Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

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Michael Brooks
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Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Michael Brooks » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am

I started building a VP-1 in my twenties but eventually found that the temptations of life, friends, etc. were too great and shelved the project. I decided it would make a fun retirement project. Fast forward over thirty years and I'm making plans for how to escape the shackles of the day job within the next few years. And yes, my part built aircraft is still with me having been moved from pillar to post over the decades through goodness knows how many houses, raising a family, etc.
So now I'm starting to think more about when I get back to my project (not looking forward to the metalwork - it was what killed my enthusiasm last time as it's just such constant hard work).
Until the arrival of a certain Mr Van Grunsven, the VP-1 had a strong claim to be the most built homebuild aircraft in the world. There are 31 still showing as registered on G-INFO and another 29 deregistered. However, having just trawled through them I think I counted 8 whose permits are actually still current.
That's an awful lot of aircraft of a type that's supposedly easy to build and maintain that aren't flying, and I'm curious as to why. It's nothing to do with them being wood - I've been flying a Rollason Condor (big thanks to another Mike B for parting with it) for the last few years and it's over 50 years old and still going strong.
I'll admit the VP-1 is not the prettiest of aircraft in most people's eyes but that only applies prior to choosing to build one - if you've decided to build or buy one then obviously that doesn't apply to you. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun to fly, especially tackling the challenge of organising your planning so as to be able to navigate without having the space and protection from the elements to easily refer to a chart in flight.
So I'm keen to hear from anyone who has owned a VP-1 and then decided to give up on flying it (especially those who have allowed their aircraft to fall into disuse rather than sell it on) as to their experience. If there's something fundamentally wrong about the VP-1 from most pilots' perspectives then I'd rather learn about it now than discover it the hard way after loads of building effort and expense (it'll cost me a lot more to build mine than to buy a second hand one, but there's something about the idea of building your own that really appeals).
Of course I'm also happy to hear positives stories. All contributions greatly appreciated. :)
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Alan Kilbride
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Alan Kilbride » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:59 pm

I'm sure Chris will be along very soon, but as someone who has flown VP1s for a few hours, my
twopennorth for what it's worth.
Cheap as chips to fly.
Great fun on a summers evening.
Fairly docile to fly
Ailerons need lots of help with the rudder
Limited range.
Limited in pilot size/weight
Easy to maintain.
Ugly enough to be pretty..... I'm sure VP Pilots will excuse me for that.
Contrary to popular opinion they are not the slowest and if you set off with mates, they won't be
there more than 5 minutes before you.
I would not recommend sharing one. Easy to break if handle badly, but I would still buy a share
because the are FUN.
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Chris Martyr
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Chris Martyr » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:11 pm

OK,,,I'm here now , so you can all relax ... :D :lol: :oops:
Michael Brooks wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am

So I'm keen to hear from anyone who has owned a VP-1 and then decided to give up
But , hang on , if Michael only wants to hear from guys who gave up , then that rules me out , doesn't it ?... :D . Well tough , I'll give my 2p worth anyway .

Michael , hopefully your part-built project has been stored in such a way to avoid any deterioration. Do not fret over the small amount of metalwork in the project. The U/C frame can be ordered direct from Grove Aircraft Co. in El Cajon, Ca . If you wish . It is probably cheaper than buying the raw material , then cutting / getting it formed ,,etc.
The streamline tube for the wing struts can be ordered direct from ACS&S . OK , it isn't cheap , but with view to the budget flying you'll be doing , it's money well spent .
The other bits of metal , e.g. fish-plates for the wing root mountings , control column and stab. horn , can be fabricated from 4130 steel . Readily available over here .

I demand you make a re-start on the project ! :D Because if you get a fraction of the fun that I've had out of G-EVPI , then it will be worth every drop of blood , sweat & tears ... :D

Are they ugly ?.....Well some of them are pig-ugly . But I formed the opinion before I started , that the ugly ones are because their builders built the ugliness in . The main offenders are engine cowls that stick out in all the wrong places and don't blend with the rest . I initially left mine off , but found that it gave EVPI a bit of a vintage look [think JAP-99 , J3 Cub etc] it also made pre-flt. inspection so much more straightforward , so I carry on without them to this day .
Windscreens are another major offender too . Too many of them look like Cal. Hi-way Patrol , Harley-Davidson screens . So I made mine just high enough to deflect the wind over my head [copied from a Boeing Stearman]. Losing the "sit up & beg" look does help.
Also , my turtledeck is from plywood and gradually slopes back gently to blend in with the rear fus. It has been likened to a Bowers Fly-Baby , which is exactly the "look" I was after .

