Incidents relating to Shackletons for the period July-December 1969 were taken from the volume No 203 Squadron – The Malta Years, by Colin Pomeroy and are being quoted by kind permission of the author. Anyone interested in purchasing a copy should contact the web master, who will pass on the request to Mr. Pomeroy.
Incidents relating to the Malta Communications and Target-Towing Squadron (MC-TTS) Meteors from article about the squadron by Jack Kendall, Malta Flypast – 8.
|DATE ||AIRCRAFT ||SQDN ||SERIAL ||NOTES|
|21.01.60 ||EE Canberra PR.3 ||39 ||WF926 ||Flew into sea on GCA approach at night. 2 fatalities. The search for the crew was called off on the 24th. I received the following e-mail from Gordon Whitfield about the loss of this aircraft. 'I did the preflight on it, so I had to go before a "Board of Enquiry". It was put down to pilot error. I remember they were doing blind instrument flying that fateful day, so the pilot had to cover his visor so he couldn't look through the cockpit canopy. So whether his instruments were faulty or he misread them we shall never know. They were a very popular crew, we said why them!' |
|15.03.60 ||DH Sea Venom FAW.22 ||894 ||XG614/A/491 ||Shore-based at Hal-Far from HMS Albion for a ten-day detachment with several other similar types. Collided with XG723 during night-time maneuvers. Two survivors, two fatalities. The web site www.ukserials.com gives the date as the 11th.|
|15.03.60 ||DH Sea Venom FAW.22 ||894 ||XG723/A/490 ||Shore-based at Hal-Far from HMS Albion for a ten-day detachment with several other similar types. Collided with XG614 during night-time maneuvers. Two survivors, two fatalities. |
|23.03.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VT104 ||Shot down by Seaslug missile fired from HMS Girdleness. First Meteor drone to be shot down.|
|06.04.60 ||W. Whirlwind HAS.7 ||824 ||XL851/331 ||Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta after possible transmission failure while operating off HMS Ark Royal. Two of the three crew were injured.|
|08.04.60 ||Gl. Meteor ||MC-TTS ||WH364 ||Rudder jammed after take-off. After a safe landing, a slim, pencil-like steel object was found in the rudder guide rails.|
|11.05.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VT110/655 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gunfire from HMS Girdleness. www.ukserials.com gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”|
|11.05.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VT243/65_ ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. www.ukserials.com gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”|
|12.05.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VT310/657 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship.|
|18.05.60 ||W. Whirlwind HAS.7 ||824 ||XK938/335 ||Ditched into the Mediterranean off Malta after transmission failure.|
|25.05.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone. ||728B ||WB245/592 ||Crashed during take-off from Hal-Far. |
|10.06.60 ||Gl. Meteor T.7 ||728 ||WA650/HF-57 ||The pilot misjudged his approach to Hal Far, Malta after an engine had failed. The aircraft rolled to port and crashed into a field killing the pilot.|
|09.08.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||RA387/658 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. www.ukserials.com gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”|
|10.08.60 ||A. Shackleton MR.2 ||38 ||WL788/R ||Aircraft now transferred to 38 squadron. Undercarriage collapsed during engine start-up at Luqa, the Cat.3 damage being repaired at the Maintenance Base, Safi.|
|11.08.60 ||W. Whirlwind HAS.7 ||824 ||XK910/331 ||Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta after colliding with the ensign staff on HMS Scorpion. |
|19.08.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||VT481/59_ ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. |
|24.08.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VZ417/65 ||Delivered to squadron on 25.05.60. Shot down by missile from RN ship.|
|25.08.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||WB410/596 ||Crashed during landing at Hal-Far, after ship gunners failed to shoot it down.|
|26.08.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||VT364/593 ||Crashed during landing at Hal-Far, after ship gunners failed to shoot it down.|
|08.09.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 ||728B ||VT282 ||Shot down during radio controlled target firing. |
|26.09.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||WB331 ||Written off whilst being landed at Hal-Far. |
|01.10.60 ||B. Beverly ||  ||XB289 ||Aircraft was being refueled when a spark round the fuel bowser ignited the vehicle, and almost immediately the aircraft was on fire.|
|06.10.60 ||Gl. Meteor F.8 ||MC-TTS ||WH364 ||Unspecified category 3R damage. To 137MU, Safi for repairs|
|06.10.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||WB365 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. |
|06.10.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||WB392 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. |
|07.10.60 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||WB374 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. |
|14.12.60 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 ||728B ||VW258 ||Delivered to 728B squadron on 19.10.60. Shot down by missile from RN ship.|
