View Full Version : Meteor Accident Statistics

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28th Oct 2002, 09:37
I have just come across a review of a book called "Meteor - Eject" by Nick Carter. The book contains statistics about loss rates, can anybody who served in the 50/60s confirm these - they seem horrendous?

1. 150 total losses in 1952
2. 68 lost after running out of fuel
3. 23 lost doing official low level aeros displays
4. 890 lost in total
5. 436 fatal accidents between 1944 and 1986.

Then there were Canberra assymetric practice losses to add to the overall picture. How much better things are today, on loss rates at least!

28th Oct 2002, 10:47
I lived near RAF Merryfield in the 1950s which housed 208 AFS at the time. From what I've heard from those who were around in those days, the accident record you've unearthed seems correct. One night, for example, a whole wave of aircraft was lost when they all had to bail out due to fog, no fuel and no divs.....or so I was told several years later.

28th Oct 2002, 10:57
I have just finished reading 'Meteor Eject'
Very good book, well writen.
The attrition rate was horrendous.

Mr G.

28th Oct 2002, 13:51
Some Meteors, eg T7, did not have ejection seats and just to spice up life a bit more, the T7 in particular had horrendous, leg trembling rudder forces when flying asymmetric. Simulated engine failure after take-off and single engine overshoots were, shall we say, a physically demanding event that left little margin for error.

Simulated asymmetric flying killed a lot of people in aircraft such as Meteor and Canberra. Well in excess of fatalities due to actual engine failures.


28th Oct 2002, 17:16
I was once told that when Driffield was a Meteor AFTS (or OCU?) the loss rate was 1 per week and there was a standing funeral party. They say there are still the marks in the cliffs around Flamborough Head where a 3 ship impacted trying to get back to Driffield under the weather.

I can confirm the pretty horrendous leg forces needed when assymetric at low speeds, not a task to be undertaken lightly.

There was also the problem of "The Phantom Dive". In the T7, and maybe in the single seaters, you never selected airbrakes out with the gear and flap down otherwise the airflow over the back end effectively ceased and the thing just went down. If I remember correctly, this problem was made worse by the close proximity of the airbrake and the flap levers, both in the same place and both acting in the same way.

Art Field
28th Oct 2002, 19:17
Sadly, even in the latter days of the early 60's at Strubby, the Meatbox caught out the experts, my QFI Flt Sgt Jock Black and his student were killed on an assymetric sortie and the CFS agent, Flt Lt Doe I think, died shortly afterwards when an engine failed just after T/O at Rissie. Everyone had their individual assymetric crit speed dependant on their leg strength and size.

28th Oct 2002, 19:50

Any mark of Meteor would give you a severe "leg-tremble" if you put full chat on the live engine and allowed the speed to come below 125Kts, but I guess the T7 was worst, or the earlier 3s and 4s which all had the kind of egg shaped fin and rudder.

Most multis will run out of rudder authority in the severe assymetric case below Vmca. In the Meteor you also ran out of strength in your leg muscles. You could just about cope in a 7 with both pilots pushing like the clappers. Didn't stop you losing control though!


As Beagle said, I reckon those crash stats were probably very true. The great majority occurred from 50 to 55. There were also a lot more of us. 15 Meteor NF Squadrons alone each with around twenty crews. There just wasn't enough appreciated about the old girl's vices in those days, especially in training. Once guys got on the squadron and got a few more hours under their belts - things improved a lot
As for Phantom dives - they happened if you got low and slow on one engine and forgot to put your airbrakes in. When you put the gear down, one leg came down first and the beast would yaw if you weren't ready for it. In yawing, one inner wing would be blanketed by the forward fuselage, and with brakes out as well, lift would disappear rather rapidly from that wing and you rolled right over. Bit close to the ground and goodnight.
Witness the last accident with the Vintage pair - I gather that was a Phantom dive problem.

As for the baddie at Driffield, I was holding there for a month in Jan 52 before going to ITS (Initia Training School) prior to FTS in Rhodesia, and the accident happened before I got there. Two solo students being led by an instructor let down over the sea before turning round and coming backto Driffield under the clag.
Unfortunately, they flew straight into the cliff. Can't remember whether the QFI pulled up in time - twas over 50 years ago!

I think Beagle may have got the area a bit mixed up. Around 55, the Day Fighter Leaders School (DFLS) had a formation up -returning to West Raynham - got a feeling they were Hunters but I could be wrong. Anyway, typical of those days, you had to wring as much as possible out of the sortie, so overhead with enough fuel for a couple of circuits!! I think about 6 bailed out one after the other!

Incidentally, you mentioned Canberra training losses. The loss of aircraft practicing assymetric was pretty horrendous - why? Because we always actually shut the engine down and not just back to idle. More realistic they said!! It was like that until the late 60s when we lost our first two Hercs through assymetric practice and somebody saw the light!

Ah me, all this reminiscing. Where are you Flatus Veteranus now that I need you. My cup runneth over! I never did find out if Cess Crook actually set fire to the leave train!!

28th Oct 2002, 20:09
Bof - no, the infamous DFLS Hunter accident was much later. I was told that ac from Merryfield took off one night and did some night flying; on their return the aerodrome was out in fog. So off they set for Weston Zoyland, only to find that it was even worse. Back to Merryfield and it was still out - so, find somewhere dark and step over the side......

I was told (by a chap standing behind me in the queue at Lloyds Bank at RAFC in 1969 who saw the word 'Ilminster' in my cheque book - nearest town to Merryfield) that he'd been in the tower that night. Someone phoned in to say that an aeroplane had crashed behind his house. "Thank you sir, we know about that" had been the reply - until they realised that the caller was miles from the first prang. Then the phone went again....and again.....

I was lucky enough to get a few back seat rides in Meteor T7 WA669 'Clementine' at Brawdy in the 70s. "If we lose one on take-off, below xxx knots I'll throttle back the other and crash straight ahead, hopefully on the RW" went the brief, "above xxx knots I'll say 'LEFT' or 'RIGHT'. Push as hard as you can with that leg whilst I curse, swear, jettison the ventral and attempt to keep the old girl flying. It will go very quiet until we're away from the ground, then I'll fly a very careful asymmetric circuit and landing after which we'll leg it to the pub and get pi$$ed!" it concluded.

28th Oct 2002, 23:28
Thanks Beagle. the beauty of prune is there's always some b*gg*r around who can say 'No not quite like that'. I'll put it down to fading brain cells and anno domini. Do you remember the 54 Sqn aerobatic team from Odiham - Nov 3rd, 1955. I was flying a Meteor 8 back up to Leconfield on the PAI course.

There I was minding my own business, when I heard Dewdrop One and Two calling Mayday, no fuel, engine gone, pulling up, bailing out - just like that - dead nonchalant, hotly followed by Three. Four(Kurt Curtis) just made it into Tangers. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse I heard the photographic Meteor NF14 followed by a photographic Vamp T11(Pat Swaffer I believe) - doing the same thing!! They'd got caugt out by weather at Odiham after a photo session.

I carried on shakily to Lec and had to write out a 5ft report on what I'd heard. 5 aircraft gone in about 10 mins, 7 guys bailed out and no one hurt - ground or air. God we used to lose aeroplanes in those days, and it rarely featured more than a couple of paragraphs in the press. Back to the armchair!

29th Oct 2002, 07:06
Fascinating insight into those days - thanks, Bof!

I was in shorts back then, but I distinctly remember seeing the crashed aircraft compound at RAF Weston Zoyland absolutely stuffed with bits of pranged training aircraft. A chap I once knew told me that when he was a Meatbox QFI in Yorkshire, one student crashed into his own room in the Officers' Mess killing himself and destroying all his possessions. At least it saved the Effects Officer from having to do much, they all said!

Mind you, we probably lost more aeroplanes in any one month back then than we have serviceable for use on any one day these days......

29th Oct 2002, 08:19
I was a QFI on 208AFS at Merryfield 1953 till the AFS closed and I was off to Valley, and to commence with we had Meteor7s for dual and Vampire 1s for solo. Students were not allowed solo in the Meteor but the old Vampire 1s (202 gallons) used to go in at an alarming rate and we lost on average, a student every three weeks, and there was a full time funeral party. The situation got so bad that the vicar of the church in Ilton, the adjoining village, would not allow any more RAF funerals in his boneyard as it was filling up, so the Service bought a plot of land in the village to use as a cemetery. We then were re-equiped with Vampire T.11s and Vampire 5s and 9s. and the accident rate dropped straight away.
Much as I liked the Meteor 7 it could bite, I remember my crit. speed was 123kts but that was a real leg trembler, the other thing you learnt quickly in the back seat was to keep your fist under the flap and u/c levers as they were side by side and identical and you blocked the one that you did not want selected.
One other thought was that as the 7 was not pressurised and stomachs and their contents do tend to expand at altitude, the odours floating back from the front seat were somewhat ripe especially from a student on his first try at what was described as a high level formation exercise (don't laugh that was at 35000').

Happy days

Firkin L
29th Oct 2002, 08:20
The accident mentioned above happened at Middleton St George now Teesside Intl Airport, OM is now the George Hotel and is alleged to be haunted by the pilot - apparently.

Pom Pax
29th Oct 2002, 10:48
1. You exagerate "it rarely featured more than a couple of paragraphs in the press."
The local press may be, often didn't even make the nationals.

2. "They'd got caught out by weather" Met was still a bit crude.

Losses at 2ANS, Thorney Island (probably considered a low risk operation) in 12 months '57/'58 2 Varsitys, 1 Valetta and several Vampires. The Vampires were not flying accidents, they were parked too close together and one self ignited and destroyed 2 or 3 of its neighbours!

Cor 35 thou. I always wanted a ride in a Meteor. Afore mentioned NF10s struggled to get to +30.

Aircrew intake at that time was probably about 1000 a year.

Final Paragraph deleted as Art Field has posted his correct quote below.
Thanks Art.

Art Field
29th Oct 2002, 13:50
The CO at Kirton when I went through was a Gwoop Captin Lerwell (thats how he said it) and his passing out address went something like "whether you be pilots, navigators or air lectrictwonic officers, 50% of you will be dead within the year and another 20% will be maimed for life, good luck chaps". As far as I know most of us (99 course) survived well beyond the forecast.

29th Oct 2002, 17:21
Bof, I'm pretty sure the Phantom Dive could happen with both engines running as well. When I was checked out on the CFS Meteor many years ago I was told that when sitting in the back seat, always keep your hand firmly on the airbrake lever to prevent any inadvetant selection even on a normal cct. Although I cannot be certain as I was overseas at the time, I was under the impression the Vintage Pair Meatbox was on both engines when it went in--could well be wrong though.

My best Meteor story concerns Church Fenton in the Auxilliary days. One day the Wg Cdr (when they did command Wings) got the whole lot, approx 35 aircraft airborne and took them all up to high level above 8/8ths clag. After a while there were some anxious faces looking at fuel gauges, the Wg Cdr simply rolled inverted and disappeared with the R/T "Well, I know where I am, you lot sort yourselves out"

Art Field
29th Oct 2002, 20:08
If I remember rightly the Meteors mainwheels lowered one at a time causing significant yawing right and then left downwind (might have been the other way round), if airbrakes were out as well then lift just disappeared and you dropped like a stone even if both Derwents were running. Remember this was 1940/50's technology and engine acceleration times were pretty poor.

29th Oct 2002, 21:34
Lord (Norman) Tebbit flew Meteors, and I found the following quote:
He trained as a jet pilot with the RAF and lived for the 'sheer animal thrill' of flying at high speed. One day during take-off in a Meteor something went wrong and he found himself trapped in his cockpit, his oxygen mask full of blood, and the plane, which was full of fuel, on fire. He assumed he was going to die but, instead of panicking he considered his options, and eventually found a way to break the glass and scramble free before passing out.

Sounds interesting. In an earlier interview which I read some years ago, he said that after that incident, with a jammed canopy, he felt that he was playing with the Casino's money.

henry crun
29th Oct 2002, 23:18
Mention has been made of the possibility of confusing the Meteor flap and airbrake levers, it is hard to see how this would has occured.

The flap lever was at the top left on the main front panel and worked in the conventional sense of up and down.

The airbrakes were on the left cockpit wall adjacent to the throttles well away from the flap lever, and operated on a slide with a fore and aft action, slide back to open and forward to close.

That aside, the stories of the horrendous assymetric foot loads are not exaggerated in the least.
At AFS I pushed the sole clean away from the heel on one pair of flying boots with the pressure on the instep.

On the flying accidents during this period I believe there is a book detailing all accidents in the 1950's which would confirm the numbers, but I have not seen a copy.

30th Oct 2002, 09:47
Art Field

Your piece about the CO's speech at Kirton made me laugh (although I know I shouldn't). It's sounds like a scene straight out of Monty Python. I can picture the assembled squad ready to pass off, then this officer making a speech about the fatality rate, and spoken with a speech impediment, and everyone looking around at each other !! Q Monty Python music.

John Purdey
30th Oct 2002, 15:08
Beagle is right; at Merryfield in 1954, at least three Meteors went in on the same night, I seem to recall that they had diverted from Weston Zoyland and were caught out by the same fog that had caused the diversion in the first place. I seem also to recall that one crew survived.
2TWU, right again, and the three scars were indeed visible in the cliff-face as folk flew in to Leconfield.
Bof, the multi-prang you mention was at West Raynham on 8 February 1956, when we 'lost six Hunters in eight minutes' (the title by the way, of an article in Air Clues dated March 1982). 'Yellow 4' who was Dick Tumilty from 28 Sqn RAF Sek Kong, was the only fatality.
Ces Crook certainly hi-jacked the train, but I am not sure he set fire to it. Did you know that he is still around in New Zealand? I have a local contact if anyone is interested. :)

30th Oct 2002, 15:23
Ces Crook certainly hi-jacked the train, but I am not sure he set fire to it.

Please, do tell!

30th Oct 2002, 16:59
i read that article in air clues. apparently at the time only fighter command used the colour code so the formation wasnt get up to date on the weather, after that the colour code was brought in raf wide. on the subject of the meteor just how many marks had ejection seats?

30th Oct 2002, 18:00
I have just read a great book about the RAF in the 50s called Fighter Jocks and the Meteor then seemed a dream to fly but the preffered A/C seems to have been the Vampire??

30th Oct 2002, 21:25
shack and John Purdey - thanks so much for your confirmation of Merryfield matters!

Having grown up about 1/2 mile from the place - and having lived nearby for the following 25 or so years, I often wondered whether the stories I'd been told were true. I can remember (just) certain parts of Merryfield's history - Princess Anne's visit, the airshows of the mid-50s, the Sabres being modified by Westlands, the Royal Navy era when the squadrons moved to Merryfield whilst VLN was being prepared for the new Sea Vixen.....

There was an amazing airshow in 1958 - probably the last ever held. Everything from a Spitfire to a very low-level Vulcan, plus a Bleriot monoplane, Bristol Fighter.....

I went back down to Somerset at the end of last year to attend 'Farmer' John Steele's funeral in nearby Isle Abbotts. He'd been a 'trapper' in the 50s and had inspired me to join the mob in 1968.....but I had to go and say hello to Merryfield and was delighted to find that the aerodrome looks smarter now then ever - but no real permanent facilities except for the control tower. The Officer's Mess area had been bought by my late father and his ex-FAA business partner in the 70s. We kept 3000 pigs there (some of the old Ilton folk reckoned that improved the tone of the place....), then sold the site - and it's now a housing estate.

Other tales - of 'Flush' Kendall, 'Kipper' Smith, Pete Cornish...the vectored thrust Meteor trials (I explored the tunnels years later)...the 'bomb dump' where Army reserve units would set up their AA guns during summer camps...stories about how the RAF QFIs would race off to 'The Volunteer' in Seavington St Michael or 'The Shrubbery' in Ilminster for a few ales whenever the weather was too poor to fly...after the Borneo campaign when a whole squadron of Pioneers and Twin Pins stopped over to refuel....a Lancaster flying down from Kinloss to drop off a salmon for the OM dining-in night....a Canberra landing in the Suez crisis so that the pilot could nip off to Alec Scott's garage to fill up an off-the-ration jerrycan of petrol....

I learned to ride a bike there, learned to drive a car there, learned to fly model aeroplanes there, learned to fly a glider there.....and learned a few other things with a girlfriend in the overgrown bomb dump there. A wonderful aerodrome - long may it remain so.

...and getting back to the thread topic, I can also remember seeing most of a Meteor NF stuck in the overrun of RW09 - except for the radar nose which had cleared the road and was on the far side! Cdr Tim Kearsley RN was there wondring how on earth they were going to shift it!!

30th Oct 2002, 21:41
An aged pilot told me he survived training on Meteors including numerous extremely dangerous practice single engined landings. Posted to an operational squadron he asked tentatively after a couple of weeks whether he ought not to do some practice SE landings to stay current. He was told, "Christ no! They are bloody lethal. We always do a power-off glide approach - that way it doesn't matter if the engine fails."

30th Oct 2002, 22:24
Beagle, what a wonderful way to spend the formative years into your teens. To be soaked in all that great aviation lore from the 50s and early 60s around the Merryfield area - you ccouldn't have really done anything else but join the mob! Great stuff.

31st Oct 2002, 00:33
Dear old Meatbox, what a delight to fly. I was fortunate enough to be on the last AFTS course to train on the beast at RAF Strubby in the mid-sixties. At the end of the course we delivered the aircraft to Kemble where a number of them were mothballed, and the rest scrapped.

The asymmetric flying was definitely a feat of some physical strength. We seemed to practice on one engine almost as often as on two although by then we were not allowed to shut an engine down or fly on one for practice below 4000 ft. We did still practice engine failure on take off and certainly in the T7 it was very important to remember to throttle back the live engine to ensure retention of control. This would then continue into a not quite so knee-trembling single-engine climb at 200 kts - IMC you had to fly wings level when not intending to turn but VMC you were allowed up to 5 or 10 degrees of bank towards the live engine to relieve the foot load. The most demanding exercise was to do a sinlge engine overshoot on the port engine - you had to use the hand pump to raise the gear and flaps because the hydraulic pump was on the starboard engine. Needless to say if you had to overshoot on the port engine your QFI would insist on the use of the hand pump even though the starboard engine was only throttled back!

The phantom dive could occur with one or both engines going and was indeed a result of having airbrakes out when gear was lowered. Originally, I believe, the airbrakes came out to almost 90 degrees which caused real problems, the effect was reduced by reducing the airbrake travel to only about 45 degrees but this still did not completely solve the problem.

As far as I could tell, the single-seat Meteors after the Mk4 all had bang seats, that is: F8, PR(?)9, FR10, whereas the 2 seaters were not so equipped - I know the T7 was without MB escape assistance.

Apart from the flying, my fondest memory of the Meteor was to hear one with 'big breathers' coming in for a run and break on the blue note - a sound only surpassed by the Hunter.

:D :D :D :D

31st Oct 2002, 08:39
I am too young (not a phrase I often use these days!) to have had the privilege of flying the Meatbox, but am of an age which ensures that most of my basic QFIs had flown her.
I'm sure I recall from an early "Instruments" lecture at Syerston that unforeseen acceleration error on the AH (and the ears!) was responsible for some IMC overshoot crashes in the Meteor.
Logic was thus: greater available acceleration induced a "pitch up" error in the semi circular canals, and a "roll right" error on the AH. Net result after "correcting" was a hole on the left hand side of the runway. Driffield I think was mentioned as the Station in question ... the story may be BS but it made us all remember that vital piece of information ... the direction of rotation of the AH gyro!!
Any truth in this line?

31st Oct 2002, 10:48
It seemed that loosing jets was a common practice in days of yore!
This apparently is a true story.
There are a few meteor ejection stories at:

Date: Late 1950's

Place: RAF Odiham, England.

Javelin taxiing out for take-off.

One hunter on take-off, one on finals, one on down-wind for finals.

Javelin engine fire (not unusual) but unseen by crew.

Air Traffic Controller (novice, in panic) calls 'you are on fire' or words to that effect.

Three Hunter pilots eject un-necessarily and Javelin crew taxi on oblivious until it becomes obvious, too late, that the panic applies to them, then luckily scrabble out unhurt, unfortunately the RAF are four aircraft down.

John Purdey
31st Oct 2002, 16:23
Ah, Beagle; I was at John Steele's funeral service too. A great character. Teeteringhead, you are right; the AH had mechanical air valves at the side, set in the same circular mode - clockwise I think - so that forward acceleration on take-off would cause one to open and the other to stay shut, giving an erroneous indication. We lost several good men because of that. John. :)

31st Oct 2002, 19:21
JP - in which case we may have met. His younger daughter was my late father's god-daughter and we lived in the same village (Isle Abbotts) for many years.

I also recall being taught about the 'pendulous vanes' in that steam driven AH when I was a UAS student. At the same UAS of which JS had been CFI about 12 years earlier.....

31st Oct 2002, 20:43
Talking of bang-outs various - and those mentioned thus far are so nostalgic and incredible that they would be dismissed as mythical folklore by today's generation (some of whom I like) - I recall a few years ago at Valley (c. 71-76) when Gnats were spearing in all over the place, along with the odd Hunter or two. Around 13 fatalies in total; some instructors, some studes. I recall the Gnat prangs being largely attributed to its strangely constructed FCS, whilst those of the Hunter were more varied - with a high foreign content (streuth- can I really say that in 2002).
Sad for the studes, but we lost too many good instructors in what was a time of flight safety-first ----------------

How are you Langoid, Philips, Patt, Hitch (ex-Dragons) and many others ?

Sorry - I meant Langroid ----- he of lilting voice, tales of yesteryear, and clip-you-round the ear when he'd had a couple --

31st Oct 2002, 23:29
How about the annual I/R in the Box - remember we had to do a run at .7M at 30,000 on limited panel. Metal polish over the inside of the hood so you couldn't see out and a circular plate with a suction cup over the A/H

Dr Jekyll
1st Nov 2002, 07:52
Am I right in thinking that the T7 crash at the Coventry airshow in 1988 was put down to phantom dive?

There was a suggestion at the time of engine failure, but I understood the official conclusion blamed a tight turn with gear down.

1st Nov 2002, 08:05
Thank you all very much for your fascinating recollections of "The Bad Old Days"!

1st Nov 2002, 12:03
amazing story, certainly makes you think....

You want it when?
1st Nov 2002, 13:30
Great shots on Nostalgia (or whatever somewhere around SKY 580) channel of squadron take-offs of Meteors. Looks like there are 20+ in the air.

John Farley
1st Nov 2002, 13:49
Going back to the original post I have no reason to doubt those numbers.

Actually they struck me as low because I can remember a conversation with an RAE Farnborough test pilot about 1954/5 when he remarked that the RAF had at last reached 365 Cat 5s in one year. All types and world wide of course.

Chimbu chuckles
1st Nov 2002, 14:46
My father learned to fly in the RAF about 1950. Posted to a Meteor OCU at a time when "They were crashing left and right". Apparently many ejecties lost their legs and bled to death/died of shock.

