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Your Scariest Flight ?

Old 24th Dec 2020, 09:48
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When I saw the thread title, I had no idea of the truly hairy stories to read - so interesting and some genuine 'Laugh Out Loud' moments - such as seeing a wheel make its own taxi run, however uncomfortable for those inside the tube.

My most memorable is minor by comparison: November 1970, Air Rhodesia (as it then was) SAY (now HRE) to JNB on a Sunday morning. Vickers Viscount.
A thunderstorm that was too big to go around and too tall for the Viscount to go over. I discovered many years later the usual cruise was about FL160 and it's Ceiling about 220 but please do correct on that but I have no idea which model of Viscount it was.

We entered the storm about an hour into the scheduled two hour sector that was extended by 30 minutes due to the storm and the turbulence was significant. Many pax lost their breakfast. I was 15 and not scared that we would crash, although made very uncomfortable by the turbulence, which has turned out to be the strongest I have ever encountered. I had a window on the Port side and watched the wing flex as we were surrounded by cloud for an extended period.

On a routine JNB-LHR in 2019, we made a large crescent shaped swerve to avoid a massive storm doing its thing away to Starboard whilst in the ICTZ. I remembered the Viscount! Not least, being able to watch the avoiding line develop in real time as I lay on my flat bed! Wow, what a difference in two months short of 49 years.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 10:42
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Almost identical to my experience as a new copilot on an ATR42 - LCY- LBA. Entered rain ice at circa FL120, saw blue sky as passing FL150 and thought we’d get out on top....except we were hoodwinked, Max torque, icing speeds etc yet we were decelerating in level flight - remember looking across at my tough Yorkshire Captain and thinking he was quiet and looked a lot paler than normal - that’s when I started getting a tad nervous given the ATR’s rep in icing. We promptly descended (I think under a pan call) and found air clear of icing at FL80, outside controlled airspace.
On landing at Leeds where the temp was about 8c, big lumps of ice were dropping off the tail plane onto the ramp, that really bought it home to me how quickly icing can catch you out in a turboprop.

Yep another one, first job in the right hand seat of a Shorts 330 or 360 over the channel with a 30,000hr+ retirement job Captain Flash Philips of BCal fame who had survived the VC10 upset incident over the Andes. Well it started about 8000’ and we drifted down with full power on to about 3000’ with noticeable light aerodynamic buffet throughout. Once we leveled Flash turned to me and said “ Well if the icing level was on the surface we would be dead now” This from the man who had done and in my opinion could do anything. ‘Wow’ the apprenticeship really had begun! Looking back on it quite how fare paying passengers were allowed on those things is quite shocking. However we survived and I look back on those days with very happy memories. It was a pleasure and privilege to have flown and learnt from gentlemen and superb airmen such as Flash and Rex.

Last edited by Out Of Here; 24th Dec 2020 at 11:55.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 11:01
  #23 (permalink)  
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A friend at the time in the 80's was thinking of buying a PA 32 and asked if I would like to accompany him for an engineering overview as it were. The aircraft was owned by two elderly gentlemen who may have had a benign AME / GP....... to put it politely . It was based on a farm strip in Lincolnshire with two others, both of which were under cover. This one wasn't, no blanks / covers and to judge from the rubbish on the wings had been outside "for some considerable time ". The corrosion / crazing was equally obvious.

Asked if I would like to go on the test flight, so in we get. Friend in RH seat, one of the owners driving and his friend sat behind him. The take-off set the tone, more a wiggle in hope rather than positive control action. Reached about 2000ft and the gentleman next to me asks his friend in front "Have you had your tablets today ? "...." no " says pilot and rummages in nav bag for said tablets....a short while later.....the engine begins to sound very unhealthy, I should add this was in February, OAT 3 / 4 degs, at best, on the ground...next question " have you got carb heat on ? "....slight pause, "click ", "I have now "......my friend carried out some basic handling, gentle stalls, and we landed soon thereafter.

Flying with those two, and then with no carb heat in those conditions, was more than a shade scary.

