Plt Off David Baron

David Baron arrived on 8 Squadron for his first flying tour on 2 January, 1963.

Shortly after my arrival, as occurred from time to time, the Squadron was involved in patrols along the disputed border between the Aden Protectorate and the Yemen in the Beihan district, some 140 miles northeast of Aden. The requirement was to have 2 Hunters on station from dawn to dusk (some 13 hours per day) in order to ‘show the flag’ and counter interdiction by Yemeni aircraft. High-level transit to and from the area took 20 minutes each way allowing each pair one hour on task. As time went by, the Squadron became increasingly short of serviceable aircraft but, more importantly, the operational-qualified pilots were hard-pressed to keep up with demand and it was therefore decided that Plt Off Baron should fill in as a No. 2 for occasional sorties.

My first such op was flown without incident on 26 February, followed by one per day from 2 to 7 March shortly after which, if I remember correctly, the requirement came to an end – at least temporarily. It was on 7 March that I was tasked to fly as No. 2 to my deputy flight commander, Nick Adamson. We took off from Khormaksar only to find that Nick couldn’t raise his undercarriage. Given that he had to abort his own sortie, he asked if I felt sufficiently confident to go it alone. I answered in the affirmative and, on being given his approval, settled into a climb to the transit altitude. Some 3-4 minutes later, I felt a marked deceleration and immediately scanned the instruments to see the RPM, which for some reason had wound down, now increasing back to the maximum setting. The throttle had not been moved so I deduced that something was amiss either with engine or fuel system and that I should return to Khormaksar with all speed. And yet! All now seemed well! And I had an important job to do - indeed, the security and well being of not only Beihan, but the entire Aden Protectorate was in my hands! So I decided to carry on and 15 minutes later was on patrol at 250 ft over territory we considered to be ours and the Yemenis insisted was theirs. Some time late, on reaching the minimum fuel state for recovery, I set the appropriate heading and applied full power for the climb. The RPM wound up only slightly and my stomach turned over – if I couldn’t get full power I couldn’t climb, and if I couldn’t climb then I couldn’t get home. I recycled the throttle very slowly and, to my intense relief, the engine accelerated as it should. I returned to Khormaksar in a rather subdued state and reported my experience in full. Well, almost in full!