They finally discovered that chaps over a certain height had a hip to knee measurement that precluded the knees passing behind the canopy bow.

They measured everyone and those to tall were posted to Vampires where, due to a lack of said expulsive device, no similar problem existed.

Of course this led to ernest discussion on just how you got out, with various theories expounded. The half roll and drop out seemed to harbour the fewest ways of hurting yourself...if you had that much control...and a few months later Dad had cause to fling one into the Bristol Channel late one night....to be plucked out of the water by Ark Royal next morning.

One method, which I gather was greeted somewhat derisively, was to lose the canopy and then 'jump' straight up, pass behind the engine and under the horizontal stab.

Dad recently celebrated his 70th birthday, 15 years after retiring from 25000 hours logged in many, many aircraft...DH82a, Percival Prentice, Harvard, Meteor, Vampire, Lincoln (ops Malaya 1 sqn RAAF 58/59), Canberra, C47, F27, DC4, DC6b, Lockheed Electra, B707 and B747...and that's not nearly an exhaustive list:eek:

Interesting old coot:D

He'll play dogfight computer games for hours but is ambivalent about flying in my Bonanza...guess he figures he's used up enough lives:D Now I know why:eek:


Flatus Veteranus
2nd Nov 2002, 13:14
I have been following this thread with great interest from France and struggling to concoct a contribution on a quirky (frog) keyboard. I was “creamed” to become a QFI (A2) at Middleton St George in ‘52/’53 and then did a tour on 208 (FR9/F8) from ‘54-’57. The “Meatbox” was my high-time type and I remember it with affection, whilst not pretending that it was a delight to fly compared with the Hunter. Nick Carter’s book “Meteor Eject” catches the flavour of the life and times very well, and we owe him for the immense amount of work he must have done to compile the rather grizzly “butcher’s bill” in his Annex. The accident rate was indeed appalling, eliciting some rather terse minutes from Churchill to the Air Minister of the day. In my time, OC Middleton was subpoenaed by the Darlington coroner to account for the growing RAF patch in the municipal cemetery (the staish stalled and sheltered behind the OSA). I believe, at its worst, we were having about one “fatal” a course . The reasons were, as usual, several.

First, there was a big expansion phase going on, and the pressure on the AFSs to get stus out to the OCUs was great. We flew our tails off whenever the weather was good, and more than we ought to have when it was bad. Weekends? Leave? “ Privileges, dear boy. You will have plenty of time for such luxuries when you get to your squadron.” The expansion phase also diluted the instructor force. The operational commands were unwilling to let their experienced jet pilots go to CFS, where the course was done on a strange contraption called the Prentice followed by the Harvard. Few instructors arriving at the AFSs had much jet time, and very few any multijet time. The job of turning them into competent Meteor QFIs was that of the unit Standards Flights. The asymmetric instruction I got at Driffield in the summer of ’51 was a farce (my instructor was clearly scared witless – probably by me!). It was not until I went to Middleton (after CFS) that I was properly taught. Flt Sgt (later Flt Lt) Ray Davis earned his A1 by developing the jet asymmetric sequence, which was still in use at the Vulcan OCU 20 years later.

The first thing to get across was that, however big a ****** you were, if you could hold the rudder hard against its limit stops, you could do no more. If you increased power or reduced IAS further, yaw/roll/spiral would happen very quickly. Ie, the aircraft had its own Crit Speed at full thrust on one engine – about 125kts at sl. One “big ******” at Middleton, just before I arrived, failed to hoist this simple fact aboard and tried a roller landing on one. On the runway, he applied full **** on one engine at about 90 Kt. and entered the officers’ mess through the ladies’ room wall. RIP. (He is alleged still to haunt the Hotel St George – at least the hosties will not stay in that wing !) I used to stand on the step while my stus strapped themselves in on their earlier sorties and make them adjust the rudder pedals so that, with their arse right back in the seat their knee was still slightly bent with full rudder on, then make them force their knee down so their leg was in a sort of geometric lock between the rudder and the seat back. We then used to try it in the air, with both of us on the rudder to maintain full lock, and the stu briefed to watch the “ball” like a hawk. The time between the first displacement of the ball and when the aircraft flipped was quite short. Then the student was set to find his own crit speed at full thrust, until he could no longer centre the ball, and this was usually between 130/135 kts. He was then made to explore the relationship between thrust setting, IAS and controllability. Despite greatly improved instructional techniques, there were always a few asymmetric accidents and many questioned the need to teach asymmetric at all in view of the reliability of the Derwents. Well, you know what CFS is like – if it can be done, you must teach how to do it. And there was also the range/endurance case. In the old centrifugal engines sfc reduced as rpm increased, so to loiter or squeeze for range at heights up to about 30,000 ft, it was SOP to shut down one engine and fly at increased rpm on the other. Relights were problematic on earlier marks, so a se landing was on the cards. A simple rule of thumb then prevailed ; maintain 140 kts min and 1/3 flap max until committal at 400 ft , then put it down – somewhere, anyhow.

Defensive techniques for QFIs were legendary. At least in 1952 it was usual to finish up a dual sortie with a roller landing and simulated engine failure on TO. This was done by the QFI lifting the HP cock lever , alongside his seat, at about 150 kts. You can be sure that the QFI’s boot was just behind the appropriate rudder bar! The stu then went through the engine failure drills, which included “HP cock-OFF” and “Balance Cock – OPEN”. If the QFI had shut down the starboard engine, it happened once or twice that the stu tried to pull off the Port HP cock – or else he pulled it off instead of opening the Balance Cock which was alongside it. Either way, at least one T7 at Middleton finished up in the pasture, and it became SOP for the QFI to cover the Port HP cock when shutting down the Starboard, or vice versa. Then there were the airbrakes – not only very powerful but, in the T7 and F4 and earlier, when opened in conjunction with yaw as might be induced by unbalanced asymmetric or by the undercarriage cycling, caused a breakdown of airflow over the tail and the notorious “phantom dive”. Most Meatbox drivers drilled themselves instinctively to hit the airbrake lever with the heel of their palm when going for the undercarriage lever (particularly in formation breaks when eyes had to be out of the cockpit). When the stu was flying the QFI’s hand would rest on the airbrake lever when the time came to lower the gear. Even then one stu is reputed to have said to his instructor on se finals “Sir, the airbrake handle is stuck – I can’t open them” “Effing right laddie, its stuck because I’ve got my effing hand on it!” Whereupon the stu tried the canopy latch, which was above the airbrake lever. The instructor just managed to get his elbow on that in time!

Going through Nick Carter’s Annex, it seemed to me that the biggest cause of the 430-odd total Meatbox fatals was simple “loss of control”. Some of the later AFSs (eg Worksop) had F8s for solo flying, but Driffield and Middleton had F4s. In ’52 and ’53 these aircraft, and some of the earlier T7s, had suction driven AH and DI, a magnesyn compass, and a single 10-channel VHF box.. A student sent up through cloud to do some aerobatics and briefed to call for a QGH (controlled descent) at fuel state 80/80 (gals) would have to uncage his DI initially on the little emergency “whisky” compass, while the Magnesyn continued to gyrate for a few minutes. He would almost certainly reach the “overhead” and start his outbound descent with an AH still toppled. The descent attitude of the Meatbox was quite steep and the “limited panel” scan-pattern to maintain attitude and heading was demanding enough even for green-rated instructors I am sure that a number of the accidents ascribed to “control loss” happened because the stu “lost it” at that stage and spiralled in. There were no “bang seats” in the F4 or T7, of course. The F8 and later T7s had the G4F Gyrosyn compass and electrical AHs with wider gimbal limits and the rapid re-erection button. The more trepid stus, who found weather on climb-out that they were not confident of dealing with on the let-down, simply did not do the aerobatics, and who can blame them. They may not have won the course trophy, but they did not end up in Darlington cemetery. (One flight commander used to snoop on solo stus to see what they got up to!). The lack of a navaid, apart from ground D/F (manual until ’53 when CRD/F came in) and panic about fuel-consumption contributed to pressure on the stus, a number of whom simply ran themselves out of gas. In the F4 their best option was to put the aircraft down somewhere somehow; a bale-out without a bang-seat was not a serious option.

Apologies for my verbosity. I did not have time to write anything shorter! My memories are not as clear as they were, so there may be some errors in my recall of Meatbox systems and operating speeds and limits. The sources advised by Nick Carter could not supply Pilots Notes for other than the Meteor 3. Has anyone else any ideas on where I could get them for the T7 and F8/FR9?

PS The word turned into "******" by Dan's autocensor was defined in Dr Johnson's original English Dictionary as "a term of endearment used frequently between sailors". :)

2nd Nov 2002, 13:54
Flatus Veteranus

France eh! I thought you'd fallen off your perch! Kept waiting for you to join the fray but zilch! All is now revealed.

If you can borrow a copy of PNs for the Meteors T7/F3/F9 etc, I have a mate who can produce fantastic as new reproductions for about a few quid plus postage. He did an NF14 for me and you could not tell the difference from the original. Even had the little stick-in white amendments I think he uses Photo Shop 9 or whatever mark they are up to. He even included a copy of our old frequency card with all the old freqs. Fighter Command Common used to be a 107.28 crystal - which of course is in the modern ILS range. But then, there weren't no ILS in them days.

Dick Whittingham
2nd Nov 2002, 14:48
I trained in Canada in '53 on Harvards and T33s. I went on to do two years with 605Sqn RAuxAF, on Vampires with two T7s for IF. The Meteor was a big heavy aircraft, and the jump for UK trained students straight from the Harvard and with (imho) poor instrument flying skills was pretty horrendous.

All you have heard is true. The EFATO at Rissie in the 60s was a turbine destruct at t/o rpm that blew the port nacelle to shreds. No chance.

The T7 had a problem with canopy jettison. The canopy could swing sideways and decapitate the back seat pilot. This tended to limit options for abandonment.

Does anyone recall the Aux sqn setting off in formation for Sylt? The leader raised his gear too early and set fire to the ventral. Someone behind called for a jettison, which he did, blocking the runway with burning fuel. The leader turned downwind and looked down on an airfield covered in scattered Meteors.

I have pilots notes for Meteors 7, and 11 and in one book for the 11,12, 13, 14 and TT20. Not to mention the Vampire 5 and T11 and the Hunter 1.

Now, that was an aircraft, the Hunter 1. No armament, no fuel to speak of, she climbed like a homesick angel.

Dick W

2nd Nov 2002, 16:48
Whenever certain 'names' (like FV, BEags etc - and others) appear in the 'posted by' column, you just know it's going to be a good read. You never disappoint - thanks guys. :)

2nd Nov 2002, 17:10
Agreed Speke,

It's certainly inspired me to ask my uncle , who flew Meteors Swifts and the F-101 for his particular horror stories on the type:)

7th Nov 2002, 10:22
Just went to Amazon to order the book which kicked this (excellent) thread off and I find that the book is listed as fiction.
I was under the impression it was of a documentary nature. Anybody on here actually read it & care to comment?

7th Nov 2002, 11:00

I have read this book. Certainly not fiction.
Get it !!!!

Mr G.


7th Nov 2002, 13:49
Thank you, just ordered it.

Fly Better!
14th May 2005, 10:08
I just came across this thread whilst searching for something else. I thoroughly enjoyed reading peoples experiences of the Meteor. I had heard that it had killed a lot of aircrew but the figures mentioned at the beginning of the thread are depressing to say the least.

I had the pleasure of meeting an old chap who had flown Vampires Venoms and the Meatbox. He had know pilots who had been caught out by the phantom dive before it was really know exactly what caused it. I also have a friend who is well into his 80’s now who flew Meteors in the early days and was responsible for converting pilots onto them. His memories seem to be not only of lots of deaths, (I never really appreciated just how many), but of constantly being short of fuel and many of the ex wartime piston pilots struggling to come to terms with the massive fuel burns low down.

Years after talking to these gents I had the great fortune to fly in the Meteor in 2003; maybe if I had read this thread first I might have declined! I doubt it though. As it turned out it was the last time I ever flew with Paul Morris, a very close friend of over 25 years.

He managed to convince me it was safe to fly on one engine and (if I recall correctly) GLOSM has a light to remind the pilot the brakes were out so he wouldn’t be using them and then dropping the gear. Shortly after take off he was busy effing and blinding as he wrestled with the HP cock to shut one down until shortly before landing. The relight was also accompanied with lots of swearing due to the position if the HP cock. As we approached Waddo everything was going great, until the controller asked us to hold over Bardney. “Where the f*$$s that?” asked Paul, I pointed him towards it. After going round in circles a couple of times: “sod this, tell them we are landing” so I did, and we did. We weren’t on fumes (honest) but the gauges looked Mickey Mouse to me and it makes me realise how spoilt I am to fly modern aircraft with more sensible fuel burns, with lots of fuel and gauges that read accurately.

I cant imagine what it must have been like to fly one for 'real'. Then I guess people didnt know any better?

henry crun
14th May 2005, 10:34
Fly Better!: I cannot help but think that Paul Morris was making too much of a fuss about putting one out and relighting.

The HP cocks were/are on the back wall.
If one just dropped a hand and moved it back the HP cock came readily to hand.
The relighting button was on the end of the HP cock so the operation of the two was simple.

14th May 2005, 10:54
Ah, but the late Paul M always had a colourful turn of phrase, henry!


henry crun
14th May 2005, 11:12
Apologies, I did not intend any slur on the gentleman.

After I had posted the thought crossed my mind that, without knowing of his experience in the aircraft, perhaps the limited hours available these days would be a factor.

14th May 2005, 11:26
As a young Hastings second pilot I didn't realise I was in such danger when I talked my way into flying the Levant Comm Squadron Meteor 7's and 8's on the midday patrols during the summer of 1958- only a pilots' notes oral without any dual!! In the Nicosia heat, with full drops and ventral, take-off performance was marginal to say the least. June July and August were too hot for the Hunter squadrons who spent every lunchtime in the officers' mess bar!

Pontius Navigator
14th May 2005, 12:41
We had the NF14s at 1 ANS at Stradishall. One, on a landaway, was discovered to have a leaking ventral. It was 'ferried' back to Stradishall on internals only via Aklington, Middleton, Leconfield, possibly Strubby and thence Stradishall.

No rumours in the bazaars about FTC meatboxes pranging but then we nav studes did not get involved in SCT.

14th May 2005, 15:53
Strange that this thread should be resurrected now...

13 May 2005
Memorial stone to pilot who crashed in Peak District:

RELATIVES of a tragic teenage pilot who died when his jet fighter crashed into a Peak District farm 50 years ago joined villagers for the unveiling of a stone in his memory.
Surviving relatives of forgotten pilot Officer Robert Anthony Tritton, aged just 19 at the time of his death, gathered in the hamlet of Millthorpe near Holmesfield in North Derbyshire yesterday for a memorial ceremony - on the 50th anniversary of the crash.
Officer Tritton's sister Marianne Cambridge was just 12 at the time of the accident and still has vivid memories of the news filtering through.
She said: "I remember the telegraph coming through - that's how we found out - and my mother just collapsed. It was just unbelieveable really. We were all absolutely devastated."
The teenage pilot was flying a Gloster Meteor fighter jet based at RAF Worksop when he crashed into Brookside Farm on Mill Lane, Millthorpe, at 3.25pm on May 12, 1955.

Flatus Veteranus
14th May 2005, 20:03
The Meatbox was virtually viceless, if you observed a very few simple rules:

Never pop your airbrakes with the gear down

When asymmetric, never let your speed fall below Vmc (about 140 kts) until 400 ft. You are then committed to land.

In event of control loss at M0.8 or over, throttle back, pop the airbrakes and let warmer air lower down sort it out.

Many blokes converted direct from Spits/Tempests/Hornets on their squadrons without benefit of any T7 rides with a QFI

The stall was straightforward with plenty of warning - no sign of flicking except due to compressibility at high Mach. The spin, difficult to provoke, was gentlemanly and recovery textbook. Inverted spins required gross mishandling.

Many chaps used to piston fighters (and myself who converted direct from Harvards) found the fuel consumption at low/medium level and the short endurance nerve-wracking. This was exacerbated by the lack of any on-board nav aid in the earlier Marks. Later models in Fighter Command service had an early form of DME. In FTC, where I was a QFI, and in the Middle East all we had were two VHF boxes (which shared a common power supply).

The Mk 4s in service at the AFSs, and the early T7s, had vacuum-driven instruments with restricted toppling limits and extended re-erection times. After an aerobatic exercise above cloud the earlier part of the QGH (Controlled Descent Through Cloud) and perhaps the GCA had to be flown on limited panel (Needle, Ball, Airspeed ) with some help from a vacuum DI if the magnesyn compass settled down enough for it to be uncaged on anything like a reliable heading. The airbrakes were highly effective, so descent attitude was steep, which didn't help. I think there were a fair number of student fatalities at Middleton and Driffield due to lads getting into spirals and "losing it". Due to the Korean War build-up there was a degree of pressure to graduate courses on time . Students were probably sent off solo in weather with which they could not cope. Neither the Mk 4s, used for solo flying, nor the T7s were pressurised or had ejection seats. A number of students were believed to have died because they forgot to connect themselves to the old economiser oxygen system - or their tube came undone in flight.

I never heard of anyone losing an engine. The Derwents were remarkably reliable. The only excuse for practising asymmetric was the "range/endurance" case. SFC in the old centrifugal engines was most dependent on rpm. When trying to stretch the range or loiter time it was usual to shut down one engine and fly at higher rpm on the other. No 1 engine fed from the front tank and No 2 from the rear, so it was usual to shut down No 2 so that, with the balance cock open, fuel would drain to the front tank during descent. Shutting down No 2 lost the hydraulic pump and the accumulator held enough pressure for one cycle of airbrakes In, flaps Down and u/c Down. A single-engine missed approach involved pumping up the u/c with an emergency handpump while holding on full left rudder - a sporting occupation, that was demonstrated pre-solo and usually required on FHT. I believe that if asymmetric handling had only been demonstrated and not taught, and forbidden to solo students, many lives would have been saved. But you know the CFS culture; if the aircraft is capable of a manoeuvre, that manoeuvre should be taught.

Many more lives would have been spared if FTC and MEAF had told Fighter Command to sod off and bought some ADFs.

The Meatbox was not a delight to fly like the Hunter. But if you were lucky enough to "own" one with all the later mods (spring-tab ailerons, clear-view canopy, "deep-breathers", bang-seat) like my own flight commander's conveyance on 208, there was nothing to complain about. In many situations I would rather have two Derwents than one Avon.

There was nothing wrong with the position of the HP cocks and relight buttons. As a QFI you had to watch out when you pulled the starboard HP cock just after take-off, with the student flying, to simulate an engine failure . Apart from covering the rudder in case he took a bootful of the wrong rudder, you then had to cover the port HP cock in case he tried to pull that off instead of raising the fuel balance cock, which was conveniently situated right alongside it. This happened to a flight commander at Middleton doing a FHT - the only successful dead-stick arrival in a pasture I ever heard of. They were both very lucky.

I apologise for for living up to my nom-de-plume

Reading back over this thread, I see I wrote the same sort of cr*p back in Nov 02. Sorry!

12 PSI
14th May 2005, 22:28
Fascinating thread. Puts into perspective the modern computer controlled, reliable machines we fly now - where human factors are more likely to be the root of disaster than mechanical failure. Thankfully we don't have the same loss rate anymore. Much respect to the guys who learned their stuff the hard way.

Incidentally, I witnessed the Vintage Pair accident at Mildenhall back in 1985 (my first, but sadly not last, exposure to the risks of aviation)- was that caused by a Meteor phenomenon as described above?

14th May 2005, 22:57
That tragic accident in 1985, I believe took the life of a friend of mine, Flt Lt PS! VERY nice guy. You may be right, he may have been caught out, but great guy none the less!

15th May 2005, 00:28
That Mildenhall accident was the result of the Vampire and Meteor 'brushing' wings IIRC. The Meteor continued flying along for long enough that you were sure they'd have got out had they had ejection seats. The Vampire stalled and went in vertically, but because it did have bang seats both occupants got out. I was chatting to an old UAS chum (an eng officer, Jim Evans, wonder what happened to him) looking at a visibly cracked 43 Squadron Phantom!

15th May 2005, 06:07
The Coventry airshow Meteor T7 crash of 30 May 1988 was the result of the 'phantom dive'. Wasn't that the one in which PS was killed?

The Mildenhall airshow collision of 25 May 1986 which destroyed the Vintage Pair (Meteor T7 and Vampire T11), in which both occupants of the Meteor were killed was NOT caused by the 'phantom dive'. I was later told that it was the direct result of a change in the display routine and, as a result, the 'wrong' aircraft was leading. Earlier Vintage Pair pilots had allegedly advised that the formation should not be constituted in the way it was when the fatal collision occurred. A totally avoidable accident which, in addition to the fatalities, destroyed 2 rare aeroplanes..... The Accident Report uncovered quite a few organisational failures as well, if I recall correctly.

And yet the 'Pair's Meteor T7 'Clementine' had survived years of target towing at Chivenor and Brawdy without even a scratch.

15th May 2005, 08:01
You are correct, PS was killed in the Coventry accident.

15th May 2005, 08:37
Those who might be wondering what happened to Clementine's companion 'Sir Winston' (Meteor F8 VZ467) will perhaps be pleased to learn that the a/c is still airworthy. Repainted in RAAF markings, it is now based in New South Wales as part of the Temora Aviation Museum fleet.

A shame that the world's only airworthy Meteor F8 should have left the UK though.

It was always worth seeing 'Sir Winston' in the hands of the late 'Puddy' Catt at Brawdy running in to the circuit in his own cloud of condensation after dropping the flag! Once, after the flag had been shot off by a student Hunter pilot, 'Puddy' decided to take advantage of being airborne with lots of fuel, so went to Pembrey range. Requesting clearance for a 'simulated napalm attack', he astonished the range staff by hurtling across the range at about 50ft!

Tim Mills
15th May 2005, 11:34
What a great thread, missed it first time around. One of my favourite aeroplanes; most of them have been on reflection! Driffield end of 51, fresh from Harvards, loads of power, not much fuel, excellent instruction, what more could one want? We did not lose anyone from our course, but a couple, including the Station Medical Officer who I think did too tight a circuit at Merrifield, knocked his pitot head off on a tree, then tried again with disasterous results, were lost during our time there. Par for the course at that time, tragically.

I had a Czech instructor, Gerry Sodec, lovely chap, who I could hardly understand on the ground. 35000 in the unpressurised 7, no hope! We managed.

On to Strad on the Mk8, followed by squadron tour, then try and cadge a Meatbox whenever I could. Last flew the Mk8 in Cyprus in 65, and having been elevated to a staff job at NEAF, tried again, which made HQ NEAF realise they still had one at Akrotiri, so they disestablished it!

I'm full of admiration for those like FV who can remember it all in so much detail. For me it is all a distant and thoroughly enjoyable blurr.