|16.10.60 ||Gl. Meteor F.8 ||MC-TTS ||WH364 ||Issued to MC-TTS at RAF Ta' Qali on 07.07.59. Category 3R damage, to 137 MU for repairs. In 2004 a/c was part of the Gloustershire Aviation Collection.|
|14.11.60 ||Gl. Meteor TT.20 ||728 ||WD711/579/HF ||Ran out of fuel after becoming lost during a night practice strike on a ship and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off Linosa, 119km due west of Malta. Both crew members were killed and the aircraft was not found. 728 squadron was Hal-Far-based from May ’46 till May ’67. |
|22.11.60 ||F. Gannet ||849B ||XL495/425 || Ditched into the sea 20 miles off Malta while delivering mail from Hal Far to HMS Victorious. The pilot abandoned the aircraft when it began to sink but was drowned. |
|06.01.61 ||DH Sea Vixen FAW.1 ||893 NAS ||XJ573/R/457 ||Crashed into the Mediterranean after striking an ECU box during an overshoot from HMS Ark Royal. Both crew were killed.|
|20.02.61 ||Gl. Meteor U.16 ||728B ||WF716 ||Arrived at Hal-Far on 11.10.60. Shot down during trails.|
|07.03.61 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 drone ||728B ||VT268 ||Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. |
|18.03.61 ||EE Canberra ||  ||  ||c/s MPRHF. Burst tires on landing runway 24.|
|20.04.61 ||W. Whirlwind HAS.7 ||824 ||XN303C/333 ||The pilot was unable to increase engine rpm possibly due to suspected oil flow restriction in the throttle control system. Ditched into the water off Malta, both crew members were rescued. Helicopter operating from HMS Centaur.|
|20.06.61 ||H. Sea Hawk FB.5 ||  ||WM987 ||w/o on this date, but cause of accident unknown. s.o.c. 17.11.61, b/u for spares Hal Far, Malta |
|30.06.61 ||Gl. Meteor T.7 ||728 ||WG115/HF-574 ||Port wheel bay caught fire during start-up. |
|27.09.61 ||Gl. Javelin FAW.9 ||60 ||XH840 ||On delivery to 60 Sqn in Singapore, cause of accident was previously listed as a refuelling accident. |
I have since received an e-mail from Peter Botwright, who was piloting XH840, and had this to say.
“I was flying one of six Javelins which left Waterbeach in the UK en route to Singapore on 24 July 1961. This aircraft was not involved in a refuelling fire but by an avpin explosion after a change of starter motor. I should know, I pressed the starter button that caused it. A lot of noise and acrid smoke but no fire whatsoever. After this incident I flew in the support aircraft and replaced pilots who were indisposed.
In the event only four arrived, three of which were XH787, XH835 and XH846. Another aircraft was lost after suffering a double center line closure over the Ganges delta, a not uncommon fault on the aircraft, causing both engines to fail. (Center closure occurs when the compressor casing contracts rapidly after the aircraft encounters extremely cold damp air. The casing contracts, but the turbine doesn’t. Engine failure big time.)
The pilot was killed after a successful bail out.
I have seen many accounts of this ferry and many errors.
|29.09.61 ||Gl. Meteor T.7 ||728 ||WA600/576/HF ||Re-delivered to 728 squadron on 07.04.60. Undercarriage leg collapsed, but no further details.|
|29.09.61 ||EE Canberra T.4 ||39 ||  ||Crash landed on runway 24.|
The RAF Luqa ORB didn’t give the serial when mentioning this accident. But the Engineering Section report of the same ORB mentions WH861 as being examined for a main wheel that didn’t lower for landing in early October.
|06.10.61 ||EE Canberra D.14 drone ||728B ||WH921/590 ||Shot down by a Seaslug SAM missile fired from HMS Girdleness. This particular aircraft was the first to see FAA service, the first to be delivered to 728B, and also the first and last to be shot down by a Seaslug missile.|
|12.10.61 ||Gl. Meteor T.7 ||728 ||WA600/576/HF ||Aircraft destroyed after aborted take-off, no fatalities.|
Accident Report – Aborted Take-Off
The following article, by Major Mark A. Said, AFM, appeared in issue 7 of the Malta Flypast.
Two days after a Handley Page Hastings crashed on take-off at El Adem in the Libyan desert, resulting in the tragic loss of ten Maltese serviceman, another British military aircraft was lost at Hal Far under similar circumstances.
Jerry King-Tour was the pilot of the 728 Squadron Meteor T1.20, WA600, which went straight off runway 31 following an aborted take-off. Jerry was taking an air traffic controller in the back seat for a jolly.
"My aborted take-off during daylight hours on 12 October 1961, was caused by some malfunction of the undercarriage. As reports from the Tower indicated that I was on fire before I left the runway, I would assume that I lost brake hydraulics and this fluid was ignited by friction of some sort. With the nose wheel off the deck and the aircraft about to un-stick, we suddenly started to swerve to port and I got the impression, flying by the seat of the pants, that had we staggered into the air the aircraft would have rolled over to port out of control. So I put the nose wheel back on deck and applied the brakes, which failed. Had I lost brake fluid (which I didn't know at the time and still don't, as it happens) this was hardly surprising. As we had no bang-seats or hook to be dropped on occasions such as this to catch wires at the end of the runway, there was nothing to do except wait for the inevitable crash.
