View Full Version : Low Flying under bridges (Updated)

16th Jul 2003, 06:07
Seen on ITV news this evening, home video of two light aircraft flying under a bridge in Scotland a couple of weeks ago. Must have been 30ft at most - the news said that they were Spanish and pilots promised to police that they would not do it again (I assume they got away with it then!).

Seem to remember both mil and civ pilots in the past getting their ba!!s strung up for less!!

Letsby Avenue
16th Jul 2003, 06:48
Hmm.. I seem to remember a few years ago when I was tasked to escort a RN boat up the River Orwell during a visit to Ipswich (HMS Grafton if I remember correctly) We had the doors open and some military PR types on board taking some photo's, the BBC were filming on the Orwell bridge and broadcast a perfect picture on the news that evening of the top of my Lynx as it passed under the bridge.. The CO phoned me that night and congratulated me on having the balls to do it!.. They were the days..:cool:

Have to say though - Thats one huge bridge.

16th Jul 2003, 13:30
There's a thread in the Rotorheads forum about the two recent 'bridge' flights.

The first was a helicopter flying under the Skye bridge http://homepage.mac.com/helipilot/PPRuNe/toavoidbirds.jpg

Followed by the Spanish pilots jolly. http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39245000/jpg/_39245624_ballachone203.jpg

All very tame compared with the exploits of WWI ace, 'Mad' Major Draper DFC in 1930 and again in 1953 which eventually led to this: http://people.aero.und.edu/~draper/summons.jpg

See thread for old b&w pics.

Click here for link. (http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?threadid=94400&referrerid=30158)

16th Jul 2003, 14:20
I understand that the Menai bridge was popular with Spitfire pilots from Rednal, the Clifton suspension bridge received its fair share of AFS pilots from Weston Zoyland and Merryfield and a Hunter flew under Tower Bridge in 1968. I know a chap who flew a Venom under some German bridge in the 1950s...

There's plenty of room under the Severn Bridges to fit a VC10 - but that wouldn't be a good idea!

16th Jul 2003, 17:13
.................and, apparently, there is enough room under the Humber Bridge for a Lynx 3 ship on NVG - or so I've heard ;)

16th Jul 2003, 17:40
With regard to Spitfire Pilots flying underneath obstacles.

My Grandad worked as a Mechanic at RAF Cardington during the war. He says that the works pilots, when flight testing the aircraft, were prone to flying through the airship hangers looping over the top and passing back through the airship hangars (Obviously with both end-doors open on the Airship Hangers)

Can anybody confirm?


16th Jul 2003, 23:49
Fortyodd, you're clearly showing off now; everyone knows tiny weeny can't get 3 Lynxs in the air at once!


17th Jul 2003, 02:17
819 or Gannet SAR flight as it is now called regularly fly under Erskine bridge in Glasgow quite legally for training purposes:hmm:

john du'pruyting
17th Jul 2003, 02:26
Ah crab in cab, but in the aac, 3 lynx flying the same route on 3 consecutive days would qualify as a formation. So it could be true :p

Max R8
17th Jul 2003, 03:36
I have it from the navigator on board that the then OC 101 Sqn (Sqn Ldr Cassidy I think) flew his Canberra B2 under the Clifton Suspension Bridge in C1951!!! Very early one summer morn apparently so not too many witnesses.

Didn't Ray Hannah fly under a bridge on the Tyne for the filming of "Piece of Cake"...

...and the chap in the Hunter flying through Tower Bridge in 1968...

...and a stunt pilot in a tiger moth pretending to be Lady Peneplope in a Thunderbirds film flew under a motorway bridge in the late '60s.

17th Jul 2003, 04:35
All you doubters out there - it was 1998 (allegedly!) when the AAC could actually field 3 Lynx on the same day ;)

Letsby Avenue
17th Jul 2003, 05:06
Best ever for teeny weeny; 11 Lynx mk9, NVG Cat 3, 100ft, 100knots, all at two rotor spans in staggered file, unfortunately we didn't go under a bridge:(

Flying Lawyer
17th Jul 2003, 15:32
Max R8

The bridge Ray Hanna flew under when filming Piece of Cake in 1988 was Winston Bridge in Co. Durham.
They chose it because it's not on a busy road or too close to houses and has a straight run-in for the Spitfire. I think, from memory, he flew it at about 200 kts.
This pic of the bridge gives only an idea.


