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About this title Synopsis: The Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough was unique in that it was an experimental government establishment which actually produced very few aircraft, but designed a long string of successful types that were produced by other companies. I remember that the height was ft AGL. In a few milliseconds I realized I'd have to eject.
At that height I could eject into the ground, so I had reflex -'go for the handle'. I used my left hand to pull it. I pulled. It seemed an age before anyth ing happened. The canopy went. I waited for the ' nip' in the back of the neck previously I had done twO training ejections in a static ramp , but it did not happen. The next ching I remember was that I was coming down in the parachute and into a green field. I could not move my arms or my legs.
I cou ldn't breathe either. Sqn ldr 'Hank' Martin, the CO, stands in the lightning cockpit. A ' hangman's deployment' is so-called because we breathe through the diaphragm and whcn someone is hanged on the scaffold the noose breaks the neck and breathing stops. This is what had happened lO me when the parachute had deployed. I came to on the ground. I still had my face mask o n. I could not breathe too wel l. I thought this was because I was laying on my patient good, basic nursing to avoid potentially dangerous bladder and kidney failure s later and so prolong the patient's lifespan.
At one time, the normal prognosis fo r spinal injury pa tients was only ten yea rs. I had a tracheotomy to improve my breathing and my head was put in traction for three months aft er a harness was bolted to my skull.
The first night, I cou ldn't move, and I was more occupied with coping with the present effects of my breathing apparatus. Two labou rers came over. I said: 'Mask off, Mask offi '.
They said : ' He's still alive', and moved back. Overhead, another Lightning circled, pin-pointing my position presumably. A crash crew arrived with an ambulance and a very uncomfortable ride ensued. I was taken to hospital in Ipswich and later that day was helicoptered to Stoke Mandeville. Dr Goodman oversaw my treatment. He was a German Jew who had fled to Britain in and had become world renowned in the treat ment o f sp inal injuries a t Stoke Mandeville. His technique was to permit the The Firebirds taxi out at Wattisham. Underside view of thirteen Lightnings of Squadron in June Aeroplane accident than thinking about what the future no w held.
Stoke Mandeville was some thing of a culture shock after RAF station quarters. The wooden huts had nicotine stained ceilings and it was so cramped, you could touch the patient's bed next to you on both sides. Everrone though, was in the same boat. Recovery, if you do recover, comes after six weeks. At the time of my accident my wife Patsy was five months pregnant, and she was understandably very upset. All told, I spent seventeen weeks in bed.
Gradually, my arms got a little movement. My first day's o uting on 23 October. Without a trace of bitterness, he says, 'The RAF is there to fight wars, not look after the injured. In Martin Baker provided money to enable th e Cookes to buy a Citroe n Safari and to have it specially adapted for his use. Dave Seward, who had been filming the formation from the ground, now had tough decisions to make: Sad tho ugh it was, I had a job to do and suddenly.
Not a pleasant thing. You've gOt [0 tell the relatives. The station commander asked me what I was going to do. I said, 'We carry on. This was one of the times when you had to make a hard decision. You're nOt the 46 mos t popular guy. Then again. We had a Queen's Birthday flypast the next day and not only that but we were scheduled to lead it.
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I'll give Mo Moore his due. I sa id. What are you going to do! He said, 'I'll carry on'. We needed all the aircraft so Edwin Carter and his enginee rs changed the missile pack o n Mo Moore's aircraft and hammered the dents out and put it in the air. Although the Firebirds gave most of their displays with synchronized aeroba tics from two sections of four or five aircraft, each show that summer of was opened by the full formation of nine with, sometimes, an extra solo perform ance thrown in. On one occasion I saw him enter the fog at Biggi n Hill inverted and I neve r expected him to come o ut alive, but he did!
The Flight correspondent wrote, each section of five would check its brakes at precisely the same inSlam after it had rolled a The programme at Le Bou rget proved that few feet. The effect was almost that of a gracious bow towa rds the crowd. Squadron's pre-cake-off manoeuvres were, certainly, a fitting prelude to the precision The French crowd were treated to a dazzling display of colour and spectacle, but above all, which was to follow in the air.
