View Full Version : Gannet AEW3's

20th Apr 2007, 10:51
Morning All,

Just wondered if we have any ex-Gannet drivers on this forum and if so would they be willing to share stories & pics etc?

Here's hoping!

All the best


the dean
20th Apr 2007, 11:23
sorry can't help nick...but just want to say i fondly recall the sound they made from the contra rotating props...

good luck with your post...:ok:

Gannet Driver
30th Aug 2015, 16:28
Just chanced on this elderly request!

Yes, I was a Gannet driver, from May '64 to July '68. Flew briefly from Ark Royal but mainly from Centaur and Hermes.

Retired, still remarkably busy, but happy to supply info, pictures etc. within reason.


30th Aug 2015, 23:50
You mean one of these!



31st Aug 2015, 06:24
Being picky, we're talking about these:


joy ride
31st Aug 2015, 07:10
It is certainly a plane I want to hear one day!

31st Aug 2015, 11:13
I knew a once FAA pilot who assured me that a Gannet was the most efficient converter of AVTUR to noise yet devised.

31st Aug 2015, 11:27
As opposed to The JP that was variable noise constant thrust.. ;)

31st Aug 2015, 12:01
I re-fuelled some that passed through Istres.

So I must qualify as the least knowledgeable of all that touched one.

Gannet Driver
31st Aug 2015, 12:29
OK, I flew both. The first is the A/S version, later converted to a trainer, the T5 (instructor in the 2nd cockpit), the one with the bulge is the AEW3.

Both a delight to fly, despite the AS4/T5's tendency to shake, rattle but NOT roll, I enjoyed both and was frankly grateful for the AEW3's sedate 95 knot approach to the carrier deck.

Despite being retired still fairly busy. Will post more info for those interested later (how do I insert one of my own photos? It doesn't have a URL?). Meanwhile, a US- group have restored a T5 to flying condition, just Google "Janet the Gannet".

Mike ex-849 Squadron (1964/1968)

31st Aug 2015, 13:26
commander richard pickles told me a story about him pulling up on stand at an american base in england,and as a mere joke folded the wings of his gannet.
upon disembarking from the contraption, he was asked by the first american:
hey boy, did you build that yourself?
Sir richard was not amused.

31st Aug 2015, 17:30
I remember Gannets being flown quite energetically over the field
behing our house at West Raynham. Also the Gannet which managed
to attack the engine rep's car rather viciously.

31st Aug 2015, 19:07
I think that in the early 60s they had some Gannets on the RN trials squadron at Watton, before the RN and RAF trials units were transmogrified into 360 RN/RAF) Sqn.

Gannet Driver
31st Aug 2015, 19:09
You're right, WanderOO. They were AS4's.


India Four Two
31st Aug 2015, 19:25
Not an AEW 3, but a great read:


31st Aug 2015, 19:56
Gannet Driver

Get yourself a photobucket account that will enable you to post pictures from your computer to PPRUNE. It is fairly straightforward but if you have any difficulty PM me and I will fill you in with the technique.

31st Aug 2015, 22:54
I was part of the Wessex night planeguard crew on the Ark when this Gannet landed on and went down the deck in a shower of sparks and straight over the front of the angled deck into the sea - he'd snapped his nosewheel leg and missed the wires as a result. It was a rough night and the deck was pitching a lot. Gannet Driver will know the crew - who all got out okay. Pilot MJ and observers MR and MC. 10 May 1966.

1st Sep 2015, 07:12
I was part of the Wessex night planeguard crew on the Ark when this Gannet landed on and went down the deck in a shower of sparks and straight over the front of the angled deck into the sea - he'd snapped his nosewheel leg and missed the wires as a result. It was a rough night and the deck was pitching a lot. Gannet Driver will know the crew - who all got out okay. Pilot MJ and observers MR and MC. 10 May 1966.

That was a bad day for the Ark - on the same date one of 890 Sqn's Sea Vixens went in after a double engine failure, with the loss of the observer who was unable to eject. Pilot was awarded the George Medal for his efforts to save his crew member.

1st Sep 2015, 07:22
Yes that was an interesting time for me as I was scrambled earlier in the day whilst AT was unsuccessfully trying to hook up to the Scimitar tanker after the fuel loss due to the engine problems. The SAR Flight Whirlwind was also on his way but I beat him to it being faster - if I remember correctly the Vixen crashed about 40 miles from Ark. Sadly as you say the Observer couldn't eject - due to a faulty seat/hatch mechanism.

1st Sep 2015, 08:21
(how do I insert one of my own photos? It doesn't have a URL?).

I'm sure there used to be a sticky on PPrune somewhere that gave you instructions, but I can't find it.

However if you look at post #6 in this thread it gives you some tips.

1st Sep 2015, 09:18
There was also a night bale-out from an AEW, over land. One of the observers was the (late?) Lofty Nash, later my flt cdr on 360. ISTR the observers left the aircraft at about 800' but the pilot force landed in a field

Hrrmph. Must be getting old -just managed to load the article, to find that it is Lofty's "incident" but always recalled it from Lofty telling the story in the crew rom as the pilot landing in a field with the nose hanging over a large drop into the next field - must have been another incident!- and an AEW3. Still a brilliant escape. Lofty's predecessor as RN flt cdr on 360 was a pilot, David... ? Anyon remember his name (Was it Mather?)

1st Sep 2015, 12:42
Great to see this thread revived after >8 years!

If you do have any pics or interesting stories to share then please do post away 'Gannet Driver' - welcome aboard! :ok:

Many thanks

A A Gruntpuddock
1st Sep 2015, 14:05
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8172380781/in/album-72157631952002449/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8174496721/in/album-72157631952002449/

Seen at Leuchars decades ago.

Gannet Driver
1st Sep 2015, 15:23
Many thanks guys, will make tentative sortie into Photobucket route.

Re Ark accidents, cannot recall Gannet crew names but knew the Vixen pilot well, we were on the same flying course. Not an AEW3 story, but it was heroic and deserves a brief mention here.

As I recall, monster fuel leak resulted in not enough even to reach the ship (and they were no-diversion flying anyway on the Beira patrol). Allan ordered John, the Observer, to eject - no luck.

I forget the exact sequence of events, but Allan was flying a Sea Vixen with no engines and controls only powered by the RAT (Ram Air Turbine) with his left hand while leaning across to try to help John get out manually with his right hand.

Allan finally ejected so late his parachute didn't even deploy properly before he hit the water and injured his back. I think the Sea Vixen was inverted at this point anyway. John was not able to leave the aircraft.

The Vixen had a reputation as a Widow-maker, Allan's GM was well-deserved.


Gannet Driver
1st Sep 2015, 16:37
Gruntpuddock, that will have been 849 "B" Flight, probably very early 1970's.

Will post photos in due course but many conflicting projects. However, have been writing memories of carrier flying in a Gannet AEW3 for another Forum, this one seems appropriate here.

Hope you enjoy a totally true story, let me know if anyone would like more:-

The smell

It was Autumn 1966, Hermes was working up in the Moray Firth and waters beyond. Our Gannet was launched on a sunny October morning, all set to control Sea Vixens . And, as always, because the radar of those days took a good while to warm up, we were launched 15 minutes ahead of everyone else.

Even for a big bloke like me, the Gannet's cockpit was comfortably spacious and the bubble canopy gave a great view of the world. Warm sun, blue sea and sky, what a nice morning. And then.........

There was no physical connection between the cockpit and the rear cabin where the two Observers worked their radar etc., but you could smell if they were pouring coffee or smoking. Two or three minutes into the sortie it was quite clear this wasn't either, I put my mask back on and switched the supply to 100% oxygen.

A strained voice on the intercom said "Was that YOU?" "No! I thought it was YOU!" "Well, it wasn't ME!" And so we came to the conclusion that nobody was guilty, or prepared to admit it, but we had an unusual and unpleasant smell in the aircraft.

More seriously, smells usually have an electrical source, so we started turning things off. By about 10 minutes into the trip we realised the source was the radar - and our radar was essential to the launch about to take place.

Hermes would have to know, and very soon. But how on earth to tell the ship, and which of us would do it? Of the three Lieutenants on board, Rick was the senior. Tony and I instantly delegated it to him. The exchange went something like this.......

"Charlie, this is 330"

"330, go ahead"

"Roger Charlie, 330 requests return U/S"

Audible sigh - "Roger 330, report nature of unserviceability"

"330 has a strange smell in the aircraft"

"Roger 330, report nature of smell"

Rick, in a strangled voice "We really don't think it would help you to know!"

"330, your Air Engineer Officer present, says essential report nature of smell"

"OK Dave, it's a strong FARMYARD sort of smell!"

Long pause "Roger 330, return to overhead Charlie and wait"

We did and, orbiting overhead, we watched the chaos we had caused on the flight deck and imagined the similar activities in the hangar. Hermes had to delay this launch and get another Gannet airborne asap, so......

