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F111-F accident, Scotland 1987

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F111-F accident, Scotland 1987

Old 12th Sep 2010, 12:42
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F111-F accident, Scotland 1987

Can anyone supply me with, or point to to a source of further information on an accident involving a USAF F111-F near Lauder in Scotland, 28th July 1987.

The unit/serial is given as 70-2375 Badger 21

The crew, Captain Chip Stem and Captain Phil Baldwin sadly lost their lives.

I was present on scene soon after the accident and revisited the site several times during the crash recovery.

I revisited the location whilst in Scotland a few weeks ago.

I have never been able to find out much about the accident other than the fact that it happened.

Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 14:34
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I was one of the pilots in the Sea King from RAF Boulmer that responded to the crash site (one of my first, if not the first callout of my career). IIRC it was a low level abort in bad weather that went tragically wrong. The crash site had such a limited spread of debris that it seemed like the aircraft must have been near vertical when it hit. Very low cloud base in the area, maybe a couple of hundred feet, if my memory is correct.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 18:20
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That's how I read it.
Deep crater but limited in diameter. Fairly wide debris field of very small pieces.

Only large parts were undercarriage and engine casing, as you say, of limited spread

My first accident also, very impressed by the recovery operation.

Never fully understood however, how a low level abort could end up in a vertical ingress.

Can anyone help on that score ?

Last edited by El Grifo; 12th Sep 2010 at 18:31.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 19:46
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Unfortunately, it's very easy to get disoriented in a rapid pitch up, combined with a basically unplanned transition from visual to instrument flight. Lots of vertical and rotational accelerations effecting the pilot's senses.

One of the EMS companies I worked for in the US lost a helicopter and crew when the pilot entered a climbing IMC turn after entering cloud at low level along the coast at night. Subsequent investigation of the accident led us to believe that the aircraft hit the water in a 260kt inverted dive.

Last edited by inputshaft; 12th Sep 2010 at 20:07.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 20:03
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I first spotted the column of smoke from around 8 miles. I was in little doubt as to what had caused it.

Cloudbase was not that low at the time of accident, late afternoon.

I have no way of supplying an accurate estimate, but significantly greater than 200ft for sure.

The aircraft was reported as flying low prior to the impact.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 20:26
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It wasn't a low level weather abort. It was a toss bomb attack on a [email protected] simulated target which went wrong because the aircraft entered cloud on the pull-up and the pilot apparently became disoriented, exiting the cloud in a nose-low attitude with insufficient time to recover. Ejection was initiated from the WSO's seat but too late. Callsign was Deuce 31, not Badger 21.
Cloudbase was reported by his wingman, Deuce 32, as 2700ft amsl (c.1800ft agl) at the time of the accident.
NS
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 21:14
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All becoming clear now and very much in line with thoughts at the time.

I spent a lot of time on Otterburn observing toss bombing practice. It was not the furthest thing from my mind.

Thanks for that guys.

Any other information is very welcome.

A plaque has been erected in memory of the crew.
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Old 12th Sep 2010, 21:24
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Recall flogging about the Berwick Law/St. Abb's Hd area in a PA-28 at the time when what must have been Deuce32 passed beneath us heading north. Shortly thereafter Scottish Information announced the establishing of a Temporary Danger Area; the co-ords being just outside Lauder. Don't recall much else, esp. the WX at the time, although we were VFR out of Turnhouse.

Remember the local MP at the time, David Steel, jumping up and down about the dangers of low flying and that the children in the local Primary had heard the impact and been somewhat shaken up by it all.

RIP gents.


See P.2 column 1 here:
http://www.cfoi.org.uk/pdf/SecretsNewspaperNo26.pdf

Last edited by rab-k; 12th Sep 2010 at 21:56.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 10:06
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Ineresting Rab. The buzz, albiet predictable in Lauder at the time was exactly that.
Thirlestane was the dummy target.

This was roundly denied by the authorities.

Interesting to hear the that Deuce 31 was tracking North. This was the clear version of direction from the crash guard and something I always accepted.

The official line however was that it was tracking South .

No idea why !
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 11:19
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El G - I do not follow your point about track. Deuce heading north at St Abbs - that is north of Lauder, so to get there.................................? The impact track could well have been north if it was a LABS manoeuvre.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 12:05
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It is simply that everyone on site described the track as being south to north, only the report issued some time later, stated to the contrary.

A small point really, but I am pretty keen on getting things straight.

I am unfamiliar with the term "LABS manoeuvre", I would appreciate some help with this.

Thanks
El G.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 12:26
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If it was 'toss bombing' (close to what we used to call the F-111's precision in my day) it would involve a pull-up and half-loop some distance short of the target, releasing the bomb at a computed point in the pull-up, giving time for the bomber to put some distance between itself and the nuclear explosion while the bomb 'tosses' onto the target. Always a risk of disorientation in the manoeuvre and I guess a possibility that the a/c was pulling out of an unplanned steep dive on the northerly track having run in to the south. I think impact trail would be far more reliable than any eye-witnesses.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 12:48
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With you now BOAC !