Engine-wise , go for the 1834cc VW . The main reason for the VP's cr@p performance reputation is because many early ones used the 1,600cc engine . Which is fine in Turbulents , Taylor-Mono's ,,etc,, but the VP-1 is a bit heavier and needs the extra cc's .
Quite a few of the "experts" have been surprised at EVPIs performance .... 8)

I also agree with what Alan said , and unfortunately the VP does have a bit of a reputation for having a sluggish roll rate . But in the plans , the aileron sealing alternatives are a bit flaky . With my Inspectors approval , I managed to adapt some B.747 aileron sealing rubber sections [ don't ask].. :D ..and EVPI needs no rudder input at all when making a turn ,,,,and the slip-ball stays right in the middle .

The second-hand value of VP's is pretty low , with many of them going unsold and unloved , I guess a lot of guys these days are just after the "instant result". If they're happy with that , then fine . But having spent 7 yrs building G-EVPI and we're now entering 16 yrs of happy flying together , I have an affinity with her that many these days can never even begin to comprehend . Well,,,,,maybe a few other very lucky fellow LAA'ers . :D :D :D

Edit to add : Any specific VP questions , just ask . I could bore for England on the subject.... :D
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Michael Brooks » Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:44 am

Alan & Chris, thanks for your replies. I already have all the metal (although having been wrapped away in plastic for 30 years I won't know what state it's in until I unwrap it all again) bar the undercarriage (so that tip re the ready-formed one is very much appreciated) - it was the business of cutting and smoothing the 4130 that I found somewhat disheartening, but if I recall correctly I may have been just using hand tools - these days my garage is somewhat better equipped. Chris, it will be a while yet before I resurrect the project I'm afraid - patience was never my problem. I may come chasing after you at some point for details of that aileron mod that you mentioned if you don't mind - it sounds like a very good move. :)
Oh, and here's a potentially contentious issue. I rather fancy fitting the Pegasus O-100 rather than a VW type 1-3. http://flypegasuspower.com/wp/
Do either of you know anyone who has had a VP-1 but let it lapse? It might be helpful or at least interesting to get the perspective from some of those people too - forewarned is forearmed, and all that... The only one whom I ever met, sadly his got destroyed on its maiden flight when the engine failed and the test pilot picked the wrong field and ran into a dry stone wall. There was one wing intact which he sold to a VP-1 builder in Meath. That guy had already cut all the ribs for his wings so he sold his one wing worth of ribs to me. Not knowing my arse from my elbow in those days I didn't spot at the time that the ply he had used for them was rubbish, so the most use that they are to me is as templates (if they have been cut accurately). It also means that there is (or at least was) one VP-1 on the Irish register with one wing (the one he built himself) whose ribs won't take the stresses that the VP-1 was designed to withstand.
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Alan Kilbride
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Alan Kilbride » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:59 am

Contentious I know, but there are lots of VP1s out there that are out of permit, not broken.

Why not look at buying one of those poor hangar queen's, find an inspector and work with him to resurrect it? That way you will have worked on one and also flown one.
As you aren't particularly patient, why not try before you build?
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Chris Martyr
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Chris Martyr » Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:04 pm

Michael , you may wish to clarify this . Either Alan has misinterpreted , or I have . Where you write, "patience is never my problem" . To me , that means you're a pretty patient man
Alan Kilbride wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:59 am
As you aren't particularly patient,
During my build , I discovered that I had more patience than I ever , ever realised . I would never ever have completed the project otherwise . You don't need pots of money , or a head full of engineering expertise ....But boy , do you need patience ... :D So hopefully that is what you meant .. :D

I fabricated all my 4130 steel parts just using hand tools . OK , fine if you have more efficient machinery , but I treated every little sub-section of the build as a separate project in itself . It isn't until you come to marry some of these sub-assemblies together that you gradually start to notice that it is slowly morphing into an aeroplane .
Do you have Robert Lowe's book about his VP-1 project , G-BDAH ? If you haven't , it's a 'must read' and seen as an approved guide by the LAA . [and available from Turweston].. :D