Push back the Vixens that were ready to launch, some already had engines running.....

Get another Gannet out of the hangar and up the side lift, crew manning it at the rush.....

Start and launch the Gannet........

Move all the Vixens etc. back to catapult readiness positions, wait 15 minutes for the new Gannet's radar to be OK, start and launch the Vixens..........

Clear any remaining aircraft forr'ard to beyond the Safety Line, and.......

Finally, let us land on, an hour and forty minutes after we had launched.

There was total silence from everyone - the NAM who helped me unstrap - the Squadron flight deck crew - all the flight deck party - the FDO's - the entire population of the ACR - they none of them said anything, they just looked at us.

Lunch was a strangely quiet meal, we three lepers ate more or less alone.

Our AEO, a gentle and placid bloke, was overheard to say "OTHER Squadrons bring them back U/S, only MY crowd bring them back smelling of S**T!".

At end of the day's flying, our Gannet was set up on the Flight Deck, engines were started and the radar warmed up to run under dummy load.........and the smell was there.

It was finally traced to a transformer burning out, but the three of us had a hard time living it down!


1st Sep 2015, 16:59
.......Re Ark accidents, cannot recall Gannet crew names but knew the Vixen pilot well, we were on the same flying course.

Their names were Mike Jermy(P) and the (O's) were Martin Rotherham and Miles Cullen.

Gannet Driver
1st Sep 2015, 17:34
Thank you Charlie, knew all three well.

If you're ex-RN and flew choppers, do have any info on David Waghorn (HSP Student 1964) or Alan Weetman (Ditto, 1969)? Would like to make contact with either once more.


Arriva driver
1st Sep 2015, 20:48
Was there ever any truth in the rumour that the MOD tried to resurrect a couple of AEW3's at the time of the Falklands conflict?

Gannet Driver
1st Sep 2015, 21:01
Doubt it very much. Could not operate from either carrier, no cats, no wires.

However, EMI ran a rush project to get AEW radar into a Sea King. My brother-in-law was directly involved, can post his account if y're interested.


Arriva driver
1st Sep 2015, 21:26
That would be interesting.
Incidentally remember seeing an AEW3 going over the port bow of Centaur during night flying having missed the wires. I'm guessing that was about 1964 and probably B flight - the tail was visible out of the water going down the port side. Fortunately the complete crew were safely rescued by the planeguard frigate.

1st Sep 2015, 21:59
Thank you Charlie, knew all three well.

If you're ex-RN and flew choppers, do have any info on David Waghorn (HSP Student 1964) or Alan Weetman (Ditto, 1969)? Would like to make contact with either once more.


David Waghorn (below) and I were on the same HSP course. I tried to find him a few years back but none of the survivors of our course know where he is. The name Alan Weetman is not familiar to me - I checked the FAAOA members' list and he doesn't feature there.


Gannet Driver
1st Sep 2015, 22:22
Charlie, thanks for trying. If you ever come across Waggers, please let me know. Good memories of him at BRNC.

Arriva, my bro-in-law's story below, written just over 12 months ago. He prefers to remain un-named.


In the years before the Falklands war, following the demise of the fixed-wing carriers and the introduction of the “through-deck cruisers” (as I think they were called), the RN had assumed that they would always be working in NATO sea areas, where long range air cover would be provided by land-based Nimrod MR2, Shackletons or AWACS (or Hawkeye E-2C AEW aircraft on the US carriers).

Organic AEW for the RN was not seen as a priority and they had no capability to fly fixed-wing AEW, such as Gannets or Hawkeye. At that time EMI had proposed a plan for an airborne surveillance radar on a Sea King helicopter, but the necessary funding (£0.5M to £1M) for a prototype demonstration could not be found by the MoD.

The RN went to the South Atlantic with no organic AEW. On 4th May 1982, HMS Sheffield was sunk. On 10th May EMI had an outline agreement with MOD (PE) to proceed with the development of a surveillance radar on the Sea King, based on the Searchwater radar.

On 25 May EMI received a contract for the radars, modified to provide true AEW capability. On 2 August, two completed systems took off from Yeovil to join HMS Illustrious, only 11 weeks after initial instructions to undertake a feasibility study!

The radar was based on prototypes held by EMI, previously developed for the Searchwater radar in the RAF Nimrod MR2, which had done into service in 1980. The Mk2 Sea King AEW (LAST) involved a new radar scanner, new transmitter waveforms and a new two-operator console in the Sea King.

The deployable arm with the scanner was completely new and the radome, still used today, must be the world’s only inflatable airborne radome! The radar was non-coherent, as was the AN/APS 20, but greatly more sophisticated, with a travelling wave tube transmitter, pulse compression, frequency agility, digital signal processing and computer data processing (target tracking etc.).

It detected aircraft beyond the clutter horizon, with maximum range against low flying aircraft limited by the Sea King’s maximum operating height, which was typically about 5,500 ft, giving a clutter horizon of about 90 nmi.

Higher flying aircraft could be detected at longer ranges. Sea skimming missiles at, say, 20 nmi would probably not have been detected by the radar, but it was not designed for that role.

AEW would not have been much help then to protect against a sea-skimming missile once launched. However, the radar had a range of up to 200 miles and the purpose of the AEW as a command and control platform would have been to direct the Harriers on Combat Air Patrol to intercept incoming hostile aircraft at long range.

Exocets were not the only threat and much of the damage to RN ships was done by iron bombs – the Argentinians had a limited supply of Exocets.

The Mk 2 Sea King AEW never saw hostile action, arriving in theatre just as the war ended. However, in 1984 the RN subsequently reformed 849 Naval Air Squadron with two flights of Sea King Mk2 AEW and in the year 2000, the system was updated to a fully coherent look-down AEW and ground surveillance system (the Searchwater 2000 radar) for the Sea King Mk7 ASaC, which has seen considerable active service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2006, 849 NAS A Flight was re-badged as 854 NAS, and B flight as 857 NAS, both flying the Sea King ASaCS Mk7. There are lots of excellent pictures on the RN NAS websites, such as http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/The-Fleet/Aircraft/Helicopters/Sea-King-ASaC .

The RN certainly believed they needed organic AEW in the Falklands and the system has subsequently been very successful. The Mk2 system was also exported. The replacement system for the new RN carriers is the subject of a procurement competition at present.

joy ride
2nd Sep 2015, 07:47
Great account of the "smelly incident" Gannet Driver!

2nd Sep 2015, 10:14
I agree - great 'smelly' story Gannet Driver.
It really must have been chaos on the flight desk prior to your recovery!

I know two Gannet 3s crashed back in April 62 sadly with the loss of all the crews - my Dad remembers hearing them go off from CU in misty conditions. He says to the best of his knowledge they were never located although a canopy washed up on the IOS some time later - is that true and do you have any more more on this very sad event?

Please keep the stories coming!

2nd Sep 2015, 10:33
I was only told this story third hand and many years later so maybe Gannet Driver will know more about it. It stems from the time after 849 left Culdrose for Brawdy.

Apparently during night flying someone decided to do some barrel rolls in a Gannet - a non aerobatic machine. Unfortunately it was a very still night and Commander Air was out for a stroll and heard the unmistakable sound of the Double Mambas being exercised rather enthusiastically. My informant said it might have been the late Pete Frame who subsequently had a no tea and biscuits interview with Wings. Knowing Pete it could well have been him!

Gannet Driver
2nd Sep 2015, 12:31
The two Gannet loss, I was at Linton-on-Ouse at the time. We heard about it and sobered up (temperamentally, that is, being young and convinced we were immortal) for a while. I'd always understood it was during night formation, I don't have any other info.

The night barrel roll! I can certainly believe it could have been Pete Frame, knew him well back in those days and very sorry to hear he's no longer with us. Certainly, Chris Brockway had a reputation for barrel-rolling Gannets by day.

Heavily involved in non-aviation projects for most of the autumn but will certainly continue to post fragments of a mis-spent youth as the opportunities arise.


2nd Sep 2015, 12:56
The two Gannet loss, I was at Linton-on-Ouse at the time. We heard about it and sobered up (temperamentally, that is, being young and convinced we were immortal) for a while. I'd always understood it was during night formation, I don't have any other info.Kew has a copy of the BoE report, sadly not dowloadable:

Board of Enquiry into aircraft accident involving Gannet AEW Mk 3s XL 499 and XP 197 on... | The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4850463)

2nd Sep 2015, 13:13
Thanks all - yes I also believe the 2 Gannet 3s were lost at night.

Rolling a Gannet 3 (or any Gannet for that matter) would be a sight to see - but NOT an an airshow...:sad:

2nd Sep 2015, 14:27
Mike - I first met Pete Frame on a DO's course in Portsmouth in '64 when this photo was taken
and then he was the COD pilot on Ark when I was there in 65/66.

