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27 June 2017 Military Aviation » Accidents - Military » 1950 - 1959  
 

1950-1959

Some of the incidents which have taken place are best described in the words of those who witnessed them, as the following examples illustrate.

”His second was when a Washington (Superfortress) landed and, having a tricycle undercarriage, taxied faster than the Hastings. Parking it was a simple task with the junior technician only having to stand with his wands and turn him off the perimeter track and pass to Johnny for final positioning. The aircraft had its landing lights on, so we who were watching had a lovely view of what happened next. Junior technician turned the aircraft nicely but then commenced walking backwards gradually being overtaken when suddenly he disappeared down a trench, which Maltese workmen had dug. Johnny quickly ran to take over and first stopped the aircraft and then made the pilot go at his pace. We killed ourselves laughing! His third error was very serious. A Shackleton pulled up for a VIP visit, was coming over from 37/38 Sqdn in darkness and this time Johnny was to turn him off the perimeter track and junior technician receive him with one simple turn onto the VIP spot. All went well until the final turn when junior technician left it too late. The pilot was obliged to obey and the end result was that the starboard wing hit the toilet of the Civil Terminal demolishing part of it but, worst of all, about six feet of wing also. We did not laugh about that! The junior technician was never seen again.”

RAF National Serviceman 1953-1954 by Fred Riding, Malta Flypast - 8

”My duty roster saw me in the Tower when we launched the first raid on Egypt. I learnt, years later, that the target was Cairo's main airport. At about the time we were due to bomb it, the personnel of the American Embassy were due to fly out. The force consisted of three Valiants and all the Canberra bombers. Some fifty minutes or so after all aircraft had departed, some high ranking officers, together with the Senior Air Traffic Controller and the Station Commanding Officer, were in discussion in the main control room. Suddenly, the sliding window to the radio room opened violently and the Senior Air Traffic Controller ordered me and a colleague to recall all aircraft by coded message. We contacted all aircraft, except for one Canberra and one Valiant. Having told the Controller of the problem, I was instructed to contact the two aircraft in 'plain language'. I managed to contact the Canberra pilot, who naturally requested confirmation, i.e. pilot's name and aircraft number. This I obtained and he relayed the message to the Valiant and both aircraft returned safely to Malta.

Forty-two years later, while living in Norfolk, not far from Watton airfield, a couple from Scotland contacted us for bed and breakfast, which my wife handled. Over breakfast we established that he was the pilot I had spoken to all those years earlier. This was our first meeting.

Just after the Suez campaign was over, two incidents occurred, one involving a civil aircraft and the other an RAF aircraft. (See Civil Accidents page.)

The other incident involved a Vickers Valiant bomber. The wind at the time was strong enough for him to land on a direct approach on the short runway 32 - at this time not being used for parking aircraft. He approached from the south over Safi where the old wartime runway was and as we watched the Valiant from the control tower, he descended below our horizon. The Controller quickly told him he was not on our runway. The pilot replied saying "I wondered why the cars suddenly shot to the left and right, as I was descending". One can only imagine the shock and horror of the drivers seeing this large aircraft, wheels down, heading straight towards them.

In the year and a half that I was stationed at Luqa, I am glad to say that we did not have any fatal accidents, only a few near misses perhaps. The Control Tower is the hub of an airfield and a very interesting place to work in.”

An Airman's War - Malta & The Suez campaign 1956 by Keith Thomas, Malta Flypast 8.
        
 
DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
04.01.50 F. Firefly FR.5   WB287 Aircraft crashed into the sea on HMS Glory’s starboard side. Two fatalities, but observers’ body never recovered.
08.02.50 DH Vampire F.3 73 VV197 In flight mechanical problems. Pilot abandoned aircraft, which crashed in the sea, 6 miles south of Delimara Point, and was picked by HMS Cheviot. According to the Air Britain publication Aeromilitaria, control was lost in a high speed stall.
05.05.50 DH Vampire F.3 73 VV189 In flight mechanical problems. Pilot abandoned aircraft, landing in a field close to the village of Siggiewi. Slight injuries.
18.05.50 F. Firefly NF.1   MB690 Aircraft made a heavy landing at night on HMS Glory, undercarraige collapsing.
24.05.50 H. Sea Fury FB.11 804 VW589 Aircraft was landing on HMS Glory, catching number three and nine wires, but failed to stop the aircraft, which went over the port side, killing the pilot. The fuselage, aft of the cockpit to the tail, but minus fin, was dragged up by Maltese fishermen off the island of Filfla on 3 May 1989. Despite lying in the sea for a period probably approaching three decades, the serial, code, and ‘Royal Navy’ could be read quite clearly. The tail hook also could be moved without any difficulty. Also missing was the tail wheel, although tail wheel doors were in place.
26.05.50 V. Valetta C.1 OFU VX497 Swung on take-off avoiding man on runway and undercarriage collapsed.
19.06.50 F. Firefly   VT441 A very nasty acci¬dent befell the ship (HMS Glory) when, on 19 June, only a day or so into the cruise, a Firefly jumped both barriers when landing and crashed into the deck park. Two ratings were seriously injured, thus emphasising the dangers to flight deck crews, and two other Fireflies (WB305 & WB250) were badly damaged. The ship immediately broke off from the exercise and steamed back to Malta to transfer the two men to the Royal Naval Hospital at Bighi and take on replacement aircraft at Kalafrana. From the article “The 14th Carrier Air Group Malta & the Mediterranean 1948-1950”, by Peter Cook, Malta Flypast magazine, issue 8.
19.06.50 F. Firefly   WB250 See above.
19.06.50 F. Firefly   WB305 See above.
21-23.06.50 B. Expeditor 728 HD760 This was the first communications flight (outside Malta, to Beirut) since the aircraft was taken on charge. Departing Beirut at 08:00 after difficulties with passport officials they landed at Iraklion, Crete. After a 2-hour delay, only 50 gallons of fuel was available. To crew then flew to Benina to re-fuel, landing at Hal-Far at 19:00. Quote in squadron’s ORB “Iraklion is ‘out’ for further Communications Flight by 728 Squadron.”
29.06.50 Gl. Meteor T.7 73 WA631 Undershot runway, damaged beyond repair.
05.07.50 DH Mosquito TT.39 728 MM144 Pilot was making his first familiarisation flight. During the take-off run swung to port. Almost airborne, he saw the YG beacon building ahead. Keeping MM144 on the ground, he forced her to starboard and by heavy braking managed to bring it to a halt in the range ground on the overshoot of the 13 runway. The undercarriage was badly buckled - nearly as much as his knees. MM144 out of action for several weeks.
11.08.50 DH Mosquito TT.39 728 MM144 Aircraft airborne on a target-towing sortie. A tire must have burst on take-off without the crew noticing, for on landing, the aircraft swung violently to port, ran off the runway, the undercarriage collapsing. Aircraft a total write off.
22.08.50 H. Sea Fury FB.11 804 VX628/100-R Aircraft’s throttle “came adrift” during test flight, Pilot made a wheels-up landing, no injuries. The Operations Record Book (ORB) for the Malta Communications flight mentions this accident, also stating that a Spitfire on a test flight spent a total of two hours in the air, waiting for the runway to be cleared. It also mentions a Sea Fury test flight on 9th September, but, as no serial number was given, cannot be sure it is the same aircraft.
30.08.50 H. Sea Fury 804 XV623 Crashed at Hal-Far.
06.10.50 F. Firefly AS.5   VT423 Crash landed at Hal-Far following mid-air collision with Firefly WB418
06.10.50 F. Firefly AS.5 814 WB418 Mid-air collision with Firefly VT423.
31.10.50 DH Mosquito PR.16 728 MM273 The crew had been conducting radar calibration work with HMS Phoebe and Euryalus, and was returning to Hal-Far. At approx 11:07, pilot asked ATC for a single-engined landing. The aircraft was seen going downwind with undercarriage down. It turned across wind and then onto final at a height of about 2,000 feet, but due to high wind the aircraft was some distance from the end of the runway. The approach seemed steady enough until just short of the cliffs. The aircraft was then observed turning away from the approach to runway 31, until it was flying almost parallel to r/w 27, when the port wing dropped and the plane crashed into the sea near the cliffs, killing both crew members. HMS Euryalus and an RAF Safety launch picked up the bodies, handing them over at Kalafrana.
01.03.51 NA F-84     Fuel feed problems.
16.02.51 S. Sunderland     Aircraft overdue on a Gibraltar-Malta flight. Searched for by Maritime Reconnaissance Lancasters from Malta, and a Goose amphibian aircraft from Wheelus AFB in Libya. Also used in the SAR were the mine-sweepers HMS Chameleon and Rifleman en route to Gibraltar. A message from Air HQ in the morning of the 17th stated that the aircraft had been found, but no further details were forthcoming.
17.05.51 H. Sea Fury     Aircraft developed engine trouble. Pilot crash-landed the aircraft at RAF Ta’ Qali, which continued down the runway, through the perimeter fence and a rubble wall, ending up in a field, the aircraft being destroyed by fire. The engine separated from the fuselage during the incident. No fatalities/injuries.
24.05.51 DH Mosquito TT.39 728 PF482 Crashed off Castel Benito. Crew survived, reported severe rudder flutter before the crash, a defect reported by other Mosquito crews. This led to the aircraft being avoided as much as possible by crews. The following year, a Mosquito was stripped down, leading to the discovery that some of the wooden structure had turned “soft and spongy”, possibly as a result of the aircraft’s close proximity to the sea.
03.08.51 Proctor C.4 Malta CF NP365 Tyre burst on landing and jammed spat; tipped up and not repaired.
__.08.51 DH Vampire x2 73   Two Vampires were reported to have made belly landing at RAF Ta’ Qali during Exercise D.M.X. 1951. No injuries reported.
14.08.51 DH Vampire 73 VZ334 Undershot landing, forcing the undercarriage to collapse.
14.08.51 McD Banshee x2     Collided during combat maneuvers during exercise D.X.M 1951, instantly exploding.
14.08.51 DH Vampire 73 VZ230 Aircraft, based at Ta’ Qali, ingested debris from the collision of two US Navy Banshees. Pilot ejected 30 miles SE of Delimara Point, rescued from the water two hours later. Aeromilitaria gives the date as the 13th.
15.08.51 A. Lancaster 37 RF306 Aircraft engaged in low-level sortie during Exercise D.M.X. 1951 (12-16.08.51). Tail hit water, leading to the aircraft crashing in the sea. One fatality. Aeromiltaria gives the location of the crash as “off Tripoli, Libya”.
21.08.51 Grumman SA-16A 'C' Flight, 7th Air Rescue Squadron 49-0072 c/s USA9072. Aircraft based at Wheelus AFB, Libya. Departed (Mellaha) Tripolitana at 03:00 with 8 crew. Landed at Luqa at 11:20 with injured seaman. Departed Malta at 14:00.
This was the same aircraft that was involved in the rescue of passengers of a DC-3 that crashed in the Mediterranean. See 1950’s accident page.

