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"6 Hunters ran out of fuel" 1956

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"6 Hunters ran out of fuel" 1956

Old 9th Apr 2008, 01:03
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"6 Hunters ran out of fuel" 1956

Noted reference to this in the ATC forum. Not heard of this before. Understand the aircraft group were redirected to another field due weather : two landed but 6 ran out of fuel.

Does anyone know the full story of this incident or tell me where it is documented ? Many thanks.
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Old 9th Apr 2008, 05:26
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It happened at West Raynham Feb 1956.

Mark 1 Hunters so very limited endurance, recalled due a deterioration in the weather which quickly went well below their limits.

They were diverted but 4 ran out of fuel and pilots ejected, 1 made a belly landing, and 1 flew into the ground killing the pilot.

At that happened within a few miles of Swaffham.
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Old 9th Apr 2008, 07:26
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Then there were the 4 aerobatic Hunters and a T11 Vampire out of Odiham on a photo shoot circa 1955 caught out by deteriorating weather.

Vampire got back into Odiham and the Hunters slit into 2 pairs. Second pair May Day-ed for a GCA at Farnborough but the ATCO said quite non plussed " Cannot help you I'm afraid - too busy with own aircraft - either call Tangmere on emergency or bail out PLEASE"

Blue 3 bailed near Tangmere and Blue 4 did a wheels up dead stick across Tangmere.

Blue 1, USAF Capt Immig, then tried for Farnborough's poor man's GCA ( no vertical guidance) and was fortunate to squeeze in on last fuel dregs. On the landing roll out Blue 2 called "Our father which art in heaven" as his Hunter ran out of gas.

Still have a copy of the Farnborough audio tape.
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Old 10th Apr 2008, 06:09
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Feb 8th 1956. Eight Hunter F1s of the Day Fighter Leader School, part of the Central Fighter Establishment based at RAF West Raynham took off for a 4 v 4 exercise at 45,000'. The weather deteriorated at West Raynham, so the formation, now in four pairs recoved to Marham for Radar Ground Controlled Approaches. Confusion over callsigns and misidentifications led to protracted approaches. Two aircraft landed safely, one belly landed near Swaffham, four pilots ejected safely and one flew into the ground killing the pilot.

Ironicly, at the time of the crashes, the weather had improved at West Raynham. This was the early days of the Hunter with it's limited fuel and endurance. It led to a change of RAF procedures.

The next day, two Seahawks were lost in a midair collision.
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Old 10th Apr 2008, 13:20
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The Times reported at the time

9th Feb 1956
SIX JETS CRASH IN NORFOLK
Sudden Onset of Bad Weather
Six out of eight Hunter fighter aircraft crashed in the area of Swaffham, Norfolk, yesterday in bad weather. One pilot was killed, and four others baled out of their aircraft.
The Hunters, on a training flight from the Central Fighter Establishment at West Raynham, Norfolk, were recalled to base when the weather deteriorated, and then were diverted to the R.A.F. station at Marham, Norfolk, Two landed safely at Marham, one crash-landed on the approach to the airfield, and another, the pilot of which was killed, crashed in an adjoining field. The remaining four pilots were all uninjured after baling out. The name of the dead pilot had not been announced last night. His next-of-kin are abroad.
The weather at midday, the approximate time of the accidents, was given as eight-tenths cloud with a base of 100ft., and visibility of 660 yards. Earlier the main cloud base was given as 5,000ft., with broken cloud at 1,800 ft. A meteorologist told The Times that there was a cold front approaching from the North Sea at the time.
All the aircraft crashed on open ground, and local fire brigades soon put out the flames. No civilians were involved. An official of the Air Ministry said that early inquiries had shown that the pilots who baled out complied with the drill of pointing the nose of the aircraft out to sea.

“OUT OF FUEL
One of the fighters involved yesterday crashed on the home farm of Cockley Cley Hall, owned by Major Sir Peter Roberts, M.P. It caught fire and was burnt out. Mr. F. J. Callaby, manager of the estate, said: “The pilot was unhurt. He had baled out. I took him to Swaffham police station. He said that he had run out of fuel.”
The Air Ministry said last evening that low cloud, mixed with fog, came in suddenly from the sea and visibility was reduced “alarmingly quickly. After the aircraft had been diverted to Marham the weather deteriorated rapidly there as well.
An inquiry will be held into the crashes, when questions of fuel supplies and the weather will be considered.
Last November three out of five jet aircraft, two of them Hunters, crashed in Surrey or Sussex. They ran out of fuel after being diverted to another airfield when the weather deteriorated. There were no casualties. The value of a Hunter fighter is about £100,000, an official of the makers, Hawker Aircraft, Ltd., said last night.

