View Full Version : Stolen military aircraft

20th Dec 2008, 23:35
Continued from the Lightning thread:

There are the other stories which circulate, such as the American loadmaster who took a C-130 headed for East Germany ( & failed to reach it courtesy of a Lightning ) & the groundcrew ( Belgian ? ) chap who pinched an F-16 for a spectacular suicide... Even had a threat to steal a Harrier or Hawk at our place once, which was rather robustly dealt with by a certain Mr. J.F; he was intelligent enough to warn us all, which I doubt others would have done.

During my time fixing USMC A-6E intruders at MCAS El Toro, Ca, an A-4M was stolen by a Lance Corporal... and returned safely (July 4, 1986)!

LCpl Foote was an Avionics tech, and was also an accomplished private pilot and high altitude glider pilot. Unfortunately he liked to soar the gliders to very high altitudes (one flight a world record for a 17-year-old), and on one flight he got an embolism in one of his arms, which disqualified him from ever becoming a pilot as far
as the USMC was concerned. [LCpl Foote was disqualified from flight training for more than just the embolism issue.]

LCpl Foote worked on the transient aircraft line as a plane captain (and was qualified to taxi aircraft under power), and had gotten several senior officers to give him time in the simulators while preparing his (rejected) application for commissioning and flight training. He worked night crew and decided to prove to the Marine Corps that he could indeed fly and that any other physical issues were non-factors.

Foote took the A4 Skyhawk from the flight line at MCAS El
Toro (I forget the particular squadron) and was on his way to March AFB. In route the aircraft lost the electrical generator and he was forced to deploy the RAT and return to MCAS El Toro.

Foote had to circle the air station until the MPs were able to have
the airfield light turned on so that he could land, as it was a holiday and the entire base was on stand-down from flight ops.

He did get a court martial, and was reduced in Rank and given a General Discharge as part of an agreement with the USMC.
(His own Commanding Officer and other senior officers, including the Wing Commanding General, asked the Court to NOT give him a Dishonorable Discharge due to his outstanding record - except for this one blemish).

Leniency Urged for Marine in Fighter Joy Ride Attorney Tells Hearing of El Toro Mechanic's Lifelong Dream of Being Jet Pilot (http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/58020624.html?dids=58020624:58020624&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Sep+03%2C+1986&author=KRISTINA+LINDGREN&pub=Los+Angeles+Times+%28pre-1997+Fulltext%29&desc=Leniency+Urged+for+Marine+in+Fighter+Joy+Ride+Attorney+ Tells+Hearing+of+El+Toro+Mechanic%27s+Lifelong+Dream+of+Bein g+Jet+Pilot&pqatl=google)

All Counts Dropped Against Marine for Jet Fighter Joy Ride (http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/58078700.html?dids=58078700:58078700&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Nov+07%2C+1986&author=GARY+JARLSON&pub=Los+Angeles+Times+%28pre-1997+Fulltext%29&desc=All+Counts+Dropped+Against+Marine+for+Jet+Fighter+Joy+R ide&pqatl=google)

21st Dec 2008, 00:13
It's a good story but anyone got any more on the ALM who took a C130 and was shot down by a Lightning??

Not heard that one before...a complete fabrication or some truth in it..?

Dan Winterland
21st Dec 2008, 02:32
In 1969, a C130 crew chief at Mildenhall took 'his'aircraft after receiving a 'Dear John'letter from his wife. He headed west apparently intending to fly it to the US, but crashed in the English Channel somewhere off the Channel Islands. It appears that F100s were scrambled form Lakenheath to intercept him, as to whether they shot him down, it's not been proved.

21st Dec 2008, 07:12
If you a search on the Herky Bird Forum, you will a copy of the official USAF report.

He was indeed shot down by two USAF fighters.


Col Tigwell

22nd Dec 2008, 19:24
I can certainly vouch for the techie who stole the F 16 whilst on deployment to somewhere snowy from Florennes. Whilst on the staff of TLP back in 89/90I nipped down to one of the BAF Sqns to "borrow" some maps to see on the board the words crashed beside one of the airframes. I asked the auth what had happened and he explained that they had finished the days flying and were having a beer in one of the HAS's when one of their ac taxied past. The "pilot" was a sooty and managed to get it ab only to fly into cloud and crash some 40 miles away!:sad:

22nd Dec 2008, 21:10
Stolen C-130

It made headline news in the next day's papers (24th May 1969) as seen here:






Double Zero
22nd Dec 2008, 21:16
I heard this, all sounding the same, from several different people from very different squadrons; by all accounts, as I heard it, the chap was heading straight East over the 'Iron Curtain' - otherwise no real reason to shoot him down in a hurry was there ?

So, the Lightning's only kill was some nut in a blue on blue - though frankly seems justified given the ramifications.

Possibly the Mig's shooting at transports within the Berlin corridor earlier was relevant, but I'm only guessing.

23rd Dec 2008, 02:27
We had some US huey's visited Odius in the 70's and they bolted some hasp and clasps to the doors whilst visiting, saying it had come down from above after one of them went walkabout in the US and flew around washington for a while or so they lead us to believe.......


Jake Wheeler
23rd Dec 2008, 02:49
If you a search on the Herky Bird Forum, you will a copy of the official USAF report.

He was indeed shot down by two USAF fighters.


Col Tigwell

Have link? I searched but couldn't find it. Forum (http://www.herkybirds.com/index.php/forum?func=search)

23rd Dec 2008, 06:57
Huey in Feb '74.

BBC News | AMERICAS | White House security scares (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/americas/1159300.stm)

NewspaperARCHIVE.com - NewspaperARCHIVE.com - Search Newspaper Articles - Browse Results (http://www.newspaperarchive.com/FreePdfViewer.aspx?img=17062718)

23rd Dec 2008, 07:08
Vung Tau, Christmas Eve 1969, a very drunk USAF ground crew decided it was time to go home and thought he could make it to KSFO in an O2 (Cessna 337).

He made it as far as the other end of the runway, taking out the threshold lights and quite a few runway lights on the way. Didn't see the bang, but saw the aftermath.

23rd Dec 2008, 08:56
You are missing the best one of all. A mechanic stole a four engined B.45 Tornado from possibly Alconbury?? or maybe Lakenheath. Got airborne, but didn't get too far before it became a smoking hole. Cannot give you the year though, but it most definately happened. Not often someone steals a four jet bomber.!!!

23rd Dec 2008, 09:59
Some time in the 50s an RAF Cpl nicked a Varsity from , I think, Thorney Island. Crashed in northern France IIRC.

Did'nt the pinched Huey land in the White House grounds?

23rd Dec 2008, 20:56
Sorry for delay, very slack of me, must be too much Christmas cheer, or come to think of it, how can you have too much Xmas cheer.

The C130 forum called herkyBirds is found at

www.herkybirds.com (http://www.herkybirds.com)

Search on shot down C130 and it will lead to as much of the story as was released.



Jake Wheeler
28th Dec 2008, 13:43
Hmmmm....I signed up for the website and searched as directed but nothing is coming up. Also, I can't go to the forums so maybe the website is down. I'll search again later.

Thanks for the info. :ok: This topic has always held interest for me ever since hearing about the shoot down of a B-52 near the Canadian border and a similar shootdown of a Navy A-6 after the crew ejected during launch. Both were during the Viet Nam war.

I was aboard ship when my crewmen rescued two Air Force pilots in the Aegean after one of our F-14's shot down their F-4.

28th Dec 2008, 17:53
shoot down of a B-52 near the Canadian border
Is that what you meant to write? Any more info?

28th Dec 2008, 18:43
Just read about a very early theft. Lt Edwin Arnold Clear MC took off from Shotwick near Chester on 3 May 1919. He was awaiting trial on a charge of 'conduct to the prejudice etc' following low flying under a bridge a few weeks earlier. Whilst exercising, he gave his escort the slip, nabbed an SE5, took off and headed for Ireland. He got lost and landed on the Isle of Man. He found out where he was, took off and decided to impress the assembled crowd with some aerobatics. He suffered engine failure and crashed virtually on what is now Ronaldsway Airport but walked away with minor cuts and bruises. He was subsequently identified, re-arrested and removed back to Chester on 8 May. I've no idea of his subsequent fate!(Source: Steve Poole - 'Rough Landing or Fatal Flight')

green granite
28th Dec 2008, 19:59
You are missing the best one of all. A mechanic stole a four engined B.45 Tornado from possibly Alconbury?? or maybe Lakenheath. Got airborne, but didn't get too far before it became a smoking hole. Cannot give you the year though, but it most definately happened. Not often someone steals a four jet bomber.!!!

In June, 1958, another United States mechanic took off in a B45 bomber from Alconbury base, in Huntingdon, and this aircraft crashed on to the London-Edinburgh railway line.From Hansard: UNITED STATES AIRCRAFT (UNAUTHORISED FLIGHT) (Hansard, 12 June 1969) (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised)

28th Dec 2008, 20:24
A B-52 was shot down over the US by a F-100 in the late 1950's / early 1960's during a PI, when an electrical fault caused a Sidewinder to be launched when the Super Sabre pilot pressed the trigger to operate the gun camera. However the incident happened over New Mexico if memory serves. I think 3 of the B-52 crew were killed. Edit - Info Shootdown: the death of the B-52 Ciudad Juarez (http://www.angelfire.com/dc/jinxx1/images/Shootdown.html) The incident happened in 1961, and the Hun was from the New Mexico ANG. The fault with the launcher is thought to be the same as that on the F-14 which resulted in the shoot down of a USAFE RF-4C over the Med as stated above

Papa Whisky Alpha
29th Dec 2008, 10:45
I seem to remember an incident in the late 1940's when a Squadron Leader (?) from Marham (?) departed for Israel with a Mosquito (?) managing to refuel at various locations on the way. At the time there was a premium on any military equipment because of the emergence of the state of Israel. A lot of question marks in this one but time dims the details.

29th Dec 2008, 10:54
Friday the 13th June 1958 was a bad day for service aviation as this press cutting shows. The stolen B-45 Tornado incident is mentioned in para 2.


Mark Nine
30th Dec 2008, 10:20
Vaguely recall a story being told to me about an A.A.C. helicopter being nicked from Middle Wallop. Apparantly a low-loader turned up at main gate one day and the driver stated he was there to collect an aircraft, (from the historic flight?), and take it for re-spray. He even got help loading it, so the story goes. Local police finally found it about 6 months later hidden in a local barn.
Its a good story, but somehow hard to believe.

Double Zero
30th Dec 2008, 13:17
This was apparently a real threat, made by some ex-R.A.F pilot who had a major chip on his shoulder.

Since there was only one airfield he could mean, it didn't help his chances that he publicised his intentions !

We were instructed by a certain famous C.T.P / Airfield Manager to always leave a vehicle parked in front of flight line aircraft, resist any attempt if possible but if faced with weapons, let him go & the R.A.F. would deal with it...

Of course the worry is the people underneath.

idle stop
30th Dec 2008, 15:49
Slightly off thread, but one of my QFIs on UAS was part of the trio that stole a steam train in Germany......

2nd Jan 2009, 10:07
...was what you could read as graffiti at a couple of places in Washington, D.C. after he stole a Huey and landed it on the White House lawn in the early Seventies.

From what I remember Private Preston was a helicopter crew chief who had not made the cut to be trained as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army and this was his way of showing everyone that he could too fly helos to a reasonable standard!

When he landed on the lawn a Secret Service man shot him with a 12-gauge. Then he was taken off to be tried and sent to Fort Leavenworth to turn rocks into gravel or whatever it is you have to do when the Army is very, very unhappy with you. After that one Army helos were fitted with ignition switches, I think.

I heard that one of our crew chiefs (holder of a civilian pilot's licence) in Viet Nam, down in Can Tho I think, took an RU-8D (the military version of the BE-50 Twin Bonanza) around the pattern one evening on a dare with no-one the wiser. The story made the rounds of the enlisted men but must have not awakened any official interest, plus it would have been pretty embarrassing to publicise some Specialist Fifth Class taking a bird crammed with top-secret gear on a flip around the pattern like that.