You may be interested in this PPRuNe thread which mentions Pete (posts 6 and 17) the latter being a post by one of his children: http://www.pprune.org/where-they-now/415580-mam-aviation-1973-onwards.html

That thread is how I found out he had crossed the bar but I don't know the circumstances. Maybe a PM to his offspring if you wanted to know more?

2nd Sep 2015, 14:31
.....somewhere, of the AEW3 grinding the bottom off his radome and slowly coming to a halt during a rather low flyby down the runway during the Lossie airshow in - a long time ago.

The Ancient Mariner

2nd Sep 2015, 14:53
That may have been David Rees, but he was possibly the Observer and the pilot was Eric Bryson. Before my time but there seems confusion in various reports concerning the name of the pilot. From the Plymouth Herald 2 January 2013:

A FORMER Royal Navy pilot who once crash landed in front of Prince Charles has received an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours.

Defence consultant David Rees, aged 69, joked that the Royal Family had forgiven him for the emergency at an air show almost 50 years ago.

The Prince of Wales was in the crowd at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland when Mr Rees crash-landed his Gannet aircraft in 1963.
I can't find the photo - still looking but from another forum this details what happened (I didn't know Dick Saker was the SAR pilot - I still see him about once a year). Prince Charles at that time was still at Gordonstoun. Pony Moore later became a Buccaneer pilot and ejected twice from them!:

"Don't think the 849 Sqdn AEW Gannet prang on Lossiemouth Airday, 13 July 1963 story will ever die! I was one of the Duty SAR Crew that day and watched it happen. The SAR Whirlwind Mk7 was moved across from the Station Flight area, to the K16-K17 Hangars Hardstandng on the other side of the airfield to make room for the crowd. Lt Dick Saker RN was our pilot and the other crewman with me in the back, was REM1(A)(Aircrew) Pony Moore, later Lt A Moore RN, Buccaneer Pilot. We had a grandstand view from K Site.

The Gannet came in from the West, from the Elgin direction of the airfield and flew towards the crowd, at around 200' he started to turn starboard to pass in front of the control tower and crowd and as he did so he (I understand) shut down one engine to start the other as a demo. There was a puff of black smoke from the exhausts as the in-use engine stopped, without the other one re-starting and for a moment it was horrifying: the nose came up, his speed decreased and the tail dropped away to starboard. I thought for a moment that the aircraft was going to more or less stall right onto the crowd, just about where our young Royal was standing. He managed to get the nose down and quickly 'kick' and 'pole' it around to starboard and neatly plant it, 'wheels up' on the 19 end of the short runway, by then we we were running to man up and start, to await further developments whilst all this was going on, so I didn't see the aircraft come to a stop, I believe that the 'Rescue1' PRV Landrover and crew were there very swiftly and the pilot and his one Midshipman Observer were out of it equally quickly!

By the time we were organised, checks done 'Burning and Turning' and I looked back, the 'Crash1' Mk7? Fire Truck was approaching the now stationary Gannet. We got airborne later in the afternoon with a Phot rating, to take some snaps for the 'Subsequent Board of Enquiry'! The Gannet was repaired and flew back to Culdrose within a few days, although I vaguely remember lots of bits of radome and the scanner dish strewn along the runway afterwards. Great that everyone was still around to tell the story!"

2nd Sep 2015, 15:48
... I have definitely seen a picture of this event... will try and find it!

Gannet Driver
2nd Sep 2015, 16:50
Thank you, Charlie. No mistaking, that's Pete! And thank you for the contact info, have sent a message.

Re. Belly landings. I'm fairly certain that Chris Brockway did one at an RAF Air Day some place, the story was he did a single-engined relight too low and too slow and ended up very much in the same situation as the event at Lossiemouth.

I replaced Chris, briefly, in Ark in early 1965 after his aircraft had gone backwards off the side of the flight deck while being handled prior to start. Chris and one Obs got out but sadly, the other didn't.


2nd Sep 2015, 17:02
This doesn't really have a lot to do with the current discussion but here is my Gannet story. I was, at the time, a young co-pilot sprog on Argosys at Benson and the year was about 1962 or 1963.

Fairey's were doing their production Gannet flying from White Waltham at the time. It had been raining for some time and White Waltham became water-logged. They asked the Station Master at Benson if they could use Benson in the meantime while WW dried out.

The first one (an AEW3) duly turned up and created a great deal of interest. On its first take-off, the driver (who was probably trying to impress us Crabs) yanked the gear up about 1 nano-second after rotation. Sadly, the whole contraption sank down again wrecking the radome and doing the contra-rotating props no good at all.

He decided to keep going.

The noise produced by this now demented piece of kit as it went downwind was quite spectacular and this managed to ensure that when he fortunately made a rather rapid successful landing, just about everyone at Benson was outside watching as he taxied in.

What fascinated me was that the forward propeller tips were bent forward and the rear propeller tips were bent aft. I thought at the time that this was a lucky combination!

I don't think we ever saw another Gannet at Benson.

Gannet Driver
2nd Sep 2015, 17:29
I'm beginning to think I was one of the few who DIDN'T put one down on its tummy!

Saw David "Bomber" Brown do it with a T5 at Culdrose in the Summer of '64. He'd had a total hydraulic failure while airborne and, despite a Greek Chorous of senior advisors in the Tower, could NOT blow down the wheels with emergency air.

A foam carpet was laid and by the time he put down I think the entire Ship's Company of Culdrose was watching. The roof of the 849 Line Hut almost collapsed under the weight of Goofers.

He did an immaculate flapless approach and kissed the foam. His bomb doors, which had fallen open, collapsed and he slid to a halt in a straight line. Minimal damage.

Bomber was put in a Landrover to be checked out at the Sick bay, the driver tore across airfield, main road to the Lizard and the accommodation area with siren going, skidded to a halt at the Sick bay, and then turned a startled face to Bomber.

"'Ere, Sir! There wasn't anybody else in there with you was there?!"

2nd Sep 2015, 18:09
I remember the Bomber Brown incident. I was a sprog student having started on 705 a few months before and unfortunately we were too far away from the runway to see anything.

A great runner, he was on Ark in October 65 when he ran from the Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong to Victoria Peak, 5.5 miles and a climb of 1600ft in 31.5 minutes. Tried to scan his photo from the Commissioning Book but it didn't come out very well.

Mike - you will know John Sillett who ditched a Gannet after he lost an engine. He was my equivalent FW course - met up with him a couple of years ago at BRNC when we had a 50th anniversary of joining reunion. He now does a lot of gliding in Devon.

3rd Sep 2015, 09:49
For anyone who wants an excellent read about all Gannets from beginning to end, I highly recommend "Gannet" – No 7 in the From the Cockpit series, by the recently deceased Cdr Simon Askins. Probably still available. Simon previously flew Scimitars, became an MTP and deadsticked an AEW 3 XL498 into Withybush in 1967 after double engine fire/failure. His Flight Test Looker, Bryn, elected (successfully) to exercise Plan B and test his parachute instead.

A bit of housekeeping if I may ..... E&OE, it was a long time ago ....

Posts 13 & 14 - 831 rightly considered themselves a 'front line' squadron. Certainly they conducted trials, but 'a trials unit' – No siree ! There were periodic embarkations and two Gannets even got scheduled to go to Gulf War Zero in 1961 to jam Kassim's radars.

The 831 Gannets were all AS shape. From 1961 the 'definitive' Mk 6 - was referred to as AS6 originally and later when it was realised the secret was out, as ECM6. They all had various (mostly ex US Navy) ECM gear. IIRC the other differences from earlier AS versions included oxygen for all three seats and a tweaker for the engine revs to satisfy the wiggly amp demands of the secret electronic equipment, plus bomb-bay fuel tanks. I don't know if 831 took any T5s to Watton. Previously 831's type conversion and periodic checking was done courtesy of 849's trainers while both squadrons were at Culdrose. Simon's book says some Watton ECM6s were de-modded to AS4 for pilot training so that's probably the answer.

Post 15 – India 42 - Engine failure and bailout at night, XG832 -23rd Jan 1964. I am pleased to say John and Oboe were seen recently, doing very well, for their age. Lofty passed away a couple of years ago.

Post 34 NickB - 9/4/62 AEW 3s XL499 and XP197 of 849 Squadron were (IIRC) doing night formation practice, collided off the Lizard.

A further loss that year - 27/11/62 was the two ECM6 Gannets from 831, XA414 and XG798 that flew into high ground on departure from Ballykelly. Another six good men lost.

Posts 40 etc The great Gannet pancake at Lossie Air Day July 1963. NB Elgin is South. West is Gordonstoun and Burghead. I think the illustrious Eric would be very peeved to think he was named for that. Pilot was S/Lt Chalky, his Looker an even younger Midshipmite J Rees. Didn't do Chalky's flying career any harm, as he went on to great heights of respectability as an Aussie Crab.

Post 45 - G-D - Greetings ! I think it was Bomber who also ditched an AEW 3 somewhere. He then ditched a 781 Heron in Liverpool Bay. Expensive bloke.