If there was to be a full take-off of ten lighmings the onlooker would be treated to the sight of ten canopies dosing as one on Sqn Ldr Seward's orders. This move was not juSt 'bull'. We only had something like twelve minuees from take-off co landing. Normally, we timed ou rselves from the time the first aircraft mine started co roll. The French said that our start time was as soon as 1 taxied oue. I Dave Seward was also the man who faced the las t-minute decision o n what type of show was CO be given: Despite met reports it is sometimes impossible to know exactly what flying conditions are like until you are in the air.
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We had anothe r display which we cou ld use if the ceiling was lower and a final bad weather show with which we operated within a radius of twO miles with a ft ceiling. He said, 'No clouds bclow6,OOOft'. I cold John Curry, 'OK, we'll do a full show. It was a 'dodgy' time but we all stuck togetherI'll say that or the team. So then the rest of the display was the flat show. Afterwards, I asked m - Manning why the hell he had told me there was no cloud below 6,OOOft and he said. I could see him looking at me and saying, 'What about that loop! He was not that happy anyway that a front-line squadron had been taken out of the line for aerobatting.
It did not make economic sense using a frontline squadron like us when you're trying to maintain a watching brief in a Cold War situ ation. I explained to him that we'd been given the wrong weathcr forecast and that was it. He was just starting to get to the awkward question when Bill Bedford suddenly dropped the p. The crash took me off the hook and wi th other things now on his mind, Zulu Morris never mentioned it again! Geoffrey Norris' predicti on that the Firebirds would be adj udged one of the best yet was proved true, and they became the last squadron formation aerobatic team to display: the following September, a team of five ye llow-painted Gnat T.
The Yellowjacks' success led, in , to the world-renowned Red Arrows, whose first public performance was at Biggin Hill in May that yea r. The res t, of course, is history. Mixed formation. Sqn ldr Dave Seward is flyin g Mk. Peter M. Goodwin, Commander of the LC. It returned six months later after a majo r rework of the hydraulic pipes in 0. George, and was soon coded 'G'. By the end of July the number ofT. George after landing while returning from Chivenof, and turned over. Gibbs, escaped before the aircraft caught fire and and shortly afterwards it received seven several squadrons to Lightnings.
George's Cross and reflected the unit's 'shadow' identity which was adopted during the many Fighter Command exercises that would follow, and in time of crisis. Ken Goodwin was posted to Bangkok in October Andy Greenhalgh. Air Cdre Ken Goodwin 49 a very effective organi:ation had been devel.
Grp Capt Mike Hobson. Roger Topp. Mike Hobson Collection T. J 74 Squadron had moved to Leuchars and we had Coltishall to ourselves, save fo r he Search and Rescue helicopters. Back Row, left to right: Ed Scott. Fit It Terry Bond ejected safely from F. These two instructor crews were visiting Gfrtersloh to check out squadron pilots to see if they were still using the skills taught them at OCU, and were not 'trappers', which descended on bases to test squadron readiness for action.
Late r, No. Ss, and what little solo flying there was on this final pa rt of the co urse was completed in th e two seat aircraft. He was flying a F. I on a post minor air test when he could not get the starboa rd undercarriage leg fully down. The secondary system also failed and after a series of low, slow flypasts.
This line up of 1. EOP stucL: partially almost half way down on both sides. It was therefore decided that he would eject. A runway landing was considered, but advice was that the aircraft could cartwheel. Terry Bond ejected as near [ 0 the coast as possible to ensure [he aircraft wem into the sea, but he hoped to keep his fect dry. In the event, he landed about twenry yards off the shore just south of Baetan with the helicopter virtually waiting or him.
He was unhun and quickly returned [0 flying status. There was one other accident. He had a nose wheel stuck in the 'up' position and landed on the runway keeping the nose up until the last moment, causing only minimal damage to the aircraft. In , the OCU began to expand to its full strength and du ring this period we received the first ab inirio students straight XS was OCU's first 1. It was damaged shortly afterwards. It was repaired and later served with the LTF at Binbrook. XM was lost on a dual radar sortie on 2 January Gross ejected first Carlton going at about ft.
