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Buccaneer s2b xv345 - red flag - 7 feb 1980

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Buccaneer s2b xv345 - red flag - 7 feb 1980

Old 7th Feb 2015, 09:25
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Buccaneer s2b xv345 - red flag - 7 feb 1980

Is it really 35 years ago today!
The aircraft crashed on the Nellis Ranges, about 20 miles north of Beatty, Nevada, during a Red Flag exercise. A violent manoeuvre causing a catastrophic failure of the starboard outer wing which separated from the airframe, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. With only nine seconds between the wing failure and impact, Sqn Ldr Ken Tait (pilot) ejected but did not survive because the altitude and attitude of the aircraft was outside the operating parameters of the Buccaneer's Martin Baker Mk. 6 BSB-2 seat. Flt Lt Charles "Rusty" Ruston (WSO) did not eject before the aircraft collided with the ground. Both were members of XV Squadron, based at RAF Laarbruch, in Germany.

Subsequent investigation found that a fatigue crack in the front spar caused the wing to fail, as it was unable to withstand the high loading experienced during the turn. Structural analysis concluded that a force equal to between 5 and 6 G was sufficient to cause a catastrophic failure of the already weakened spar. Additionally, severe but localized turbulence in the vicinity of the aircraft contributed to the high wing loading at the time the front wing spar failed.

As a result of this accident the entire Buccaneer fleet was grounded. A very limited clearance was issued on May 9 to allow the aircraft at Nellis to fly back to their base in Germany. Full envelope clearance was not given until until August 1980, following completion of the necessary inspections and modifications.
RIP Ken and Rusty!

Fly safe you guys on Red Flag right now!

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Old 7th Feb 2015, 14:46
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A sad day. I had finished the OCU 3 days before and this was not an auspicious start to my first tour. However, that was insignificant compared to the loss of Ken and Rusty. RIP
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Old 7th Feb 2015, 19:41
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It's great to see they are still remembered after all this time. RIP dad and Ken and thank you to those who remembered.

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Old 7th Feb 2015, 22:13
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I had some good times with Rusty (as a fellow Nav) and it was a very sad day when I heard of the crash.

I'm not an expert but I seem to remember that the cause was (in part) due the stresses caused by roll/yaw coupling invoked by the simultaneous use of rudder and aileron (and G).
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 09:03
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you're right, you're not an expert!
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 09:31
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There were limits on the use of large aileron deflexion at certain speeds and 'g' loading, but those weren't exceeded in this case.

However, in the 1977 Claerwen reservoir accident, it is probable that high 'g' and roll rate resulting from violent manoeuvre to avoid a collision may have caused structural failure.

Others will know better (and it was nearly 40 years ago), but I recall being briefed to use no more than half aileron above 400KIAS if pulling more than +4g?

The Buccaneer was immensely strong - one pilot became disorientated during a night toss attack at Wainfleet and pulled well over +11g during recovery having first rolled wings level. The AAR probe was bent and both flaps fell off, but he got it back safely to Honington.
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 11:49
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The Claerwen accident was due to a snatch pull ripping the tailplane off - 4 Hunters coming at you in the opposite direction tends to do that. Subsequently several flight trials were made to get a viscous damper accepted which would have made this harder to do but I don't think it got adopted.

XV345 pulled 5-6g earlier in the sortie but what got them appeared to be a really strong side gust as the aircraft was banked over in the turn so it is a little unfair to attribute it to the actual manoeuvre at the time. They were trying to evade some Aggressor F-5s that had got down to their level.