3rd Jan 2009, 11:10
Just found this one on the 'Nostalgia' forum. Coo, what a lark!!


3rd Jan 2009, 11:35
Again off thread, but in the 1990's a couple of 47AD dispatchers decided the best way to RTB back to Lyneham after a night out in Bath was by bus.

Problem was they nicked it from the bus depot and then took it (IIRC) for a quick gangsta wheels spin around said town. Cue involvement of the local plod ( and loads of blue lights :ok: ) before they were finally brought to heel. Some locals thought it was a film shoot, the then CO of 47AD thought otherwise......:*

I think it went to Court Marshal and some pretty hefty fines - but at least they got home eventually :eek:

Al R
3rd Jan 2009, 13:26
Filmed, man who drove over a car in a Warrior - Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1556972/Filmed,-man-who-drove-over-a-car-in-a-Warrior.html)

3rd Jan 2009, 14:21
Blather: One of our bombers is missing! (http://blather.net/blather/1997/05/one_of_our_bombers_is_missing.html)

Craig D. Button - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_D._Button)

I do remember this and was an A-10 (........just the thing you need for clearing a way through traffic on a surface commute) which disappeared with 4 x 500lb MK-82 bombs which were never recovered.

3rd Jan 2009, 14:37

This really is a classic and would have made a great Ealing comedy.

Double Zero
3rd Jan 2009, 17:32

Re. the Mosquito disappearing towards Israel, a book very worth reading - and it seems less recognised than deserved - is ' Flying Under Two Flags' by Gordon Levatt.

After flying Spitfires etc in WWII, he joined in the distinctly clandestine & dangerous scrabbling together of the rag-tag Israeli air force, everything from fighters to transports, with some very hairy flights.

I can't remember if the Mosquito is mentioned as the book is not to hand, but he does mention having a flight line of Spitfires & Messerchmitts alongside each other !

Another 'not exactly stolen' but distinctly unauthorised flight was the case of an R.A.F. groundcrew chap on a forward beach strip, in the Med' I think.

They were told to evacuate by road, leaving a good Spitfire behind as there weren't any pilots handy.

He hadn't any flying training, but reckoned he could suss it out - he did, with a few wobbles, and got the aircraft back to fight another day.

Naturally his reward was a [email protected]

3rd Jan 2009, 18:24
...hey guys, great thread. :ok:

Thought you might find the story of a missing ANG A10 from 1997 interesting:

Radar reports, sightings plot path of missing A-10

Air Force suspects jet not on auto-pilot

April 11, 1997
Web posted at: 8:16 p.m. EDT (0016 GMT) WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Missing Air Force Capt. Craig Button was flying the third of three A-10s on April 2 as the formation approached a practice range on what the Air Force says was a routine air-to-ground gunnery mission.
Button and the second A-10 Thunderbolt dropped 6,000 feet behind the lead jet as they neared the Gila Bend target range in a remote area south of Phoenix and west of Tucson, Maj. Gen. Donald Peterson said at a news conference Friday.
The officer said the "separation" between the jets is standard procedure. But while the second jet followed the leader into the range, Button apparently did not, and he has not been heard from since.

His A-10 fighter followed a path that took him in a northeasterly direction out of Arizona, through a corner of New Mexico and into Colorado.
Peterson said Button, whose jet was based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, was spotted a number of times by observers on the ground. One person who saw him was an unidentified pilot backpacking in mountains near Aspen.

Air Force believes A-10 was flown manually

The pilot told the Air Force that Button flew through a "sucker hole," a pocket of clear sky in what was otherwise a heavy overcast.
It was the A-10's ability to find the hole, and its frequent change of direction during that period, that has persuaded the Air Force that Button was flying the plane manually rather than relying on automatic-pilot.
The A-10 also was tracked by radar in Phoenix, Albuquerque and Denver. Because the A-10's transponder was turned off, however, the plane could not be identified at the time. It was only after studying radar tapes later that authorities were able to track Button's flight.
The search, which has been hampered by overcast skies, high winds, snow drifts up to 6 feet deep and continued snowfall, is concentrated in a remote section of Eagle County (http://www.cnn.com/US/9704/11/missing.a10/general.map.jpg), Colorado, 12 to 15 miles from Vail.
Peterson said authorities believe the A-10 had no more than 2 minutes to 5 minutes of fuel left, and the jet is believed to have crashed near New York Mountain and Craig Peak.
Observers reported hearing explosions and seeing smoke, but no wreckage has been found. Peterson said the Air Force believed that the 500-pound bombs attached to the plane were not activated, and would have remained intact if it crashed.
It may or may not be a coincidence that Button's first name is Craig, and that his family is reportedly from New York.

Updated info here; they never did find the bombs: Craig D. Button - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_D._Button)

4th Jan 2009, 13:23
Talking about the Israeli's early attempts to round up an airforce, didn't someone persuade the RAF to let him have some Beauforts to make a a film about Coastal Commands wartime exploits.

However the only thing they actually achieved was a long range ferry flight to Haifa.

4th Jan 2009, 21:04
This follows a proud tradition of many others I'm sure.

Back in the 50s my uncle did his national service doing maintenance on Tanks in Germany. He decided to have a joyride in a BAR tank on the way back from a serious session in the local alehouse. Due to a lack of skill/excess of alcohol he missed the local road and ended up half way through an empty barrack block and was caught red handed (and faced) by the MPs. As a result he spent the last half of his national service in the glass house and did not get a very good reference for civi-street.

Still talks about it with pride if you get him drunk enough :-)

Double Zero
4th Jan 2009, 23:05
I'd always wondered about that one, but when I read ' mother was a jehova's witness' one hardly need go any further - in an ideal world he'd have used the Mk82's on her; I knew a very good colleague who was forced to give up his long standing job when that lot got control of his wife.

Certainly a mystery about the bombs, it's very obvious when they've been dropped or jettisoned, and by the sound of the terrain it would be very hard & fairly skilled work to remove them, + hardly worth the effort as there's nothing special about them - suppose they must have bounced a long way ??? That would show too if they'd been torn from the pylons / carriers...

8th Jan 2009, 23:02
Stolen from Thorney Island

Curiously another stolen / illegal flight has come to light, this time of a Varsity from Thorney Island in April 1955. Five died (the pilot - an airframe mechanic who had a PPL) and four on the ground in France.

As recorded in the Aviation Safety Network:

Accident description
languages: Status:
Date: 26 APR 1955
Type: Vickers Varsity T.1
Operator: Royal Air Force - RAF
Registration: WF426
C/n / msn: 569
First flight: 1952
Crew: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Passengers: Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 0
Total: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Ground casualties: Fatalities: 4
Airplane damage: Written off
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: Onnaing (France)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature: Illegal Flight
Departure airport: Thorney Island RAF Station, United Kingdom
Destination airport: -
The Varsity was taken on an unauthorised flight by a mechanic. The aircraft crossed the Channel but crashed into a farmhouse at Onnaing, near Valenciennes in northern France.

» Broken Wings : Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents / James J. Halley
This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.

Press Report




John Botwood
8th Jan 2009, 23:24
In 1955 a Percival Prentice was stolen by a SAC from the No 1 Air Signallers School at Swanton Morely and flown to Belgium. He landed in a very small field with no damage to the aircraft. The field was so small that it had to be dismantled for return to UK - the Prentice , not the field.

John B

Pom Pax
9th Jan 2009, 01:16
S.A.C. Dixon B.
Left Swanton pre-dawn to visit his girl friend. Landed on a small concrete farm road (Brugge? area), pictures in the "Eastern Daily Press".
Helped out on the Swanton gliding school,generally as winch driver in exchange for flying time.
Subsequently spent time in the "funny farm".

9th Jan 2009, 05:58
Lol, it makes piano burning look like kindergarten, :ok:

9th Jan 2009, 08:56
By way of contrast, in the early 1950s the 602, City of Glasgow, RAuxAF Squadron (Vampires) returned to base from a Tangmere exercise, taking with them a treasured souvenir (a London hotel commissionaire’s top hat) “belonging” to 1 Sqn (Meteors). To redress the situation a 1 Sqn Fg Off was dropped off at Glasgow in the T7 and bluffed his way through the 602 line office and stole one of their Vampire 5s, which he flew to Tangmere, where it was hidden at the back of the 1 Sqn hangar; this was the first time he had flown a Vampire. It was a little while before 602 noticed they were one short and a little longer to discover what had happened to it, but eventually aircraft and hat were exchanged and honour declared to be satisfied.

The Fg Off escaped either punishment or a spell in a funny farm for the unauthorised flight and in due course retired in the rank of Air Chief Marshal.:ok:

9th Jan 2009, 09:49
I recently read "Foxbat" by James Barrington (ex sea harriers, I believe - and don't ask, I had a long train journey). I laughed at the idea that a bunch of MiG-25s could reasonably be stolen.

We live and learn, I suppose.

9th Jan 2009, 11:01
When I was an ATC cadet in the 50's I was told by a couple of LAC's that a Canberra had departed St Athan for delivery to Germany after maintenance. It never arrived and they then discovered that all the paperwork for this aircraft had also disappeared. I always thought that this was a lineshoot but, having read this thread, I am now not so sure.

9th Jan 2009, 16:09
In 1956/7 there used to be three Mosquitos parked at Thruxton facing the
A303 main road which ran alongside the airfield. The story was that they'd been illegally sold to Israel by an ex-WD surplus dealer/scrap man and were intercepted en-route and forced to land at the nearest airfield. I used to drive past them regularly and watched them slowly deteriorate from the fully airworthy aircraft that landed there to wrecks that were ignominiously dragged away a couple of years later and burnt. Very sad. I often wondered who the pilots were and what happened to them ?

21st Feb 2009, 02:58
....then there was the groundcrew who 'accidentaly' took-off in a Frightning........'Fortunately' he happened to be a PPL. As he was only supposed to be testing the donks the canopy wasn't fitted....and as the pins were in he couldn't bang-out. Ummm...and the brake-chute was u/s too I recall... However he got it down after a couple of attempts and rather frazzled brakes and tyres - and lived to tell the tale. I think the a/c still exists too.... I always wondered if he had his harness fastened.....and whether he soiled himself...:eek:....!

Double Zero
21st Feb 2009, 05:16

The involuntary Lightning ride is definitely true...as I heard it, from several widely spaced but believable sources over the years, the chap did not have a seat or canopy, was sitting on a box !!!

So, no harness, and no chance of a barrier landing.

Reports differ as to whether he had some light aircraft handling experience beforehand.

It took a few attempts to land, including scraping the tail, but he made it.

Sadly, I hope this is wrong but I've also heard this from several sources, the experience affected him very deeply afterwards, basically ruining the rest of his life.

Truly sad after 'getting away' with what most would think a certain death situation, but understandable.

21st Feb 2009, 05:56
Pontius and Double Zero.
Your facts are almost completely correct. He was an engineering Officer, but he did have RAF wings from a Harvard course many years before this occurrence.
The Lightning concerned is on display in the Aerospace Museum at Duxford.

21st Feb 2009, 08:49
I'll try and find it but I believe he posted here somewhere, detailing the story..

oops wrong forum:O

sled dog
21st Feb 2009, 09:35
He was Sqdn Ldr " Taff " Holden, i believe.

Treble one
21st Feb 2009, 11:18
And the Lightning aircraft he flew now resides in 'Airspace' at IWM Duxford.

21st Feb 2009, 12:10
From Lightning XM135, inadvertant flight by W/Cdr Holden - Page 2 - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums (http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?t=20807&page=2)

The flight in Taffy's own words

This story is well known in Lightning circles but it is great to be able to hear the real facts 'from the horses mouth' as it were.

Lightning XM135 Inadvertent Flight

Some Background Considerations

In attempting to write a more detailed personal account of my unfortunate flight in Lightning XM135 back in July 1966, I think I should add some of the reasoning and reason why I attempted the test in the first place. This might remove some of the erroneous facts, misapprehensions and misconceptions which I have seen in some accounts of the event.