15th May 2005, 14:13
The reg didn't happen to be ex Nicosia WK952 by any chance?

Fly Better!
15th May 2005, 15:52
Without wishing to seem like a spotter :\ maybe these pics may be of interest to some: http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/meteorreferecepg_1.htm

I seem to remember bieng told GLOSM wasnt a Gloster Meteor but made by another company, were there any differences or were they just made under licence or some such thing?

Oh hang on I am sounding like a spotter now :8

15th May 2005, 16:05
Now don't you go falling off your little aluminium step ladder, now, but the 'other company' was Sir W G Armstrong-Whitworth who constructed a fair few Meteors and Hunters.

15th May 2005, 19:26
A sudden wave of nostalgia with the resurection of this thread from 3 years ago! Absolutely correct Beagle, in fact all the NF variants were designed and built by AW as well as a few batches of the day fighter Marks and the "prone pilot" experimental Meteor. Incidentally, I think our NF 12s and 14s were the only Meteors with Derwent 9s all though you would hardly notice the difference. I think Flatus remarked that he never heard of an engine failure. I guess there must have been some, but I do not recall any at Malling on my tour. Accidents were from many other reasons. We had a big pairs stream take off for a "Balbo" one very hot summer day in '55 (?). the idea of course was alternate pairs high and low to keep out of slipstream, but we were vey heavy with full underwing and ventral tanks and one aircraft caught the combined slipstream of the previous 6 aircraft and went into a strawberry field just off the end of the runway.
Killed several "pickers" as well as the crew.

I would echo Flatus. If you kept you speed above 125Kts with plenty of air below you if you were on one, you could do anything with the old lady. If ever things went pear shaped - let go of everything and she came out pointing down with full cntrol returned. We did learn to respect those airbrakes though. They were above and below the wings but inboard of the engines and deployment completely destroyed lift from the inboard wing sections. Hence the yaw problem with asymmetric main wheel extension and brakes out.

As an aside, we lost our boss two or three weeks ago. Wg Cdr
AF "Binkie" Binks. He reached his late 80s and collapsed and died in his local pub in Warborough. A very much larger than life ex war-time boss, a walking image of David Niven and who was as mad as a hatter yet loved by all of us. A pyromaniac with a penchant for setting fire to the mess bar!! He was finally posted as the titular Stn Cdr of Alconbury.
One wet cloudy day he persuaded one of the USAF pilots to take him to Church Fenton in a two seat F100 where 85 were newly ensconced and beat the s**t out of the place. Needless to say he had the advantages of the golden bowler scheme explained to him by the Air Board and he retired to Oxfordshire.!!!
Where have all the characters gone. When did anyone last fly under one of the London bridges, or take off the top of somone's car! I know, I know, rules, safety and responsibility, but sometimes I think we have lost a lot of the spirit that existed two or three decades ago. Ah well!

15th May 2005, 20:39
BEag: Slightly off-thread, but I remember meeting Puddy Catt in the late '80s - how long has he been departed?

henry crun
15th May 2005, 21:56
Re Derwent failures.

Mid 50's and the AOC was enroute to one of his bases when he suffered an engine failure.
Continued and landed without any drama.

The Fighter Command monthy accident summary, sometimes a weighty document in those days, contained the technical details of why it failed.

The only comment from the FSO at the end was "We wonder that it dared !". :D

Art Field
16th May 2005, 08:02
Your Meatbox nostalgia might be further advanced by the recent Corgi model of the Mk8. Looks pretty good but the tail is rather gaudy. Only problem is a rather pricey 28 quid or so.

Further to the leg trembling I remember that I could not find the strength to depress the clutch pedal of my Morris 1000 after an assy session, and that was as a fit young lad, such a long time ago.!!!!!!!

16th May 2005, 08:23
Reference ejection seats mentioned in an earlier post. Navy tall persons trained on the Meteor.

The rest of us, vertically challenged, trained on the Vampire which when fitted with ejection seats was more restrictive on dashboard/ knee clearance.

16th May 2005, 09:56
Re Derwent failures.

I must be the unlucky one as I had two with the 7, one where the donk just wound down all by itself----now that is scary as you sit there and wonder why it has and if the other one is going to do the same thing and the other one I was sitting minding my own business with the stude trying to fly on limited panel when there was a big bang and the top of the starboard cowling looked as though it had been sliced round with a saw. The turbine blades had decided to part company with the disc and had exited from the cowling. The turbine blades on the Derwent were welded onto the root that was in the turbine disc and were liable to part company if it was a bum weld (there, I learnt something in my three years at Halton!!) whereas on the Vampire’s Goblin the blade and root were machined out of a solid lump.

Having said that and changing aircraft, I had a Goblin wind down once flying from Merrifield over 8/8ths., duly called Mayday and went through the nausea of transmitting for a fix so that the Sub-Centre at Gloucester (manual homer days) could get a fix, to be told you are over Plymouth and the airfield is North East of the city and they gave me steers. Fine until I broke cloud and saw the airfield which was tiny and grass and I wondered about the sanity of Gloucester. Fortunately I had enough height to make Exeter and a proper runway; that was a bonus as I got a ride in a Mosquito from the FRADU bunch that were there.

Happy days (just think BEagle was wearing short pants and watched us idiots from Merrifield!!)

Flatus Veteranus
16th May 2005, 18:36
The only time I lost a Derwent inadvertently (which is different from a "failure") was during a visit to 208 (FR) squadron by the CFS "Trappers". Although I held an A2 Cat on type, I was not being employed as a QFI but as a Flight Commander. Yet the trapper I flew with insisted on playng one-upmanship. I think he had a background on "heavies" and wanted to show us "steelies" that he could do anything we could do, only better. So he made me "patter" the spinning sequence although I reminded him I was not a squadron QFI. All went as per text book - boring! He then asked whether I had tried an inverted spin; I pointed out that the manoeuvre was prohibted in AMFOs and in the Pilots Notes (I think). His attitude was that such pettifogging restrictions did not apply to Aces from CFS Examining Wing. I had signed the 700 as Captain (although I was a Flt Lt and he a Wg Cdr) and I regret that I weakened and let him talk me through a normal spin and a recovery during which the pole was held hard against the instrument panel after the spinning had stopped. Brutal, deliberate mishandling. The aircraft faffed and juddered around a bit and then entered a quite gentle inverted spin, recogniseable only by the quite high nose position and some tolerable negative 'g'. He then told me to recover and I centralised the rudder and started to move the stick firmly and progressively back. All hell broke loose! The negative 'g' and I hit the roof, IAS started to build up rapidly and I started to "red out". There was a strangled grunt of "I have control" and some seconds later I recovered consciousness. We were well below 5,000 ft and one engine was out. Presumably the inverted spiral (for that was what we had got into ) had exhausted the negative 'g' trap in the fuel system. A few more seconds and we would have lost both engines. Well my stock of "the Right Stuff" was limited (I was never test pilot material) so I was a bit shaken and bloody angry. I relit the engine and we flew back to Abu Sueir in a strained silence. On landing I loudly called for Chiefy and grounded the aircraft for a stress check (the accelerometer was showing some horrendous figure). THe aircraft (almost brand new) was bent, but acceptable by MEAF standards. It never flew nicely again. God save us all from "experts".

17th May 2005, 05:45
Henry Crun mentioned a book listing all the RAF losses from 1945 onwards. It is an excellent reference book for checking one’s memory. Called “Broken Wings” it is published by Air Britain, written by James J Halley MBE and has an ISBN of 0815302904.

Looking quickly before leaving for work BEagle, I saw that on the 12th Feb 1954 there were two T7s (VW430 and WH244) lost at Merryfield (from 209 AFS in the book not 208??) both of which flew into the ground trying to land in poor wx. The same day an F4, VT313, was written off at W Zoyland on a wheels up landing. I couldn’t see any more multi accident days near Merryfield that year but will double check when next home.

I did see that 73 Sqn managed to lose six Venoms in one day just before Christmas 54 in Iraq !

The losses in the post war years were amazing – quoting from Broken Wings….

1945 592 a/c lost 638 fatalities
1946 1014 677
1947 420 176
1948 424 205
1949 438 224
1950 380 238
1951 490 280
1952 507 318
1953 483 333
1954 452 283
1955 305 182
1956 270 150
1957 233 139
1958 128 87
1959 102 59
1960 80 46
1961 74 55
1962 68 50
1963 60 41
1964 62 33
1965 46 71
1966 62 33
1967 60 60
1968 51 43
1969 31 22
1970 36 25
1971 40 72

henry crun
17th May 2005, 08:10
While some of those figures were undoubtably horrendous, perhaps many these days do not know that in the early to mid 1950's the RAF strength was, I have read, just over 6,000 aircraft.

17th May 2005, 08:17
Now it is what? At a guess about 500-600?:mad:

17th May 2005, 09:28
Reading the latest posts, it's staggering to learn that the average annual losses in the early fifties were not significantly less than today's total strength!

Tim Mills
17th May 2005, 11:55
Sorry breakwell, I only have 654 in my log book, I imagine it was WK654. The next time I flew it I only entered it as X, no doubt its sqadron letter. I think it was really intended as the target tug for 29 Javelin squadron, though I don't remember any air to air firing going on then, which is no doubt why NEAF had forgotten about it till I was idiot enough to remind them, instead of just asking the squadron boss, as I had before, while doing my day job on Canberras!

Flatus Veteranus
17th May 2005, 13:22
The sudden reduction in Cat 5s and fatalities from 1957 onwards probably reflects the malign results of the Duncan Sandys white paper of about 1956. Fighter and FGA squadrons were drastically cut back. Kemble filled up with Hunters of various marks awaiting break-up. Thta was when the "real" RAF died.

17th May 2005, 13:29
How very true, FV!

I can just remember seeing all the contrails of the south-west one summer ('55 or '56, I guess) and being told that those were being made by "RAF fighters on exercise" by the late John Steele. Another formative event which led to me joining the mob 12 years later, I guess.

The 'sound of freedom' was much in evidence back then - how lucky you were!

Pontius Navigator
17th May 2005, 18:02
The story about life expectancy earlier was repeated to us at nav school. And it came to pass.

One of the first to go was in a Vulcan, one of the first Mk 2s to crash in '64. Then we had the usual Canberra practice asymetric - the Vulcan was practice asymetric too.

By the time the 38/16 point arrived we had lost half.

Then at the home of air defence, when we lost an F3 we were all shocked to the core as it had been like an airliner up until then. Probably flew like one too :D

Flatus Veteranus
17th May 2005, 18:28
I'll drink to that, BEags! By "real" RAF I do not just mean the atmosphere of a very high class flying club (which was certainly true overseas), but ranks and responsibilities. 208 had a UE of 16 x F8/FR9s + 2 X T7s. There were about 180 NCOs and other ranks and 22 pilots - all officers by my time, but there was only one Sqn Ldr, the boss; three Flt Lts (two flight commanders and the PAI) who were second tourists. The rest were first tour FG Offs. There was a Fg Off Eng O and a Fg Off Adj. Most of the officers had sections of airmen to look after, the Flt Cdrs split the squadron in half for command and disciplinary purposes, and the Eng O had technical control of the rectification team and second line. And it all worked fine. The rectification team used to work their bollocks off for the days and nights leading up to a major exercise and then used to disappear and get pi$$ed. This was an accepted fact of life and no one turned a hair. They were also sheltered (unofficially) from guard duties which everyone else had to do (there was a real terrorist threat). I still meet some of them at the annual all ranks reunion in a Soho pub. Periodically a pair or section of aircraft were detached elsewhere in the ME to do some recce skulduggery. This was an opportunity for a young Fg Off to shine as a Det Cdr in command of a pig-load of blokes and a spares pack-up. No news was good news!

Conversion to the Hunter (after my time) was not done on the squadron as it should have been. A staff officer at Fighter Command was told to pick himself a squadron and work it up at Tangmere. In 1957 he had the pick of all the squadrons disbanding, and inevitably his pick consisted almost entirely of ex-flight commanders and PAIs. They staged through Malta on their way to Nicosia and picked up the standard and the silver and the Meatboxes were disbanded. Predictably, the new squadron, all ex-chiefs and no indians, went pear-shaped and were not a very happy bunch of bunnies, we were told.

And then the V Force started to impact on ranks and responsibilities and inflation went mad. I do not knock the Vs, because they did much to introduce professionalism into the Service (a word I swear we never used in the '50s!). But it was the end of gracious living. No more working MEAF hours (0700 - 1300) on Malta in the winter!.

Pontius Navigator
17th May 2005, 19:57
Flatus Veteranus,

You had Eng O's on the 50s?

I remember we had the STO - Station Technical Officer, a sqn ldr, responsible for the entire Tech org at Hullavington in '62 before the Binbrook system became all pervasive. Then there was that hybrid animal the Eng Wg Admin Officer, an aircrew sqn ldr.

I remember the face, if not the name, of the superannuated pilot at Waddo.

My first sqn, 12(B) Sqn had one wg cdr and one sqn ldr - OC A Flight. The boss thought the (B) stood for B Flight and had to be corrected. I got an email from him only last week; bet he doesn't remember that though.

henry crun
17th May 2005, 22:11
I do not remember 29 having its own engineering officer, but that might be due to faulty memory.

At Tangmere we did have a permanent RR engineering rep to look after the engine side of things.
Was this common on other stations ?

Wagga Jay by name, and he lived in the mess.

18th May 2005, 01:01
The door of one of the Mess Rooms at either Linton or Manby (?) was marked 'Rolls-Royce Representative'. Seem to recall it was available as required, rather than permanently occupied.

Pontius Navigator
18th May 2005, 05:19
Most of the manufacturer's reps were highly visible and great guys. I think it was Frank Waddington who was Mr Vulcan and guess where.

They were the real experts and not car show room mechs.

henry crun
18th May 2005, 07:59
I agree with that Pontius Navigator, Wagga was a top bloke.

Mind you, he did go ballistic once when he found out the hooligans on 1 squadron had been concealing the fact that they were operating one of their Meteor 8's at 200 rpm over the top limit (14,750) because it was going like shite off a hot shovel and the autumn exercise was approaching. :D

18th May 2005, 08:23
Some Meteor VIIIs mixed it with MiG-15s

Extract from "Escape from North Korea" by Ron Guthrie

Silver trails of vapour in the placid morning sky define the passage of eight Meteor jet fighters along a patrol line adjacent to the Yalu River. This infamous segment of North Korean airspace, so frequently the playground of predatory Russian fighters, has earned the title of 'MiG Alley'. In two flights of four, the RAAF fighters, well-spaced in battle formation, cruise at a steady 39,000 feet. Each pilot's head swivels urgently as he seeks to cover his companions against intruders. The peaceful Korean sky endures its torment from the strident banshee wailings of sixteen Derwent jet engines whilst the contrasting quiet of the cockpits is broken only by occasional business-like commands from the leader.

Five thousand feet below, the second flight of eight Meteors executes a parallel path against a background of deceptively peaceful Korean and Manchurian landscape - sweeping endlessly away to the north. Presiding watchfully over this orderly scenario, the sun's fiery orb glows in high elevation. Suddenly this great orange mass, as though conspiring against the Australian pilots, assumes a sinister visage. Disgorging from its massive furnace there slides an avalanche of silver spears in pairs, belching 37mm and 23mm cannon shells with menacing accuracy.

A fateful date emblazoned forever on Ron Guthrie's memory is 29 August 1951!

Suddenly I am startled by white-hot tracers streaming over and under my left wing like glowing pingpong balls. I throw my Meteor into a hard lefthand turn and press the 'mike' button to call a 'break' to the others in my flight. Too late! I have been hit behind the cockpit and my radio is useless. I am only talking to myself as I call “Anzac Item - break left - tracers!"

Now, two Russian MiG-15 jet fighters shoot past my nose and I instinctively turn back sharply to the right hoping to get one of them in my sights. Through the illuminated graticule of the gunsight, I can see a red star on a silver fuselage and the pilot’s head in the cockpit. I quickly adjust the gunsight control to correct for a retreating target as my finger curls over the trigger of my four 20 mm cannons. The guns rattle. I am gratified and excited as pieces fly off the enemy aircraft which now rolls to the inverted position and dives out of sight.

At this very instant I feel as though a load of bricks has fallen on to the rear end of my aircraft, which now shakes convulsively. Explosive shells from another MiG have destroyed my Meteor’s tail.

My aircraft - at this stage merely an uncontrollable mass of 'MiG meat' - begins to snap roll repeatedly. In shock, I prepare to make my first exit in a Martin Baker ejection-seat - at this great height and over enemy territory! I realise my guns are still firing and release the trigger.

The vibrating instrument panel catches my attention and two facts remain in my memory. The clock is reading six minutes past ten and the Mach meter - my gauge of speed registers 0.84. As the speed of the dive increases beyond eighty-four per cent of the speed of sound the aircraft begins to shudder in compressibility It continues to roll.

Ron urgently grasped and pulled the canopy jettison handle. In an instant, a gigantic roar announced that his private cocoon had become part of the frigid swirling air mass into which he was about to plunge. Taking a two-handed grip on the ejection-seat loop handle above his head, he waited for the aircraft to finish its roll and on reaching the upright position pulled firmly on the control in order to fire himself out of the cockpit. Nothing happened! Distressing thoughts added their burden to the alarming cacophony of the 600 miles per hour air blast as he awaited the completion of another rotation. Surely the ejection-seat firing mechanism was not going to malfunction in this moment of desperate need. He repeated the process and was shocked as the mechanism failed once again! Then he discovered that his arms were being obstructed in their downward motion by the pistol holster under his right elbow and a Red Cross pack on his left side. Obviously this had to explain the dilemma. The third time around, with arms spread wide he made a final frantic effort. The altimeter needles were unwinding below 39,000 feet as a startling explosion produced an immense upward thrust out of the cockpit. The experience seemed momentary as he now lost consciousness.

Part 2 tomorrow.

18th May 2005, 11:21
"There I was minding my own business, when I heard Dewdrop One and Two calling Mayday, no fuel, engine gone, pulling up, bailing out - just like that - dead nonchalant, hotly followed by Three. Four(Kurt Curtis) just made it into Tangers. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse I heard the photographic Meteor NF14 followed by a photographic Vamp T11(Pat Swaffer I believe) - doing the same thing!! They'd got caugt out by weather at Odiham after a photo session."

Spoke to Pat Swoffer yesterday at Phil Phillips (ex Staish Kemble) memorial do. He confirmed it was him. Following a number of injury generating attempted bailouts from non Martin Baker Vampire T11, he had worked out his own procedure - trim full forward, roll inverted, jettison canopy, release harness and let go of stick. He said it worked a treat for both sides - 'like a cork from a bottle'.

Flatus Veteranus
18th May 2005, 19:34
Pontius Nav

We probably had our own Eng O because we were established as a fully independent, mobile squadron. We were not "winged up" because for most of my time we were the only squadron on the station. We also had a complement of clerks, cooks, medical orderlies and batmen/waiters who were detached formally to the Admin Wing of our host station. But they used to parade with us.

Of the two Eng Os in my time, the first was a National Serviceman with a shiny degree from a fancy university. He knew nothing about practical engineering and management. The "old sweats" just ignored him. His replacement was an ex-WO on his first commissioned tour. He had been all through the Western Desert campaign of WW2 and knew what it was all about. Aircraft availability doubled immediately and kept on rising. He was in his forties and we all revered him. "Alf" Button went on to become a Sqn Ldr Eng O on a V station I believe.

Most of the groundcrew were national servicemen and, although they were keen and cheerful enough, their length of service did not allow them to become usefully skilled tradesmen. All they did was to fetch and carry for the few regulars who did most of the work. This needs to be remembered when the latest yobbery outrage leads to demands to "bring back national service". It may have done the conscripts some good, but it pulled down the regular service.

The only disciplinary problems in difficult conditions (people did whole unaccompanied tours in the cage) seemed to be in the local Rockape squadron, with whom we waged a continual war of attrition.

Pontius Navigator
18th May 2005, 19:59
FV, I wasn't saying you didn't have an engineer, I was suggesting he may have been a Technical Officer, trained in Tech Training Command as a technical school. I thought engineering wasn't invented till later :D

Please tell me if I am talking cojohns

Flatus Veteranus
19th May 2005, 17:21
Pontius Nav

You may well be right. My memory is getting a bit dim, but I think we called him the Eng O. I cannot remember what training the graduate NS Eng/Tech officers did - probably not much.

Apart from 208 at Abu Sueir we had the Eng and Admin staffs of HQ MEAF. and all the bean counters, who were mainly civil servants who had been stuffed into uniform because the Canal Zone was on active service. I don't think that HQ 205 Gp at Fayid had much of an Eng Staff. So AO Eng and his staff took an unduly close interest in what was going on in our hangar. Our backlog of mods built up to such an extent that AO Eng eventually ordered that all backlogs would be cleared on the next inspection. Aircraft disappeared on "Minors" for months.

20th May 2005, 00:59
Ron Guthrie has just ejected from his Meteor 8.

Part 2

"My awareness returned some seconds later but I had a light-headed feeling that this was not really happening. Perhaps it was lack of oxygen or maybe it was shock, however it all seemed quite unreal, as in a half dream. I tumbled and swayed until eventually the ejection-seat's little drogue parachute in full deployment steadied the descent. I could not breathe! This situation was quickly fixed by repositioning the goggles away from my mouth and lifting the oxygen mask from where it had slipped to my throat. I was relieved to feel the portable oxygen puffing onto my face."

The sensation was odd as he just sat there strapped to the ejection-seat, feeling quite stationary and quite detached, secured to his mechanical throne in space with no apparent means of support and no indications of motion. He was in a New World that was only half-real. The complete lack of noise was quite uncanny in its contrast with the clamour which had so recently conditioned his senses. Gone were the sounds of combat, followed so rapidly by the ejection-seat explosion intermingled with the overwhelming roar of a 600 mph slipstream. Ron's personal segment of Korean sky, so recently a noisy battleground, was now a quiet and peaceful arena bereft of aircraft, friend and foe.

The silent, almost motionless experience seemed to invite the frigid atmosphere to ravage and assault his body and mind. Ron knew the temperature would be approximately -56C but surprisingly he was not unduly disturbed by the cold in spite of being lightly dressed in nothing more than a normal cotton flying suit on top of summer underwear.

Gradually beginning to think and take stock, he was forced to confront the shocking reality of this new situation. He had been suddenly re-born as a pilot without a plane - a man without a home - a human without his friends. The perils of this situation became more obvious with each minute. The only option acceptable to Ron, on first consideration, was the avoidance of capture by the North Koreans. He had learned too much from the intelligence officers - anything but that! From this great height he could possibly drift seawards during the long descent and survive for some time in his dinghy thereby creating the opportunity for a recovery effort by the Air/Sea Rescue aircraft. With this plan in mind he unlocked the ejection _seat harness and kicked. The seat and its small drogue chute fell away. Then a sharp pull on the ripcord handle produced a welcome jerk as the beautiful Irvin parachute, blossoming out above, stabilised Ron in a quiet and peaceful descent.