3rd Sep 2015, 17:21
The only Gannet driver that I remember flying with was Nigel Hayler. Is he still with us?

Gannet Driver
3rd Sep 2015, 18:16
Don't recall Nigel Hayter, but familiar names popping up all over! Yes, I well remember Simon's forced landing at Withybush. The story goes that he leapt out, paused, no fire, and went back to look for Bryn Moore when a furious, muddy, ragged figure staggered through the hedge dragging a parachute.

My regards to John Sillett, I'm a bit far removed for reunions these days.

I also hadn't realised that Eric Bryson flew Gannets after I left the Service. When I knew him, Eric was tall, wide and VERY slim. He complained that in his greatcoat he looked like a playing card!

Have one or two more Gannet stories in my head, will post in due course.


4th Sep 2015, 11:41
Not that it matters, but that was Hayler not Hayter.

4th Sep 2015, 14:36
i always thought there were 2 types of aerocontraptions one would never admit to flying, the shorts 360 and the gannet, pleasant to see there are a few heroes on this forum. Please keep the stories coming.

4th Sep 2015, 15:18
But the Gannet, especially the ASW version, was a lot better looking than its competitor for the role, the Short's Seamew....

4th Sep 2015, 15:47
When I were a lad... I always thought the Gannet was a very good looker.
Kind of musclebound and a 'real man's aeroplane'. I just felt it was a shame it didn't have four 30mm cannon barrels protruding from the wings.
As for the noise, well... Just Lovely!

Gannet Driver
4th Sep 2015, 19:55
Never realised so many people admired the Gannet, in either guise. Both were nice to fly, although the AEW version was a bit more limited by that dome underneath.

What follows is a totally true story from the front cockpit from 50 years ago, it's still a vivid memory....


The pregnant-looking AEW3 Gannet, was a delight to fly. But with one exception - if you touched down nose-wheel first (which wasn't difficult) it bounced. I became acutely aware of this 50 years ago, on a black Mediterranean summer night in 1965. High overcast, no moon, no stars, no horizon.

HMS Centaur was on her final cruise, a few summer months in the Med that included the task of getting all her aircrew day and night qualified. I was one of those who needed to qualify by night.

We were "non-diversion" flying that night. No handy airfield ashore, just Centaur herself. That added a slight edge to the sortie. So, at the end of a 3-hour trip, we would be the last land-on of the night. CCA (Carrier Controlled Approach) picked us up and brought us to the 1 mile-400 feet point, I called "4 greens, on sight" and was clear to land on.

200 feet, through the wobbly bubble of the island's turbulence and hot funnel fumes - 100 feet, through the slight downdraft of the round-down and correct for it with power - a bit too high now - and then the cardinal sin of pushing forward on the stick instead of a slight power reduction...........so we bounced.

No wire, and now a night bolter. This was my first experience of one - unexpected and unnerving - off the angle into a black night 60 feet above the water with everything down and full power. Eyes down immediately onto the instruments, establish a positive rate of climb, wheels up, ease the flap up and tell the Controller - who is aware by now anyway - and back into the full CCA procedure, no quick 400 foot visual circuit tonight.

The two Observers in the back were terribly nice about it. I've been deck-landed in the back seat of a Gannet AEW3. By day you see nothing but water beside you getting closer until the SAR chopper, a flash of deck and then the arrested landing. At night you see nothing until you hit the deck........

Around we went through the full, though somewhat reassuring, procedure. Back again at 400 feet and 1 mile - "4 greens, on sight" and I took over visually - and did it again. I now had a good dose of what the US Navy calls "Getaboarditis".

Again, the two Observers were so calm and reassuring. I blessed them and cringed simultaneously - and shuddered to think what was in their minds, their lives really were in my hands.

CCA delivered me to the 400 ft-1 mile point again, I took over again - and did it again. Now openly furious with myself I piled on full power - and then realised. Yes, we had bounced but, we had picked up a wire and were airborne down the deck at about 15 feet and slowing rapidly.......and the flight deck floodlights had come on.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! We seemed to come down on each wheel separately. I put on the brakes, took off power and said a silent prayer. A quiet voice on the intercom said "Thank you!" The marshaller in front of me signaled "Cut" and I happily shut down the engines.

It's a long climb down the side of a Gannet and my legs were feeling wobbly. I was about halfway down when the Squadron AEO (Air Engineer Officer) bounced out of the island, his ginger beard bristling with fury. "Bloody typical! We'll have jack it up and do a full retraction test! I'm amazed you didn't drive the bloody legs up through the bloody wings!"

Not an unreasonable reaction and, for those who remember him, fairly typical of Douggie Richardson. I mumbled an apology to him, another to the two Observers and slank into the ACR to sign out the aircraft as unserviceable......and then face the Senior Pilot and the CO.

As a tribute to Fairey Aviation and Naval Aircraft design specifications in general, she came through with flying colours and was airborne again within 24 hours.


4th Sep 2015, 20:39
In the absence of any long range maritime patrol aicraft, a Gannet equivalent would provide some AEW for any carrier we had, if any.

joy ride
5th Sep 2015, 06:59
Great account of night carrier landing, Gannet Driver!
My interest in aviation history always seems to focus on the more obscure/unusual/eccentric types, and this is a fascinating thread.

5th Sep 2015, 10:54
Did anyone ever fly both the Gannet and the French Breguet Alize?

Anyone who can make comparisons?

joy ride
5th Sep 2015, 11:14
I had not heard of the Breguet Alize!

Earlier 76 fan mentioned the Short Seamew which I was vaguely aware of but had a look at Wiki.

Thread drift alert!

I note that many tests were carried out by Seamews on HMS Warrior, which was also used to test "Rubber Deck Landings". Later it went to the Pacific as part of the British nuclear tests, then it sailed to Punta Arenas where UK hoped to sell it to Argentina.

My Dad worked for the Foreign Office in Montevideo and was sent down with some British and Argentinian Navy brass and the British Ambassador to Uruguay Sir Nicholas Henderson in Dakotas (possibly 3).

Dad's Dakota had engine problems and had to make a forced landing in the vast empty marshlands south of the River Plate. It was several days before they were found by a rancher and the news got back to Montevideo that all had survived. I was about 5 and remember those anxious days of waiting for news.

The rancher returned later with horses and a big farm wagon, and we have a lovely old photo of Dad, the Ambassador and the Navy Brass in all their finery standing calmly in the distinctly rustic wagon before the long trip to the rancher's house.


John Eacott
5th Sep 2015, 11:50
I was lucky enough to score a back seat night trip in XL500 off Ark, but to my regret I have no recollection of the names of the pilot and observer. I still reckon it's the only aircraft to slow down off the end of the cat....

Involved in the drama when one AEW3 had a power loss and the back seat bailed out (at night, again) and the pilot couldn't release his lap strap so ditched. Having got out and been 'found' by Bushy Shrubb, apparently the subsequent night winch was considered the more terrifying event of the night.

There are a few scans of slides that I took on Eagle and Ark, here. (http://www.eacott.com.au/gallery/v/navy_photos/gannet/)

5th Sep 2015, 12:17
I had not heard of the Breguet Alize! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breguet_Aliz%C3%A9

5th Sep 2015, 13:48
...I met, during a NATO exercise, a French navy premier-maitre (warrant officer equivalent) whose prime job was accompanying sprog pilots as they went through their carrier landing quals. First on shore and then on the carrier. He was 36 years old and completely grey haired but had no other signs of stress.
Who was it said that night carrier landings were the ONLY situation where one could experience stark terror, a bowel movement and an orgasm inside a couple of minutes?

The Ancient Mariner

Gannet Driver
5th Sep 2015, 14:51
Rossian, don't know the attribution, but concur! I once went to the MO and said "Sir, I worry about night deck landings, should I?"

His response was "The day you STOP worrying about night deck landings, tell me and I'll ground you!"

For further vivid accounts of operating Gannets from the deck, carrier flying, flying training in Jet Provost and Vampire - and the RN in general, see if you can get your hands on a copy of "The Raging of the Sea" by Charles Gidley.

Better known to those of us who flew with him in 849 Squadron as Gidley, Charles Gidley Wheeler was a prolific writer of both books and TV scripts some years back ("Wings" and "Warship" come to mind). His death from ALS was a real loss to the world of semi-military literature, mainly 20th century but his range was wide and included the Portuguese wine trade.

Reverting to topic, I knew of, but never flew the Seamew and Alize.


joy ride
5th Sep 2015, 17:39
Thanks for the link Ian 16th!

6th Sep 2015, 09:45
The Seamew had the, probably unique, feature of being able to blow the U/C off (prior to ditching). Not a switch one would want to operate in error...

