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Gannet AEW3's

Old 2nd Sep 2015, 15:53
  #41 (permalink)  
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That may have been David Rees, but he was possibly the Observer and the pilot was Eric Bryson. Before my time but there seems confusion in various reports concerning the name of the pilot. From the Plymouth Herald 2 January 2013:

A FORMER Royal Navy pilot who once crash landed in front of Prince Charles has received an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours.

Defence consultant David Rees, aged 69, joked that the Royal Family had forgiven him for the emergency at an air show almost 50 years ago.

The Prince of Wales was in the crowd at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland when Mr Rees crash-landed his Gannet aircraft in 1963.
I can't find the photo - still looking but from another forum this details what happened (I didn't know Dick Saker was the SAR pilot - I still see him about once a year). Prince Charles at that time was still at Gordonstoun. Pony Moore later became a Buccaneer pilot and ejected twice from them!:

"Don't think the 849 Sqdn AEW Gannet prang on Lossiemouth Airday, 13 July 1963 story will ever die! I was one of the Duty SAR Crew that day and watched it happen. The SAR Whirlwind Mk7 was moved across from the Station Flight area, to the K16-K17 Hangars Hardstandng on the other side of the airfield to make room for the crowd. Lt Dick Saker RN was our pilot and the other crewman with me in the back, was REM1(A)(Aircrew) Pony Moore, later Lt A Moore RN, Buccaneer Pilot. We had a grandstand view from K Site.

The Gannet came in from the West, from the Elgin direction of the airfield and flew towards the crowd, at around 200' he started to turn starboard to pass in front of the control tower and crowd and as he did so he (I understand) shut down one engine to start the other as a demo. There was a puff of black smoke from the exhausts as the in-use engine stopped, without the other one re-starting and for a moment it was horrifying: the nose came up, his speed decreased and the tail dropped away to starboard. I thought for a moment that the aircraft was going to more or less stall right onto the crowd, just about where our young Royal was standing. He managed to get the nose down and quickly 'kick' and 'pole' it around to starboard and neatly plant it, 'wheels up' on the 19 end of the short runway, by then we we were running to man up and start, to await further developments whilst all this was going on, so I didn't see the aircraft come to a stop, I believe that the 'Rescue1' PRV Landrover and crew were there very swiftly and the pilot and his one Midshipman Observer were out of it equally quickly!

By the time we were organised, checks done 'Burning and Turning' and I looked back, the 'Crash1' Mk7? Fire Truck was approaching the now stationary Gannet. We got airborne later in the afternoon with a Phot rating, to take some snaps for the 'Subsequent Board of Enquiry'! The Gannet was repaired and flew back to Culdrose within a few days, although I vaguely remember lots of bits of radome and the scanner dish strewn along the runway afterwards. Great that everyone was still around to tell the story!"

Last edited by CharlieOneSix; 2nd Sep 2015 at 16:35. Reason: additional info
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Old 2nd Sep 2015, 16:48
  #42 (permalink)  
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Gannet 'sliding display' at LM...

... I have definitely seen a picture of this event... will try and find it!
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Old 2nd Sep 2015, 17:50
  #43 (permalink)  
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Pete Frame

Thank you, Charlie. No mistaking, that's Pete! And thank you for the contact info, have sent a message.

Re. Belly landings. I'm fairly certain that Chris Brockway did one at an RAF Air Day some place, the story was he did a single-engined relight too low and too slow and ended up very much in the same situation as the event at Lossiemouth.

I replaced Chris, briefly, in Ark in early 1965 after his aircraft had gone backwards off the side of the flight deck while being handled prior to start. Chris and one Obs got out but sadly, the other didn't.

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Old 2nd Sep 2015, 18:02
  #44 (permalink)  
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This doesn't really have a lot to do with the current discussion but here is my Gannet story. I was, at the time, a young co-pilot sprog on Argosys at Benson and the year was about 1962 or 1963.

Fairey's were doing their production Gannet flying from White Waltham at the time. It had been raining for some time and White Waltham became water-logged. They asked the Station Master at Benson if they could use Benson in the meantime while WW dried out.