Re: the Pegasus engine ? I'm afraid I am not conversant with it . Is it a 'half' Continental ?
All I will say is that may take a heck of a lot of 'getting past' as far as LAA Engineering are concerned . Unless there is already one on the UK reg. to use as a comparison .
Believe me , the best engine to use in a VP-1 is a type 1 VW . I remember being a tad jealous many years ago when the late Roger Selby showed me his Jabiru engined VP-1 . He named it the 'Super Veep' , well , knowing what I do now , I'm not necessarily sure if that title is still relevant .
As far as wing ribs are concerned , I still have a template which Roger S gave me many years ago . It has all the relevant stations marked out on it and saved me a heck of a lot of messing about . Just say if you need it Michael . Roger would be delighted that it is still being used . But he did attach one caveat to it ; he only gave it to me on the proviso that my wing ribs would one day produce lift ,,,and not gather dust ... :D

As a footnote : Alan , the 'Super Veep did end up at Breighton after Roger died . Was that the one you flew ?
If not , then I bet it was G-BAAD ... :D [nice aeroplane]

Or failing those two above , it could've been the green/cream one with the ,,erm,,,canopy . .. :oops:
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ChampChump
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by ChampChump » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:27 pm

I probably missed it (dazzled by Mr Martyr's wisdom :D ) but I don't think anyone mentioned that on Sales & Wanted..is G-BCTT.

Could that be the return of the wrong winged wonder?
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mike newall
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by mike newall » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:37 pm

It's flight Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Borrowed from Star Trecking Across The Universe 8)
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Chris Martyr
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Chris Martyr » Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:14 am

Bloody 'ell Nic... :shock:
ChampChump wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:27 pm
(dazzled by Mr Martyr's wisdom :D )
Not many people can say that has happened to 'em.......... :lol:

Also , @Mike N. you're dead right mate . It is , "flying , but not as we know it".
Think of those poor flying club johnnies , who probably know nothing of LAA activities , will probably never attend an LAA summer fly-in , and whose perception of "flying" is what they do in their Cessna/Warriors for hundreds of £££££s per hour .
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Alan Kilbride
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Alan Kilbride » Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:06 pm

I may have misinterpreted Michael's post.
The Veep I flew was G-BAPP. it has a 1834 VW, Canopy and Turtledeck. Probably the sleekest VP1 around. With a genuine cruise of 90 mph+ and 1 1/2 hrs with a bit of reserves, was a cracking little aircraft.
I thought is was great fun and would jump at the chance to fly one again.
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Chris Martyr
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Chris Martyr » Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:21 pm

Michael Brooks wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:04 am
So I'm keen to hear from anyone who has owned a VP-1 and then decided to give up on flying it (especially those who have allowed their aircraft to fall into disuse rather than sell it on) as to their experience. If there's something fundamentally wrong about the VP-1 from most pilots' perspectives then I'd rather learn about it now
Michael , now if I was some cynical old git [which I'm not :D ,,] then some of what you've written could be construed as , 'looking for a get-out clause'.
With the best of respect mate ; but it isn't really the ones who have "given up" that you want to be talking to . It is the ones who have built/flown their aeroplanes for many happy years and have every intention to continue doing so , that you should be polling..

"Is there something fundamentally wrong about the VP-1" , you ask .
Well , if there was , do you think that the LAA would have it on their books as one of their longest approved designs ?
You don't need to respond to this post, but I strongly suggest that you e-mail Francis Donaldson , who I know will mirror my exact same feelings . Francis used to own G-BDAH and will quite happily confirm that no LAA administered VP-1 has ever killed anybody and that it is a robust and safe little aeroplane .
The drawings for the VP are superb . There is not one dimension or one bit of detail that is left out .
The first POTENTIAL problem comes when sourcing/building the engine . When researching mine , I noticed that for many VW engined aeroplanes , many of the defects which had contributed to failures was engine related . Don't forget that this engine was designed circa 1934 and has clocked up millions [billions ?] of reliable miles all over the globe . So where could the weak link be in this equation , Michael ? Certainly not with the fundamentals of the engine itself .

You also mention about , "if there is something fundamentally wrong with the VP-1 from most pilots perspectives". That's another mistake ! "Most pilots" will probably be the experts with zero hrs on type . Or the steely-eyed killer who will pipe up that he flew one once and it nearly scared him to death . The answer to that one is :
A. He not quite as steely-eyed as he thought .
B. Maybe the VP in question needed just a little more TLC.