The picture with the Spit flying under is spectacular, but I can't find my copy to scan and post here.

Hunter through Tower Bridge 1968
No personal knowledge about this one, but a quick google came up with ....
"In 1968 it was the RAF's 50th birthday, yet the top brass did not se fit to mark this with any flypast, choosing instead for mere parades on the ground. Many RAF personnel were less than impressed and one Flt Lt Alan Pollock of 1(F) Squadron decided to mark the occasion in style - first with toilet-roll bombing missions against rival squadrons, and then on April 5th, while suffering from the beginnings of pneumonia which no doubt had some affect on his decision making processes, he flew his Hunter over London and at the last second decided to fly under the top span of Tower Bridge! Knowing of the consequences of his unauthorised trip, he proceeded to beat up several airfields and landed to meet his fate. It would be the end of his RAF career (he went on to run a successful exporting company), with political influences making sure he was treated incredibly unfairly - thrown out of the RAF with no right to appeal, no court martial at which he could present his case, medical evidence ignored, unable to meet with his superiors, etc.
It took until 1982 for his case to be fully heard, and only then was he exonerated."

17th Jul 2003, 19:42
F'ing Lawyer (Sorry, couldn't resist! ;) )

I would sure like to see the pic, I have the Piece of Cake series on DVD at home, I've watched it on videotape but haven't gotten to that part on the discs. If anyone has a copy, please post.

Ta! M2

18th Jul 2003, 03:23
Ah, but who will tell us about flights under the Eiffel Tower...?

When you see it, it is hard to imagine it happening - or doing it. :eek:

18th Jul 2003, 05:17
Around 1960 someone didn't make it through the Clifton Suspension Bridge..........well he did actually, but failed to clear the cliffs on the climb out. Vampire I believe.

Mike W

18th Jul 2003, 05:45
I saw a Vulcan underfly the Severn Bridge in the 70's.

My brother used to work for PSA and he saw a lot of RAF and USAF metal go under the Severn Bridge when he did site surveys on the old Army Apprentices college which is practically under the approach to the bridge.

18th Jul 2003, 06:25
Re .......and the chap in the Hunter flying through Tower Bridge in 1968...

That was a chap from 1 Sqdn based at that time at West Raynham think the name was something like Alan Pollock (always wanted to say well done and my hero).

However more to the point on low flying at that time it was 1 Sqnd 50th Birthday. Another 1 Sqdn Hunter shot up the Lighting line of 111 and 29 Sqdn at Wattersham dropping sheets of paper
stating it was there birthday and that 'Its the One in the Sun that gets You'

He also got me at I was standing on the wing of a 29 Sqdn F3 changing the cassette in the AI23b Vis recorder, and If he was 5 feet above my head I would be exaggerating. Needless to say I went off the back of the wing landing on my butt.

29 not to be outdone returned the compliment by sending an F3 with its dive brakes filled with bog paper to plaster there line. I cant remember the outcome of the return flight.

West Raynham is now a great place to practice Aerobatics as apart from sheep and pigs the Rnys look in good shape and its well isolated and unused

18th Jul 2003, 06:53
Skylark4, a bit earlier than 1960, I think. Perhaps 1956 + or -.

It was indeed a twin boom job of the RAuxAF on almost their last week-end of flying after the anouncement of the demise of the flying element of a Reserve Air force. Vampire/Venom.

Rumours abounded (isn't that incorporated into the name of this BB?). Pilot had been to a party, wasn't strapped in, two bonedomes were found in a single seat aircraft, etc, etc.

No he didn't make it. But there appear to be no reasons why he shouldn't have had he wanted to badly enough. He'd got under the bridge, but instead of pulling up he pulled into a hard turn into the side of the ......

Go on, now, someone find out about the Eiffel Tower just after the end of the War (WWII) in 1945.

John Eacott
18th Jul 2003, 11:39
Link for film and narrative, here (http://www.airandspacemagazine.com/ASM/Web/Site/QT/Eiffel.html) .

18th Jul 2003, 15:59
Thanks, John Eacott. Not quite what I had in mind but nevertheless an interesting read.