"The aircraft left the runway, already on fire, and prior to crashing through the perimeter-fence, having crossed the cricket pitch; the port (I think it was the port but it could have been the starboard) wing root hit an upright pole that carried binoculars for use by the target-drone squadron (728B Squadron). This caused the aircraft to rotate rapidly in the horizontal plane. We crossed the perimeter road still rotating and hit the first stonewall travelling backwards at a great speed. This collision removed the main undercarriage, as I remember it, and part of the engine nacelles. We then ploughed on through a small field and whilst still rotating hit the second stone wall going sideways. Malta has quite a few of these rubble walls scattered up and down the breath of the Island!
"This brought us to an abrupt halt and the aircraft blew up or rather that is how it appeared to us at the time. My immediate reaction was to vacate the aircraft and get my passenger out of the back after which we both got as far from the burning wreckage as possible. I do remember being on fire and staggering around this Maltese field looking for someone to wrap me in a blanket. I had obviously lost my marbles and expected someone to appear and put the flames out of my flying suit. As there was no one in this field with a handy blanket I then thought the best way to put the flames out was by rolling over and over on the ground but being a Maltese field (no disrespect to the Maltese, but a matter of fact!), there were rocks and boulders everywhere and this was not possible. So the third option and the correct one, albeit rather late, was to get out of my flying suit overalls, which I did. When the ambulance arrived I was staggering around in just my underpants!
"We were carted off to the sick-bay at the Air Station where we were given pain killing injections and then on to Bighi Naval Hospital by ambulance. The naval sentry at the gate challenged us for identification before he would let us in! Good old Navy, I don't suppose they will ever change! It just happened that I was admitted to Bighi a few hours after my daughter Georgina was born there."
Jerry had fourteen skin grafting operations there, carried out by Surgeon Commander James Watt (later to become Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir James Watt) and a further two in England at Haslar. His passenger fortunately spent only three weeks in hospital but Jerry was destined to remain there for ten and a half months altogether. When the passenger was discharged from hospital he visited Jerry and told him that his last words were "We are about to crash. I suggest that you tighten your safety harness."
The passenger said he tightened his safety harness and then they blew up! Jerry continues:
"An article which appeared in a naval flight safety review a few years later reported that after the crash someone was seen rolling up my flying suit and walking off with it under his arm as a souvenir and the crash helmet, with a split right down the front, was sent off to Farnborough for analysis."
Following the crash, the Fleet Air Arm instructed all aircrew not to wear nylon clothing underneath their flying suits. Jerry King-Tours had been wearing long white nylon socks and these contributed to his worst burn injuries.
Jerry King-Tours had previously been involved in another mishap in mid-Atlantic. This time it was in an 801 Squadron Seahawk FGA.6, WV846. In this first incident, on 29 April 1958, the fuselage was badly damaged following a heavy deck landing. He got an apology from the Commander (Air) who said:
"Terribly sorry about that King. I should have fired a red very light at you and sent you round again."
"Goodness knows what good that would have done as the storm was still there and as a result the Mirror Landing System was still unserviceable (it was gyro stabilised and coming up against the stops due to the pitching motion of the ship)."
Neither crash was due to pilot error.
The pilot went on to fly Ambassadors, DC-7Bs, Comet IVs and Boeing 727s. Jerry's brother-in-law, Dean Kelly, was based on Spitfires at Ta' Qali during the height of the air battle of Malta. He ended his service career commanding a Canadian Voodoo Squadron.
|DATE ||AIRCRAFT ||SQDN ||SERIAL ||NOTES|
|30.10.61 ||Gl. Meteor U.15 ||728B ||VZ415/65 ||Delivered to squadron on 07.02.61. Shot down by missile from RN ship.|
|13.11.61 ||Gl. Meteor U.16 drone ||728B ||WE932 ||The last aircraft to be shot down by a Seaslug missile from HMS Girdleness.|
|23.11.61 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||VT413 ||Shot down by a Scimitar from HMS Centaur.|
|23.11.61 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||VT430 ||Shot down by a Sea Vixen from HMS Ark Royal.|
|27.11.61 ||F. Firefly U.9 drone ||728B ||  ||Shot down off Malta by the guns of HMS Duchess. This was the last Firefly U9 loss in Navy service as the unit disbanded six days later.|
|19.03.62 ||W. Wessex HAS.1 ||815 ||XM929/304 ||Ditched into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta while operating off HMS Ark Royal due to transmission failure. The four crew were rescued.|
