Front Line First?

Here's an interesting story...
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RAF Tornado jet incident over Norfolk
14 November 2007 17:57
Police, ambulance and military are dealing with a major incident which
involved a Tornado aircraft from RAF Marham this afternoon.
The MOD is refusing to release any details of the incident at this stage,
but have said the Tornado has landed safely and that no other aircraft has
been involved.
The crew flying the aircraft were from BAE Systems, who are contracted to
service RAF Tornados.
There is speculation that the incident may involve the navigator ejecting
from the aircraft while flying over Norfolk. However at this stage no
information has been released.
Three ambulances were sent to Bunkers Hill in Egmere,Walsingham, just before
4pm.
A number of police response vehicles have also been dispatched to the area
along with the police helicopter and senior police officers.
Limited information is being released to the media at this stage and all
calls are being directed to the MOD.
A spokeswoman for the MOD, said: "We are looking into reports of an incident
involving a Tornado aircraft being flown by a BAE Systems crew during an air
test in the Norfolk area.
"The Tornado has landed safely at RAF Marham where it is based. No other
aircraft was involved in the incident."
BAE Systems also issued the following statement: "BAE Systems can confirm
that an incident has been reported at RAF Marham involving a Tornado
aircraft which was being flown by a BAE Systems crew. The aircraft has since
landed at RAF Marham. No further details are available at this stage."
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
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beeb and sky say the plane was upside down when he ejected
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Reply to
Jules
That's usual for an air test.
The RAF has a policy called "Front Line First", whereby as many assets as possible are supposed to be given to those operating on the front line. Other units are becoming civilianised because it costs less to contract various things out (such as flying training and deep maintenance). RAF Marham is very much a front line unit - in fact it is the premier strike unit of the RAF. If civilianisation has penetrated the RAF so far that maintainance on front line units is being carried out by civilian contractors, then the RAF is in deep trouble!
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
Two person crew aircraft....aircraft lands safely...._three_ ambulances called...something doesn't line up here. "Where's the navigator?" "Over there...and there...and there also, I think..." =-O
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
It happens. :-(
There is also the possibility of injuries on the ground either from the ejection seat or from members of the search team falling into holes. In 1983 I was part of the search team looking for the pilot of the first Tornado that the RAF lost. The aircraft crashed very near to where this latest incident took place. The search team was deployed over a boggy and marshy area and there were dozens of injuries caused by people falling down holes, tripping over tree branches and falling into water. The pilot was eventually found in the hole with the wreckage of the jet.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
While possibly not wearing a parachute:
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seems a very strange thing to do on a test flight. If it was a ejection seat malfunction, that would be a very rare thing indeed for a Martin-Baker seat.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
There *is* a way for the seat to fall out like that. The locking device which holds the seat in position is little more than a spring-loaded ball bearing which fits into a cannelure around the top of the ejection gun. Under normal circumstances the spring pressure is enough to hold the seat in position during inverted flight, and even during hi-G maneuvering. A normal ejection sequence will overcome the spring pressure and allow the seat to move up the rail.
When the seat undergoes maintenance, the device is overcome by use of a large handwheel which employs a screw thread to withdraw the locking device. The handwheel is large and - by design - very noticeable (it is either a natural bright metallic green or is painted red). Theoretically it is possible for the handwheel to be left in place before an aircraft is cleared for flight, but only if it is missed on at least two seperate sets of vital checks and a further two sets of independant checks, carried out by technicians of different trades. For such an occurrence to happen, it would require a *MAJOR* breach of maintenance procedures and Health & Safety regulations.
In fact, I would venture that such a breach is so unlikely that any occurrence would at the very least be criminal negligence. Any tradesman who allowed such a thing to happen should attract a charge of murder and the employer should attract a charge of corporate manslaughter.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
I have this horrible image of the back-seater thinking he's falling out of his seat as they go inverted, so he grabs onto something to brace himself, like that pair of rings between his legs. If he actually wasn't wearing a parachute, someone is going to have a lot of explaining to do.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
There is at least once precedent for that sort of thing.
