Aerobatic aircraft tested by the AMRC put through its paces at top global airshow

A spectacular aerobatic aircraft, which passed airworthiness tests at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, has been put through its paces (week commencing Aug 22 2016) at the world’s largest recreational aviation, experimental aircraft and aeronautics airshow.

The GB1 GameBird was the first fixed wing, light aircraft to undergo a full airworthiness test in the UK for more than 30 years.

It took to the air in the skies above Wisconsin, in the USA, at the EAA AirVenture annual airshow, which is attended by more than 550,000 enthusiasts from 80 countries.

The two-seater GB1 was developed by Lincolnshire-based Game Composites and designed to carry out complex manoeuvres in aerobatic competitions or simply be flown for fun.

Although GB1 was designed and built in the UK, it looked as though it would have to undergo full airworthiness testing in the Czech Republic until Phil Spiers, who heads the AMRC’s Advanced Structural Testing Centre (ASTC), became aware of the project.

He was determined that an aerobatic aircraft being built within 60 miles of the AMRC ought to be tested in the UK, and sure his team had the skills and experience to help Game get its aircraft approved as quickly as possible.

The Centre built a special test rig which allowed it to carry out damage tolerance and fatigue tests at an ultimate load 19 times that exerted by gravity at 72°C and simulate 20,000 hours of flying.

Following the ASTC’s work and further tests on seats, harnesses, the GB1’s fuel tank and baggage compartment, the aircraft completed European Aviation Safety Agency flight tests ahead of its debut at the EAA AirVenture airshow.

Phil Spiers said: “It’s been a privilege to be involved in proving the safety, security and integrity of this aircraft and fantastic to see the GB1 up in the air.

“This is the first, fixed wing, independently designed and built light aircraft to be certified in the UK for 30 years. Now that we have re-established this country’s capability to carry out the full range of airworthiness tests we hope other designers will chose to have their testing done here.”

Following European approval, production approval will be sought from the US Federal Aviation Authority and the GB1 is being offered for sale at $399,000 for a basic model.

About the GB1 Game Bird

The GB1 has a carbon composite airframe, is 6.9 metres long, has a 7.7 metre wingspan and weighs only 585 kg when empty. It can cruise at more than 200 knots and has a range of 1,000 Nautical Miles on 320 litres of fuel, or can carry 95 litres for aerobatics.

The GB1 is designed to be used for unlimited aerobatics, training for all levels, as well as upset recovery training, flying cross country and for pure fun, with the inclusion of a front passenger seat expanding its potential market beyond hardcore aerobatic competition pilots.

For more information about the GB1, visit

Details of the EAA AirVenture airshow can be found at

Gearing up for a big day…

As Mission Controller Shane was away last week and the AMRC was very busy with the exciting budget day reporting hosted by Sky News here at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the team decided to spend last week re-boxing up the aircraft with insulation and heaters ready for a set of ultimate load testing this week.

The second life fatigue testing was completed successfully the week before and now that the Mission Controller Shane is back, he is currently validating the testing programmes for this week’s testing.

This week’s ultimate load tests will consist of a residual strength test where the Game Bird 1 is pushed up and pulled down on the Whiffletree rig to 72 degrees, applied by a load of 64.5 kilo newtons; the same forces applied throughout the fatigue testing.

Once complete a heated static ultimate load test will pulling down the plane on the rig first with a force of 82.65 kilo newtons, then the aircraft is pushed up on the rig plus 15 per cent of that force.

As we are still experiencing some play in one of the wing pins, Game Composites are currently assessing whether they want to complete some repairs to the damaged bushes this has caused before we go ahead with the testing tomorrow, so Game could well be back on-site with us this afternoon.

As well as Game, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be present on-site to witness the tests and we will update as soon as possible, hopefully with some video of the nerve-wracking testing, so you can experience what the team go through when putting the Game Bird 1 through its paces!

The Game Bird 1 boxed up and ready to go!


Plane sailing

The fatigue testing has been running really well, practice makes perfect as they say! We’ve been busy changing all the joints of the Whiffletree and replacing the engine mount bolts. This is done at approximately 60,000 cycles. We learnt some lessons during the first period when we had rig failures and bits breaking, but this means the second time round, we can monitor things better and avoid this from happening again. In addition, we made a plan with Game Composites to change certain rig components as a matter of course.

We’re currently at 61,500 cycles and we have to get to 71,663. When we run a 24-hour period it gives us 8,640 cycles, so in running another 24-hour period we will be left with only 900 cycles remaining before we reach the finish line and the golden number of 71,633.

Once we’ve reached the 71,633 cycles, this will also us to begin boxing up the airframe in insulation and the week commencing the 21st we will be doing another ultimate load test at 72 degrees Celsius and then a further ultimate load test at a 15% higher load. It will be getting hot in Catcliffe! So keep checking back for exciting news!