|05.05.62 ||W. Whirlwind HAS.7 ||824 ||XN379/336 ||Ditched and sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Malta while operating off HMS Centaur. It had suffered loss of power due to suspected fuel pump failure. The three crew were rescued and the aircraft was not recovered.|
|09.07.62 ||Av. Shackleton ||38 ||WL758 ||Unspecified damage to aircraft. |
|04.09.62 ||DH Sea Vixen FAW.1 ||892 ||XJ603/H/213 ||Struck the round-down when landing onboard HMS Hermes while operating in the Mediterranean off Hal Far. It slid up the deck and fell into the sea off the angle deck killing both crew.|
|16.09.62 ||DH Sea Venom FAW.21 ||831 ||WW292/381 ||Fell back onto the runway on takeoff from Hal Far. It overshot and ran into a stone wall.|
|14.01.63 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||39 ||XH167 ||Made a nose wheel-up landing.|
|25-28.03.63 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||39 ||XH176 ||Sustained unknown damage between these dates.|
|12.03.63 ||V. Valiant ||&NBSP ||XD858 ||Flight refuelling hose fell on private property outside the limits of Ta’ Qali airfield.|
|22.04.63 ||H. Hunter ||RRAF ||124 ||Suffered engine damage. Exact arrival/departure dates unknown. Aircraft would have been on delivery to Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), probably in company with other aircraft.|
|30.09.63 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||39 ||  ||Collision in flight between XH169 and XH173.|
|04.10.63 ||W. Wessex HAS.1 ||819 NAS ||XP145/H/323 ||Ditched into the Mediterranean off Malta beside HMS Hermes due to loss of power caused by suspected fuel system failure. The three crew were rescued.|
|21.12.63 ||C-47 ||Italian AF ||  ||Pilot mistakenly landed at RAF Ta’ Qali instead of RAF Luqa. The aircraft was carrying dependents of officers at H.A.F. Med., and later departed for RAF Luqa.|
|03.01.64 ||Av. Shackleton ||38 ||WL740 ||Unspecified damage during ground running.|
|07.03.64 ||Gr. Tracker ||Netherlands Navy/2 Squadron ||153 ||Aircraft stolen by Dutch technician who got airborne at 06.55 from Hal-Far. Landed at disused strip at Benina, at 12.15 hrs.|
|20.06.64 ||EE Lightning F.2 ||19 ||XN784/L ||19 squadron should have flown to Akrotiri, supported by air-to-air refueling on the 19th, but was delayed for a day by tanker unserviceability. Cause of diversion and date of eventual departure unknown.|
|20.06.64 ||EE Lightning F.2 ||19 ||XN787/M ||As above. This aircraft would again be seen at RAF Luqa between 24-27 October 1975, when flown by a Maltese pilot, Flt. Lt. Mark Micallef Eynaud.|
|23.06.64 ||EE Lightning ||111 ||  ||Aircraft was part of a squadron detachment to Akrotiri. Forced to divert to Luqa with ventral tank problems. Departed on the 25th, after ventral tank was changed by a repair team which had arrived by Hastings from Akrotiri.|
|22.09.64 ||Av. Shackleton ||38 ||  ||Used to locate yachts participating in a round the island yacht race during the night of 21/22. Worked in conjunction with the minesweeper HMS Crotton.|
|27.01.65 ||Av. Shackleton ||38 ||WR956 ||Whilst landing on r/w 24 at 00:14Z, aircraft suffered from total hydraulic failure, being unable to lower the tailwheel, suffering minor damage to the tail.|
|02.06.65 ||EE Canberra T.4 ||39 ||WT481/L ||Crashed in sea 35 miles SW of Malta after loss of control in cloud. Three fatalities.|
|30.06.65 ||Gl. Meteor T.7 ||728 ||WS115 ||A fire broke out in the port wheel bay during engine startup.|
|08.09.65 ||DH Sea Vixen FAW.2 ||899 NAS ||XP953/E/133 ||The pilot lost control of the aircraft while on approach to HMS Eagle operating in the Mediterranean off Malta. The port wing struck the deck as it missed the wires, it then climbed steeply, stalled to port and struck the sea inverted. Both crew were killed.|
|16.09.65 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||39 ||  ||Aircraft blocked runway for approx. 2 hours after suffering undercarriage problems.|
|__.10.65 ||HP Victor ||  ||  || Aircraft was refuelling two Lightnings on their way to Cyprus, when they were forced to divert to Sigonella, due to deteriorating landing conditions at Malta. It was to first time that RAF aircraft had diverted to Sigonella for real, other than for practice.|
|23-25.01.66 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||WD490 ||Aircraft took a team of Royal Navy Target Towing Team to Gibraltar, but went u/s at Luqa when it was time to bring them back. Flight was then performed by TG561. |
|07.04.66 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||  ||XH177 ||This aircraft suffered from main spar cracks in 1965 and became Cat5(C) at Safi on this date. It was SOC 05.7.67 and seen outside dismantled on 31.10.67. The nose section was returned to UK and was passed to the Wales Air Museum. It is now with the Newark Air Museum.|
|16.10.66 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||WJ328 ||This was one of four Hastings moving men and equipment round Mediterranean bases during the Malta Air Defence exercise. Was struck by lightning on a Malta-Cyprus flight, suffered minor damage to starboard wing leading edger, compass became unreliable. Continued to Cyprus.|