First I should explain that I was a qualified pilot, even although I was an R.A.F. Engineer Branch officer. I joined the R.A.F. as an apprentice in 1943, from where I gained a cadetship to university. At the university I read mechanical engineering and learnt to fly on Tiger Moths, with the University Air Squadron. On graduation, I was given the option to continue with an engineering career or to follow a General Duties (Flying) career. I chose the former path and the Air Ministry at that time, considered that there was merit in allowing me to qualify to 'wings' standard as a pilot, in the belief that an engineering officer with a pilot qualification, could more easily see the pilots point of view in aircraft maintenance matters. I too, thought this was a very good idea.

I qualified on Harvards, but my early engineering duties only allowed me to keep in flying practice on Chipmunks. Whilst I was at Kinloss, I managed to get checked out on Oxfords and on occasions assisted a qualified test pilot, to air test twin engine Neptunes. My only jet aircraft experience was as a passenger in the second seat of a Javelin T3 and again in the 'rumble' seat of a Canberra. In my service, one of my postings took me to 33MU Lyneham where as the C.O of a civilian manned aircraft storage unit, I had Canberra, Meteor and Lightning types, which were gradually being prepared for despatch to various flying unit tasks. When the Meteor and Canberra types had been cleared, the powers that be, decided that the MU should close after the last Lightning's had been despatched. Up until the last Canberra, I had a qualified and current test pilot on my staff for those aircraft, but he was not a current Lightning pilot. When a Lightning needed test flying, I had to call for any available pilot with a current test pilot rating. Most times I would find one who could be spared within a 24 or 36 hour period. So much for my personal and R.A.F unit background.

Lightning Mk 1A XM135

XM 135 was being prepared for despatch to a Target Facilities Flight, but over a period of weeks, it had been giving no end of trouble. Each time it was being flight tested, the pilot found that on the initial few yards of a take off run, the inverter, supplying power to the primary flight instruments, would cut out and the stand by inverter would have to cut in, clearly an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Electricians were using every trick in their trade to establish the cause, each time thinking that they had removed, replaced and tightened every likely component. With nothing out of order, they would seek another test flight. It was a Boscombe Down pilot who next attempted to fly the aircraft, found the same problem persisting and refused to fly until a more positive explanation could be determined.

Back to the drawing board, electricians decided to devise some tests which might isolate the fault and indicate roughly where and which component was at fault. They intended to ask the next test pilot to switch in and out parts of circuits, using trailing wires from the likely circuits to temporary switches in the cockpit and to do these electrical switchings before and after each few yards of a simulated take off run, when the fault was manifest. The temporary wires from internal circuitry required the cockpit canopy to be removed and in this state the aircraft was made ready for another air test. Being a pilot, it was easiest for me, as CO, to request the services of a qualified test pilot, from wherever I could find one, but for the next test on XM135, no pilot was available for at least another week. With my unit closing down, many civilians being made redundant, a timetable of clearance being upset with this 'rogue' aircraft, there was much tetchiness and irritation amongst my staff. The intended Boscombe Down pilot, knowing I was a pilot, suggested I might try the test myself. He suggested using an out of use runway (Runway36) as I would only be using 30 or 40 yards at a time. He suggested using a Land Rover to communicate with Air Traffic Control and to get their clearance for each movement of the aircraft. However, there was one remaining minor problem. I had only sat in a Lightning cockpit once before and I had no idea how to start its two Rolls Royce Avon engines! The Foreman of engine trades gave me a 5 minute briefing on how to do this and XM135 was towed out to Runway 05 on 22July 1966 for my electrical tests.

It was by way of extraordinary good fortune that my engine Foreman explained that, although I would not be needing reheat, that reheat needed the throttles to be pushed past a reheat 'gate' and one had to feel for the gate keys, behind the throttle, to unlock. My only other knowledge of the Lightning was what I could remember from pilot's notes. At each test flight by the qualified pilot, I would be in ATC with a copy pilot's notes, should he need any aircraft figures to be relayed to him. One or two figures stuck in my mind, namely that the undercarriage had a maximum speed before it should be retracted and I had an even vaguer figure of about 150 knots for a landing speed. Some extra knots would be required for each 1000 lbs. of unused fuel, but I did not need to bother with any such figures for the test, which I was to undertake.

The Ground Test

I was correctly strapped into the cockpit (seated on the in situ parachute and ejector seat) and after starting the engines and holding the aircraft static, on the brakes, I did the necessary preliminaries for the electrical checks in the cockpit, checking the notes I had scribbled on a notepad which lay on the coaming in front of me. All seemed ready for the first test and I indicated to the Land Rover to obtain ATC clearance for use of the short 30 or 40 yards of runway. Holding the brakes I gradually opened the throttles to about 90%. My feeling at the time was the unexpected heavy vibration of Avon power held against the brakes. I did a quick check of the temporary electrical switches and circuitry lights, then released the brakes. That initial punch from the thrust was quite remarkable and I moved the expected 30 to 40 yards before I throttled back and applied the brakes. So far so good. I made some notes, altered some more switch positions, noted the on/off lights and prepared for the next test. This was done in a similar fashion and I was leaving the 'fault' diagnosis to my electrical staff who would have to interpret my notes. I needed to do one more test and ATC had noted that I had only used about 100 yards total, so they were quite happy to clear me for a similar short distance. ATC had also been holding up a fuel bowser and trailer with 3600 gallon of AVTAG for awaiting C130 aircraft refuelling, they decided to allow the bowser to cross the runway. On opening the throttles for that final test, I obviously pushed them too far, misinterpreting the thrust, because of the unexpected heavy vibration and they got locked into reheat. Yes, I did use some expletives but I had no time to think of getting out of reheat, because in front of me, the bowser and trailer had just crossed the runway, from right to left, so my thoughts were to make sure I was missing them by sufficient margin. No, I couldn't steer to clear them; reheat takes you in a straight path like a bullet out of a gun. The time between finding myself in reheat and just missing the bowser was less than half the time I have taken to write this sentence.

Before my thoughts could again return to getting myself out of reheat, I was gathering speed and about to cross the main duty runway, where a Comet had just passed on its take off run. I then had no time to look for reheat gate keys, my eyes were on what next lay ahead. Two things, the end of the short runway 07 and just beyond was the small village of Bradenstoke which I just had to miss. There was no chance of stopping, non whatsoever. I had gained flying speed (that is what reheat is for, short sharp take offs) and I had no runway left. I did not need to heave it off the runway, the previous test pilot had trimmed it exactly for take off and only a slight backward touch on the stick and I was gathering height and speed. Then my thought was to get my speed back in case I should damage the undercarriage. Incidentally, I could not have raised the undercarriage; the ground servicing locks were in place for safety reasons. With only clear blue sky in front of me, I could then search and feel for those gate keys. Yes, I found them and thanked my lucky stars that my engine foreman had quite incidentally told me of their location and I was soon able to get the speed back to (I am guessing now) about 250knots. My next thoughts were to keep Lyneham airfield in sight and where had the Comet got to, the one I had missed a few seconds ago? Then I asked myself, should I eject and where and when? No, I could not; the safety pins were in the ejection seat and safe for servicing, not for flying. My only alternative then was to attempt a landing, but how does one interpolate or extrapolate Tiger Moth, Chipmunk, Harvard flying to a two engined, 11 ton, beast like the Lightning?

After regaining my bearings, a little composure and simply by observation, making sure that the Comet had been warned away, I decided I should attempt a landing on the duty runway and direction. I was trying to combine all my limited flying experience into a few minutes of DIY flight 'training' on a Lightning. It wasn't easy, but I must admit that some of the elementary rudiments of my proper flying training and flight theory were coming in useful. I needed to get the feel of the aircraft, if I was to get it back on the ground. My first approach was ridiculous, I could tell that my speed, height, rate of descent, even alignment wasn't correct and my best plot was to go round again. This time making sure that my throttles would be well below reheat position. A second approach was no better, I had some aspects better, but as the duty runway 25 is on the lip of an escarpment, with a valley floor beyond, my rate of descent took me below runway height and I found myself adding power to get back to the right level. More power also meant more speed and I was trying to get to something like 150 knots for landing, but the uncoordinated attempt was becoming a mess so I abandoned it, took myself away on a very wide circuit of Lyneham and decided to land in the opposite direction. This I thought would give me more time to get the 'feel' right and if I made a mess of the landing, I would overrun the runway and just drop (crash) into the valley beyond. In that direction, with a messed up landing, I would have no fear of crashing into Lyneham village.

The long final leg of this approach gave me the thinking time that I needed and I gradually got the feel that speed, alignment, rate of descent, height and approach angle were better. I plonked it down at about the right position off the runway threshold, but just forgot that I was in a nose wheel aircraft and emulated my best three wheelers in a Chipmunk or Harvard. The result was that I crunched the rubber block which encases the brake parachute cables. However, I had got down, but I then had to stop. I obviously knew the Lightning had a brake parachute, but where was the 'chute lever, button or knob? There, I found it marked Brake Chute and I pulled it and I could then look ahead and concentrate on keeping straight and somewhere near the centre line. I hung on to the brake lever, I wasn't slowing as much as I would like, so I just kept up my hand pressure on the brakes. I had about 100 yards of runway left when I stopped and even then, I didn't know that the brake parachute had dropped off as soon as it was deployed, because the cable had been severed as a result of my super tail wheel three pointer.

Events Immediately after the Flight

XM 135 was towed back to the hangar and I was taken to see the medical officer who gave me some pills to calm my nerves. I felt reasonably calm because I had almost killed myself on five occasions in that 12 minute flight, yet I had miraculously survived. What is more, I would see my wife and young family again. Two or three times in that same 12 minutes, I thought I would never ever see them again. My only priority was to save my own skin, I was not thinking about the non insured loss of a Lightning Mk 1A aircraft. The minor damage to the aircraft was repaired with a new set of brake shoes and a new rubber chute block. As a memento, I have kept that rubber block, one day it might be returned to XM135 at Duxford.

The Fault

Although the tests I did and the ensuing flight did not immediately provide a reason for the initial electrical fault, my electrical staff, with additional assistance from English Electric, Salmesbury eventually did. Apparently, in early versions of the Lightning, there was to be a ground test button fitted into the standby inverter circuit. It was never fitted to the Mk1A but the wires were left in the looms. It was one of these redundant wires which shorted on to the UHF radio as it moved on its trunnions when the aircraft nudged forward on take off. Who would have thought I should risk my life to find it, in the way I did?

Events Subsequent to the Flight

There was a subsequent Inquiry to find out what had happened and why and to make recommendations for it never to happen again. As I was the Commanding Officer of the Unit, I was responsible for my own as well as the service actions of all my staff. I was not acting against any orders in the Flight Order Book which I religiously kept up to date. But those orders did not cater for engineering officers doing investigative type checks on Lightning's. They were later amended. After the Unit Inquiry I had to go up in front of the Commander-in-Chief. That was when I thought my career would be placed in jeopardy. I even thought that my coveted 'wings' would be taken from me; I had no idea how the incident was being regarded by Command or indeed Air Ministry. But, as I stood in front of Air Marshal Sir Kenneth Porter, he read the proceedings, asked me if I agreed with his view that "With the limited flying experience that I had, the test would have been better left to an experienced and current Lightning test pilot." I agreed of course. He then told me to remove my hat, sit down and proceeded to tell me some of his unfortunate flying incidents in Mesopotamia in the Middle East. I was thankful that nothing more was to become of the incident and that I still had a job to do back at 33 Maintenance Unit, Lyneham.