I am hoping that my old chum , John Lindsay might just contribute to this . John's beautiful little VP took an award at Sywell a few years back [2015 ?] he has had many years happy flying in it , it is also one of the VP-1's on G-INFO which is still current .
Barbara Schlussler was also a VP protagonist regularly seen in LA mag , flying to many fly-ins up in the E. Anglia area . But there are plenty of VP'ers on your side of the Irish Sea too, Michael.
Why not , during your pondering about restarting the project , just pop out into the workshop and just start fettling them bits of 4130 steel ?.... :D

And if they never make it onto your VP-1 , then just have them set in formaldehyde and sell them on for a fortune to the Tate Modern .... :lol:
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Michael Brooks » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:23 pm

I fully agree re G-BAPP - I spotted it when up for sale a few years ago and thought if only...
The SuperVeep is I believe G-BVAM - the Jabiru powered one that the the Breighton VP-1 group now own in addition to G-BAAD. Since acquiring G-BVAM I understand that they have taken G-BAAD out of service for a spell of deep maintenance.

When I said "most pilots' perspective" I was referring to most VP-1 pilots. In a sense Chris you are correct - I am indeed looking for a get-out clause, but not because I want to get out. I convinced myself decades ago that I wanted to build a VP-1, and that has not changed. What has changed is the number of VP-1's still flying, and therein lies a conundrum - if it's such a great aircraft to fly, costs so little to run and is so easy to maintain, why have so many of them been allowed to drop their permit validity or be removed from the register altogether? If there's a common theme there then prudence would suggest that I try and find out what it is.

As for only talking to enthusiasts, fun as that is and great for motivation, it builds a very one-sided picture. I like to get a balanced view of anything where I can - it leads to more informed decision-making.

I don't doubt the airworthiness; Bud Evans was a very experienced aircraft designer and as I said in my original post at one time it had a strong claim to be the most built homebuilders' aircraft in the world - that doesn't happen with an unsafe design (at least not since the days of Henri Mignet). But airworthiness is not the be all and end all of the experience of owning and flying. So far I have heard of only two detracting points (once you've accepted the limitations of single seat, open cockpit, bugger-all baggage - all of which any owner knows about up front): slack in the aileron control system (I've read or been told that with the stick held firm it's possible to wiggle an aileron up and down rather more than on most aircraft), and some fragilities of the VW type 1, such as when bored out to 92mm to accommodate the 1834 cc capacity there is rather less metal left around the receiving threads in the crankcase for the cylinder bolts than one would ideally like (personally I would be tempted to address this by going for the 1776 cc option at 90.5mm) so you have to be very careful re torque, and the heads are rather sensitive to overheating (so fit a CHT gauge). I really like the look of the Pegasus, which is indeed half a Continental O-200 - an engine with which I am very familiar and for which parts are in plentiful supply (as with the VW type 1). But the point about the effort required to get LAA approval is a good one that I had overlooked in my enthusiasm, so that could sway me back again.

I have considered that the "death" of most of the VP-1's might simply be down to the fact that when their respective owners have eventually decided that it's time to move on for whatever reason, most of them failed to find a buyer to pass the aircraft onto. That is a credible explanation - let's face it, open cockpit (as they mostly are) single seat aircraft with minimal range are somewhat of a niche in the aviation world - definitely not for everyone. But until I hear from people that's pure conjecture.

If that is the case then logic suggests that I would indeed be better off simply buying one that someone else has built - it would save me a small fortune both at acquisition (because VP-1's generally start at about £3K) and at disposal (because I'd get nothing back for it if the time ever came to part). But then pride kicks in - I started so I really should finish; and the fun and satisfaction of building an aircraft from plans must be something to experience. And then there's the fact that it will be tailored precisely to my own desires.

So I am at a crossroads and wondering which way to turn. I have most of the material for the airframe (assuming it has all survived hibernation) and have invested some time on the build (fuselage sides, empennage ribs, one bulkhead), but that's still a lot less than the investment needed to finish the project what with engine, instruments, radio, and time. It's not a decision I have to make immediately; my retirement plans are at least a couple of years off even if everything goes the way I'd like (and could be a lot longer if not). I'm just trying to do the sensible thing and learn as much as I can from others. And maybe that's my problem - I try to rationalise too much. Perhaps these decisions should always be taken with the heart than with the head. Probably comes of being a computer programmer all my days...
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mike newall
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by mike newall » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:04 am

Also , @Mike N. you're dead right mate . It is , "flying , but not as we know it".
Think of those poor flying club johnnies , who probably know nothing of LAA activities , will probably never attend an LAA summer fly-in , and whose perception of "flying" is what they do in their Cessna/Warriors for hundreds of £££££s per hour .


Spot on !!!

Flying is flying.

Fly Champ !

