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Valiant crash, Wittering, August 1960

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Valiant crash, Wittering, August 1960

Old 15th Oct 2007, 10:21
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Milt, as I remember the incident the aircraft was on a training sortie at relatively light weight and one item of the trip was to practice a failure of pressurization drill in the climb. When the simulated failure was introduced the co-pilot who was not familiar with large aircraft pushed the nose down rather fiercely to level off. The crew heard a loud bang. Being unable to locate the cause they decided to recover to Gaydon. Upon joining the pattern they selected flap and the aircraft started to roll to the right so the selected it back in and flew a flap-less approach and landing. On shutdown they inspected the aircraft and found the right wing appeared to have moved away from the fuselage by a couple of inches or so. Because the Valiant flap mechanism was driven by a rod and cog system from electric motors in the fuselage the right wing system had disconnected due to the wing movement thus possibly saving the wing from being ripped off.

Last edited by Art Field; 15th Oct 2007 at 17:22. Reason: wrong wing
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Old 15th Oct 2007, 15:57
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The reason fast jets prefer 2.5 deg approaches is because swept wing aircraft can be more easily controlled on the final part of the approach.

However, aircraft like the Tornado prefer a 3 deg approach if recovering single-engine. The 2.5 deg approach originated, I believe, with the Lighning which could not sweep its' wings forward for landing.
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Old 15th Oct 2007, 17:10
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Bartom

At the time of the loss of the Valiant at Wittering in 1960 I was training - as copilot - at 231 OCU Gaydon and our crew [Capt. Flt Lt Dave Brooke] were posted to No 7 Sqn to replace Flt Lt Wickham's crew on 5Dec60.

As I recall from 'crewroom discussion' or maybe flight safety 'feedback' the following may [or may not] be a reasonable explanation for the loss of the aircraft and crew:
The aircraft was fully fuelled for a training sortie - heavy, but 7Sqn aircraft did not carry underwing tanks at Wittering - and the 9000ft runway was fine for the purpose.

The aircraft took off / the nose wheel failed to retract - or the 'three greens' were two greens and a red.
Captain hands control to Co. and intstructs him to turn 'Downwind' whilst he starts the process of resolving this minor problem.
Co - whilst turning aircraft, listening to radio messages intercomm and forgetting [perhaps] the stalling characteristics of a heavy aircraft in a turn could, in theory, be at fault but - at the time this lesson was not highlighted at Flying Training or OCU's.

The lesson I learnt from this unfortunate accident was to be cool, calm and "follow the book" when an 'after take off' occurs. It stood me in good stead in 37 yrs of operational flying.
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Old 15th Oct 2007, 19:48
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Bartom

I haven't read the full B o I.
"Hipper" (who started this thread) is sending it to me. I do know that Co was doing the take off and that the Captain knew about the problem with the nose wheel . What you say is very plausible and theoretically could have been exactly what happened on that day.

I have a couple of questions though....

If as Captain your Co was entirely new to you and known to be inexperienced 100 and something hours on Valiants, would you be confident enough in his abilities to handle the plane in a situation like that?

Is it the Captains job to sort out the wheels or would he delegate to the engineer?

Given that the Valiant was brittle and could break if you pushed the stick too far forward too quickly or in a 20║ bank in some turbulence with maximum TOW. Do you think main spar failure could be at least as plausible an explanation of the events of that day as the theory you've set out above? i.e. human failure.

I'm waiting for the full B o I to arrive as there are some things that aren't clear in the stuff I've seen so far, like who exactly was flying the plane Captain or Co.

So until I have read everything Hipper is sending me I'll not comment on here. I'd like to thank everyone who's commented on this thread so far all this input has been very helpful to me in uderstanding what happened on that day.

Hi Carol

I've sent you a message via this board did you get it?. Michael has my e-mail and phone number if you want to get in touch. in 2010 it'll be the 50ths anniversary maybe we all could visit Spanhoe and Wittering in August that year. I'm also looking at getting Brian Wikhams' name cleared as I really don't think he was to blame. These planes weren't put together right as is clear from the input to this thread.

ATB
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Old 18th Oct 2007, 00:14
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Calling Wittering circa 1960

I'm just reading through the Board of Trade Inquiry into this crash.

Does any one know if there was a drill for emergency landing at Spanhoe if there was a need to, after climbing from take off at Wittering.?

Am I correct in thinking that, at that time, after take of from runway 26 you climb 1500 feet in 1,2 minutes covering a distance of 3nm?
and then turn to port to a location to begin ascent to cruising altitude.?

Can you freely turn anywhere to get on a reciprocal heading on the circuit ?
Were you required to radio the tower with your intention to turn and join the cicuit ?

