Bluebird K7


Bluebird K7

Bluebird K7 was a hydroplane with which Donald Campbell set 7 water speed records. Campbell lost his life in "K7" on January 4 1967 whilst undertaking a record attempt on Coniston Water.

Design

Donald had hitherto been using his father Sir Malcolm Campbell's boat, "Bluebird K4", for his record breaking attempts, however following a structural failure in this craft Donald began development of the "Bluebird K7". Designed by Ken and Lew Norris, the "K7" was an aluminium, 3-point hydroplane with a Metropolitan-Vickers Beryl axial-flow turbojet engine producing 3500 pound-force (16 kN) of thrust.

The name "K7" was derived from its Lloyd's unlimited rating, and was carried in a prominent circular badge on the sponsons.

Records

Campbell set seven world water speed records in "K7" between 1955 and 1964. The first was at Ullswater on 23 July 1955, where he set a record of 202.15 mph (324 km/h). The series of speed increases - convert|216|mph|abbr=on later in 1955, convert|225|mph|abbr=on in 1956, convert|239|mph|abbr=on in 1957, convert|248|mph|abbr=on in 1958, convert|260|mph|abbr=on in 1959 - peaked on 31 December 1964 at Dumbleyung Lake, Western Australia when he reached convert|276.33|mph|abbr=on; making Campbell and "K7" the world's most prolific breaker of water speed records.

Loss and Campbell's death

In 1966, Campbell decided to once more try for a water speed record; a target of 300 mph (480 km/h).

"K7" was fitted with a lighter and more powerful Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engine, taken from a Folland Gnat jet aircraft, which developed 4,500 pound-force (20 kN) of thrust. The new "K7" had modified sponsons, a vertical stabiliser (also from a Gnat) and a new, streamlined canopy for the pilot.The boat returned to Coniston for trials in November 1966. These did not go well; the weather was appalling and K7 destroyed her engine when the air intakes collapsed under the demands of the more powerful engine and debris was drawn into the engine compressor blades. The engine was replaced, although Campbell reportedly had to buy an entire crash-damaged Gnat aircraft for scrap to obtain another engine.cite book
title=The Bluebird Years
last=Knowles |first=Arthur
publisher=Sigma Leisure
date=2001
isbn=978-1-85058-766-8
] The original engine remained on the slipway for the rest of the project, shrouded in a tarpaulin.

Eventually, by the end of November, some high-speed runs were made, but well below the existing record. Problems with the fuel system meant that the engine could not develop maximum power. Eventually, by the end of December, this problem was fixed and better weather was waited for to mount an attempt.

On 4 January 1967, Campbell was killed when "K7" flipped over and disintegrated at a speed in excess of convert|300|mph|abbr=on. [GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1967 10F 692 ULVERSTON - Donald M. Campbell, aged 45] Bluebird had completed a perfect north-south run at an average of convert|297.6|mph|abbr=on, and Campbell used a new water brake to slow "K7" from her peak speed of convert|315|mph|abbr=on. Instead of refuelling and waiting for the wash of this run to subside, as had been pre-arranged, Campbell decided to make the return run immediately. The second run was even faster; as "K7" passed the start of the measured kilometre, she was travelling at over convert|320|mph|-1|abbr=on. However her stability had begun to break down as she travelled over the rough water, and the boat started tramping from sponson to sponson. 150 yards from the end of the measured mile, "K7" lifted from the surface and took off at a 45-degree angle. She somersaulted and plunged back into the lake, nose first. The boat then cartwheeled across the water before coming to rest. The impact broke "K7" forward of the air intakes (where Donald was sitting) and the main hull sank shortly afterwards. Campbell had been killed instantly. Mr Whoppit, Campbell's teddy bear mascot, was found among the floating debris and the pilot's helmet was recovered. Royal Navy divers made efforts to find and recover the body but, although the wreck of "K7" was found, they called off the search without locating his body.

Campbell's last words on his final run were, via radio intercom:

The cause of the crash has been variously attributed to Campbell not waiting to refuel after doing a first run of convert|297.6|mph|abbr=on and hence the boat being lighter; the wash caused by his first run and made much worse by the use of the water brake; and potentially a cut-out of the jet engine caused by fuel starvation. Some evidence for this last possibility may be seen in film recordings of the crash - as the nose of the boat climbs and the jet exhaust points at the water surface no disturbance or spray can be seen at all.

Recovery

The wreckage of "K7" was recovered on 8 March 2001 by diver Bill Smith, inspired to look for the wreck after hearing the Marillion song "Out of This World", which was written about Donald and his boat. The recovered wreck revealed that Campbell had activated the water brake to try and slow down on his final run. The boat still contained fuel in the engine fuel lines, discounting the fuel starvation theory, though the engine could have cut-out as a result of injector blockage. As of 2008, "K7" is being restored to a workable condition.

Campbell's body was recovered from the lake on 28 May 2001 and he was interred in Coniston cemetery on 12 September 2001.

Campbell's sister Jean Wales had been against the recovery of the boat and her brother's body out of respect for his stated wish that, in the event of something going wrong, "Skipper and boat stay together". She refused to attended his burial or ever visit his grave.

References

External links

* [http://www.bluebirdproject.com Bluebirdproject.com - the restoration project for "K7"] externalimage
align = right
width = 300

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/64/214197963_c965b9494e_o_d.jpgThe wreckage of the tailfin of "K7"] [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaptainkobold/214197963/in/pool-79693942@N00/ 06-10-2008 ]


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