I coped with all the official communications regarding the incident, but what I was unprepared for was the release of the story to the public. I had had very little experience of working with the press, certainly none with radio, TV, national and world press. I had no training in how to deal with their quest for news. My Command Headquarters suggested I went away on leave before press releases were made by Air Ministry. This I did and took my family off camping to Jesola, in Italy. Imagine my complete surprise when, on the first day of camp, on my way to find some ice, someone shouted "Hello Taffy, I've just been reading about your Lightning flight!!" The world seemed a very small place. On returning to the U.K. I was overwhelmed to find that the incident was still front line news. People wanted to write articles in newspapers, books, magazines, interviews on TV and radio and underhand attempts to hear my account of what had happened. Having admitted that I had made an unwise decision to do the ground tests, I decided that the unwanted publicity that I had attracted was in no way going to be for financial gain. I steadfastly refused offers although for a two page article in the Sunday Express, I requested the editors to make a contribution to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund. Despite prompts, no moneys were ever handed over and I became very disillusioned with all publicity media. Some friends thought I had gained reward for an article in 'Mayfair'; it was written without my knowledge and authority, but, because it was factually correct, I had no redress from the Press Complaints Board. Nonetheless, I was extremely annoyed.

Some years after the incident, my hidden fears of high speed flight came to the surface and I had to spend two periods in hospital. I had not come to terms with the emotional side of the event. To return to my wife and family after five close encounters with death, was indeed a miraculous experience, but I had not been honest with myself, to accept it as such, so I needed psychiatric help. I could recall the technicalities of the flight without any hang-ups, but was unwilling to talk about that emotional side of the ordeal until I was placed under medical drugs and to bring those emotions to the surface. That was a rewarding experience and it gave me a much better understanding of people who might need that same kind of help, after similar unfortunate occurrences.

Forty Years On

I am now retired and living with my wife in Cheshire. Apart from being an active DIY plumber, carpenter, electrician handyman, my main pastime is involvement with family history. My inadvertent flight is still very vivid and in writing this personal account, I needed little prompting. Over the intervening years, I have received many letters and reminders from people whom I did not know, all praising my efforts to return myself and aircraft back to the ground safely. Yes, I have basked in some glory, when accounts of what happened, have been retold in social gatherings. I have never sought publicity, but whenever it became impossible to suppress, I have had to live with it. I enjoyed my career in the Royal Air Force, but not because of XM135!

Best regards

Taffy Holden


Double Zero
21st Feb 2009, 15:07

Thankyou very much for putting up the true account, I for one always felt I was being told something near but not quite the reality.

As for Mr.Holden, I don't think I've ever read a more humbling story - a very brave, and honest man.

I suppose, in modern parlance, ' Respect ' Sir !


The Magic Rat
21st Feb 2009, 19:29
I've observed this forum for years and never felt the urge to pass comment, until today.

I first heard this story when I joined the RAF in 1985 and, at first, dismissed it as bull***t. Then I heard it again and again and again, so realised there must have been a grain of truth to it and, if I'm honest, I was in awe of it.

Thanks for posting Taffy's account of this. Its good to finally know the true events.

21st Feb 2009, 19:41
BBC radio interview with Wing Commander Holden. Recorded in the 1980s.

YouTube - Lightning XM135 inadvertant flight by W/Cdr "Taffy" Holden (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iKFYaXDivs)


21st Feb 2009, 19:49
NutherA2 - great dit.

Bit off-thread this next bit:

I seem to remember be told a dissimilar story by a Gp Capt Nav (Gp Capt Cadets at Cranwell in 1990??) who, as an FO on 9 Vulcans, helped nick 617's bit of the Tirpitz. As they got airborne they got a Grade One div back to Scampers. They declared a Mayday with an engine fire indications (false), divved into Wittering, shut down in the bondu and chucked the scrap iron over the hedge. He went back that night in his motor and re-acquired it for the squadron. OC 9 very happy. OC 617 less so. Or was it the other way round?

I seem to remember that forgetting to sign the 700 was deemed to be "stealing of of Her Majesty's aircraft". In which case I wise to have several dozen cases taken into consideration.

22nd Feb 2009, 05:54
Ah, yes. This brought back memories. Story of 'bulkhead' was told to me by Vulcan Capt. K. D.....n whilst climbing for a spinning excercise whilst instructing me for a PPL. Many years ago!!

Lister Noble
22nd Feb 2009, 12:16
I'm not military but am a PPL.
We used to keep a sailing boat at Aldeburgh ,Suffolk and I sometimes took a couple of USAF pilots sailing,in turn I would get invited to the Officers mess at Bentwaters for a meal,first time I tasted a real burger!
Also saw round much of the Bentwaters base and Woodbridge.
I asked them about this 130 episode and whether the USAF shot it down,they never said anything,just gave a rather knowing smile.

One of the groundcrew I used to see in the pub told me there was no way they were going to let it crash on land and cause a serious international row.

Yellow Sun
22nd Feb 2009, 12:50
I seem to remember be told a dissimilar story by a Gp Capt Nav (Gp Capt Cadets at Cranwell in 1990??) who, as an FO on 9 Vulcans, helped nick 617's bit of the Tirpitz. As they got airborne they got a Grade One div back to Scampers. They declared a Mayday with an engine fire indications (false), divved into Wittering, shut down in the bondu and chucked the scrap iron over the hedge. He went back that night in his motor and re-acquired it for the squadron. OC 9 very happy. OC 617 less so. Or was it the other way round?

Err no. The 9 squadron crew arrived at Waddington an a UK ranger. The captain, P**e A*ms****g, approached me in the briefing room and asked if I knew a place where he could hire a van. I thought nothing of it and suggested a couple of local companies. That evening the the station was "invaded" for want of a better term, by 617 sqn who were seeking the return of "their property". The Waddington residents decided that this was a 617/9 spat and declined to get involved, sitting back to watch the entertainment. Nothing was found and I am pretty sure that the 9 sqn crew had already made themselves scarce. When the 9 sqn aircraft was due to depart for Akrotiri (next morning?) a search was carried out but revealed no rusty old bits of battleship secreted on board. They got airborne and straight away diverted to Cottesmore or Wittering (cannot recall which) where they refuelled and loaded the pre-positioned scrap iron and then departed for Akrotiri.

The tale of the subsequent 617 "mission" to reacquire the old bit of boiler plate is even more entertaining, but as I have only had it related to me 2nd hand I shall not re-tell. I shall try and get a friend who was on Bomber Wing at the time to provide an account.


27th Feb 2009, 03:59
I heard a rumor that after LCpl Foote got bounced out of the Corps he ended up flying for the Israeli Air Force. Anybody know what became of LCpl Foote?

27th Feb 2009, 04:26
Well, this seems to be him (second entry).

There is an error in the article, it says he enlisted in the USMC in 1994 and became a plane captain on A-6E Intruders... the USMC got rid of its last A-6E squadron in 1995... about the time he would be finishing training.

Note the other dates, though... enlisting in 1984 fits those dates much better (I doubt he was contracting with NASA's JPL while an enlisted man in the USMC)... as well as the Foote of "stolen Skyhawk" fame.

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27th Feb 2009, 06:23
YS, the version I heard was that the ac left Waddo with Akrotiri fuel, but landed over normal landing weight at Wittering. Then loaded the bit of boat whilst the 617th bombardment wing were racing down the A1 - and took off again.

27th Feb 2009, 10:08

Thankyou very much for putting up the true account,

I agree:ok:

Would be great if the museum had a piece by the exhibit which detailed this as gives a lot more feel to an exhibit knowing what the aircraft was involved in and some of what the people have been involved with.

27th Feb 2009, 10:40
That FO on 9 sqn was "Biggus" Dickus!


green granite
27th Feb 2009, 11:53
I read an account of the raid on 617 for the Tirpitz bit, I think it was in this book.

The Fob's Kid Syndrome: Vulcan Bombers in Action

27th Feb 2009, 15:56
My father was F/I in the WWII WASP program, and told of a Texan (Harvard) that went astray. A WASP graduate was tasked to fly a ship from Texas back to NAA Inglewood CA (now KLAX) for a refit. She ended up in Mexico, out of petrol, and out of daylight. Set it down on the Sonoran desert gear up. She was sent back to navigation school. :=

Anyway Dad and a work crew took a spare prop and some hoist gear along, and recovered the ship. There was plenty of dry lake bed to fly it out.

20th Jun 2009, 00:04

Came across this post. I was involved in this incident. Trying to be somwhat anonymous although I was never told that anything related to this incident was classified. I was working in a Air Force command post in Colorado and got complaint calls from angry retired millitary of an a-10 doing barrel rolls in the mountains under 500 ft. I also recieved calls about an aircraft dropping bombs in the mtns.
this aircraft was not on autopilot.

20th Jun 2009, 00:39
Does anyone know where the Vulcan pilot P*** A*******g is now, or even if he's still alive? He taught me to fly! A pm would be fantastic if anyone knows...

12th Jan 2010, 15:20
Thought I might re-awaken this thread with the following: :)

In September 1956, a crew chief sergeant in the Royal Norwegian Air Force decided to "borrow" one of RNAF 718 Sqdn's T-33s. He had no previous flight experience, but had carefully studied all the Lockheed manuals and planned the flight meticulously - it was the day after his 21st birthday.

The incident took place at Sola Airbase outside Stavanger, Norway. When it was shortly discovered that this was an unauthorized flight, all he*l broke loose at Sola - a SAS DC-6 loaded with PAX was de-boarded, F-84s and other T-33s already airborne were vectored to escort the miscreant back to base.

Several attempts at landing were made without success until the final safe touchdown; whereupon he soon lost a little directional control, hit a runway light, and collapsed the right main gear, coming to rest near the flight line where several other jets were parked. Not a scratch on him, but he was boiling mad about veering off the runway and had nothing good to say about the fellows who had attempted to force him down. :ugh: He was summarily drummed out of the Air Force, left Norway, and spent the rest of his life in the USA.

The aircraft had Norwegian markings DP-I, tail number 51-11752 as shown in the picture below. (Also note the RNAF RF-84F Thunderflash in the background - this could have turned out much worse !). The T-Bird was quickly repaired and returned to service.

I'm looking to find out more about this story and the airplane's history. Particularly, missing details/pictures about its time with the French Air Force after retirement from the RNAF. I know it eventually ended up in the Thai Air Force and was taken out of service as late as 1993 after, apparently, a cockpit fire. Today it's in a museum in Chiang Mai, Thailand as far as I've been able to determine.

If anyone can shed any more details about this story or the airplane, I would sincerely appreciate it. I know a court of inquiry took place in Norway and that the control tower tapes were scrutinized - but try as I might, the tapes and inquiry commission records seem to have disappeared. (I know it's a small breach of forum etiquette, but if no one strongly objects I'm also posting this in the Aviation History and Nostalgia forum). :oh:



PS: Oh yes, forgot to mention something: the miscreant himself was my older brother, call sign "Alpine". :D :=


Lou Scannon
12th Jan 2010, 16:08
Just to add to the Thorney Island Varsity snatch:

The SDO that night was Flt Lt Taff Johns who took it upon himself to report the small problem of the theft. In what became folklore in the area he started the conversation with the AOC with the words (in a strong Welsh accent).

"Sir.....there's going to be an accident!"

How right Taff was!

12th Jan 2010, 18:31
Only military in the sense that the aircraft concerned was ex-RAF but didn't someone "borrow" a Chipmunk (G-BCRX, ex-WD292 if I recall correctly) from Denham one evening in the late 1970s and land it on a grassed area at LHR before making a sharp exit?

green granite
12th Jan 2010, 18:41
Bit more on the Varsity from Hansard:

HC Deb 04 May 1955 vol 540 cc123-4W 123W

§ 37 and 38. Wing Commander Hulbert

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air (1) what means were taken to track the Varsity aircraft which took off from Thorney Island on an unauthorised flight on Monday, 25th April, until it crashed in France;

(2) if he will make a statement about the unauthorised flight of a Varsity aircraft which took off from Thorney Island on Monday, 25th April.

Mr. Ward

At about 7 p.m. on 25th April a Royal Air Force Varsity aircraft No. WF 246 piloted by Leading Aircraftman Nanik Agnani took off from the R.A.F. Station, Thorney Island, on an unauthorised flight. At the time the station was engaged in a training exercise and was awaiting the return of three other Varsities. Leading Aircraftman Nanik Agnani was a member of ground crew. Attempts were made by the staff at Royal Air Force, Thorney Island, to prevent the aircraft from taking off, but these efforts were unavailing.