"It then became apparent that the immensely forceful airflow as I left the cockpit had ripped the chamois gloves from my hands and the knee pockets off my flying suit. Missing contents included spare socks and pistol ammunition. Obviously I had been lucky with regard to the oxygen-mask and goggles, which had merely been displaced. No doubt this was one of the benefits of the ejection-seat head-protection blind which had been drawn down in front of my face during propulsion into that violent airflow.

Looking down between my legs I was surprised to see another parachute. For a moment it seemed I had company -perhaps another unfortunate member of my flight, or hopefully a MiG pilot Then it became apparent this was my own ejection-seat, still under the control of its small drogue 'chute."

Endeavouring to guide himself towards an ocean landing, Ron pulled down on one side of the canopy shrouds in the hope of producing some directional control. This had the unexpected and quite alarming effect of spilling the 'chute into a collapsed and ineffectual condition. Suddenly he was in a sickening descent with the parachute flapping above. Some anxious moments passed before the 'umbrella' restored its shape and its life-preserving function. Vowing he would not try that again, Ron became resigned to abandoning the possibility of a sea voyage in the little inflatable rubber raft, now quite useless in its attachment to his harness. There would be no encounter with 'Dumbo' - the USAF Air/Sea Rescue amphibian aircraft. Perhaps this had been a futile hope anyway, as he had no signalling beacon. The elements would decree the 'where and when' of touchdown on enemy soil.

"Descending through the air seven miles above the countryside, my thoughts now turn to home. How will my mother bear the shocking news? Since her divorce she does not even have the support of a husband and the loss of my only sister Cecile during her honeymoon on the Lane Cove River in Sydney in 1945 will now come back to haunt my poor mother!

I hope my squadron mates are all returning safely to Kimpo. There had been a lot of MiGs spearing through our formation during that sudden attack.

The Korean countryside far below looks more hostile with every minute of the descent. What will be waiting for me down there? I am probably too far north for any chance of a helicopter rescue.

The thought of falling into the hands of North Koreans fills me with anxiety. Our intelligence briefings have been most discouraging in this regard The Geneva Convention will mean nothing. Harsh treatment will be guaranteed The possibility of being shot on sight by their mihtary forces is a big worry."

Ron was soon in the hands of a viciously cruel enemy and began over 2 years of incredible privations to the very edges of human survival during which time he was posted as missing in action until September 1953 when he was freed during a prisoner exchange.

Ron became a flying instructor, retired as a Sqn Ldr in 1980 after 37 years of RAAF service.

20th May 2005, 22:26
Those who might be wondering what happened to Clementine's companion 'Sir Winston' (Meteor F8 VZ467) will perhaps be pleased to learn that the a/c is still airworthy. Repainted in RAAF markings, it is now based in New South Wales as part of the Temora Aviation Museum fleet.

21st May 2005, 08:14

Did you miss the earlier request about when Puddy Catt departed the fix?


henry crun
21st May 2005, 08:33
Thanks for the link GeeRam, it is a long time since I have heard that original Blue Note.

I can still remember quite vividly the first time I strapped on a mk8 at APS Acklington.
I had about 100 hours on Meteors by then but it was the first time in an ejector seat.

I flew around on my sector recce half afraid the bloody thing would go off uncommanded. :)

21st May 2005, 08:54
half afraid the bloody thing would go off uncommanded

As an ATC cadet I used to spend some weekends helping out at 614 squadron (Aux) refuelling 15 Vampires and a Meteor 7.

They also had one hangar queen, a Meteor 8 which no-one would fly because they were scared of the ejector seat.

21st May 2005, 10:28
Sorry, grobace, I don't know when Puddy slipped the surly bonds. I only heard from someone else (can't remember who it was).

For those who never met him, Puddy was the spitting image of Gert Frobe (the German in 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machine'), with a rich British voice and a wonderful fighter pilot sense of humour. One of his favourite dining-in night tricks was to pinch a soda syphon and stuff it inside his voluminous mess kit trousers, wedged under his ample gut, with the end just hidden behind his fly. He would then engage some unsuspecting wheel in conversation, before saying "Excuse me old boy, must have a leak" before squeezing the trigger through his trouser pocket. The resulting sudden jet from his nether regions would usually electrify his victim; being the gent he was though, he never did his party trick in front of a WRAF.

27th May 2005, 16:50
Very belatedly stumbled on this thread and have thoroughly enjoyed it. As a 16ish year old CCF cadet, I got a ride in the T7 at Farnborough with the late Neil Williams. Must have been about 1962. Jet jaunts were fairly rare for sprogs then, and after all the "stunting and twirling", it was an influence on my later embarking on a stunning military career.

Reading the Korean contribution reminded me of meeting Oelof Bergh at Mountbatten (during a wet and windy survival interlude.) By his and other accounts, he was less than a model prisoner of the North after attack/reattack on their ground pounders and picking up ricochets leading to jumping out. Most of his time was spent in solitary, as apparently each time they let him out, he bashed some more guards. Anyone else remember him? He could sure put them away.

I seem to recall the OIC ground crew was referred to as the Sqn Technical Officer. My old man was just such a one on 234 at Geilers.

31st May 2005, 16:54
Meteor Eject

Managed to get the book via the local library, a very enjoyable read, indicative of a very different attitude to life than we're obliged to live in nowadays. Well done to Nick Carter.

Are there any more books of such good standing (ie appreciated by others who were there) of post WWII flying? Quite enjoyed Bob Prests 'Phantom', and Begs Bendell (forgive me can't remember his name but enjoyed the book something like 'But not in Anger')

Can't wait to see if a book is published based on all the posts in the 'Did You Fly The Vulcan?' thread.

henry crun
31st May 2005, 21:37
TD&H: You could try Jet Jockeys by Peter Cahill.
It is mostly about the 1950's and what it was like to fly the aircraft of that era by the pilots who flew them.

It covers most marks of Meteor, Vampire, Venom, Sabre, Swift, Hunter, and Javelin.

2nd Jun 2005, 22:01
TD & H

Some good post war flying books besides the ones you mention

Last of the Lightnings by Ian Black - great text and photography

Think Like a Bird by Alex Kimbell - Beaver flying in the Royal Army

Warthog - Flying the A-10 in the Gulf War by Smallwood

Strike Eagle: Flying the F-15E in the Gulf War by Smallwood

Scream of Eagles by Robert Wilcox - the setting up of the Top Gun program

Wings of Fury by Wilcox - setting up of Red Flag, Aggressors and AIMEVAL/ACEVAL

Highly recommend Jet Jockeys that someone else has mentioned.


Ranger One
3rd Jun 2005, 02:43
Very interesting thread... missed it first time around.

Chimbu chuckles:

They finally discovered that chaps over a certain height had a hip to knee measurement that precluded the knees passing behind the canopy bow.

They measured everyone and those to tall were posted to Vampires where, due to a lack of said expulsive device, no similar problem existed.

Now maybe my memory is failing me, perhaps someone can confirm or deny, but I thought it was precisely the reverse; long-legged chaps were unable to bang out of the Vampire safely, and were sent to the roomier Meteor?


henry crun
3rd Jun 2005, 03:59
Ranger One: That sounds more likely.
Not that it would have made any difference in the Meteor 4, 7, 11, 12, 13, or 14.

Can anyone ( FV ? ) recall when measuring was introduced.
I think it must have been post 1960 late in the life of the T11.

3rd Jun 2005, 08:07
It is straining the old grey matter without my log books but I seem to remember at the end of FTS going to Driffield to be measured and being wound up and then down in an ejection seat rig. That would have been in 1952. I was told that I would not be able to fly a Canberra, didn't want to as it happened, much happier as a steely eyed killer with Meteor,Vampire and Sabre---then came the Old Grey Lady.

6th Jun 2005, 16:22
Sorry to be so late with this, but I've had to dig out the statistics.

The total RAF losses for 1952 were:

18 Ansons
1 Athena
22 Austers
1 Balliol
1 Beaufighter
9 Brigands
1 Buckmaster
9 Canberras
15 Chipmunks
1 Dakota
1 Dragonfly
1 Halifax
37 Harvards
3 Hastings
10 Hornets
6 Lancasters
6 Lincolns
1 Martinet
150 Meteors
32 Mosquitos
21 Oxfords
9 Prentices
5 Proctors
1 Sabre
2 Shackletons
7 Spitfires
1 Sunderland
1 Sycamore
5 Tempests
20 Tiger Moths
11 Valettas
82 Vampires
2 Varsities
1 Venom
1 Washington
15 Wellingtons

Total 505 aircraft.

Casualties were 315 killed plus 6 killed on the ground.

What I find astonishing is the sheer variety of aircraft that were operated in those days. And, of course, the figures don't include Army and Navy losses.

Onan the Clumsy
6th Jun 2005, 16:24
I know that list means real people died, and I'd like to respect that, but still... look at the list of airframes :{

6th Jun 2005, 17:24

That is incredible, 150 Meteors and 82 Vampires!

List DOES include Army BTW, the 22 Austers listed will more than likely have been flown by Army pilots, the AAC wasn't formed until 1957.

Certainly were dangerous times.

7th Jun 2005, 10:15
will more than likely have been flown by Army pilots ... up to a point yes, as the majority of Air Observation Post (AOP) Sqns' oilots and observers were army. Not all, and of course they were still RAF (or RAuxAF) Sqns, with appropriate badges. IIRC the Army pilots wore RAF wings to dsitinguish them from glider pilots; Glider Pilot Regiment wings were the only Army wings at the time, until the AAC adopted them in 1957.

In 1952, the AOP Sqns in existence were 651, 652, 656, 657, 660-4 and the delightfully numbered 666. 661-6 were (in 1952) in the RAuxAF and were disbanded in 1957 on the formation of the AAC. 652 and 656 were also training sqns and had some Tiger Moths, but can't find out if that was still so in 1952 - so the Army pilots could have been responsible for some of the Tigers too!

Sorry for the thread creep, but I didn't start it!

7th Jun 2005, 13:10
With accident rates like that no wonder mummy was not too happy about me signing on as a pilot in 1955!

23rd Dec 2005, 21:25
What a fascinating thread to have belatedly stumbled across!

I have not often come across reference to Merrifield but I also spent a lot of my formative years close to that place.

In another life I worked on farms in that area. There were places where it was almost easier to pick up pieces of bent and corroded aluminium and thick plexiglass than it was to pick up the potatoes!

Local legend appears to be confirmed by this thread that the aircraft were caught out by wx, tried and failed at Weston Zoyland and returned to the Merrifield area. The legend says that lights from an intensive chicken unit at Puckington or Isle Abbots were then mistaken for the runway lights at Merrifield and they just ploughed in.

Just one question for Shacks though: I only ever remember seeing two RAF gravestones in Ilton churchyard and I knew it pretty well. Where was the overspill burial?

So BEagle, YOU and your mate were personally responsible for the stink that used to hang over Merrifield and Ilton were you? You have a lot to answer for! I also remember the grass drying unit there; I think it was probably owned by John D was it not, who also farmed at Dowlish?

I just think it (and many others) must have been amazing places ten years or so prior to your tenure, with the temporary American cities, and busy aerial activity.

23rd Dec 2005, 21:46
No, my late father and his business partner actually owned the grass drying business at Merryfield! As well as the ones at Weston Zoyland, Dunkeswell and Lulsgate.

The smell which used to hang over Ilton was originally due to broiler chickens - but later when the old Officers' Mess site was sold we bought it and kept up to 3000 pigs in it. Some said that this improved the standard of the place! Tried for years to sell the land for building, but the planning authorities wouldn't hear of it! Finally successful in around 1972 - when they came round to see whether there was indeed any 'agricultural odour' affecting the village we arranged for the slurry tank to be stirred up just before they arrived. Sorry about that!

The only Meteor prang I remember was a RN target tower which came to grief on the threshold of 26 - but pointing East! No-one was hurt in that one.

I don't think that the large chicken farm at Isle Abbots was built until long after the 1950s?

Farmers I remember were Dick Lucas and Morley Goodland. Who was John F?

John Farley
24th Dec 2005, 17:08
Or John D even

24th Dec 2005, 20:54
Replied via PM.

Thanks John. I think John F. was someone else!

25th Dec 2005, 20:28
:( My flying instructor at Church Fenton was a hairy arsed Master Pilot who had been a Meatbox instructor at Driffield. Indeed the aircraft was a death machine. A funeral a week just at Driffield. Not to mention the assymetric problem, there were the dingies that inflated on take off pushing the stick fwd and thus causing the plane to crash. That is why flying suits have a knife (or did) to stab the inflating dinghy. Also there were the instrument take offs that didnt account for acceleration error so there were many holes on the side of the runway - cant remember which side. Truly a real killer plane not helped by the CO at the time encourging pilots to do low level barrel rolls which caused a few fatalities. Thank god I never trained on them. I did my training after they had banned solo spinning and practice turnbacks after a simulated engine failure which had claimed a few lives on JP's.
Gosh how safety has improved since the 50's, 60's.

Tim Mills
26th Dec 2005, 03:48
Only just found this thread again, still fascinating, particularly the entirely understandable attitude of those who trained after the Meteor era, and consider them, and the Canberra, to be death traps. And the stats produced by Schiller would tend to support that view; incredible even when taken in the 1952 context, when things did seem to be tentpegging with monotonous regularity.

But I'm sure that those of us lucky enough to train on, and subsequently fly both those types in squadron service, didn't think of it like that. There were an awful number of aeroplanes about in those days, and an awful lot of pilots being trained, so percentagewise, though still quite unacceptable by todays standards, it did not appear to us as horrifying as it does today.

I never instructed on the Meteor or Canberra, but have done the odd check out ride in the back of the 7 and right hand seat of a T4 Canberra. My QFIing was done on the Vamp T11, JP and Chipmunk, and of all of them I found the JP3 with a slow student, short runway, constant power/variable noise Viper, teaching roller landings, to be the most worrying.

John Blakeley
26th Dec 2005, 09:36
Picking up from the earlier posts on this page I recently did some research on RAF accident rates (excluding combat losses) from Sep 1945 to end 2004 - they make interesting reading (my figure for 1952 is 2 out from Schiller - possibly because a couple were recategorised). These are the figures:

Year Number of Aircraft
Lost – Cat 3 + Fatalities

1945 592 638
1946 1014 677
1947 420 176
1948 424 205
1949 438 224
1950 380 238
1951 490 280
1952 507 318
1953 483 333
1954 452 283
1955 305 182
1956 270 150
1957 233 139
1958 128 87
1959 102 59
1960 80 46
1961 74 55
1962 68 50
1963 60 41
1964 62 33
1965 46 71
1966 62 33
1967 60 60
1968 51 43
1969 31 22
1970 36 25
1971 40 72
1972 28 22
1973 30 21
1974 16 5
1975 21 17
1976 33 20
1977 14 7
1978 25 27
1979 27 13
1980 24 13
1981 26 7
1982 35 10
1983 26 19
1984 23 4
1985 19 9
1986 19 10
1987 20 17
1988 19 18
1989 17 9
1990* 29 19
1991* 27 15
1992* 17 8
1993* 17 13
1994* 17 34
1995* 13 9
1996* 21 2
1997* 12 3
1998* 11 3
1999* 18 6
2000* 9 1
2001* 12 4
2002* 9 3
2003* 6 11
2004* 6 13

7554 4928

The figures from 1990* onwards are from the Defence Statistical Agency and include all military flying accidents - RAF, RN, Army and DPA.

With something like 70% of the accidents (RAF only) in the first 10 years and only 1.5% (all services) in the last 10 years you can see the massive change. The casualty figures are even better - 1.1% in the past 10 years - perhaps reflecting even more glory on Martin Baker!

!946 was certainly a bad year for Boards of Inquiries but with 2-3 aircrew deaths for every flying day (50 weeks times 5 days) it is amazing that the system seemed to cope with such losses without massive public criticism - but this is before my time - so perhaps there was.

gareth herts
27th Dec 2005, 22:42
This has been a fascinating thread to trawl through as a "layman" and rather co-incidentally I today inherited a copy of Pilots Notes for Meteor 3 (2nd Ed A.P.2210C-P.N and dated March 1949) and a copy of the RAF Pilots Notes General (3rd Ed A.P.2095 and Dated May 1946).

My Uncle, who sadly passed away earlier this year, worked on Meteors at Duxford for his National Service and my father has kindly ensured that these, along with some other aviation bits and pieces have been kept for me.

They too make for fascinating reading and I'm interested to know just how long such Pilots Notes were produced for?

Presumably, as aircraft became more complex a 36 page booklet ceased to suffice, even as a handy checklist for aircrew. Or perhaps I'm completely wrong!

Anyway, hope everyone is having a good Christmas and enjoys and happy new year.


Pontius Navigator
28th Dec 2005, 08:12
On the assymetric killing during training, we had a fatal in 1962 at Hullavington on the Valetta. Although we were Flying Trainng Command the sortie was a Transport Command check. Single engine failure after take-off and one was feathered.

I am not sure if the live engine was shut down or the aircraft simply spun on its live engine. Either way it was a vertical desecnt from 1200 feet into Badminton.

It would be interesting to see how many of the crashes from 1945 could be attributed to training for emergencies compared with actual emergencies or even the incident of the emergencies.

I don't recall any classic Vulcan true assymetric emergencies leading to a safe landing - or crash on the airfield even. Most were the shut down of one engine as a precaution and at least one crashes war due to recovery from a practise assymetric.

28th Dec 2005, 08:57
There was very nearly a fatal at Scampton when a USAF exchange office decided to attempt a 2-engine simulated asymmetric overshoot from below VCH...... They went sideways across the aerodrome until the other engines spooled up.

It was explained to us at our UAS (back in the days when real RAF QFIs imparted wisdom to youngsters during UAS training nights, rather than relying upon the "Janet and John Go Flying" books of later years), that the reason for many crashes in the Meatbox/Vampire era was due to acceleration errors affecting their steam-driven artificial horizons. These gave a false pitch up and roll right indication, hence Meteor-shaped holes appeared off the left hand side of many runways at the departure end. To compensate, 'pendulous vanes' were fitted to the air-driven gyro suspension, these opened under acceleration and applied corrective air jet forces to eliminate the 'Meteor hole' effect. "About the only time pilots were glad to have the company of pendulous veins (or rather, vanes)" quipped the CFI!

Asymmetric practice probably killed more people than actual asymmetric landings; I did 3 trips in the back of Meteor T7 'Clementine' at Brawdy in the mid-70s (being shot at by fellow Hunter students), and on each occasion a very positive asymmetric brief was given. For one pilot, with rather little legs, this included assisting him with full rudder as called. But back in the 1950s, things weren't quite so cautious, by all accounts.

John Farley
28th Dec 2005, 11:56
946 was certainly a bad year for Boards of Inquiries but with 2-3 aircrew deaths for every flying day (50 weeks times 5 days) it is amazing that the system seemed to cope with such losses without massive public criticism - but this is before my time - so perhaps there was.

In the late 40s and even in the 50s I don't think we should underestimate the effect of WWII being just over. Once people stopped trying to kill each other in HUGE numbers all over the world every day life suddenly seemed risk free.

In the RAF in the 50s the trainers were those who had survived the war and the students were those too young to join in the 40s. There was (perhaps understandably) an aircrew culture where everyone tied to show they were better than everybody else - especially the trainers. If a Meteor pilot reckoned he could chop an HP cock during rotation and cope there was a chance that he would inflict such a chop on his studes. It was also a sign of inferiority not to use the normal twin engined threshold speed when landing on one. All this may seem amazing by today's standards but it was accepted (even encouraged?) behaviour at the time.

As for public outcry people also minded their own business in those days.

The news was mainly limited to newspapers and radio. Plus reporters seemed happy to report news rather than to try and make it.

Happy days!.

John Purdey
28th Dec 2005, 14:07
One probable explanation for what seems to have been a pretty relaxed acceptance by the Service of these horrific accident rates is that most/many of the instructers were ex-wartime, as were virtually all of the supervisers, and the wartime accident rates were equally horrific. John Blakely may have the stats, but I seem to recall figures showing that almost half of all a/c and aircrew casualyies during the war were accidental ones. So, as far as the Service was concerned, with the war only five or six years behind it, what had changed?

John Blakeley
28th Dec 2005, 16:39
I am sure both John Farley and John Purdey are spot on with their comments. I have not seen the detailed wartime accident figures but I am certain that I did see a comment that confirms JP's figures that more than half of aircrew casualties were flying accident rather than directly combat related. I seem to recall a couple of films that displayed the characters mentioned by JF - High Flight with Ray Milland in 1956 and a Cranwell based one whose name I cannot recall, and these I am sure influenced my decision to join the RAF - it had been the Navy up to then. I do not recall reading anything about accident rates even though casualties were still in three figures as late as 1957. Fortunately the world of flight safety was made safer by my short-sightedness although I thoroughly enjoyed the Chipmunk at Henlow, but even as an engineer I certainly noticed a difference of aircrew attitude towards the rules and regulations (minimum fuel states, cross-wind limits, etc) in my time as regularly flying JEngO on a Lightning Sqn in the 60s and my return to the flight line as a Phantom SEngO in the 70s.

I would leave it to others to decide which were (or are) the "Happy Days" but one thing that is for sure is that at £50M a "pop" or whatever it turns out to be there will be no place to the Meteor approach to training, as described by JF, on JSF! Perhaps that is also part of the answer - sadly it was not just aircrew lives that were seen as "cheap" in the late 40s/early50s.

Flatus Veteranus
28th Dec 2005, 20:01
"The Johns" (Farley and Purdey) are "spot on". I did the Driffield course in the summer of '51 and then instructed at Middleton ("creamed") in 52/53.

Having done FTS and got my wings on Harvards I found there was a huge change, not only in performance, but in attitudes between FTS at Oakington and the AFS at Driffield. Of course, we "stues" were at first overawed ( I mean sh1t-scared!) by the reputation the Meteor had got itself outside the immediate community. But, once on the course at Driffield, despite the black humour of the Flt Sgt who did the airframe systems in ground school (his every point seemed to be illustrated by the story of some poor sod who had fogotten it and dug himself a deep hole in the terrain), and particularly once we had had our first demo ride in the T7, which was exhilarating in the extreme, we greatly enjoyed the aeroplane and the course. Driffield were operating from Carnaby that summer. The crew room was a tent and this lent a wartime armosphere of informality which was a refreshing blast from the usual FTC bullsh1t

The Meteor was never a dream to fly compared with, say, the Hunter. It was not "viceless" but so long as you obeyed a few simple rules you were OK. Systems were crude but intelligible to technophobes like me who always had troubles with wiggly amps
and complex systems. Flight controls were mechanical and needed a measure of brute force in certain situations. Trimmers were also operated by wires and knobs. The main inadequacies were in the flight instruments in early marks (vacuum driven with narrow toppling limits and extended re-erection times), the lack of any Nav Aid except ground DF stations accessed by VHF, and the lack of an ejection seat in the T7 and the F4, which was used for solo work. There was no pressurisation in the T7 and it was usually, in my memory, u/s in the F4s. With the Mk 16 Economiser system you were then supposed to be limited to 30,000 ft. But you often ignored this limit to get the job done. There were a number of fatalities ascribed to blokes simply forgetting to connect their oxygen hose!