He declined to purchase the aircraft.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 12:04
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Out walking in Spain and came across some people hang-gliding. As I had already done some short courses I expressed an interest in having a go myself.

News of this travelled across the grapevine and an offer arrived to take me up in a powered hang-glider the following weekend.

So on Friday evening we travelled to remote rural Spain to meet the pilot and his three children, and after dinner, pulled the hang-glider from a cobweb-filled garage.

Saturday morning was clean the aircraft and in daylight it became apparent that the wing fabric had long splits where the wing colour changed. This did not appear to worry anybody but me, so the engine was started and rides for the children organised.

My turn arrived and, consoling myself that the splits only went fore-to-aft, I took my place. In fact I found that flying as a passenger in a hang-glider controlled by someone else was so unpleasant (as in seriously frightening) that I almost forgot about the wings.

Anyhow we landed sucessfully and after a few more childrens flights the pilot asked who was going to take the last flight of the day. Everybody pointed at me and I felt it too late to demur.

Last edited by occasional; 25th Dec 2020 at 08:52.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 13:17
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Parachute club in Oxon. Stretch Cessna (dunno what model, first and only time it visited) had been doing static line lifts all day. Finally a free-fall lift. Everyone and their dog gets on board. I'm sitting on floor with back to pilot's seat. As usual everyone scrums forward to put CG forward - old lag skydiver practically lying on top of me gripping back of pilots seat. Off we go down the grass strip - but something's not quite right - we pass the bump in the strip where an aircraft normally becomes airborne still firmly attached to terra firma.Old lag on top of me looks distinctly worried. End of strip runs into an adjoining field - but small matter of large hedge, shipping container and landrover in close proximity. Pilot hauls back on stick and we stagger into air accompanied by stall klaxon. Clear hedge etc but not really climbing. Everyone remains firmly scrummed forward looking somewhat nervous. Oxfordshire still seems very close below. Finally, taking what seems like an age, we gradually edge up to 2,500ft. Most of the lift had asked for a higher exit but, curiously, everyone seemed anxious to get out as soon as possible.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 14:17
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Originally Posted by ancientaviator62
Retired BA/BY,
lived about 200 yds from RAF Usworth (Hylton Castle Council Estate) and had my first flight there as an Air Cadet (2214 Sqn). It was in on 25 July 1956 in Anson VV 994. I used to go there whenever possible to help out clean/refuel the Chipmunks and the Ansons and Oxfords. Very happy days.
Gosh, that was a scary one.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 14:44
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Moments of abject terror during a flight, rather than a scary flight......

....As one of four embarked pongoes in a RAF Whirlwind, contour flying 30 feet above the canopy in forested country when the engine failed suddenly; US Marines exchange pilot heaved up the nose to do what was more or less a horizontal auto- rotate and as the speed dropped and as the nose came down he slid it into a small clearing for a soft landing.

.....As a passenger in a MEA Coronado realising that we had just touched down at Beirut far too hot even for a Coronado, and far too late, and were about to go off the end in about 10 seconds, still fast. (We did indeed, but no fire and almost no casualties.)

...In my Prentice, climbing up though cloud to get to VFR on top, over mountains in Italy on route Rome - Brindisi, when the damp air cause both mags to pretty much cut out. (A Prentice quirk, apparently, that I didn't know about.) The glide down after a 180 turn, with a stopped prop, not knowing whether I would come out of the cloud or hit the hill first, was a slightly prolonged and very scary moment, relieved by not only coming out of cloud safely, but finding a military runway in the valley, 800ft or so below the aircraft, which wasn't on my 1:500,000 map.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 16:47
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When I was 737 rated visited my then girlfriends father in Victoria (BC).

Turned out he had a Piper Arrow, and my girlfriend asked her dad if he could "take us up". Now, to be honest I have always have had a fear of SEP.... irrational I know but I was sure glad to leave the SEP world after training... so I was initially reluctant but was too polite to refuse.