The Flight Commander, Flight Lieutenant Smiles, took off in another Varsity in an endeavour to shepherd Agnani back to the airfield and to pass landing instructions by radio. The aircraft piloted by Agnani, after circling the airfield several times, flew in the direction of Chichester and over Brighton at a low altitude. It then turned north and was 124W tracked by radar and by the pursuing aircraft as far as Hornchurch, where it turned westward and flew over Central London at heights sometimes as low as 200 ft. At this point, in the fading light, the pursuing aircraft lost visual contact. The aircraft was observed by radar to have turned north-east and the pursuing aircraft was directed on this course. A few minutes later, at 9.5 p.m., radar contact was lost and Flight Lieutenant Smiles reported a fire on the ground at a point which coincided with the last position of the aircraft as observed by radar, and Service and civil authorities were instructed to search for the wreckage.

Royal Air Force stations over a large area of Southern England were instructed to turn on runway lights in case the Varsity piloted by Agnani was in fact still airborne and endeavouring to land. A few minutes after midnight the aircraft crashed on the village of Onnaing near Valenciennes in Northern France, killing three people and seriously injuring three others, besides doing considerable damage to property. Leading Aircraftman Agnani was himself killed.

The unauthorised take-off and the subsequent crash are the subject of a Court of Inquiry. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the sympathy of the Air Council with the relatives of those who lost their lives, and with the injured.

40. Mr. I. O. Thomas

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will give consideration to making arrangements for payment to be made without delay of generous amounts in compensation to the people who were injured, and to the families and dependants of those who were killed, as a result of the Royal Air Force aircraft crash at Onnaing, near Valenciennes, France, during Monday night, 25th April, 1955.

§ Mr. de Freitas

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what compensation will be paid in respect of damage done by the Royal Air Force Varsity aircraft which took off from Thorney Island on 25th April and which crashed in Northern France.

Mr. Ward

Compensation to those who suffered loss or injury will be paid as if the accident had occurred in this country, and arrangements have been made for dealing with claims.

12th Jan 2010, 18:52
Incredible story :} !!! At least he survived that's good.

13th Jan 2010, 15:53
Yep, I heard the Chipmunk tale, but can throw no light on it.

13th Jan 2010, 18:17
>Yep, I heard the Chipmunk tale, but can throw no light on it.<

I'm fairly sure it's true. I flew that aircraft occasionally in the mid-1970s (it wasn't me that nicked it, honest) and vaguely remember the story doing the rounds at Denham at the time.

13th Jan 2010, 19:35
Lou Scannon:

The SDO that night was Flt Lt Taff Johns...."Sir.....there's going to be an accident!"

Always somewhat economical with his words, for a Welshman! As a QFI he faced the unpleasant task of breaking the bad news to a student pilot, while doing the necessary debriefing paperwork, along the following lines:
"Now what's you name again?". "Smith, Sir". "No, no, I mean your first name, what does your Mummy call you?". "Oh! John, Sir", (relaxing slightly at this slight thawing of the prevailing temperature). "Well John, you're chopped!".
Apologies for the thread drift. But thanks for recalling those far off days at Thorney!

henry A
18th Nov 2010, 16:27
There was no "Dear John" letter. I was Pauls ,at the time, 7 year old step son. We have every letter ever written between he and my mom. The letters we have are from 2 young lovers and a father that did miss his kids.

We have always known he was shot down, and really understandably so, but never have we seen it from any official source. We have tried and tried to have the offical reports release, but all of those have beed redacted to the come to no formal conclusion. Atthis point we are hoping that a pilot that was scrambled that day would like to get it off his shoulders to what really happened that day.

18th Nov 2010, 18:30
ACM Sir Paddy Hine's account of stealing a Glasgow RAuxAF Vampire and taking it ti Tangmere when he was a Fg Off is a great story.

18th Nov 2010, 20:59
The B45 hit the east side embankment of the Kings Cross-Edinburgh line. He appeared to have been flying north of, but parallel with, the Alconbury approach.

Little of the Canberra was recognisable. However, the T33 appeared pretty much complete but minus canopy. I thought it may have come down down in a flat spin, if that is possible in a T33.

Although a schoolboy at the time, the sadness of those events is an abiding memory.

18th Nov 2010, 23:20
In the early 1980s a military Cessna 337 (known locally as the 'Lynx', with an air-to-ground attack role) was stolen from Thornhill Air Force Base, near Gweru (Gwelo) in Zimbabwe, and flown to Messina (I think) in South Africa. The 'pilot' was a line technician, IIRC, who often used to volunteer to go flying with the 4 Sqn pilots. They just assumed he was keen, but all the while he was 'learning' how to operate the aircraft. He also had a minor amount of gliding experience.

I recall hearing it take off during the afternoon, and those who saw it stated that it was an extremely dodgy takeoff (steep nose-up climb) and it very nearly came to grief doing so. I vaguely recall that the chap was arrested and jailed by the South Africans, although I think he was trying to claim asylum or was defecting. Apparently he may have had a few screws loose ....

The aircraft was returned sometime later by the South Africans ..... on the back of a truck, I think.

19th Nov 2010, 14:45
As for stolen aircraft... on 7th March 1964 a Dutch mechanic 'borrowed' Grumman S-2F Tracker '153' from his detachment on Malta an flew it to Benghazi, Libya.

A week or so later the aircraft was flown back by a flight crew.


There is some more info here: Grumman S2F/S-2 Tracker C-1 Trader E-1 Tracer Repository (https://web.archive.org/web/20101028140409/http://www.s2ftracker.com/) (bottom of page)

19th Nov 2010, 16:38
Another Taff John story; a man who wouldn't use one word when none would do!
After an "interesting" copilot sortie, instructor and said copilot were walking away from the aircraft and, as absolutely nothing had been said in the way of a debrief, the copilot asked if Taff had any comments. Taff put down his navbag, got out his notebook, licked his pencil, and said, "Tell me Bloggs.........are there one ..... or two tees......in atrocious?"

Steve Evans
22nd Nov 2010, 14:58
Regarding the Chipmunk being stolen and landing on some grass at Heathrow, I seem to remember it was part owned by the former Daily Express columnist Peter Tory. He relayed the tale to Douglas Bader who apparently replied " Bloody good show"

Trim Stab
22nd Nov 2010, 19:18
As for stolen aircraft... on 7th March 1964 a Dutch mechanic 'borrowed' Grumman S-2F Tracker '153' from his detachment on Malta an flew it to Benghazi, Libya.

A week or so later the aircraft was flown back by a flight crew

An interesting story - what happened to him? He would be in his seventies now, so probably still alive.

5th Dec 2013, 05:53
There is no truth whatsoever in the story about him gaining entry to the Israeli Air Force. Foote's not even Jewish, therefore is ineligible for aliyah (immigration under Right of Return).

His claim in a 14 February 1988 Los Angeles Times article of working as a pilot for an on-demand carrier was bogus as well. He may have scammed his way into a commuter in some other postion, but it would not have been as a pilot. How do I know this? Check the FAA Airman Registry. The only Howard A. Foote listed (California address, by the way) is listed as holding only a Private Pilot Certificate with a Glider category rating, and a Third-Class Medical Certificate, both current as of 2010. Looks like his aviation career hasn't worked out so very well at all in the intervening three decades. :rolleyes:

Foote holds no other category or class ratings on his pilot certificate, no type ratings, no flight or ground instructor certificate, and no mechanic certificate (his USMC time would have made him eligible under the experience requirement). Yet on Page 8 of this document http://www.frantechusa.com/img/SPRBusPlan071017.pdf (http://www.frantechusa.com/img/SPRBusPlan071017.pdf) he claims significant multiengine, fast-jet and rotary-wing pilot experience. This is not consistent with his FAA record. If you have a careful look over the so-called business plan (dated 17 October 2007), he's a supposed key player in a scheme to develop what amounts to a space-themed amusement park, to be located in the Shanghai area. There's no available documentation to show that this project has ever actually gotten anywhere.

Also, documentation supporting his claimed JPL and other alleged NASA-connected projects is conspicuous by its absence: there's the occasional reference in the popular press (usually the LA Times, whose quality is little more than tabloid-level), but a serious paucity of scientific and technical reports. It's possible he may have had some very minimal, very peripheral involvement in some small project or another, but not a single article can be turned up bearing Foote's name as a named author. If he truly were a principal researcher on any project, this would not be the case; he would be a named author (he isn't).

His claim to have attended Embry-Riddle may be valid, however the question still remains: did he actually graduate? If so, with what degree and in which major subject(s)? I'm certain there's no shortage of PPRuNers with ERAU connections who could quickly and easily verify that claim for its truthfulness -- or the lack thereof.

My take on Foote? His biographic profile seems to shout "spoiled rich brat wasting his parents' money who refuses to take responsibility for his own recklessness". He's spent the past near-30 years of his life as a second-rate scam artist and con man, and after all these years, still refuses to grow up. Do a search for other LA Times citations concerning Foote. I'd say the United States Marine Corps got Foote's number back in 1986 when they essentially told him to have a long walk off a short pier. :cool:

I see a Darwin in Foote's remaining future. He earned it 30 years ago, the committee simply hasn't presented it to him yet.

5th Dec 2013, 10:08
WRT the C130 possibly shot down in 1969. I was on duty as an ATC assistant at LATCC West Drayton on the night in question when we had a phone call from ADOC (I didn't answer it but a colleague did) requesting 'clearance' (more like 'telling' us I would have thought) through the London TMA for two Lightnings routing southbound. I'm positive my colleague said two not one.

5th Dec 2013, 11:29
Sorry but just can't believe the lightning shootdown story; why would any UK politician authorise that? It would be an absolute lose/lose decision from a political viewpoint . As to the Yanks doing it, well who knows?

Lightning Mate
5th Dec 2013, 11:37
I once "stole" a Lightning, but that's a different story.

5th Dec 2013, 11:51
I once "stole" a Lightning, but that's a different story.

But one we'd be keen to hear! :)

Courtney Mil
5th Dec 2013, 12:07
Apparently they launched 2 Lightnings, 2 Sabres? and another Herc to try to find Paul Meyer in his stolen C-130.

Here's the report...
Paul Meyer (http://www.sammcgowan.com/meyers.html)

5th Dec 2013, 12:17
I once "stole" a Lightning, but that's a different story.

Now you must have had very big pockets or an over sized greatcoat to pull off a jape like that :D

Come on ... It's blowing a gale outside ... Mrs Coff has just made a fine cup of tea ... We're all ears on this one :ok:

Courtney Mil
5th Dec 2013, 12:39
Yeah, come on, LM.

Lightning Mate
5th Dec 2013, 12:49
OK then.

I authorised the flight but didn't sign the F700 acceptance.

See - I said it was non event.

Courtney Mil
5th Dec 2013, 13:33
Taffy Holden stole a Lightning too. And what an amazing job he did bringing it back!

5th Dec 2013, 13:36
Naughty Boy ! :D:D:D:D

And there was me thinking ...


5th Dec 2013, 21:36
Was at Hal Far when the Tracker was stolen. It was a Sunday and no flying. Great excitement when a Tracker took off.

16th Dec 2015, 17:38
My Dad SMSGGuy Faire was his boss. His wife would come over to our house all of the time, crying about how hard it was to raise the kids on her own and that she wanted him to come home. He went to town, got drunk and in trouble. 2 Airmen brought him back to the base and my Dad said to put him to bed and that he was due on the flight line in the morning. When they went to get him up, he was gone and so was the C-130. The Generals came and said that there was no way 1 person could fly it. My Dad took them to another C-130 and took them up in it with only him at the control. My Dad said that when he was flying that the pilots would show the GI's how to fly in case the were shot. My Dad has all the paperwork on this crash one it was declassified. After the crash, his wife moved to France and was never heard from again.