Both pilots. Crumbie was unhurt. Simon Parry rom Training Command. By now the F. IAs from 56 and I 11 Squad rons. By the late s the OCU had forty-two Lightnings on its inventory, divided fairly evenly between the three versions, to which eight F. Some of the F. Lightnings and the Magic Carpet J T. On 1 March frt It Mike Graydon and his instructor. The engine was shut down before the T. Thunneya n , whom Mick Swiney checked a lit on a standard ization sortie at th e conclusio n of his conversion phase on 9 June In an effort [0 stop Yerneni in cursio ns, the delivery of the Saudi Lightnings was preceded, in June , by the arriva l in that country of five ex-RAF F.
In three Lightnings were lost. Swiney recalls: Fish flew by the lOwer at ft m] and we could all see that the young South African was In trouble. He was told by Pete VanGucci. The intention was for Wg Cdr Mick Swiney to lead twenty. From my cockpit it all seemed to happen in slow motion. Then, to out great ala rm , the Lightning started to head back towards land! Fish was picked up so quickly he hardly got his feet wet. A few weeks earlie r, on 6 May, XM had crashed on take off from Coltishall. I decided we could go up and see what was what. We fonnated close behind his tail and could see quite clearly that there was a 'buggers muddle'.
The sequencing of the oleos and the undercarriage doors had gone "TOng - a '0' uoor had closed prior to the undercarriage leg being retracted. It was quite clear that he was not going to get that ai rcraft down on the ground. Fish would have to eject. We stayed with him he whole rime. SAR were alerted anu positioned over the sea of Happisburgh. Fish seemed very calm. F1t Lt Jimmy Jewell in the tower had the presence of mind to tell Fish to check that his straps were done up tightly they weren't as it happened. He had failed to insert one of the harness 'lugs' properly during strappi ng in prior to start up.
Coolly, Fish undid and then reconnected them. By now his 0. At about J. His 'chute opened as it T. Ss of OCU break. XS later joined 23 Squadron and. XS was damaged in a landing accident on 17 January and in became M at Binbrook. RAF Coltishall. I was coming back from lunch through the hangar. By then I knew there had been an accident. Paul had done a normal take-off. He was very lucky to walk away.
Paul JUSt looked at me. On another occasion Ion Z January when I was coming bad, from lunch these things always seemed to happen after lunch! I was surprised because I knew he should be airborne. He said, looking across the airfield at a plume of smoke, 'that's my aircraftl' Carleton had been on a dual rada r sortie in XM97 1 with his student, FIt Lt Tony Gross, when, on the climb,out shortly after take off, there was a very expensive noise internally and an immediate loss of power. The rado me had come loose and the debris had been ingested by the engines.
Assuming control, Carl ton throttled back and commenced a recovery to Coltishall. O n a high down-wind leg, he app lied throttle to check his descent, but found that he had no power. Gross ejected first, Carlton going at about ft m , the ai rcraft crashing at T unstead. Both pilots, eac h of whom suffered mino r spinal 54 injuries, were recovered by a Whirlwind he licopter fro m the AR Flight of Squadron on the base. Alex Reed was flying 0. As he came round on finals at the far end there was a 'twinkle, t"'tinkle, boom'! Obviously, an aircraft had crashed!
Terry saw this as well and as we had all broken and fanned out he thought his No. Terry called. George on 14 January EDP were all here. Puzzled, we wondered, 'Where did that come from! I , which had begun its ca reer with 74 Squadron at Coltishall, seemed to know its way home because the wreckage landed on the airfield boundary! Du ring the afternoon of 7 March there occurred ano ther incident at Coltishall, the first in a se ries to plague the T.