Last edited by RIHoward; 18th Oct 2007 at 00:23. Reason: Spelling/Adding
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 09:53
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Richard Howard

Hi Richard
Your Dad and I were u/grads together at Birmingham '51-'54 and we remained friends after with R and M. I last saw M in '61 together with your Grandmother ( Mrs L-J ).
Monica and I often talk of R & M and were intending to travel to N Wales this summer to try and relocate M.
I would much welcome an opportunity to speak .
I found interesting info on valiants in " Vickers Valiant first of the V Bombers " by Eric Morgan but there is little about XD864.
Seems Valiants were on a fast track for design and build to beat the Handley Page and Avro projects.
My e-mail address is [email protected] .
Best Regards
Peter Beech

Last edited by p beech; 8th Jan 2008 at 09:55. Reason: spelling
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Old 8th Jan 2008, 17:27
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I once worked with a chap called Simon Wickham whose father was killed in a V bomber crash but he never had much information about the crash. Does anyone know if Brian Wickham had a son?
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Old 10th Jan 2008, 09:58
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Richard Howard

Hi Richard
It seems that e-mail addresses are deleted on the postings.So I dont know how to communicate direct.
I have a couple of personal photo's which you should have.
And I would appreciate any info on M.
Best regards
Peter Beech.
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Old 12th Jan 2008, 07:27
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Valiant WP217

As a photographer at Gaydon in 1964, 17 years old and still a Boy Entrant, I was sent out with a Cpl to photograph WP217 the day after this 'incident'.

By climbing a ladder we were able to see the wing upper surface where panels had torn apart an inch or so from either side of a spar. While these panels were removed, we photographed damage from inside the bomb bay. Later we moved back to the stbd wing where a broken shaft inside the wing was the main interest. I believe that this was the drive-shaft for the stbd-side flaps. After which, when the main-spar was uncovered, it was found to have sheared. I recall that it was close to the stbd wing-root but, I could be wrong on that.

Aside from the fact that we spent days and nights printing the photo's; we had an awful lot of interest with several aircrew visiting us. The most common comment being that the crew had been very lucky/skillful in making it back at all.
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Old 12th Jan 2008, 10:48
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Photog, check your PMs
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Old 12th Jan 2008, 16:58
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Valiant crashes

There was another Valiant accident along the south coast, I am not sure of the date. I was given to understand that the cause was total electrical failure, which left the only availalbe control by manual trim. The crew eventually ran out of luck and it crashed into the sea, I think near Shoreham by Sea. I was working near there at the time and saw it go past, and wondered why it was so low.
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Old 12th Jan 2008, 22:10
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Are you thinking of this accident on 11/5/56 at Southwick?

http://www.findonvillage.com/0843_a_...on_in_1956.htm
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Old 12th Jan 2008, 22:28
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BoI Complete Farce (IMO)

Having read the BoI, its very obvious to me that they (the BoI) were hell bent on blaming the dead pilot Brian Wickham. So much so that they distort the facts of the flight, and the flight simulation tests they carried out can only be described as Pathological Science.

I have reconstructed the flight from witness statements, it is clear that the crew of XD 864 had ample time to avoid the crash. They ended up after a 110║- 120║ turn lined up with Runway 14 at Spanhoe in a 2.5║ glide. Obviously they were attempting a wheels up on the disused strip, as reported by eyewitnesses and the Times the following day, the BS in the report that Wickham "may have been approaching an over confident stage in his flying career" which "could lead to slow reaction times in an emergency" is just a lot of nonsense.
Wickham wasn't to blame.

Find out more here
XD864

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Old 14th Jan 2008, 18:53
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Valiant crash at Southwick

Newforest,
my memory must be worse than I thought. In 1956 I was working at Shoreham airport, and remember the Valiant going past. I was living only about a mile from Southwick at the time, and do not remember the debris in the village
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Old 20th Jan 2008, 21:41
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Hipper & RIHoward,

