View Full Version : EE Lightning in-service losses

P6 Driver
1st May 2015, 09:00
Just curious. Does anyone happen to know the record of in-service losses for the EE Lightning in RAF and foreign service?

i.e. What percentage of aircraft were lost, against those put into service.

What made me think about this is the common referral to the F-104 Starfighter as "The Widowmaker". Was the proportion of Lightnings lost better or worse than the F-104, or did the Lightning have a good stab at claiming that title for itself?

1st May 2015, 09:45
You may find a downwind-firing ejector seat on an aircraft that had interesting inertial coupling as an additional reason for the moniker...

1st May 2015, 14:53
Lightning losses here

List of accidents and incidents involving the English Electric Lightning - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_English_Electr ic_Lightning)



India Four Two
1st May 2015, 19:12

The F-104G always had upward firing seats. Initially they were American seats but were subsequently replaced by more capable MB seats.

1st May 2015, 19:56
Numbers are pretty meaningless on their own. How many hours flown, under what conditions would aid considerably to the topic.

2nd May 2015, 05:23
I was always led to believe that in percentage terms the Lightning loss rate was greater than the Luftwaffe F104, the big difference was in survival rates where the Lightning was vastly superior.

Re the downward seats, the very early 104s (poss just the initial development a/c) certainly had a downward seat, I recall seeing a cockpit video where the occupant certainly departed through the bottom of the fuselage.

2nd May 2015, 08:03
Talk about losses - the Supermarine Scimitar lost nearly fifty per cent in accidents !

2nd May 2015, 09:09
According to various F104 sites it seems only the F104A model and the prototypes had downward firing ejection seats; about 170 airframes from a total build of 2575, as far as I can tell the Stanley C1 seat (downward firing) was modified out and replaced with the Stanley C2 and later a Martin Baker seat.

I believe the high loss rate of F104s was primarily associated with being single engine, highly loaded wing and some pretty nasty spin/stall characteristics.

Looking at the Wiki link for Lightning losses I was surprised at the number of accidents due to landing gear failure. I think the Lightnings problems around engine fires are well known, but it makes you wonder whether a more effective fire suppression system in the engine bay & jet pipe areas would have saved more aircraft and lives.

2nd May 2015, 13:32
landing gear accidents were due i believe to it not being considered safe to do a landing with gear not down a locked so an unsafe indication could involve an ejection for safety reasons. other types wouldn't have this problem for the same fault. Engine fires were a different issue , fuel leaks in hot areas causing control runs burning through or loss of hydraulics. If you look at more modern types we have learnt the lessons of those years and put better systems in place. design of fuel couplings in particular , we ended up x-raying couplings after leak checks to ensure all parts in correct position. also now there are generally back-ups for hyd failures.

3rd May 2015, 04:45
The problem with landing with one of the main legs not locked down was driven by the overall configuration of the a/c. Due to the relatively high wing coupled with the sweep back, it was thought that as the wing tip of the affected side contacted the runway there was a strong likelihood of the whole thing cartwheeling.

Re the fires, one of the problems was indeed burning through the control rods that ran to the hydraulic motor for the tailplane. If I recall correctly, initially these rods were aluminium and burned through quickly, when the fleet went through the 'Fast Fire Mods' programme, among other fixes these rods were replaced by steel items, the rumour was that the burn through time went from 9secs to 13!

Minnie Burner
12th May 2015, 11:18
% of Sea Vixen & Gnat higher than 104 & LTG?

12th May 2015, 11:44
ISTR 3 Gnat lost (6 fatalities) in the 5 months (Jan-Jun 66) I was at valley

12th May 2015, 13:10
% of Sea Vixen & Gnat higher than 104 & LTG?

Taken from the excellent seavixen.org website:

55 Major Accidents involving loss of airframe. Out of these, 30 were fatal and of these 21 were fatal to both operating aircrew. In other words 51 Royal Navy Aircrew were lost in the 12 years of Sea Vixen Operations. 145 Sea Vixens were built. The loss rate was 37.93%. The fatality rate within those losses was 54.54%.

If I recall correctly we lost 8 out of the 16 Scimitars on 803 Squadron on Ark Royal in about 18 months around 1965-66.

12th May 2015, 13:44
And one would imagine that the early Harrier record was not great.

We (RAF) didn't buy that many, yet many seemed to end in smoking heaps.

12th May 2015, 15:33
C16 - I recall a photo of one Scimitar that did make it back safely against the odd, with the leading edge cut back to the main spar by a cable in Norway

12th May 2015, 20:18
bvcu, If I remember correctly, one problem was the bonded seals on the hydraulic component unions situated in the jet pipe areas, due to age and heat these would fail, producing a very high pressure hydraulic oil mist that ignited, causing fires in the jet pipe areas, also the tailplane gearbox was mag alloy.
One of the remedial actions we carried out was to wrap tape around the unions and secure with locking wire, so when the seals failed the oil merely dripped instead of spraying.
A Mk 53 landed at Tabuk with all gears up, the fuselage tanks absorbed the impact and the aircraft sustained minimal damage.

