View Full Version : Buccaneer - failed carrier launch

Shaggy Sheep Driver
14th Jan 2003, 11:37
I visited a local aviation sale in a church hall on Saturday where I picked up a video about the Buck for a couple of quid.

It's not brilliant - too many talkng heads, not enough Buck footage, but OK for a couple of quid. Near the end is an unconnected selection of 'action shots' of Bucks doing fly-byes and carrier launches and landings.

One bit of film shows a carrier cat shot where the aeroplane looks slow (cat failure?). It goes off the end of the deck then rears up to an increadible angle, before departing and rolling off to the left and into the sea not far in front of the carrier.

The video gives no whys or wherefors. Anyone know what happened, and whether the crew survived (no sign of anyone banging out on the film)?


14th Jan 2003, 12:50

I've seen that clip before on TV, but I can't think where. More importantly, the programme was discussed here as I remember posting to it.

Here it is:-

When Pilots eject (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=48486)

BEagle gives an explanation as to why the Bucc fails to fly near the bottom of the first page.

Hope this helps.

14th Jan 2003, 13:08
Just wonder if this particular incident is the one where - I think his name was Lt.Cmdr Russell - went off the carrier. Floated for a while and a helo's winchman went down and tried to smash the hood. He failed and the aircraft sunk. The pilot was lost.

Questions followed about wether might have banged out but for the helo hovering above.

I have no doubt someone will come up with the full details.

Sad to watch though I remember.

14th Jan 2003, 14:22
Camel Pilot,

I'm pretty sure that was a Scimitar that had run off the side of the flight deck and was alongside the carrier. I've seen the Bucc failed launch clip and I can't recall seeing the crew bang out.

14th Jan 2003, 14:25
Camel Pilot,
I believe the incident to which you refer involved a Scimitar of 803 Sqdn,FAA.
HMS Victorious was embarking her squadrons, and Lt.Cd.Des Russell was first to land on. The arrester wire did not sufficiently retard the aircraft and eventually broke at the end of the runout
The Scimitar then ran off the angled deck into the sea.

Apologies, WUB, to duplicate your response. We must have been transmitting at the same time.

14th Jan 2003, 15:06
I've got that video!

The a/c concerned was Blackburn NA.39 XK529. It crashed on 31 Aug 61 after pitching up violently no more than a second after launch, stalling and falling in to the sea about a mile ahead of the ship.

The inquiry findings were inconclusive but it was believed to have been either a failure of the BLC or a pilot induced over rotation (the a/c, when recovered, was found to be overtrimmed by 2 degrees).

Shaggy Sheep Driver
14th Jan 2003, 17:38
ETS - whats a BLC. And did the crew get out?


14th Jan 2003, 18:08

BLC = Boundary Layer Control.

Engine bleed air is bled over the Leading edges, deployed flaps and tailplane to improve low speed handling (lift) and this, coupled with drooped ailerons, reduced the approach speed 25Kts as compared to that of a similar a/c having no BLC.

The crew, pilot Lt-Cdr 'Ossie' Brown & Blackburn observer Trevor Dunn, regrettably did not survive.

The ship incidentally was HMS Hermes which was sailing in Lyme Bay.

The Mk1 Buccaneers were so under powered at T.O. that the gear was selected up even before the a/c was lauched so the drag could be reduced ASAP. Obviously the gear didn't retract until the weight switches relaxed once the a/c was airbourne

14th Jan 2003, 19:34
I was thinking about the Buc at dinner and suddenly realised that it was a Scimitar. Got back here to find that the knowledge which pervades PPRuNe came forth with the real facts before I could, hopefully, sneak an edit in. ;) I am a tad embarrassed - :o - but delighted that we have those who are so encyclopaedic and have the facts at their fingertips.

However, it was a moment in time that sticks in the mind. Even if my facts were not entirely right.

Thanks good people.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
14th Jan 2003, 20:01
Thanks ETS.

Bit of a double whammy, that BLC. Lose power, and you lose lift as well.

I noted from the vid that the Mk1 was considered underpowered, though the test pilot didn't admit it. I think they said it had DH Gyrons whereas the Mk11 had Speys.

I noticed that for a cat launch the aeroplane was 'propped up' by 2 supports under the wing, with the nose in the air. On launch, there were 2 splashes into the sea.