The many accidents due to practising asymmetric overshoots and landings and spinning have been discusssed earlier. It may be true that fewer chaps would have "got the chop" if these manoeuvres had not been practised. Failed engines were a rare event; the Derwents seemed to absorb endless punishment without complaint. In dogfights at high altitude you just jammed the throttles hard against the instrument panel and. if you spared the jpts a glance you were horrified at what you saw. Centrifugal compressors were highly tolerant of ice and fod. As a demo, I believe RR used to empty buckets of ice cubes straight from the fridge into the intakes. There was the odd clunk and puff of steam from the jet pipe. As for spinning, I never heard of anyone getting inadvertently into a spin from a combat manoeuvre. You had to try hard to get into one, and recovery was straightforward if you took the textbook action. If you arsed about you could provoke an inverted spin, and that is how some chaps bought it.

To describe the Meatbox as a "deathtrap" is a gross calumny. I remember my two tours on it with considerable affection. There was an element of macho about it; control forces at high Mach and in asymmetric overshoot were high and its contemporary rival (the Vampire) was regarded with considerable disdain by the Meatbox aviators. "Screaming kiddy-cars" ! The accident rate notoriety probably fed this macho culture. Periodically the press would run a bit of a campaign about it, but it soon petered out. After all, casualties were few compared with the war from which the country had quite recently emerged. Many years later under the 30-year rule some blistering Minutes from Churchill to the S of S were released; but they did not seem to have much impact at the time. The Korean War build-up dictated priorities. Reinforcing the front line No 1, Flight Safety No 2 by a wide margin.

The only sense in which the Meatbox could be described as a deathtrap was the bale-out case in the Mk4s and 7s which had no ejection seat. The party line used to be do not contemplate a bale-out except as a last-ditch option; you would probably impale yourself on the tailplane bullet fairing. Always try to get it onto the ground in a survivable attitude. The Mk 4 cockpit in particular was a fortress with armour plating behind and the four 20mm barrels anchored into the structure either side of the cockpit. We had a student at Middleton forced-land at a bomber base. He did not make the runway and ploughed through the bomb-dump shedding all the airfame as he went until he was left in just the cockpit. He was stunned but OK. Of course you were in real trouble if you ran low on gas at night over somewhere like the desert. This happened to me once or twice in the Middle East- once in a T7 between Akrotiri and El Adem. We were over cloud and called for a Contriolled Descent. El Adem only had a manual D/F and started feeding me reciprocals. When we got in they put 320 gals into the main tanks (capacity 325).

Finally, one has to admit that, at Middleton certainly, there was what would be regarded today as a heavy-drinking culture. Being a "jet-jock" in those days seemed inseparable from being a two-fisted drinker. I remember being "first off" one New year Morning, pitch dark and straight into a 200 ft cloudbase and driving rain. It was 0700 and I had got to bed at about 0300 much the worse for wear. The student never touched the controls on that ride.!

henry crun
28th Dec 2005, 20:58
FV: it wasn't just the 4 and 7 that didn't have a bang seat, none of the N/F versions had it.

I am sure you know that, I just wanted to remind the others who might not be as knowledgeable. :)

29th Dec 2005, 03:46
I don't think it was just a WWII attitude that was the problem. From the autobiog of a pre WWII pilot, IIRC the loss rate was 8% in the early 1930's.

Tim Mills
29th Dec 2005, 03:49
I agree with FV, the Johns have put in a nutshell what I meant in my previous post, and far better than I did. And thank you FV for rebutting the 'death trap' syndrome so eloquently.

I did the Drffield course in early 52, so did not quite overlap with FV, but it was just the same when I was there, though we only used Carnaby for circuits and so on, and I seem to remember one could do VDF QGHs there.

I do remember one of our number managing to overshoot on one having made a mess of his approach, from what should have been an impossible position (too low, slow, full flap?, but I doubt it), he came in looking rather shaken. He was later creamed off to CFS!

I also remember my first low level navex, made the first turning point OK, steep turn onto next heading, what next heading? Compass toppled, found myself again low and fast over York Minster, found Driffield having been like a headless chicken for some time, landed, DCO in the auth book, had a beer, learned from it. And FVs New Years Day adventure reminded me of pairs snake climbs to 30G or so through typical warm front weather after a similar nights over indulgence. Didn't know what 'the leans' was till then, or what it was to put my trust in my pairs leader who had left the bar at the same time as myself!

During my tour at Horsham St Faith, 52-54, I remember five fatals, only one of which, a landing on one (I think after a mech.shut down rather than practice) was due to aircraft problems. Two were collisions, one collected the weight from the flag in the cockpit after breaking too late and underneath during air to air firing, and the other was overexuberence at low level, if I remember. There may have been others, but memory fades.

So, 'death trap' no, and though it did catch the unwary now and again, it was a forgiving and fun to fly aeroplane.

Flatus Veteranus
29th Dec 2005, 13:01
henry crun

I hoped you might pop up and correct my deliberate omission! I hope all's well with you down there? I am saving a bottle of Lindauer Rosé for New Years Eve and will drink to "the Old and Bold". Cheers! - Mike

29th Dec 2005, 16:27
One reason that there was no sustained outcry over the loss rates (aside from the the post-war mentality and the fact that people accepted that flying was dangerous) was that, well into the 1970s, crashes were not officially reported to the media. Some were not reported at all and many were only covered in the Little Snoring Gazette & Informer, after reporter Bloggs saw a column of smoke over the base and called the PR office. Something like that might make the Telegraph on a slow day but not consistently.

At the time, Flight International was compiling accident info from the Little Snoring and other sources, and trying to get the MoD to report rates per 100,000 hours or whatever. The MoD's response was akin to the famous case of Arkell v. Pressdram, but eventually the policy did get changed.

And to link this to another thread - to this day, the F-104 is regarded as a uniquely dangerous machine, but that's because all the losses - at least the German ones - were counted and reported at the time. Not sure whether the Luftwaffe issued press releases, or what, but it happened. But in other places the number of aircraft in service in the first place was secret, and finding out how many had crashed (even an unofficial count) was quite a task.

Flatus Veteranus
29th Dec 2005, 17:33

I think you have got it about right. Isolated jet crashes rarely made the national press; maybe a short paragraph at the bottom of an inside page in the Telegraph on a slow news day. The attitude of the general public was shrug, yaaawn, "dogs bark, ducks quack, jets crash. The pilots are all mad anyway". I do not think the old Air Ministry was generous with press releases, with the result that most people were not aware of what was going on. Which is what their Airships probably wanted. And it was kind to the NoK and others closely involved.

It went pear-shaped on the day the formation from Driffield flew into Flamborough Head. This hit the headlines in the Evening Standard in the early afternoon. There was a dining-in-night that evening and the poor old OO spent the afternoon and evening answering the phone and dealing with the press and anxious relatives and girl-friends (mine included!). The President, if I recall, gave blanket permission for officers to leave the dinner to answer the calls of frantic Mums, Dads and girl-friends. The ironic twist was that the wing-men who "went in" were Netherlands Air Force officers. One randy young sod acquired much merit in the eyes of his colleagues by fielding no less than three calls!

4th Jan 2006, 19:42
Over the holiday I found the following link

http://switchboard.real.com/player/email.html?PV=6.0.12&&title=00031453&link=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.britishpathe.com%2Fimages%2F%2Fpreview %2F00000000%2F00031000%2F00031453.WMV

I hope you can view it.
However it intrigued me, as a pal new of a Wadhurst resident at the time, who said the pilot had been overflying his parents house!

I found very little info, which has intrigued me even further.

All I have found (which I believe to be correct) is: pilot - Lennard Stoat, aged 19, aircraft - Meteor NF12 or 14, possibly WS661. Pilot and nav buried in Wadhurst cemetary.

The Wadhurst Historical Society have dedicated their next meeting at the end of January to this incident (it being its 50th anniversary).

I have been in touch with one of their historians, who gave most of the above info, and they also wish to fill in more detail.

Have not been able to find anything else about this unfortunate crash, but there seems to be plenty about others, eg Milthorpe, Westcliff, Flamborough Head, etc.

When I started, this forum came up early in the search. And after reading all this topic, it would seem that many of its contributors were involved at the time. Any further information would be most welcome. It seems so strange that almost nothing has been heard of this incident, especially as the newsreal of the time covered it.

I must say that until I read this forum topic I had no idea that the post war jet age was so dangerous! Or that the loss of life so great!

henry crun
4th Jan 2006, 20:55
pendrifter: This probably won't tell you anything new; Broken Wings has the following entry.

20.1.65...Meteor NF12...WS661...Unit AWOCU... Wadhurst, Sussex...Hit houses while low flying. 2 fatal in aircraft, 2 fatal on ground.

5th Jan 2006, 10:14
The following text is passed on from my father.
Topic: Meteor Accident Statistics.
"The Driffield story is gruesome. I was on course 1 in 1949. Whilst the 30 students did the ground school the Instructors were getting 10 hours on type: the T7. We did 30 hours each in 6 weeks and three students were killed in this time. The recovery system was primitive. An airman in the home out on the airfield passed bearings to the Tower who controlled the QGH; the let down came in over Flamborough Head and, as the aircraft (in cloud) flew over Carnaby airstrip, the local controller there told Driffield ATC that an aircraft was passing. They gave instructions to descend at 300fpm with bearings given via the homer. All being well one broke cloud at about 300 feet looked for Driffield church on the left and landed straight ahead.
On one day in November I flew 6 sorties, most at 30k to 40k unpressurised and on the sixth I fell asleep; fortunately it was a dual trip and I woke up when the QFI said I had flown through the overhead. My end of course summary shows 24 single engine landings. An airman with a trolley-ac was permanently positioned on the upwind ORP so that we could restart and taxi in after ‘flame-out’ landings! (MODFOs eventually stated that multi-engined aircraft should not be flown ‘flamed-out’ below 4000ft. Very wise, but it took a lot of experience to make that rule). Relighting in the air in the early Marks was exciting as the relight buttons were on the forward lower console on the port side; relighting the starboard engine was hard enough but the port one was a barrel of laughs with ‘fly the aeroplane’ ringing out in your ears. In later marks the relight buttons were repositioned on the HP cock, also as the result of ‘experience’.
On my first tour on Meteor 4’s and then 8’s I did three Committees of Adjustment whilst still a Pilot Officer. One needed a bit of luck as well as skill to survive; with 60 hours on type I was leading a pair and both our radios failed; we only had basic four channel sets. Unfortunately we did not hear the general recall and one can imagine the confusion with us both trying to formate on each other to give hand signals to tell each other that our radios had failed and that we were short of fuel and wanted the other guy to lead him safely down. By the time that was sorted I realised that we were uncertain of our position somewhere over the UK with10/10ths cloud below and about 50gallons a side. I was coming to the conclusion that we might have to bail out (invert, trim forward, mind the intakes, mind the tail) when I saw a tiny hole in the cloud, which exposed an intersection of two runways. With my No 2 in line astern (he had 40 hours on type) we made an extremely rapid descent, got through the hole and with a cloud base of 150ft max and ½ a mile vis attempted a low level circuit. I missed the runway first time but thankfully ATC sent a land rover to the threshold and a corporal, to whom I am eternally indebted, fired off yellow Verey’s. I got in on the second go, on a runway of 1400 yards; as I came to a halt outside ATC my starboard engine stopped for lack of fuel. Parking brake on, I ran upstairs to enquire of my No 2. ‘You lost him on the second pass said a laconic American voice; ‘anyway we closed the airfield ½ an hour ago’. After what seemed like an hour P2 Br……..n rang up to say he had landed at a disused airfield. Flying at about 100ft at 130 knots he had realised he was lined up with an old runway; he dropped everything and managed to stop in time but the brakes were burnt out. Two more minutes on that heading and he would have hit nearby radio masts. A ground party soon brought over some fuel and new brakes, and we were off home when the clag lifted. To allow us to reflect on our sins I got two week-ends orderly officer and the P” a weekend as orderly sergeant; at the very least he should have got a green endorsement. Eventually an Instrument Rating system was introduced but my first tour was nearly over before I took my first IRT.
The later series of Meteors including the modified T7’s had the relight buttons on the HP cocks, which was a great step forward. Later, as a staff QFI at CFS, where the ‘flame-out’ landings were mandatory, I generally relit the dead engine on approach, especially at night on the short runway; that technique provided the Instructor with a margin of safety and also allowed him to demonstrate more effectively to the student the error of his ways.
On my CFS course in 1952 we had, I recall, 14 accidents but nobody seemed to be terribly agitated about the accident rate. The CFI and Examining Wing seemed more interested in examining the extreme aspects of inverted spinning. During the 30 years of flying I only recall one instance of a pilot getting into an inadvertent full spin. To get into an inverted spin on most types required considerable skill and determination to achieve. And yet they persisted until one poor chap suffered significant eye damage at minus 3 ½ g in the back seat of a Wyvern in such a manoeuvre. Needless to say my final night test was a ‘flame-out’ single-engined landing from the back seat on the short runway! I went back to Driffield as a QFI and I remember a particular course with eight students: four were scrubbed: two were killed, both plunging into a field at the beginning of the downwind leg at night; the other two went LMF. Lots of SCT for the staff.
One of the problems in that era was the hostility between Fighter Command and Flying Training Command. Fighter Command would not release their pilots to become QFI’s and FTC would not let any that they did get hold of return to operational squadrons until they had served 4 ½ years as QFI’s. It did get better eventually but not much. Whilst I always felt CFS, and their attitude to front line units, had a lot to answer for. I am the first to admit that I did not realise how much I had to learn about flying until I started to try to teach others.
As for the Meteor it was a great aircraft if treated with the proper respect and the pilots of 77 Squadron RAAF will bear witness to absorb punishment. There was, of course, a Vampire flight on Course 1 at Driffield and aircrew selection reached its peak when it came to selection for the Meteor: ‘Shortest on the left, tallest on the right, in one rank: Size’. I’m glad I was 6ft 2”; I was lucky enough to fly all marks from the 4 to the 14 but they took a terrible toll amongst young pilots.
On a later tour on Swift 7’s we had two Meteor hacks. Our role was test firing Skyflash missiles without warheads at pilotless Fireflies over Cardigan Bay; unfortunately the system was so effective it knocked the targets down almost every time so it was decided that we should use the Meteors as ‘out of range targets’; as Flight Commander I took the first turn accompanied by a young engineer sergeant who wanted to be a pilot. The idea was that the missile would not have the power to reach the target at 4,000 yards. As we heard the missile being launched the Sgt said ‘You look left Sir and I’ll look right’; fortunately the boffins got the maths right. We also used them for target towing in the Far East; as expected they all survived a few ricochets off the flat. Glosters built them to last.
In those balmy days of the early fifties the accident rate was around 10 per 10,000 hours; 25 years later all our efforts at ‘flight safety’ had brought it, for the first time, to marginally lower than 1 per 10,000 hours. At a flight safety meeting in the late 70’s there was much hand-wringing over an increase in the rate to 1.2. I suggested that mathematically it was likely that, having reached 0.925, the rate would rise marginally and I asked, how was it that we were now berating the aircrew and ground crew for accomplishing a rate that, only two years earlier, we were praising them for achieving. The lid of my career was finally nailed down that day; not for nothing was the fifth floor in the MOD known as the ‘Group Captains graveyard’!"
And as a Javelin Survivor.................
"Amend the Flip Cards?
Even with its duplicated hydraulic systems, the Flip Cards for Javelin emergencies always seemed to end with the words ABANDON THE AIRCRAFT! Night fighting often developed into a winding match; Inevitably the slow-speed and stall warners would start up. If you were lucky, you had a pre-warner on board; the Navigator sometimes used to shine a torch across the wing to see if the stall warners were flicking. Concerned navigators would give the pilot their own form of audio warning.
A major problem with the Javelin was the danger of a super stall from which there was supposedly no recovery. A good friend of mine was a Nav in one of the Javelin squadrons, operating out of Waterbeach. His pilot got them into a situation one night, probably close to a super stall, form which there appeared to be no recovery; the pilot told him to eject. Unfortunately, immediately after ejecting his arms began to fail and he suffered, as Hoffnung would have put it, multiple injuries to both limbs.
The following day, when he was recovering in hospital, he was visited by his pilot and his Squadron Commander. The Navigator was incensed to discover that the pilot had regained control of the aircraft immediately after the navigator had ejected. Perhaps, said the CO we should amend the flip cards; before ‘abandon the aircraft’ we should insert ‘invite the Nav to eject’; at last there be a worthwhile role for them.
The Nav in question retired to manage a brewery in East Anglia; fortunately he had no problem in raising his elbows."

5th Jan 2006, 12:10
Henry Crun and Pendrifter,

I presume Henry you had a slip of the pen. The Wadhurst crash was Jan 55.
The local press of the day reported the aircraft had come down from North Luffenham (NF12/14 OCU) to buzz his girlfriend's home (immaterial) and overcooked it. I was on 85 at Malling at the time and my memory tells me it was a bit of a grotty day with rain and very windy. The Station Commander had everyone in a hangar the next day to give us a rant on unauthorised LF. He was quite concerned that the local populace in Wadhurst would think that the Meteor had come from Malling - 15 miles away. I know crash reporting received little notice in those days but the Wadhurst affair did generate headline coverage in the the local and national press.

henry crun
5th Jan 2006, 19:04
Bof: You are right, that was a slip of the pen, the date according to Broken Wings was 20.1.56.

Pendrifter also quotes the Wadhurst Historical Society wishing to commemorate 50th anniversary, which suggest that the 1956 date is correct.

Bof, check your PM's

6th Jan 2006, 14:39
Talking of Meteor stats, low flying, press reaction et al, do any of you old and bold remember the summer of 55 or 56, the case of the Bournemouth Buzzer? The parents of one of the guys on 153 at Malling were on holiday at Bournemouth. So our hero gets into an NF14 and goes down to show the flag. He did it in spades!! Not only did he do a "Hun from the sun" straight down a packed beach a few feet above the water, but he then committed the cardinal sin of turning round and coming back again!! Result - Front page in the Mail or Express, giant picture of two deckchairs framing this side-on image of a Meteor night fighter clearly resplendent in 153's markings smoking down the beach. At the "subsequent Court Martial" Fg Off LP predictably had his tea leaves read and later joined the RCAF!! A bit stoopid, but great sport!!

Art Field
6th Jan 2006, 16:39
I can confirm that, Laurie P was my instructor on T33's at Macdonald, Canada, in early 58, still a Flying Officer, but getting considerably more pay than an RAF F/O. I came back and subsequently flew Mk7's and 8's at Strubby on the All Weather Jet Refresher course. Unfortunately there were still people being killed by the Meteor even in 61.

6th Jan 2006, 18:30
Thanks Art. We really are a small community aren't we. Bof

Flatus Veteranus
7th Jan 2006, 17:06
Perhaps its time "someone" organised a Meatbox reunion along the lines of the Hunter reunions. One full tour could be the qualification:) Any volunteers?

8th Jan 2006, 07:52
Wadhurst Meteor Crash

Still on-going - but must end this week (in order to send to Wadhurst Historical Society)!

One correction pilot age 23.

I think I've found which squadrons were flying NF12 or 14 (most seem to have both available to them) about this time.

25, 46, 64, 85, 152 and 153. But from the RAFs site, squadron histories, none are mentioned as flying from North Luffenham!

Bof comments that the NF12 came down from Luffenham. From somewhere (and I can't find where now!) I read that 238 OCU flying Meteors from North Luffenham, disbanded in March '58. No record of start date.

Also, but not confirmed by RAF squadron histories, 165 Squadron flew Meteors from Jan '56 to March '58.

Does anyone have any memories of Luffenham '55-'57 etc?

I am amazed at the wealth of info on this, and many other topics, in these forums. And truely grateful to you venerable gentlemen for taking the time to post it. I was aviation mad as a kid in this era, but while always interested, the enthusiasm waned. Now at 60 years old, the internet has rekindled my interest. Hours spent at the screen viewing a massive array of topics (my daughter complains she can't get on line, 'cos I hog the Mac!), thanks to you guys who did it. Straight from the horses mouth, so to speak!

Just one thing - I have at last learnt how to text! But now I come up many new terms, VDF QVH, etc?

8th Jan 2006, 08:36
31 March 1955: RCAF leave North Luffenham.

April 1955: RAF Night and All Weather OCU is formed to train all front-line Meteor aircrew in all-weather flying. (The old gate guard NF14 was from this period.)

April 1956-December 1956: Meteor NF11s from 228 OCU at Leeming are detached to North Luffenham due to runway resurfacing at Leeming.

January 1957: N&AW OCU merges with 238 OCU from Colerne with Brigands, Valettas and Balliols.

February 1957-March 1958: 111 Sqn Hunters are detached to North Luffenham due to runway resurfacing at North Weald.

June 1958: 238 OCU disbanded, North Luffenham placed on Care and Maintenance until re-opened as a Thor missile base the next year.

8th Jan 2006, 08:49
In the late 60s a chap I knew [I remember his name, Sqn, etc but won't publish] was posted to the Far East to fly TT Meteors for the Navy. The story goes that he was towing a banner for ship AA to have at when the airframe began to shudder violently and the rudders tramping so bad that he had to retract his legs right back to prevent injury.

He dumped the banner and gingerly limped home. On shutdown, he discovered shell holes on the rudder and fin. He got mad and went in search of a Navy officer to thump in revenge. Unfortunately, the chosen officer was a Captain RN. He was restrained before he could throw the career-fatal punch, and not unsurprisingly, said Captain RN demanded to know why. Individual was taken to crewroom, where he was fed a large slug of brandy.

A few hours later, a RN chopper landed unannounced on the grass outside the crewroom. Several large blokes ran in, tied up and blindfolded pilot and flew off with him. Three days later, RN helio again lands unannounced on grass in front of Sqn and said pilot was unceremoniously bundled out. Pi**ed as a f*art.

It was the RN's way of saying sorry - he had been treated like a king - drove the boat, flew the chopper, fired the guns, etc. RN could do no wrong after that. BoI? What BoI? Totally unnecessary, it was felt - someone under training screwed up. Period.

8th Jan 2006, 08:55
Just one thing - I have at last learnt how to text! But now I come up many new terms, VDF QVH, etc?

VDF = VHF Direction Finder. When a pilot transmits on VHF (Very High Frequency) VDF gives a bearing to/from the station called. In years gone by, it was often used in conjunction with a 'VDF let-down procedure' to assist pilots find an airfield, especially in poor weather.