Report by Major on board: Received instruction from HQ to proceed near Lampedusa to pick up an injured seaman from an Italian fishing schooner “_____ Maria” of Trapani.

Vessel was sighted approximately 20 miles south of Lampedusa, approached her picked up the man.

Proceeded to Malta. Man was conveyed to King George V * hospital Malta for treatment.

Don Kenneth, Maj USAF (MC) 19228A

* since renamed Sir Paul Boffa hospital.
25.10.51 F. Firefly     Aircraft crashed ½ mile from approach to Hal Far due to engine failure. One fatality. Newspaper reported dated 26th.
03.12.51 HP Hastings   TG536 Port main wheel didn’t lower. Newspaper photograph shows the outer port propeller blades bent. Aircraft was carrying troops from the UK to the Canal Zone.
09.01.52 DH Vampire FB.5 185 WA437 Stalled and crashed in the sea, 15 miles north of Gozo, after entering a spin during a tail chase..
23.01.52 A. Lancaster 210 RF210 Ditched in sea during Exercise ‘Oversticks 2’. One fatality.
31.01.52 DH Vampire FB.5 185 WG794 Engine shut off due to fire warning; undercarriage folded on landing and aircraft broke up.
08.02.52 V. Wellington T.10 1 ANS * RP383 Aircraft flew into high ground in cloud Nr. Le Vigan, France en route to Malta. * Air Navigational School.
25.04.52 DH Vampire FB.5 185 VX869 Engine belly landed after losing engine power on the approach.
28.04.52 DH Mosquito TT.39 728 PF512 Aircraft crashed in sea after takeoff from Hal-Far. Pilot never recovered, presumed dead.
01.04.52 HP Hastings   TG609 Undershot, undercarriage collapsed.
29.04.52 Gl. Meteor NF.11 Central Fighter Establishment WD626 Overshot runway, but damage repairable.
16.06.52 HP Hastings 99 TG603 Landing accident at RAF Luqa. Control column yoke bought by Malta Aviation Museum during an auction sale.
29.07.52 DH Vampire     Aircraft belly-landed following night flying exercises from RAF Luqa. The incident presumably happened at Luqa. No fatalities.
19-23.08.52       Repairs to/at Luqa airfield meant aircraft had to be diverted Hal-Far for the duration.
08.09.52 DH Vampire 608 VX982 Crashed on take-off from RAF Ta’Qali.
27.09.52 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF WR110 Pilot of Vampire WR110 collided with WR174 during taxing, causing slight damage to both.
08.10.52 L. P-2 Neptune US Navy 127724 Undercarriage collapsed after landing at RAF Luqa, destroyed by fire. (See accident report below.)
        
 
Accident Report - Up in smoke

The following report was written by Major Mark A. Said, AFM, and first appeared in Malta Flypast, issue no. 8

On 30 July 1952, the coveted Atlantic Fleet Battle Efficiency "E" Pennant for land plane patrol squadrons was awarded for the second consecutive year to Patrol Squadron 5 at an impressive ceremony at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. The award was presented to Commander Houghton, Commanding Officer, VP-5 by Captain WB Mechling, Chief of Staff for Rear Admiral GBH Hall, Commander Fleet Air Wings, Atlantic.

The squadron was equipped with Lockheed Neptunes, mainstay of US Navy land-based patrol squadrons for fifteen years, from 1947 to 1962. The P2V-5 version carried a crew of seven, a range of electronic equipment and a weapons-bay large enough for two torpedoes or twelve depth charges.

VP-5 commenced a nine plane deployment to Royal Air Force Station Luqa, on August 9, 1952 and three days later relieved VP-741. Deployment to Malta was completed on 19 August and in September the squadron conducted daylight mining missions in conjunction with a 6th Fleet Exercise. On October 8, VP-5 lost its first aircraft.

Lieutenant Commander Harold E Belew, USN, commander of Neptune Bureau number 127724 (tail number 8) in 1998 recalled, "On routine flights we carried a normal crew, however for training purposes three co-pilots were aboard. This training flight was to familiarise the crew with certain airfields in Europe. During the last leg of the flight, Nice to Malta, for training purposes I had one of the co-pilots, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) James Parker, take the pilot's seat (left side) and I took the co-pilot's seat (right side).

A night time arrival over Malta was routine and the aircraft landing check-off procedure was completed by Parker and self according to Squadron doctrine. Lt Parker's approach to landing was normal however the aircraft was slightly high for touch-down and the aircraft bounced and then settled on to the runway for roll out.

I did not consider this a hard landing however after several moments the landing gear started to give way. We proceeded down the runway and slowly veered off the right side onto the dirt apron. As I recall the aircraft caught fire as it rolled off the runway. As 127724 came to a stop all personnel evacuated the plane without injury, except myself as I sustained a fractured heel bone."

Ground crew personnel from No 38 Squadron had followed with growing interest the aircraft's final approach and dramatic ending into the parking apron on the other side of runway 14/32. When the aircraft came to a rather interesting full stop, the men rushed towards the aircraft to assist their American counterparts, not knowing what was in store, for as soon as they arrived and got very close to the plane, all hell was let loose and number 8 went up in spectacular fashion. The 'rescuers', finding themselves under a barrage of exploding ammunition and the targets for awe inspiring fire balls, turned turtle and disappeared in double quick time in the direction from which they had just came from. Luckily and unbeknown to the tommies, the yanks had managed to escape towards the other side of the blazing Neptune. By next morning the aircraft was completely gutted.

VP-5 received P2V-5 Bureau Number 127723 as a replacement for aircraft number 8. Patrol Squadron 5 suffered its second loss shortly afterwards, when 124909 (tail number 2) crashed at night in France. On 23 December, another VP-5 Neptune was touring airbases in Southern Europe. En-route from Germany to France, one of the engines developed trouble. The aircraft commander and pilot, Lieutenant W Warlick, shut it down and five minutes later, lost all electrical services. This in turn resulted in the loss of most of the instruments aggravating the situation and making it extremely difficult for Warlick to control the aircraft in darkness. Furthermore, the loss of the electrical supply isolated him from the rest of the crew and he had no means of communicating with them. Making use of a hand held torch and notwithstanding the bad weather prevailing at the time, the pilot managed to make a 180 turn and fly the aircraft for another two and a half hours towards Paris.

When close to Paris, Warlick identified his exact location with great difficulty and decided to head in a northerly direction over isolated farmland. He was lucky in a way as he had over flown the area several times previously during the Berlin airlift. After making sure that there were no lights on the ground underneath and ahead, he ordered the crew to abandon the Neptune. One by one they jumped out of the plane and when it came to Warlick, he directed the crippled aircraft towards the uninhabited area and bailed out. They landed near the small town of Persan, surviving unscathed and then headed towards the now blazing aircraft, to regroup.

The Neptune had spiralled uncontrollably to its destruction onto fields below and by sheer misfortune, one of its wings clipped an isolated farmhouse, injuring two children and killing instantly their baby brother.

The United States Navy crash investigating team, in their final report, commended highly Lt. Warlick for his airmanship and act of bravery. The high level of crew training and efficiency is indicated by the fact that there were no injuries to the crew, although the abandonment was effected under adverse conditions.

Lt "Rip" Warlick, from Lincolnston, North Carolina was no amateur for he had been in the United States Navy for almost fourteen years. He had seen active service in the Pacific flying Catalinas amphibians and participated in the Berlin airlift, piloting Skymaster transports into the city for seven months until the Reds gave the whole thing up as a bad idea.

The Atlantic Fleet Battle Efficiency Pennant went to another squadron the following year!
        
