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While we're waiting.



It's been a while since I last sat down to write something. Apart from an obituary, that is. The main reason is I've just been too busy of late.

In February our restoration work on K7 was brought to a crashing halt a hairsbreadth from the finishing line. We'd fully worked out the HP air start. The figures and performance matched those obtained at Hayward's Heath in 1966 and all we had to do from there was some testing to ensure it was both repeatable and reliable.

Then there was the canopy. Anyone even vaguely following us would know we were a long way down the route of casting new canopy frames in polyurethane and before long we'd have display canopies, running canopies and spares to ensure another aspect of our ongoing support. But, no. Instead, the RM in its wisdom, chose to have all that halted and left themselves with a whole pile of problems to solve and a massive hill to climb because the canopy isn't easy. Our first canopy was absolutely 100% perfect in every detail and it fitted and worked too, latches, catches, every detail down. If they do any less than that, what's their excuse?

And who in their right mind would put themselves in that position and to that amount of learning and work when those who could and would have done it at no cost based on past success were willing to do the job? It's utter madness. So now they can have a go and there is no excuse for getting it wrong so I'll be watching that one with interest

And after years of head scratching we'd finally killed the igniter gremlin too. Clever Barry rewound the igniters four times as he and Checkie chased the problem round and round the wiring until they won. There was a couple of bluebird emblems to paint on the flanks of the tail cover and the pitot system to get air tight and that was about it and most of that could have been done later when BBP took the boat to the water.

But, instead, the machine was gutted of her painstakingly developed systems and hauled away gleefully by those who crashed the ambulance. As I write, her spray baffles are lying on the floor under the cradle for the want of half an hour with a screwdriver. They tried to accuse us of not sending the screws, which is rubbish, and even if we hadn't I just had a quick look and found ten of the correct type for sale on eBay for £2.75.



Naturally there was a massive outpouring of disgust at the way BBP was repaid for its years of dedication across very platform and that was heartening and it continues and seems it isn't going away away. To this day we've never received so much as a thankyou. There's been some grudging lip service on social media and carefully measured words to reporters but have we had a letter, an email, anything directly to the team, families and corporate supporters expressing any sort of gratitude? Nope. Poor old Doddy left this earth last week, have they paid any tribute to him? Not that I've seen.

So what is to become of K7 now?

The most popularly held belief is that she will sit there gathering dust and scratches until the end of time. For ages the museum assured everyone they had a team of experts and engineers ready to spring into action and get K7 up and running and the good people at WEC were touted as being lined up but the work they do bears no resemblance to what BBP does. It would be like asking an orthopaedic surgeon to replace a heart valve - both highly skilled procedures but each a specialism. Considering that K7 was already up and running there was never a need for another team and now there is no evidence that there is, or ever was one. BBP grew organically from a small catchment area to begin with and we all learned on the job. We had premises and tools already but knew nothing of K7 at the outset. Now we know everything and no matter who was asked from outside the BBP team they cannot have our level of experience and expertise on that unique vehicle so why would you risk it? It would be just plain irresponsible.

There's a lot of work and testing to do before that machine could be safely operated yet the engine they are supposedly going to run in 2026 is still sitting untested in the museum despite the fact that we offered them the use of our test rig and expertise in setting it up. No one knows if it even works.

2026 will come around fast and will K7 still be sitting in the wing? The majority think so.

But there's another twist that isn't widely known about and that is the Campbells gate-crashed the bandwagon way back when planning permission was being sought for the Bluebird Wing and ensured it contained a clause that let them have their hands on K7 for a month every year. Considering that in 2013 they told the museum that K7 actually still belonged to them because Gina hadn't given it away properly, and that it need only remain in Coniston as long as 'public interest demands', it will be interesting to see what else has been baked into K7's future by them and what happens when the bonfire of interest dies to embers, which won't take long.

I receive daily reports on what's going on at the museum, mostly from sympathetic strangers disgusted at BBP's treatment. Their comments all align around a recurring set of points. There's next to no staff and those that are there have the job almost stopped trying to extract gift aid from anyone who crosses the door, there's only a trickle of people about even when it's raining outside and there's nothing else to do, it's not publicised beyond the village, there's virtually no information on the twenty year rebuild and zero information on her return to the water in 2018, and on top of all that, no one working there seems to know the first thing about the machine so no one there can answer any technical questions. Quite how long public interest will demand she stays there remains to be seen or on what scale it is measured but all this crowing about how many visitors they've had may have sinister roots. It's going to be interesting to watch this one from the side-lines too.