Nov 1955
JET AIRCRAFT CRASHES
FUEL EXHAUSTED IN BAD WEATHER
Three out of five jet aircraft which had been flying together crashed yester¬day after they had run out of fuel. There were no casualties.
Two were Hawker Hunters of No. 54 Squadron's aerobatics team. The third was a two-seater Vampire trainer in which a camera man of the United States Air Force had been photographing their manoeuvres. The five aircraft were unable to land at Odiham, Hampshire, when the weather suddenly deteriorated. They were diverted to Farnborough, Hampshire.
One Hunter crashed at Slinfold, Sussex, and the Vampire at Frensham. Surrey. The three occupants baled out safely. A second Hunter made a wheels-up landing at Tangmere. Sussex. The other two Hunters landed safely at Farnborough.
An R.A.F. court of inquiry will be held.
A Sea Hawk aircraft crashed yesterday on taking off at the Royal Naval Air Station, Lossiemouth. The pilot, Sub-Lieutenant C. Ward, of Staffordshire, was flung clear of the aircraft, but was injured. Last night he was stated to be dangerously ill.
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Old 10th Apr 2008, 13:48
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Thank you, gentlemen.
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Old 10th Apr 2008, 14:04
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" Cannot help you I'm afraid - too busy with own aircraft - either call Tangmere on emergency or bail out PLEASE"

I sincerely hope that ATCO was tied against a wall and shot..... I simply cannot believe it, but if it's on tape it must be true.
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Old 10th Apr 2008, 14:49
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I guess it would have been past incidents such as these that lead to the present system that the RAF use to pre-book diversion airfields with an agreed acceptance rate - "4 per quarter" etc. Also to the creation of D&D?

In the case of the Farnborough debacle, I wonder how many other aircraft were already being recovered, short of fuel and caught out by the weather.
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 21:04
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Slightly OT but David Watkins' history of the DH Vampire has a great story about the 1949 RAF trip to Italy with a section of five early Vampires. They ran out of fuel and all made a successful forced landing in a field.

The Italian military were so impressed with the ability of the Vampire to withstand a crash landing that they placed an order for eighty examples!
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Old 12th Apr 2008, 21:18
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I seem to remember while I was still serving, reading about the six Hunters in Airclues. IIRC the article was called "The day the RAF lost".

It suggested that just as the remaining Hunters were getting close to the airfield, a Javelin(?) was taxying out with an external fuel tank on the centre. The front catch failed, the tank partially detached, dragged on the ground and caught fire.

The tower saw this and put out a call to the effect "you are on fire".

One of the Hunters heard this and banged out, meanwhile the Javelin crew spotted the problem themselves and vacated.
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Old 13th Apr 2008, 06:58
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No, I think that was a separate incident a few years later at Horsham St Faith's. I think the Javelin came into service (just) after the 6 Hunters incident.
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Old 13th Apr 2008, 08:12
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Date: Late 1950's

Place: RAF Odiham, England.

Webmaster's note: There might be just a huge amount of Urban Myth about this one!



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.





THIS STORY WAS FEATURED ON THE SITE FOR SOME 3 YEARS. THEN OUT OF THE BLUE, THE WEBMASTER RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING BY E MAIL:



On your site you have the story of a Javelin catching fire, followed by a loose Air Traffic call, followed by some Hunter jocks parting company with their machines which promptly reverted to kit form!

There is an entry relating to this in Colin Cumming’s book “To fly no more” – RAF accidents 1954-1958. In it he notes that, on 25th May 1957 at RAF Horsham St Faith, Javelin Mk4 XA732, when taxiing, had a fuel tank attachment fail causing the tank to drag on the ground. As the Javelin’s favourite habit was catching fire, this one also kept to the script and wrote itself off; thus the ATC call.

Two Hunter Mk4 aircraft of 74 Squadron reacted to the ATC call; both aircraft were written off but no one died. XE661 abandoned take off, overshot the runway and went through a hedge into a field. XE662 was in the circuit and the pilot tried to set it down pronto but made a mess of it (probably not helped by the undoubted Chinese Writing in his underpants!). He bounced hard, the seat fired (injuring his arm) and the Hunter (now without its driver) finished its career demolishing the wall of an airmans’ block.

Two Gnats (XR992 and XR995) were lost on 16th December 1969 due to an ATC call “your on fire”. Cumming’s book notes them to be CFS aircraft but my memory says Red Arrows; both units were at Kemble. All four crew survived.