 

DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
24.11.52 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF WR174 Crashed on take-off from Nicosia. Aircraft was part of two flights of six aircraft each that had departed Malta on the 20th on a cross-country flying exercise, to obtain experience in flying main air routes in the Command. The route was via El Adem, Cyrenica, Nicosia, overflying Syria to Habbaniya, returning via Nicosia and El-Adem. The aircraft was presumably returning to Malta. Aircraft damaged, but no injuries. Struck off charge on 31.12.52, Cat 5(c) damage.
__.12.52 DH Tiger Moth   K28 Crashed at Hal-Far, Struck off Charge, Malta. History: c/n 82596, Ex VP-KCT; KAAU K28 [c/n & pi likely but not confirmed] Probably to RN at Dekheila .42 [with N9121 - both ex 30 EFTS, Nairobi which was disbanded 13.03.41]. Toc 775 Squadron/HMS Grebe, Dekheila, Egypt 19.4.44. To Hal Far, Malta [.49]; named "New Life".
01.12.52       Reports of an aircraft crashing into the sea off Valletta caused a combined RN and RAF rescue effort. The rescue efforts were called off after all military and civil aircraft had been accounted for. The false alarm may have been caused after HMS Ricasoli had fired rocket projectiles into the sea. Additional details in the 50 Years Ago page.
18.12.52 Bristol 170   G-804 Aircraft was on delivery to the Pakistan AF. Note in Custom files: Military cargo in transit w/o manifest.
30.12.52 Avro Lancaster GR.3 37 SW344 Crashed on Luqa village after take-off from runway 06 due to engine failure. Lancaster hit a house, continued to plough through three others, and damaged another 14. Three crew and one civilian died, and two suffered injuries. See e-mail below, added on 29.10.05.
        
 

Thank you for compiling the list of a/c accidents reported in the Malta Times. A painstaking task but highly appreciated, as it is the only record I have found on the web that refers to the above incident.

I would like to take you up on your offer for any further information that and also offer you some additional information which you might like to publish.

My wife's father was the pilot of the aircraft reported. Any further information that you have post-accident reporting would be appreciated. However, if this is not available then the family would like it to be recorded, perhaps as a post-script, that the pilot was officially exonerated of all blame for the incident.

Being the sole survivor, he never forgave himself for losing his crew and the lady who lost her life. However, the support given to him and his wife by the Maltese community as he recovered was greatly appreciated.

For completeness, he died prematurely at 47 and is survived by his wife, daughter and a grandson he never knew.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Kind regards

Phil Catling
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
15.01.53 A. Lancaster GR.3 38 TX270 Lanaster was engaged in an anti-submarine exercise, when it collided with a V. Valletta C.1 of the Malta CS, at a height of 1,500 feet. The weather was thundery with heavy rain and hail, with the accident taking place in the pre-dawn darkness with generally very poor visibility. Valletta was on a Malta-UK flight, the collision occurring some 150 miles NW of Malta, 28 miles SW of Agrigento Sicily. A combined 26 casualties.
15.01.53 V. Valetta C.1 Malta CS VX562 Mid-air collision with Lancaster TX270. See above.
27.01.53 H. Sea Fury 801 WE692 Tail oleo collapsed after heavy landing on HMS Glory, aircraft running into the barrier.
24.02.53 DH Vampire FB.9 73 WL515 Brakes failed on landing, aircraft skidded off runway and into a wall.
11.03.53 H. Sea Fury FB.11 807 WF618 Aircraft took off from Hal-Far, but experienced engine problems. Pilot tried returned to Hal-Far, but ended up landing in the water, 2 miles from Kalafrana. Pilot rescued by means of a Drangfly helicopter from the Helicopter Flight, based at Hal-Far. This is thought to be the first air-sea rescue operation using a helicopter within the Maltese Islands.
17.05.53 V. Valetta C.1 70 VW810 Ailerons jammed; force landed on grass, hit caravan and caught fire; 2 fatalities. See accident report below.


        
 

Accident Report – Double Valletta Tragedies

The following article first appeared in Malta Flypast Issue 8, by Major Mark Said, AFM, and is being reproduced by kind permission of the author.

Events in the Middle East and Mediterranean underwent rapid changes as a consequence of the announcement on July 26, 1952 that King Farouk of Egypt signed the instrument of his abdication. The question, as always, was whether power seized by dramatic military means was, in the event, to be used for the good ends as proclaimed. There was no reason to decry the high motives of the reformers, but the dangers of dictatorship lurks behind every "coup d'etat".

Following a number of killings of British servicemen and a clear demonstration of anti-British sentiments, an air bridge from Egypt was set with Malta as a hub. Royal Air Force Hastings and Valetta aircraft took the brunt of the colossal effort. Service personnel and their families were evacuated by air and sea and were replaced by battle hardened soldiers.

One of the aircraft involved in the operation was Valetta C.1, VW81 0 of 70 Squadron, based at Fayid, Egypt. The aircraft (callsign MORKK) was carrying Commandos to the Canal Zone when it crashed on the outskirts of Luqa airfield on 17 May 1953.

During the take off run along runway 06, one of the ailerons jammed and the pilot, 582015 Flight Lieutenant WF Knapper, was unable to maintain directional control. He closed both throttles, put the nose down and touched down on the grass to the right hand side of the runway. After bumping once on the ground the pilot retracted the undercarriage in an attempt to stop the runaway aircraft and avoid hitting the runway control caravan. In the event, his actions were unsuccessful and the port wing sliced through the caravan, injuring Sgt. Ricketts of Jamaica, a runway controller.

After colliding with the caravan, VW810 struck and damaged the starboard wing of another Valletta aircraft parked near the runway threshold. The latter was VX575 'la Valette' the personal aircraft of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet and the Air Officer Commanding Malta.

The runaway Valetta then smashed through a rubble wall before coming to a full stop in a field on the outskirts of Luqa village (near the present day Take Off Bar) where it caught fire a few yards from a fuel pipe. Prompt and efficient fire fighting and rescue work were the determining factors which kept down the number of casualties to a minimum and which averted a major disaster.

Unfortunately there were two fatalities. Marine Derek Edward Burtenshaw, Royal Marines, aged 24, died instantly and Lance Corporal Ronald Don of'S' Troop 40 Commando Royal Marines, died two days later of multiple burns. Three others, including Sgt Ricketts, were seriously injured, and seventeen were slightly injured. These were conveyed to Luqa Sick Quarters for treatment and later transferred to Bighi Naval Hospital.

Friar Samuel of Marsa, who was travelling by bus to Qrendi at the time of the air crash, hurried to the scene and administered the last rites to the victims. The two dead commandos were buried with full Military Honours at Mtarfa Military Cemetery.

Colour Sergeant Oswald Bernard Falconar, Ply.X.1 048, Royal Marines was awarded the George Medal for his bravery in rescuing a survivor from the aircraft and the citation for his award as published in The London Gazette on Tuesday, 6 October, 1953 states:

"An aircraft, carrying part of 40 Commando, Royal Marines crashed in taking off at Luqa, Malta, on 17 May, 1953. The moment the aircraft came to rest, flames swept through the open door and in a moment the aircraft was full of fire and smoke. Colour Sergeant FALCONAR was battling his way out when he heard a man cry out that he could not undo his safety belt. In this moment of terror, when seconds stood between life and death, Colour Sergeant Falconar went back and released the man's safety belt, thus undoubtedly saving his life. When both were clear of the aircraft, Colour Sergeant Falconar, in spite of his burnt hands, helped the man to tear off his burning clothing".

The Malta Communications Flight Valetta C.2, VX575, which was also damaged in the crash on 17 May, had replaced the Dakota previously used jointly by Admiral Sir John Edelsten, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, and Air Vice-Marshal N.H. D'Aeth, Fortress Commander. The aircraft was christened 'La Valette' at Safi by Lady Creasy, wife of His Excellency, Sir Gerald Creasy, the Governor of Malta, at the then still operational Safi strip in the morning of July 20, 1953.

The starboard wing and aileron of 'La Vallette' had been severely damaged by VW810. Following repairs, the aircraft was prepared for a test flight prior to returning to operational flying.

On 16 December 1953, 59357 Flight Lieutenant H Ogilvie took VX575 on the test flight from Luqa. Immediately after departure and whilst still at a very low height, the starboard propeller oversped. Ogilvie could not reduce the RPM so attempted to feather the propeller. Notwithstanding determined efforts on his behalf, the propeller failed to feather and the drag caused by it further prevented the pilot from maintaining height and the required single engine flying speed. In desperation, he then attempted to return to the airfield for an emergency landing. On turning onto finals for runway 14 and with the aircraft undercarriage lowered, he realised he could not reach the runway and retracted it in an effort to reduce drag. The Valetta continued to lose height, crashed and caught fire in a field at Mriehel, roughly half a mile behind the Simonds-Farsons-Cisk factory, in line with the village of Qormi. Ogilivie, 1585101 Flight Sergeant H. Holloway (Signaller), 534185 Senior Technician R. Evans and 4003282 Corporal A. Ponton managed to escape. Despite the efforts of the Malta Police Fire Fighting section, civilians and members of the three com-bined Services which were on the spot within minutes, 4037260 Sergeant Peter Bryant (Navigator) was killed.

On 11 May 1954, Her Majesty the Queen graciously approved the award of the British Empire Medal to No 534185 Senior Technician R Evans of Royal Air Force, Luqa, consequent to the crash.