Were those the 'props'? Why was it so propped?


14th Jan 2003, 21:26
What you can see when the a/c is postioned on the cat' are the cable strops.

The strop is looped round the leading edge of the cat' shuttle and then attached to the a/c. Once fitted, the shuttle is driven forward to tension it and in doing so the a/c is rotated until the tail skid touches the deck. This gives the wing an optimium angle of attack of 9 degrees.

Now a steel hold back bar is fitted between the tail of the a/c and a fitting in the cat' groove. part of this bar is stressed to fail at 51,000Lbs. The idea is that the combined impulse of engines and the catapault is applied instantaneously and in the reqd quantity at launch.






15th Jan 2003, 20:55
I've dug out another book of mine that discusses this incident. It is called "Up In Harms Way" by Cmdr R M Crosley, DSC & Bar RN

Mike Crosley flew Seafires off Japan during the war and then went to the ETPS and after failing to gain a permanant commission joined Shorts as a test pilot. 3 years later he rejoined the Navy and after time in Korea became a Tutor at ETPS. During this period he was involved with the development flying of the Buccaneer and was on the bridge of the Hermes when the incident happened. His last flying appointment was as CO of the Navel Test Squadron at Boscombe Down where invented the "hands-off" launch technique for the Buccaneer. In his time at Shorts he also invented the heads up display while testing flying boats.

He say's Ossie's a/c reared up, dropped its port wing in a stall and hit the water within 10 seconds of its take off. It had only its airbrakes showing as it passed down the port side, about a 100 yards distant. It stayed like this for about a minute and then slowley dipped forward and disappeared below the surface.

According to the instrument recording the pilot had applied full available nose down elevator one-eighth of a second after leaving the cat'. Was the end speed dangerously low? (We all knew that the acceleration of the Narner off the end of the cat' had been as low as half a knot/sec on some occasions.) Was BLC failure the cause? Was it because the tail down launch posture too nose-up for the airflow to fully establish itself?

Cmdr Crosley went to the enquiry which concluded that Ossie had pulled back on the stick, promoting a pitch up and stall. The reason why he could not correct the pitch up was through lack of available nose down elevator power to correct the pitch up.

At the preliminary meeting on board Mike Crosley said he thought a 3 deg pitch up had occured on the cat due to the tail skid collapsing. It was the exciting cause of the pitch up which was not Ossie induced as he(Crosley) had seen no up elevator during the launch. The inertia from this 3 deg/sec pitch up could not have been stopped by Ossie as the elevator nose down authority avail to the pilot was almost nil. This being because the max nose down elevator angle was only 2 degs, insufficient angle at that speed.

It was also discovered that the wrong grease had been used in the wing fold bolts and that had caused a misalignment in the port rear wing fold bolt, possibly leading to a partial loss of BLC on that side contributing to the L wing stall.

When the a/c was recovered from 50' of water it was found that the canopy had been jettisoned underwater, and Ossie was out of the cockpit but with his foot firmly jammed by the observers ejector seat after it had been fired accidentally.

The observer had also been trying to escape at the same time but, at the time his seat fired, the a/c had already turned over onto its back, thus driving downwards and injuring both of them.

A sad story in a very interesting book published by Airlife in 1995.
ISBN 1 85310 555 4

Shaggy Sheep Driver
16th Jan 2003, 10:51
Thanks, FTS. Fascinating posts. One wonders why they didn't bang out sooner, but There was little time between pitch-up and hitting the water, and they I suppose they may have been concussed by the impact with the water.

If only the airbrakes were showing as the ship passed it, presumably the aircraft was vertically nose-down in the water by then. Interesting that the back seater tried to eject under water - If he'd got clear, I wonder what the effect on the head and neck would be of being ejected into relatively solid water, instaed of air?

The launch pictures you include appear to show that the cable goes over the bows during the launch and is lost - is that the splash I see in the video?


John Farley
17th Jan 2003, 19:19

The naval aircraft of that era had bang seats that had an underwater ejection mode using compressed air istead of cartridges for the reasons you mention. I seem to remember the mode change was automatic and selected by a water pressure sensor. The O2 system was fine as an underwater breathing aid. So there were chances. All this because the zero zero seat had not happned then.