The nose wheel, however, stayed down. Bob Offord recalls: The drag chute bit, then the wheels wem. Ss were in great demand to qualify people to be members of the Ten Ton Club', complete with scroll and special tie. Diana Barnato--Walker, a famous flyer and wartime ATA pilot, became the first British woman to achieve the distinction. Another member is TV personality Oavid Jacobs. We had no control. Ie just went straight and then veered of to the right and stopped. I said, 'Gct Oud' and I wcm over the side. I didn't know at this stage what had happened. You can imagine the looks we got!
The leg s would fold towards the end of the landing run when the aircraft was rolling relatively slowly, and SQ, apart from the pilots' injured pride, and a somewhat sc raped wingtip, little damage was done. Many investigations were carried out and many theories put forward. One theory was that the pilots were inadvertently o perating the 'gear up' lever instead of the brake chute lever on the T. This was immediately rejected by the pilots, who pointed out that with the aircraft on the ground with weight on the landing gear, the gear select lever is locked in the 'down' posi tio n and a positive ove rride action is On 21 June Sqn Ldr Arthur Tilsley taxied in with no brakes and buried F.
Both engines jammed at about 80 per cent power and Chief Tech Brian Hayes, Propulsion Trade Manager, scrambled underneath to the engine bay and eventually managed to stop the engine. Arthur Tilsley being led away, left of the picture climbed out of the cockpit onto the roof of the hangar offices. The theory that pilots were inadvertently operating the landing gear lever led to an unexpected bonus for the ground crews. Mike had to put the nose down over the North Sea to reach the magic 1,mph! Gp Capt Hobson Collection of the training comminnem at Coltishall were rare occurrences.
When the above theory was first mooted the decision was taken that whenever a T. S had to be flown solo test flight, conversion pilot's first solo etc. Battle of Britain Week The Lightnings passed the cathedral right and swooped down from behind the castle left. The Lord Mayor. On some flights the opportunity arose for a numbe r of those technicians 0 join the 1, mph Club. I achieved it during a flight with At Lt Henry Ploszek. Low level PIs consisted of flying at 50 to ft above the sea and imercepting 'ene my' aircraft usually another lightning.
This meant that the pilot had his eyes glued inside the radar visor and the aircraft was flying on autopilot in the altitude hold mode. Now this may sou nd perfectly normal, but if you are a passenger sitting in the right hand seat and have gol nothing to look at other than the white caps of waves or North Sea gas rigs and shipping flashing past below you at close range, and perhaps if you do not share the pilot's blind faith in the technology that is supposed to prevent you flying into the sea, then a feeling ofl Cing in the wrong place can overcome you.
Similarly, a formation let-down with a USAF exchange pilot at the controls led to a feeling of wishing I was back in the crew room enjoying a cup of coffee and a cigarette. There were perhaps four aircraft in the let-down. Above the clouds in the bright su nlight everything looked easy and was most enjoyable, but then we entered cloud and remained in formation.
The separation from the other aircraft was maybe ten or fifteen feet and the only visual contact I had with them was the flash of the anti-collision lights on the wingtips. Then the lights would disappear again in the gloom. It was like driving in thick fog with candles for headlights. The relief. It was after this flight that I realized why pilots are called, 'steely-eyed'.
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Simon Parry F. XM, the first F. Test equipment was ins talled on a sample T. This involved approximately twO days' work on each aircraft and the Coltishall T. Flypasts and Te n Ton T-Birds when you want something to happen, it never does, and no incidents occurred on the reS[ aircraft. The pilot ejected safely. A most notable event in the station's calend ar in therefore was the Freedom of orwich flypast on 6 April, held to mark twenty-seven years of RAF associa ti on with th e fin e city.
Gp Capt Mike Hobson selected Wg Cdr Mick Swiney to lead the fonnation flypast, which wo uld comprise no fewe r th at twentyseven aircraft made up of twenty- fo ur Lightnings and three Spi tfi res from the Battle of Britain Memori al Flight , the largest Lightn ing form ation eve r to take off from and recover to its parent station, as Mick Swiney recalls: No other station could produce so many Lightnings from their own resources. I had forty-two. Also, I had enough instructors to fly them in boxes without turning a hair, so I decided we would fly in boxes offout, all in line astern, behind the three Spitfires.