John Eacott
19th Jul 2003, 18:07

The article appears to refute the claim that it had been done during WWII, quote:

"After another wonderful meal and a couple of bottles of so-so French wine, he came up with his next brainstorm. We should fly the airplane through the arches of the Eiffel Tower. I pointed out it wasn't really worth doing as it had been done during World War II, at least according to my faint memory. He insisted no one had ever flown under the tower and set out to prove it. (Later, Fenwic became president of the French Aero club and all agreed the tower had cables to prevent exactly what we had in mind all during the war.)"

19th Jul 2003, 19:01
Thanks John, I had spotted that with some disappointment. I was pretty sure that a Spitfire tried/did it after liberation but that it may not have had a happy ending....

They could be right I suppose. They ought to know. :)

I've an Ex FAF contact over there who may have been the guy who told me. I'll get around to calling him in the next week or two. Any change, I'll get back.

But back to the Clifton Suspension Bridge/Vampire (http://members.lycos.co.uk/brisray/bristol/bagorge1.htm) event, this site has a lot of general information about the Bridge including a long description of the under-flight. This is an extract:

The aircraft might have been from 501 Squadron given that you mentioned Filton which never had operational units (501 was a reserve squadron). The Royal Auxiliary Air Force disbanded in 1957, so putting two and two together I assumed an unauthorised flight by a pilot shortly due to leave the RAF (he would only have been a week-end flyer). In the event it looks a touch sadder. Here are the details.

The aircraft was a Vampire FB Mk 9 WR260 of 501 Sqn at Filton and the date was 3rd February 1957. The pilot was Flying Officer John Greenwood Crossley RAuxAF aged 27 years. The reference that I have on the accident (from 'To Fly No More' by Colin Cummings) reads as follows: "The Royal Auxiliary Air Force was about to disband. This pilot took off without authority and did not wear a helmet nor did he secure his harness and parachute and he left the pitot cover in place. After about 20 minutes, he flew under the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Avon Gorge near Bristol. Having passed beneath the bridge he pulled up into a slow roll and entered cloud. He emerged from cloud inverted and rolled out slowly losing height. He then turned to port, levelled the wings and began to lose height more rapidly before striking the side of the gorge." (In case you don't know the pitot is an open-ended tube, usually on the wing, which by allowing air in gives you your airspeed. You cannot fly properly without knowing your airspeed and you certainly can only land with great risk.) Incidentally the speed you suggest is too high [originally 450 mph] and would probably have been nearer 250 knots. My guess would be suicide

He would still only be 73. A sad tale.

20th Jul 2003, 05:28
I seem to remember reading about a guy who looped a Spitfire through the Forth Rail Bridge. Wasnt traced but RAF took the flack for it. Apparently it was done in the one and only RN Spitfire.

Flying Lawyer
21st Jul 2003, 18:05

I haven't tried doing it myself, but I'm told you can create a still pic from DVD.
The pic will need to be on a website before you can post it here. If you email me the file of the pic I can help with that stage.

Flying Lawyer
13th Oct 2003, 04:12
MM Max

Here's the pic I mentioned.



13th Oct 2003, 04:39
Know anything about a viaduct in S.Armagh??

13th Oct 2003, 08:16
Only that it's there....... and that a certain individual allegedly went thru..... Like the MoD, I can neither confirm or deny that this incident ever took place - It definitely wasn't me!!!

Low Ball
13th Oct 2003, 16:12

In the late 70's and early 80's as a Sqn pilot, Flt Comd and Sqn Comd, flight under autobahn bridges during tactical exercises was endorsed and also practised during training. Never did it at night, this was pre NVG. Surely this falls into the same bracket as flight under wires - now I have done that on NVG and there is NVG Video of this taking place during a trial in '92.

Bet there's a few other Pruners out there who can admit to both wires and autobahn bridges.

Low Ball

13th Oct 2003, 17:53
Don't forget the great shots in "The Blue Max" of the flying through the arch of a viaduct. If you ever get the chance to hear Derek Piggott give a lecture on flying for films, this is one that he talks about. Fascinating stuff.

No-one has yet mentioned "Spitfire Bridge" on the old Winchester bypass. There are stories about an aircraft, alledgedley a Spitfire but actually a P40 I believe, flying under this bridge and coming face-to-face with a lorry! I believe that it hit the bridge and was from a local airfield around Winchester area. Anyone any more details?

15th Oct 2003, 17:45
Under bridge flying.... Menai Bridge...... at night....... NVGs ....... Hmmmmmmmmm what fun even if it was a search for a bridge jumper................

