Flt Lt Roger Pyrah

Having had a tour in Aden flying Venoms with 8 Squadron in the mid-fifties, Flt Lt Roger Pyrah found himself back at Khormaksar in August 1963 at the beginning of a two-year tour on Hunter FR.10s with 1417 Flt. In July 1964, Roger assumed command of the Flight.

Your prints are ready Sir!

In order to speed up the dispensing of processed prints to Army personnel on the front line, 1417 Flt devised various methods of dropping them from their Hunters, the most successful being described here by Roger.

“With reference to the delivery of photos to the guys up country, I can’t recall it being done by putting the pictures in the flaps but that may have been the case after I left. It could have been a reason for photos getting spread around the sky which could easily happen if not properly contained and parachuted in.  

When I was in command we were very restricted on training hours due to fuel shortage. We normally each got 40 hrs/month but this dropped to 15 hrs with 10 hrs allowed for operational sorties. I asked Wg Cdr Jennings (OC Strike Wing) what would happen if the recce requests meant exceeding the 10 hrs. He said the 10 hrs was purely budgeting and we could press on. So I persuaded the chaps to share stocking our fridge with beers. I got a supply of time expired ejection seat drogues and some small sacks. Four iced beers exactly fitted in the airbrake metalwork and acted as ballast for the dropping of the photos in the sack which was attached to the drogue! We imagined the effect the delivered photos would have on the recipient - i.e. word would soon get around on return to their base! The plan was that two pilots would get the briefing, one to fly the mission. On return the engine was kept going to avoid a turn round check, cameras were quickly removed and raced by bicycle to the MFPU where the second pilot would mark-off the pictures required on the quickly processed film negative. The pictures were placed in the sack, weighted with four iced beers, and carefully planted in the airbrake. With a thumbs up the first pilot then belted off and delivered to the troops up country. I think we got the turn round time, on-to-off chocks, down to 15 minutes once or twice, but this depended on the number of pictures required! Flying low and slow, the package of prints could be dropped within 20 yards of their intended recipients. After a short period of time the photo requests started to increase as expected and our individual monthly flying hours increased considerably. I achieved a max. of 31 hrs and one of us, I forget which, got close to 40 hrs. After the delivery sortie the pilot, already briefed, would then carry out a training mission so we didn’t lose any training at all! Of course this was possible because of the 2 x 230 gal. and 2 x 100 gal. fuel tanks the Hunter Mk.10 carried giving us around 2˝ hrs. at low level.

Centralised servicing - and its effects

When I took over the Flight we had our own servicing crews and mostly there were six aircraft on the line ready to go - because those guys worked their socks off. However, I reckoned that serviceability was much affected by the heat and working conditions for the men was not good. The temperature of the aircraft metal was unbearable to the touch. So I had white canvas covers made with attachment points to fit the top of the rudder, each wingtip and a loop attachment at the nose. Perfect! The aircraft and the men were kept cool. Serviceability and morale improved! Then it was all change - politics reared its ugly head. Centralised servicing was brought in, the men went to Engineering Wing, the canvas covers were never used again and the men didn't feel they belonged quite the same as when they were part of the Flight. Esprit de corps vanished with 9 to 5 working, serviceability  . . . .  max two aircraft on the line. When will a labour government ever learn that men need to feel an important part of the action and that they and what they did mattered towards the attainment of the aim.”