The citation reads:

"After the crash the Captain checked his crew on leaving the aircraft and was unable to account for the Air Signaller. Evans forced his way back into the now burning aircraft and remained there looking for the missing crew member until he was ordered to leave by the Captain who just got him clear before the tanks exploded and the aircraft blew up.

On re-entering the burning aircraft to look for the missing crew member, Evans showed complete disregard for his own safety and, had it not been that the Captain ordered him out, it seems likely that he would have remained there to the end.

Unknown to the Captain and Senior Technician Evans, the Signaller, who was severely burned, had left the aircraft before the other members of the crew and had been removed for attention by some Maltese labourers'.
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
21.06.53 H. Sea Fury T.20 728 WG653 Crashed during take-off when participating in Exercise “Retex”.
03.07.53 Gl. Meteor F.8 616 WE862 Dived into sea, probably because dinghy inflated accidentally.
20.07.53 Gl. Meteor F.8 RAF Northern Sector WK724 Overshot runway after brake failure..
09.08.53 C-119     Aircraft crashed “off Tripoli” (Libya). Malta-based aircraft joined in search and rescue mission.
22.08.53 AS. Firefly 1832 NAS VH138 Enroute to Malta for annual training camp ground. Looped to starboard on landing at Nice, France, with main undercarriage being sheared off. Returned to Uk for repairs.
29.08.53 F-84G-RE-1 Thunderjet 20th Fighter Bomber Group 51-988 Aircraft crashed 10 miles South East of Delimara Point, Malta. One fatality. See report below which was first published in Malta Flypast - Issue 6 by Major Mark A. Said, AFM, for a more detailed explanation.


        
 

Accident Report

On Monday 31 August 1953, the local daily The Times of Malta reported "Sabre Pilot dies in Malta Crash". The events leading to that report follow. In the early 1950's several flights of American military aircraft passed through Malta's airspace whilst engaged on training flights from Europe to the North African area. Sometimes they staged through Malta for refuelling purposes, on other occasions they just flew by. One such formation of two flights departed Wheelus Air Force Base, Libya in quick succession on Sunday, 29 August 1953. The members of the first four ship flight were Capt R. Baughn, Flight Leader, 1st Lt Foresman, Capt S.G. Houghtby and 1st Lt W Quinn. The second four ship flight was com¬posed of Capt BR Cothern, 1 st Lt J.P. O'Leary, Capt A.C. Edinburgh and Capt A. Torosian.

The eight-ship formation was engaged on a routine navigational flight, from its home station at Wethersfield RAF Station, England, to Athens, Greece by way of Wheelus Field, Libya.

Catastrophic Engine Failure

After taking off from Wheelus, the aircraft climbed to 35,000 feet. No trouble was experienced until about 170 miles out of Wheelus, when less than an hour into the flight, at 1005Z, there was an explosion in the rear of F-84G-RE-1 Thunderjet 51-988. Several of the other pilots noticed a flash extend from the tailpipe momentarily, smoke come out of the dive brake area and also pieces fly off the aircraft. 1st Lt John Patrick O'Leary USAF Reserve, the pilot of 988, stated that he had flamed out and that his fire warning light was on.

Course for Malta

The flight altered course towards Malta, and O'Leary established the best glide speed while his mates called up the Rescue control centre in Malta. Meanwhile a Royal Navy Dragonfly helicopter and a four-engine maritime patrol Lancaster were despatched from Hal Far and Luqa respectively. A USAF SA-16 Albatross amphibian from Wheelus, orbiting nearby for another flight of jets, was also immediately directed towards the area.

29 year-old Capt Richard M. Baughn, the Flight leader, instructed the pilot of 988 to abandon the aircraft at 10,000 feet. The instruction was repeated several times as the aircraft kept coming down but Lt O'Leary expressed a reluctance to bailout by his statements, such as, "I don't like this idea of bailing out" and "I sure hate to lose my camera." While gliding towards Malta and at 12,000 feet, a ship was sighted going in a westerly direction. O'Leary was directed to pass over the ship and eject. As he was passing over the ship, the Air/Sea Rescue Service helicopter was sighted so O'Leary was guided towards it. When O'Leary was at 7,000 feet, though very close to the helicopter and well below the 10,000 foot level, he still did not eject. The cockpit canopy was jettisoned at approximately 2,000 feet. Upon jettisoning the canopy, the pilot's helmet was blown away, and he was unable to receive further radio instructions.

The aircraft continued descent at a heading of approximately 2900 and seventeen minutes after the engine had exploded, made contact with the water about ten miles South East of Delimara Point, Malta.

Search

Lt SA Halduway RN, the pilot of the Royal Navy Westland-Sikorsky S.51 Dragonfly helicopter numbered 494, stated that the fighter-bomber touched down in nose-low attitude on the crest of a swell and exploded on impact. Fuel remaining on the surface of the water burned for approximately five minutes. It is not known why the pilot did not bail out, but it is thought that he was not injured in any way and could have easily done so.

The main portion of the aircraft disintegrated and sank immediately. The rescue launch sent out from Marsaxlokk picked up a portion of one tip tank, one oxygen bottle, the pilot's flight jacket with the name (John P. O'Leary) inscribed and the parachute which had spilled open. The pilot was not recovered.

The helicopter remained in the area for about fifteen minutes and then returned to base, having been relieved by the Lancaster of No 37 Squadron, which marked the area with marine markers. The wind at the time of the accident was gusting to 20 knots and 'white horses' on the sea surface made spotting difficult.

Conclusions

It is thought that O'Leary had attempted to ditch his plane in order to be able to retrieve his hand held camera. There is also the possibility that he may have lost consciousness when his helmet was blown off. The fact that he was already at 2,000 feet when he jettisoned his canopy confirmed he was determined to ditch instead of eject as had been instructed. Had he ejected at 10,000 feet the result may well have been very different. Did his camera really cost him his life?