Hoist to crew winching over and out!

17th Feb 2004, 02:52
Deep C
My father trained at Cardington and he has often told me of the time a Hurricane flew through wide open hangar doors, problem is my memory is not too good and a little voice tells me it was at Digby where the a/c went through the hangar. It is entirley possible I'm wrong of course and the size of the Cardington hangars would make such a feat possible. Dad never worked on Spitfires so I guess if he says Hurricane I'll believe him. Shame there are no pictures as that would be a stunning image, Hurri or Spit.

11th Jan 2015, 22:02
Was the navigator in question a Mr R.A.G Barlow?

12th Jan 2015, 08:04
My father used to sail across the Channel with an eternally modest ex-pilot who we knew had flown spitfires in the latter part of WW2 and had been awarded the DFC - more than once I gather. He has never spoken to us about his experiences, but as they sailed up the Kiel canal on one of their trips and approached a huge bridge, Dad reports he was seen to smile and muttered: "I think I flew under that one..."

aw ditor
12th Jan 2015, 09:31
ISTR that flying under the Kiel Bridges was not that uncommon in 2TAF days, Allegedly the Court Martial of a Canberra pilot collapsed when the German witness was asked if he saw a Canberra on the day in question fly under a particular bridge and he answered "which one?; there were a number that day!"

12th Jan 2015, 10:17
Beat me to it, Woody. It was indeed "Winkle". I believe he did THREE loops around a span of the bridge.

12th Jan 2015, 13:59
No-one has yet mentioned "Spitfire Bridge" on the old Winchester bypass. There are stories about an aircraft, alledgedley a Spitfire but actually a P40 I believe, flying under this bridge and coming face-to-face with a lorry! I believe that it hit the bridge and was from a local airfield around Winchester area. Anyone any more details?

Years ago I saw a photo (I believe in the Southampton Hall Of Aviation, as it was then) showing a P-40 with a damaged wingtip sitting upside down on a grass field having had a landing mishap; the caption described it as the aircraft which had flown under 'Spitfire Bridge' and clipped the arch as it took evasive action from the lorry. Although several feet of wingtip was lost, the aircraft remained controllable up to the point of touchdown. Growing up in Southampton, and having passed under Spitfire Bridge many times, the photo and caption stuck in my mind. This site appears to confirm the details, with the date 19 Oct 41:


At the other end of the country, I heard talk some years ago of a SAR crew doing a Role Demo at Queensferry and arriving via a horizontal 8 around both Forth Bridges and departing via the same...

12th Jan 2015, 17:43
BEagle, Are there any still flying or was that just wishfull thinking?

12th Jan 2015, 18:46
The Blue Angels have flown under and between the spans of the Golden Gate bridge a number of times.

12th Jan 2015, 19:42
I would love to see some pics of the "under" part of that statement, all of the Blue Angel displays in SF that I have seen (since the A4 days) some were between the towers but not below the deck.
BTW, the best is the sneaky fast solo at v. low altitude, there is a great youtube of one a few years ago.

Treble one
12th Jan 2015, 21:16
Indeed, a very famous display pilot (sadly not with us anymore) did the same trick in a Meteor under the Kiel canal bridge. It caused a fearful row, but he was far from the only pilot in RAFG to do it!

12th Jan 2015, 21:47
My old mum (sadly no longer with us) often told me of the time she flew under the Forth Bridge in a Swordfish, probably in about 1943. She was a WREN Bomb Range Marker in the Fleet Air Arm for most of WWII and flew as an observer in various types.

Probably not too difficult in such an aircraft but apparently resulted in a Court Marshal for the pilot!

12th Jan 2015, 22:32
Is 11 years a record on here for a thread resurrection :eek:

13th Jan 2015, 03:03
This is the Spitfire clip mentioned: just listening to that sound raises the hair on the back of my neck.