|27.11.66 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||TG606 ||Aircraft was being flown to the RAF Abington, UK, for use as a ground training for paratroops. Departed Cyprus, but had to return due to high ground winds at Luqa Airport. Attempts leave on the 28th was delayed by a hydraulic leak. Arrived in Malta for a night stop on the 29th. Departed for the UK, and suffered severe icing over Paris, the radio compass going unserviceable. |
| 06.12.66 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||TG551 ||Suffered a lightning strike on an Idris-Luqa flight, requiring a rudder change. Stayed at Luqa until the 21st.|
|03.01.67 ||DH Sea Vixen FAW.2 ||892 NAS ||XS588/H/306 ||Waved off following a poor approach to HMS Hermes. However, it came down on the angled deck in a nose up attitude and ditched over the side into the Mediterranean Sea off Malta. The observer was killed.|
|18.01.67 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||  ||XH167 ||Aircraft aborted take-off run, stopped by the crash barrier at end of runway.|
|06.03.67 ||Gl. Javelin Mk. 7 ||29 ||XH776 ||Aircraft was passed from 29 sqdn, coded ‘P’ to the Luqa reserve on 08.11.66. It was declared Cat 5C on 06.03.67, having been dropped whilst being weighed. SOC on 23.05.67 and passed to the Luqa Fire Section.|
|02.03.67 ||Hunter F.56A ||Indian AF ||A-485 ||One of four Hunters on delivery. It suffered damage to the undercarriage bearers when the brakes failed, the aircraft running over a 3 in concrete block (demolishing an approach light in the process) and burying itself up to its axles in mud. The damage was not discovered until 6.3.67, after an air test, when the aircraft was put Cat. 3 to await a Hawker Siddely servicing team. Aircraft rolled out on 06.04.67, finally departing Luqa on 30.4.67 with the A-487 to A-491 batch,|
|19.04.67 ||Hunter F.56A ||Indian AF ||A-487 ||This aircraft, together with A-488, A-490, A-491, and Canberra IF-900 were delayed on their delivery flight by a combination of pilot sickness and bad weather. Eventually departed on 30th April.|
|15.05.67 ||HP Victor BK1A ||55 ||XH648 ||This was the only 2-point tanker in the squadron. The crew was on Exercise Levant Ranger, meant to be conducted without a rest day, flying from Marham to Luqa to Akrotiri. At Luqa the aircraft became u/s with NBS and fire detector problems. With the problems solved a cross-wind of 35-40 knots prevented the crew from departing on the 16th. Eventually left for Akrotiri on the 17th, returning to Marham on the 18th.|
|25.05.67 ||B. Buccaneer ||801 NAS ||XV155/233/V ||Aircraft equipped with “buddy-buddy” refueling pack, refueling hose couldn’t be retracted. Landed at a slightly higher altitude to avoid the risk of hose being entangled with airport perimeter fence. This Buccaneer served with 801 NAS from 06.07.66 to 06.09.67. See accident report below.|
Accident Report – Buccaneer diversion
The following is courtesy of the Buccaneer Aircrew Association. The paragraphs in italics is the answer from the person I was in contact with, whilst the remaining three paragraphs is the reply he received from the RAF officer who actually flew the aircraft back to the carrier.
I have received an answer to your question regarding the Buccaneer which landed at RAF Luqa trailing a Flight Refueling Hose. Both of these answers came from RAF Aircrew who were flying for the Royal Navy at the time of the incident.
HMS Victorious (801 Squadron) was not expected to stop at Malta whilst on its way home from the Far East but the 6 Day War broke out days after it exited the Canal Zone and it was required to stand by in case it was needed to evacuate UK civilians caught up in the action.
There is no entry in the HMS Victorious Commissioning Book for this; it had probably already gone off to print with no one onboard expecting to be caught up in a war situation. Some of the ships company who were getting married had to be flown home early from Malta. Eventually Victorious was relieved by another carrier (probably HMS Bulwark).
Victorious left Aden for the Med on 20th May 1967. After transiting the Suez Canal we expected to return direct to the UK but were ordered to remain in the Med, in the vicinity of Malta, in view of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Arab/Israeli area.
We were doing a lot of 2 inch RP work, along with the Vixens, and we had 2 aircraft in tanker fit, one of which was XV155. It did indeed have a hose stuck out and did divert to Luqa. After it was fixed, I was flown ashore with Lt Jock Turnbull in a Wessex to bring the aircraft back on board, for my first night DL (Deck Landing). My logbook reveals the date as 25th May 1967.
There was no fleet tanker in the Med to top up the ship so we went into Valletta for a refuel the very morning that the '67 Arab/Israeli war broke out. We were all told that we would be sailing that evening, so we all got quite excited, but in the event sailing was cancelled and we stayed in Grand Harbour for the entire 6 day war. We finally left Malta on 12th June and disembarked to RNAS Lossiemouth on 13th. Again I flew XV155, with one of our engineers in the back.