6th Sep 2015, 11:02
feature of being able to blow the U/C off (prior to ditching)

IIRC both the maritime Fieseler Fi 167 and Junkers Ju87C had this feature.
Jettisonable undercarriages go back a long way , for example the 1919 Sopwith Atlantic which used the feature for drag reduction , but which ending up ditching anyway.

6th Sep 2015, 12:21
JENKINS, although you have your undoubtedly well founded foul thoughts of the Seamew, as a little heard of aircraft, might you be persuaded to expand on your experience. A separate thread perhaps? With only 40 built it's a rare bird. I know your thoughts are well founded from general reading - a camel among racehorses I read.

Gannet Driver
6th Sep 2015, 19:56
I think a Seamew thread is a great idea. Recall it well from schooldays.

Despite the Shoreham tragedy, this is still very much Air Show season. I thought that memories of Farnborough 1966, as seen from a Gannet's cockpit, might be appropriate.

1966, Farnborough and Families Day

HMS Hermes' Air Group was chosen to do the Fleet Air Arm's bit at Farnborough in 1966 and, on Sept. 9th, repeat the performance for the ships' Families Day. Hermes was at sea, somewhere off the Nab Tower I think. I thought a view of both might stir memories, Farnborough first.

What follows is written from the point of view of a Gannet's cockpit, flying in close formation and so missing some of the bigger stuff, but I hope it gives an idea.

The FAA's 7-minute contribution to Farnborough was all action and variety, VERY careful co-ordinated and controlled. Manoevring around the Farnborough area with approx. 25 FAA aircraft anyway was interesting, let alone those in the display before and after us, the trip to Spithead simply added complications, mainly for Southern Radar. The various controllers that week, and especially that day had my profound admiration.

The Hermes Air Group was Buccaneer 2s (809), Sea Vixen 2s (892), Gannet AEW 3s (849 B Flight) and Wessex HAS.1s (826) and the FAA display began with a combined Air Group flypast followed by individual squadron performances - Royal Marines abseiling from Wessexes, Sea Vixens refuelling each other, Gannets doing a formation re-light, Buccaneers at really low level, Sea Vixen aerobatics and so on. You name it, Hermes' Air Group did it for a non-stop seven minutes.

The flypast axis was Runway 06/24, with our initial combined approach up 06, heights and speeds on the approach were carefully worked out, timing and accuracy were everything.

The Choppers were at 200 feet and 90 knots, Gannets at 300 feet and 180 knots, the jets (6 Buccaneers and 10 Sea Vixens) at 500 feet and 360 knots, all converging as a vertical stack of aircraft as we passed the President's tent. And yes, it worked every time.

However, Tweezledown Racecourse is immediately SW of the airfield and higher than the runway. So the choppers had to be over it and down to 200 feet before we came across the treetops in the Gannets - the jets were safely out of reach at 500 feet.

For those who remember him (with affection) Paul "Bloggs" Bootherstone was our Senior Pilot and led the formation each day with the CO, Lt-Cdr Cobb in his rear cabin as timekeeper/co-ordinator.

Loose formation from Yeovilton to Odiham, then tighten up and orbit Odiham airfield while the CO in Paul's Gannet checked timing and all the other Hermes aircraft joined us on the Farnborough frequency - which was fairly busy anyway. We all set the Farnborough QFE, there was a count-down and, at the precise moment called out by the CO, we all set off.

I forget where the actual turning point was, but we would leave Odiham in a SE direction to do a very specific dog-leg intersection with the extended centreline of 06/24 and call out at passing a certain checkpoint for timing. Speed absolutely constant, we slowly lost height and passed over Tweezledown at 300 feet relative to the runway ahead. So we weren't much above the trees, or the several Army officers exercising their horses in the woodland on the hill.

One horse clearly didn't like Gannets and threw its rider into a bush. We flew on, and were suddenly over the airfield. At the edge of my field of vision the choppers passed below and the jets above, bang on time. Now we had to get clear and set up for our party piece in about 4 minutes.

Lots of familiar voices in our headsets as the action continued over the field. We climbed to 1,000 feet and flew a big clockwise oval so we could approach again up runway 06. A view of Guildford Cathedral on the hill and the line of the Hog's Back and, on a count from Paul, each of us shut down one engine. We were going to do a formation relight.

The Gannet's relight in flight sounds really good from the ground, somehow reminiscent of a Merlin running up to full power. Three at once is even better, with the addition of the visual factor when done in unison in tight formation. It means releasing the brake on the stopped prop and unfeathering it while starting fuel flow and running the igniters. The prop rapidly windmills up to speed, the engine lights up and produces power.

So, around onto the extended centreline again, very specific timing again and over Tweezeldown again. The unfortunate Army officer was chasing his horse, but he paused long enough to shake his fist at us.

Amid all the RT chatter, Paul came through strongly "Gannets, stand by to relight! "ONE" (HP fuel cock on) - "TWO" (press the relight button to unfeather the stopped prop, release its brake and start the igniters) - be aware of it windmilling up and "THREE" (once everything is clearly working, match throttles). And away we went, each leaving a Gannet's signature puff of black smoke behind us.

We were now directed southwards by Southern Radar. Bob Humphries, in the back of my aircraft was kept busy changing frequencies throughout while I stuck to Paul's starboard wing across Hampshire - and then we were over water, and there was Hermes with a Flight Deck full of people and splashes of colour amongst the blue.

We used the Ship's head as our display axis. After almost fifty years my memory of the precise display details are a bit vague. I know we did most of the Farnborough display, we Gannets certainly did our relight party piece and judging by photos taken at the time, the jets had a high old time at high speed and VERY low level.

The Flight Deck we would so soon be using in earnest was happily occupied by families, who looked as though they were having a great day at sea. Sunshine, calm sea, it looked like a perfect day for a party.

Time to leave, but we would soon be back to embark. We said farewell to the ship, contacted Southern Radar again and flew back to Yeovilton across soft, green and gold sunlit Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset in loose formation. It had been a great day.



There are two good links to the Farnborough performance at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdUTb19O1wU at 2 mins 22 secs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6IJtuq_j3g at 4.06 (briefly) and 4.52.

In the second one there's quite a dramatic low flyby of Sea Vixens very close to Mach 1, with massive condensation in the shock waves above the wings. Both videos are silent (old 8mm film) but lots of other good aircraft in each, including replicas built for the film "Those magnificent men and their flying machines".

6th Sep 2015, 21:32
yes - two AEW3s were resurrected during the Falklands war. The apprentices at Yeovilton did one in the museum workshops, while I believe the apprentices at Culdrose did the other. They were backstops in case the Sea King conversion failed.
Both were sold out of service: one to Hamilton Standard, one to Dowty-Rotol, both for prop research/development

India Four Two
7th Sep 2015, 00:15
1966, Farnborough and Families DayMike,

A fantastic write-up. More, please, more! :ok: :D

I lived in Maidenhead during the 60s, so I was very familiar with the sound of Gannets. I was at every Farnborough show from 62 to 70 and I vividly remember the FAA's contributions to the displays. I find it hard to believe that the 66 display all happened in seven minutes. I particularly remember the buddy tanking and the FLY NAVY banners in the Buccaneer bomb bays.

Thanks also for the YouTube links. Besides the FAA footage, there are some very nostalgic sights there. The four-ship Turbulent formation was very impressive and it was nice to see the BAC 221.

7th Sep 2015, 01:52
Gannet Driver; just one small point, the Farnborough runway was 07/25 in those days; it didn't change to 06/24 until I got permission from D/Flying DPA at Boscombe to change it when it was re-surfaced and hence re-painted in late 2001! The new 'epoch' of the change of magnetic variation actually didn't start until March 2002 but I got permission to change it early to save another re-paint.

7th Sep 2015, 10:12
Nobody so far has mentioned anything about their arrival and stint at HMS Gannet RNAS Eglinton. Does anyone here remember this? Perhaps I'm going back too far!

Gannet Driver
7th Sep 2015, 14:00
Thanks for the input on Farnborough, I enjoyed writing it almost as much as the event itself. Will try to dredge up some more.

Runway 07/25, 06/24 change. I confess I could not remember the direction except it was approx. NE, so looked it up. Hence error!

Gannets to Eglinton (A/S versions), can't be many who will recall that by now. My CO in 849 "B" Flight in 1965 was the very correct, immaculate and scrupulous pilot, Lt-Cdr Eric Taylor. It was my first sea-going appointment, I was somewhat in awe of him.

It was only later I found out it was he who pulled too much G in an A/S Gannet recovering from a dive - and lost BOTH outer wing sections. He somehow got it back to Eglinton where, I suspect, he had an interesting interview with his CO!


7th Sep 2015, 21:21
Joined PPRuNe just for this topic. My old man flew the AEW3 from Hermes and he was the 3rd pilot in the 1966 Farnborough show so you will have known him Gannet Driver.

Gannet Driver
7th Sep 2015, 22:34
OK Proggie, I am consumed with curiosity! Was he Red Skelton?

Send me a PM if you'd be better that way.


