Flt Lt Terry Kingsley

Terry was assigned to the Ferry Squadron at Benson whose task it was to ferry various types of aircraft to and from RAF bases across the globe. The extracts below are reproduced with thanks to Terry and are from his biography, ‘In the Red’, which is still available.

Ferrying the Hunters

“When the Hunter Marks 9 and 10 were fitted with the 230 gallon underwing tanks, the Ferry Squadron was tasked with exploring its range flying characteristics. This we did, after Hugh Merryweather flew direct to Malta, missed it and made it to North Africa somewhere. They had 660 gals of external fuel, and made some special flights possible. We did much of the development work, including evolving the long-range techniques. It was found that the range barely altered at speeds between M0.70 and M0.85. However there was a large time difference and you nearly froze to death at the low power settings, which did not pass enough heat to the cabin.

I was one of the four-ship convoy to deliver the first Mark 9s to 8 Squadron in Aden, arriving as a box led by my Flight Commander, Ray Hanna and with Mickey Stevenson and Ron Rankin flying the other pair. We flew direct to Malta rather than landing at Orange in France, as per usual for the Indian Air Force Hunter ferry flights, much to the annoyance of French Air Traffic, for we rarely spoke to them at all. It was not unusual to say goodbye to Benson and the next call would be ‘Hello to Malta’. We made Cyprus the first night, and Sharjah the second, arriving in Aden the next day. For a while we held the speed record for the UK-Malta leg. Now either the RN beat us with their Supermarine ‘Bombers’ (Scimitars), or we beat their time, I cannot remember which way round it was?

I also had a hand in delivering the T.7s, which had to use Riyan and Salalah, at that time fairly stony runways, so much so that the flaps were damaged until we learned to deal with that. Heady days!”

It literally fell apart!

“My contact with Aden et al, was through ferry flights through the area. I did return a miserable 208 Squadron Vampire T.11 from Eastleigh, through Aden, but only got as far as Teheran before the ravages of termites did it in! My good friend 208 Squadron pilot Derek Bell was in UK from Kenya for conversion onto the Hunter FGA.9 at the time and it so happened that I was scheduled to go to Nairobi to pick up a Vampire trainer for return to UK. We met in UK and renewed our friendship before flying out to Kenya by Transport Command Comet. It was my first trip to East Africa, and so I did all my Vampire test flights in the Rift Valley and around Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. Fantastic scenery, but now to get this ancient machine home.

I flew in formation with a number of returning 208 Squadron Venoms to Mogadishu in Somalia where a short stroll by the sea renewed my fear of sharks. The beach is steeply shelving with large breakers. A large shoal of small fish appeared out of a breaker. By the time my brain had worked out that something must be chasing them, the shark had smacked down in the shallow water, just a few feet from me. My departure was rocket assisted.

The second leg was to Aden across some very inhospitable country. Slowly I began to lose sight of the other formation members as the canopy iced up. My heating system had failed, probably from lack of use in a tropical environment. In trying to clean a hole to see through I inadvertently squeezed the brakes which promptly locked on. It would be more than warm enough to burn off the ice in Aden, as long as I had enough fuel to wait. We descended with me looking out of a tiny hole in the ice, and they landed first. I could only try to free the locked wheels by touching them gently on the runway. If they were locked it would burst the tyres. I used up the remaining fuel flying as fast as I could to heat up the airframe. The touch and go was gentle but unsuccessful as all the tyres burst. Now for an bumpy landing on burst tyres.

It was very hot in Aden and the only place that was air-conditioned was the bar. The change of temperature for me had been close to 100 degrees C - minus 56 in the aircraft to plus 45 degrees in Aden. Couple this with drinking ‘jungle juice’ undiluted and my body said enough. This juice is available in most tropical messes, being a concoction of salt, sugar and vitamins. Usually it is diluted and placed on the tables, but not this time. I drank a full glass before my taste buds sent reject messages to my head. It was like drinking hot lead, and it cleaned out my system from both ends instantly. We delayed whilst I recovered and the Vampire was fixed.

Several short legs up the Oman coast followed to Sharjah in the Gulf. From here we had a decision to make. Teheran was really marginal, but Abadan was rarely used and prone to flooding. The airport was right at sea level and could be unusable very quickly. We set off for Abadan to be informed that it had flooded and we diverted to Teheran. This was now an extreme range trip in aircraft that we did not know thoroughly. We started the descent with the fuel gauges reading empty. The formation opened up and we left room to glide in if the engines stopped. The landing was an anticlimax, but I was a little drained as we were guided into the military parking. We refuelled and I had to move to another parking spot. It would not start! Great, now what. The batteries appeared weak, and so the large ground power unit, used to start Comets, was brought up. ‘What amperage would you like?’ I was asked. Not a question usually faced; I guessed at 700A. The start was again attempted, and this time the Goblin wound up to 200-300 rpm. Not enough to start, so I asked for 1000A. Again only 350 rpm, so I requested 1,300A, but was told that 1,350 was his limit and I knew that we were in deep trouble. Still no start and so I started to climb out. The Iranian mechanic was undoing panels before I realised it. The words choked in my mouth as I tried to prevent him from touching the high energy igniters. These multipliers of all those amp/volts were dangerous for hours after a start. There was a flash and he flew through the air like a rag doll. The impact on the concrete was a horrible sound. I knew that he was dead - from the fall if not from the electric shock. We walked, not ran to the body, for it was pointless. He sat up and shook his head looking at his fingers. His only mark was the polished skin of his fingertips where he had touched the igniter. I climbed back in to collect my stuff and placed my foot where the step should be. It did not feel right and on looking down my foot had gone through the side of the Vampire’s cockpit. Tropical beasties had reduced the wooden fuselage to powder. There was no way that this aircraft was going to make it to UK, and so I was again left on my own in Teheran.”

Little did Terry realise that seven years later he would be flying alongside Derek Bell with the Red Arrows under the leadership of Ray Hanna.