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-   -   Vulcans - rear crew disabling pilots ejector seats in flight (https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/438906-vulcans-rear-crew-disabling-pilots-ejector-seats-flight.html)

forget 12th Jan 2011 11:01


I have a vague recollection that (removed pins) were normally kept in one of the rear crew desks, one of the Nav positions I think..

If there ever were an occasion where the rear crew had to get out through the top on the ground, the Nav Rad had a number of pins which he could use to secure the ejection seats.
That explains it - I think. The 'main' pins were stowed upstairs - but I do have a foggy memory of a full set floating around downstairs. Nav Rad position would make sense.

Pontius Navigator 12th Jan 2011 11:09

Forget, may be. Remember though that there were 3 separate wings and the OCU so it is quite possible that spare pins was a local arrangement for one wing and not common across the fleet.

IIRC there were other odd little variances adopted by one wing and not the others.

Tankertrashnav 12th Jan 2011 12:41

I only ever flew on Victor tankers, so most of my flying was at high level when the chances of a successful rear-crew abandonment were at least reasonable. I dont think any of us really gave much for our chances of getting out and surviving at low level (say at circuit height) but this was just one of those things and I dont recall worrying about it much.

Having recently sat in the nav rad's seat in the Vulcan at Newark Air Museum I must confess the idea of stooging around at low level without a bang seat does not appeal, plus I found it very claustrophobic after the more "open plan" Victor.

Btw I concur with the stowage of pins - definitely on a bracket on the side of the seat, not in a drawer, and it was the nav rads job to arm/disarm the seats if operating away from base without a crew chief.

FJJP 12th Jan 2011 19:05

If you look at the top of an ejection seat, there are a lot of straps, various, which do different jobs during the sequence. The Type 3 seat also had a wedge-pad which kept the straps and other stuff clear of the face-screen handle.

This pad was conveniently secured by a pin either side of the top of the seat. The pin diameter was of suitable size to fit into the ejection gun sear and could be used to prevent inadvertant ejection. This was the pin I referred to in my post.

Fareastdriver 12th Jan 2011 20:56

When the Valiant first flew they worked out that the ejection seat in it was not powerful enough to get the pilot over the tail. They designed a bigger seat and they were in the hanger awaiting fitment when they had their first ejection; with fatal results when the a pilot hit the tailplane.
The canopy/seat syncrynistion was a tape between the canopy and the seat firing blind. Until canopy the departed one could not pull the handle. In the sixties they added a seat pan handle that was called the alternative firing handle. With this one you could fire the seat with the canopy on. Should you do so the Pilot's Notes advised you that the results would be fatal.
There was a pin for this between your legs and the sensible people I flew with were quite happy fo it to remain there. Some times you would have a keen captain: Two inches between his Flt Lt rings, rugby ball and bible in his nav bag who would insist on them being removed. I would come back after one of those trips with no fingertips on my gloves. Luckily very shortly after that they scrapped them and I transferred to and then had a glorious life flying helicopters all over the World.

spectre150 13th Jan 2011 08:53

When a Mk2 folded up on the ground the canopy was jettisoned and the nav plotter exited through the bang seats trampling the copilots hand as he switched off the fuel pumps. In that instance the seats were live.

This sounds familiar - unless there was more than one such instance. My father was a Vulcan nav (not sure is he was a plotter or radar) and he has photos of a B2 with the nose u/c collapsed and canopy missing. He was in the back and was out over the (presumably still live) seats before you could say 'emergency egress'. He was stationed at Coningsby and Finningley in the 60s but I cant recall where the incident took place.

Thread drift, but I too saw the Harrier incident at Yeovilton in '75 - the aircraft shut down in front of me and unfortunately I saw the consequences of the pilot climbing out with out replacing his pins. I have been in the back of 2 Canberras where the pilots have jettisoned the canopies (luckily both times on the ground) and been in the crewroom when a trademan working on an aircraft in the hangar next door was lucky to escape a seat firing (and the subsequent return to earth of the seat via the hangar room). I am nervous of loud bangs.....

pontifex 13th Jan 2011 11:04

I spent many years and over 4000 hrs flying V type aircraft and I cannot recall there ever having been any discussion or conversation with my rear crews concerning this issue. I gained the impression that the problem was, in the most part, hyped up by others more distant from the action. The only time it was ever referred to was on the occasion after a catastrophic engine failure on rotate in a recce Valiant which seriously affected the adjacent engine. For a significant period it was touch and go below 1000 ft, as we were jettisoning the underwing fuel, before it was possible to gain some height. At some time during this very uncertain period, my splendid AEO (a WP) said "Captain may I remind you that I removed your seat pins". Does this put things in perspective?

francophile69 13th Jan 2011 18:25

This thread brings back horrible memories of the Vulcan that crashed in Malta.

I was at Tal Handaq R.N. school, just over from Luqa, and we saw it after it exploded and the wreckage was descending. My Father was flying that day, 203 squadron, and I thought it was him. I remember being taken to the Headmasters office in tears. Eventually we were informed it was not a Nimrod.

One person was killed on the ground, from a wing I believe. An incredible stroke of luck, considering how populated Malta is, saw the main fuselage land in just about the only clear ground around.

The Captain and co-pilot ejected safely. The rear crew, including a supernumerary were tragically killed. The Captain I believe, had the rather dubious record of surviving two V-bomber ejections.