And what about BBP?

Well we're still here and just doing what we do. About the only difference you'll see is the lack of a boat but it was always the plan that it would spend nine months of the year out of the workshop anyway so we were well on the way to being geared up for that transition. We're mates first and foremost and the workshop is open at the usual times and whoever is free calls down to gather there, potter with the cars, fix some broken thing they've found on eBay or simply drink tea and eat Tunnocks. We still get a lot of visitors too. Many have called in regularly over the years and stop by to say hello as they always have. Others spy a gas turbine through the door whilst buying wood on the other side of the road and come to be curious and more than a few have made it their business to make the trip especially to express their disgust at our treatment and offer condolences but there's still plenty to do.

We have K7's engine to get running again as the museum insisted certain parts were removed so that's almost back together from the spares we'd carefully collected over the years and we had a couple of other projects already going on between Bluebird jobs but most of my time has been taken helping Rachel with her fledgling business. She's a specialist teacher working with dyslexic and dyscalculic children and young adults. She sees a lot of them in her day job but only the most needy can access support through school leaving a whole swath of kids who don't quite qualify but who could seriously use a little extra help. So she's taken over my offices, spent a fortune making them into classrooms and appointed me as chief cook and bottle washer and guess what, I'm loving it.

But there's still lots to do with the BBP. I'm collaborating with an author on the long envisaged book project, for example. I've been writing chapters for years but always said I wouldn't finish it until it had an ending. I certainly don't consider BBP's involvement with K7 to be over, it never will be. We hold the biggest repository of information on that boat in the whole of creation and the story of the rebuild is always going to interest and enthuse people. And you never know what the future might hold. One day a new set of trustees might see what everyone else can see right now, namely that the people of the BBP were treated appallingly and that the museum had an incredible asset that a tiny number of spiteful, greedy and jealous individuals went out of their way to try and destroy.

That said, I feel the time to write the book is about right so I'm currently awaiting a thing called a 'chapter plan' having provided lots of timelines and short sketches of my various adventures.

Meanwhile, most of the BBP archive has never been seen and includes boxes of documents, hours of footage and as yet untold anecdotes and intrigue. I'm not quite there with sorting it, though it's getting there, but now that things are settling into a period of watching and waiting my plan is to go right back to the beginning, dust off the old stuff and tell the story again. I need to do that for the book anyway. There's a vast trove of material that has been packed away for over twenty years.

When I wrote the diary in years gone by I was always careful to portray only the happy, public interest story that kept the project going smoothly but over the years there have been undercurrents and events we didn't share at the time and documents that perhaps weren't ready for general consumption. One fascinating example is the bundle of statements and reports about the events of the 4th January as recorded by Lancashire Constabulary. There's obviously nothing sensationalist or gory amongst it, just the honest, freshly recalled statements of witnesses and police officers who were there at the time so maybe the time is right for that sort of thing too.

Then there's all the stories of what really happened with the HLF bids, our dealings with the BBC, the museum and of course the Campbells. There's emails, letters, my pile of diary / notebooks without which I couldn't have got through a day, and long overdue truths that really ought to be be included in the interests of history recording an accurate account.

Much work has been done on bringing K7's Wiki page up to date, despite the spiteful efforts of a troll or two to undo the good work, but these things have a habit of self-levelling. Meddle with things enough and someone in authority who can also spot an idiot will inevitably step in and that's what's happened. So a lot of the story has been told already but unless you've been watching for over twenty years you might have missed it and just as much has never seen the light of day so it's time to start opening the boxes and revisiting the story from the beginning.


We've added a subscribe button at the top of the page so if you want to receive a mail when the diary is updated pop up there and click on that.


More soon.


Bill


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Thanks as ever for the update. Please, please, PLEASE write the book. Put my name on the mailing list, interested list, or just a Post-it note in the workshop for a copy. ❤️

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Rob Atkin
Rob Atkin
May 28

Great news re the history is to be told 👍

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