13th Jan 2015, 05:08
I seem to recall an AAC pilot, now sadly deceased, flying a Sioux underneath the H&W cranes in Belfast, possibly some three decades ago.

eastern wiseguy
13th Jan 2015, 05:16
I literally just came on here to ask if anyone had been tempted on the way back to Palace...:)

13th Jan 2015, 05:59
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/09/Lancaster_Q_for_Queenie_flies_under_Sydney_Harbour_Bridge_19 43.jpg

In searching for a picture of the formation of RAN S-70s that flew under the Sydney Harbour Bridge back in the 80s- found this one- Lancaster in 1943:ok:

13th Jan 2015, 08:51
There is a photo on display in the Oban War & Peace Museum (in, obviously, Oban) which acknowledges being a mockup using two separate images, but which claims to recreate an event during WW2 when a flight of Fairey Fulmars which had been serviced at RAF Connel Ferry took off, then underflew the Connel Bridge across the mouth of Loch Awe in line astern before heading back to their base "at Campbeltown" (presumably RAF Machrihanish?)

Any thoughts on the likelihood of this?

13th Jan 2015, 09:24
There was a rumour that an F4 crew were 'strung up' after an incident near the Forth Bridges and Rosyth Dockyard.

13th Jan 2015, 10:00
QUOTE: All very tame compared with the exploits of WWI ace, 'Mad' Major Draper DFC in 1930 and again in 1953

I served with his nephew, a National Service Met Observer RAF at RAF Nicosia in 1961-64. Fun bloke.

The eccentricity was genetic I can say. Life was never dull. Compounded by Harold "Mickey" Martin as Staish.

Time flew!

13th Jan 2015, 11:29
Chris Draper came and stayed with us when I was a teenager. Fascinating gentleman " Quite safe, I could have taken a formation of three Austers under those bridges. I flew over the ones that were a bit doubtful."
Although it wasn't mentioned, Haraka Senior had a slightly different claim, having survived being in a Sea Otter that actually flew into a bridge ( coming out of RAF Mountbatten , Plymouth) when I was a toddler at St. Eval.

13th Jan 2015, 12:21
I seem to recall an AAC pilot, now sadly deceased, flying a Sioux underneath the H&W cranes in Belfast, possibly some three decades ago. ISTR one too, but closer to 40 than 30 years ago I think - and "through" is probably a better description than "underneath".


Did he become a QHI and eventually serve on CFS(H)? The one I'm thinking of did - didn't know he had "departed the fix" :( (if we are indeed thinking of the same one...)

13th Jan 2015, 16:30
I seem to remember a Shackleton taking off from Montijo Air Base and flying under the 25th April Bridge in Lisbon during the mid fifties, causing the proverbial to well and truly hit the fan :eek:

Flying Lawyer
13th Jan 2015, 19:16
Major Christopher Draper

A pilot whom I would have regarded it as an privilege to represent FOC - but I was under two at the time.

Images from his autobiography - originally posted by Wunper




Result: Conditional Discharge & 10 guineas costs.

A very sensible decision by the Stipendiary Magistrate Mr Frank Milton who, by the time I appeared before him as a very young barrister about 20 years later, was Sir Frank Milton, Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate. Tough when required and merciful when appropriate; a good combination.

Press reports: Images originally posted by Warmtoast

http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r231/thawes/MajorDraper-15Bridges-3.jpg ..........http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r231/thawes/MajorDraper-Obitury1979.jpg

This small picture is a scan of a postcard showing him flying a Puss Moth under Tower Bridge in September 1931.


The writing on the picture says 'C. Draper 30th September 1931'.
Written on the back is 'Given to E. T. Cherry on 17th June 1933 by Major C. Draper (Himself)'.

There doesn't seem to be much room for 'characters' like the Mad Major in our modern, obsessively risk averse, world.

Opinions will no doubt differ about whether that is good or bad.

13th Jan 2015, 19:45

I seem to remember a Shackleton taking off from Montijo Air Base and flying under the 25th April Bridge in Lisbon during the mid fifties, causing the proverbial to well and truly hit the fan

Could you be thinking of the late, great Mike Bondesio, who (allegedly) went under the bridge in his 3-engined Shack (2 x Griffs and 1 Viper), 'cos he couldn't get over it, for which feat of airmanship he was awarded the AFC. (must look out for the citation in the Gazette)

"..fast footwork to avoid" in the following account (from avroshackleton.com) may be something of a euphemism.

Whatever actually happened, I gather for some time afterwards it was known locally as the "Ponto Bondesio". :ok:

Over the years several crews were to be grateful for these little screamers but none more so than the late Mike Bondesio (who died of a heart attack at the controls of a SAAF Shack in 1983). He managed to limp his crippled MkIII of 203 Squadron into Lisbon on 2 Griffons and one Viper - having to do some fast footwork to avoid the brand new Salazar Bridge. For his extreme professionalism he was awarded the AFC.