Stanley knives and Saturday Morning Kitchen

We starting running the second life of the fatigue testing cycles on Friday and to our delight it ran beautifully well, so ran through Friday night as well. Set designer Steve gave up time on his Saturday morning off to come and shut down the rig safely for the rest of the weekend. Always absolute dedication from us here in ASTC could cause us to miss Saturday Kitchen Live.

We came back in on Monday and started our usual rounds of inspection to find that the engine attachment bracket (the bracket that takes the main load up into the wing spars) was starting to show signs of cracking.

The solution was to take it off, do some hasty cutting up of bits of box section we had and got the whole thing welded up much stronger with the help of our friends at Nuclear AMRC. This time we’ve really gone to town and beefed the bracket it up to help ensure it won’t happen again.

It was ready to reinstall this morning and we are ready to continue with the fatigue testing again today. We have already clocked up about 20,000 fatigue testing cycles out of the 71,633 required for the entirety of the second life testing, so we are getting through it quite quickly now.

Luckily for ourselves and Game Composites, nothing untoward has happened so far during testing with the extra damage we have caused the airframe. Game Composites came in late last week and did some repairs to the rear stabiliser of the aerobatic aircraft because we had noticed a little crease was developing.

It’s quite remarkable the aircraft can be repaired. A Stanley knife is used to cut out the damaged patch of composite material on the fuselage to reveal the foam layer in the middle. The foam is removed and smeared with glue, but not just any old glue is used; the glue has what only can be described as lots of hollow tiny glass balls in it, making it lightweight yet very strong. This replaces the foam and a patch is stuck over the top with resin which we leave to cure overnight.

As the aircraft being hand laid-up (or built by hand), it’s relatively easy and cheap to repair, as any repairs can also be done by manually without having to send it back to a manufacturer. As it would at the hanger or in the field.

With the repairs to the engine bracket made, we will be back up and running with testing today and we will hopefully conclude the second life fatigue testing next week so we can get ready for further testing. Exciting things to come for us!

Exciting visit from British Aerobatic champion Lauren Richardson

At the end of the last week the ASTC had an exciting visit from British Aerobatic Champion Lauren, Richardson.

Photo credit:


28 year old Lauren has completed five seasons of flying aerobatics and three as a certified display pilot in air shows around the UK, completing 33 performances over the space of just four months during the 2015 flying season.

Whilst in Sheffield to present a lecture for the Sheffield branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society on ‘The art of the unusual attitude’, Lauren was invited to the ASTC to see the work we were doing helping to fully-certify the Game Bird 1 aerobatic aircraft. Lauren said she hopes our work will be of great interest to competitive aerobatic pilots across the UK and is watching our project very closely!

You can read all about Lauren’s work and see stunning video of her in action in her specially modified Pitts Special G-G-BKDR biplane at:


The ASTC team was really sorry to hear of the death of Capt. Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown. Our thoughts go out to his family.


1919 – 2016


It is with deep regret that the passing of Captain Eric Melrose Brown CBE DSC AFC is announced. Eric was the most decorated pilot of the Fleet Air Arm in which service he was universally known as ‘Winkle’ on account of his diminutive stature. He also held three absolute Guinness World Records, including for the number of aircraft carrier deck landings and types of aeroplane flown.

He was born in Leith, Scotland on 21 January 1919 and educated at Fettes College and the University of Edinburgh, where he learned to fly in the University Air Squadron.  His early flying experiences were with his father, a member of the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and later Air Attaché in Berlin. During trips to Berlin as a student, Eric Brown witnessed the 1936 Olympic Games and the first indoor helicopter flights by Hanna Reitsch, Germany’s greatest female aviator, with whom he corresponded until her death in 1979.

Germany was to figure in Eric Brown’s life for the next 75 years. He was a fluent speaker from time in the Third Reich as a language student, where, at one stage, he was arrested by the SS and deported.

To earn money for his studies, Eric Brown became a ‘wall of death’ rider on a small 250cc two-stroke motorbike, often sharing the wall with his boss and a fully-grown male lion riding pillion.

His flying skills were to send him to fly fighters from the world’s smallest aircraft carrier, HMS Audacity where he survived the ship being sunk by U-Boat on 21 December 1941. During this time, he survived the first of 20 flying accidents and, mid-Atlantic, was wounded by return fire from a German long-range bomber, which he promptly shot down.

At the end of the war, he returned to Germany at the direction of Winston Churchill to capture and fly advanced German aeroplanes. He flew them all and questioned their designers in detail.

He witnessed the liberation of Bergen-Belsen camp, acting as interpreter for the trial of the camp commandants. Later, he interrogated prominent Nazis, including Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler and the senior Luftwaffe.

