View Full Version : XM135 - it still gives me chills

3rd Feb 2017, 13:31
I came across this story again the other day, hopefully Taffy Holden is still in rude health and avoiding Lightning cockpits.

Speaking personally, I break out in a cold sweat every time I read it. It's worth reading even if you know the story just as a reminder about how accidents can happen - but why did A/B on the Lightning require the pilot to press 2 "piano keys" to disengage ?

Taffy Holden's Flight in English Electric Lightning XM135 (http://www.historicracer.com/aviation/accidental-fighter-pilot/)

3rd Feb 2017, 14:22
Reminded of the Tintagel Hunter

Treble one
3rd Feb 2017, 15:00
Fonsini-I believe he visited XM135 at Duxford not so long ago. He joined a tour with a friend of mine and told his story to the other members on the tour in AirSpace-I believe he also retrieved the memento he had donated to the museum from XM135 (he had a tail strike on landing IIRC).

3rd Feb 2017, 15:33
I believe if you do a search on Youtube, you'll find a video of Taffy Holden at Duxford in front of XM135 talking through his escapade to a group of public.

3rd Feb 2017, 16:37
Great Mr Holden is still going strong, great his Lightning is on view for future generations to see. What a pity RAF Lyneham is no longer an RAF airfield, especially for those trying to operate out of the Oxon Gateway to operations.

Pontius Navigator
3rd Feb 2017, 19:38
Interesting to read the 1st hand account. It is very much as I remember it being reports at the time with one important difference. The tale at the time suggested that there was no bang seat in the aircraft - true in that the pins were in - but that the wg cdr was sitting on a box rather than a seat!

3rd Feb 2017, 20:49
Fantastic to hear he is still well, I also seem to recall that the cockpit canopy had been removed and he commented that there was almost no wind in the cockpit, well none from outside that is....I hope they gave him a Lightning patch, he earned it.

By the way, can any WIWOLs out there educate me on these piano keys ??

4th Feb 2017, 03:25
The black and white stripes marking the beginning of the runway..

4th Feb 2017, 12:07

On the earlier marks of Lightning (1, 2/2A & 4) reheat was selected by pushing the throttles through a detent instead of 'rocking outboard'. A latch then sprung up behind each throttle to prevent accidental cancellation of said reheat. These were the 'piano keys'. All well and good but it did mean that you had to depress these latches with your thumb as you pulled the throttles back. Just retarding the throttles reduced RPM by c. 10% but maintained min reheat. Taffy Holden was unaware of this function. Although it did require a mild degree of manual dexterity it quickly became second nature. The later marks (3,5 & 6) had fully variable reheat with the more instinctive 'rocking outboard' This instinct did however have to be curbed when converting to the Tornados where rocking outboard selected reverse thrust - a very different outcome.

4th Feb 2017, 14:03
Thanks nipva - I have waited 30 years to learn that, now I have to go and see if I can find a cockpit photo of an early Lightning throttle quadrant.

On a side note I would assume that the Tornado has a microswitch somewhere in the undercarriage circuit that at least prevents reverse thrust selection while in flight. Makes me wonder if anyone has accidentally engaged it on takeoff though.

Excellent explanation though - thanks again.

4th Feb 2017, 14:20
A classic black eye and feather in the cap incident. Overwhelmingly though a very good show, and that seems to have been the attitude of the C-in-C. Is it true though that the first he heard about it was at a cocktail party?

4th Feb 2017, 14:38
Apologies for the slight thread drift but to answer Fonsini's question:

Yes, there is a weight on wheels switch preventing, amongst other things, in-flight reverse selection. AS for on the ground, on the TTTE course at Cottesmore back in the mid 80s most of the students with previous experience were either from Lightning, F4 or F104 so were all used to rocking outboard for take-off so we were somewhat apprehensive of our early Tornado take-offs. As to how often it happened I am not aware of any recorded incidents but they certainly happened including me. At take-off power you could, we were told, tip the GR on its tail if you didn't immediately cancel one's error whereas the F2 & F3 with their longer noses were more forgiving. Indeed at low RPM you could even reverse taxi.

5th Feb 2017, 03:04
Thanks again nipva.

sled dog
5th Feb 2017, 15:56
Sqdn Ldr Holden was the SengO on my Sqdn ( 64 ) in the Javelin days. Nice bloke from what I remember.

7th Feb 2017, 11:03

Yes, at TTTE Cottesmore c1984/85 a Tornado was stood on its @rse. The pilot, used to another type of throttle quadrant, had rocked the throttles outboard to select reheat for take off, but got reverse thrust instead!

7th Feb 2017, 13:26
That would have made for an excellent photo opportunity. I'm assuming it plonked back down on its nosewheel as soon as reverse was deselected ?