The Continuing Saga Of Acquiring And Rebuilding A Classic Microlight
Having unloaded into a barn which the ever helpful Dave the owner of the airfield allowed us to use FOC. It was then time to start sorting the jigsaw puzzle I’d just bought. This was far from straightforward, bits were obviously missing but with no paperwork or drawings, what bits? and what did they look like?
Never mind, that’s why the godfather scheme was set up, wasn’t it. Right get the name from the BMAA website and send a letter, 3 weeks no response. OK try again, saying I understand that you are probably busy here’s my phone number, e mail address and an SAE please let me know that you have received my letter, nothing. OK, time for a different approach, a mail to e group, ad’s placed on the BMAA site, and AFFORS and the Hangar sites for info, a letter to the son of Jim Romain who Guy had told me was the builder all those years ago, also a search on Goggle for Tiger Cub microlight. this last took me to a German web site that pointed me back to England and the Newark Air Museum.
On e mailing Michael Smith at Newark back came a reply, I’m sorry it’s hung from the roof but I can supply you with a set of stepladders and we do have some paperwork with it. Paperwork, like food to a starving man, too right I’ll come up. Then one of the replies to the e group message recommending that I speak to a name thatI recognise, it’s the missing godfather. I turn in with rekindled enthusiasm, tomorrow will bring all the answers
. The next day picking up the phone with a sense of anticipation and a prepared list of queries I was shattered to hear” Tiger Cubs I had one years ago, no I haven’t any written info but if you have questions I’ll try to answer ” by a puzzled sounding bloke who seemed unaware that he was the type godfather, the source of all things Tiger Cub. So taking a day off work I headed off up the A1 with the feeling of a guy hanging grimly on to his last straw. I pulled up outside the museum not knowing what expect to be greeted by a pleasant lass who phoned Michael Smith who was waiting inside the hangar, full of aviation knowledge and bubbling with enthusiasm.
He showed his Cub, hanging from the roof as he had said, but the roof wasn’t too high the step ladder was long and the zoom on the camera was, powerful. His Cub was the prototype the very one ,the little red biplane that I had seen pictures of all those years ago since then she had flown many hours with her owner an ex Fleet Air Arm pilot who gave it to the museum when he quit flying. The absolute cream was the paperwork, he had everything, The Pilot and Operators Handbook, The Maintenance Manual and the complete Kit Building Instructions including many drawings. He also had the Volmer that I had seen David Cook fly at Old Warden many years ago and a delightful, beautifully simple little Hiway Demon, he had folders of info on both. As he had so much information on the Cub there was not enough time to copy it all Michael offered to copy it and post it to me, what a bloke! I floated back to Essex on cloud nine.
Two days later a letter arrived from Jim Romain offering to meet me and to give me the original instrument panel still with many of the instruments. It was also confirmed to me that this Romain Cub was a very special little aeroplane. Jim had sent me a copy of the flight test report by the CAA test pilot and three way drawing the aircraft that he developed from his work with SP. This proved to be a stunning looking little biplane called the Cobra. I’m really looking forward to meeting this guy.
As we drove though the gates there was no doubt that this was the place, on one side of the drive a hangar trailer sat on the other was Cobra. Even sitting in a front garden this aeroplane looked as if it wanted to fly.
As we walked up to the front door we were greeted by a large dog barking enthusiastically in a car. Jim’s wife opened the door and ushered us though to where the man himself had a video playing showing the cub, my cub, GMJSP no less flying in her heyday after landing she was surrounded by tiny bare trikes, Pterodactyl and other strange machines that I couldn’t even hope to identify. How far we’ve come, but then looking at these skeletal machines and the fettling enthusiasts how much we stand to lose if we’re not careful. Jim also told us many tales often the insiders view of events that we had heard of. Others telling of trips as far as Germany in the old sub 70kg machines taking part in competitions, outlandings and exhibitions. Jim then presented me with the instrument panel and other bits that had been fitted to SP when he owned her. Then outside he showed us around his Cobra talking and showing us all her points. He then asked if we would like to sit in her, before I could open my mouth Joan was already there. So I took pictures and waited my turn.
When it came I looked at the tiny cockpit and wondered would I be able to fit in, Jim had said he had made it fit him and he not a big bloke. I shouldn’t have worried I slid into the seat this aeroplane fitted like a glove the wings felt as if they belonged to me not part of a machine.
The tiniest movement of the controls brought an instant smooth response from the control surfaces wow. On tearing ourselves away we called in to Plaistow’s as it was just down the road we scrounged a cuppa from Jay and got talking to Derrick the genial owner of the airfield. O yes he said I know Jim he used to fly in here with his little Cub, the one with the nosewheel and later on he brought his Cobra. Strewth, what a small world.
Among the many things I learnt from Jim was the fact that there had been a special high performance exhaust made for the Robin engine especially for the Tiger Cub. I knew that like all biplanes they were draggy so I needed that extra punch. A few days later I received an e mail from a chap in Dorset. I hear it said that you are after paperwork about Tiger Cubs I have a builder’s manual, I’ve also got some bits from a kit that was never completed, if your interested give me a call. The phone was answered by a guy called Joe with a gentle northern Irish accent it turned out the bits included flying wires, landing wires some still tied with paper tape marked MBA genuine spares a lot of tube and brackets paperwork including 16 of the 20odd mandatory mods that I needed, and an exhaust. It seemed a day out to Dorset was called for. On arrival we met up with Joe and his charming Dutch wife and were shown the remains of kit no 208 stored in a redundant chapel which it shared with a lovely Thruster TST that looked almost as good as my beloved DF. So we loaded up and headed off back home with the tail gate tied down, great long tubes sticking out the back and Joan saying “I really don’t believe you”. However I’m very aware that I’m still short of many important bits .like any form of undercarriage never mind the rear bulkhead , engine, reduction drive etc.