18th Dec 2015, 02:11
My Dad SMSGGuy Faire was his boss. His wife would come over to our house all of the time, crying about how hard it was to raise the kids on her own and that she wanted him to come home. He went to town, got drunk and in trouble. 2 Airmen brought him back to the base and my Dad said to put him to bed and that he was due on the flight line in the morning. When they went to get him up, he was gone and so was the C-130. The Generals came and said that there was no way 1 person could fly it. My Dad took them to another C-130 and took them up in it with only him at the control. My Dad said that when he was flying that the pilots would show the GI's how to fly in case the were shot. My Dad has all the paperwork on this crash one it was declassified. After the crash, his wife moved to France and was never heard from again.

Thats a sad tale Kathy.

Minnie Burner
18th Dec 2015, 09:12


HC Deb 12 June 1969 vol 784 cc2073-82 2073 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2073)
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1035) Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn till Monday next.—[Mr. Concannon.]
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1036) 2.16 p.m.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1037) Mr. Eldon Griffiths (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-eldon-griffiths) (Bury St. Edmunds) (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/constituencies/bury-st-edmunds)
Some time during the morning of Friday, 23rd May, Sergeant Paul Meyer, of the United States Air Force, who was stationed at Mildenhall, in my constituency, was found staggering along the A11 road. The police, in accordance with the Visiting Forces Act (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/acts/visiting-forces-act-1952), returned this young American to his base where a security guard put him to bed to "sleep it off".
Shortly before dawn Sergeant Meyer awoke and, walking through the main gate, he entered into the cockpit of a C130 aircraft. There was nothing unusual about this, since Sergeant Meyer, as a master mechanic, was employed on these large aircraft and no suspicions were aroused until, without making radio contact with the tower, the aircraft roared down the runway and took off.
Thereafter, it appears that this huge aircraft, flown single-handed by a man without any pilot training, travelled at high speed and presumably at a fairly low level across a wide area of Southern England. It came dangerously close to the extremely busy air traffic routes in and out of London Airport. It was eventually picked up, although not for some considerable time, by American and British radar and finally, after radio 2074 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2074) contact was made with it, Sergeant Meyer was able to speak with his wife in Virginia. Shortly afterwards it appears that Sergeant Meyer lost control of the aircraft and, as far as I can ascertain, crashed into the English Channel somewhere between Bournemouth and Cherbourg.
So much for the bare facts. I turn now to the important questions that led me to seek this short debate. Before I do so, however, perhaps I may express my sympathy to Mrs. Meyer and her family and also to the commanding officer and others at the Mildenhall base. From long and close experience, I have developed the warmest regard and respect for the United States Air Force in this country, and I want to put it on record that in my constituency United States airmen and their families are model guests and welcome neighbours.
I have myself frequently visited Mildenhall base and, indeed, I may well have been shown through the particular aircraft which Sergeant Meyer hijacked, if that is the right term. I therefore have little doubt that the American Air Force inquiry, now being conducted, will establish all the pertinent facts and will lead to such changes or tightening up of security arrangements as may be needed to ensure that such a dangerous incident will not occur again. Nevertheless, I have several important questions to put to the Minister.
First, I seek an assurance that all possible steps have been taken by the American authorities to guard the many aircraft stationed at Mildenhall and other 2075 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2075) American bases against any future danger of a drunken, demented or even disloyal man taking off on unauthorised flights.
This is not the first such incident. In June, 1958, another United States mechanic took off in a B45 bomber from Alconbury base, in Huntingdon, and this aircraft crashed on to the London-Edinburgh railway line. There have been other cases in the United States since them. One does not have to be a devotee of "Dr. Strangelove" to recognise that a huge aircraft, carrying thousands of gallons of high octane petrol, not to mention the possibility of even more deadly items, can be a lethal weapon in the hands of an untrained and possibly unstable man.
I thank heaven that Sergeant Meyer did not crash his aircraft on one of my Suffolk villages, or, much worse, on Central London in the rush hour. If that had happened, scores and perhaps hundreds of British lives might have been lost. So my first request is for a categorical assurance that everything possible is being done at Mildenhall and elsewhere to prevent such an incident from recurring.
Secondly, can the hon. Gentleman confirm that this aircraft did fly across the air traffic pattern of London Airport? At the time, I am told that several dozen large passenger jets were arriving and taking off from London, and to inject a rogue aircraft into this pattern was extremely hazardous. I hope that the Minister can tell me at precisely what hour the air traffic radar at London Airport picked up this dangerous intruder. I hope that he can tell me what steps were taken to warn or divert other civilian aircraft in the vicinity.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also say if, as is rumoured, nothing was done along these lines, was it because the Hercules was not located, or if it was, as a "blip" on the screens, was it not identified as the missing aircraft from Mildenhall? Above all, has the Board of Trade reviewed the procedures concerning such incidents? Are the Government satisfied that the action taken in all the circumstances was satisfactory?
Thirdly, I understand, that R.A.F. and United States fighter aircraft were ordered 2076 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2076) to search for the missing Hercules. Is this true? If so, why did they not find it? With an official American inquiry proceeding, I do not ask the Minister to anticipate its findings, but I am sure that he is aware of the anxieties which have arisen about the adequacy of our defences, if fighter aircraft were sent up and failed to locate a very large and comparatively slow Hercules transport flying over England in daylight.
Then there is the question of our military radars. It is alleged—I put it no higher—that no radar contact was made with the plane until an hour and a half after its unauthorised take-off. Is this true? If it is, it is very disturbing.
I do not want, and the Minister would not welcome it if I did, the pursuit of this question in great depth at the moment. There are some obvious security considerations. But I believe that the House is entitled to a clear-cut assurance that our radar defences are adequate, or, if they were shown by this incident not to be, that the most urgent steps are being taken to make them adequate and without a moment's delay.
Finally, I turn to the United States Air Force inquiry which is currently going on. Obviously, it has had to be conducted in secret and most of its findings are likely to remain classified. But can he tell me why no British officer was allowed to be present as an observer? We and the Americans are allies and there should be no secrets between us, at least about flights of American aircraft across our own country. So will the hon. Gentleman also give a categorical assurance that the United States Air Force will provide a transcript of its inquiry hearings to the British Government? This is essential, so that those responsible for this country's air defence and air traffic safety may satisfy themselves that the investigation has been thorough and that the conclusions are satisfactory.
Moreover, once the Minister has studied the transcript and considered the Americans' conclusions and the steps which they take, I hope that he will not exclude the possibility of a further British study of this incident. What matters to the House is the safeguarding of British interests and, for that matter, British lives. We have just seen, in the case of Captain Thain, that different nations' experts can reach very different 2077 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2077) conclusions about air crashes. I do not wish to see any such differences creating injustices, misunderstanding or grievances between this country and the Americans over this incident.
So, finally, will the hon. Gentleman assure us that the American evidence will be made known to the Government and that, when it has been studied and all the facts are to hand, he will make a further statement to the House. This is essential to satisfy the genuine anxieties of my constituents, to satisfy those who fly in and out of London Airport that our air traffic arrangements are adequate and, above all, to assure us that the military radar defences of this country are adequate for the task before them.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1038) 2.28 p.m.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1039) The Minister of Defence for Equipment (Mr. John Morris) (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/sir-john-morris)
May I, first, join the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) in extending my sympathy to Mrs. Meyer? I am sure that the House will appreciate the hon. Gentleman's remarks about American forces in this country. I also thank him for the way in which he has raised this issue, and I hope that my reply will remove some of the misconceptions which have arisen about this case.
First, I would give the House a brief statement of the main facts of the incident as they appear to me. They derive from two sources—the information which the United States authorities promptly placed at our disposal, and the very comprehensive data available from the British air traffic control system.
I must emphasise, as the hon. Member fairly put it, that an American board of inquiry is at present considering the incident with the object of establishing all the attendant circumstances, and recommending any remedial steps which may be necessary. The board was convened almost immediately after the incident and it is still in session. I am assured that it is examining the matter with great thoroughness. Until the American authorities have received and considered the findings of this board, a number of questions obviously remain sub judice, including questions touching the responsibility of individual members of the United States Air Force. The House will not expect me to deal with points of this kind.
2078 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2078) I shall, therefore, confine myself to four matters—first, the course of events from the moment at which the unauthorised flight began; second, the action taken by the British and American authorities during the course of the incident; third, the action subsequently taken by my Department; and, fourth, certain wider matters about which hon. Members and some sections of the Press have expressed anxiety.
The facts of the incident are these. At 5.15 a.m. on Friday, 23rd May, 1969, an American Air Force sergeant, who was a member of the establishment of ground personnel at the United States Air Force base at the R.A.F. Station, Mildenhall, made an unauthorised take-off in an American C130 Hercules aircraft. This was detected immediately by the United States Air Force authorities at Mildenhall.
With commendable speed, they informed the United Kingdom Air Traffic Control organisation and the Air Defence Operations Centre of R.A.F. Strike Command within minutes of the unauthorised take-off. Almost simultaneously—three minutes after the take-off, to be precise—a radar response was observed on British radars. The information given to us by the American authorities enabled the unschedule radar plot to be at once identified as the rogue aircraft.
London Airways Civil Air Traffic Control was immediately warned of a potential penetration of its controlled air space. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be very much encouraged to hear that. He was right to raise these matters which caused anxiety to him and perhaps to his constituents. I hope that this will relieve some of that anxiety.
From the moment of the first radar observation to the eventual disappearance of their aircraft off the Cherbourg peninsula one and a half hours later, the Hercules was continuously tracked by British radars. Information about its height, course and probable future track was provided to all air traffic control authorities concerned or likely to be concerned, including the Continental radar system. There is no truth in the suggestion that it was at any stage before its final disappearance lost to radar surveillance or that any of the traffic control authorities concerned were without information about its course and height.
2079 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2079) Nor, because of the prompt action taken by the air traffic control autthorities, did the Hercules become a hazard to other aircraft under air traffic control. I know that the hon. Member has been very concerned about that because of the danger to other traffic in the area. All necessary warnings were issued and in one case a civil aircraft bound for London was given special instructions to steel clear of the Hercules' track. In short, the British air traffic control system operated with commendable speed and efficiency throughout the incident.
It is not the case that the rogue aircraft remained unseen or unidentified, nor was there any lack of adequate information about its behaviour throughout the period of the flight. The incident confirms our confidence in the arrangements for tracking and controlling aircraft in British airspace. It also confirms the close and efficient liaison which exists between ourselves and the United States Air Force authorities in this country.
It may be worth adding that vessels of the Royal Navy and a Whirlwind helicopter of the R.A.F. took part in search operations and at sea, later, a naval vessel responded to the request of the American authorities for assistance in salvaging the wreckage.
So much for the course of events on 23rd May. Following the incident, my Department has been in touch with the U.S. Air Force headquarters in this country, and discussions have taken place. The American authorities are in no doubt about the public disquiet which has been expressed, and we have conveyed to them our concern, which they share, that the attendant circumstances of the incident should be examined carefully and all reasonable steps taken to guard against a recurrence. It is precisely for these purposes that the U.S. Air Force has convened the board of inquiry to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
As I am sure is generally understood, the discipline of American personnel and the security of American aircraft at United States Air Force bases in this country is solely the responsibility of the American authorities. We have no power to regulate for the American Armed Forces, and we would not wish to have. It is for the American authorities alone 2080 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2080) to devise and, as necessary, to review such procedures as are needed for security and safety. They are as much interested in such matters as we are. For our part, however, we are fully entitled to express our views and seek assurances. That is what we are doing.
The hon. Gentleman has asked whether we shall see the proceedings of the American board of inquiry. I can assure him that we shall certainly be informed of its outcome. We are asking the United States Air Force authorities to let us know in due course whether the evidence taken by the board, the findings that it reaches, and the subsequent consideration of these matters by the appropriate American authorities have suggested the need for additional precautions against the unauthorised use of aircraft. We shall seek an assurance that all the necessary steps are being taken.
For this purpose, we do not need to be given a transcript of the board's proceedings and, indeed, it would be contrary to all accepted practice to ask for one. The only essential question for us both is not the machinery by which inquiries are made, but the conclusions which are reached by the American authorities and any necessary steps to which those conclusions point. On those matters, we shall expect to be fully informed.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1040) Mr. Eldon Griffiths (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-eldon-griffiths)
This is a crucial matter. I accept that the Americans are capable of conducting their own inquiry, but does the hon. Gentleman consider it enough just to accept their conclusions without making the British Government aware of all the pertinent information on which those conclusions are based? The public mind requires some assurance on that.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1041) Mr. Morris (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/sir-john-morris)
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I require to be satisfied about the necessary security precautions and to ensure that all the requisite information to do that will be available to me. However, there is no precedent for having a transcript of the inquiry, which may be concerned with a number of other disciplinary matters which are of no affair of ours.
The hon. Gentleman may have experience of inquiries of this kind and of the precedents which our own courts may have as regards internal Service inquiries. 2081 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2081) What is important is not the machinery, but that I should be satisfied. I give him the assurance that I shall expect to be satisfied about the necessary security precautions which he has stressed.
I should like to add that, in advance of the board's findings, the U.S. Air Force has already issued instructions reinforcing existing orders governing the security of aircraft and discipline of personnel.
As for any wider implications of the incident, I have noted carefully the anxieties expressed by hon. Members and by the Press. I hope that the information which I have already given will have removed any anxieties about the adequacy of our arrangements for tracking and identifying aircraft in British airspace. As I have said, the performance of the air traffic control system was exemplary.
The question may well be asked whether a similar incident could occur involving an aircraft armed with nuclear weapons. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman referred to "deadly weapons". As the House has been assured on a number of occasions, very elaborate procedures are applied both by ourselves and by the Americans to ensure that there is no possibility of unauthorised use of nuclear weapons or of aircraft with a nuclear potentiality.
It would not be in the public interest to describe the procedures in detail but, as is generally known, they rest on the "two-man" principle; that is to say, they impose at every stage in the handling of nuclear weapons and aircraft with a nuclear potentiality the requirement that at least two authorised and independent individuals must act simultaineously. In addition, there are elaborate precautions for guarding weapons and aircraft and preventing unauthorised access to them.
We do not apply precautions of this degree of stringency to other aircraft; for example, aircraft of the type represented by the Hercules transport aircraft are 2082 (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#column_2082) not fitted to carry nuclear weapons. To do so would be prohibitively expensive, and we do not believe that it would be justified.
That is not to say that we view the unauthorised use of the general run of military aircraft with the smallest degree of equanimity, or that strict rules do not exist for the security of those aircraft and for the discipline of the personnel who have access to them. There are very carefully designed regulations, and arrangements for enforcing them. These are such as would place very serious obstacles in the way of the unauthorised use of aircraft, and incidents of the kind which recently took place at Mildenhall are exceedingly rare.
But I would draw a very clear distinction between aircraft carrying a nuclear capacity and the general run of military aircraft. The procedures in force for the security of the former are designed to be proof against even very extreme and exceedingly improbable contingencies: the procedures for the general run of military aircraft, though strict, are less extreme. It follows that it would be altogether mistaken to conclude from the incident at Mildenhall that anything remotely comparable could have occurred with aircraft possessing a nuclear capacity.
In addition to seeking from the American authorities the assurance I have already mentioned, we have taken stock of our own arrangements for the security of aircraft in the Royal Air Force, and I am satisfied that they do not require revision.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1042) Mr. Eldon Griffiths (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-eldon-griffiths)
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1043) Mr. Speaker (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/dr-horace-king)
Order. The hon. Gentleman has exhausted his right to speak.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1044) Question put and agreed to.
§ (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1969/jun/12/united-states-aircraft-unauthorised#S5CV0784P0_19690612_HOC_1045) Adjourned accordingly at nineteen minutes to Three o'clock p.m. till Monday next.