Most aircraft have rolling restrictions at high speed/g and the Buccaneer was no exception. It was noted that the low altitude weave technique had changed from unloading and then rolling to just rolling which didn't help the wing fatigue.
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 15:00
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Just curious.... what was the problem with the Buccs that caused them to be grounded around 1981-82 time. Something in my head thinks it was something to do with wing fold pins. I was at Laarparts on Jags at the time and there was fuel rationing at the time. With XV and 16 sqns grounded, we got their fuel allowance.
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 16:40
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By the time the Bucc came to the end of its time it had cracks propagating all over resulting in some maintenance heavy NDT ops. Front spar rings, fin spar attachment, arrestor gear brackets, main U/C pintle's. I left RN Bucc circuit in 1978. Incidentally I was at Perth Academy in late 50's with Ken. He was in Perth ATC and I was Kinross ATC ( 1735 Sq). Bumped into him again in 1977 when he arrived at Honington in his Jag visiting 237 OCU and their Ops were looking for a space to stick his Jag overnight and we had lots of space in D hangar ( 809 were at sea) . He remembered me right away and we had a little natter. RIP Ken
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Old 8th Feb 2015, 17:00
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And remember the ones left behind.
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 09:24
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As to the grounding in the early 1980s. It may have happened earlier, sorry not sure of dates. There was issues with the Risbridger replenisment rigs. These were used to replenish Hydraulic oil, OM15 aka (H515) and Engine oil, OX38.

If I recall correctly the internal seals were breaking up and being pumped into the systems causing contamination. I believe these were used on other aircraft fleets also caused other aircraft to be grounded whilst the Hydraulic oil and engine oil was drained, flushed and filters replaced.

They were finally replaced with a pump, (not sure what type) directly attached to the oil can.
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 09:46
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T7a - thanks for those kind words! - I have obviously got it mixed up with the Claerwen accident it was a long time ago. But the Bucc, like most other aircraft, did inertia coupling problems. See Flying the Buccaneer pages 47/48 and that was written an expert!
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 11:15
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As a young Cpl I was the seat bay rep on the det. I was one of the 1st at the crash site to make things safe, horrible day.
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 16:11
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As the original poster, maybe I should attempt to right a few wrongs in some of the posts above:

1. Beagle:
one pilot became disorientated during a night toss attack at Wainfleet and pulled well over +11g during recovery having first rolled wings level. The AAR probe was bent and both flaps fell off, but he got it back safely to Honington.
He was a first-tourist student on the OCU and I do not believe that it was at night. In fact he has just written an article on the incident for the Bucc Aircrew Association newsletter, in which he states: The 24th March 1975 was a beautiful Spring day and with the world wide-open under a cobalt blue sky, the OCU course got airborne en-masse for 'Weapons Fam 1' - essentially a 'look-see' at the Wash ranges and then off for some medium toss practice..................I don't know who sorted out the approach criteria for the Bucc, but it's a racing certainty that they would have assumed that whether selected up, down or otherwise, the flaps would have been physically attached to the airframe. Unfortunately, our two eagle-eyed stalwarts over there had rather omitted to notice that - together with our large underwing tanks, 2 practice-bomb carriers and an assortment of panels - our flaps were languishing at the bottom of the North Sea!

The g pulled was estimated at the time as 13 but nobody can be sure because the g-meter stopped reading at 10! The pilot went on to complete a very successful tour on Buccs at Laarbruch.
2. The accident to XV345 was caused primarily by fatigue cracks in the titanium 'spectacle' frame (Buccaneer guys will recognise this expression and know to which part of the fuselage it refers). Notwithstanding any high g manoeuvring before the wing came off on Red Flag, many of the RAF's fleet of aircraft (ex-RN in this case) had surpassed the fatigue specimen at Brough which it had not been realised was programmed for the benign over-the-water role for which the aircraft was originally designed - tragic consequences that resulted in many aircraft being chucked on the scrap heap and even more tragically resulted in the loss of Ken and Rusty!

3. The previous lengthy grounding followed the loss of XW526 on 12 July 1979, a 16 Sqn jet, over the North German Plain and the loss of Flt Lt Al Colvin and his navigator Sqn Ldr Dave Coupland (may they too Rest in Peace). On this occasion, fatigue in the wing-fold locking mechanism meant that the titanium bolt that locked the wings in the down position fell out and the wing folded in flight. Same result different circumstances!