As Chief Naval Test Pilot, Eric Brown achieved some notable firsts, including the landing the first jet, the first twin-engined aeroplane, and the first with a tricycle undercarriage on an aircraft carrier. His work with the navalised Spitfire, called the Seafire, was fundamental to giving the Fleet Air Arm a modern fighter aeroplane on a par with land-based contemporaries.

Other notable aviation achievements immediately post-war included work with experimental aeroplanes which were reaching the sound barrier, the great unknown of contemporary flight. In fact, had the Attlee Government not given away the technology, Eric Brown would have been the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in the Miles M52.

He tested the world’s only jet-powered seaplane fighter in the Solent, learned to fly helicopters and was posted to support the American test programmes at Patuxent River, where he met the future astronauts.

In 1957, he put his German language skills to go use when he was appointed to train the embryonic German Naval Air Arm and he maintained his links with the country for the rest of his life, including addressing the Luftwaffe Veterans’ Association annual meetings in Berlin. He was British Naval Attaché in Bonn and ADC to the Queen.

Eric Brown retired from the Royal Navy in 1970 in the rank of Captain and became the Director-General of the British Helicopter Advisory Board at a critical period when helicopters were brought into service for the North Sea oil business. He was President of the Royal Aeronautical Society 1982-83.

Before and after retirement, he wrote a series of autobiographical books including ‘Wings on my Sleeve’, ‘Wings of the Luftwaffe’ and ‘Wings of the Weird and Wonderful’. He wrote detailed forewords for aviation books, the last one being ‘Spitfire People’ in 2015. Eric Brown was the subject of the 3000th edition of ‘Desert Island Discs’ in November 2014.

He was also honoured at No 10 Downing Street as a Great Scot in December 2015 and celebrated his 97th birthday with more than 100 pilots, including the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, at Buck’s Club in London on 27 January 2016.

In recent years, Eric Brown’s unrivalled aviation knowledge and talents were still in demand, including by Lockheed Martin for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s naval adaption and the Airbus A 380 super-jumbo.

Eric Brown passed away on Sunday, 21 February at East Surrey Hospital, Redhill, Surrey after a short illness.

Eric Melrose Brown born 21 January 1919 at Leith; died 21 February 2016

His first wife, Lynn McCrory died in 1998 and his son, Glen, and his second wife, Jean Kelly Brown survive him.

Notes to Editors

  1. Details of the funeral and memorial service have yet to be formalised.
  2. Pictures of Eric Brown in recent years are available from John Goodman 07956 680270
  3. Media and other enquiries to Paul Beaver 07836 622165


Issued on behalf of Captain Brown’s family by Paul Beaver.

Time to break things!

Our client, Game Composites, have been liaising with the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority who is doing the certification for Game Bird 1 aerobatic aircraft and a plan has been developed to damage the airframe and then test it to see how the structure withstands this damage.

This is to replicate what could happen to Game Bird 1 in a real-life situation, for example, if it were to be stored in a hangar and it was to be damaged without anyone noticing whilst inspecting the plane. The testing we’ve already completed has qualified Game Bird 1 for 30 years of air worthiness certification, but with the damage testing we are going to do, this will help further help the plane gain it’s certification.

Game Composites have been on site whilst we have been damaging the airframe. There are seven points around the plane which are to be damaged from different heights and at different energies.

To do this, we fixed a ball into a bag and tied it to a rope and attached it to a crane over the aircraft, all very high tech at the Advanced Structural Testing Centre! Hovering the ball over the targeted point and graduated the string in metres meant we knew how high up we were suspending the ball to drop it onto the marked targets on the airframe.

Damage has been caused on the tail stabiliser and the wing and we then proceeded to run a few hundred fatigue testing cycles. Unfortunately but we got some rather unpleasant and unexplained noises. After a little bit of thinking about things we realised that when heating the airframe to 72 degrees for the ultimate test we had probably baked the grease off the wing pins and the engine bracket interface pin – the joints were running dry!

We were also concerned that we have got a little bit of movement in the engine mount, because over a period of time during testing it has elongated the holes in the composite material forming the aircraft. Not a lot, but enough that the bracket it moving and creating noise. So today we have taken that load bracket out and Game Composites are going to do the repair on these holes by filling them in with resin and putting the bolts back in. Then it will set and take all the play out.

We have slid the big bolts back in the wing spar to clean them up, add a little more grease, and then slide them back in.  Hopefully that will cure the groaning noises we are experiencing.

If this all goes as planned today, we are hoping to start running the new set of fatigue testing cycles through the night again; much to Shane’s wife’s delight with his constant checking of the live feed webcam when he’s at home!