So up we went, takeoff normal, until he decided during the trip to show off with "aerobatics" (perhaps he thought he was impressing me, but believe me that is the last thing I wanted).

We came so close to stalling on a number of occasions (and at low altitude) and I was not at all confident he could recover, grinning like a maniac throwing the airplane about... I was almost praying for terra firma.

By the time we reached the ground I was a blubbering wreck.... he was still grinning like a bloody maniac.

Think the old boy actually enjoyed scaring the sh*t out of me.

Girlfriend (obviously unaware how close she was to oblivion) stating "Isn't my dad so cool".
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 18:54
  #29 (permalink)  

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Icing! My first night flying sortie in the Jet Provost Mk3A was on Feb 6th, 1978, in XN494. My QFI was Flt Lt Nigel Storah.

Nigel was a "creamie" QFI. He still held a "white" rating which meant he had to add 200' to DH on a PAR approach. He and I were programmed to carry out night circuits at our base, RAF Linton-On-Ouse. Unfortunately, the cloudbase was below limits. We delayed about an hour in the hope that the weather might improve. It didn't.

Instead we re-briefed to fly to RAF Waddington, where the weather was better. We were to transit IFR and IMC via Linton Radar, Finningley Radar and Waddington Radar. We were to carry out a PAR approach at Waddington and after breaking cloud continue into the visual circuit for the sortie proper, then return to base.

We departed into low overcast in moderate rain and a blustery wind. All went as planned until we flew the PAR at Waddington. We didn't break cloud at all, at DH plus the 200'. No chance of visual circuits. We went around, then flew a second PAR. We still saw nothing so went around again; our only option now was to RTB. We expected a radar handover to Finningley but were told to "free call" as Waddington Radar was going off the air. We called Finningley but got no reply. We climbed through cloud to above safety altitude and continued northbound. Nigel told me to fly the planned heading but to continue the climb. As I did so, I began to have difficulty maintaining airspeed. I mentally told myself to get a grip and kept opening the throttle. It made little difference. Nigel, who had been concentrating on the R/T, suddenly looked across and reminded me to maintain IAS. I pushed the throttle even further forward but there was no more travel and I felt the lever "clunk" at the forward end of its quadrant. I looked at the engine RPM gauge. It read 90% - that's all we had. Probably about half normal thrust. I said "I think there's something wrong with the engine". He took control. As I sat back, we briefly came out of cloud, between layers and the partial moon illuminated the wing. The leading edge was thick with white ice and the tip tank, instead of being smooth and rounded, looked like a huge cauliflower. Suddenly it all made sense - we had an engine icing problem as well as severe airframe icing. The aircraft was now waffling along at about 130 kts - it should have done closer to 300. We no longer knew the stalling speed because the wing profile was no longer normal, but we knew it was considerably higher than with a clean wing.

The next few minute were rather fraught and surreal. Nigel put out a PAN call on 243.0 and we were transferred to Linton Radar. We were to be vectored for a straight in PAR but we still had a long way to fly. I was instructed to get out my FRCs and to read the pre-ejection checklist. We both carried out our individual vital actions, seat pins, harnesses, leg restraints etc. I suddenly became very much aware that it was a filthy wet and cold night outside, with a strong wind blowing. The thought of a parachute landing wasn't a good one, especially in the dark. Although we carried out parachute drills by day, from a training rig, I had never parachuted for real. Nigel briefed me that he would fly the aircraft back. If the engine failed, or we hit stall buffet, he would call "EJECT, EJECT!" and I was to leave the aircraft first, he would follow.

Thankfully, as we descended, the engine rpm picked up. The PAR went well enough, although I can't remember much about that. We landed, taxied in and shut down. What I'll never forget is that after we climbed out, thick slabs of slush slid off the full length of both wings onto the dispersal. The significance of this didn't really hit me till some time later. We had been very lucky.

