RAF Days Pt 6
My continuing Royal Air Force adventures in Cornwall.
More escapades from my RAF days as recounbted in my biography "Do or do not".
In the sticky hot summer of 1972 I had a very close call one day when an emergency exercise was called. Every Nimrod had to be airborne as soon as possible and my assigned place was with one of the engine Sergeants who would start the engines on the aircraft, then go to start another as I waited for the crew to arrive from the mess on the main camp at which point I would put on my ear defenders, pick up the marshalling bats and guide the aircraft from the pad to the taxiway. Mine was the last aircraft in the row and as I waved it on I would normally have left my ear defenders on until they were clear, but it was so hot and sticky that I took them off early only to hear the sergeant shouting “Davies Hit The Deck”, so training kicking in I dived for the ground as the aircraft I had just marshalled opened up its throttles full sending waves of heat over me. Had I been standing I would probably have been blown head over heels, but I survived with only a few scratches. On debrief the pilot claimed that he felt a vibration and wanted to test the engines, but was disciplined as he should only do that at the end of the runway so I was informed. On a positive side the aircraft were all up in 11 minutes, and the sight of 11 Nimrods taking off one after the other was unforgettable.
Another event that caused some excitement was when one of the Canberra aircraft developed a fault and its rudder was locked full over. The tower fed the whole radio communication into our speaker and we followed it avidly as the photo operator ejected on final approach to land in the forest near the field, and the pilot made final approach compensating for his loss of rudder control by balancing the engine power in his two jets. He brought it down beautifully but started drifting towards the grass and, with incredible skill and coolness, just flipped up the undercarriage to allow the aircraft to slide on the grass instead of tumbling. As he came to a stand we all started running and some of our boys actually beat the rescue trucks. The pilot was fine as he was helped out of the cockpit and the plane had essentially been saved thanks to his quick thinking. The fault had been metal fatigue which had locked the rudder full over to port, and that caused a major servicing of the fleet. The ejected operator telephoned in from the Red Lion pub in St. Columb Major to be collected, and they found his seat in the woods. Shortly afterward a Nimrod was involved in a rescue mission that won a commendation for our team. One of the Nimrods had spotted a ship in trouble but were short on fuel so they had to return to base and radioed ahead to prepare us for a fast turnaround. We were so ready that the aircraft was back in the air within 30 minutes and guided the rescuers to the ship saving everybody on board. That was a wonderful feeling when the aircraft landed knowing that all of the crew were safe on land.
I think two of my most memorable days were when Concorde was diverted from a fogbound London and landed on our runway, which was called a Master Diversion Airfield due to its length. I was thoroughly fascinated and we had the privilege of marshalling her to a temporary parking pad and seeing her off again a few hours later. The second was the day a USAF Galaxy landed with a delivery, and boy was Galaxy the right name for her, she was HUGE with the wings dipping so much they very nearly touched the ground. When she took off again I thought she wasn’t going to make it as she appeared to be going so slow, but slowly and surely she lifted off again and dominated the sky for quite a while due to her size.