As reported in http://www.ejectorseats.co.uk/multiple_eject.html
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Old 14th Apr 2008, 17:46
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The 27 May 1957 incident took place during Fighter Commands Largest Air Defence Exercise, Execise Vigilant.

Reported in the press as below. Note the final paragraph.

SUCCESS OF FIGHTER DEFENCES -MANY INTERCEPTIONS IN AIR EXERCISE
From our aeronautical correspondent

FIGHTER COMMAND H.Q. May 27 1957
We have achieved a higher rate of interception than had seemed possible from previous experience,” said a senior officer of R.A.F. Fighter Command at the Command H.Q. at Stanmore, Middlesex, to-day in summarizing the results of Exercise Vigilant, the three-day air defence tests which ended this evening.
An analysis of the results achieved, he said, had shown that the fighter defences had done twice as well as in last year’s Exercise Stronghold. Not only had a higher percentage of raiders been intercepted than previously but they had been met farther out to sea—a vitally important matter in these days of nuclear bombs. Interceptions made over land were not counted; only those made out at sea were taken into account, he said.

BETTER ORGANIZATION
The main reasons for the more satisfactory results achieved were the improved operational organization of ‘Fighter Command and of the control and reporting system; a simplification of procedures; and the use of better aircraft. We now had exceedingly high-powered radar, coupled to another powerful radar early warning system on the Continent. This had meant that instead of fighters having to scramble off the ground in great haste they had been able to choose the right moment to take off.
During the exercise, said the spokesman, fighters had been used in the way in which guided missiles would be handled later— except that they had been guided by a man instead of electronically. Instead of sending several aircraft off to make an interception, an individual aircraft had been employed.
Although this was the biggest exercise yet staged by Fighter Command in such a short period, little sign of it was seen from the ground because the aircraft were operating above the altitude range at which aircraft make vapour trails.
Substantially more than 3,000 sorties were flown by the attacking forces alone— 1,300 of them to-day—and the fighters flew a greater number.
There were no fatalities during the three days, though a Javelin caught fire on the ground and was destroyed, and a Hunter was badly damaged while attempting to land.
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Old 27th Apr 2008, 18:10
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I recall being told about this incident by an old neighbour of mine , his name was Parker and he was a pilot in one of the Vampires.....At the time I thought it a rather tall story, glad to hear it did happen. Sadley he passed away a while ago. Derek
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Old 27th Apr 2008, 18:18
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From my new book, out in a couple of months (Hunter - Crecy Publishing):-

One of the best-known incidents took place on 8 February 1956 when six students (accompanied by two instructors) from the Day Fighter School
took off from West Raynham to begin a standard four-versus-four air combat exercise at 45,000 feet. Weather conditions were poor but the Met forecast suggested that things would improve, but despite this the Air Fighting Development School (one of the CFE’s component units) had cancelled flying for the day. The combat exercise progressed well and, because of the Hunter’s fuel capacity, the ensuing dogfight was relatively brief and
the Hunters began their return to base.
As they returned to the overhead at West Raynham at 20,000 feet it became clear that the weather had actually deteriorated and the airfield was now sitting under a 400-foot cloud base with fog restricting visibility to 1,000 yards. With only twenty minutes of fuel remaining, the decision was made to divert to Marham and the Hunters descended to 2,000 feet, separated by thirty-second intervals between pairs. Unfortunately, Marham’s air traffic
controllers were unfamiliar with the new fighter (especially fuel-starved ones), and to make matters worse the fog had also begun to roll over Marham too, so when the first pair popped out under the low cloud they almost immediately flew straight into the fog. The first aircraft’s
pilot (Red One) initiated an overshoot while his wingman (Red Two, who had lost sight of the leader) pressed on and successfully landed after a flight of just forty-two minutes. His leader proceeded to fly three more circuits before finally catching sight of the runway and landing, even though his aircraft ran out of fuel shortly after rolling off the runway.
The next pair fared less well and Yellow Three (who could only snatch brief glimpses of the ground) elected to climb away and eject. Meanwhile Yellow Four opted to continue his approach but crashed into a field just a couple of miles from Marham. Yellow Two, with just twelve gallons of fuel remaining, decided to abort his approach and climb away before ejecting. Yellow One, having made a low approach, was forced to climb away after spotting trees in his path, but after making a circuit of the airfield at 150 feet he settled onto the approach again only to run out of fuel, but landed straight ahead with a dead engine. Red Three abandoned his approach and climbed to 4,000 feet where he ejected, while Red Four abandoned his approach at 600 feet and climbed away until the aircraft flamed out at 2,500 feet, at which point he ejected. In just forty-five minutes a total of six Hunters had been destroyed or damaged (and one pilot killed) for no reason other than a shortage of fuel.


