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D.H. Sea Vixen

Old 9th May 2024, 01:51
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Originally Posted by Krystal n chips
The one that landed at Valley one day did it's best to disprove something called laminar flow was useful for flight....the right wing being opened up to give a credible impression of a sardine can.....somebody will doubtless know the full story, but apparently caused by a brief, but passionate, contact with something solid on "Eagle".
25th January 1971, I was stealing a jolly in the left seat of the planeguard Wessex (XS888) when Vixen 123 lined up a bit too far to starboard while landing and hit 3 parked cabs on deck. Managed a bolter and was diverted to Valley.

The finding was the low level sortie had allowed too much salt buildup on the pilot's windscreen affecting his visibility, compounded by the ship's heading into a setting sun (midwinter about 16:00 local).


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Old 9th May 2024, 06:16
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Originally Posted by meleagertoo
What the digamma is "Sqd"???
Dear me!
Short for squid.
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Old 9th May 2024, 07:10
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Originally Posted by John Eacott
25th January 1971, I was stealing a jolly in the left seat of the planeguard Wessex (XS888) when Vixen 123 lined up a bit too far to starboard while landing and hit 3 parked cabs on deck. Managed a bolter and was diverted to Valley.

The finding was the low level sortie had allowed too much salt buildup on the pilot's windscreen affecting his visibility, compounded by the ship's heading into a setting sun (midwinter about 16:00 local).


Thanks for that account.

However, I'm a bit bemused as to how it wasn't lined up properly as I thought there was only one way it could be lined up on a cat.launch.
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Old 9th May 2024, 08:31
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I understand a bolter is an aborted landing and nothing to do with a catapult.
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Old 9th May 2024, 08:36
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Originally Posted by Krystal n chips
Thanks for that account.

However, I'm a bit bemused as to how it wasn't lined up properly as I thought there was only one way it could be lined up on a cat.launch.
Post mentions not lined up correctly for a landing, hence the interaction with the 3 cabs and hence the bolter.



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Old 9th May 2024, 10:49
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Originally Posted by DHfan
I understand a bolter is an aborted landing and nothing to do with a catapult.
Possibly because as you touch down, you're already spooling up in case you miss the cable(s).
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Old 10th May 2024, 08:03
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Originally Posted by GeeRam
Post mentions not lined up correctly for a landing, hence the interaction with the 3 cabs and hence the bolter.
Ah, so it does. Think of my reply as a derivative of "RTFQ "
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Old 13th May 2024, 11:21
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One issue with the aircraft was the tail-plane's straight leading edge. This meant the wings had a higher MCrit than the tail, which is a disaster for pitch stability at high Mach numbers. Making the tail-plane as flat and thin as possible (fineness ratio) will alleviate his, but it wasn't enough on the DH110. The Vixen crash at the Farnborough show in 1952 was a result of a breakup in an overstress. The cause was determined to be the wing not being strong enough, it was reinforced in production aircraft. But the break up was preceded by a supersonic run and a violent pitch up which under the circumstances and considering the experience of the test pilot, John Derry, may not have been a result of a control input. It's in-service MMO was 0.91 - it was a subsonic fighter, despite it's power.

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Old 13th May 2024, 22:37
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From the Sea Vixen FAW2 FRCs:



