Lightning Memories Chuck Gaish
A lovely memory from Chuck Gaish who worked on 226 OCU and 92 Squadron. Chuck has kindly sent a photo of his involvement with XS420's take-off incident at Coltishall. He has also written some words relating to the incident below.
I was an A(Mech)E on 226OCU later given the title of 2T Squadron for all the hard work we did keeping our Lightnings serviceable for flight. I arrived at RAF Coltishall in 1970 and started in the hanger doing the servicing. I was then later to take my turn on the Line and became a Liney, turning the aircraft round and of course the before and after flight checks, this was long before the RAF introduced a separate trade for this job. In our line hut we had the tail of one Lighting and after a year on the Line you were allowed to add your signature, I wonder what happened to that.
I of course worked on XS420 in the hanger and of course many times on the line strapping in various pilots who were learning their trade. It was a great time because if a trainee pilot forgot his helmet or anything else he was fined a barrel of beer and we had many beer calls on a Friday afternoon in the line hut. The best was whilst 2T was under the command of a USA Major, who used to fill a bin with ice cold beers.
Then came the day of the big crash for XS420, as you already know the aircraft was on the take off run and just after going into reheat the chute was pulled, of course this was immediately burnt away and 420 went off the end of the runway, almost reaching the main road where the nose sunk in the mud. it was very muddy and wet in this area. I and the rest of the Lineys were then dispatched in an effort to recover 420, the problem being the mud. Now if I remember correctly a Lightning weighed about 17 tons, so they brought in a crane probably almost as heavy, which sunk in the mud, then we were put to task building a PSP (perforated steel plate) road and along came the second crane. This drove onto the PSP which stared to sink and curled up around the crane, (strike two).
So we were back to square one, how to lift the front of 420 to get a trolley dolly under the nose wheel, the discussions went on into the night and the Senior Officers etc went off to the warm to work out a plan. Not long after they had left, I'm not sure who's idea it was but perhaps it was our Flying Officer's, anyway we all climbed onto the tail planes of 420 one at a time until our weight alone tipped 420 up at the front, the cheers were amazing. By the time the Senior Officers returned we had the nose wheel nicely strapped to the trolley and ready to roll.
Now of course the PSB was useless but luckily we got hold of a new temporary surface, I think from the USAF. It was long boxed steel probably 4" square that had a slot and lip so each piece slotted together, so a road was built. We only had a small amount so it was a few yard back then dismantle and rebuild until we reach a hard surface.
So 420 was rescued and the inquiry began as to how it happened but of course you know the answer to that.
We had of course USAF and Canadian Pilots now and again but we also had at one time the King of Jordan who married a girl from Norfolk who became Princess Muna and she is a distant cousin of mine connected through her mother to the Alderton family of Great Cressingham Norfolk.
Oh I am on the right of the picture at the back, so you can just see my head and arm.
Thank you very much Chuck for the words & photo - a lovely memory from one who was there.
Return to Lightning Memories Page