I never flew with Nigel again. He was later posted to Harriers at Gutersloh, while I went rotary wing. Two years later, I was posted to Gutersloh, too. I looked forward to meeting him again. However, it was not to be. On 14th October 1980, as I arrived at the station in my car, having just driven direct from UK, there was an ominous pall of black smoke over the airfield. It was Nigel. His Harrier had suffered a catastrophic mechanical control failure as he came to a hover. He had ejected but by then his aircraft had rolled past 90 degrees at very low level and unfortunately he didn't survive. The mark his ejection seat made in the grass alongside the runway was visible for some time afterwards and it was a stark reminder and a sobering start to my Germany tour.

RIP Flt Lt Nigel Storah.

Last edited by ShyTorque; 24th Dec 2020 at 21:50. Reason: Correction to a/c reg letter.
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 19:51
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque
My first night flying sortie in the Jet Provost Mk3A was on Feb 6th, 1978, in XW494.
I hope not, as that serial belongs to a drone - lucky you didn't get shot down.

Your bird, probably:

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Old 24th Dec 2020, 21:39
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Yes, my mistake. XN494 it was. Just checked my logbook again.

In my defence, there was someone at the door, coupled with a phone call from elsewhere, advising me of a family crisis while I was typing. A family member has been possibly exposed to Covid....bang goes our Christmas Day plan. Anyone like a half defrosted turkey?
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Old 24th Dec 2020, 21:58
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Pan Am 737 from Berlin to Frankfurt at night; I was guessing where we were by how I perceived the aircraft's turns, and when I thought we were on finals for a westerly landing, we made a very steeply-banked turn to the right and shortly afterwards, made an easterly landing.
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 03:50
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Instant Fear

Immediately after lift off Pilot exclaims "^^^^" (or perhaps more stars).
I innocently inquire as to whats wrong.
"I've only got 2 Greens"
Fortunately a couple of recycles found the missing Green.
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 11:49
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Practice EFTO, on an Arrow conversion, distracted on purpose by the Instructor who chopped the throttle while we were still too low. Starts to ask "Where are you going now" changed into "I have control", firewalled the throttle, went between a farm house and a large barn then slowly climbed away..

Britannia at Bardufoss, heavy braking on the takeoff roll. FE pops out of the cockpit, lifts a floor panel and starts whacking something metal with a large wrench. Taxi back around and FE, sitting with legs in the hole, shouts through cockpit door - "Try it again".

Seen through the cockpit door on Air India, lights going on and off - told it is routine practice to look ahead at the cloud buildups during the Monsoon - had it on the descent into Delhi, seems to make sense.

Coming out of Joburg, lightning strike, very large bang followed by heir apparent shouting "Dad - the wing has a glowing red spot on it" Cue surrounding pax gasping.

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Old 25th Dec 2020, 14:10
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I wasn't scared at the time, but should have been...
Finished a check four on an Apache and needed to get the de-icing cylinder charged, as we didn't have hi-pressure air (2.500psi ?) So our chief pilot flew it to Norwich with me in the right seat to keep an eye on things after the check.
Sorted the air charging and taxied out to return. You have a go, he says. While I had flown P2 in a few of the singles we worked on, no PPL and no experience in a twin, other than holding the Twin Coms straight and level or gentle turns.
Nothing loth, off we go, weather was the pits, low cloud and showers, so after take off, cleaned her up and set off down the A47 at around 1000ft. Doing OK, I think, when one engine starts losing power.. He looked disinterested, so I knew that he was giving me some test. Corrected the boot of rudder with trim and full power on the remaining donk and prepared to feather the failing one, when it cheered up.Straightened it all up and carried on. I had been scanning the panel and couldn't figure what he had done. Bit later, same happened, but I had caught his right arm moving. So while I was doing the correction, I asked him politely if he would not mess with the fuel cocks..... Big grin.
With some prompts I had her on finals, when she started rolling to the left, I applied correction, but nothing. He said, 'I have control' and slammed the throttles forward and the nose down, resulting in a big bounce and actual landing much further down the runway. We were near 45 roll before he sorted it.
Figured there must have been a big gust, as he was quite surprised at what happened, as was the airfield manager, who saw it all.
Like I said, interesting experience... but what on earth was he doing, giving simulated engine failures on an underpowered twin at 1000ft with an untrained person at the controls?
This was in '72?
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 20:35
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There have been a few over the past 45years (yike) which I thought might be good contenders for this thread a pretty long list in fact, then I ran some filters and there was a clear winner.
It wasn't the Pa38 spinning incident, or the teardrop reversal at Accra with tornados ripping up the far side of the airfield, it was something rather more subtle and insidious, and as usual it started of with a clear summers day, with a great days flying planned.