|DATE ||AIRCRAFT ||SQDN ||SERIAL ||NOTES|
|13.05.67 ||B. Beverly ||  ||XB284 ||Landed w/feathered engine. |
|05.07.67 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||13 ||XH177 ||Declared a write off at Luqa, after cracks were discovered in the main wing spar.|
|10.07.67 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||WJ328 ||Pilot experienced severe vibrations from tail unit on a Benina-Luqa flight. Despite calling a PAN call and preparing for a possible ditching, the aircraft landed safely at Luqa. Aircraft remained u/s at Luqa until end of August. Previously dated as 08.67, and listed as “broken up, airport fire dump between 67-68”.|
|12.07.67 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||  ||XH135 ||c/s KWO06. Unable to lower nose wheel. Runway covered with foam, to reduce danger of fire. Aircraft landed on main undercarriage. No injuries. |
|23.08.67 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||WD486 ||Aircraft experience boost fluctuations on leaving Malta. Engine was shut down and feathered, the pilot returning to Luqa. Departure date unknown.|
|24.08.67 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||TG551 ||Pilot had to use maximum aileron trim on landing at Luqa. During a test flight the following day, he also suffered an engine failure due to a fractured boost pipe. Aircraft departed on 8th Sept. |
| 04.10.67 ||HP Hastings ||70 ||TG563 ||Arrived the previous day from Akrotiri on delivery to Abingdon for scrapping. Aborted take-off from Luqa due to technical problems. After repairs and departure on the 6th, the aircraft suffered from uncontrollable bus bar voltage, but continued for the UK. |
| __.10.67 ||EE Lightning ||5 ||  ||Aircraft had left Malta at the end of an ACP detachment*. Pilot broke probe during refuelling, and was forced to return to Luqa. Departure from Malta unknown.|
* ACP had been between 06 – 25/26 October.
|06.02.68 ||EE Lightning F.6 ||23 ||XR727/F ||Equipped with overwing fuel tanks. These three aircraft were previously listed in the Lightning ACP page.|
|06.02.68 ||EE Lightning F.6 ||23 ||_____/E ||Four aircraft originally left Leuchars on 06.02.68 on detachment to El Adem, Libya. Of the two reserve tankers accompanying the Lightnings, one had to divert with problems. The second reserve tanker remained with the formation, but on seeing things were proceeding smoothly, departed. Shortly after his departure, one Lightning developed refuelling problems, and diverted to Waddington. |
The remaining tanker and three Lightings continued towards Libya, but had to divert to RAF Luqa because of bad weather over El Adem.
On the 7th, the three aircraft were to depart, but one aircraft was unable to start, remaining at Luqa. The other two took off to rendezvous with Victor K1A XH650, which was to refuel them to Libya. Also with the tanker was the Lightning which had diverted to Waddington.
After escorting the Lightnings to Libya, XH650 turned round to head back to the UK. It made an air-to-air refuelling sortie with Victor K1A XH558 (which had taken off from RAF Luqa) and continued to the UK. XH558 returned to Luqa, and remained here until the 9th, when it escorted the 4th Lightning to Libya.
These two aircraft have been confirmed from the notes of my colleague, Godfrey Mangion.
|06.02.68 ||EE Lightning F.6 ||23 ||  || |
|26.02.68 ||Av. Vulcan B.2 ||35 ||XM646 ||Aircraft was part of a detachment on Exercise “Sunspot”. Aborted take-off due to a fire warning indicator, taxied to dispersal w/fire engine escort. Another aborted take-off on 29th February due to a brake unit leak again with a fire engine escort. |
|28.02.68 ||  ||  ||  ||All flying by Vulcans on exercise Sunspot cancelled due to weather conditions.|
|19.03.68 ||EE Canberra B.16 ||  ||  ||Emergency landing, cause unknown. Escorted by a Canberra T.4.|
|__.04.68 ||EE Canberra ||  ||  ||Aircraft was participating in an exercise held at Malta, when sortie had to be abandoned due to a crew member suffering from severe toothache. The newspaper report was dated Saturday, 27.04.68.|
|17.08.68 ||NA F-100 ||US AF ||0-52815 ||Engine shut down in flight, glided for a landing on runway 06 at Luqa, overshot runway, went through perimeter fence, crossed public road immediately outside airport perimeter, and ended up in a field approximately 15 feet below road level. Pilot visited Malta in the mid-eighties. |
I received the following information from Gr. Capt. D. Bernard, last Station Commander of RAF Hal-Far.
The aircraft was en-route from Wheelus Air Force Base (Libya) to the UK and suffered and engine failure. Two attempts were made to re-light without success and the pilot declared an emergency Mayday call electing to divert to RAF Luqa. The Ram Air Turbine (RAT) was deployed but suffered failure so the pilot used the emergency compressed air system to lower the undercarriage. He was advised by Luqa Local ATC that runway 24 was available and that the barrier had been deployed. However, his dead-stick glide slope gave him no option but to land downwind.
Without the RAT to provide the hydraulic pressure he had no braking system and crossed the airfield boundary fence, a low stone wall, the main road and another stone wall before coming to rest some 8 metres beyond the main road. There was a strong smell of aviation (Jet A4/AVTUR) fuel and I left my car on the road (I was wearing RAF uniform) to see the pilot exiting the cockpit and calmly putting the ejection seat safety pins in place.
We both left the aircraft as Crash 1 arrived followed by the remainder of the airfield crash vehicles and an ambulance. The USAF pilot suffered an injured leg and remained at RAF Luqa for some 5 days, living in the officers’ Mess, which was located less than 100 metres from where his aircraft came to rest! We enjoyed many Cisk lagers listening to the pilot’s account of the incident, which was found to have been caused by a technical failure.
