Flt Lt Chris Cureton

Who needs a nosewheel anyway!

Chris was a pilot on 8 Squadron from 1962-64 and recalls an incident he was involved in at RAF Muharraq.

On 23 May 1963 I flew XG255 on a simulated strike training flight somewhere over the Gulf. On return to the circuit with the rest of the formation I noticed that I had only 2 greens, the nose wheel indicating red. I tried the usual positive g’ to help the hydraulics thrust it down.When that did not work, I tried the emergency air bottle in case there was a problem with the hydraulics, but that did not work either. By then my fuel was a bit low, but an MEA Comet was on long finals, so I held off for him to land first. The landing was uneventful and I managed to lower the nose gently onto the runway. After shutting down I left the aircraft, nearly crushing a few fingers! As the electrics were off, I declutched the hood and pulled it back, forgetting the now very nose-down attitude, which caused the hood to very rapidly close again! I just managed to get my fingers off the front screen frame in time. Amusingly, when I got out the Comet’s Captain was standing at the side of the runway with a thumb up!  

The aircraft had only flown in from Khormaksar a couple of days before after major servicing. As it was now blocking the only runway, a team of airmen set about getting it clear, fitting ground locks to the main undercarriage and placing heavy lifting straps over the rear fuselage. Several of them then pulled down on the straps raising the nose sufficiently for the Line Chiefy to lay on the tarmac and kick the nosewheel door free. It came down quite easily and after a ground lock was fitted, the aircraft was towed from the runway. On inspection, no trace of lubricant on the nose wheel doors could be found! Little damage was sustained by the airframe and with a new nosecone and nosewheel door, XG255 was cleared to rejoin the flight line three days later.

A close shave

On 3 October 1964, I took part in a four-ship simulated strike with two other aircraft briefed to act as ‘enemy’ aircraft and to intercept us along the way. At the briefing we were told that the target was at 3,000 ft amsl(?) and therefore we would have to carry out a non standard simulated rocket (RP) attack by putting on full power on the pull up so that our speed at the top of the RP dive would be sufficient. Normally we left the power alone during the complete RP attack.

The flight to the target was uneventful, but on my pull up I spotted the ‘enemy’ aircraft and reported their position to the rest of the formation. Then it was time to start my RP dive. I noticed that I seemed a bit steeper than the normal 25º, so thankfully I decided to fire early, and start my normal 6½g pull out. However, almost immediately the control column seized and I had nowhere near 6½g. I thought that the hydraulics had failed and I must be in manual flight controls. But the power control dolls eyes were black and the hydraulic gauge showed normal pressure. However, the adjacent gauge was the mach meter, which read .94 increasing to .96 mach. Too fast! I throttled back and selected airbrakes and the speed dropped quickly and the aircraft started to pull out of the dive. The normal 6½g pull out got you out of the dive by 600 to700 ft above ground, but I had a much closer view of the ground than that, probably about 200 ft maximum! Thank goodness I fired early. Still, not knowing why the aircraft had not pulled out properly despite the high speed, I flew back to base very sedately!

During our debrief we were told that the elevator jacks could only pull high ‘g’ below .84 mach, but why had I been so fast? Then one of the pilots asked if I had remembered to throttle back a bit at the top of the dive. There was the answer, I had been distracted during a non standard attack by the two ‘enemy’ aircraft and dived with full power on. I think we all learned something from that trip!