At the time I was flying as a "pilots assistant" on a B200 Super Kingair, my instructor was flying as captain for this flight to deliver a well heeled couple to the Isles of Scilly for a romantic lunch.
Champagne and goodies loaded, we departed in gin clear skies to Lands End airfield.

The B200 was not suitable for the destination, and the company had arranged a local pilot to do the transfer: we duly arrived, shut down, and moments later were joined by a charachter dressed as a captain, complete with Popeye sailors hat, working togs, and wellies.

He was a skipper in every sense of the word, he'd come straight from his trawler jus down in the bay for the trip to St. Mary's in his well worn and very homely B23 Musketeer, but oh, he said ... there was a problem, a weather problem.

"I'm so sorry", he told our passengers in a broad Cornish accent, "there is a front due in that will close the islands, and we won't be able to get back out again".

After a brief conference our lovebirds departed for St Ives, and we retreated to the airport Cafe for coffee and small talk with our island specialist, who departed a short while later.
WIth time on our hands, the King-Air was restocked, refuelled and we sat down to wait out the 4 hours until our clients return, then decided to go and check out some of the hangers.

Strolling across the sunlit grass, we became aware of the Skipper ambling towards us, "there's a break in the weather, you boys want to go to the islands ?"
I wasn't really included in the conversation, but surely the answer was no !

Moments later we were flying out over the cliffs of Lands end towards St. Marys.
Never before, or since, have I seen a runway threshold that appears to fill your windsreen in level light at 1000 feet !

The Skipper's intel seemed correct:

Beautiful CAVOK, warm sunshine, indeed a beautiful day, and once safely down we took a tour by foot to grab a cornish pasty (as you do), and tour the fascinating historic graveyard.
I have always had a real time sense for weather, today it was just the slightest breeze touching my cheek that made me look up.


Lets go .. we made out way back to the aircraft to find our skipper looking decidedly nervous, all he said was "lets go" and go we did .. no checks, we were airborne and turning for Lands End at low level.

Even at this early stage of my flying career, I had already lost friends and acquaintances in weather related accidents, so, sat in the back of the Musketeer was rather like reading an accident report as events began to unfold.

We had turned on track from perhaps 100 feet after takeoff, and were now running in and out of the cloud base at 500 feet, as we approached the Lizard peninsula. the cloud base was lowering rapidly. we were now down at 300 feet to keep sight of the wave tops and it was getting darker by the moment.

200 feet now ...... and POP !! out into bright sunshine.

I had been mostly head down during this part of the flight as we were clearly getting down to an altitude where the cliffs near the airfield could become a factor.

Head down is probably the wrong term ... I was trying to wriggle into a position that might protect me should we impact terrain
As I felt the sunshine, I opened my eyes, and popped my head up for a quick look around.

There ahead of us was the Lizard peninsula, covered rather beautifully in orographic fog that began half way up the cliff face stretching as far inland as the eye could see, all lit with bright sunshine.

Now what ?

Now might me an appropriate moment to decribe the Skipper: I can do so in a few words.
Think Long John Silver, without the Parrot and the wooden leg and you are pretty much there and that includes the accent !
He is a creature of his environment, not ours, and more to the point, without a headset I am watching events unfold without a commentary.

We are closing on the cliffs, out pops a stage of flap, I sneak a look over his left shoulder and see 75kts, and we start a right turn down the beach, now at clifftop height ... as we roll wings level the view is strangely tantalising ...