I think Mr F Forsythe could turn this whole saga into a pretty good book!!

18th Dec 2015, 11:47
Fascinating thread! Bringing it to the present day, Have all these many incidents/tragedies resulted in extra precautions? No I'm not asking for details here. How hard is it now? A peripheral detail of the RAF Voyager excursion in Turkey was that the FO was able to re-enter the Flt deck quickly as it wasn't/isn't normal practice to lock the door. Why not? In the civil world this would be regarded as a major breach yet it escaped comment.

mr ripley
18th Dec 2015, 13:41
Why should it be locked?

18th Dec 2015, 15:20
The Voyager fleet is said to be transferable to Civil use, takes some time, I think the point is as a Civil airliner it is required after 9/11 to have a locked cabin door, so the question is as part of the change of use process is it necessary to change the door and take power off the cockpit door release circuits?

18th Dec 2015, 15:40
My question would actually be, why should it have a different protocol to any other A330? The last five pages demonstrate fairly convincingly that military aircraft are no more immune to unlawful interference than any other realm of aviation. The worst US act of terror prior to 9/11 was committed by a former soldier and many of the 7/7 bombers would have been entitled to serve.

13th Feb 2017, 12:27
I believe this is the T33 mentioned above. I visited the Royal Thai Airforce museum at Chiang Mai in Nov 2015

http://i240.photobucket.com/albums/ff112/igatenby/ThaiLaos2015/002s_zpsml8n8ddx.jpg (http://s240.photobucket.com/user/igatenby/media/ThaiLaos2015/002s_zpsml8n8ddx.jpg.html)

http://i240.photobucket.com/albums/ff112/igatenby/ThaiLaos2015/002g_zpsslajp1qm.jpg (http://s240.photobucket.com/user/igatenby/media/ThaiLaos2015/002g_zpsslajp1qm.jpg.html)

14th Feb 2017, 06:06
Back when I worked, possibly around 1985, we had a computer
engineer who was reputed to have stolen a Dutch military
aircraft. He was a bit of of hard nut. Apparently when signing up
he had been promised a pilot role. When this did not eventuate
he just helped himself. What aircraft ? No recollection.
He eventually got off as it was provable that he had been
promised pilot training. Obviously this was in Holland.

14th Feb 2017, 17:37
My take on Foote? His biographic profile seems to shout "spoiled rich brat wasting his parents' money who refuses to take responsibility for his own recklessness". He's spent the past near-30 years of his life as a second-rate scam artist and con man, and after all these years, still refuses to grow up. Do a search for other LA Times citations concerning Foote. I'd say the United States Marine Corps got Foote's number back in 1986 when they essentially told him to have a long walk off a short pier. :cool:

I see a Darwin in Foote's remaining future. He earned it 30 years ago, the committee simply hasn't presented it to him yet.

Here's recent article on Howard A. Foote, Jr. which cites the possibly bogus narrative in the LA Times articles:

The Tale Of When A Marine Mechanic Stole An A-4 Skyhawk For A Joyride Over California (http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-tale-of-when-a-marine-mechanic-stole-an-a-4-skyhawk-1745015819)

Foote has a web page for a Chinese helicopter tour operation. His 'Board of Directors' includes two retired USAF F-4 pilots:

HAF Industries (http://www.hafindustries.com/page-13)

A couple of the LA Times articles about Foote:

All Counts Dropped Against Marine for Jet Fighter Joy Ride - latimes (http://articles.latimes.com/1986-11-07/local/me-15420_1_jet-fighter)

Airing His Ideas : Howard Foote Once Took a Marine Jet for a Joy Ride, but What He's Attempting Now Is No Flight of Fancy - latimes (http://articles.latimes.com/1991-02-18/local/me-1259_1_marine-corps)

15th Feb 2017, 12:00
Back when I worked, possibly around 1985, we had a computer
engineer who was reputed to have stolen a Dutch military
aircraft. He was a bit of of hard nut. Apparently when signing up
he had been promised a pilot role. When this did not eventuate
he just helped himself. What aircraft ? No recollection.
He eventually got off as it was provable that he had been
promised pilot training. Obviously this was in Holland.
That sounds a lot like the story I posted on this thread a few years ago. See post #79 (http://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/355396-stolen-military-aircraft-4.html#post6072136).

According to the link in that post, Mr. van Eijck was in training for pilot when he voiced his opinions about the Dutch Navy a bit too loudly and was demoted to enlisted rank. He then wanted to get out of the Navy but the terms in his contract meant that he had to complete the time. He then proceeded to steal the Grumman Tracker from Malta and flew it to Libya. He spent a month in the country and started to realise that his new life wasn't what he was hoping for, accepted the option to return to Holland where he had to spend a year in jail. I understand that he later emigrated to the US.

4th Apr 2018, 01:42
In 1969, a C130 crew chief at Mildenhall took 'his'aircraft after receiving a 'Dear John'letter from his wife. He headed west apparently intending to fly it to the US, but crashed in the English Channel somewhere off the Channel Islands. It appears that F100s were scrambled form Lakenheath to intercept him, as to whether they shot him down, it's not been proved.

Some recent interest in that presumably fatal incident:

In 1969, an airman crashed a stolen C-130 into the English Channel. Now divers want to find the plane

Published: April 3, 2018

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Almost 50 years ago Sgt. Paul Adams Meyer, a U.S. Air Force assistant crew chief, got drunk, impersonated an officer and stole a C-130 Hercules from RAF Mildenhall in England so he could fly home to his new wife. Two hours later he crashed into the English Channel.

Now a team of British divers called Deeper Dorset hopes to raise 6,000 pounds ($8,430) on an all-or-nothing Kickstarter to find the plane and uncover the truth behind the crash.

The divers have until April 11 to meet their fund-raising goal or go back to the drawing board.

“We’ve known about the Hercules story for about 10 years, and it’s one of those stories that grabs the imagination,” said Deeper Dorset photographer Simon Brown. “It’s a human tale as much as research of as to where it is.”

What happened to Meyer has been subject to rumor and speculation for nearly half a century.

An Air Force investigation found that at least two U.S. F-100 Super Sabre fighter jets from RAF Lakenheath, a C-130 from Mildenhall and two RAF English Electric Lightning interceptors attempted contact with Meyers before he crashed into the English Channel near Alderney Island.

“Leave me alone for about five minutes, I’ve got trouble,” Meyer said in his final transmission to his wife in a link-up over the sideband radio.

Members of Deeper Dorset believe they can locate the missing Hercules using existing research, sonar and photogrammetry, a technique that builds 3-D models of wreckage.

“We’ve nailed down where we think the aircraft might be within a 10-square-mile box,” Brown said. “Within that box there’s five hot spots. Places where people have reported losing fishing gear or snagging something, and those kinds of snags are usually man-made.”

The diving team’s previous successes include locating La Mahenge, an 8,000-ton cargo ship found 120 meters deep in the English Channel, and a British M1 submarine found 81 meters deep in waters off the port of Plymouth.

The Kickstarter goal covers running costs of 25 days at sea, which is about a year of searching, taking into consideration weather and tides.

“I think this project is too interesting to just let it pass, and with the Kickstarter goal it can happen sooner and we’ll be able to share more about what we find,” Brown said.

For more information or to donate, go to kickstarter.com/projects/979818757/finding-meyers-missing-hercules.


4th Apr 2018, 21:25
A ten mile square box is a lot of sea bed and in reality it’s hard to see how they can be sure of that box. But good luck to them anyway.

24th May 2018, 17:22
Apologies if this has been discussed before.
Jeremy Vine today discussed the old story of the USAF mechanic who "stole" a C130 in the 1960's, took off to fly home and disappeared without trace.
He played a dramatized transcript of his radio conversation between him and his wife.
He then went on to discuss the possibility of the aircraft being shot down.
The interesting part though, was a gentleman who called in to say that he had been an armourer at Wattisham at the time and remembered that two QRA Lightnings were scrambled, albeit separately, to investigate, but with no results. He went on to say however, that he had been talking about the incident with a colleague he was on a course with. His colleague related the story of a Hunter, flown by a "senior pilot" (his words), being scrambled from Chivenor to investigate the same aircraft. Upon his return, his ammunition boxes were supposedly empty and the gun camera was taken away. He added that the pilot was also taken away in a vehicle and was never seen on the station again,
supposedly having been posted.
An interesting story, Lord knows if there's any truth in it.
Can anyone shed any further light on it?