The aircraft was craned away from the site after having been guarded by the local MoD Police for some 7 days.
|26.08.68 ||EE Canberra B.(I)6 ||249 ||WT369 ||Aircraft suffered a port u/c collapse on landing Luqa whilst on detachment to Luqa during runway repairs at Akrotiri. The aircraft swung off the runway, being declared Cat 5 and scrapped locally. Noted being scrapped at 137 MU, Safi on 15.11.68|
|30.10.68 ||V. Valletta ||  ||VW856 ||Being scraped at 137 MU, Safi.|
|18.11.68 ||McD F-4J Phantom ||VF-41 ||155507/106/AG ||Arrived with two A-4C Skyhawks from the USS Independence. Blew port tyre on landing.|
|07.01.69 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||13 ||XH164/F ||Crashed near Addolorata Cemetery whilst trying to land at RAF Luqa. Two fatalities. The aircraft was on the approach passing Grand Harbour to runway 24 whilst practicing asymmetric approaches (with one engine set at flight idle). The aircraft entered an uncontrollable roll to starboard as the airspeed was reduced and flaps were selected. Neither crew ejected and both crew members were killed as the aircraft exploded on impact. There was little in the way of recognisable airframe or engine components. Information courtesy of Gr. Cpt. David Bernard.|
| __.02.69 ||AW Argosy ||70 ||XN818 ||Delayed for a week at Hal-Far due to a failure of the starboard wing de-icing mat. The aircraft was being ferried from Akrotiri, where it left on the 14th, and landed in the UK at RAF Thorney Island on the 21st.|
|25.03.69 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||13 ||XH130/A ||Crashed in a field at Safi, whilst in the circuit for a landing at RAF Hal-Far on arrival from Cyprus. Crew ejected but were killed. (See accident report below.)|
See additional remarks at end of accident report.
Accident Report – Canberra PR.9 XH130/A
About the above accident, I received the following e-mail.
The Canberra that crashed at Safi was on dog leg for Luqa not Hal Far which had become non-operational. I was on the crash crew that attended this incident and was first on scene with the crash 1 land rover. I also attended the incident in the cemetery. (Webmaster’s note: This would be the crash of Canberra XH164 on 7th January ’69.)
I contacted my colleague, John Visanich, for his input about this matter.
. . . . . ever since the incident itself, I was under the belief that the aircraft was on finals to Hal Far and not downwind or base leg for Luqa. I have the Times of Malta cutting for 26 March 1969 which says that the aircraft "was preparing to land at Hal Far". My diary says "on approach to Hal Far", although most probably I got this from the Times report. I never visited this crash site as my only mode of transport at that time was my bicycle and I had no idea where the aircraft came to grief, an area known as "Ta' Hlantun", l/o Safi.
There are also these facts to consider:-
Hal Far became fully operational again on 12 January 1969 and Luqa officially closed for runway 24-06 resurfacing on 13 January 1969.
Luqa officially re-opened on 29 March 1969 when a Capitol DC-8 transferred from Hal Far and made the first landing on the newly re-surfaced R/W 24. I have a Times of Malta cutting with a photo of this aircraft landing, taken from the old control tower near Park 1.
However, in the background of this same photo one can see a Shackleton MR.3 in 203 Sqdn's dispersal, meaning that R/W 32-14 (the old short one) could have been used before R/W 24 was re-opened.
So on 25 March 1969, Hal Far was far from "non-operational".
The area I mentioned, "Ta' Hlantun" is directly on the approach to runway 13 at Hal Far, but it can just as easily be overflown by an aircraft on base leg to runway 32 or downwind for runway 24 at Luqa.
So, could we have been wrong for all those years, thinking the aircraft was heading for Hal-Far when it was landing at Luqa?
The following facts should be taken into account.
i) In those days, r/w 32/14 cut across r/w 24/06, and when seen from the air, the runways were in the shape of a widened ‘X’. The intersection, however, wasn’t exactly in the middle, but much closer to the r/w 24 threshold.
ii) If wind direction and velocity were strong enough, a Canberra could easily have landed on r/w 32, and come to a stop before the runways’ intersection mentioned above.
iii) In the event of an aborted take-off, it is quite possible, if not practically a certainty, that the pilot would have had to “cut across” the newly resurfaced 24/06.
iv) However, if the resurfacing works had started from the 24 threshold end, then the works would have advanced well past the intersection, and would have been quite close to the 06 end of the runway.
v) Given that the runway was in use again by the 29th, then by the day of the accident, the 25th, resurfacing works would have been practically complete.
vi) As the aircraft was arriving from Cyprus, then a straight-in landing for r/w 31 at Hal-Far would have been the preferred option. If it was in the circuit for r/w 13, then it could mean one of two things. One was that there was traffic from Europe on a straight in for r/w 13, so that the Canberra pilot had no choice, but to do the same. Or, two, that the wind was strong enough to force the use of that runway. To land on r/w 32 at RAF Luqa would have meant landing downwind, i.e. with the wind blowing from behind the aircraft. As a rule, pilots prefer to land into the wind, as this helps to slow down the aircraft.
vii) Runway 24/06 had a safety barrier at each end, so that fighter-type aircraft would be prevented from going past the perimeter fence onto the road outside the airfield, but I’m not sure that 32/14 had such a barrier.
viii) If the airport authorities were adamant about not using 24/06 before the 29th, then, would it have made sense to keep an aircraft grounded for four days?
ix) In his reply, John mentioned that in the photo of the DC-8 landing, a 203 squadron Shackleton appears in the background. This squadron had arrived the previous January, and was initially based at Hal-Far. Could this Shackleton have landed earlier in the day, rather than in the previous days using r/w 32/14?
