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SEA VIXEN EXPERIENCES

The following information was supplied by David Malaperiman, who flew some 600 hours in Sea Vixens Mk1 and II during the mid nineteen–sixties:

“The Sea Vixen had four different hydraulic systems for flight controls, radar scanner, undercarriage, tail hook, braking systems etc and from these the pilot had to select one of two systems according to whether the aircraft was being operated from a shore or carrier base. The ‘green’ system was used for airfield operations and included the Dunlop Maxaret braking system. This automatically ‘pumped’ the brakes as the pilot pressed on the brake pedals, this considerably reducing the chances of skidding on a wet runway. The ‘red’ system was used for carrier operations, lowering the tail hook simultaneously with the under-carriage but NOT selecting the Maxaret braking systems as, of course, the arrester wires provided a fairly abrupt halt!

There was virtually no problem with this system when operating from a shore base, but this was not always the case when operating at sea.

Having been launched from a carrier and completing a sortie, it was occasionally not possible o land back on the carrier through problems with weather, conditions on deck, fuel state etc. and it was then necessary to divert to a pre-determined shore base. This usually tended to occur on dark, windy, rainy nights - just to add to the fun!

In the controlled excitement that sometimes occurred in the cockpits on such occasions, the following would be a typical interrogation of the Observer by is Pilot:

‘How much fuel have we left?’
‘What course?’
‘What’s our best altitude?’ (for maximum range and least fuel consumption)
‘Have you got your toothbrush/money/useful telephone numbers?’

and, very occasionally, a crew would omit the selection of the ‘green‘ hydraulic system, particularly after an extended period at sea. Thus, on touchdown, the pilot would duly stand on the brakes, fondly imagining that the Maxaret system was at work. The Observer would be switching off his radar scanner and putting the armament switch to "safe" and both would be looking to a drink in the bar and an evening ashore when, quite suddenly, one or more of the tyres would burst with unfortunate consequences - usually associated with leaving the runway and ending up on the grass (or at sea!) but rarely causing injury to the crew or serious damage to the aircraft. It was an excellent way of ensuring that the crew involved checked (probably every few seconds) that the correct hydraulics had been selected for a considerable number of future sorties!"

The following anecdote was forthcoming from Roger Mills who served with Sea Vixens in the Royal Navy:

"A Sea Vixen with the call-sign 131, probably XN691, decided on or about 26th September 1967 to prove a long-held theory:

After a long and, presumably, boring trip down the entire length of the runway at RAF Gan, this Sea Vixen decided to continue on down the beach and into the Indian Ocean. Thus was proved the long-held belief that an ideal way of stopping a Sea Vixen is to flood both engines with sea water whilst simultaneously taxiing over shattered coral! Having at last proved this theory to their satisfaction, out clambered the intrepid aircrew, wet but happy. The RAF crash-crews, meanwhile, having pursued the errant aeroplane into (almost) its new element, were hastily improvising jokes about the Navy finding the runway too short, when the full horror of the situation bore down on them. - Wasn‘t there something odd about the insignia of rank on one of the Naval pilot‘s shoulders, and weren’t Naval Officers supposed to have ‘gold bars’ and ‘rings’ - oh dear! It transpired that the crew were officers of the Royal Air Force!

The finale of this event was that HMS Eagle was obliged to anchor in the adjacent lagoon to facilitate recovery of the rusty remains which, it is thought, were landed at RAF Changi. It is extremely unlikely that this particular aircraft ever flew again!”

 

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