Military AircrewA forum for the professionals who fly the non-civilian hardware, and the backroom boys and girls without whom nothing would leave the ground. Army, Navy and Airforces of the World, all equally welcome here.
I was talking recently to a friend who, like me, is a long retired RAF pilot (but not ex Coastal). We got onto the subject of the various formation aerobatics teams around in the '60s, and it turned out he had never seen or even heard of the Grey Ladies. A shame really that so few people know of them. The twinkle roll with 4 Shackletons was quite something. Of course, Fighter Command and Training Command claimed a monopoly on formation aeros, and the Grey Ladies were only allowed to do their displays at night. If more people were aware of the 24 Shackleton loop at the Farnborough Air Show in 1966 (at 2 in the morning) they would not keep banging on about the 22 Hunters. The sound of 95 Griffons at 2600 rpm ( one of the 204 Sqn aircraft had to feather No. 2 at the top of the loop - coolant leak as I recall) was incredible. So was the cursing from the galley.
If more people were aware of the 24 Shackleton loop at the Farnborough Air Show in 1966 (at 2 in the morning) they would not keep banging on about the 22 Hunters.
When word of this reached Aden there were some pretty strong mixed emotions on 37 I can tell you, great pride obviously but tinged with a touch of envy at not being able to take part. We tried hard to get a pair of aircraft back in time but sadly it wasn't to be. Too many niggling little technical problems en route, the double mainplane replacement is one that springs to mind.
The recommended tattic (JASS speak for tactic) against MiGs was to let them get on your tail, then jettison fuel. This would over-fuel their engine, causing them to overtake you, at which point they would be an easy target fot the 20mm cannon in the nose turret.
I am assuming that the aircraft utilised for the display were MR. 2C or MR.3 Shacks which could take the necessary positive G for an inside loop. From what I remember The vipers on the MR.3 Phase 2 Shacks would cause over flexing of the wing spars due to the bending moments. No. 37 Sqn had the MR. 2's. I can see how leaving rocket pods would cause similar issues to MR.3 Phase 2 Shacks.
I am able to reveal, now that the cloak of secrecy has been lifted, that the Wiggins Aerodyne was the photographic 'chase' aircraft for the Shack formation loop.
This sortie was doomed from the start; due to the incredibly high cockpit vibration levels experienced in the Aerodyne (see an earlier post of mine on another thread), it was impossible to capture any images in the dark, despite the best efforts of the Observer/Box Brownie/Ever-Ready Torch combination.
Tragedy ensued when the Mighty Shacks pulled up into their majestic loop by moonlight; the dismal performance of the Aerodyne was such that Avro's finest were on the downside & pulling through their start point before the Wiggins contraption had changed attitude to follow them. As the lead Shack went straight through the struggling Aerodyne, the Shack captain merely thought that he had encountered a flock of moths, lured by the siren glow of the formation's lights; a quick flick of the windscreen wipers, and normal vision was restored.
This sorry episode was yet another calamity in the troubled history of the Aerodyne.
(Q: What is the correct collective noun for moths? Is it a 'De Havilland' of moths?)
So there really was a Shack biplane! Thought it was just a rumour.
Sadly no, the biplane concept was abandoned when it was shown that the interplane gap was not sufficient to accommodate the required duty free quantities needed for BBQs etc at home base and defensive capability. The double mainplane configuration referred to is the traditional "one either side" arrangement.
A side effect in the loop was severe alcohol leakage.