On 8 November 1984, Tornado GR1 ZA603/N of 617 Sqn was engaged in a training sortie from RAF Marham in England over the North German plain. At one point the pilot made a head-down course correction. When he went head-up, he realised that he was on a collision course with an A-10 which was desperately trying to avoid him. The Tornado pilot pulled even harder and managed to evade the A-10. Unfortunately the sudden increased G convinced the navigator (who was also head down at the time) that the pilot had lost control of the aircraft.
The navigator ejected and as the Command Ejection switch was set to "Both" at the time, the pilot was also forcibly ejected from a perfectly serviceable aircraft. This accident led to a change in RAF engineering policy in that the Command Ejection switch was permanently lockwired into the "Pilot" position. This allowed the pilot to initiate a command ejection but ensured that the nav could never again cause such an accident. I believe that the Tornado GR4 no longer has such a switch and that the command ejection sequence is now hardwired.
Haveing worked on ejection seats in the RAF, I have a number of other ejection stories if anyone is interested and if they are not off-topic here.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
If the seat slid down into the rear canopy during inverted flight, would the weight be enough to shatter it and allow the seat to fall out of the aircraft? Or would it starting to move along the track initiate some aspect of the ejection sequence like firing the seat rockets or shattering or jettisoning the canopy? The navigator who who was killed was experienced at doing the test flights according to the latest news, so that should rule out him grabbing the ejection initiation handles by accident:
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Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
Did they ever figure out what led to the fatal pilot ejection on the Harrier while it was in straight and level flight and continued out to sea on autopilot?
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
Indeed it would. It is unlikely that the main ejection gun would have been initiated, but the drogue gun would certainly have been.
The drogue gun fires a weight "upwards" - in the direction of movement of the seat - which ensures that the drogue chute deploys. It is also possible - dependant on the design of the seat - that a static line would have caused the initiation of the rocket pack. If anyone is interested I can give a more involved explanation of the ejection sequence of Martin Baker seats.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
Yes. The seat had drogue linkage that was exposed. The aircraft that was involved had an non-standard On Board Oxygen Generation System fit that involved some piping intruding into the cockpit. As the pilot motored the seat to its lowest position, the intrusive OBOGS piping fouled the drogue linkage, causing the drogue system to initiate.
The drogue gun fired the drogue weight upwards through the canopy which also by design dragged the drogue chute with it. Once in the airstream, the drogue chute fully deployed and dragged the pilot from the seat and through the canopy. The shock of the extraction severed the harness points allowing the pilot's body to be dragged out. Thankfully the pilot was probably killed by the initial shock. As the pilot had previously engaged the autopilot, the aircraft quite happily continued on its way to the west.
Although the accident was attributable to a non-standard modification in a pre-production Harrier GR5, it lead to a modification in the Harrier seat whereby the drogue linkage is now wholly enclosed.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
I've just looked back on my records and this is the note that I made at the time.
Harrier GR5. ZD325
ff - no record Aircraft lost 22-10-87 on fifth test flight from Dunsfold.
On a routine test flight carrying out OBOGS trials, radio and radar contact was lost whilst aircraft was at 30,000 ft and travelling west. A USAF C-141 was vectored onto the aircraft's track and reported that ZD325 was intact with the canopy frame and seat in position, but no pilot was present. One hour later, ZD325 crashed into the Atlantic at 59°19'N, 23°53'W. The pilot's body was found two days later, approx 5 miles from Boscombe Down.
Reply to
Enzo Matrix
Now that's interesting...because in the Harrier incident I mentioned, as near as they could figure the drogue chute fired spontaneously through the canopy without jettisoning it, and the pilot may have been fatally pulled through the hole in the canopy by his chute deploying as he was still strapped into the non-ejected seat, basically ripping him apart as the airstream caught it.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery

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