QVH - possibly a typing error, and could be QGH, which is a 'Q Code' abbreviation for 'Controlled Descent Through Cloud'. A similar procedure to the above, mainly used by the military.

(Edited for technical accuracy - please see later post by Flatus Veteranus for more info on QGHs).

henry crun
8th Jan 2006, 08:58
I was at North Luffenham from Mar to May 1956 taking a new nav through the OCU on the NF12 and 14.
My log book says it was 228 OCU for that period.

8th Jan 2006, 17:01
Pendrifter and other oldies
OK, I have done a bit more checking. Wadhurst crash was definitely 20/1/56.
Your list of squadrons had a few holes! Firstly, no numbered squadrons at Luffenham, it was 238 OCU and, as Beagle said also had all the Brigands, a couple of Valettas and a Balliol or two which moved up there from Colerne to join the NF12/14s. In 54 all crews went through 228 OCU at Leeming on AI Mk10 and NF11s. We arrived on 85 which was the first NF12/14 Sqn with AI 21 (APS57) and we had to do the AI conversion on the sqn. They had recently replaced their NF 11s with brand new aircraft. Most AI 21 Sqns had just a few 12s with the majority being 14s. 25 Sqn were also there having moved up from Vampire NF10s. Sometime around 1956 Their Lordships decided to have more NF Sqns, so 25 and 85 had to give up 5 crews and 4 aircraft each. A quick top up from the OCU and they were able to announce a new Sqn - 153 had been formed. Omitted to say that the overall crew numbers had only gone up by about 4. Some of the NF11 sqns re-equipped with Javelins when the Sandys axe fell, including 60 at Tengah.
It seems hard to believe that at one time we had as many Meteor NF Sqns in the Air Force than we have total Fighter, Bomber, Maritime and Transport Sqns now.
Excellent idea, we already have a get together at Malling of the Meteor Wing every couple of years (with the odd Mozzie and Vamp 10 guy thrown in to give additional colour!!). As ever with these things who is going to org it?
It could be a hell of a blast though - all those squadrons!!
Remember when the Sqn PAI would show you your CG film after an Air/Air ex.
The angle-off on the banner would be coming off frame by frame as you got closer until suddenly in the top corner of the pic appeared a tail-on shot of the Meteor tug creeping towards the middle of the film. This usually produced an immediate exit of the cine room by the pilot concerned, and a simultaneous roar of anger from the tug pilot who realised how close he had been. Happy days.

8th Jan 2006, 17:19

Would that be West Malling by any chance ? A quick scan of a book I own states that there were several Meteor Sqns based there during the 1950's includeing 25,85,153 and 500. I used to be there as a staff cadet on 618 VGS and have many happy memories of what was a fantastic airfield (now sadly the Kingshill estate and an Asda !).


8th Jan 2006, 17:28

Yup. West Malling, we tended to just call it Malling. NF Sqns were 25 and 85 from '53 to about '57 together with 500 (RAuxAF) Meteor 8s. 153 formed about '56 with NF.

8th Jan 2006, 17:37

Must have been happy days there (apart form the all the accidents listed in the book). Where do you go for your reunions ?


9th Jan 2006, 17:53
Hi Bof,

Yes, after my last posting, I thought I'd got it worked out. I tracked down the list of NF12/14 squadrons before your earlier reply which mentioned North Luffenham (until then the station had not been mentioned!). And you have confirmed my findings.

Sorry to have got so many people doing the research! This www is good stuff:ok: I don't think our local library in Bodmin, Cornwall, could have turned up such a massive amount of relevant information and certainly not from so many people "doing the bis" at the time.

Once again my many thanks to all!

Still intrigued why I cannot trace any form of official enquiry, but enough is enough!

9th Jan 2006, 19:32
My father was a Nav/instructor on 238 OCU (he survived a Brigand crash and had previously survived a crash in an NF11 whilst on 96 Sqn) I have asked him to have a look at this thread and see whether he can provide any more info.

14th Jan 2006, 15:45
All has become clear!

Received from Air Historical Branch (RAF)

20.1.56 Meteor NF12, WS661. AWOCU, North Luffenham.
Time of Accident 15.23. Duration of Flight 43 mins. Training Flight.
Pilot Stoate L.C.M. F/O, aged 23. Navigator Paterson, A.W. (F/O).

" The A/C took off to carry out a local flying excercise which was designed to keep the pilots within 60 nautical miles off base. Approx 35 minutes later the A/C was seen over the village of Wadhurst, 120 miles from base, where the pilot's parents resided. After circling the village at least once, the pilot made a very low run in a steeply banked and slightly diving turn to port past his parents home. Whilst still in the turn the A/C struck two bungalows at an estimated height of 25ft above ground level and burst into flames. Both crew members and two civilians were killed.
The pilot disobeyed briefing instruction and indulged in unnecessary, unauthorised and dangerous low flying, and through an error of judgement caused his A/C to crash".

It also transpires that the navigator was buried in Scotland.

A sad ending!

Many thanks to all who took time to investigate, and post info for us.
We have made up the information covering the crash, aircraft details, and official papers, as comprehensive as we can, which will be on its way to the Wadhurst Historical Society this week, to arrive in time for their meeting on 20 January. For those in the area, I believe that local tv news will be covering a memorial service taking place on that day.

Once again many thanks to all.

Flatus Veteranus
14th Jan 2006, 17:49

I am sorry to sound pedantic, but the term "QGH" (|Controlled Descent Through Cloud) was in use long before UHF came in. In fact I do not believe that Meteors ever had UHF in squadron service. We never got beyond 2 x 10-channel VHF boxes, crystal-tuned.

There were two forms of VHF/DF. The first sort was situated in a caravan out on the airfield and was a manually operated directional antenna. The operator was connected to Approach Control in the tower by a landline and squawk-box. If an aircraft called for "A course to Steer" or "Homing" (QDM)or a True Bearing (QTE) he would be asked by Approach Control to give a long transmission. (The days of the week, a few numbers, or Mary Had a Little Lamb were common). The operator would "nul" this transmission and pass the bearing to the Approach Controller, who would pass it to the aircraft. There was a significant risk of an inexperienced or overloaded DF operator passing a reciprocal. This happened to me one night between Akrotiri and El Adem in 1956 and almost ran me out of fuel. The other problem was capacity limitation. A really sharp operator could handle up to two or three aircraft (or pairs) at once in a QGH. I believe that lack of capacity at Carnaby in the summer of 1951 lay behind the Flamborough Head tragedy.

During the period 1952-53 the manual DFs were replaced by Cathode Ray tube presentation at the Approach Controller's station. This was known as CRDF but still operated in the VHF band. It speeded up production considerably and a good controller could deliver up to about six QGHs simultaneously.

Both systems fed aircraft into a GCA which was operated from a caravan on the airfield. The Director marshalled aircraft into a stream and handed them off to a final "talk-down" precision controller. I believe that "break-off" was officially 200 ft agl, but "if needs must" a good talk-down controller could take you much lower.

14th Jan 2006, 19:46
Re the 200ft limit for an instrument approach. Somebody asked me recently, and I had to think. In fact during training on Chippies and Harvards in 52/53 we had no limits. The duty instructor or OC Flying used to make the decision whether flying was "on" based on the met briefing, or they would send some brave QFI up to take a look!! If it was "on" and subsequently got really claggy the duty man would make a general call to all troops airborne and recall or divert everybody. At least we had TBA in the Harvards (no glidepath information) but an approach in real low viz conditions was considerably more difficult than a GCA or later ILS. After training we went for a spell on fighter sqns where we just made the approach, (full GCA or rememember ACR7) and one just came on down until you landed or more usually chickened out! Thankfully that didn't last long before the colour code was introduced and airfields were declared green, red or black. Might be wrong about those colours but no doubt you or some other oldie will correct me.

14th Jan 2006, 23:20

Many thanks for your welcome correction, and I've edited my previous post accordingly.

As always, I enjoyed reading your recollections. :ok:

Flatus Veteranus
16th Jan 2006, 18:26

I am operating at the limits of my memory here, but my figure of 200ft min for a GCA probably assumed a Master Green card. The ground kit was superb (American, I believe) and the operators were specialists who did not double-up in Approach Control like they did later with ACR7/PAR. As I remember it with GCA the precision ("talk-down") controller would warn you that you were approaching minimums and then keep talking in an advisory capacity. The Meatbox was ideal in the approach configuration. Drop full flap approaching the glide-path, set the speed at about 125, vsi at about 250 fpm down and revs at about 11,000 depending on the wind (I would not argue over these settings!), trim it out and RELAX . Glosters did the rest.

The ACR7/PAR was coming in when I was at CFS in '57. I thought it was in every way an inferior system.

16th Jan 2006, 21:09

Wouldn't 250fpm put you a tad high at the threshold?

16th Jan 2006, 21:19

I suspect the 'American Kit' you mention was probably MPN11/CPN4 - combined search radar and PAR. There were one or two still in RAF use in the early seventies.

Flatus Veteranus
17th Jan 2006, 17:47

You broke the code! Now I know why I always finished up hauling the coals off and stuffing the pole forward. Thanks!

Tim Mills
20th Jan 2006, 09:37
Our GCA at Horsham was excellent, and we also got DME during my tour, only distance if I remember, but since the ground station was on base, it was most helpful. I remember one approach in distinctly murky weather, as No.2 in a pairs GCA. I saw the runway and made a dirty dart, and got down OK just as my leader overshot into the murk, and ended up at some unlikely place like Swanton Morley on one engine. I don't know if he didn't see the runway lights, or was looking after his No.2 by not doing the dirty dart bit! Don't know what that says about sticking to ones leader through thick and thin, but I was quite glad to get down.

Having always had GCA or ACR7 for bad weather approaches in the RAF, it came as quite a shock when doing my Civil Licence to have to do it all off my own bat for NDB and ILS approaches, rather than having very skilled people telling me what to do!

All of which is getting away from the subject of this thread, but as has been said before, not so much to do with the aeroplane, more to do with how we operated at the time.

20th Jan 2006, 19:02
A somewhat abridged version of a note written by my father:

23.1.1953, I made my first flight on 96 Sqn., R.A.F. Ahlhorn, a sector recce with Mike (Isherwood)-Bennett, in WM150. We took off at 1117 hrs. and were airborne for exactly 1 hour. There had been little or no flying prior to this date because of bad weather conditions, primarily snow. Three days later I was airborne again, with my normal pilot Pete Driscoll, and again we flew a sector recce, getting airborne at 0950 hrs., in WM182, and landing at 1100 hrs.

Two days later, 28.1.1953, we took off in WM149, at 0950 hrs., to carry out M.P.I.s with our playmate, Val Harder and his navigator, Don Busby. Several other pairs, including aircraft from 256 Sqn., took off ahead of us and Pete and I were last to get airborne.

Apart from the Squadron Commanders, Flight Commanders and a few experienced pilots who had Master Green Cards, the others had only White Cards and could not fly if the cloud base was below 1,000 ft. Weather conditions were poor, but within the limits, however, something obviously went wrong with the Met forecast that morning, because within moments of getting airborne, Ahlhorn A.T.C. aborted all the sorties and instructed us to divert to Oldenburg because the weather had closed in and the cloud base had fallen to 700 ft. In fact Met had really got it wrong, because not only was the weather “Harry Clampers” but we also experienced the most horrendous icing I have ever seen, with the ice on the leading edges growing at a rate of knots before our eyes.

We were diverted to Oldenburg because they had the luxury of G.C.A., which had not yet been installed at Ahlhorn. We all immediately came under control of A.T.C. Oldenburg and formed a queue, with Val and Don next to last and Pete and I behind.

There appeared to be a problem with the aircraft flown by Kiwi Graves and his navigator, Ron Lawrence, from 256. Oldenburg thought that Kiwi’s compass was u/s and gave him priority. By the time it was our turn, with everyone else having landed, Oldenburg didn’t seem to know where we really were, although we were identified as being over Osnabruck at one point. The penny hadn’t dropped with Oldenburg that it wasn’t Kiwi Graves’ compass that was u/s - it was ours. Eventually, they lost us completely and by then we were over Holland.

A.T.C. at the Dutch Air Force base at Twente took over control, but they too experienced difficulties, lost us, and control was handed over to the Dutch at Leeuwarden. Shortly after Leeuwarden took over we ran out of fuel and, surprise, surprise - the engines went quiet. Pete sent out a Mayday and we started our way down. As we did so, the last thing we heard on the RT was a slanging match between the Controllers at Twente and Leeuwarden, with each blaming the other for our predicament !

Leaving the two controllers to sort it out between themselves we continued our descent. By now there was no cloud below us and visibility was perfect - that being so, I thought there was little excuse for Pete to shortly demolish twelve of the few trees that grew in Holland !

Still continuing our descent, we followed the usual procedures, but instead of releasing my parachute harness, in my cack-handed way, I unfastened my safety harness !! I yelled to Pete to “Hang on!” - Well, there wasn’t a lot he could do, was there? - so I moved with a certain amount of alacrity, and re-fastened it again.

We jettisoned the drop-tanks then the canopy, passed under some power lines, clobbered the aforementioned trees and then I looked ahead. To port a house was coming up, to starboard another. I could not see directly in front because the view was blocked by the radar, but beyond the radar, and ahead, was an embankment about 100 ft. high - and for all I knew, more houses between us and the embankment. Anyway, as Pete put the aircraft down, I braced myself and on initial impact chipped my left kneecap on the Mk. 10 Tilt switch. We stopped short before the houses and although in fact there were none immediately in front of us, before the aeroplane came to a complete halt, we both leapt out. Unfortunately, we both leapt at exactly the same time, with Pete veering to the left, and me to the right. Consequently, we collided and sent each other flying. Picking ourselves up, we continued our dive for a nearby ditch. We thought that there might be some residual fuel in the tanks, or that there might be fumes which could ignite. This possibility was reinforced when we heard a hissing from the aircraft. Gingerly poking our heads above the top of the ditch to take a look, we felt complete idiots when we realised that the hissing was from the oxygen supply, which was still switched on. Our flight had lasted 1 hr.45 mins.

Pete went to one of the houses to phone for help while I stood guard over the aeroplane. At the first house Pete knocked someone answered the door, took one look at him and promptly shut the door in his face! He had better luck at the next house and was able to phone the police. The Chief of Police from Zwolle, accompanied by a number of his officers arrived, followed swiftly by a large number of Dutch Army personnel.

The Chief of Police drove us to the nearby Army base, where the Colonel had us driven on in his car to the Dutch Air Force Station at Leeuwarden. There we were greeted by the Station Commander, who turned out to be a friend of our own Station Commander, Gp. Capt. Piers Kelly. He phoned PK and after a brief chat put Pete on the phone to explain what had happened.

We were then taken to the Mess, where we were kitted out in Dutch uniforms before being taken to the Bar. The loan of the uniforms was necessary because of the way we were dressed under our flying suits - the heating system in the NF11 was activated automatically when the pressurisation system was switched on, with no means of controlling the temperature and it was normally too hot. Consequently, Pete had no shirt under his flying suit and I had neither shirt nor trousers.

Once in the Bar, we were joined by a large number of pilots from the base, who promptly started to fill us with Bols Gin and meatballs. After who knows how many of both someone suggested we should all go out on the town ( Zwolle ). This was thought to be a good idea, so we changed our Dutch uniforms for “civvies”, which some people were kind enough to lend us, and off we set for Zwolle - in an ambulance. We thought this an odd form of transport but were grateful later on, as it turned out - but not for any medical reasons.

We had a hilarious and eventful night and whilst we were enjoying ourselves in what we thought was a harmless manner, there were obviously other people who didn’t appreciate our hilarity. We failed to take the management seriously in two night-clubs when they asked us to leave, but realised they were serious in both places when the police arrived and, courteously of course, also asked us to leave. Being officers and gentlemen we left - also courteously, of course! It was after leaving the second night-club that we appreciated our transport and gratefully took advantage of the offer of the beds in the ambulance whilst the rest of the party stood like sardines, which was probably just as well as they probably wouldn’t have been able to keep upright otherwise!

The following morning, we had a farewell meeting with the Station Commander, an R.A.F. Liaison Officer and someone from the Dutch Government. We had our photograph taken for the Station Photo Album, which contained photos of Churchill, Eisenhower, Prince Bernhard and other notables - Pete and I thought it highly amusing that we were going to appear with that lot, but I don’t know what they would have thought!

Eventually, an Anson from R.A.F. Jever arrived for us and off we set. The Station Commander at Jever was Gp. Cptn. Powell-Sheddon, who had been our Wing Co. Flying at Ahlhorn and he had instructed the Anson to land at Jever first. When we taxied in after landing he was there to greet us on the apron and immediately took us off to the Mess and the bar, where he rapidly returned us to the state we had been in the previous night! Somewhat later that day we arrived back at Ahlhorn, feeling somewhat tired and emotional.

Nearly four months later, on 18th May, 1953, Pete and I were involved in another incident -

We took off at 1115hrs. that day for G.C.I.s, and as we were rolling, A.T.C. yelled to us to abort as we had an engine on fire! Unfortunately we were committed, and had to get airborne. Pete shut down the engine, turned and started the procedure for landing. Having a full fuel load we were overweight and therefore had to jettison the drop-tanks, which Pete did on the airfield and then landed. It turned out that an oil filler cap had been left off during servicing and this was what had caused the problem.

As a sequel to our Dutch visit, at the end of March, 1954, we went to Sylt for air firing practice but before the exercises were finished a number of us were sent to Essen for a N.A.T.O. paper Exercise.

We travelled by train, dressed in uniform as normal, and while waiting for transport from the railway station more than a few people walking past spat at us. When we arrived at the Army Camp, where the Exercise was taking place, we were told that under no circumstances were we to go out in uniform - the local population hated the R.A.F. who had destroyed almost the whole city. Even then, in 1954, there were very few buildings standing, with little rebuilding of the city centre having been done.

However, we were also told that we were not allowed outside the camp at all. We all thought this was a bit much, so when we went out in the evenings we had to “escape” over the wall surrounding the camp. German people in bars that we managed to find asked if we were “Army”, to which we replied “Yes” and were immediately welcomed! Returning to camp after such evenings out and having to climb the wall to get back in was always, for some reason, more difficult than getting out.

Whilst there, a group of Dutch pilots arrived, and it turned out to be the guys from Leeuwarden who, on seeing me, insisted that we should all go out together, to which we reluctantly agreed. I saw it as an opportunity to repay their hospitality to Pete and myself, because during our night out in Zwolle they refused to let either of us spend a single cent. However, they repeated their performance in Essen and this time refused to let me spend a pfennig!

henry crun
20th Jan 2006, 20:04
Legalapproach: Your father was unlucky the missing oil cap caused a fire at that late stage on takeoff, my similar event had a different result.

In my case there was a bloody great bang in the starboard engine on takeoff just after I let the brakes off, so I was able to stop and vacate.

One thing still puzzles me, as I ran clear of the smoke my nav was well ahead of me and going away, how he got there I shall never know because I was the one who opened the canopy !

Tim Mills
21st Jan 2006, 00:34
What a great story Legalapproach, couldn't hope to cap that.

And talking of caps, I once flew a Vamp T11 from West Malling home to Swinderby, only finding that the oil cap had not been refitted on turnround, by seeing an extrememly oily back end when I got out! Glad it was Goblin rather than Derwent powered!

21st Jan 2006, 07:22
It is hugely depressing reading the names of all those aerodromes (Horsham, Malling, Swinderby etc) which used to be fine RAF flying stations and no longer are....

When once we had an Air Force.

21st Jan 2006, 16:00
Beagle, I remember it well. Swinderby when we had an airforce, the Saracen's Head in Lincoln, hunting in the Co-op Ballroom, romancing young ladies from the telephone exchange, low cloud and freezing winds. Not forgetting the whine of a Vampire. Oh happy time!

Tim Mills
22nd Jan 2006, 00:05
AARRR! Beags and Brakedwell, you young lads don't know what it was like before that Mr Sandys decided aeroplanes would no longer need people, and wielded his axe in '57! That was an Air Force!

14th Apr 2006, 07:16
Finally received my copy of 'Nick' Carter's Meteor Eject!: Adventures of a Cold War Pilot. And what a fascinating read about the RAF I wish I'd been in! At one stage he lives the life of Riley at Chivenor, flying Hunter F1 and F4, Meteor T7 and F8, Anson and Chipmunk. Typical off-the-cuff remarks about flying mates here and there in Vampire T11 and Meteor T7... How to get to the Air Ministry from Chivenor? Not by branch line train from Barnstaple to Taunton and then the main line to Paddington - but Hunter to North Weald, change and take the tube into Town!

On one day he did about 5 individual BoB display appearances in the same a/c. It also seemed you could go virtually anywhere in the UK by Hunter/Vampire/Meteor as the mood took you.

At one stage his boss was an old family friend of my father's, the late 'Farmer' Steele. Glad to hear that he was a popular boss with his men, but perhaps less so with 'Authority'. Hence the posting to Acklington as an admin officer... I wonder whether 'Nick' realised that he might have known him at Merryfield in his CFS-trapper days before he became boss of 257?

Books of the period are very rare indeed - but what an eye-opener this one is and it confirms what I'd always imagined the era was really like.

henry crun
14th Apr 2006, 08:23
Beagle: He speaks the truth. I have many entries in my logbook to various airfields on a Friday dropping someone off, and then again on a Monday to pick them up.

People who wished to avail themselves to the service were invited to contribute to the squadron fund, I think the rate was 10/- shillings return out to 150 miles, and 15 bob return beyond that.

I daresay that sort of activity would be frowned on these days.

14th Apr 2006, 08:52
The last place/time I knew of such a facility was during my Hawk refresher course at Valley in 1980 - but only to 'static displays'. You just filled out a form and got the boss to approve it. So one Friday I took a Wg Cdr down to Dunsfold, then flew up to Scampton for the weekend. Back to Valley on Monday. Then on another occasion, down to Brize Norton on Friday for a static the next day, back on Sunday with a bit of a headache after being invited to "Take beer!" in the OM the previous night with Puddy Catt who was there with the Meteor 8 from Brawdy. We had both escaped from the dreaded 'Gateway Hotel'!!

The pre-Sandys jet age RAF must have been truly superb!

But 10 years later after I'd just finished my CFS course I wasn't even allowed to take a Bulldog from Scampton to Topcliffe one afternoon to swap it for another which had the ILS mod. 'They' couldn't find any authorisation rule which applied, it seems....

14th Apr 2006, 09:52
While stationed at Bovingdon in the early sixties I could borrow an Anson for "Airways Training" and spend the occasional weekend in Jersey. As long as it was parked on the grass outside the flying club there were no landing/handling/parking charges. The owner of the Pomme d'Or and the manager of a Wine Lodge in St Hellier were ex RN turned RNVRT and so were entiltled to fly in RAF aircraft. We used to help them out if they needed to visit the mainland at short notice and in return stayed at the P'dOr for thirty bob a night full board. Product sampling in the managers office at the Wine Lodge remains a happy hazy memory!:E


green granite
14th Apr 2006, 11:02
Beagle: He speaks the truth. I have many entries in my logbook to various airfields on a Friday dropping someone off, and then again on a Monday to pick them up.
People who wished to avail themselves to the service were invited to contribute to the squadron fund, I think the rate was 10/- shillings return out to 150 miles, and 15 bob return beyond that.
I daresay that sort of activity would be frowned on these days.