12th May 2015, 21:47
yes recall that , a type of rubberised tape which was a fiddle to fit and secure with locking wire !

9th Jun 2015, 23:46
One RAF Lightning pilot did a successful belly landing at Binbrook in 1977 although I was only 7 at the time so can't quite remember much.


Krystal n chips
10th Jun 2015, 06:07
If I remember correctly, one problem was the bonded seals on the hydraulic component unions situated in the jet pipe areas

Your memory is correct, but with the addition of replacing the fuel couplings and the collector tank mod, all part of the infamous Lightning Fuel / Fire Integrity programme of which I was an involuntary participant on 431 MU at Gutersloh.

However, I am aware of one Lightning 92 Sqdn's " P" in 1975, that made an overweight landing with, it turned out, a spurious fire warning. The landing was successful.... other than the left u/c leg sheared off. What followed was pure farce.

On the recovery, an "Engineering" Officer decided, as the species do, he knew better than experienced crash recovery airmen....this "expertise" resulted in the left aileron being added to the damage induced, which was actually minimal, by the landing.

The leg damage was repaired with a superb 14 swg scab patch....my modesty not withstanding here...

The repair documentation, produced by 431, instructed us to carry out u/c retractions checks, , but helpfully informed us, some 2/3 pages afterwards... to fit the retraction jack....

92 robbed the aircraft as you would expect, but, sadly, there was it seemed a lack of blanks for the various hyd. components and pipelines. Ever resourceful, they used bits of the Daily Mirror instead...... our application of 3000 psi resulted in a very impressive cascade of OM 15.

The real problem however, and the delays induced...the whole episode took about 10 months...was due to the aileron replacement. New bushes had to be fitted on the wing and reamed to size. Access was "difficult" and we successfully broke every adjustable reamer on RAFG, and several from the UK in the process.

Allied to this was the input from an M.o.D civilian QA / QC "expert"...an individual for whom no praise can be fulsome enough for his obsession with trivia, paperwork, the "attention to detail" in performing his duties....and himself.

Eventually, two B.A.C product support engineers were called in, who, unlike our "hero" above, knew exactly what they were doing. They took one look at the AP. the reaming tolerances, and stated they had never got anywhere near these and that our work was fine...took all of 30mins for them to do so, when they had stopped laughing that is.

Our "hero" was conspicuous by his absence thereafter.

The a/c did fly again, but duly repeated the fire warning incident and ended its days as a decoy, along with others, parked up at Bruggen.

India Four Two
10th Jun 2015, 21:38
I remember reading articles in Air Clues in the late 60s about issues with oil (?) pumps on Lightnings. Can anyone refresh my memory?

23rd Jun 2015, 15:06
Having spent three years on 103 MU in Cyprus the fire mod programme on the F6 as used by 56 Sqdn will always loom large in my memories. From having to construct a shed big enough to hold a Lightning, with a removable upper section so we could wheel the frame in, so we could air condition the frame to get the temperature down to where the PRC would cure, it does or certainly did get rather hot in Akriotiri in the summer, to assembling the fuel couplings in the engine bays using gauges to ensure the faces were parellel and the correct distance apart and then having them X Rayed to double check! Cleaning out the engine bays of old PRC with reject picks from the dental section and then after resealing the wings pressure checking them to ensure they were not leaking by taking the frame on a trip behind the mighty David Brown tractor down the peri track at Akro, through the 56 Sqdn dispersal and back to the MU with official dispensation to go as fast as the DB would go, fastest speed achieved was 25 mph! This was to ensure the wings got a good working over to check the efficiency of the sealing.

Genghis the Engineer
23rd Jun 2015, 15:15
Talk about losses - the Supermarine Scimitar lost nearly fifty per cent in accidents !

Warning, this is distressing.


(Genghis senior built Scimitars at South Marston, so I've always had a mild interest in the type, but no, it wasn't deeply successful.)


23rd Jun 2015, 19:45
I remember seeing this on a newsreel and was appalled at the insensitivity of releasing the footage of the accident. What must his next of kin thought?

24th Jun 2015, 11:43
Slightly off thread but I am writing this post from an industrial park built on the site of the Supermarine works in Swindon, all that remains of the complex is what I was told used to be the main office buildings which can be seen from the Swindon/Lechlade road and the name of the local non league football team and the rugby club both going under the name of the Supermarine Spitfires.

30th Jun 2015, 17:44
Remember being told by a mate who used to service them for the Saudi Air Force of 5 being lost in ONE day during a sand storm in mid 70s.

Still in touch with him, will find out more & post