Hope it's of interest

Last edited by Tim McLelland; 28th Apr 2008 at 02:26.
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Old 27th Apr 2008, 23:17
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Tim: IIRC senior officers were posted away from West Raynham after that debacle.
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Old 27th Apr 2008, 23:42
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Thanks Tim, it adds to the background.

FWIW whilst serving at Biggin Hill a new weather “broadcast” by teleprinter to Fighter Command stations in the Metropolitan Sector was introduced in 1954-55. Metropolitan Sector controlled RAF Fighter Command stations in the South and East of the UK plus USAF F.86 Sabres of the 406th FIW based at Manston in Kent. Airfields controlled by MSOC included: Biggin Hill, North Weald, West Malling, Duxford, Waterbeach, Wattisham and the USAF 406th FIW at Manston.

Anyway back to the weather ‘broadcast’. Each station ops room had a teleprinter which was updated every 5-minutes with the actual weather observations from the stations above so that if the weather closed in a quick glance at the TP print-out would show which alternative airfields were available with better weather in the Sector.

The Ops room at each airfield had a time to enter the current weather so for example Biggin Hill would enter its weather at 5 and 35-minutes past the hour, North Weald at 10 and 40-past and so on. The Metropolitan Sector Controller in his HQ at Kelvedon Hatch had a repeater chattering away with the latest weather as entered by the individual airfields so he was able to see whether the weather was deteriorating in any particular airfield and could advise the aircraft airborne and under his control accordingly.

Whether a similar ‘weather broadcast’ system operated in the Eastern Sector, which I assume had some control responsibilities for West Raynham aircraft I’m afraid I don’t know, but if it did perhaps an alternative to Marham would have been found.

Anecdotal evidence I heard at whilst at Biggin is that up to date weather reports allowing aircraft to be diverted to airfields with better weather at relatively short notice was a bonus and probably saved lives
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Old 19th Jan 2012, 09:27
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Apologies for resurrecting an old thread but as a Frensham local I'm looking for info on a couple of Vampire crashes in the Frensham, Surrey, area.

The aircraft in question were Vampire F3 VT873, which crashed 1m south of Frensham on Dec 21 1948, and Vampire T11 XD539 which crashed on Nov 3, 1955, between the King's Ridge and the Little Pond (now called 'Vampire Flats').

With the massive fire on the common last year this cleared the scrub on Vampire Flats and I was hoping to see if any trace of the crash sites remain. Any info on grid references or contemporary photos would be very much appreciated

I'm more than happy to post photos of the sites on here if I can identify them and in the unlikely event anyone else is interested!

Many thanks,

WF
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 20:27
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QUOTE:

Anyway back to the weather ‘broadcast’. Each station ops room had a teleprinter which was updated every 5-minutes with the actual weather observations from the stations above so that if the weather closed in a quick glance at the TP print-out would show which alternative airfields were available with better weather in the Sector.

The Ops room at each airfield had a time to enter the current weather so for example Biggin Hill would enter its weather at 5 and 35-minutes past the hour, North Weald at 10 and 40-past and so on. The Metropolitan Sector Controller in his HQ at Kelvedon Hatch had a repeater chattering away with the latest weather as entered by the individual airfields so he was able to see whether the weather was deteriorating in any particular airfield and could advise the aircraft airborne and under his control accordingly.


That is not to say that every base reported the weather every five minutes ....which would need TWO Met Observers working almost full time. I write as an ex-observer, amongst other job descriptions.
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 09:49
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Wokfans: I can't help with images, etc., of the two Vampire crashes but the following may be of interest?

Vampire F Mk.3, VT873, No.54 Sqn., Odiham, 21 December 1948
Control lost during formation turn when pilot blacked out; dived into ground, 1m E of Frensham, Surrey, killing P2 E C Andrews.

Vampire T Mk.11, XD539, No.54 Sqn, Odiham, 3 November 1955
During a photographic sortie of the squadron's Hunter aerobatic team the controller failed to direct the aircraft after Odiham was missed on the GCA. The aircraft was told to overshoot at Farnborough but the controller failed to notify Farnborough to 'listen out'. Ran out of fuel and abandoned at 9,000 feet, Frensham, Surrey. Fg Off P A Swoffer.

The particular story of the squadron Hunter incident as already mentioned in a previous post

IHTTIOI?

DW
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