I'm sure it would be. but WHY? after all pilots have to fly so many hours a
month to stay current, so why not do something that might just be usefull
to somebody?
Reading books by people in the RAF prewar they talk about just geting into an a/c and going to see there mate at another airfield for lunch, no need for permission just go.

Mike Read
14th Apr 2006, 20:27
I was a Meteor QFI 1952 -1954 and can confirm much of the detail already posted. 210 AFS at Tarrant Rushton was an interesting place with all the groundcrew being civvies working for Flight Refuelling. All the time the unit operated, just under two years, we only had one fatal accident caused by a chap who had already completed the course making an error in a Meteor Mk3 and hitting the ground somewhere near his own home. We, the QFIs, were under strict instructions never to refer to the Meteor as a "Meatbox" which I seem to remember came from Group HQ.

My next posting was 34 Sqn (Meteor Mk 8s) at Tangmere. One morning after night flying the previous evening, a report of an aircraft doing low level aeros over Wrotham, Kent came in. As Fg Off Ashwell's parents lived there the finger pointed to him and the SIB were soon examining the authorisation books as we were the only unit flying that evening. Unusually, we used to enter the take off and landing times logged by the tower and try as they may the cops could not match our records with the reported incident. Needless to say, Pete A was dealt with by our boss and nobody thought to explain the difference between zulu and British Summer Time to the RAF police. I wonder how many COs nowadays would have the guts to deal with such misdemeanors themselves as judging by remarks made in prune it is unlikely.

Incidentally, if nobody else has already mentioned it, the report of accidents in 1952 appeared in Air Clues sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's and it was repeated again in the Flight Safety Magazine 1/95 pages 6 & 7.

12th Sep 2006, 17:35
Beagle is right; at Merryfield in 1954, at least three Meteors went in on the same night, I seem to recall that they had diverted from Weston Zoyland and were caught out by the same fog that had caused the diversion in the first place. I seem also to recall that one crew survived.
2TWU, right again, and the three scars were indeed visible in the cliff-face as folk flew in to Leconfield.
Bof, the multi-prang you mention was at West Raynham on 8 February 1956, when we 'lost six Hunters in eight minutes' (the title by the way, of an article in Air Clues dated March 1982). 'Yellow 4' who was Dick Tumilty from 28 Sqn RAF Sek Kong, was the only fatality.
Ces Crook certainly hi-jacked the train, but I am not sure he set fire to it. Did you know that he is still around in New Zealand? I have a local contact if anyone is interested. :)

Hi !!,
Having enjoyed a few escapades with Ces - I would like to wish him all the best !
Just joined this Forum & Thoroughly enjoyed This thread. I´m ex Meteors(F.R.) & Swifts & met Ces later at CFS.
Any other similar forums ??
Best wishes from Spain,
Brian L.

13th Sep 2006, 12:27
When I joined in 1963 at South Cerney, the tale of Ces Crook was being told. Nice to discover that the guy is real and we weren't being sold a myth.

As to Meteor asymmetric accidents, we lost 2 good blokes at RAE Farnborough as late as the mid seventies when they lost our T7 during practice.

13th Sep 2006, 14:05
Henry and Beagle are right. But I think we enjoyed "the best" on 216 Sqn from late 56 to the end of 58. When 216 joined the jet world in Aug 56 with the Comet 2, the powers that be decided that the captains should all be experienced above average piston transport captains and all the co's should have at least one tour on jets.

The Comet was originally lifed at 5 years, so the Capts would do a nominal five year tour with the RHS-ers only doing two years before returning to the jet fighter/bomber/training world. We had around twenty 2nd-pilots and five co-pilots. The difference being the 2nd Ps were not "catted " on the Comet and were only supposed to handle the aircraft when airborne either on auto pilot or under captain supervision!! T/o and ldgs were Capts only (unless your Capt allowed you to make an unofficial one). The five Co-pilots did hold "cats" as they were to cover any Capt wastage or attrition!! I know this may sound incredible now but that's how it was. Remember there were No - repeat No, jet military or civil transport aircraft up there(not even the 707) flying anywhere in the world at this time, no upper airways and the world above FL250 was a lonely place outside Europe and N America.

However, the 2nd Ps had to hold jet IRs and we had threeMeteor 7s on the Sqn inventory for the guys to keep up the 1st P time and obtain their ratings. Incredible? Obviously they took rock bottom position for servicing. Comets first naturally, but they were a jet flying club for the 2nd Ps. we had our own QFI and I was the IRE (even sent me to Benson on an IRE course). We authorised ourselves and basically could fly anywhere in the UK. I don't think we ever got all three airborne but we certainly often flew around as a pair and spent many a lunch visiting old mates..

When I left at the end of 58 it was announced that Comet 4s were arriving and the 2s were no longer held to a five year life. All 2nd Ps became Co Ps and held Transport Cats. Unfortunately they took the Meteors away and spoilt our fun and I cried!! Can you imagine that happening today! I suppose most of the "then" jet world regarded Transport Command as a lost cause as a posting, but the Comet was a bit like a posting ten years ago to fly Concorde. Happy days!

13th Sep 2006, 16:51
[quote=Bof;2846848]Henry and Beagle are right. But I think we enjoyed "the best" on 216 Sqn from late 56 to the end of 58. When 216 joined the jet world in Aug 56 with the Comet 2, the powers that be decided that the captains should all be experienced above average piston transport captains and all the co's should have at least one tour on jets.

Comets !!
Around !955/56 ? we were all told that the days of fixing postings were over. Remember ?
A year or so later, whilst on a skiing holiday, I stopped for a rest & to admire the view alongside a fellow skier. We chatted & he turned out to be "an ex Transport Command Trapper" - a Wing Commander then working at Air Ministry. He asked me what I wanted to do next posting. (Flying jobs were scarce due to Mr. Duncan Sandys). I was hoping to do Vampires at CFS. He said that should I ever want to change my mind & go onto the Comet (!!) then give him a ring !!
A couple of years later ? whilst at Valley,in the crewroom, on a whim, I telephoned A.M. & asked the switchboard if he was still there. I asked if he remembered the offer & was it still open ?!!. 5 minutes later he rang back (to my surprise & to my C.O.´s - who was now alongside me !!) and said that my Documents were now annotated for Comets next posting !! As always it´s "who you know".
Actually I got an airline job offer soon afterwards & left the service. Flying was never the same again.

16th Sep 2006, 08:14
Beagle: He speaks the truth. I have many entries in my logbook to various airfields on a Friday dropping someone off, and then again on a Monday to pick them up.

People who wished to avail themselves to the service were invited to contribute to the squadron fund, I think the rate was 10/- shillings return out to 150 miles, and 15 bob return beyond that.

I daresay that sort of activity would be frowned on these days.

One bitterly cold winter Saturday morning at Gutersloh, (The) "Porky" RVA Munro (RIP) asked me to drop him to the hangar in my car as he wanted to go to a Ball at one of the "clutch" airfields ( Bruggen, Geilenkirchen, Wildenrath).
He had asked the Boss if he could borrow an aircraft for the weekend. (one could borrow "non operational" aircraft for this type of thing). The Boss said he could go providing he could persuade a few airman & a Sergeant to push open the hangar doors etc & sign the Form 700, a favour normally repaid with a crate of beer etc.
The Meteor T7 was pushed out & Porky was on his way, he thought. Unfortunately the igniters in one engine were not making their usual click click noise & were u/s. There was no way that anyone was going to repair them. The Sergeant was in an awkward situation. I saw him have a quiet word with one of the airmen - who ran off into the hangar & returned with a handful of "cotton waste" (probably with a little paraffin soaked into it ?).
The Sergeant told Porky to wind her up & open the HP cock when he told him to. The sergeant stood by the jet pipe as the revs built up, lights the cotton waste with his lighter, shouts "NOW" - and throws the burning cotton waste well up the jet pipe !!
I get a brief glimpse of the waste flashing past me to goodness knows where. They revs build up normally to idling & Porky is on his way.
"Put her u/s when you get there yells", the Cheefie.
We next saw a Very hungover Porky about the following Wednesday !!
Porky had a chequered career. At AFS (Finningly) on his First ever solo flight he was given reciprocal steers & ran out of fuel - resulting in Banner Headlines the next day (
Daily Express ?) - " Jet Ace Saves Manchester !!"
On his last flight, at the end of the course, His tail was knocked off by a coursemate who was trying to rendezvous with him over the Humber but was blinded by the sun at the wrong moment. He then was nearly drowned in the river .
After a tour on 79(FR) Squadron he was involved in writing the First pilots notes for the Harrier. Later he went to Muharraq (Not sure whether he was still in the RAF or not ?). I could go on & on about those great (flying) days.........

Pontius Navigator
16th Sep 2006, 08:39
The Annie reminds me of those days.

Wander down the sqn, check the programme. If the crew was spilt doing its own thing, pilots in the sim of whatever, and nothing doing, I would wander over to the station flight.

"Any trips"

That was usually all the encouragement the hairy old MP needed for a flight. Tool round Lincolnshire for a couple of hours. Bliss.

16th Sep 2006, 09:06

Look at your PMs

17th Sep 2006, 07:42
Tried to email u twice yesterday - both returned Undeliverable. Please send latest email addresss.

28th Sep 2006, 17:31
Have found this in my notes. Meteor 452, 30 mins jet experience. Remember every minute of the flight 'though I can't remember the field (suspect Yorkshire somewhere).

Remember seeing many A/C around and about spinning and C and Bumping.

Also remember the pre flight briefing which didn't bother me a bit but then it was 03/08/62 and I was - to the day - seventeen. (On another page I have just found that it was Strubby).

Being handed the controls I thought that I was doing a good job flying S & L 'till I was asked to look at at the altimeter ( It did AVERAGE 10,000 feet but I will not disclose the standard deviation).

By then I already held a gliding license and many flights in Chipmunks, Varsitys and Valettas - all down to the UK taxpayer. As a consequence the only meaning of the word Grass to me is something you can land on

Fantastic birthday - not yet topped.

I might have walked out to that aircraft as a teenager but I walked back feeling like a man.

Whoever was in the front seat Salute.

My first flight - by the way - was in a DH Rapide at an open day on my Father's then station (Circa 1953) I suspect that it would have been Catfoss. So memory serves.

29th Sep 2006, 11:39
Could the above mentioned Porky be the same as he who was OC Thumrait (Oman) '78 / '80 ish?

8th Oct 2006, 13:06
Yes, I believe he was !

8th Oct 2006, 16:15
Porky was in RAFO (then SOAF) from about 1976 and started as Sqn Ldr (Ops) Flighters. He progressed to command Thumrait and then moved to take command of Masirah when SOAF's second Jag Sqn formed there. I was lucky enough to serve with him at both those bases. He was then promoted again and moved to HQ where he was Director of Operations. He suffered a severe stroke and retired back to UK where he had another 10 years of life during which he made a remarkable recovery thanks to the great support of his wife Gerry. I went to his funeral which was attended by many faces from the past and there was a Harrier fly-past, a fitting tribute to a man who had been on the Tripartite Trial Squadron flying 1127s or the very first military Harriers. A fine aviator, a firm and fair leader and a generous and frequent host for massive meals and loads of drinks in his various Oman residences.

9th Oct 2006, 10:53
Can we hear a bit more about AFS Strubby ?

When I came to it in late 1961, it seems to have been the rearguard for all the thousands of Meteor pilots that had gone onto other aircraft or into the night.

As a corollary to the old stories of taking one’s aircraft away for weekend, I could mention how easy it was to join such a unit. Its function was to get up to speed pilots leaving ground tours for a jet posting. I was long-legged enough to be Meteor qualified already. When I found that I was being put on a later Canberra course than I expected, one telephone call to Strubby did it !

Bliss to be more or less unsupervised. I took part only as a spectator in the horrendous dogfights the instructors enjoyed. Otherwise I self-briefed myself into an F8 whenever it had no more deserving customer. A good way to learn: I particularly remember learning very briskly from a jaunt around Lincolnshire under low cloud - recognising just in time the stout steel legs at the very base of the radar mast of Saxton Wold for which I had been quite unprepared.

Naturally, as a very new pilot I was impressed by and wary of the instructors. It was not that they were united by experience but rather that they were so different. Puddy Catt has been mentioned more than once. (Bill ?) Loverseed later became a founding Red Arrow. There was a quiet Sqn Ldr, perhaps the unit commander or perhaps a student but marked out by the ribbon of the George Medal. There was one instructor whose only secondary duty seemed to be to manage the evening appointments of his hairdresser daughter, disposing duty young officer stints to each of us in turn.

The unit display pilot was “Rory” Rorison, of whom I never heard again. An unprepossessing figure on the ground, resolutely unwilling to do his promotion exams so that he remained Fg Off perhaps for ever, his display seemed to be a matter of refining the distinction between concrete and aluminium. I never found out if he toned down his display for public consumption, which would not be in character, or if in fact Strubby wisely kept him to itself.

9th Oct 2006, 10:58
A good way to learn: I particularly remember learning very briskly from a jaunt around Lincolnshire under low cloud - recognising just in time the stout steel legs at the very base of the radar mast of Saxton Wold for which I had been quite unprepared.

More likely Stenigot, the Gee-station to the south-west of Louth, as Staxton Wold was north of the Humber.

9th Oct 2006, 11:06
Wader - agreed. I have gone on muddling these two locations ever since.

Art Field
9th Oct 2006, 13:41
Ah Strubby, a Flight Lieutenant station in 61-62 when I did a refresher there. There was a Sqn Ldr Simpson as the boss but he lived out and nobody above Flt Lt lived in. Post night flying meals were often served by Red Coats from Butlins at Skeggy and the bar had somewhat flexible hours.

There was a four Meteor formation team with Rory, Bill, Dennis Edwards and one other who I am not sure about but it may have been F/O Saunders. Unfortunately the Meteor was still showing its nasty side and my instructor, F/S Jock Black was killed on an asymmetric check with a student.

Also at Strubby were some Hunters used by Wg Cdrs on the Flying College course. For some of them this was rather beyond their skills, it was not unusual to hear "Breaking, breaking, go", look up and see a single Hunter. Wait five minutes and three more shambled in from all directions.

9th Oct 2006, 14:08
Can we hear a bit more about AFS Strubby ?

Not exactly Strubby, but in 1959 I did a Piston Refresher Course at it's other half - Manby. Never did know why I needed a piston refresher before being posted on to Twin Pioneers in the Gulf when, apart from my Hastings second pilot job, I was averaging 30 hours a month on the Squadron Chipmunks and Anson. An oppo was on the Canberra course at Strubby at the same time so I used to visit the mess regularly. I remember the Grimmy competitions and a one-eyed fish gutter from Grimsby, who was banned from the mess because whoever got to her first always won the kitty! Borrowing a Piston Provost for a weekend away was never a problem in those carefree days.

11th Mar 2007, 21:43
I am trying to find out more about my uncle, George Carthew, Pilot Officer, who was killed in a Meteor crash in August 1954, and is buried in Ilminster.
I don't really know how to search for information. Any ideas, guys?

henry crun
12th Mar 2007, 01:33
unclegeorge: Do you any other information , where the accident occurred, squadron or unit, etc ?

12th Mar 2007, 14:05
I would suspect that this would have been a 208 AFS, RAF Merryfield accident.

Ilminster or Ilton?

12th Mar 2007, 17:04
There were four Meteor accidents in August 1954.
09/08/1954 WK936 Mk 8 245 Sqn Crashed into hangar on ground attack.
16/08/1954 WA966 Mk 8 CFE Lost control in cloud and spun in.
27/08/1954 WH458 Mk 8 RAFFC Lost control and spun in.
27/08/1954 WH190 Mk 7 206 AFS Lost control and spun in.

15th Apr 2007, 21:52
I m interested in the 1956 incident involving 28 Sqn RAF Sek Kong - and am keen to contact Ces Crook. Can you help?

henry crun
15th Apr 2007, 23:30
lawrek03: 28 had five major accidents in 1956, three Vampire and two Venom.

Can you be more specific on type of accident ?

22nd May 2007, 20:34
As a Fireman at Brawdy 75-79 I can remember seven+Hunters lost , but no Meteors. Although these gorgeous planes were only used for target towing and as an occasional weather kite, the only damage that I can remember these aircraft sustaining were 30mm shell holes in the fuselage(which then got the sticky tape treatment!) caused by some crosseyed would-be jockey!
The most popular ,by far, Pilot of these sorties was Flt Lt Catt , and looking back, it was no wonder the man carried a hip-flask and his pipe!

22nd May 2007, 21:49
The RAF LOST more meteors than the current inventory.
Sorry I read too much.

23rd May 2007, 05:02
GeoAC - I share your opinion of Brawdy, having been a sutdent there in 1976. Lucky enough to get a handful of Meatbox back seat trips as well!

'Puddy' Catt was indeed a great character. There was a rumour going around that he'd popped his clogs a few years ago, but that was later found to be false. Hopefully he's still around the Brawdy area, with that booming voice ordering people to "Take beer!" with him in a local pub......

28th May 2007, 14:13

Could Rory Rorison be the Flg Off concerned in the great story I was told about the AOC's inspection at Strubby?

AOC meeting pilots in the crew-room, CO introduces said Fg Off...

AOC recognises him from last year, when he had commented on his failure to take the promotion exam, never mind pass it.

AOC: Hello ......., why are you still a Flying Officer?

Fg Off: Because we don't have sergeant pilots anymore, Sir! :ok:

Great story, should be on "wish I hadn't said that", I suppose.

'Wish I'd said it!

29th May 2007, 13:53
One of Martin Baker's very smart Meteor 7-and-a-halves just went past on the instrument approach to Brize. Great to see these venerable old jets still working for a living...:ok:

Flatus Veteranus
29th May 2007, 19:42
Good news Beags. I thought the last flyable Meatbox did its final "phantom dive" a few years ago.

John Purdey
29th May 2007, 21:41
Lawrek03 Please see your PMs. John Purdey

7th Jun 2007, 20:25
I was posted to North Luffenham as a Nat Serviceman in May 1955.As an ex Hawker Aircraft apprentice I was an instant SAC Airframe Mech. The RCAF had vacated the site leaving masses of unwanted equipment,mainly furniture,crates, bicycles and general debris in the hangers. All trades were tasked to dispose of this,usually by hugh bonfires, and gradually RAF equipment was delivered and I believe 4 squadrons were quickly established . The hangers had been re-roofed prior to our arrival and new prefabricated Squadron Headquarters erected close to the respective hangers.All this was in place by June /July 1955 and the Meteors Mk 12's and 14's had began arriving. I was in No.1 Squadron and we were billeted adjacent to the cookhouse building, 18 to a room. Two groups were formed to man a day shift and a night shift and lack of organisation ment each billet had mixed trades and mixed shifts ! This led to a request that on the Thursday Squadron inspection those who had been on night shift should attempt to sleep tidily, at attention !!
Flying in earnest began about July ,as I recall, initially with daytime sorties and familiarisation in pairs followed by the night sorties.
The radar was not 100 percent reliable and the wireless boys were constantly replacing M/W guides or complete units and quite a few sorties were abhorted as a result. The day shift was from 8.am till 5 pm and the night shift went on till ,on average, 3 am dependant upon successful sorties or otherwise .
I recall two serious incidents during my time at Luffenham.
A Meteor returning from a night sortie attempted a very long and low landing approach which resulted in it crashing into the high ground behind the quarry at Ketton Cement Works.It hit one wing first and cartwheeled before coming to rest having lost it's tail section, outer wings and all the fuselarge foreward of the cockpit. The pilot managed to climb down into the quarry and alert the night manager and the navigator was rescued.Both survived with minor injuries !
The other incident was again a night trip when the radar was very accurate and the chaser plane ran right up the rear of the quarry plane, over Derby. I believe two aircrew survived this disaster.
I have two photos relating to these events.
There were a number of 'minor' incidents in the two years.
Aircraft attempting take off --down runway--NO AIRSPEED !---pitot cover had been left on (no red flag attached) --heavy breaking--lots of smoke !!

Winter time, 1 ft of snow--belly fuel tank fitted to Meteor.Taxiing forward --nosewheel chock hidden by snow--chock puntures tank ! Lots of recriminations !

Winter time , about 3 days later. Repeat of above --All hell breaks loose !!

Grassed areas at each end of pan excavated, to be filled with concrete. Taxiing Meteor of No.2 Squadron goes nose down into hole.Great laughter from No.1 Squadron !

Meteor lands well down the runway and continues at the end, through hedges,across the road and downhill into the field, wheels down.

The ground crews were all equiped with bicycles to get out and about the airfield and these were in RAF colours with red/white and blue roundals on the mudguards and ident nos -- clones of the Meteors !!
The experiences are still remembered 55 years later.

Maple 01
7th Jun 2007, 20:39
Good show Ted and welcome

8th Jun 2007, 06:59
An accident concerning a Meteor was the first aircraft accident I saw. I can't remember the date (early 50's or even late 40's) but I was on a beach holiday with my parents at Filey in East Yorkshire. I was paddling in the sea when a 4 ship formation turned in towards the coast, probably heading back to Driffield. As they approached, one of the rear aircraft in the formation simply broke up in mid air. Both wings seemed to separate simultaneously and one wing plus engine landed between two caravans on the cliff top. We visited the "smoking hole" later in the day (no sign of it being cordoned off) This was certainly not the oft quoted incident of the Flamborough Head accident but I've never seen my witnessed accident mentioned since or heard of structural failure in the air with the Meteor.
Some years later when I was working on a Station Flight - awaiting being called forward for aircrew training - there was a Master Pilot who used the Staion Meatbox for his air taxi home at the weekends. Ah well.........

henry crun
8th Jun 2007, 07:59
Midair structural failures were not uncommon, (we had no G meters) but were mostly away from the public eye.

I only witnessed one, Coningsby 19/9/53, a Mk8 of 74 Sqn suffered a double mainplane failure at about 2-300 ft as he was starting a slow roll.

There were pieces scattered far and wide.
It was disconcerting to see the wreckage being cleared as I taxied out shortly after.

11th Jun 2007, 00:13
Anyone who lived through those days at Brawdy and has no memory of the "Legend" must have been living on another planet!!
His "beating up" of the airfield in the Meteor shall forever stay in my mind! (And it was a sound that I`ll never forget!) As did his low level flight at full throttle over the dunes of Pembrey in a Hunter!
I`m sure that the yachtsman who had strayed into the no-go zone shall never forget it either!!
The Range Sergeant in the Tower was none too impressed though, I seem to remember!!
I was there with a fire wagon that day to cover the first live firing of the Hawk at the range.