8th Sep 2015, 15:00
I was at Lossie from '74 to '81 on 8 Sqn Shacks. In July 78, I was lucky to be asked by 849 to fill a lookers slot on a 2 ship detachment to Aalborg.. (Ex Early Star)
Had a famil with Bill Covington in XL502 a few days before departure - before leaving Lossie on 3 Jul 78 with Cov in XL482. Flew twice at Aalborg on 4 Jul - one sortie each with Dave Moojen (XL482) and Cov (XL500) before returning with Cov in XL500 on 5 Jul. Total 9hr25.. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the RN looker I flew with.. I can see his face clearly - he had a blond-ish beard. Think he went to 360 afterwards.
I remember being mightily impressed by the radar picture quality compared to that of the Shack. Tribute to the RN maintainers.:ok:
Very enjoyable few days..! (but 37 years ago - ye gods!)

8th Sep 2015, 16:26
OK Proggie, I am consumed with curiosity! Was he Red Skelton?

Send me a PM if you'd be better that way.


You are correct; unfortunately he's no longer with us as I'm sure he would have had a few stories to tell.

8th Sep 2015, 23:24
I often stopped to wonder who christened him Bevis.

8th Sep 2015, 23:29
Ian16th -

I re-fuelled some that passed through Istres.

So I must qualify as the least knowledgeable of all that touched one.

With your fine pedigree Sir, I very much doubt it. I was lucky enough to stop the Line Chief at Shawbury confidently putting AVGAS in my Gannet one day.

Gannet Driver
9th Sep 2015, 12:24
Proggie, I'm really sorry. We knew each other at Linton and again in 849.

Quiet, amused, kind and a good pilot, not a bad mix. Very sad to hear he's gone.


9th Sep 2015, 16:11
Proggie - I sort of knew your Dad when he was around Brawdy and then flew with him several times at Lossie in Spring of 1970. Commiserations to you all - he was a bit young to go. Was Bevis a traditional family name ?

I also found this old thread of nice testimonials that you may not have seen - you'll have to excuse some of their spellings though.



Gannet Driver
9th Sep 2015, 17:07
LFH, thank you for that link. Nice to know so many remember Red as I do. Which Gannet(s) did you fly, and when?

Proggie, very pleased/sorry to read about your Dad. As I said earlier, a good man to be around.


9th Sep 2015, 17:24
Thanks for the kind words about my dad, I had seen the other thread you linked to LFH - I'm sure he would have been pleased (and not a little embarrassed) to know how well he was regarded by his peers. Lossiemouth in spring 1970 would have meant the Sea Prince and I would have been about 2 1/2 :)
He had only been retired for a couple of years when he was diagnosed with the big C and, unfortunately, the chemo wasn't effective in the long run. He never complained about it though which was typically Red.
I don't know whether his given name was a family one, I suspect it may be a Manx one.
Sorry for taking this thread off topic but it's nice to get to know people who knew dad back in the day :ok:

Gannet Driver
10th Sep 2015, 16:35
Not off topic, he flew that Gannet and was on the other side of Paul at Farnborough so would have had much the same impressions that day.

750 in early 1970, we must have missed each other by days......


10th Sep 2015, 20:46
Red was a Dan 1-11 trainer MAN based. He did a few of my sims in Dublin, and I will not say that the sim was a pleasure, it never was, but having Red run it as the 'trapper trainer' was.

Liked the man a lot.

10th Sep 2015, 21:34
Thanks for those kind words staircase, I'll have to show my mum this thread - no doubt she'll try to work out who you all are!

For those of you who don't know, Horizon Aircraft Services are restoring XL500 with the intention of getting her flying again - that I would really like to see :)

Gannet Driver
11th Sep 2015, 18:45
I never actually put a Gannet down on its belly, but have to confess to this one......

The Static Tank

Brawdy was a busy Naval Air Station. The Massed Gannets of 849 Squadron HQ and the four sea-going Flights were based there, 759 Squadron had T8 Hunters for Advanced Flying Training, 738 had the utterly beautiful Hunter GA11 for Operational Training, 781 passed through regularly with the Clipper (Sea Heron), the Maintenance Unit air tested their work and Station Flight handled all sorts of visitors as well as their own Vampires and Sea Prince.

So, flying apart, taxiing to and from the duty runway took one past a wide variety of flight lines and hardware. And, like most airfields, it wasn't exactly level. Rural Pembrokeshire must have presented quite a challenge to the original constructors.

One late September day in 1965, almost exactly fifty years ago today, Tony Darby and I were taxiing back in an AEW3 after a training sortie. As we rounded the corner before the long lines of Hunters Tony suddenly said "I can hear the hook dragging on the ground!"

The arrester hook is held UP hydraulically so it drops in the event of failure. I looked for the gauge, conveniently hidden by my left knee, to see the needle drop to zero. It had been fine a minute before as we turned off the runway. After 50 years I can't recall the cause, but was now faced with the effects.

We were only doing about 15 mph but no longer had brakes. This meant we could neither stop nor steer. We were pointed down a long stretch of straight taxiway, slightly downhill at first and then sloping up again on open ground BUT, to reach that open ground we had to pass between a row of GA11's, a row of T8's and a hangar on our left, with hangars and parked cars on our right. To add to the fun, the ground overall also sloped gently to our right.

In a propellor-driven aircraft you CAN steer with rudder on the ground, at the risk of steadily increasing speed and possible control difficulties. Faced with the possibility of hitting any of the hardware either side of me at 30 knots or more I rapidly decided on a safer course. I shut down both engines while simultaneously telling an incredulous Channel One controller in the Tower what was going on.

Momentum and a bit of gravity kept us going ahead in a straight line and I began to be hopeful. Then, very gradually, the Gannet began to wander off to the right. Slowing gradually, we went across the grass in front of 759 Squadron and into the parked cars.

We picked up the Air Engineer Officer's almost new Sunbeam Rapier with the starboard oleo and a green Minivan with the radome........and were stopped abruptly by a static water tank.

By now, everything on board was turned off. No signs of fire or anything like that, Tony and I left the aircraft rapidly. I climbed the 14 feet down the side still masked and helmeted to be faced by the local civilian owner of the mangled Mini, who I knew well.

As I tore off all my headgear Dai looked at me and said "I might have bloody known it was you........Sir!"


Gannet Driver
13th Sep 2015, 13:37
Just found this account of the Middleton/Nash/Jones night bale-out from a 360 Squadron AS Gannet, well worth reading:-


....it has good info on the aircraft itself also.

Squadron rumour in 849 was that Oboe Jones landed in calm water, deployed his dinghy, opened his emergency rations and was looking for his flares, and then realised the water was fresh. He was in a clay pit and therefore paddled to shore.


Gannet Driver
14th Sep 2015, 14:47
Ditching a Gannet AEW3

I never had to do this, but the following is as careful a re-construction as I can manage. It was told to me by the late Pete Frame. He was the pilot with, I'm almost certain, Kevin Keenan and Bob Christie in the back. It took place somewhere east of Suez in 1964.

Ditching an AEW3 was regarded with some trepidation by everyone, the aircraft tended to nose down abruptly and the pilot seldom got out although the observers did. Many thought the radome was responsible for tipping the aircraft abruptly on its nose.

This was entirely possible but, as I understand it, the radome tore off immediately on contact with the water. The big oval scanner inside it was parked in the fore and aft position by the observers, reducing the tipping forward risk to the minimum possible.

The real problem was the cockpit hood. It was wonderful under normal circumstances, a huge un-interrupted Perspex dome. In fact, for the tropics there was even an overhead blind the pilot could use to keep direct sun off his bonedome. But it was hydraulically operated fore and aft.....and it was HEAVY.

With no hydraulic help available after ditching, the pilot had to pull it back under his own power, not everyone managed it in time. The weight of the Double Mamba up front would cause the aircraft to nose down fairly soon, and then head straight down.

Anyway, I forget the cause of Pete's ditching (double-engine fire warnings?), sufficient to say he was faced with it. He made a flat as possible glide onto the water with the cockpit OPEN. The aircraft did a quick nose-down and then settled, floating more or less level. Pete found himself sitting up to his chest in water, and made a rapid, euphoric exit.

He climbed onto, I think, the port wing and saw both observers were already out and inflating their dinghies. Unbelievably pleased with himself he said "Hey! I did it! I ditched a Gannet!" or something very similar and lowered himself over the leading edge of the wing into the sea.

At this point the Gannet took charge, the nose dropped abruptly and the aircraft headed down at speed. Pete struggled to get free from being jackknifed around the leading edge but was held there by the onrushing water. He said his thought was "How bloody stupid to get out and then die like this" and then resorted to pulling the toggle of his Mae West. It inflated, and pulled him up over the edge of the wing......

Meanwhile, Kevin and Bob were sitting in their dinghies wondering what had happened to Pete, who they had seen a moment before. The aircraft was gone and not a sign of him.