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Old 28th May 2024, 12:37
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In the early 1970's HSA Brough had been appointed Design Authority for the Sea Vixen. I cant remember there being any on site expertise, other than we had been given the Sea Vixen drawing set and a few filing cabinets of information. Since the aircraft was being retired from the FAA I guess there was not expected to be a lot of work coming our way. Presumably on the basis that we were Design Authority for Buccaneer and Phantom someone must have thought we were the best choice to look after another carrier borne aircraft. Our only involvement with the drone project was to underwrite any design changes made by Flight Refuelling and I made several trips down to Tarrant Rushton for liason meetings. One of the areas of contention was the destroy system which consisted of three explosively operated actuators which drove the ailerons, tail plane and rudders to full travel in the event of the need to destroy the aircraft in flight. There was some debate about which was the best course of action, either pitch the aircraft down into a spiral dive or pitch it up into a stall and spin. After some modelling by Brough Aerodynamics Dept the latter option was chosen as it gave the smallest cone area for impact from the aircraft. I don't think the drone aircraft was ever flown pilotless, there was always a safety pilot in the cockpit, monitoring the 'Iron Man' drone pack's performance (as it was known at Brough). The Iron man was installed in the Observers cockpit in place of the ejection seat. I think one of the main reasons the drone project was abandoned was that the aircraft were seriously corroded and when the aircraft carried out the pre programmed missile evade manoeuvre, there was a significant chance that they might break up in mid air.
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Old 28th May 2024, 18:38
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Originally Posted by walbut
In the early 1970's HSA Brough had been appointed Design Authority for the Sea Vixen. I cant remember there being any on site expertise, other than we had been given the Sea Vixen drawing set and a few filing cabinets of information. Since the aircraft was being retired from the FAA I guess there was not expected to be a lot of work coming our way. Presumably on the basis that we were Design Authority for Buccaneer and Phantom someone must have thought we were the best choice to look after another carrier borne aircraft. Our only involvement with the drone project was to underwrite any design changes made by Flight Refuelling and I made several trips down to Tarrant Rushton for liason meetings. One of the areas of contention was the destroy system which consisted of three explosively operated actuators which drove the ailerons, tail plane and rudders to full travel in the event of the need to destroy the aircraft in flight. There was some debate about which was the best course of action, either pitch the aircraft down into a spiral dive or pitch it up into a stall and spin. After some modelling by Brough Aerodynamics Dept the latter option was chosen as it gave the smallest cone area for impact from the aircraft. I don't think the drone aircraft was ever flown pilotless, there was always a safety pilot in the cockpit, monitoring the 'Iron Man' drone pack's performance (as it was known at Brough). The Iron man was installed in the Observers cockpit in place of the ejection seat. I think one of the main reasons the drone project was abandoned was that the aircraft were seriously corroded and when the aircraft carried out the pre programmed missile evade manoeuvre, there was a significant chance that they might break up in mid air.
I was on the D3 development team at FR, both briefly at Tarrant Rushton and then at Hurn for 3 years, looking after the flight data recordind and telemetry systems and analysis after each test flight. You are correct, no Sea Vixen D3 ever flew without s safety pilot on board although we did get the program to be fully ground controlled from start to finish (take-off, flight manoeuvres and landing) with the safety pilot being fully hands-off - this was done at both Hurn Airport and on field trials at Llanbedr.

I'm glad you mentioned the destroy system as this is the reason there are ejector seat style warning triangles near to each control surface - something the author on the definitive book on the Sea Vixen puzzles about - as to "why are the ejector seat triangles duplicated around the aircraft". However, on the test aircraft, the explosive actuators to destroy were of course not fitted but there was an explosive cutter system whereby the safety pilot could in an emergency, completely mechanically sever the drone servo-actuators and the plane would revert to fully manual. These (admittedly very small) explosive "guillotine" style cutters were based on the same type fitted to the FR Rushton towed target packs that the Canberra TT18 had under the wings and were used to sever the steel cable in the event the winch failed and the towed target could be detached in-flight.

I don't recall the D3 project being cancelled due to airframe corrosion at all, in fact many of the 20-25 or so frames earmarked for this were quite young and healthy examples and the ones selected had not seen much carrier service either. The reason for cancellation was cost escalation and in the 10 years since the D3 project had started, missile and seeker technology had moved on considerably therefore the requirements for the full-scale drone target had changed with the Sea Vixen no longer considered suitable. Both BAe and Flight Refueling put in a partnered bid (I think it was unsolicited) to re-use the D3 Universal Drone Pack (UDP) technology in the Lightning and F4 Phantom as the former was to be retired from the front-line in the late 80s and the USA had lots of surplus of the latter. However this proposal came to nothing.

Was a great project to work on as I had only recently come out of my apprenticeship so to be involved in a development project like this was great.....plus lots of summer trips up to Llanbedr (which I considered a very exotic business trip aged 22 at the time).
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Old 29th May 2024, 07:25
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Bonkey,
We must be of a similar age as I found business trips from Brough down to Tarrant Ruston as a young Flight Systems engineer were very exciting at the time. I was trying to remember the name of the engineer we liased with on the Sea Vixen D3 project without success until the name Dave Langdon popped into my head last night - can you remember if I am right?
You may well be better informed than me about the reason for the projects cancellation. The corrosion story went around at Brough but the real reason was probably only known to people well above my pay grade at the time and the job for us at Brough just faded away.
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Old 29th May 2024, 08:55
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Originally Posted by walbut
Bonkey,
We must be of a similar age as I found business trips from Brough down to Tarrant Ruston as a young Flight Systems engineer were very exciting at the time. I was trying to remember the name of the engineer we liased with on the Sea Vixen D3 project without success until the name Dave Langdon popped into my head last night - can you remember if I am right?
You may well be better informed than me about the reason for the projects cancellation. The corrosion story went around at Brough but the real reason was probably only known to people well above my pay grade at the time and the job for us at Brough just faded away.
Yes, we probably are about the same age....early 60s. You are quite correct, Dave Langdon was the overall PM for the D3 project and was my line manager at the time. Also involved were Arthur Chant (DL's boss) and Ken Whitty who ran all the ground based command and control, telemetry and flight recording systems.