I look to where the clifftop should be, solid fog, but as I look down on the beach, there are couples sunbathing and children playing in the sea, and here we are making like an aluminium seagull, beating a figure of 8 track, turning away from the cliff to the right, then a closing track on the return to turn left ... and repeat ... and repeat and repeat, this was becoming quite bizarre.

So far I could follow the logic: we will fly this for a while and then divert .... surely ?

At the end of one of the left turns out to sea, there's an exclamation,(ARRRR !) and the turn tightens ... then there is dense fog ... I see a stone wall flash past, then a sheep.

I'm back in my "brace for impact" position with my head held tight against my knees, my right eye watching things, and my life, flashing past the opposite passenger window.

Another stone wall, a tree, all just gloomy shadows in the fog, a telephone pole...... I brace for impact ... yes there's the first one .... a glancing blow, and now we are sliding, curving to the right.... In my minds eye I see the next stone wall looming out of the fog and close my eyes, power goes on for an instant, then off, still sliding to the right ....

But I'm also picking up the rumble of the landing gear on a bumpy grass surface, and dare another look .. a monocrome windsock passes my field of view, and slowly, ever-so-slowly we rumble to a halt.

I finally exhale.

Now we are taxying. I unbrace and look around ... still nothing, but grass and fog, then a light, then a hangar medivac, then the airfield cafe,

WTF !!

Happy Christmas


Last edited by Teddy Robinson; 25th Dec 2020 at 20:57. Reason: typo .. Happy Chrismas :-)
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 20:54
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I have nothing to tell here, thank God

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Old 25th Dec 2020, 21:01
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Wink Ah, don't you just love perfection.

Originally Posted by Pugilistic Animus
I have nothing to tell here
Nothing to tell, or nothing to learn ?
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 21:06
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While in retrospect it should have been my scariest flight, I was young and silly at the time so I loved every minute of it. A youth group to which I belonged organised a joy flight in a Dragon Rapide. We all turned up at the appointed departure time bright-eyed and bushy-tailed only to find that while the aeroplane was there, it had no seats in the cabin! Its recent flights had been for parachuting and consequently the seats had been removed and stored in the corner of a hangar. With impeccable planning, the preflight preparations involved literally dusting off the seats and fitting them in the cabin. I was last to board and drew the last seat next to the door. When I went to fasten my seatbelt I discovered that there was a discrepancy in the seat belt department to the tune of one. Not to worry, the pilot produced a length of webbing and proceeded to tie it around my middle with a big bow at the front. There was no briefing on the quick release function of said bow. With all pax safely secured, the cabin door was closed with the customary tug on the handle to verify that the door was latched. It was at this point that the door handle separated from the door. Presumably MELs were consulted and the flight duly departed and returned uneventfully to the aerodrome of departure.

Not long after this flight it emerged that the fuselage fabric was in need of attention. Sections were removed only to reveal the condition of the woodwork. Her flying days were over. In those unenlightened times it was decided that the aeroplane would be burned. On the appointed day of execution the aeroplane was towed tail first to the fire dump whereupon the tail section and rear fuselage separated from the rest of the aircraft. How close had we come to an in-flight breakup?
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Old 25th Dec 2020, 23:12
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54 Squadron in the mid '60s. Recently posted from Chivenor, was doing rather well at weapons during a concentrated phase from West Raynham.
Found I was top of the Air to Ground ladder and was tasked on to Cowden range. Excellent results and a happy F/O was flying back at low level over the sea back to base.
In those days, pirate radio was alive and well in the SE of England, so it just so happened if you tuned into Radio London you got an instant steer from your radio compass back to base and gave you the latest pop music to accompany your recovery.
The Hunter radio compass control was on the rear right bulkhead, and as I turned the lever to the correct frequency, I looked up to see the ocean at eye level.
A frantic pull, to nearly overstress the aircraft resulted, and a much chastened, overconfident young pilot returned to base with a QGH/GCA that required maximum concentration as I realised that I had nearly been killed.
There used to be a page in the RAF Flight Safety Magazine that headed " I learnt a lot about flying from that" and on that day I did !!
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