The first one (an AEW3) duly turned up and created a great deal of interest. On its first take-off, the driver (who was probably trying to impress us Crabs) yanked the gear up about 1 nano-second after rotation. Sadly, the whole contraption sank down again wrecking the radome and doing the contra-rotating props no good at all.

He decided to keep going.

The noise produced by this now demented piece of kit as it went downwind was quite spectacular and this managed to ensure that when he fortunately made a rather rapid successful landing, just about everyone at Benson was outside watching as he taxied in.

What fascinated me was that the forward propeller tips were bent forward and the rear propeller tips were bent aft. I thought at the time that this was a lucky combination!

I don't think we ever saw another Gannet at Benson.
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Old 2nd Sep 2015, 18:29
  #45 (permalink)  
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I'm beginning to think I was one of the few who DIDN'T put one down on its tummy!

Saw David "Bomber" Brown do it with a T5 at Culdrose in the Summer of '64. He'd had a total hydraulic failure while airborne and, despite a Greek Chorous of senior advisors in the Tower, could NOT blow down the wheels with emergency air.

A foam carpet was laid and by the time he put down I think the entire Ship's Company of Culdrose was watching. The roof of the 849 Line Hut almost collapsed under the weight of Goofers.

He did an immaculate flapless approach and kissed the foam. His bomb doors, which had fallen open, collapsed and he slid to a halt in a straight line. Minimal damage.

Bomber was put in a Landrover to be checked out at the Sick bay, the driver tore across airfield, main road to the Lizard and the accommodation area with siren going, skidded to a halt at the Sick bay, and then turned a startled face to Bomber.

"'Ere, Sir! There wasn't anybody else in there with you was there?!"
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Old 2nd Sep 2015, 19:09
  #46 (permalink)  
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I remember the Bomber Brown incident. I was a sprog student having started on 705 a few months before and unfortunately we were too far away from the runway to see anything.

A great runner, he was on Ark in October 65 when he ran from the Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong to Victoria Peak, 5.5 miles and a climb of 1600ft in 31.5 minutes. Tried to scan his photo from the Commissioning Book but it didn't come out very well.

Mike - you will know John Sillett who ditched a Gannet after he lost an engine. He was my equivalent FW course - met up with him a couple of years ago at BRNC when we had a 50th anniversary of joining reunion. He now does a lot of gliding in Devon.
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Old 3rd Sep 2015, 10:49
  #47 (permalink)  
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For anyone who wants an excellent read about all Gannets from beginning to end, I highly recommend "Gannet" – No 7 in the From the Cockpit series, by the recently deceased Cdr Simon Askins. Probably still available. Simon previously flew Scimitars, became an MTP and deadsticked an AEW 3 XL498 into Withybush in 1967 after double engine fire/failure. His Flight Test Looker, Bryn, elected (successfully) to exercise Plan B and test his parachute instead.

A bit of housekeeping if I may ..... E&OE, it was a long time ago ....

Posts 13 & 14 - 831 rightly considered themselves a 'front line' squadron. Certainly they conducted trials, but 'a trials unit' – No siree ! There were periodic embarkations and two Gannets even got scheduled to go to Gulf War Zero in 1961 to jam Kassim's radars.

The 831 Gannets were all AS shape. From 1961 the 'definitive' Mk 6 - was referred to as AS6 originally and later when it was realised the secret was out, as ECM6. They all had various (mostly ex US Navy) ECM gear. IIRC the other differences from earlier AS versions included oxygen for all three seats and a tweaker for the engine revs to satisfy the wiggly amp demands of the secret electronic equipment, plus bomb-bay fuel tanks. I don't know if 831 took any T5s to Watton. Previously 831's type conversion and periodic checking was done courtesy of 849's trainers while both squadrons were at Culdrose. Simon's book says some Watton ECM6s were de-modded to AS4 for pilot training so that's probably the answer.

Post 15 – India 42 - Engine failure and bailout at night, XG832 -23rd Jan 1964. I am pleased to say John and Oboe were seen recently, doing very well, for their age. Lofty passed away a couple of years ago.

Post 34 NickB - 9/4/62 AEW 3s XL499 and XP197 of 849 Squadron were (IIRC) doing night formation practice, collided off the Lizard.