20th Fighter Bomber Group

The 20th were based at Wethersfield from 31 May 1952 till moving to Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, in April 1970, originally with F-84G, later F-84F, then F-100D/F Super Sabre, converting to F-111E on moving to Upper Heyford.
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
07.09.53 A. Shackleton MR.2/AEW.2 37 WL754/A Suffered a Cat.3 flying accident when the pilot touched down heavily short of the Luqa runway, damaged the tailwheels, overshot and made a successful landing on the mainwheels. To 137MU, Safi, on 8.9.53 for repairs. Again involved in accident on 14.11.55
22.09.53 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Two racks of 9 lb. practice bombs were accidentally dropped before reaching Delimara point. Efforts to recover them failed, and it was assumed that they probably fell in the sea.
28.09.53 Avro Lancaster GR.3 37 RF308 Swung on take-off, undercarriage collapsed.
20.10.53 H. Sea Fury 804/HMS Glory WJ289 Aircraft ditched west of Delimara. Pilot rescued by Hal-Far Dragonfly.
16.12.53 V. Valletta MC-TTS VX575 Aircraft suffered damage to starboard wings & ailerons on 17.05.53 after being hit by Valletta VW810. Took off from RAF Luqa for a test flight. The crew experienced runaway propeller, leading to an overheating engine. Pilot managed to crash land the aircraft in fields, roughly ½ mile behind Farsons brewery in Imriehel. Aircraft totally destroyed by fire. One fatality.
05.01.54 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Vampire engine shut down during air test, pilot made a safe landing.
12.01.54 DH Sea Hornet F.20 728 VR859 Practicing asymmetric approaches. Struck rocky ground, suffering an undercarriage collapse.
18.01.54 Gl. Meteor Mk. VII Royal Australian AF WH220 Aircraft, which had been modified for target-towing, stalled after take-off from RAF Ta’ Qali, fell back to the runway, and continued along the runway. At the end of the runway, aircraft hit a mound of earth, flipped over on its back, bursting into flames. Rear seat occupant, Leading Aircraftman Maxwell James Hennessy, was killed when his head hit a large rock when the aircraft flipped over. Pilot suffered shock, lacerations and a broken wrist. Hennessy was an Australian attached to 78 (Fighter) Wing, RAAF, at the time based in Malta. He had been given permission to go up as a passenger, to see the Malta from the air. Aircraft replaced by Meteor T.7 VW482. Information courtesy of Office of Air Force History, RAAF.
26.01.54 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Atrocious weather limits flying to one test flight.
12.02.54 Avro Shackleton Mk.2 38 WL794 Lost during a night time exercise with submarine HMS Tudor. Ten fatalities.
19.02.54       Flying at ta Qali stops due to a hole in the r/w caused by heavy rains.
09.03.54 F. Firefly FR.5 825 WB304 Lost engine power, and diverted to Hal-Far, but ditched south of airfield. HMS Warrior-based.
29.03.54 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Italian AF pilot, on an exchange visit for exercise Shield One was making his first landing in a Vampire. Aircraft comes in low, hits a boundary wall at Ta Qali, the aircraft being destroyed in the subsequent crash. Pilot suffered concussion and minor eye injuries, but a Maltese boy just inside the airfield perimeter was killed by the aircraft.
30.03.54 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Bad weather reduces tempo of exercise as pilots are finding it difficult to brake on the wet runway. One NZ pilot skids and damages the a/c undercarriage.
01.04.54 H. Sea Fury FB.11 Hal-Far Flight VX288 Ditched in sea following engine failure after take-off from Hal-Far. Crew were rescued by helicopter from Hal-Far airfield (HMS Falcon).
09-10.05.54       Malta-based Shackletons dropped flares in an area 60 miles north of Messina, to assist the Royal Navy in the recovery of Comet G-ALYY which had crashed near Naples on 8.04.54 on a London to Johannesburg flight. 21 fatalities.
13.04.54 Avro York     Aircraft had experienced engine trouble the previous night. Crew was to take the aircraft up for a short air test from RAF Luqa, but overshot the runway during taxiing test, dropping ten feet into field. Crew only on board, no injuries.
15.04.54 DH Vampire FB.9 78 Wing, RAAF   Vampire canopy exploded and blew away damaging port wing and tailplane. Pilot was at 26,000 ft, 100 miles from land, made emergency landing at Benine. Temp -30 C. Aircraft was part of the 78 RAAF wing Gunnery Team, and was returning to Malta. Pilot continued to Malta in a RN Expiditor.
07.05.54 A. Shackleton MR.2/AEW.2 37 WL756/G Cat.3 damage when the pilot stalled the aircraft on final approach and the tail wheel assembly collapsed on touchdown in the undershoot. Transferred to 137MU Safi for repairs the same day.
__.05.54 A. Shackleton MR.2 37 WL759 Underwent Cat.3 repairs at 137MU Safi 19.5.54 - 14.6.54 when the rear fuselage was strained during a heavy landing. Again involved in a landing accident on 26.11.55.
20.05.54 A. Shackleton MR.2/AEW.2 37 WL757/D To 137MU Safi 20.5.54 for unspecified Cat. 3 damage, repairs completed by 03.06.54.
20.05.54 S. Attacker FB.2 803 WP288 Crashed into sea off Hal-Far with WZ396 during aerobatics.
20.05.54 S. Attacker FB.2 803 WZ396 Crashed into sea off Hal-Far with WP288 during aerobatics.
25.05.54 S. Attacker FB.2 803 WK330 Engine failure during a formation take-off, dbf.
11.06.54 W. Whirlwind HAS.22 845 WV201 Ditched off Hal-Far. Engine stopped after pilot changed fuel tanks.
14.06.54 Gl. Meteor Mk.8 601 WK722 Aircraft lost nose-wheel on take-off, made a belly landing on its return. Squadron was in Malta on a “Summer Camp”.
21.06.54 D. Dakota C.4 Malta CF* KN647 Aircraft flew into high ground at night, near Nairobi, Kenya.
29.07.54 A. Shackleton MR.2 38 WL798/X Cat.3 damage was repaired by 137MU Safi 01-22.11.54. Additional damage on 11.03.58.
20.08.54 S. Attacker FB.2 803 WP288 Mid-air collision with WZ296 during formation aerobatics, 9mls SW of Filfla island.
20.08.54 S. Attacker FB.2 803 WZ296 Mid-air collision with WP288 during formation aerobatics, 9mls SW of Filfla island.
08.09.54 Gl. Meteor Mk.8 500 WF714 Aircraft undershot whilst landing, suffering an undercarriage collapse. Squadron was in Malta on a “Summer Camp”. s.o.c. 25/09/154 as CAT 5(C).
__.09.54 S. Attacker     Belly landing at Safi strip. Aircraft repaired, but no further info available.
10.09.54 DH Vampire FB.9   WR148 Cause of accident unknown, s.o.c. 09.12.54 as CAT.5(c) in Malta.
16.09.54 A. Shackleton MR.2/AEW.2 37 WL785/E Received unspecified Cat. 3 damage and transferred to 137MU Safi on 21.9.54 for repairs. Returned to 37 Sqn on 09.02.55
05.10.54       “Naval” aircraft landed at Safi strip due to an oil leak. Aircraft undamaged, so presumably no injuries. No further details available. A search at the National Library confirms that these were two different aircraft.
05.10.54       ”Naval” aircraft landed at Hal-Far, reason unknown. Hal-Far station was closed at the time for repairs. Aircraft undamaged, so presumably no injuries. No further details available.
20.10.54 B. Beaufighter TT.10   RD802 Arrived from UK for use with the Malta Communications and Target Towing Flight. Aircraft swung on landing, causing the undercarriage- to collapse. Struck of charge. Pilot only occupant, no injuries.
20.10.54 W. Wyvern S.4 813 VZ783 Shore-based at Hal-Far from parent ship HMS Albion. Crashed in sea after take-off from Hal-Far, pilot missing, presumed dead.
23.11.54 H. Sea Hawk FB.3 898 WM967 Rode over safety chocks on HMS Albion and continued down the flight deck into the sea.
09.03.55 DH Sea Hornet     Crashed on take-off from Hal-Far. Pilot, a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, died later from his injuries.
11.03.55 R. F-84G-1RE US AF 51962/FS-962 One of three aircraft. Failed to clear wall, hitting a BABS hut - description below. Made a wheels up landing at Hal-Far. See article below by Major Mark A. Said, AFM, which first appeared in Malta Flypast issue 6.
        
 

Beam Approach Beacon System

I got the following brief description of the BABS system from a member of an internet-based aviation group I belong to.

BABS was the Beam Approach Beacon System. It was rather like ILS in that it involved a beacon (mobile, I think) located near the touchdown point. In the aircraft, the derived information was interpreted by the navigator via his Rebecca oscilloscope and consisted of range and displacement from the centre line - whether the blip was equally spread across the time base or 'lop-sided'. The navigator directed the driver to change heading so as to 'balance' the signal while counting down the distance to run related to the associated height required in order to achieve a (three degree? - I forget) glide path.

Not to be confused with SBA (Standard Beam Approach) which was another ILS-like affair, involving a fixed beacon transmitting overlapping Lorenz beams, but interpreted, in this case, by the pilot - aurally. He heard Morse 'A's if he was off the centre line to one side, and 'N's the other side. When on the centerline, the 'dit dahs' and 'dah dits' overlapped, to produce a steady tone. Range was indicated by a couple of marker beacons that chirped up as you flew over them telling you how far you had to go and, therefore, what height you ought to be at.

The RAF introduced SBA early in the war, BABS was later, but it would be available by 1945. Both systems had more or less faded away by the end of the 1950s.
        
 

Accident Report

On 11 March 1955, three F-84G Thunderjets of the 77th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 20th Fighter Bomber Wing, 3rd United States Air Force, had a very close shave whilst departing Luqa.

Captain Charles W. Ward USAF Reserve (Thunderjet 51-962A), and 1 st Lieutenant James A. Garriott USAF Reserve (Thunderjet 51-913A) were the leader and number two respectively in a flight of three F-84G-1 RE Thunderjet fighters departing Royal Air Force Luqa on a navigational training flight to Wiesbaden, Germany.

The Flight had been briefed by Capt Ward to make individual take-offs at full power, due to the limited runway length (6,000 feet) and the high gross weight at take-off (20,500Ibs with 6,8001bs of fuel). The surface temperature was reported to be 15.50 C. When given take-off clearance, Luqa Tower reported the surface wind to be crosswind from 1800 (southerly), 14 to 18 knots. Runway 24 was in use.

Something Goes Wrong

The flight positioned itself in left echelon (up-wind) along the runway, in order that each aircraft kept out of the preceding aircraft's jet wash. Capt Ward commenced take-off at 1054Z (Greenwich Mean Time), followed at five seconds intervals by Lt Garriott and Capt Theodore J. Baader (in 51-958). Capt Ward later stated that he became airborne about 5,500 feet down the runway and started to climb. After gaining a little altitude, the Thunderjet began to sink back towards the ground. Unable to prevent the aircraft from losing height, he attempted to activate the pylon tank jettison switch and the emergency pylon jettison switch but neither fired.

Seconds later, the aircraft's right main gear and pylon tank struck a rubble wall four hundred and seventy feet past the end of the runway. This wall measured four feet high by one and a half feet thick. Its top was approximately seven feet higher than the end of the runway. The right wheel struck the wall approximately one foot below the top of the wall, separating the gear leg at the base of the inner cylinder strut. Capt Ward reported an instantaneous increase in airspeed immediately after passing the wall and a positive rate of climb. He noticed that the turbine overheat light was on during climb-out and thus throttled back to 84 percent power which was sufficient to climb at 200 mph.

Lt Garriott was following approximately 1,200 feet behind Capt Ward. He later stated that he broke ground approximately 500 feet from the end of the runway. After selecting gear up, he noticed that he also was sinking back towards the ground. At that instant, he noticed in front of him a cloud of dust and fuel spray as Capt Ward's aircraft struck the wall. He was able to prevent his aircraft from settling to the ground, but was unable to avoid hitting a hut housing the approach beacon located approximately 425 feet from the end of the runway. The top of this hut was approximately eleven feet higher than the end of the runway. The pylon tank and aft fuselage underside struck the hut, but the aircraft remained airborne and began gaining airspeed and altitude.

Capt Baader observed the cloud of dust after Capt Ward took off and saw Lt Garriott strike the hut. Capt Baader stated that he pulled the aircraft off at the 5,000 feet runway marker and selected gear up immediately after breaking ground. He passed over the stone wall with about two feet of clearance. Capt Baader then joined the other two aircraft in a starboard turn to aid in assessing the damage.