Edited to add: Found the citation - which also suggests he didn't go under it (not what I've heard!)

Whitehall, London S.W .I.
20th February 1968.

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the following award:

Air Force Cross

Flight Lieutenant Michael Albert Bondesio (4230897), Royal Air Force.

Flight Lieutenant Bondesio was captain of a Shackleton aircraft flying from Gibraltar to Ballykelly. The aircraft carried a crew of ten and nine passengers. At 0953 hours at one thousand feet above the sea and almost 90 nautical miles north-west of Lisbon, a fault developed in the propeller of number one engine. The engine was shut down but the propeller would not feather and continued to windmill slowly. Fuel was jettisoned and a diversion to Lisbon initiated. At 1010 hours when still about 45 nautical miles from Lisbon, number four engine developed a severe oil leak which demanded that this second engine be shut down. During the feathering process full power on the two remaining sound engines did not prevent the aircraft losing height to five hundred feet. Flight Lieutenant Bondesio now faced a very serious situation. He prepared his crew and passengers for ditching and declared a full emergency to Lisbon control. To keep the aircraft out of the sea the port auxiliary jet engine, normally used only to augment take-off power, was started and run at full power. The use of this engine prohibited further jettisoning of fuel and the aircraft power to weight ratio remained critical. Flight Lieutenant Bondesio was unable to start the starboard jet engine because the leaking oil from the adjacent number four engine presented a severe fire risk. With two piston engines and one jet engine all running in excess of accepted operational limits it was possible to hold height at five hundred feet at about 150 knots in straight and level flight. Nothing more than a shallow turn could be made without loss of height and speed. Flight Lieutenant Bondesio nursed the aircraft in this con- figuration to the entrance to Lisbon harbour where the visibility dropped to one and a half miles in smoke haze. At such a low altitude the airfield approach instruments in the aircraft were unhelpful and no ground radar assistance was available. Following the coastline towards Lisbon airport, Flight Lieutenant Bondesio was suddenly confronted with the towers and span of the Salazar bridge which links the north and south banks of the estuary. Unable to clear the bridge the aircraft was gently edged seawards again in an unsuccessful attempt to gain height. At this point the crew of a civil aircraft flying locally became aware of the Shackleton's predicament and closed the crippled aircraft in an attempt to shepherd it into Lisbon airport. Crossing the coast the Shackleton encountered some thermal uplift enabling enough height to be gained for the aircraft to clear the outskirts of the city. At about two miles the runway came into view roughly aligned with the aircraft track. The aircraft landed safely at 1036 hours. Throughout this very serious emergency Flight Lieutenant Bondesio showed great coolness and presence of mind. For twenty-six minutes, under great strain, he fought to keep his heavy and unmanoeuvrable aircraft out of the sea. By his superb airmanship and by his courage and determination, he brought nineteen lives safely through a very perilous predicament and prevented the loss of a valuable operational aircraft. He displayed the greatest qualities of leadership and captaincy and his exemplary handling of a very dangerous situation was in accordance with the finest traditions of the Royal Air Force.

Deepest Norfolk
13th Jan 2015, 19:59
Wouldn't fly under a big bridge. Might hit a bungee jumper!!


14th Jan 2015, 13:52
What was the name of the Shackleton's co-pilot, when they went into Lisbon. ISTR hearing the story and that the co was guy who had been at the Towers a year or so ahead of me, about 86 Entry

26th Jan 2015, 07:22

Yes we are thinking of the same one ! Sadly left us about 12 months or so ago, interned in cemetery in Salisbury.

13th Feb 2015, 17:12
I think I can fill in a few details of some of the above exploits - having been on an FR squadron in Germany in the 50's. Also I knew someone that was on the Court of Inquiry about the Clifton Suspension Bridge crash.

On joining my squadron, I was soon told UNofficially that although I could expect to be considered "operational" after about 6 months (and be presented with the squadron tie - at a drunken squadron thrash), I would be expected to have UNofficially flown under the big (43 metres clearance) Kiel Canal bridge by then !! I complied.