Finally for Claire. It is good to hear from you and I realise looking at your profile that you may never have known your father. The Buccaneer fraternity is wide and active today despite the fact that the aircraft has been out of service for 20 years. There are many members of our association who will have known your father. Should you wish to be put in touch with anybody whom your mother might remember just PM me and we can do the necessary contact exchange off-line.

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Old 9th Feb 2015, 21:18
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Hello, it is very interesting to read your comments. I have been trying to find out about the events on 7th Feb 1980 for a while and of course the more I find out the more questions arise one of which being: Where does this ‘violent manoeuvre’ quote originate from? It does not appear in any of the official reports I have read but seems to crop up in magazines and on the internet all the time. The phrase was used again in Kev Darlings 2006 book ‘Blackburn Buccaneer’ and is rebutted by Air Cdre Graham Pitchfork in his review of Kev Darlings book. In ‘The Royal air force historical society journal no. 39 2007 (http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/document...Journal-39.pdf)
“XV345 was not carrying out ‘a violent manoeuvre’ when it crashed killing the crew; it was making a turn whilst flying in battle formation en-route to the weapons training area”.
I have spoken to several air crew who were there and they whole heartedly back this up. Also the often repeated idea that rolling pullouts were involved during the final flight of XV345 is not mentioned at all in any report. One report states that they were recorded in earlier flights that did not involve Ken and Rusty, and did not result in an accident, but makes no mention of any 6g during XV345’s last flight until the final wing break which occurred with no control input and could only be attributed to a gust with lateral component. Surely the report would have mentioned this considering that XV345 was fitted with an Airframe Data Recorder. If anyone can set me right on this I would appreciate their help.

Last edited by sonofabucc; 9th Feb 2015 at 23:04. Reason: wrong word
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 21:24
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Claire. Your mother kindly invited me to be your God-Father and I came to Skipton for your christening. If you wish to get in touch please PM me.
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Old 9th Feb 2015, 21:49
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Fg Off Bloggs, thanks for the clarification. He told me the story during dinner in the Honington OM some time in autumn 1976 - at the time he was serving on 12 Sqn, assuming it's the same chap and he wasn't simply discussing someone else's experience and I had the wrong impression?

24 Mar 1975 was indeed a glorious day - even at Valley. It must have been as they let me fly a Gnat solo trip!

I didn't realise that it was Al Colvin in that 12 Jul 1979 accident. RIP - and Dave Coupland too.
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Old 11th Feb 2015, 07:32
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Claire, I was there and on XV at the time of the accident, really glad to hear that you are fine we all of course knew that your Mother was pregnant with with you needless to say it was a tragic time for all of us and never ever forgotten. There is further that might be of a personal interest to you please feel free to PM if you would like further info.
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Old 11th Feb 2015, 07:43
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Sonof a bucc in reference to XV345 being fitted with a FDR you are indeed correct I attended a seminar in the astra cinema at Laarbruch just shortly after the aircraft were to start flying again and the FDR trace was shown and explained ther was no mention or indeed any evidence or mention of any hard manoeuvre being carried out and IIRC they data trace was very stable to the point of the wing moving i also remember it being explained of corrective aileron being applied prior to seperation.

It may also be worth mentioning that the previous accident blamed on the wing pin was never actually proved as the suspect pin was never in fact recovered and it was assumed that the pin had shattered in flight.
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Old 11th Feb 2015, 21:25
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Thank you Matkat that is exactly the kind of insight I am hoping for. I think you remember correctly about the corrective aileron. As far as I can see Ken was correcting sideslip by reducing the bank angle with aileron and was in a climbing turn with a bank angle of 30 degrees with normal acceleration of about 2.5 g when the wing failed due to increased loading presumably caused by the horizontal gust Plastic Bonsai mentions. As Fg Off Bloggs and indeed Roy Boot says the fatigue specimen did not reflect the new role of the buccaneer or in fact the new extended wingtips which were having an unexpected effect on the stresses at Rib 80 where the crack originated. It was such a terrible loss and my heartfelt best wishes go to Claire.

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