John Purdey
11th Jun 2007, 12:33
Lawrek 03, you seem to have disappeared. I may be able to help re Ces Crook, and (new subject!) accidents at Sek Kong in the 1950s, about which you were asking.

14th Nov 2007, 23:32
The Meteor was still being used for FAC/ACO training in North Devon circa 1968/9. I was on 604 FAC with my boss Flt Lt Peter Maillard - Meteor pilot was Flt Lt Bill ??

A A Gruntpuddock
16th Nov 2007, 19:14
I believe a 2 seat Meteor came down on the North side of Kirkcaldy killing both crew members in Autumn 1957 (or possibly 1958).

It was about 2 weeks before the new Kirkcaldy High School was opened and I recall visiting the site as a teenager.

Does anyone have any details of this accident? I drive past it frequently and there is no memorial.

henry crun
16th Nov 2007, 19:49
Broken Wings entry.

18.10.57, Meteor T7, WL368, CFE CF, 2m N of Kirkcaldy, Fife, lost control; flew into ground in bad visibility (2).

A A Gruntpuddock
16th Nov 2007, 20:05
Thanks for the very fast response!

16th Nov 2007, 20:40
In the record of Meteor accidents in Nick Carter's book, Meteor Eject, the entry for this crash has: WL368 7 CFE 18/10/57 Pax had suitcase on lap - pilot and pax killed

A A Gruntpuddock
16th Nov 2007, 22:34
When I told my wife that the accident had been due to poor visibility she immediately replied "That's rubbish - it was a beautiful day!"
In my usual loving and affectionate way I said. "What the f==k do you know about it, you were only only about 9 or 10 years old!"
Well, once I had picked myself up and retrieved most of my teeth it transpired that she had been in her aunt's flat about 1 mile west of the site.
They heard the plane go over and crash. Her uncle, an off-duty PC, put his uniform on and went out on crowd-control duty.
Loss of control in poor visibilty?

henry crun
17th Nov 2007, 01:28
I have no idea what the weather was like, but a suitcase on the lap in the back seat of a Mk 7 is asking for trouble.

We alway put our luggage in the radio compartment in the rear of the fuselage.

Mike Read
17th Nov 2007, 09:31

The Meteors were used in 1968/9 for FAC training occasionally. The Meteor flight commander was Dave Chaiken and the Meteor IRE was Flt Lt Dave (?) Hill. There were also two Chipmunks (Flt Lt Bill Arrowsmith) moved to Chivenor from Middle Wallop for introduction flights for pongos. I flew FAC sorties in all three types. Dec 68 took Lt S. and Capt. W. up in back seat of T7 and a couple of days later in Hunter T7.

A A Gruntpuddock
17th Nov 2007, 11:55
I asked my wife about the weather that day and she said it had been raining in the morning but by the time of the accident the sun was shining. She was out in the garden playing with her cousin, heard the plane but did not see it. Seems unlikely that weather was the cause.

18th Nov 2007, 13:33
They tried to teach me to fly an Oxford in 1952 with limited success so I transferred to a Nav course. There were about 20 on the Oxford course that went forward on to Jets, three of those had died before I left NS. ( I think it was Oxfords-Meteors and Harvard-Vampire generally)
I think I was glad I failed, but I would have like to stay a Pilot, and would have probably stayed in if I had been good enough.

18th Nov 2007, 14:53

The Meteors were used in 1968/9 for FAC training occasionally. The Meteor flight commander was Dave Chaiken and the Meteor IRE was Flt Lt Dave (?) Hill. There were also two Chipmunks (Flt Lt Bill Arrowsmith) moved to Chivenor from Middle Wallop for introduction flights for pongos. I flew FAC sorties in all three types. Dec 68 took Lt S. and Capt. W. up in back seat of T7 and a couple of days later in Hunter T7.

Thanks for that Mike. Bill Arrowsmith was the chap whose name escaped me. A donkey walloper (Maj Dick Gravestone?) was the GLO who liaised with local farmers for ground based locations. Interesting times training AAC heli pilots to be FAC or ACO especially when the AAC refuelling tanker got bogged down in heavy ground.

13th Dec 2007, 10:30
Im doing an article for The Courier in kirkcaldy on a possible memorial for the two men killed in this crash in 1957.

I have been in touch with the family but still need as much background information as possible on what happened that day.

extra information about the plane would also be appreciated, as from what I have read on this forum it sounds like they were not too reliable?

My email address is [email protected]

13th Dec 2007, 16:58
In order to give due respect to those two men, try and make your article as accurate as possible!
I think you will find everybody here will be willing to help you out.

16th Dec 2007, 00:50
I was searching this forum for any recent reference regarding "Puddy" and this thread showed as the most recent, so excuse my interruption please..

I've just received a rather nice letter from him which has him in good spirits albeit rather marooned at home due to some comically described building works taking place outside his home. He is still going strong, and still as eccentric as ever, which I rather enjoy to be honest...

I haven't had the chance to pop down and meet him this year, but always try and do so when in the area on hols (Pembrokeshire).

I'm sure fellow forumites will be pleased to know he is still with us, as he has never forgotten reports of his apparent demise being circulated on the web (he finds that suitably amusing of course)...

In his letter, he hints at the faint possibility of acquiring a new phone line and internet access in the not-to-distant future, but with his wicked dislike for such modern communication I can't hold him to that. (It isn't his idea, more a plan by his landowner.....lol)

Anyway, I'll leave it at that, and hope some of you will be happy at the news!!!


Pete Buckingham

16th Dec 2007, 07:01
Good to learn that 'Puddy' is still alive and well.

Is that booming voice still inviting all and sundry to "Take Beer!" in his local hostelry?

Just goes to show that aviators live to ripe old ages when allowed to be a little (OK, rather a more than a little) individual and eccentric!!

Pud had a healthy disregard for irritating things like Annual Medicals - one wonders how he would have reacted to the notion of the RAF Fitness Test!

16th Dec 2007, 15:59
Can't vouch for the booming voice as I haven't been down to his place for over a year, but judging by his written humour bemoaning the local supermarket not stocking his favourite beer, he still has it....lol
I'm trying to work out hia age now, as he was never actually as old as many assumed (including me). When I first got reunited with him only a few years ago, he was telling me how 'young' he actually was - and if memory seves me right he had only passed 60 then?

I'm sure there's many years in him yet!!!!

A A Gruntpuddock
16th Dec 2007, 21:25
Some details from 'The Courier' on


Salient quote :-

"The pilot, Flight Lieutenant M. J. Withey, of Malvern, Worcestershire, and Senior Aircraftman D. McLoughlin, of Glasgow, died on October 18, 1957, when their plane, based at West Raynham, Norfolk, came down after engine trouble.
They had been on their way to Leuchars after being diverted from Turnhouse—now Edinburgh airport—because of bad weather when the jet crashed only 100 yards or so short of Dunnikier House Hotel."

Weather or engine problems? :confused:

17th Dec 2007, 00:40
Is there no BoI report to be shared after all these years ? If Grunts does not like the suitcase story and would choose between weather and engine failure, has he considered fuel starvation ?

The article Grunts points to suggests 10-15 minutes between trouble and prang. I remember a normal high-level sortie on full ventral being no more than one hour. Withey has covered about 240 nm from Raynham, had one or more stabs at Turnhouse and then climbed out on diversion. At this stage the fuel gauge needles are moving as you watch them. Turnhouse to Leuchars would take 10 minutes at least. He might have elected to transit at min safe altitude on one engine; if that flames out, his R/T call might not be heard by either station. With a station airman (and suitcase ?) in the back, Withey might not regard baling out as an option. Drama turns to tragedy.

Wind Sock
25th Apr 2010, 22:26
I have just come across a review of a book called "Meteor - Eject" by Nick Carter. The book contains statistics about loss rates, can anybody who served in the 50/60s confirm these - they seem horrendous?

1. 150 total losses in 1952
2. 68 lost after running out of fuel
3. 23 lost doing official low level aeros displays
4. 890 lost in total
5. 436 fatal accidents between 1944 and 1986.

I was quite shocked to see these statistics.

I recall being told that it was the Avro Shackleton that held the dubious reputation for killing off more aircrew during peace time than any other aircraft in the Royal Aircraft.

I even found it written on the web. See here:


in that article it states:

More good men have died in Shackleton crashes than in any other RAF aircraft type in peacetime.
though I am sure that must be incorrect.

I suppose why people thought that it was the Shackleton that held this dubious record was because a Shackleton crash although relatively rare could result in ten fatalities at a time. On the other hand a Meteor crash would only kill one or two and although far more frequent it would hardly make the news at the time.

3rd Jul 2010, 17:00
I have just discovered this thread. I find the views very positive and, if my memory still serves me correctly, accurate and very much to the point.
I did a Day Fighter tour on Meteor 8s in 12 Group 1952 - 1954 and then went to FGA in 2 TAF on Vamps and Venom 1s until 1957. All character building aircraft! The press on spirit prevalent in those days had already begun to evaporate a little when I left the service to fly civvy.
Scanning through the link, I think I can identify some of my thinly disguised compatriots of those days. Looking back again through the thread I see mention of two stalwarts I was privileged to serve with. One is Cess Crook - I was on the same wing as he in 2 TAF and can report that he is alive and well living in NZ and I am in frquent touch with him. I was with him at the leave train incident, and when he told the passengers and crew of the leave ship from the Hook to Harwich over the Tannoy that there was no for panic, but a yeti was loose on board! There were other hilarious incidents involving the Deutsches Bundesbahn but I wouldn't repeat them without Cess' agreement. I met him again professionally when he came to Singapore to join the Pioneer Sqn which I was now on having rejoined the RAF. Bill Arrowsmith is the other luminary I knew well - he was a flight commander on the Twin Pioneer element of the sqn and a fine throat as we used to say!. I apologise for this entry being a bit off topic, I'll get back in line on my next post as, like many others of the 50s era, I can recall one or two 'incidents' in my time on Meteors.

John Farley
3rd Jul 2010, 18:48

Sadly there is/was nothing remarkable about those accident figures at that time in the post WWII RAF. I don’t have the detailed breakdown for the Meteor but the numbers you quote are rather less than I could easily believe.

The total numbers of aircraft lost by the RAF are available from Kew (as indeed are the Meteor stats I am sure)

Year Aircraft lost Fatalities
1950 380 238
1951 490 280
1952 507 318
1953 483 333
1954 452 283
1955 305 182

(Sorry I could not get the columns to line up with the headings)

Grunt and Ris

The bare facts of the 18 Oct 57 Meteor accident as given in Colin Cummings’ wonderfully researched “Catalogue of RAF aircraft losses 1954-2009” are as follows:

“The aircraft had taken off from RAF West Raynham to ferry some Hunter spares to RAF Turnhouse. The pilot was given clearance for a practice single engine landing and all appeared well as it flew in the circuit at about 1000ft. It was then see to roll rapidly to port and to dive vertically into the ground”

Again I find nothing unusual about such a report at that time.

To get a feel for things in that period you might be interested to know that the RAF laid on a flypast at Odiham on 15 July 52 to mark the Coronation of the Queen. 641 aircraft flew past her dais in 27 minutes and included 276 Meteors as well as 25 other types. On the ground there was a static display of another 320 aircraft.

3rd Jul 2010, 19:55
Bit off topic but oddly the Flypast Forums are reporting they have just located a bunch of Syrian Meatboxes being used as decoys, if you want a looksie see

N36 11.22 E037 34.31 - Google Maps (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N36+11.22+E037+34.31&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=14.95462,46.362305&ie=UTF8&ll=36.190116,37.584196&spn=0.001245,0.00283&t=h&z=19)


4th Jul 2010, 01:26
John Farley at 19:48 last.

I know nothing of the accident except the previous posts. The news report is quite clear that the aircraft landed by the well known hotel outside Kirkcaldy. By my ruler, that is 18 NM on the centreline of what is now Leuchars’ 04 runway. Pace Colin Cummings, that is not in the circuit and not even near enough to start getting into circuit pattern configuration.

Your quote calls to all our minds the notorious Phantom Dive and I suggest you have too quickly given into the temptation to accept this report of another far-too-common circuit accident.

Except Withey was not in the circuit.

My conjectures of 17 December 2007 mostly stand. Taking to be true as much of Cummings’ story as we can, we now forget my suggestions that the aircraft was out of radio contact and that he had gone up to min safe altitude. We can also assume that the airman in the back had to hold onto his suitcase because the Hunter spare part had taken up the (not very big) space in the radio compartment that Henry Crun (17 November 2007 02:28) mentioned.

Withey gets permission to do a practice single engine landing. That suggests obviously that he has been doing the transit on one. An important fact about the single engine transit is that if the other engine is idling, you lose most of the fuel saving. So Withey is probably on one for real.

By the time I did my training three years later, to do a practice asymmetric landing meant having both engines running, but with one idling. If Withey was going to do an approach with both engines running, it would have been ever so much easier to do it the usual way rather than in the practice asymmetric mode.

Air Traffic would not accept an authentic single-engine approach except in a declared emergency. Withey seems not to have declared an emergency. It seems to me that he would be on one engine because he was short of fuel - and that he planned to land on one because he was desperately short of fuel. It would be a small and understandable part of this story if he calculated that telling ATC of his self-induced emergency would not help him with his problem and would make certain an unpleasant interview on Monday morning.

With twenty miles to go, his live engine winds down. If he accepts that and thinks he might have fuel available to the other engine, he would try to start that. In the meantime he is losing airspeed. He is fighting the rudder load appropriate to the engine that just died; it takes quite a number of turns to wind that off. He has to wind on the same amount in the opposite direction if his other engine lights up – which only happens if he has a spare hand to operate the HP cock, and the button on the end of it, in just the right way.

Managing the rudder in the ordinary asymmetric situation is very demanding of your leg muscles if you could not (as I could) lock your leg over-centre at the knee. In that way you were able to fix the rudder at full deflection for as long as necessary. As I see it turning out for Withey, he should initially have held the rudder central against full left or right trim; to do this he could not lock his leg but would have to hold his leg bent at the knee. Maybe he was not (and maybe I would not have been) strong enough to hold that position. If then the second engine lit, perhaps he had to lock full rudder against full opposite trim.

All this to keep the ball in the centre … but perhaps he found too little time to look at the turn-and-slip at all. Perhaps he is really running out of airspeed … and has not given himself time to see that either.

The Phantom Dive was remarkable because a Meteor at normal circuit speed would roll and plunge to the ground. There is sadly nothing remarkable about any aircraft doing that if it is yawing when it stalls.

John Farley
4th Jul 2010, 10:37

I am sorry if your reading of my post makes you feel I was expressing views as to what happened. I can assure you I was not. I was merely offering a quote from a well recognised authority and saying that it did not surprise me.

Having flown several marks of Meteor I could offer a lot of comment about your conjectures regarding this accident. However I see no point in that because I have no way of authenticating or disproving the conflicting reports of this accident.


4th Jul 2010, 11:10
I understand that they managed to get the twin-Nene deflected jet Meteor RA490 down to about 70KIAS during trials. I hate to imagine what would have happened had an engine failed at such very low speeds; recovery near the ground would surely have been impossible - and bang seats of the time, even if fitted, wouldn't have been of much help.

Brave chaps, those early TPs!

4th Jul 2010, 17:06
Dear John (if I may be so bold)

I am not familiar with Cummings. I happily accept your view that he is an authority. I read your excerpt from his writings and responded at first with the response I attributed to you. You left it at that, while I realised that what he said was incompatible with what had already been said on this thread. So off I go on a stream of conjecture - which I enjoy by myself, which I offer for others to work on and which I expect to be greatly improved by those who know more than I do.

I am used to contributors who would (slightly sanctimoniously I think) stop people speculating about the latest accident. I on the other hand, at the sight of fresh blood on the tarmac, become very inquisitive and would share that response with other aviators and ex-aviators. One might have stopped flying, but one need not stop learning.

Kirkcaldy was over fifty years ago. I am puzzled that you are interested enough to read and write about this incident but would yet withhold your own knowledge and opinion. Is there a measurable quantity of Meteor experience which, if I had asserted it, would have gained enough of your respect for you to open up ? Three marks would perhaps not be enough, even though the T7 is the lowest common factor in everyone’s Meteor experience anyway. Have you pranged one ? - aha! Mine was Cat 5. Would my last Meteor sortie be more recent than yours – quite possibly.

I may even be ready for some of the points that you would have made if you had been less scrupulous. If I could remember the (surely very simple) fuel management system, I might have known there would have been no question of finding more fuel behind the dead engine. I may be overdoing the foot load arising from full rudder trim acting on the centralised rudders when both engines are quiet, especially as the airspeed is decaying. Indeed full trim had perhaps not been needed for the single-engine cruise. Perhaps, sadly, we should swap an image of the one-armed paper-hanger in his last moments for that of the pilot “with nothing on the clock but a vacant expression”.

We would no doubt be discussing the accident in a much more informed manner if the official accident report were to hand. Yet I expect that would start me off on a new line of thought - probably “I wonder what they meant by that” – and I would be glad to know what others thought as a result.

John Farley
4th Jul 2010, 19:39
Dear Ris

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply properly to my second post. Such courtesy seldom seems to happen here these days but then you and I are of a similar generation that was perhaps brought up differently.

Re Cummings the 2009 Cummings book (Category Five) I quoted from is his eighth in a series about RAF losses and was published post Haddon-Cave. Indeed his comments regarding that report and that of the Puma accident are very interesting. His acknowledgements of people and organisations that provided the data for this book runs to two pages. His summaries of the accidents of which I have some personal knowledge appear to be totally accurate.

However, as you would expect from an experienced author, he does say that it is inevitable that the book will have sins of commission and omission. If you want to give me the date of your Meteor Cat 5 I will look it up and PM you what Cummings says!

I agree with you that speculation immediately after an accident should not be derided in the way it is by some on PPRuNe. To my mind such speculation is part of the process of spreading the word so that all those operating a similar type, or who are involved in similar operations, can perhaps avoid a similar event. Those who really are in the flying business can easily sift out the informed comment from the rubbish.

My Meteor time involved no accidents although one of the two seaters I flew (a specially modified NF11 used as a thunderstorm probe by the RAE Aerodynamics Research Flight) did present me with a double flame out when a lightning strike offended both Derwents. Self inflicted injury one could say though and not a reflection on the soundness of the Derwent 5.

I take your points about foot forces when asymmetric, the airbrake/undercarriage related ‘phantom dive’ and indeed the various possibilities of mis-managing the fuel system.

When trying to come up with the most likely bit of speculation my experience suggests that the explanation that requires the least complicated plot stands the best chance of being right. Incidentally I also feel that technical failures are most likely to have the pilot climbing on the R/T whereas if he has boobed he is likely to be too busy trying to unboob himself to make R/T calls.

As to why I came on the thread it was because of post 226 where a young Wind Sock expressed shock at the events of 50 years ago.


4th Jul 2010, 21:49
When trying to come up with the most likely bit of speculation my experience suggests that the explanation that requires the least complicated plot stands the best chance of being right.

Occam's Razor, Sir:

and your profound experience adds to that maxim.

Tyres O'Flaherty
5th Jul 2010, 00:08
John Farley & Rlsbutler, please carry on as I & I think many other people will appreciate learning much from sensible and properly knowledgeable talk

John Farley
5th Jul 2010, 08:31
Ta Tyres

I think Ris and I are done as he has checked the Cummings entry of his prang and confirms the data in C's book.

If anybody else has info on a Cat 5 PM me and I will check that against C's version as well.


Vox Populi
5th Jul 2010, 11:31
Withey gets permission to do a practice single engine landing. That suggests obviously that he has been doing the transit on one.

I'm interested in this observation. Why does this lead you to believe it was a single engine transit? Would it not have been normal to bring one engine to idle to specifically perform a practice single engine approach?

I know the Meteor (and Canberra for that matter) were a handful in asymmetric flight, and the 'wrong boot' accounted for a number of losses during the approach and t.o. phase during practice engine failures. Would that not have been a more likely scenario here?

Just wondering.

5th Jul 2010, 12:39
Vox Pop

This sub-thread starts at post 202. I suggest you work forward from there. You are right about the practising of assymmetric flight. I am arguing that the pilot was running out of fuel and not likely to be thinking of doing an awkward landing for the fun of it.

5th Jul 2010, 19:04
...check your private messages. Thanks.

The Ancient Mariner

6th Jul 2010, 08:51
Regarding the correspondence about listings of Meteor prangs and Colin Cummings' book; "Category Five", which deals with RAF accidents 1954 to 2009.

About 400 Meteor accidents are listed in an earlier book by the same guy. This book is called; "Last Take-Off" and it sells via Amazon. The tome deals with 1950 to 1953.

Cummings is an amiable old buffer and always pleased to help those with specific queries or who want lists for Sqn histories or details of their best mate's prang. He's on [email protected]

9th Sep 2010, 17:03
Thanks to a well-known on-line website, I've just received a copy of Peter Caygill's book Jet Jockeys.

An excellent account, with plenty of very welcome technical detail, of flying the RAF's early jets - Meteor, Vampire, Venom, Sabre, Swift, Hunter and Javelin. I think that it's out of print now, but the copy I managed to obtain is virtually brand-new.

Not just a good account of flying those early aircraft, but a fascinating insight into a very different RAF...

Meteor QFIs were lucky to have survived such times!

9th Sep 2010, 19:00
BEagle thanks - mine is on its way

sled dog
9th Sep 2010, 19:41
I,too, can highly recommend Jet Jockeys. As we once were.........:{

9th Sep 2010, 20:44
Thanks from me too, BEagle, just ordered mine.


10th Sep 2010, 08:07
Well spotted, BEags, mine is also on the way . . . Thanks. :ok::ok:

10th Sep 2010, 15:29
I too have ordered a [second hand] copy (for a tad under £60 less than the new list price) as my father flew 5 of the 7 aircraft that BEagle mentioned and he never really talks about it. Mind you, I suppose I've never really asked!

13th Sep 2010, 07:52
My copy came via that certain web site from a library in the North(ish) of England, hard back and practically brand new at a fraction of the new price (and delivered within 24 hrs"). It is now hidden away in a suitcase in readiness for next weeks holiday.

So thanks for the heads up:D


13th Sep 2010, 08:05
One thing which I found very interesting was the amount of high-level flying up in 40s which went on back in RAFG in the 1950s.

So different to the "schneebling in the weedisphere" of the 1970s.

I was suprised at the capabilities of the Venom compared with the Sabre - and particularly the rather underwhelming Swift!

It must have been very exciting to have been in the RAF of about 1953-6...

henry crun
13th Sep 2010, 08:55
It wasn't just in RAFG, there was a fair amount of high level flying taking place in UK as well.

13th Sep 2010, 09:00
it must have been very exciting to have been in the RAF of about 1953-6...

Very true on occasion, Beags, I still think the best birthday present I ever got was on my 20th from my Flight Commander at Pembrey; he authorised me for my first Hunter trip (a Mk 1, so no dual).