Last edited by Bonkey; 29th May 2024 at 09:17.
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Old 1st Jun 2024, 09:23
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Originally Posted by Krystal n chips
The one that landed at Valley one day did it's best to disprove something called laminar flow was useful for flight....the right wing being opened up to give a credible impression of a sardine can.....somebody will doubtless know the full story, but apparently caused by a brief, but passionate, contact with something solid on "Eagle".
I think this may be related to a post by QWIN QWIN in 2008, replying to Anna Eyton-Jones who was hoping to find some photos of her late father Lt Cdr John E-J:
E-J and I had launched off Eagle mid afternoon to do low level radar intercepts against another Sea Vixen in the Irish Sea. Because the Vixen radar could not see targets well looking down against the sea, the recognised technique was for the fighter to fly low to pick up the target. It was a fairly rough January day over the Irish Sea and during the course of the sortie we accumulated a fair amount of salt spray on the windscreen. The Sea Vixen dispersed rain from the windscreen with a hot air blowing system...no wipers, no washers. This did nothing to remove the salt layer, but that was OK E-J could see well enough to get us home to “mother” with no problem. All was well until we turned finals for the deck and came back to landing speed, this raised the nose and this combined with the fact that the ship was steaming straight into the setting sun turned the slightly opaque windscreen into a white sheet through which E-J could see absolutely nothing. He called for a voice talkdown, this was a practised procedure whereby the landing sight officer (LSO) gave instructions over the radio to allow you to land on the deck when you could not see the “landing sight”.

We missed the wires on the first 2 attempts to land and before the final approach E-J and I discussed the fact that if we missed the next time we needed to divert to RAF Valley. On the 3rd approach we were about 400 yards from the back of the deck when the LSO's radio failed....Flyco (the ultimate authority over deck operations) decided that we were too close to safely be instructed to “wave off” or go around. Instead he took over the talkdown but without the accurate references available to the LSO. The net result was that we came over the back end further right than we should have been, only about 22ft but it shows the accuracy required. I was aware that we were further right than I had ever seen before through my back seater's small window by my right knee. We both felt a thump but the aircraft was still moving at 130 knots or so, everyone had stopped talking on the radio, I started to eject but then thought better of it as I managed to see aspects of the deck which were familiar. I called our speed and a heading to RAF Valley as we left the front of the carrier. We had concluded that we were flying and E-J was in control of the aircraft, having shared a few expletives and the fact that we had both nearly ejected. About now Flyco called “Don't eject, don't eject...check your hydraulics you have lost half your starboard wing.”



Helpful! We set off for Valley and decided we didn't have enough fuel to get there unless we raised the undercarriage to reduce our fuel consumption. So E-J selected undercarriage up at which point the aircraft turned itself violently upside down, he regained control by putting the undercarriage down again and we proceeded to land at RAF Valley very short of fuel, having found a rain shower on the way to wash the windscreen. The fact that we got this wreck safely on the ground at RAF Valley was entirely thanks to your Dad's innate skills in an aircraft, his reactions in a truly life threatening situation were instinctive and intuitive
and right. He wasn't even perspiring when we landed off this one. Some after the event issues; A Sea Vixen pilot cannot see the end of the wings from the cockpit, so it was only after we landed at Valley that we saw what we had done. 8ft of the starboard wing was missing and the aileron was hanging vertically down behind the starboard undercarriage leg...hence turning upside down when we tried to raise the gear. We got a bol****ing from OC Flying at Valley for not declaring an emergency...we thought the ship had told them. Everyone at Valley seemed to have given up smoking and we couldn't scrounge a fag from anyone. Eagle sent a helicopter to take us back on board and upon alighting on the flight deck we were instructed to report to the Captain on the bridge.



His words will live with me forever; “Not your fault E-J, bit of a c**k up in here.” Turning to me he said “So you're a crab are you, that will show you what the Navy's all about. Pair of you go and see the Doc.” We had hit a Buccaneer, a fork lift truck, 2 Sea Vixens and another Buccaneer during our brief excursion along the deck of Eagle. The Doc was a famous FAA doctor whose name I will not mention. He took our pulses and blood pressures and determined that we were a bit excited, opened his desk drawer, removed a bottle of brandy and said “Drink half of that between you and I'll declare you fit to fly in the morning.” He did, and we did.

I had the privilege of working briefly with E-J while I was attached to No 1 Sqn in 1980. He leant me his flying boots so that I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to fly in a Harrier. Sadly he lost his life during the Falklands War, along with another friend, Al Curtis on a dark night in May 82. RIP
I think I may also have worked with QWIN during my tour on the RAF’s premier, but currently inactive, fighter squadron in the kingdom of Fife. If anyone knows his identity, please PM ME. GA.


Last edited by Senior Pilot; 3rd Jun 2024 at 20:26. Reason: Add QWIN hyperlink & quote for clarity
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Old 1st Jun 2024, 16:24
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A superb story, thank you so much!
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Old 3rd Jun 2024, 07:03
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Great post Grob About

GA, That is a great post, and what makes Prune so good at times. The accurate info, History, and 'what was actually said' (plus banter) is a concise lesson regarding how useful this forum can be. It also reminds us how much a loss E-J must have been to the FAA.
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