SAC Ken Rochester

An aircraft Electrical Mechanic, Ken began his two-year tour at Khormaksar on 28 September 1963 and was put to work on Transit Flight.

Unsettled times

“By coincidence, my Sergeant in charge, a Sgt Scott, was at school with my dad!! After just two weeks I was sent to ASF and my first job, along with an airframe and an engine guy, was to prepare the last 8 Squadron Meteor, a T.7, for a ferry flight back to the UK. On completion, it transpired there were no authorised Meteor pilots available to fly it back so it was handed over to the Fire Service and dumped on the far side of the main runway.

At around this time, in addition to some Percival Provost T.1s being fitted with .303 machine guns for Oman Air Force and a few USAF T-28s passing through en-route to Thailand, there were two Lightnings undergoing tropical trials and we were charged with their handling on the ground. They left sometime before Christmas, both aircraft being sprayed with styrofoam and taken by road to the Marine Craft Unit for loading on to a barge and onward transfer to a freighter in the bay. The civilian working party was supplied by Shorts of Belfast.

A new challenge and some close shaves

Towards the end of November 1963, I was moved again and, despite a request to work on 37 Squadrons Shackletons, the Hunters of 8 Squadron became my new challenge! Other incidents I recall include the sudden dropping of underwing tanks due to shorting in the cables! This occurred twice I think. On another occasion, we were towing a Mark 9 from ASF back to the squadron when the towing arm separated. Someone shouted “Its brokeand the Land Rover driver slowed to a halt ready to reconnect. The aircraft, however, didn’t have any brake pressure and continued its forward run until the inevitable collision with the back of the Land Rover. We of course took avoiding action, jumping over the side of the vehicle pretty sharpish!

On another occasion, two of us were despatched to stores to collect a new drum of IPN (Isopropylnitrate) using a gunpack trolley as a means of transport. On the way back through the camp, we were stopped by another driver who calmly informed us that there were sparks coming from underneath the drum! On investigation we found that there was insufficient hydraulic pressure in the trolley and the cradle had dropped low enough for the drum to scrape the ground! IPN (or AVPIN as we knew it) generates its own oxygen on igniting, was used to start the Hunter’s Avon engine and would have made a spectacular explosion had the drum ignited. I dread to think what would have happened to us if it had gone through the metal!”