Like a champagne cork, Pete erupted from the sea, they swear he went up about 20 feet before falling back, tearing off his mask and gasping for air. Within a few minutes the SAR chopper had them and they were soon back aboard Centaur.

Pete was convinced that the open hood was what saved him and I'm sure he was right. We all took notice of it.


The Footnote to this was in "B" Flight's Line Book. For those who remember the Royal Navy's Duty-Free Blue Liner cigarettes, a slight change of the wording on the package......

"427. This aircraft may be landed, given away or otherwise disposed of...."


14th Sep 2015, 15:27
Some excellent stories here - please keep them coming! :ok:

14th Sep 2015, 15:49
Am I getting confused ,but was there not a mod to the Gannet AEW 3 in the 60's that provided a "semi-ejection" system where the pilot's canopy went back ( or off?) and the seat popped up a couple of feet?

14th Sep 2015, 15:54
Not a "360 Sqn Gannet" - sadly we never had Gannets on 360 so never had a chance to add it to my log book - I think it was the Naval predecessor sqn - 831

Gannet Driver
19th Sep 2015, 12:46
Haraka, you are largely correct re the Gannet AEW3's proposed mini-ejection system. Am working on the best description I can, based largely on memory and word-of-mouth at the time.

Will post it once I have finished,


Gannet Driver
19th Sep 2015, 16:33
This is as much as comes to mind about the Gannet's mini-ejector system Haraka mentions. I welcome any further contributions!


Proposed Escape Mechanism for Gannet pilot

The Gannet had no ejector seat, but as John Middleton proved, baling out while airborne was perfectly feasible at the aircraft's relatively low speed. But the Gannet AEW3 had a reputation for pilots not escaping after ditching - see my earlier entry. However, shortly before I left the Andrew an escape mechanism was mooted.

I have no idea if anything came of it, nor how much of what follows is actually true (this is how it was told to me), but it was an interesting proposal.

On the assumption that, after ditching, the cockpit canopy remained closed and the pilot could not escape or was not conscious, an automatic sequence would start:-

At a pre-determined fairly shallow depth, a cockpit panel behind the pilot would implode. This would set off.......
Canopy blown off explosively
Harnesses released, both seat and parachute.
Spring-loaded mechanism (I cannot find details) attached to pilot which would, in effect, lift him by the scruff of the neck at least two feet and.....
Mae West would inflate.

....the idea being that, even if he were unconscious, he should float safely to the surface.

If anyone has more info than I, please post it! Meanwhile, I recall Crewroom discussions about possible airborne malfunctions where the two Observers would see their pilot suddenly hurtle past the window with fully inflated Mae West and no parachute.........

25th Sep 2015, 19:55
To add to Mike's post above -

There was clearly a problem with the Gannet Mk 3 ditching situation, which may not have been fully anticipated at the design stage. After 'jettisoning' the hood, which appears to have been merely a mechanical disconnection rather than the more decisive explosive removal, the pilot's hood (ie canopy) tended to slide forward freely, presumably still on it's rails, encouraged by it's heavy weight and the nose down sinking attitude, thus trapping the pilot, with fatal consequences. This of course depended on whether the deck landing was made with the hood locked open or fully closed. My recollection is that in later years at least, the SOP for both AEW and AS versions was 'hood closed and locked' as it was very draughty and noisy if open. On the other hand, on a nice sunny day, opening the canopy for a while in the cruise could be quite exhilarating.

From Simon Askins' excellent Gannet book page 60 - (see my post # 47, and referring to a distressing 1962 fatality)

"Later on a catch was fitted to hold the hood open – although the resultant gap was still only sixteen inches. Addressing these problems, in the final years of the Gannet's service an underwater escape assistance package was devised and installed. This worked on compressed air and first removed the canopy, then pushed the pilot, in his seat, clear of the aircraft, inflated his life jacket and finally separated him from the seat. It is not known whether the system was ever tried in anger, though the theory seems impeccable."

Simon also observed Page 19, that

"Of the AEW Mk 3s, 22 out of the 44 built were lost to accidents or misfortune."

About standard for FAA aircraft of that era and the contemporary procurement processes.


1st Oct 2015, 07:29
Re post #12 the mishap at West Raynham involving the Armstrong Siddeley reps car being chewed by a wayward aeroplane was actually Wyvern S.4 VZ799 of the resident 787 Sqdn Naval Air Fighting Development Unit on the 15th September 1954.

By the way this is an amazing thread, really enjoying those stories and memories of the dear old Gannet. Thanks to all of you.


1st Oct 2015, 09:29
..... the Seamew was even uglier than I remembered! .....

1st Oct 2015, 09:35
As a kid I made a KeilKraft model of the Seamew - that did not fly too well either!

2nd Oct 2015, 07:57
That photograph of the Short Seamew made me think of the Fleet Shadower. Same design principle: make them so ugly no one can bring themselves to look at them--cheaper than stealth.

2nd Oct 2015, 08:53
I made the KeilKraft model of the Gannet which did fly well. I have remembered that when I was on 47 Sqn (Hercules) one of our co pilots went off to fly the Gannet on exchange with the RN. I think his name was Mike N.

2nd Oct 2015, 09:03
Just looked up the Seamew on Wiki and was amazed to read that here was a version for RAF Coastal Command!

Gannet Driver
2nd Oct 2015, 16:39
Don't recall an RAF exchange pilot on 849, he may have gone to 360 Squadron (combined RN/RAF aircrew and equipment).

Anyway, thought the following might interest a few of those people who seek Gannet info:-

Starting up and breaking up

The Gannet's Double Mamba engines were, effectively, a single unit neatly tucked into the front of the aircraft under the cockpit floor. Although two separate engines drove two separate props via two separate gear trains, an engine change really involved both. So we were encouraged to make even use of them when flying single-engined on patrol. This ensured as near a balance of hours as possible when it came to an engine change.

And, being a turbo-prop, the use was very different from a pure jet. In flight, both engines ran at 100% rpm (15,000). The gear train to each prop had a 10:1 reduction ratio, so the props were at a constant 1,500 rpm. This meant that use of the throttles varied the fuel flow, the resultant torque and adjustment of pitch were then done automatically by the Pitch Control Unit of each prop.

The result? The figure that mattered most was percentage POWER, and 100% power was instantly available on applying full throttle. Unlike the jets, that landed on by fighting a battle between thrust (high rpm = high power) and airbrake (to counteract the high power/thrust) as insurance against a bolter, a Gannet could bolt with ease. Very comforting.

There was a Flight Idle gate in the throttle quadrant, below which you DID NOT GO when airborne. In this position, rpm were still at 100% but power was minimal.

I put all this in as it is part of the true story that follows:-


Summer 1965, in Centaur, in the Med. The end of a 2-hour sortie and time to relight the stopped engine en route back to Mother. So, having bumbled along comfortably at about 85% power on the port engine for the last hour:-

Starboard LP Fuel cock ON - two, three....
Starboard HP Fuel cock ON - two, three and
Press the relight button in the HP cock - this released the brake on the stopped prop and unfeathered it while starting fuel flow and igniters
When rpm stabilise, match the throttles
Check power available on relit engine
Set power on both as appropriate

........which usually went flawlessly. Not this time though. Power available on the starboard engine was only 90%.

OK, tell the guys in the back, shut it down, pause of two marching paces and re-start it again. Just over 80% power. Keep it running this time, tell Mother.

We would be the last to land on anyway, so we ambled back and did a straight-in approach with throttles increasingly staggered to ensure even power on both engines. I was told to stay where we stopped in the wires and shut down.

I climbed down and was confronted by an indignant AEO. Dougie clearly thought the new boy on the Flight had got it wrong, again. He hadn't forgotten that night bounce, (#54 above).

At this point, one of Dougie's crew was peering up the starboard jetpipe just as a passer-by idly moved the lowest blade of the starboard prop.....and a handful of turbine blades fell out at his feet.

Suddenly, all was forgiven. At least I'd got back on both engines. A single-engined landing is perfectly feasible in a Gannet, but Pilot's Notes strongly advised against overshooting below 300 feet, so better get it right first time!


3rd Oct 2015, 07:16
Thanks, Mike. Reading about your first hand experiences really helps give a taste of what service life was like with the Gannet!

Please keep 'em coming.


3rd Oct 2015, 09:09
As a kid I made a KeilKraft model of the Seamew - that did not fly too well either!

Still available, though rather more expensive these days:

KK Seamew - The Vintage Model Company (http://www.vintagemodelcompany.com/kk-seamew.html)

3rd Oct 2015, 12:52
So for the basic price you get the parts and to get the plan (which I used to pin the parts on to assemble the model) you have to pay extra!!

Gannet Driver
3rd Oct 2015, 13:20
Thank you, Rob (Wyvernfan), I'm sure if I scratch my head long enough a few more memories may drop out!