Fit Lt Gil Pink 37 , a Canberra PR7 navigator and an old acquaintance fro m my Laarbruch days, was on a ground tour at Coltishall , and he helped plan the route and calculate the precise timings needed. A brilliant navigator, he also loved flying. He flew twO 'recces' with me in the TA. During the at the start of every Battle of Britain Week the good citizens of Norwich were treated to some spectacular flypasts over their city bV aircraft from RAF Cottishall, not least by a Hurricane.
Spjtfire and four lightnings. Battle of Britain Air Show day at Coltishall. Pete Nash took this photo of T. Pete Nash 59 behind. I led Red, Blue and Green Boxes off, did a wide. Brian Farrer's formation took off and pulled in behind. I did not wam o ur emire formation to 'snake', so [0 avoid any changes in direccion, we had a long run in point. I got one of the SAR Whirlwinds to drop a smoke float at a precise point in the sea. Ahead of us were twO Spimres a third developed engine rouble after take off and had to return so At Lt Alex Reed, the 'whipper-in', replaced it to make up the magic twenty-seven.
We lined up and l ied all twentY'hve Lightnings straight to Norwich, aiming for the Cathed ral spire.
The Spitfires fl ew at knolS, the Lightnings at knots. I sem Brian Farrer's lot in to land first as they were slightly thirstier aircraft. Sadly, Gil Pink, who had got me to the right place at the right cime. Diana clocked Mach 1. Having already accumulated 1, ho urs on the Lightning, he was given a brief conversion course consisting of one dual and three solo sorties to initiate him in his new post!
By , appropriately the RAF's 50th Anniversary yea r, the club's membership now included well over members, from royal personages slich as King Hussein of Jord an and the Shah of Iran, to people of more humble origins. The three safety equipment workers responsible for packing their par3 chutes were all women.
Early in four T. The last aircraft was flown to Saudi Arabia via Akrotiri. Cyprus on 21 August by AI love. Prior to the first course of Saudi pilots. An opportuniry [0 correct this came late in I 'A'3. Prince Turki Nasser later Chief of Defence. Saudi Air Force and Ahmed Sudari. On the right is Princess laura Say, wife of Prince Turki. To the left of the photo are Jan Jeeves and her children. Bob and Mark. MoD press relations officer. I sent Rohan's certifi- cate to the Air Anache in Quito, only to be told that he had been kidnapped!
About five days later he was found dumped by the side of the road. He never did get his certificate! Meanwhile, in Fighter Command had made way for Strike Command and at Coltishall twenty Lightnings in fou r boxes of foUf, plus reserves were required for [he 50th Anniversaty flypast at Abingdo n o n 1 April. Fuel requirements fo r the flypast dictated flying from RAF Wyton so most of the Coltishall Wing was deployed there for almost two weeks.
On the vcry last day we cou ld nO get all the way around the route safely and chose to come back to Coltishall; we really had to land at Wyton. But we had tremendous confidence in F. Simon Parry the aircraft and the systems so we devised a somewhat unusual plan for the recovery. Once we had completed the flypast a codeword was given and we all shut down one engine!
Once Instructors in F Squadron at Coltishall. Sqn ldr John Bryant. Jack Brown. Sqn ldr Dickie Duckett seated.
Paul Holmes. Wg Cdr Murdo MacDermid seated. Sandy Davis. Brian Carroll in whrte with monocle. Bob Turbin seated.
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Rick Peacock-Edwards. Wg Cdr John Bryant Collection m. It was shortly after this that we had to produce twelve ai rcraft for the demise of Fighter Command. Another significant incident during my reign was Ion 21 June ] when Sqn Ldr Arthur Tilsley taxied in with no brakes and buried the aircraft in the side of No. Both engines jammed at about eighty per cent and the Rolls-Royce rep did a splendid job going underneath to the engine bay and eventually managing to SlOp the engine.