A further loss that year - 27/11/62 was the two ECM6 Gannets from 831, XA414 and XG798 that flew into high ground on departure from Ballykelly. Another six good men lost.

Posts 40 etc The great Gannet pancake at Lossie Air Day July 1963. NB Elgin is South. West is Gordonstoun and Burghead. I think the illustrious Eric would be very peeved to think he was named for that. Pilot was S/Lt Chalky, his Looker an even younger Midshipmite J Rees. Didn't do Chalky's flying career any harm, as he went on to great heights of respectability as an Aussie Crab.

Post 45 - G-D - Greetings ! I think it was Bomber who also ditched an AEW 3 somewhere. He then ditched a 781 Heron in Liverpool Bay. Expensive bloke.


Last edited by Lordflasheart; 3rd Sep 2015 at 11:01.
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Old 3rd Sep 2015, 18:21
  #48 (permalink)  
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The only Gannet driver that I remember flying with was Nigel Hayler. Is he still with us?
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Old 3rd Sep 2015, 19:16
  #49 (permalink)  
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Don't recall Nigel Hayter, but familiar names popping up all over! Yes, I well remember Simon's forced landing at Withybush. The story goes that he leapt out, paused, no fire, and went back to look for Bryn Moore when a furious, muddy, ragged figure staggered through the hedge dragging a parachute.

My regards to John Sillett, I'm a bit far removed for reunions these days.

I also hadn't realised that Eric Bryson flew Gannets after I left the Service. When I knew him, Eric was tall, wide and VERY slim. He complained that in his greatcoat he looked like a playing card!

Have one or two more Gannet stories in my head, will post in due course.

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Old 4th Sep 2015, 12:41
  #50 (permalink)  
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Not that it matters, but that was Hayler not Hayter.
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Old 4th Sep 2015, 15:36
  #51 (permalink)  
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i always thought there were 2 types of aerocontraptions one would never admit to flying, the shorts 360 and the gannet, pleasant to see there are a few heroes on this forum. Please keep the stories coming.
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Old 4th Sep 2015, 16:18
  #52 (permalink)  
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But the Gannet, especially the ASW version, was a lot better looking than its competitor for the role, the Short's Seamew....
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Old 4th Sep 2015, 16:47
  #53 (permalink)  
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When I were a lad... I always thought the Gannet was a very good looker.
Kind of musclebound and a 'real man's aeroplane'. I just felt it was a shame it didn't have four 30mm cannon barrels protruding from the wings.
As for the noise, well... Just Lovely!
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Old 4th Sep 2015, 20:55
  #54 (permalink)  
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Never realised so many people admired the Gannet, in either guise. Both were nice to fly, although the AEW version was a bit more limited by that dome underneath.

What follows is a totally true story from the front cockpit from 50 years ago, it's still a vivid memory....


The pregnant-looking AEW3 Gannet, was a delight to fly. But with one exception - if you touched down nose-wheel first (which wasn't difficult) it bounced. I became acutely aware of this 50 years ago, on a black Mediterranean summer night in 1965. High overcast, no moon, no stars, no horizon.

HMS Centaur was on her final cruise, a few summer months in the Med that included the task of getting all her aircrew day and night qualified. I was one of those who needed to qualify by night.

We were "non-diversion" flying that night. No handy airfield ashore, just Centaur herself. That added a slight edge to the sortie. So, at the end of a 3-hour trip, we would be the last land-on of the night. CCA (Carrier Controlled Approach) picked us up and brought us to the 1 mile-400 feet point, I called "4 greens, on sight" and was clear to land on.

200 feet, through the wobbly bubble of the island's turbulence and hot funnel fumes - 100 feet, through the slight downdraft of the round-down and correct for it with power - a bit too high now - and then the cardinal sin of pushing forward on the stick instead of a slight power reduction...........so we bounced.

No wire, and now a night bolter. This was my first experience of one - unexpected and unnerving - off the angle into a black night 60 feet above the water with everything down and full power. Eyes down immediately onto the instruments, establish a positive rate of climb, wheels up, ease the flap up and tell the Controller - who is aware by now anyway - and back into the full CCA procedure, no quick 400 foot visual circuit tonight.