3rd Oct 2015, 14:04
So for the basic price you get the parts and to get the plan (which I used to pin the parts on to assemble the model) you have to pay extra!!

No, you get the plan regardless. It's extras like transpaarencies, tissue, wheels, etc that you pay more for.

3rd Oct 2015, 14:08
.....in Invergordon, we lived across from the dockyard and I do remember bits of Wyverns and the odd Seafire being brought in on low loaders usually having come to grief in the hills around and on Tain range.

I was also a keen modeller and built models of the Wyvern and the Gannet ASW version.
The latter is one of those aircraft that (even though I never flew in one) generates a feeling akin to "affection". The AEW version rather less so. The Varsity (which I did fly in) has the same effect.

But what really got to me in those days was watching a Sunderland or a Catalina landing on the firth of a summer evening just kissing the glassy calm water and sort of "grumbling" their way to the moorings.

Probably why I spent 35 years as a maritime aviator and enjoyed every minute of it.

The Ancient Mariner

21st Feb 2016, 08:22
I was told by one gentleman who spent time as child at one of the FAA stations in Scotland telling me of Seamews flying in on delivery, taxied across the field and scrapped. I cannot vouch for this, obviously.

Ah, the heady days of cost-plus, I suppose?

21st Feb 2016, 14:43
I'm afraid I've lost my notebooks but I certainly remember seeing the Seamews parked out at Lossiemouth when I was at a cadet camp there in either '57 or '58. There were at least 2 Sea Hornets there as well and what we would give to see one of those in the air again. I was in the CCF at the time but unfortunately my school only had an Army section but the course at Lossie did promise some aviation. This was provided in the form of a flight in a Dominie (the Rapide variety) followed by 15 frightening minutes in a Dragonfly flown by a bearded naval aviator who scared the pants off my colleague and I by doing an autorotation towards a rock on which some seals were basking. Unfortunately i don't remember any Gannets so apologies for the thread drift.

21st Feb 2016, 19:46
Gannet Driver wrote: There are two good links to the Farnborough performance at ............ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6IJtuq_j3g at 4.06 (briefly) and 4.52.

Can someone please define the helicopter with notable outboard engines at 4:15!?

21st Feb 2016, 20:00
It looks like a Westland Wasp. The big things on the shoulders are stretchers for medivac I think.

21st Feb 2016, 20:02
It's a Westland Wasp, not sure what the "pods" are, maybe litters for casualty evacuation? Seem to be plenty of pics on Google showing them.

21st Feb 2016, 22:16
They are floats

22nd Feb 2016, 05:14
As Glevum said, floats, ex pilot of one.

22nd Feb 2016, 10:25
For clarity perhaps one ought to say Emergency Floats, there purely to give the crew time to escape .....

22nd Feb 2016, 12:15
I was told by one gentleman who spent time as child at one of the FAA stations in Scotland telling me of Seamews flying in on delivery, taxied across the field and scrapped. I cannot vouch for this, obviously.

Ah, the heady days of cost-plus, I suppose?
I vaguely remember a newspaper article showing a picture of a Seamew and making a 'big thing' about the fact they were being 'sold on' by the FAA having only 'delivery time' on the clock and without entering operational service.

23rd Feb 2016, 08:34
Located on the North side of Lossiemouth airfield late 1958 was the redundant aircraft park which was on the charge of the Aircraft Holding Unit (AHU).
I recall climbing over Wyverns, Seamews, Sea Hornets, and a Wildcat/Hellcat marked up as flown by Captain PD Gick.

23rd Feb 2016, 09:22
This I am sure was Percy Gick, who flew off Victorious to make the first assault on Bismarck. He then went to Ark Royal and was one of the last Swordfish pilots to land on before the Ark was hit. I recall the story that along with Val Bailey he liberated some wine from the mess, and sat on the bows monitoring the non existent tow as the Ark very slowly capsized. He was one of the last off.

I only ever met Val, but Percy must have been equally larger than life and I am sure great company.

Sorry nothing to do with Gannets. But I cant let a chap like that go unremarked.

23rd Feb 2016, 09:29
Seamew: not really an issue of cost-plus pricing.
R&D/prototype funding 4/52 (Korean War), to be quick, cheap for inshore detection (for RAF Coastal Command) and for CVL escorts: Shackleton and Gannet to do the longer, heavier work. Production order 2/55. RAF deleted the idea, 1956; RN after Sandys Defence Paper, 4/57, by when Colossii were gone (even the Putnam hagiography has "as difficult to manage as a race- horse among camels").

glad rag
25th Feb 2016, 12:44
Brilliant thread guys thanks for those stories :D:D

3rd Nov 2016, 23:51
Gentlemen I have just discovered this thread so please excuse me for responding to some older comments. Gannet Driver is partially correct about the AEW 3 underwater ejection seat.
In January 1966 the CO 849 invited me into his office. He said 'You have a girlfriend up in Scotland don't you?' I replied 'Yes'. He then said 'Would you like to spend a few days in Scotland?' Of course I said 'Yes', to which he said 'Good, you have just volunteered for the underwater ejection seat trials.'
To cut a long story short, I arrived at a submarine base on the West coast of Scotland a few days later. I was directed to a large hangar-shaped building with a water tank attached to the side. I later discovered that the wall attached to the hangar was actually glass and you could view into the tank. As I trudged through the snow I noticed a diver standing on the top of the water tank breaking the ice with a pick axe. I was issued with a diver's suit and briefed on the seat.
The seat was designed such that when the aircraft sank a barometric device allowed the side windows to implode at a set depth to fill the cockpit with water and equalise the pressure. An explosive charge blew off the canopy and fired the seat up the rails. It was obviously a reduced charge from the normal ejection seat. Once clear of the aircraft the mechanism released the seat harness, inflated the life jacket and released one side of the oxygen mask. An unconscious pilot would arrive on the surface able to breathe and float. I did two runs, a manual activation and an automatic, simulating unconscious, in the icy water. Both filmed from inside the hangar.
The system was subsequently approved, but without the release tube connected to the oxygen mask. An unconscious pilot would arrive on the surface with his oxygen mask on with the end of the oxygen hose in the water! To my knowledge at least one aircraft was fitted with the seat.
For my troubles I have a tie with the Martin Baker triangles on it, with a frogman between each symbol. An exclusive club. The girlfriend. Well, I was on the West coast and she was in Elgin so that was busted flush.

8th Nov 2016, 11:28
Great post Eagleone :ok:

Do you have any pics from your time as a Gannet pilot you'd care to share?


10th Nov 2016, 09:48
I came across I am sure an ex Gannet Pilot Bob Thirde. A Scotsman who after GB Airways retired back to Scotland.

12th Nov 2016, 04:41
Thegypsy - Bob Thirde was with me on 849 in the 60s. Do you have a contact for him?

12th Nov 2016, 04:44
NickB - I have quite a few Gannet pictures, AEW and ASW aircraft. I will dig some out when I have time.

14th Nov 2016, 10:49
Great - thanks Eagleone

23rd Dec 2016, 14:58
The gannet at Saint Athan has made good progress this year and is very nearly ready.....apart from the propellers which are not yet serviced.
We have not found anyone in the UK to do it so are hopefully using the prop firm in America which the Janet the Gannet team have used who should give us a quick turnaround once we can get them there, its a big load as we are sending then whole rather than dissembled. Once they are returned she is ready for an engine start and hopefully she will be airborne early next year, though I think that's what I though last Christmas time.

And yes, XL500 does have the underwater escape system installed though it will be non functional in the display aircraft

I will keep the thread informed once things become more definite.

4th Jan 2017, 12:42
Thanks for that update Mark - good to hear things are progressing.
I think I might have had a chat with you at CU Air Day a couple of years ago and I know the props were the problem then too, but sounds like you have a good plan in the place to address this.
Really looking forward to hearing the drone/whine of a double-mamba in the air again soon!

Heave Ho
5th Sep 2017, 10:43
Sorry for the resurrection, but what a fabulous thread.

25 years ago I started a book on the Gannet, unfortunately it still remains a manuscript.

The pilots underwater escape seat system came about in the mid 1960s, and was fitted to remaining AEW.3s from the late '60s on.
I'm trying to remember the manufacture of the device, as they released a brochure on it called 'puffing them out' or similar, it was someone like Dowty.
An easy way to tell if the system was fitted was the two 'ejection seat' style warning triangles under the canopy, and what looks like an extra window just aft of the sliding hood. This latter feature was an implosion panel, which broke through at a pre-determined water pressure to flood the cockpit and equalise pressure before jettisoning the canopy and initiating the seat release - all by the magic of hydrostatics and compressed air.

Interesting to read the bit about ECM.6 XG832 accident, this was very local to where I came from and was still a fabled tail then. It was undertaking circuits at St Mawgan before ending up in Melba Pit, in the Clay works area.
I knew someone who saw the wreck the next day, and think he found a part of it which he had when I knew him.

Would love to hear first hand accounts and stories of the Gannet!