24th May 2018, 18:19
Featured in the Jersey Evening Post a week or so ago. Apparently some divers are going to explore near Alderney.

25th May 2018, 05:58
A very similar story relates to a Javelin from Tengah sent to 'investigate', three Indonesian Air Force C130s dropping parachutists at Labis in Malaya in September 1964. So the story goes, the jet returned with a missile missing and it was later learned that one C130 had come down in the Straits of Mallacca. The crew was led by the Indonesian Foreign Minister's son (Dr Subandrio).

As for the parachutists most, except for the mysterious 'Sgt Maj Wogiman' were killed or captured - perhaps he's still hanging from a tree somewhere in his parachute! It got a bit messy 'cause having supposedly surrendered, the Indons shot dead the Company Commander and the Gurkhas were somewhat vexed by this!

Old Duffer

25th May 2018, 06:12
Some earlier discussion of the stolen C-130 incident here:

Thanks for jogging my memory with that link.
I do recall going through it a couple of years ago, but yesterday's radio programme was the first time I'd heard about the Chivenor Hunter involvement.

Fixed Cross
25th May 2018, 08:20
Many servicemen active in the 60s were aware of the basic tale regarding the stolen C-130. However, the addition of the Chivenor element is a new one to me. I had the good fortune to serve at Chivenor as a "senior pilot" (I assume this refers to either Sqn Ldr or Wg Cdr rank) for two tours (as Squadron Commander and OC Flying) but never heard any whisper of a Hunter involvement. Moreover, Hunters operating with guns armed was a daily event with both air to air and air to ground training a major proportion of the training syllabus. Hunters departing with guns armed and returning with magazines empty was a regular feature of the flying programme and any pilot returning from such a sortie removed the film magazine from the film camera as he climbed out.

As for the "senior pilot" being driven away and never seen again I can offer more explanation. At the end of a tour most pilots flew a final sortie of choice and many chose a weapons practice with guns armed. On return it was not unusual for the pilot to be met by car and driven off (usually to the Mess for farewell drinks) and I find this a more practical explanation for the tale.

25th May 2018, 11:34
There was a knock on effect for the RAF C130K fleet. All the a/c were fitted with padlocks, and the keys kept in the engineering line with the F700.

25th May 2018, 13:10
Many servicemen active in the 60s were aware of the basic tale regarding the stolen C-130. However, the addition of the Chivenor element is a new one to me. I had the good fortune to serve at Chivenor as a "senior pilot" (I assume this refers to either Sqn Ldr or Wg Cdr rank) for two tours (as Squadron Commander and OC Flying) but never heard any whisper of a Hunter involvement. Moreover, Hunters operating with guns armed was a daily event with both air to air and air to ground training a major proportion of the training syllabus. Hunters departing with guns armed and returning with magazines empty was a regular feature of the flying programme and any pilot returning from such a sortie removed the film magazine from the film camera as he climbed out.

As for the "senior pilot" being driven away and never seen again I can offer more explanation. At the end of a tour most pilots flew a final sortie of choice and many chose a weapons practice with guns armed. On return it was not unusual for the pilot to be met by car and driven off (usually to the Mess for farewell drinks) and I find this a more practical explanation for the tale.

FC, Thank you for your reply.
The gentleman on the radio did say that it was only what he had been told, but did admit that he could offer no corroborative evidence to the event.
As you have held such a position on the same airfield, I have to agree that your explanation carries much more credibility.
Thanks once again.

25th May 2018, 15:07
Suggest you read Richard Pike’s, Lightning Boys 1, Chapter 7 ULP! told by Rick Groombridge, see pages 52 and 53. As one of the 29 Sqdn ground crew at that time, I knew Flt Lt Groombridge and I have no reason to doubt anything he writes.
PS - I should also add that Flt Lt Pike ie the Author of Lighting Boys 1 & 2 also served on 29 Sqdn in 1968/9.
PS - 2 The 29 Sqdn Ground crew manning the QRA aircraft at that time should be able to answer the following questions. The 6/8 Engineers manning the QRA Sheds must have some knowledge of events - If it happened? While they could replace the Pilot with a USAF Exchange Pilot, the QRA ground crew could not be replaced.
- Was an Aircraft scrambled?
- Who was the Pilot?
- How long was it away / airborne
- Did they observe it landing, and what happened next. At best without in flight refuelling, it could only be away 40
minutes? Were tankers scrambled in support?

26th May 2018, 00:04
Suggest you read Richard Pike’s, Lightning Boys 1, Chapter 7 ULP! told by Rick Groombridge, see pages 52 and 53. As one of the 29 Sqdn ground crew at that time, I knew Flt Lt Groombridge and I have no reason to doubt anything he writes.
PS - I should also add that Flt Lt Pike ie the Author of Lighting Boys 1 & 2 also served on 29 Sqdn in 1968/9.
Many thanks, I'll order a copy of that.

17th Aug 2018, 17:59
The stolen C130 story seems to reoccurr every few months on https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bf4cw1 BBC radio PM programme. Today's episode is available for around 29 days. The relevant article starts around 00:51:30 and lasts for about 6 minutes.

Was it really possible that an Unqualified pilot on type, would have been able to operate a C130 for over 2 hours without assistance ?

I thought that a C130 needs a crew of 3 or 4 minimum.

If he really did steal that aircraft, wouldn't he have needed at least one accomplice ?

I understand that he was reported to have a few hundred hours experience in private flying.
Also most of the stories that I have read don't give much detail about his work experience and skills in the USAF, does anyone know if this story is really true ?

17th Aug 2018, 23:33
Not quite the same, but surely you have to differentiate between simply "flying" the aircraft and "operating" it.

A good analogy might be Air Transport Auxiliary pilots who regularly flew four engined bombers such as Lancasters and Halifaxes etc. In addition to the first pilot these normally required a flight engineer/second pilot, navigator, signaller and sundry air gunners etc on operations, but for a simple delivery flight a competent pilot, even with little experience of multi - engined flying could manage the job himself (or herself). Admittedly these were qualified pilots, but the man in his case had a few hundred hours in private flying, and as an assistant crew chief he would have acquired a lot of knowledge about the type. He would almost certainly be familiar with engine starts, and may even have been required to taxi aircraft on occasion.

I find the story entirely credible, but not the various rumours of the aircaft being shot down, either by RAF or USAF fighters. Post 9/11 I could quite believe this happening, but not at that time - what would the point have been? I think the truth is a lot more boring. He became disorientated or simply stalled and flew into the sea. But I doubt if we will ever know for sure.

18th Aug 2018, 12:16
Does anyone have any knowledge of or information on a pilot defecting in a MiG 23 from Iraq to Jordan? There is a reason for me asking and I cannot find any data on this online. I am happy to discuss my interest in this via a PM.



30th Dec 2018, 05:53

It's taken 10 years, but professional diver Grahame Knott has finally found a US Air Force plane that crashed into the Channel in 1969.

Emma Jane Kirby worked with Grahame Knott this year on a series of reports for the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw), and has written two stories:

The mystery of the homesick mechanic who stole a plane (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43800089) (April 2018)

Was the newlywed mechanic who stole a plane shot down? (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-44711694) (July 2018)

30th Dec 2018, 09:17
Well done, Mr. Knott. Fingers crossed for a success full follow-up, providing more answers.

Lima Juliet
30th Dec 2018, 10:20
It sounds blindingly obvious, why hasn’t anyone asked for a copy of the 29(F) Sqn F540 Ops Record Book (ORB) and also the QRA Duty Force Commander (DFC) log for the date of the alleged event? Both are likely to have been preserved by the Air Historical Branch (AHB) and even if secret then this is coming up for 50 years ago and should be releasable in redacted form. Also a FOI request on the numbers of Red Top missiles fired may also see an anomaly if a missile really was fired - which I really doubt in this event, but Rick may have got confused if there was a QRA missile practice firing in Aberporth around the same time. So a search of the STCAAME logs from RAF Valley or Llanbedr may also put another piece of the jigsaw together.

There are so many things “fishy” about the quality of the BBC article:

There is an account of that Wattisham operation in a 2011 book called The Lightning Boys. In it, former RAF pilot Rick Groombridge details how an American exchange pilot took over his aircraft at Wattisham to take part in the Meyer mission and was rumoured to have returned to base minus a missile. Groombridge declined to be interviewed but stands by his story. Nash, however, is adamant that both planes returned to base with all four missiles intact - he should know, he explains, as he was the chief armourer and was responsible for inspecting the weapons and removing the firing plugs.

A few weeks after the incident, Nash was sent on a course where he met a fellow armourer from RAF Chivenor in Devon, who told him that at least one Hawker Hunter was scrambled from his base. Allegedly, the Hunter pilot had returned to Chivenor minus missiles and was met by the RAF police and taken away for a secret debrief along with his plane's camera gun. Nash says he keeps an open mind about the accuracy of the story but observes that Chivenor, being about 150 miles from where Meyer's Hercules went down in the Channel, was about 35 minutes flying time away for a Hunter.

The Hunter never had missiles, let alone the ones at Chivenor, that were a part of Phase 2 Flying Training for tactical weapons conversion. The ‘rumour’ at Wattisham is probably just that, and sells books, so I am not surprised that Rick G+10 sticks to the story of the rumour.

30th Dec 2018, 12:42
29 Sqn's ORB has been available at Kew since 1998 No 29 Squadron: Operations Record Book. With appendices Opened in 1998 The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C2505688) but there doesn't seem to be one for STCAAME. It may be part of Valley's ORB, but that seems not to be at Kew either. [Insert conspiracy theory here].

31st Dec 2018, 16:22
This report on Hercules from Mildenhall from the BBC:
Found: The plane wreck that could solve a 50-year-old mysteryBy Emma Jane Kirby BBC News
30 December 2018
BBC web news (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-46624382)

1st Jan 2019, 00:51
Was hoping a post in this thread might have touched on the Russian pilots who were out of Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed years ago.

A couple of years ago I got hold of a book called "Outlaws Inc" by Matt Potter, a journalist who managed to fly with a group of them who claimed they just kept the planes and went freelance delivering aid etc, etc, around some of the world's hot spots.
It was a great read and one of those books that are hard to put down.


2nd Jan 2019, 07:16
My take on the incident is similar to that of TT. Starting the engines of a C130 of that era is not straightforward. You have to know how to start the GTC/ATM combo (an early form of APU) and then start the engines in turn. Not a problem of course if you are trained in these things. Taxy is aided by the nosewheel steering. He may well have been cleared to do this. Our groundcrew never were.
Once on the runway, fifty flap, full throttle, keep straight with the nosewheel steering until the rudders bite and she flies.. Gear up flaps up and away you go.
Reports say he was intoxicated so perhaps this is when his problems started as he is now in unfamiliar territory. He may not have set the pressurisation up so as he climbed hypoxia could have become an issue especially with alcohol in the bloodstream. Mishandling the fuel panel could have had a hand in it as could unfamiliarity with the autopilot .
As for shooting him down, the only suspects are the RAF/USAF. My take is once the C130 became airborne there would have been a delay before this fact was reported up the chain. More delay as the usual buck passing took place and the decision to launch a QRA a/c. More delay whist 'they' decide what to do and who is to do it. All this while the C130 is 'speeding' away. Was he tracked on radar ? If a fighter did catch up with him then surely he would have had to carry out a vis ident to ensure that he had the correct target. More time ! Then under then current ROE he would surely need permission to open fire. This again would probably have to come from on high. Would the C130 be well beyond the channel by then ?
All speculation of course, and I was 'only' a loadmaster on the RAF C130K for 30 years not a pilot. But I know I could have nicked one of ours as I knew how to start the a/c and had flown it several times (and held a PPL and IMC rating) in the sim so I offer these thoughts for comment by those with better info.

7th Jan 2019, 16:20
Daily Mail update and gives no location of aircraft, but here you are....