Later, my Flight Commander MS & Deputy Flight Commander (THE RH) decided to fly under it in formation. It was about the time that the British forces were told that we were no longer the Occupying Power but Guests etc.
Someone complained about these 2 Meteor FR9 aircraft flying under the bridge & a Summary of Evidence was started with a view to a Courts Marshall. The perpetrators had been easily identified & grounded.

In the process of collecting evidence, the permanently employed bridge painter was asked to confirm details of time, aircraft type etc. His well known reply was that he couldn`t because so many aircraft fly under each day that I don`t bother to look at them any more !!

Because of this statement, the matter was dropped, but a 3 mile restricted/forbidden area was created around the bridge. Incidentally, the excuses given were:- I was about to take a forward facing photo of the bridge, but realised that I had left the pull up too late & it was safer to go underneath (MS). RH said he was just concentrating on flying in close formation on his leader & knew nothing about the bridge previously !!

MS left the RAF shortly afterwards. RH became famous !!! (Both RIP now).

Shortly afterwards, the Wing Commander Flying passed me & asked me where this bridge was that was causing all the fuss. I told him just before he went off in a Meteor 7 to have a look at it.

By complete coincidence, I was passing Station Flight later as he was climbing out of his aircraft, so I asked him if he had found it ? He replied that indeed he had- but as he looked down at it "a box of 4 Venoms flew under it !! So I said to myself , This is no place for a Wing Commander to be & came back here quickly !!!".

Regarding Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Inquiry found that a mechanic had been doing a check on a Vampire 5 of 501 Auxiliary Squadron based at RAF Filton, Bristol & noticed a man in a Dinner Suit start to taxi out from along side his aircraft. He realised that there had been a Dinner in the officers mess the night before caused by the announcement that the RAF Auxiliary Air Force was being disbanded. There was to be a final fly past of all these squadrons later that day in their local areas. (It was a stupid decision by 501 to have the party the night before - others had it earlier in the week !!).

The mechanic tried to throw a chock in front of the moving Vampires wheel - without success. It took off (pilot not strapped in ? open canopy? across the grass?). It went under the bridge & crashed into the gorge cliffs.

I understand the pilot had telephoned his mother & girl friend previously & told them to go to the bridge to see something special. They were both there & saw the crash happen.

The Government acted quickly & cancelled ALL RAF Auxiliary Final flypasts throughout the country - in case .... such a pity!! This caused much resentment, but possibly understandable.

It was a different world we lived in then - leaving us with some incredible memories & stories !! Many wouldn`t be believed today !!!

13th Feb 2015, 19:00
At the end of the 70's, I was on exchange with the USN.:)

One day, I sat at the end of a runway at NAS ALAMEDA waiting for departure clearance. NAS ALAMEDA is (OK - was!) just to the east of the City of San Francisco, and the runway pointed towards one of the Bay bridges - not THE Bay bridge (OK - it might have been THE Bay Bridge, but it wasn't THE as in Golden Gate Bay Bridge!!) but it was one of the many.:}

Whilst waiting for departure clearance, I tried to think of an emergency after take-off that would allow me to continue with the departure, but fail to climb over the bridge, and by flying under it save a valuable aircraft and therefore be a hero for ever. :D

I couldn't, so I didn't!:\

At times, I wish I had a more imaginative mind!:{

13th Feb 2015, 19:46
I'm pretty sure it was THE Bay Bridge.
The San Mateo Bridge is too far south and the Golden Gate Bridge is further west for t/o problems from the former Alameda NAS.

PS Who were you attached to?, as a friend of mine was in the Reserves, a Nav. on A3's based there.

14th Feb 2015, 10:01
Raincheck only just seen your post no 59 about T*** D***** - sad news indeed. :(

I've already been to 3 mates' funerals this year and it's only bl%%dy February..... :(:(

I guess it happens at this time of life.

17th Feb 2015, 10:33
Teeteringhead, sadly you are so right.

5th Mar 2015, 11:14
I realise its not under a bridge but if you want to see Ray Hanna at his best watch the CD of the first Goodwood Revival meeting when Lord March came onto the Start/Finish straight in the course opening car at about 40 mph to be greeted by Ray coming the other way down the Start/Finish straight between the grandstands at about 20 feet and 250 mph! I believe the CAA said very naughty, don't do it again, ( lovely bit of flying ). Just found a home video on You Tube at Ray Hanna Spitfire Low Pass Goodwood 1998.