Check your PM Inbox

CD
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Old 9th Jun 2008, 15:14
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To Carol Johnson and R.I.Howard: I was very interested to discover this forum, because I grew up at Upper Laxton on a small farm on the eastern border of Spanhoe airfield (I'm now living in Brisbane, Australia) and, along with my two younger brothers, witnessed this terrible accident. The image is still clearly in my mind. I was 15 years old at the time.
Runway 14 started at the south-western corner of our farm.
Growing up in the post-war years, we seemed to be at the hub of so much flying activity, and developed a keen interest in the aircraft of the era, and could identify most of the aircraft we saw, and would record the serial numbers. The V-bombers were of particular interest to us, and we became very familiar with the Valiants on their training flights from Wittering, which followed a familiar pattern flying up the Welland valley then, somewhere before Harringworth, would bank to port and fly directly overhead on the return to Wittering.
On this particular day, we were about 200 yards from the airfield perimeter and heard the Valiant approaching. What caught our attention was the sound of the engines, which were on full power, and we knew that was not normal. We looked up, and saw the aircraft banking fairly hard to port - I would say about 30 degrees, very low. I clearly recall a steady bank, not a sudden manoeuvre. It disappeared behind the corner of the woods bordering our land, and almost immediately, there was a terrible explosion and ball of fire, which quickly became a churning column of smoke. We were about a quarter of a mile away, and began to run because we thought we would be engulfed. My father was further away in the garden, and felt the heat - he thought it was some sort of a convection current.
My brothers and I were among the first on the scene, and it was a very distressing sight to see the remains of these brave airmen among the burning remains of an aircraft we had so often admired from afar.
It was very clear where the wing first hit the ground just before the cross-runway, there was quite a deep furrow, then the main fuselage appeared to have exploded on the runway, and continued across the adjoining field.
We often speculated as to what might have caused the accident, and the only explanation that seemed likely was that the aircraft had simply failed to gain sufficient altitude coming up the Welland valley to clear the higher ground of the airfield, and the pilot put on full power, but too late. My feeling at the time was that, if he had kept it straight and level, he might have just made it. We considered the possibility of an attempted landing, but the high power setting of the engines seemed to rule this out.
Memories of this accident have remained with me until this time, and I have wondered about the cause. In particular, I have thought of the loved ones of those who died, the fathers you hardly knew. I hope my recounting of this event is not distressing to you - my purpose is to tell you what I know, and it is evident you are searching for answers about something which affects you deeply.
I have noted the date of the 50th. anniversary of this sad event, and may well time my next visit to Laxton to coincide with the memorial service at Harringworth. My thoughts and prayers go to you and to all who lost their loved ones on that day. Requiescant in pace.
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Old 15th Jun 2008, 22:50
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Chuffer

Chuffer dandridge, I remember the crash very well, my farther was an armament officer at Honington and I went to the village primary school with Simon, although I am not certain that was his first name. He had a younger brother and we used to play together. After the crash I never saw him again, I think they were spirited away very quickly and there was little talk of the crash. When you are nine years old your understanding of situations are very confused, but it is one incident I never forgot, hence my recent researh into the crash. In later years we moved to Wittering and I now live in Stamford. I had no idea until recently the crash was at Spanhoe, I found out from a friend of mine when he took me for a flight from the airfield where he keeps his plane.
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Old 16th Jun 2008, 19:30
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valiant 864

Hi Hipper
Just to thank you for linking me to richard howard and the subsequent entries to the thread. I met richard this week and whilst I felt somewhat sentimental I have to remain pragmatic. The reason for the crash of XD 864 will never be proved but there is sufficient evidence to show that on he balance of probability the verdict of the BOI was not justified.
best regards
Peter Beech
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Old 18th Jun 2008, 18:16
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SOP

Thanks PJ for the account

The A/c that were turning near Harringworth were probably doing "circuits and bumps" The standard operational procedure was to turn to port at the top of the climb near Tixover at an altitude of 1800 QNH 3.75 nautical miles from Harringorth. Whether they were doing circuits and bumps or a training mission, so I'm surprised by your account that it was "normal" to fly at low altitude over Barrowden Village and turn where you say they'd normally turn. The A/c that flew directly over your head were probably heading out West, these A/c turned 40» South when they reached the top of the climb 3 nautical miles from the start of their take off from Wittering and crossed an air-lane some where near Banbury in Oxfordshire at a height of 17,000 feet.



How many other civilians do you remember being present when you got to the crash site? I think the pilot had the engines on full power because he was trying to avoid hitting a witness who was sitting on his tractor and when contacted in 2008 that witness said. "I had the distinct impresssion the pilot had seen me and tried to avoid hitting me" another witness was reported as saying that "the A/c almost made a perfect belly flop landing" which is supported by an article in the Times the following day which states "It is thought the pilot was attempting a landing" and the reconstruction of the flight which shows that the A/c was flying straight and descending at first rapidly and then in a "shallow" approach after it had turned 120»by Red Hill Farm", it was flying slowly and in line with a runway. But as P Beech has said we'll never really know all we want to show is that the BoI couldn't condemn the Captain on the evidence they select because so many other bits of evidence suggest that they were trying to land the plane, and according to current Queens regulations A dead crew can only be blamed as neglegent when there is to quote: "absolutely no doubt whatsoever."
For more doubts see.....

http://zkt.blackfish.org.uk/XD864/index.html

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Old 27th Dec 2008, 15:39
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Carol Johnson, Hipper, R I Howard

I'm Johnnie Ireson's daughter (navigator/radar) and for some time I've been trying to find out more about the crash. I've also recently taken to wondering about the other children and their mothers so I was amazed to find this thread.

Are you aware that our father's names are on the new Armed Forces Memorial in Staffordshire? I haven't visited yet but intend to do so.

The little information I have comes from my mother who still finds it very difficult to talk about. However she is of the firm opinion that the BoI were wrong and that there was something seriously amiss with the aircraft so I've been fascinated to read all the information you have posted here with the various links. Thank you for your hard work.

Please could you keep me in the loop regarding the 50th anniversary memorial service.

If you PM me I'll let you have my contact details.

Last edited by LyndaV; 27th Dec 2008 at 15:44. Reason: change thread subscription
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