It was a horrific sight as the intake sucked in the bricks and monar and much of Bob Lightfoot's and Nick Galpin's desks , chewed them up and then hurled stones and gravel at ATe: there Anhur Tilsley climbed out of the cockpit OntO the roof of the hangar offices and was an amusing sight running around as though his hair was on fire. An unfortunate end to what had been a great occasion. It was a year of interesting fl ypasts that inte rrupted the OCU training but ens ured everyone on the OCU worked extremely hard, and as a resu h , we even managed to get the courses ou t on time.
Sqn Ldr Dickie Duckett. Duckett later led the Red Arrows. However, the Coltishall runway was blocked by Sqn Ld r Eric Hopkins' Lightn ing with a locked brake and t he fo rm ati on had to be dive rted to Wa ttisham. O n th e re rurn , late r th at eve ning, XM lost aileron control when a bolt d ropped o u t, and the aircraft began corkscrewing and losing height wi th every revolution. T o people on the airfield it seemed that they were being trea ted to an impro mp tu air dis play by the single Lightning! Both pilots were able to hold the wi ng up, but landing was not possible and they were forced to ejecL Sims went first, at 1,ft m and knots.
Fuller, who had to time his ejection on the next upward co rksc rew, fo ll owed at I,OOOft m. Standing by his car a fe w minutes afte r the crash, Mr Howard recounted: Suddenly there was a hell of a screech and a shrieking noise. The plane hit a big oak ree and burst into a mass of flames right in from of my eyes.
The tail piece crashed right across the road a fe w feet in from of me and the next thing I knew I was right in a mass of fl ames from the trees where the rest of the plane was burning. All this activity placed a great strain on the ground crews, as Pe ter Hayward recalls: 'Preparations we re pretty hec tic. This was always a joint effort between the two flights of OCU.
One flig ht alo ne d id no t possess sixteen aircraft. It was often said that to ge t one Lightni ng se rviceable fo r a flight was a pretty remarkable achievement, but to get thi rty. The aircraft. Then we were O K. I thought that the whole road was a ball o flames as we drove through it.
We were all in one piece and the car was all right. Sims, who la nd ed in the wood, h ad a scuffed nec k, while Fuller had just harness bruising. Magic Palm , the second phase of the Saudi deli very programme, had begun in , the year th at Kuwa it a lso took de livery of the Lightning. Kuwait operated the Lightning for seven yea rs, before replacing them with the French Mirage. To q uote the Ko ran , 'The lightning all but blinds them'. George Black recalls o n e me m o rab le incident which involved a Saudi stude nt who somehow managed to a lign his compass degrees out and instead of heading o ut over the North Sea, ended lip ove r London a t 36,OOOft II ,m much to the conste rn ation of Air T raffie Control.
Another aircraft had co be sent up to get him back. Bandar arrived at Coltishall in a Lamborghini, crashed it, and bought another. NO[ to replace it mind, fo r when the fi rst one was repaired, he kept both. The Saudis were loaded, and well paid, but to them, flying was a hobby rather than a career. Some of them 65 Squadron instructors pose for the camera at Coltishall in Left to right: John Brady, Jack Brown.
Most of them were quite good, some very good, three we wou ld like to have had in our squadron. I went out to Saudi Arabia in and continued training for Airv. The runways there were longer. Dhahran fo r instance. You did nO[ have to be a pilot to enjoy the aura or potency of this magnificent beast and I never ti red of watching it. The lightning seemed to attract or develop pilots of a certain character.
For me this character was epitomized by the leadership team that came together about a third of the way through my tour. Sqn Ldr T. They were all immensely likeable people with totally different but complimem ary characcers and a great pleasu re to work for and with. S cockpit. Simon Parry equally impressive and unforgenable bunch of personalities. These included 'Fun' Lloyd, Pete 'Chappie' Chapman, whose specracular solo display was never bettered.
Others were 'T aff' Butcher. John Spencer, Bob Turbin, 'Jad:. The deSCription of a lightning as 'an aluminium tube with a frightened teenager strapped inside' was nOt altogether strictly correct as it could sometimes contain a frightened Group Captain!