Damage Assessment

It was discovered that Capt Ward's Thunderjet had lost the lower half of the right gear assembly, and the lower half of the pylon tank. The underside of the tail section had also been damaged in the collision with the wall. Repeated attempts to jettison the tank and pylon failed. Approximately three minutes after actuating the Master Salvo switch, the tip tanks fell off one at a time while the aircraft was being yawed (rudder moved left & right). The pylon tank and rack could not be dropped.

Lt Garriott's aircraft had damage to the underside of the pylon tank and the underside of the tail section. He cycled the undercarriage until he got an indicated down-locked condition. This was supported by a satisfactory visual check from Capt Baader.

Safe landings

In order to avoid disrupting the heavy traffic flow at Luqa, Wing Commander Flying Luqa, decided to divert Capt Ward to RNAS Hal Far (H.M.S. Falcon) and instructed him to attempt a belly landing there. Capt Ward executed a perfect wheels up landing at Hal Far at 1125Z. A small fire resulted from vented fuel but this was quickly extinguished by the fire crew. No further damage to the aircraft resulted.

Capt Baader and Lt Garriott landed on Luqa's runway 24 at 1155Z and 12'10Z respectively without further incident.

Conclusions

The investigation of possible external causes produced the most reasonable explanation to the strange circumstances surrounding the accident. Mr. R Frost, senior Meteorological officer at Luqa, added this note to the copy of the weather report for 1100Z, 11 March 1955:

"About ten seconds after the aircraft began rolling, the Dines Anemometer (wind speed and direction indicator) which had been recording a southerly wind of about 12 knots with normal gustiness, veered to 2700 and instantaneously fell to zero. It then returned to the wind speed and direction obtained previously."

Mr. Frost thought this very unusual and remarked that the recording showed that this phenomenon had occurred three times between 1100Z and 1200Z on 11 March 1955.

The Board of Inquiry concluded that the most plausible cause that resulted in all three aircraft failing to gain a sufficient rate of climb after departure, as being a heavy take off weight, limited runway length, coupled with the sudden and inexplicable change in wind speed and direction at the moment of rotation. The Board also stated that notwithstanding the sudden loss of performance and damage, both pilots managed to return their aircraft safely to make textbook landings. All three pilots were commended for their airmanship.
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
13.04.55 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 VZ604/V Crash landed at RAF Luqa. Damage repaired. According to Air-Britain’s Aeromilitaria magazine, this was caused by a jammed undercarriage leg, and had to land on two wheels.
18.04.55 DH Vampire FB.9   WR140 Cause of accident unknown, s.o.c. 09.06.55 as CAT 5(c).
10.05.55 A. Shackleton MR.2 37 WL793 Rear propeller spinner of No.3 engine came off, causing substantial damage to the fuselage. Repaired between 18.5.55 - 10.6.55.
28.05.55 B. Expeditor 728 FT995 Ditched in the sea 80 miles NE of Malta due to engine failure, inbound from Istanbul. Crew rescued by 845 squadron Whirlwind.
__.06.55 Avro Tudor     Involved in a landing incident at RAF Luqa.
02.07.55 A. Shackleton MR.2 WL788 37 Cat.3 damage sustained in a heavy landing was reassessed Cat.4, but the repair work was completed by 137MU Safi between 15.7.55 and 26.4.56. Aircraft suffered an another incident on 10.8.60.
05.07.55 Gr. SA-16     US AF. Emergency landing at sea, towed to Kalafrana by HMS Wakeful. Aircraft stayed a week undergoing repairs.
25.07.55 Gl. Meteor T.7   WS114 w/o on this date, cause unknown, s.o.c. 04.08.55 at Hal Far.
14.08.55 W. Wyvern S.4 813/HMS Eagle VZ778 Aircraft crashed in sea after missing arrestor wires. Pilot ejected and rescued by Dragonfly 959 which had embarked on HMS Eagle for pilot guard duties.
24.10.55 A. Shackleton 120 VP260 Aircraft landed at RAF Ta’ Qali after suffering hydraulic failure. Remained there until flown out on 06.02.57.
14.11.55 A. Shackleton MR.2/AEW.2 37 WL754/A Suffered a Cat.3 flying accident when the pilot made a heavy landing and detached the tailwheels. WL754 was transferred to Safi on 21.11.55 for repairs.
21.11.55 A. Shackleton MR.2 38 WL797 Cat.3 damage sustained in a heavy landing at Luqa and subsequent emergency landing at Ta Qali.
26.11.55 A. Shackleton MR.2 37 WL759/J Suffered Cat.3 damage during a heavy landing. To 137MU at Safi for repairs.
22.12.55 A. Shackleton MR.2   WL799 Aircraft allotted to 38 squadron. Aircraft was destroyed in a hangar fire at Langar, UK, while being prepared for return to Malta.
__.01.56 HP Hastings     Aircraft was bringing 208 Squadron ground crew from RAF Fayid, Egyptian Canal Zone to RNAS Hal Far. Touchdown, at the third attempt in extremely poor weather and visibility, was about half-way down runway 31, overshooting the runway. See Accident report below.
        
 

Accident Report

This is how John Quin described the above landing in Memories of RNAS Hal-Far (January-March 1956), Malta Flypast issue 8.

”Upon reaching Malta, we circled for a considerable period awaiting some lessening of the heavy, dark grey cloud that blanketed the whole island. There was absolutely no sign of land, let alone the Hal Far airfield. With no alleviation in the weather conditions, finally we were briefed for a rough landing and the aircraft commenced a blind let down. Rain lashed the windows and dense cloud enveloped the whole aircraft on the approach. We never saw the runway. Suddenly the engines surged, flaps and undercarriage were raised as we went round again. I think there were two more abortive attempts. On the fourth try, the runway suddenly appeared beneath us just as the wheels hit the tarmac. Some kind of an alarm was sounded - a shout, a warning from the flight deck - and the brakes came on heavily thrusting everyone back into their standard RAF Transport Command rearward-facing seats. In drenching rain and cloud near to the ground we came to rest well into the overshoot at the western end of the main north-west south-east runway, not far short of a rock wall and what seemed, in the poor visibility, an embankment. In clear daylight, this turned out to be just an incline of a low hill, but criss-crossed by the typical Malta stone walls of the fields, that would have greatly hindered any rescue, as they did during WW2 operations, and made a nasty mess of the 'plane, not to speak of us! Touchdown had been about half-way down the runway we discovered. There was a delay until "special disembarkation arrangements" were made, which turned out to be some jury-rigged stairs and duckboards. As we emerged into the rain and gloom the Hastings wheels could be seen or not seen, depending on one's perspective! - sunk well into the mud, over which we trudged en route to transportation waiting at a nearby hangar. Welcome to Malta!”
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
02.04.54 S. Attacker FB.2   WP300 w/o on this date, cause unknown, s.o.c. 26.04.54 at Hal Far.
13.01.56 L. Neptune MR.1 36 WX547 Undercarriage collapsed on landing. Aircraft never flew again, and sold in May 1957 for “filming purposes”. (See Planes on Film page.)
23.01.56 Gl. Meteor T.7 728 WS112 Ran out of fuel in low cloud and crashed into sea 1½m SE of Hal Far. One fatality.
24.01.56       Low clouds, at 100 feet, disrupted air operations at Luqa.
27.01.56 H. Sea Hawk FGA.4 800 WV849/113/0 Pilot, Lt. A. R. Campbell, whilst conducting ACM from HMS Ark Royal, ejected from 20,000 ft, five miles off Hal-Far. Wingman radioed location to rescue helicopter dispatched from Hal-Far airfield.
06.02.56 F. Gannet     Aircraft, based on board HMS Albion, lost. Only the pilot was believed to be on board.
25.02.56 A. York 1 Scottish Aviation Company G-ANSY/XG929 Crashed and burnt out on take off from Luqa, Malta. The aircraft had been issued with a temporary military serial for use on trooping flights.
05.04.56 DH Venom FB.1 32 WR320 Flame out whilst landing at RAF Ta' Qali. Aircraft destroyed by fire. One fatality.
03.05.56 EE Canberra 101 WJ762 Suffered hydraulic failure (after landing?) and overshot at Ta’ Qali, no injuries.
17.05.56 W. Wyvern S.4 830 WP336 Pilot rescued by Dragonfly, six miles from Delimara, after ejecting from aircraft
22.05.56 W. Wyvern S4 830 WP339 Ditched in the Mediterranean off Malta after running out of fuel. One fatality. Scource: http://www.planetrace.co.uk/1940-1949_28.html
31.05.56 Gl. Meteor T7 728 NAS WA649 Crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off Delimara Point, Malta killing the pilot during a radar calibration exercise with HMS Jamaica. Possibly caused by anoxia after the pilot turned off his oxygen. The wreck was recovered by HMS Jamica.
18.06.56 Gl. Meteor Mk.8 601 WF713 Aircraft undershot whilst landing, suffering an undercarriage collapse. Squadron was in Malta on a “Summer Camp”.
02.07.56 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 899 XE450 Based on HMS Eagle. Aircraft catapulted from ship for night-time practice landings at Hal-Far. After four circuits, aircraft crashed in undershoot area of runway. Pilot ejected horizontally along runway, but survived with some injuries.
        
 

Accident Report – How Lucky Can One Get

Major Mark A. Said, AFM, gives further details to the above accident in this article which appeared in Malta Flypast issue 7.

