone to considerable inconvenience to make themselves available for this weekend's cancelled work party. We will issue more updates as events unfold. Many thanks for your support and understanding.

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In view of yesterday’s instructions from the Government, we have taken the decision to close the BPAG webstore until further notice. The new lock down rules mean that we cannot currently access the merchandise storage facility and- of course- we will not be expecting our volunteers to leave their homes to dispatch packages.

Closing the store will also save the BPAG a monthly standing charge, at a time when we are unsure when fundraising activities will be able to recommence.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far by purchasing items. The store will return when the current emergency passes.

We can also confirm that the new Cold War Call Up event, due to take place at Newark Air Museum in May and which would have featured XV490, has now been cancelled. The inaugural Cold War Call Up will now take place in 2021.

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All the best to you ,keep well .

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Many thanks. Best wishes to you too. Stay safe.