Neptunus Rex 13th Jan 2011 20:37

francophile soixante-neuf

Not quite. The Captain in question had indeed had a previous incident in a Vulcan. On that occasion, in 1971, he experienced a double engine fire, with a subsequent wing fuel fire, got all his rear crew out safely, before ordering his co-pilot to eject, steering the Vulcan out to sea, then ejecting himself.

For that day's work, he was awarded the Air Force Cross; all the other crew were awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air. It is a CRM story long before CRM became fashionable.

A good report is here:

Vulcan down..

Off-Black 13th Jan 2011 21:11

Originally Posted by Q-RTF-X
I was on 617 (ground crew) at the time the aircraft was returned to the squadron from NZ after a team from AVRO then another team from 617 had it back into service. Word at the time suggested the experience of the Vulcan at Wellington was later repeated that same day when an RNZAF Sunderland in the throes of a low fly past encountered an unexpected downdraft and scraped its keel along the runway; the tale continues that later, after landing, the damage caused it to take on water and sink.

There is an account of the Sunderland incident and aftermath by the co-pilot here:

Wings Over New Zealand - Blast from the Past

Further down the thread there is a picture of the touch-and-go as well :)

francophile69 13th Jan 2011 21:17


In hindsight I should have worded my final sentence somewhat differently.

falcon12 16th Jan 2011 07:06

Perhaps the incident you refer to was at Finningly in 1964 I think when XH556 folded up on start up. Ground crew from underneath existed swiftly towards the hangar whilst the liney's ran in the opposite direction!

Indeed someone from the back row was seen exiting from the canopy area having, allegedly leaving his boot imprint on the co-pilots bone dome.

Fold up caused by short circuit in a terminal block in the fwd landing gearbay (ah! the Avro wiring system) casing the gear to retract on receipt of hydraulic pressure.

Cockpit fuselage was salvaged and last seen at a recent Farnborough airshow.

Pontius Navigator 16th Jan 2011 09:10

The 1964 incident with 556 would certainly suggest John Ledward was one of the rear crew as he left Coningsby about Q3 1964. Was there a later incident too?

The 556 incident was on 18 Apr 66 and I believe that was the one when Kim Bunting trod on the copilots hand. It was on the flight line and rumour had it that he was in the crewroom having a coffee by the time the crash crew arrived.

There was an earlier incident when 561 landed wheels up on 15 Jan 65; now that could have been one incident when JL got out the top.

Old-Duffer 16th Jan 2011 11:08

The 'other' Vulcan incident referred to might be 6 Apr 67 at Scampton. The crew, with an ATC cadet on board, was taking off and as the jet started to roll, there was a loud bang. The aircraft was stopped, engines were shutdown and all six vacated the aircraft which was completely gutted.

This accident was caused by No: 3 engine flame tube failed, turbine blades in No: 1 ruptured the fuel tanks and the rest was inevitable. The cab was XL385 of 27 Sqn.

Old Duffer

forget 16th Jan 2011 11:37

Picture of 385.... and no smart remarks about speed tape. :hmm:

Vulcans in Camera - Avro Vulcan B2 XL385 at Scampton.

Pontius Navigator 16th Jan 2011 14:42

O-D, are you sure about No 3 Engine? My source agrees with your statement about No 1 engine.

Old-Duffer 16th Jan 2011 15:28


My information is second hand in that it was taken from the summary Accident Card. It does seem strange that simultaneous faults happened with No: 1 & 3 engines and so I wouldn't die in a ditch about which engine shed its blades. Result the same.

Drifting a long way off scope; there is a photo of a Beverley which has had its undercarriage blown off by a mine and the crew are gathered round with a balloon caption from one of the crew saying; "Will it take long to fix, Eng?"

Old Duffer

falcon12 17th Jan 2011 14:49

PN - Your memory for dates better than mine.

Re 561 landing without the gear, I was just leaving the gin palace late at night when it happened. Saw the approach, heard the noise, then the silence. Next noise was the crash crew going to the scene.

Crew Chief 'Jacko' none too happy about his yet again broken aircraft, whick went back into the hangar for a long time for the flattened underside to be rebuilt by the on site Avro team.

RedhillPhil 17th Jan 2011 15:02

Originally Posted by Brian 48nav (Post 6166901)
My apologies if this has been discussed before; Halfway through reading 'Empire of the Clouds' (See 'good military read' thread) and after the description of the tragic crash at Heathrow, the author refers to an incident in New Zealand(pg 155).
Vulcan XH 498 broke an u/c leg on landing,went round and during the circuit the rear crew replaced the pins in the pilots' ejector seats on the 'we're all in this together' and 'you ain't going anywhere without us' mode of operating.
Is this an apocryphal tale? If not were there any other occasions when this happened, and did some rear crews agree beforehand that this would be their MO?
The idea that the captain would exit the aircraft leaving the rear crew to their fate was an awful way to operate and must have been complete anathema to former WW2 bomber crews, where the convention was that the pilot stayed with his stricken aircraft until, hopefully, the other crew members had escaped.
As a Herc nav I quietly thanked my good fortune that I had not been posted to what appeared to be death traps.

There is film of this on the tube of you.

ArthurR 17th Jan 2011 18:50

francophile69 if I remember rightly, I was ground crew on 617, we had not long arrived back from Malta on excercise when that incident happened, the wing cartwheeled down a street, killing 1 person on the ground, the entry door had been opened, but they had flown with the ladder still fitted, and all the luggage around it, both jump seats where full, 2 crew chiefs, one on his last trip (no pun) and one on his first, luggage had shifted making it impossible for the rear crew to exit. Things where tightened up after that incident.

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