On July 2 1956, Lieutenant Philip Cardew miraculously survived a crash landing at Hal Far and lived to tell the story.

"On the date of the crash, I was a young Lieutenant on 899 Squadron embarked in HMS Eagle flying Sea Hawk FGA6 aircraft. I note from my log-book that I was catapulted in XE450 at night from the carrier at 2130 local time to carry out six Mirror assisted dummy deck landings at HMS Falcon (Royal Naval Air Station Hal Far).

"I flew to Hal Far, entered the airfield circuit and carried out, as far as I remember, four touch and go landings. On the fifth circuit my aircraft crashed into the undershoot of the main runway (13-31) and bounced along through several stonewalls. It came to rest at the other end of the runway with the whole front section of the aircraft including cockpit under the port (left) wing. The cockpit was a mess but fortunately, as the nose folded backwards, the locking mechanism of my ejector seat failed and the seat rose up the rails firing the second cartridge of the system to eject me clear, albeit horizontally along the ground. I fractured my left collarbone and suffered some scarring and concussion.

"My only memory of the crash is of a forty-five degree line (horizon) across my vision and of pushing the throttle fully open without effect and then being patted on my injured shoulder by a rescue fireman who had found me, still tightly strapped in the seat. Probably just as well that the memory erases incidents, which would have probably lived with me to this day.

The inquiry of the crash was I believe inconclusive although most believed I had flown into the ground by mistake. Since I carried out some actual night deck carrier landings and had carried out four successful circuits prior to the crash I am not so sure as to what exactly happened. In any event I was not blamed, thank goodness, but congratulated on a particular fortunate and well nigh miraculous escape."

Lieutenant Cardew was flying again in ten days and subsequently embarked in Eagle for the Suez campaign. His rapid recovery was due, he believes, being able to swim daily in Kalafrana bay and lengthy walks around the island. He was reminded of his lucky escape every time he went for a dip at the beach since he passed by the remains of his aircraft, taken there for disposal. Someone must have been looking after his best interests. A day after re-embarking on Eagle, whilst the carrier was off Malta sailing steadily towards the eastern Mediterranean, the catapult failed as WM916 was being launched and the jet plunged into the sea ahead of the ship. The pilot, Lieutenant Lynn Middleton (later Rear Admiral) managed to exit his aircraft and swim to the surface. He was later rescued by Hal Far's Dragonfly helicopter. Cardew was strapped in another Sea Hawk and was next in line to be catapulted!

Cardew had first served in Malta as a young Naval Telegraphist in 1949-51, then again visited the Island in 1956 and later in 1962 when he was flying Scimitars in HMS Hermes, when once again he disembarked at Hal Far. Between 1959 and 1960 he was Command Instrument Rating Examiner and used to fly himself down to Hal Far in Hunters and Sea Devons to carry out flying checks at Hal Far as a 'Trapper'. He retired from the Fleet Air Arm in 1969, joined British European Airways and flew Viscounts into Luqa subsequently. At the time of writing, he is still instructing and examining in executive jets, turboprops and light aircraft, with more than 15,000 hours in his log book.
        
 



DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
11.07.56 DH Venom FB.1 32 WK425 The pilot carried out an unauthorised flapless landing in difficult weather conditions at Ta’ Qali, Malta. He was unable to stop and ran through the perimeter fence and ran across some rough ground.
13.07.56 H. Sea Hawk 897 WM916 Engine flamed out after being catapulted from HMS Eagle off Malta. Pilot, Lt Lynn Middleton (later Rear Admiral) rescued by Dragonfly.
20.07.56       A loud bang heard over Malta is later confirmed as being a sonic boom caused by an aircraft.
26.07.56 Gl. Meteor F.8 611 WH421 Overshot landing at RAF Ta' Qali and hit wall.
13.08.56 F. Gannet AS1 812 NAS WN567/264 The pilot was unable to lower the main undercarriage while operating off HMS Eagle. He diverted to Hal far, Malta but was unable to lower the undercarriage with the emergency hand pump due to a leak in the hydraulic system. It landed with only the nose wheel down and this collapsed causing the aircraft to slew off the runway.
18.08.56 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 WR125 Throttle jammed during take-off from RAF Ta' Qali, overshot and was destroyed by fire.
__.08.56 Gl. Meteor   WH256 Newspaper report on the 19th.
__.09.56 Sturgeon 728 TS496/582 Landing accident at Hal-Far.
Sept/Oct.56 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 WB125/R I was sent the following info about this incident by J. Quin who served with 208 sqdn 55-57: “Incident was in Sept/Oct '56; pictures show ground crew still in summer kit. Take-off was aborted when throttles jammed at less than full power. Pilot (F/O Brian Cross) was not badly injured as recorded. He exited the aircraft unaided and retired to the roadway to await transportation where, with squadron ground crew reaching the scene, he watched the ejector seat fire!”
04.10.56 H. Sea Hawk 810 XE405 Based on HMS Bulwark. Aircraft engaged in exercises for the forthcoming Operation Musketeer, the re-taking of the Suez Canal. 19-year-old pilot ejected from approx. 10,000-12,000 feet. Ejector seat failed to separate, and parachute didn’t deploy properly. Pilot killed on crashing through the roof of a house in Mellieha.
05.10.56 H. Sea Hawk FB.5 802 NAS WM971/133 Crashed into Mellieha Bay, Malta while operating off HMS Albion after the pilot ejected due to a spurious fire warning.
24.10.56 H. Sea Hawk FB.5 802 NAS WM922/132 Caught fire on the catapult on HMS Albion and ditched into the Mediterranean Sea ahead of the ship while operating off Hal Far, Malta. The pilot was rescued.
29.10.56 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 897 NAS XE441/198 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea over the side of HMS Eagle after catapult failure on launch while operating off Malta.
__.11.56 EE Canberra B.6 12 WH964 Landing accident at Hal-Far.
21.11.56 A. Shackleton 38 WL797 Diverted to Ta’ Qali after tail wheel collapsed when landing at RAF Luqa. Remained at Ta’ Qali until 28.06.57.
27.12.56 H. Hunter F.6 222 WW651 Suffered hydraulic failure, landing without brakes at Luqa. Overshot runway and hit wall.
10.01.57 W. Whirlwind HAS.22 845 WV199/T Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta on entering a hover after either loss of power or mishandling of the controls by the pilot. A definite cause could not be established.
28.01.57 H. Sea Hawk FB.3 898 NAS WV853 Spun into the ground in Malta after control was lost during an unauthorised dog fight at low level during an Army Co-operation Exercise. The pilot did not eject and was killed.
07.03.57 EE Canberra B.6 12 WH951 Brakes failed on landing at RAF Luqa and overshot through wall.
05.04.57 Gl. Meteor T.7 208 VW432 Lost power in the circuit at RAF Ta' Qali and dived into the ground. One fatality.
20.08.57 Gl. Meteor F.8 208 WK953/K Aborted take-off at Ta' Qali, after canopy opened during take-off run, overshot runway.
02.11.57 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 WH541 Damaged beyond repair in Malta, and s.o.c. 05.11.57 as CAT.5(c)
02.11.57 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 WH544 As above, collision with each? s.o.c. 04.11.57 as CAT 5(C).
12.12.57 EE Canberra B.6 12 WJ758 Aircraft made a belly landing at Ta’ Qali as undercarriage jammed in the closed position due to a hydraulic leak. Aircraft written off, s.o.c. 02.01.58 as CAT 5(C) at Safi.
31.12.57 Gl Meteor FR.9 208 VW367 According to Air-Britain’s Aeromilitaria magazine, this aircraft was Struck Off Charge in Malta.
__.02.58       RAF aircraft vandalised by having internal electrical wiring cut. Newspaper reported dated 02.02.58.
__.02.58 H. Sea Hawk   XE454/101 This aircraft, with five others, diverted to RAF Ta’ Qali as their carrier was enveloped in fog. RN carriers which were in the vicinity, and entered Grand Harbour on the 7th were the Ark Royal and Eagle.
25.02.58 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 803 NAS XE331/J/146 Exploded during a test flight from HMS Eagle and crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta. The pilot and wreckage were not found.
25.02.58 Gl. Meteor FR.9 208 WB141 Damaged beyond repair in Malta. s.o.c. 31.03.58 as CAT 5(c) at Malta.
11.03.58 A. Shackleton MR.2 38 WL798/X Again suffered Cat.3 damage, repaired by 137MU Safi 01-22.11.54. Additional damage on 29.07.54.
03.05.58 DC C-47 US AF 0476412 Wheels up landing at RAF Qrendi. One light injury. Additional details in e-mail and newspaper report below.
        
 

Accident/Witness Report - USAF C-47

I received the following e-mail from Brian Grindley Royal Navy Lieutenant,(Retired).

I was serving at RNAS Hal Far on 728 Squadron as an LRO (Air) - Leading Radio Operator (Aircrew), during the period April 1958 to October 1959, flying in Sturgeons, TT20s as a winch operator and in the squadron's other aircraft as general crew. Previously I had been trained as a helicopter SAR winch operator.

It is as the latter operator that I looked in my flying log for 3-5-1958 when I flew in Dragonfly 959 at 0935 with Lt Commander Lyons as my pilot to go as SAR Escort to a USAF C47 which was in difficulties, losing height and power whilst approaching Malta. We flew with them whilst they were approaching the coast and they were jettisoning all personal and other items as they thought that they would have insufficient height to cross the coast. However they did manage it with only a few feet to spare and they crash landed at Qrendi.