Fly cheap

Fly low

8)
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Chris Martyr
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by Chris Martyr » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:12 am

Blimey Michael,,, :D ..That must've taken all evening to write . Mind you , as a trad./vintage homebuilt freak myself , it's good to see a few decent sized missives on my 'favourite' subject .
But two of your points are quite relevant . I also queried with Barry Smith about the amount of material left in the crankcase after it had been machined to take the bigger cylinders . Barry reassured me that it would not be a problem ,,,,,,and of course he was right . :D although it is a good idea to make sure that you torque your cyl. head studs accurately .

Aileron cables are also a bit of an old VP chestnut too . I used to read a U.S. publication called Volksplane News and remember an article in which it was suggested that they're adjusted quite tight . Because what seems tight where the turnbuckles are [at the base of the control column] won't seem tight when you check them mid-span , through the wing access panels . It is also a good idea to rig them so they are both about 'one inch low' , because when in flight , they will naturally fair-in with the contour of the wings ..[ see , I told you I can bore for England on this subject ]
FWIW,,,if you stick the flaps out on a C.152/172 and twang the aileron cables , you'll see that they are also relatively loose too .

As for this :
mike newall wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:04 am
Fly Champ !
I can only agree entirely.. :D ..Oddly enough , in the VP pilot notes , Bud Evans tells the reader to "go fly a AC-7 and you'll be fine" . Which is why I have a giant soft spot for the Champ . Mind you , the t/o & landing characteristics of the Champ are nothing like the VP.
But I love 'em both.
And I'm not the only one here of that opinion . [eh , CC]... 8)
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Re: Why do so many VP-1's fall into disuse?

Post by JohnLindsay » Tue Feb 18, 2020 6:35 pm

Chris, a topic involving VP-1s must have seemed like manna from Heaven when it first appeared - right up your street!

Like Chris, I cannot speak from first hand experience about why so many VP-1s fall into disuse. I guess there may be a few pilots who built their machines some years ago, after which life intervened in the form of career and family such that they no longer had time to fly, but having put blood, sweat and tears into the building they have a sentimental attachment that stops them from letting the aircraft go. Also, they tell themselves that when life's pressures ease up, they will start flying again. However, rather like a number of my friends with elderly cars that they fully intend to restore one day, so often that day never quite comes.

There may be other pilots who were initially attracted by the cheapness of owning and flying a VP-1 but who then found that its limited range and problems with weight (baggage and/or pilot) restricted their horizons. A flight from a grass strip in Essex to Goodwood requires a stop to refuel at Headcorn, which for me adds to the fun but might for others become an irritation.

When I bought my VP-1, G-BDUL, back in 2010 (can it really be that long ago?), the seller told me that there had been interest from as far afield as Italy, but I wonder how big the market is these days, especially with the emphasis in all the magazines on the latest designs and latest materials. Who, apart from a select few, wants wood and fabric when you can have aluminium or carbon composite?

Now, to try and convince you Michael to press ahead and finish what you started all those years ago. I obtained my PPL on Tiger Moths but could no longer afford to fly them or, indeed club Cessnas or Robins. I did not have the years in me to build an aeroplane from scratch and so, quite deliberately, I opted to buy a VP-1 without a Permit. I had been tinkering with cars for years and wanted a different sort of challenge involving new materials such as wood and fabric, and I particularly wanted to try my mechanical hand at the engine. The VP-1 ticked all those boxes, especially the use of the VW engine as opposed to an aero engine. It took me two years to refurbish the aircraft, involving wood and fabric repairs to the tail feathers, fabricating a new undercarriage, new wheels and hydraulic brakes, a cockpit tidy up, overhauling the engine and fitting Leburg ignition. I had great fun throughout those 2 years, including learning an enormous amount from my inspector along the way. The sense of satisfaction seeing the aircraft's post-rebuild first flight was the perfect reward for all the hard work. Just imagine the buzz you will feel having built the whole thing from scratch.

As for flying a VP-1, much has already been written. I am no expert pilot and would not presume to comment on its flying characteristics other than to say, ten years on, I still find it enormous fun. I have heard a good many unkind remarks said about the VP-1 but never by anyone who has actually flown one. It is amazing just how many well known pilots have owned or flown a VP-1 in their time and all have good words to say about the aircraft. BDUL was built in 1976 by Colin Goodman, a member of the Barnstormers Flying Circus. It was test flown by Barry Tempest and took part in some of their barnstorming displays doing the limbo and flour bombing.

Don't give up now Michael! You have done the hard bit, lugging the bits from house to house for thirty odd years. All you need to do now is finish it (and Chris is always on hand to offer advice having done it already, with a lovely and well used aircraft to prove it).

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