The two Observers in the back were terribly nice about it. I've been deck-landed in the back seat of a Gannet AEW3. By day you see nothing but water beside you getting closer until the SAR chopper, a flash of deck and then the arrested landing. At night you see nothing until you hit the deck........

Around we went through the full, though somewhat reassuring, procedure. Back again at 400 feet and 1 mile - "4 greens, on sight" and I took over visually - and did it again. I now had a good dose of what the US Navy calls "Getaboarditis".

Again, the two Observers were so calm and reassuring. I blessed them and cringed simultaneously - and shuddered to think what was in their minds, their lives really were in my hands.

CCA delivered me to the 400 ft-1 mile point again, I took over again - and did it again. Now openly furious with myself I piled on full power - and then realised. Yes, we had bounced but, we had picked up a wire and were airborne down the deck at about 15 feet and slowing rapidly.......and the flight deck floodlights had come on.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! We seemed to come down on each wheel separately. I put on the brakes, took off power and said a silent prayer. A quiet voice on the intercom said "Thank you!" The marshaller in front of me signaled "Cut" and I happily shut down the engines.

It's a long climb down the side of a Gannet and my legs were feeling wobbly. I was about halfway down when the Squadron AEO (Air Engineer Officer) bounced out of the island, his ginger beard bristling with fury. "Bloody typical! We'll have jack it up and do a full retraction test! I'm amazed you didn't drive the bloody legs up through the bloody wings!"

Not an unreasonable reaction and, for those who remember him, fairly typical of Douggie Richardson. I mumbled an apology to him, another to the two Observers and slank into the ACR to sign out the aircraft as unserviceable......and then face the Senior Pilot and the CO.

As a tribute to Fairey Aviation and Naval Aircraft design specifications in general, she came through with flying colours and was airborne again within 24 hours.

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Old 4th Sep 2015, 21:39
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In the absence of any long range maritime patrol aicraft, a Gannet equivalent would provide some AEW for any carrier we had, if any.
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Old 5th Sep 2015, 07:59
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Great account of night carrier landing, Gannet Driver!
My interest in aviation history always seems to focus on the more obscure/unusual/eccentric types, and this is a fascinating thread.
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Old 5th Sep 2015, 11:54
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Did anyone ever fly both the Gannet and the French Breguet Alize?

Anyone who can make comparisons?

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Old 5th Sep 2015, 12:14
  #58 (permalink)  
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I had not heard of the Breguet Alize!

Earlier 76 fan mentioned the Short Seamew which I was vaguely aware of but had a look at Wiki.

Thread drift alert!

I note that many tests were carried out by Seamews on HMS Warrior, which was also used to test "Rubber Deck Landings". Later it went to the Pacific as part of the British nuclear tests, then it sailed to Punta Arenas where UK hoped to sell it to Argentina.

My Dad worked for the Foreign Office in Montevideo and was sent down with some British and Argentinian Navy brass and the British Ambassador to Uruguay Sir Nicholas Henderson in Dakotas (possibly 3).

Dad's Dakota had engine problems and had to make a forced landing in the vast empty marshlands south of the River Plate. It was several days before they were found by a rancher and the news got back to Montevideo that all had survived. I was about 5 and remember those anxious days of waiting for news.

The rancher returned later with horses and a big farm wagon, and we have a lovely old photo of Dad, the Ambassador and the Navy Brass in all their finery standing calmly in the distinctly rustic wagon before the long trip to the rancher's house.

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Old 5th Sep 2015, 12:50
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I was lucky enough to score a back seat night trip in XL500 off Ark, but to my regret I have no recollection of the names of the pilot and observer. I still reckon it's the only aircraft to slow down off the end of the cat....

Involved in the drama when one AEW3 had a power loss and the back seat bailed out (at night, again) and the pilot couldn't release his lap strap so ditched. Having got out and been 'found' by Bushy Shrubb, apparently the subsequent night winch was considered the more terrifying event of the night.

There are a few scans of slides that I took on Eagle and Ark, here.
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Old 5th Sep 2015, 13:17
  #60 (permalink)  
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I had not heard of the Breguet Alize!
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