I do have other connections with Malta, having been there on many occasions with ships and with the Fleet Air Arm and always enjoyed my stays and visits.

In passing, I once landed at RNAS Hal Far in an Avenger aircraft which had a depth charge hung up, refusing to drop, in its bomb bay.


Mr. Grinley was also kind enough to send me a copy of his log book for this particular day. C-47 serial is not listed. A search through The Times of Malta at the National Library confirms Mr. Grindley’s account.

The Times of Malta carried the following report in its issue of 6th May 1958.

An American Air Force C-47 transport plane crash landed at Qrendi emergency strip on Sunday, narrowly missing throngs that were relaxing on the runways. None of its crew was seriously injured.

The plane was attempting to reach Hal Far after developing engine trouble about 60 miles south west of Malta. The pilot, Capt William R. Landis, of Niagra Falls, New York, set the aircraft down off the edge of the strip to avoid striking people who were playing on the runways.

Capt. Landis said that with 200 feet of altitude he thought that Qrendi was Hal Far. The two-engine transport was flying on one engine and capt. Landis tried to pull away the strip when he saw that it was obstructed.

As he pulled away the remaining engine failed and Capt. Landis made a wheels up landing in a nearby field.

The only injury was a bruised back suffered by Staff Sergeant Everett D. Trapp, the plane’s engineer, when a propeller tore loose and stove in the aircraft’s emergency door.

The plane, based at Wethersfield Emgland, was en route from Wheelus Air Force Base, Tripoli, to Marseille, France. In addition to Capt. Landis, it carried a co-pilot, 1st. Lt. Gary E. Stepp, and a crew of four.

        
 


DATE AIRCRAFT SQUADRON SERIAL NOTES
16.04.58 DH Sea Venom FAW 21 893 NAS XG671/R/465 Crashed into the Mediterranean Sea at night off Malta while operating off HMS Ark Royal due to jammed ailerons. Crew ejected.
27.06.58 DH Sea Venom FAW.21 893 WW190 Overshot landing at Hal-Far.
26.07.58 Gl. Meteor Mk.8 611 WM421 Aircraft overshot runway and hit a wall. Squadron was in Malta on a “Summer Camp”.
30.07.58 F. Firefly AS.5   VX429 Converted to U.9 variant. w/o on this date, cause unknown (shot down by missile or anti-aircraft gunnery practice?), s.o.c. 10.12.58, scr. Hal Far.
06.08.58 D. Skyraider AEW.1 849 WV184 Suffered damage during a landing on HMS Albion. Diverted to Hal-Far, and suffered further (unspecified) damage. Remains to Hal Far dump, later scrapped.
14.08.58 B. Beaufighter TT.10 MC&TT RD850/L While being towed at Ta’ Qali, the ground crew took a short cut across the airfield. The tail section got stuck on the edge of the taxiway, while the rest of the aircraft continued forward.
04.09.58 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 898 XE393 Ran into the undershoot area at Hal Far, and was written off.
04.09.58 F. Firefly U.9   VT403 Swung on takeoff from Yeovilton for a ferry flight to Hal Far, Malta due to the tail wheel being unlocked. It became airborne but the pilot had to apply severe rudder to avoid the ATC and several parked Sea Venoms. This resulted in the aircraft stalling and crashing onto the airfield. The two were slightly injured after the aircraft caught fire.
16.09.58 F. Firefly U9   WB307 Shot down off the Malta coast.
__.09.58       Four aircraft from the USS Forrestal made a strafing run at the disused range at Qawra Point, instead of the islet of Filfla on the other side of Malta. Fishermen in the area fortunately escaped injury.
01.10.58 Sturgeon TT.3 728 TS488 Suffered undercarriage collapse during taxying at Hal-Far.
11.10.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B WB257 Shot down as part of a programme during the trails of the Seaslug surface-to-air missile, but not necessarily by missile.
14.10.58 HP Victor B.1   XA932 Aircraft had completed a record flight from the UK from overhead Farnborough to overhead Luqa. Aircraft made a heavy landing. See this report by Tony Cunnane who witnessed the event.
11.10.58 F. Firefly U.9 728B WB257 Shot down during gunnery practice.
22.10.58 Gl. Meteor T.7 MC-TTS * WG964 Aircraft suffered category 3R damage, repair work completed by the 30th. * Malta Communications and Target Towing Squadron.
23.10.58 W. Whirlwind HAS.7 820 NAS XL871/W/320 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea while operating off HMS Albion after water was inducted into the air intake whilst in a hover near to the crest of a swell. The three crew were rescued.
31.10.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B VH134 Ditched in the sea shortly after take-off from Hal-Far, cause unknown.
03.11.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B VT370 Crashed off Malta, cause unknown.
03.11.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B WB394 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from RN ship.
04.11.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B WB373 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from RN ship.
06.11.58 W. Whirlwind HAS.7 824 XL838/P/332 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta after engine failure while operating five miles from HMS Victorious. The three crew were rescued.
07.11.58 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 806 WV840/J/179 Crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off Hal Far, after the pilot ejected following an engine fire.
26.11.58 Firefly U.9 drone 728B VT441 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from HMS Duchess.
05.12.58 Gl. Meteor T.7 728 WS106 Aircraft lost after getting airborne from Hal-Far. Brief report here. Aeromilitaria gives the date as 6th Dec.
08.12.58 L. P-2 Neptune USN Navy   Aircraft landed at RAF Ta’ Qali after working hours, as the crew were not familiar with the Maltese Islands. Delayed from departing until permission had been received from RAF Luqa.
15.12.58 D. A-1 Skyraider USN Navy   Reasons for landing at Ta’ Qali as Neptune above. Pilot directed by follow-me vehicle to r/w 31, and departed again.
30.01.59 W. Whirlwind HAS.7 845 NAS XL837/C/392 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta from a ten foot hover while operating off HMS Centaur. A loud bang had occurred followed by the engine overspeeding. The three crew were rescued.
__.02.59 Avro Shackleton 38 WL794 Lost at sea.
09.02.59 V. Varsity     Four of these aircraft arrived on the 6th on a navigational exercise from RAF Topcliffe. One aircraft had to return due to magneto trouble. Eventual departure date unknown.
25.02.59 W. Whirlwind HAS.7 845 NAS XK945 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta while operating off HMS Centaur after the engine failed while in a 36 foot hover. The three crew were rescued
03.03.59 H. Sea Hawk FGA.6 801 NAS WV917/C/1 Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta after the ejector seat drogue streamed during a catapult launch from HMS Centaur.
09.03.59 V. Varsity     Four of these aircraft arrived on the 6th on a navigational exercise from RAF Topcliffe. Departure on this date for one of these aircraft was delayed by 24 hours due to a flap jack change.
18.03.59 EE Canberra B.6 9 WJ761 Aircraft overshot after a night landing at RAF Luqa. Pilot overhsot and raised undercarriage to stop, but ended up colliding into another Canberra (WH973) on the ground. s.o.c. 02.04.59 as CAT 5(C) at Safi.
20.04.59 V. Valiant     A bomb was discovered beneath the aircraft at around 23:00 hours. Perpetrator was likely interrupted by RAF MP and his dog. No damage to aircraft, bomb recovered intact.
10.06.59 G. Meteor MK. IV Fleet Air Arm   Aircraft crashed “near Safi”, one fatality.
16.06.59 Gl. Meteor F.8 MC-TTS * WH256 Pilot abandoned take-off from RAF Ta’ Qali, undercarriage collapsed. Aircraft careered over a wall, through a number of stone walls, ending up in a field. It was declared category 5C and written off. * Malta Communications and Target Towing Squadron.
17.06.59 Gl. Meteor Royal Navy   Released drogue and landed at Qali due to shortage of fuel.
21.07.59 F. Firefly U.9   VX427 w/o on this date, cause unknown (shot down by missile or AA guns?), remains perished Hal Far fire dump.
23.07.59 F. Firefly 728 VH130 Lost arrestor hook when landing at Hal-Far.
28.08.59 Gl. Meteor F.8     This is what The Times’ of Malta section Half a century ago wrote about this incident. “The pilot of a Meteor jet fighter escaped unhurt when his aircraft overshot the duty runway at Royal Air Force Station, Luqa. The pilot had already begun his take-off run from the Siggiewi end of duty runway, when one of the Meteor's tyres burst. He abandoned the take-off run but overshot the runway, ploughing through the barbed-wire perimeter fence.” The report is dated 29.08.59. Also note the reference to the “barbed-wire perimeter fence”. The current chain-link fence wasn't erected until much later.
__.09.59 A. Shackleton     From The Times' of Malta section Half a century ago dated 05.09.59 “What was termed ‘nothing short of extreme skills’ on the part of its pilot averted serious damage to a long-range reconnaissance Shackleton aircraft, when its under-belly radome failed to retract. After flying round the Maltese islands for more than three hours to use up surplus fuel, the pilot brought his aircraft in to land at RAF Station, Luqa. Not more than 45 minutes after the unusual landing which had been made with the usual fire trucks and other vehicles in attendance, the duty Luqa runway was clear for normal traffic again.”
        
 
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