The main point of my interest was driven by the fact that there was no impact trail as such.

All that was visible, was a deep smoking crater, not large in diameter, containing and closely surrounded by engine and undercarriage parts only.

The area around was fringed with very small aircraft parts, some driven deep into the barks of a line of small trees, standing nearby.

I could never fully understand how an aircraft, which was normally observed flying straight and level at low level, could end up hitting the terrain at at such a perpendicular angle.

The toss bombing references supplied by NorthSouth pretty much cleared that on up for me.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 17:57
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El Grifo:
The buzz, albiet predictable in Lauder at the time was exactly that. Thirlestane was the dummy target. This was roundly denied by the authorities
But was in fact exactly right. Thirlestane Castle was indeed the target, despite the fact that it was not on the list of authorised dive/toss targets.

The pilot of Deuce 31 was on a Flight Lead Upgrade sortie. Deuce 32's pilot was the observing instructor. The pair did a single first run attack at Wainfleet Range, then two toss attacks with practice bombs at Donna Nook using the same profile as the one in which they crashed. They then headed north at medium level and descended to low level off Newcastle.

BOAC: although toss manoeuvres were/are used for nuclear weapons, in this particular case it wasn't a simulated nuclear delivery because it was done using the Pave Tack pod, i.e. simulating a [email protected] bomb. In this case the Pave Tack delivery involved running in at 500ft agl from the IP near Kelso accelerating from 480 to 540 knots, then at about 3.6nm from the target, a 4G pull-up to 20 degrees nose up. Weapon release is supposed to occur at 1000ft agl, then the aircraft is rolled to 110 degrees bank, in this case to the right to egress on a heading of about 030. The apex of the manoeuvre was supposed to be 2700ft agl. As the aircraft's nose comes back down through the horizon the pilot is supposed to relax the bank angle to 90 degrees, then roll out wings level on the egress heading and return to low level. All of this has to be done in VMC. It's clear from the accident report that the cloudbase wasn't high enough to complete the manoeuvre in VMC and it looks like, rather than abandoning the manoeuvre as soon as they entered the cloud, the pilot tried to continue, and evidently got disoriented in cloud. The aircraft hit the ground in a 45 degree nose down and 30 degrees right bank attitude.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 21:37
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A sad tale of two professional aircrew paying the price - again.

I think the only thing I can say would be to remember this, and all the other lessons about aborts and saying knock it off. If your flight is going to rat shit - make it safe. No shame in coming back to the sqn with a "that was close - I got into trouble but......"


plan your flight, fly safe and if it comes to it - eject in time!
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 21:57
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Hats off to that amigo !!

But you know, sometimes the drive and to hit the spot, completely takes over and drives.

True or not true !

And I am not even remotely flight crew, but professional nevertheless.

Thank you for your observations.
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Old 13th Sep 2010, 21:57
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Thanks for the gen, N-S
All of this has to be done in VMC.
- that seems VERY limiting! Was the AI not up to the manoeuvre? I always understood the TFR kit in the trembler would allow an IMC return to LL?
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Old 14th Sep 2010, 02:27
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Cool Similar Circumstances

NorthSouth,

We lost at least one crew in very similar circumstances (although ours was at night). There was conjecture that our loss involved the pilot not getting his "pickle, paddle, pull" sequence right, resulting in a PIO fight with the flight controls (series trim) which complicated his control of the manouvre. Last Pavetack image we had was the Pod LOS looking along the underside of his port wing (he was inverted). Similar ending, big crater, with a limited external wreckage field.
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Old 14th Sep 2010, 07:12
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NorthSouth, that sounds very similar to the manoeuvre we used to have to do as part of the Buccaneer Instrument Rating Test on the IFIS-modified Hunter.

It was flown head-down wearing an IF visor using the IFIS attitude indicator, compass display and the regular pressure altimeter.
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Old 14th Sep 2010, 14:38
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BOAC:
that seems VERY limiting! Was the AI not up to the manoeuvre? I always understood the TFR kit in the trembler would allow an IMC return to LL?
According to the accident report the pilot should have knocked it off as soon as he entered cloud. I'm guessing that's because he was on a low level VFR sortie so if he got into cloud at anything less than MSA he was duty-bound to do a weather abort. But surely the Pave Tack wouldn't see anything in cloud in any case, so once he'd gone IMC they couldn't have delivered the weapon in any case? F-111s regularly used the HRA so they presumably did low level toss attacks in there at night and in IMC.
Beagle: presumably that was in a Hunter T.7 and you had an instructor in the RHS? The thought of even your good self thundering along at low level with a blindfold on doesn't inspire confidence.
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