Given the above, and also the fact that this person had also attended the January crash of a Canberra which was on the approach to Luqa, then it is possible that he may have confused the final destination of the aircraft.
Barring new information, we still have to assume that the aircraft was in fact, on the approach to Hal-Far. Perhaps some-one who worked in the control tower could provide the final confirmation of the aircraft’s actual airfield?
From Captain Bryn Wayt (ex-203 Shackelton skipper, Nimrod pilot, Sqn FSO, CAA Approved Safety Instructor 20,000+ flying hours) comes the following.
I'm afraid I cannot recall when the switch back to Luqa took place officially - I would doubt if anybody had a go landing on R/W 32 when Luqa was officially closed - a severe bollocking would be had.
That PR9 would not in my opinion have been making any attempt to land a LUQA - he would have been briefed prior T/O from Cyprus about the closure of LUQA airfield for that resurfacing work. I would strongly suggest the intention was to land at HAL FAR and not LUQA as the fireman had intimated.
Any circuit to land by that most maneuverable aircraft could be interpreted by some (Crash 1) as on a "dog leg" to LUQA. There's no such phrase in the MIL world when doing a circuit to call any part of it a "dog-leg". The nearest one could come to that was, "base leg" which was 90 degrees (left or right) to the final approach track.
Canberra's were more inclined to do a continuous descending turn from the end of the "downwind leg" and then roll out on 'short finals' on the centre-line, at about 500 feet AGL or less depending how long the "downwind" leg was flown and how tight the pilot made the turn ("turning finals") from the end of the "downwind" leg.
That was the standard "fighter" style approach, i.e. wasting no time doing a "base leg" (or dog-leg as some might think to describe it). Some websites report that XH130 rolled to port and dived in vertically - lots of talk of a control snag. The poor guys had little time/height to allow a safe ejection.
From the description provided by Captain Wayt, I think we can safely conclude that the Canberra was in fact destined for Hal-Far, and not Luqa.
I have received the following information from Gr. Cpt. David Bernard, last Station Commander of RAF Hal-Far.
This accident also occurred when the aircraft was about a mile from touchdown on runway 31. The aircraft had selected flaps down, reduced to approach speed then rolled to port and both pilot and navigator ejected outside the ejection envelope. The pilot hit a stone wall immediately following seat separation and the parachute streamed but did not have time to inflate. The navigator ejected immediately following the pilot, remained in the seat and impacted the roof a stone stable occupied by horse or mule, which was also killed on impact. This aircraft was one of many returning from a long exercise held in Turkey. The accident was made even more sad by the presence of all families of the crews returning, who witnessed the accident.
I have received the following information from Greg Sheldon.
I can categorically state that the aircraft was heading for Hal Far as I was waiting to see it in. I watched the aircraft turning finals and at the point where you would expect it to roll out on its final approach, the wing rolled over and it dived into the ground.
I saw the crew eject about three quarters of the way around the first spin, but they were too low for the parachutes to deploy. I reported the crash to the boss, Sqdn Ldr (Jacko) Jackson, who’s first question was “Did you see any parachutes?”
|DATE ||AIRCRAFT ||SQDN ||SERIAL ||NOTES|
|__.05.69 ||N. F-5B ||R. Libyan AF ||21278 ||One of four aircraft on delivery to Libya. This particular example burst a tyre. Spares were delivered by a RLAF C-47, 016163.|
|13.06.69 ||HS Argosy ||114 ||XN852 ||Aircraft had departed RAF Benson on the 10th, landing the same day at Luqa. Departed for Akrotiri the following day, returning on the 12th. Departed Malta on the 13th, when a wing-stowed dingy came loose, hitting the tail plane and buckling the elevators, forcing its return to Luqa. Departure date unknown. Cause of incident was previously listed as “Wing hatch torn off in flight, damaging the tail.”|
|16.07.69 ||McD F-4 Phantom FGR.2 ||6 ||XV403 ||Arr on 15 July with XV425, the first two RAF Phantoms to be seen in Malta. Without squadron markings. Departed on the 16th, but lost canopy in flight and returned to RAF Luqa. Left on the 22nd. XV425 continued to El Adem, Libya, returning the following day, departing for Coningsby on the 18th.|
|05.07.69 ||A. Vulcan ||  ||  ||Malta Air Traffic Control received a Sarbe distress signal. Calls by ATC on 243MHz weren’t replied. SAR crew were called and about to take off, when it was realised the distress signal was coming from an accidentally-triggered life jacket on board a Vulcan at the airport.|
|09.08.69 ||EE Canberra PR.9 ||39 ||  ||Caught in thunderstorm over Sicily en route to Malta. Damage to canopy, fuel tanks and wing leading edges. Landed safely, no injuries.|
|08.09.69 ||A. Shackleton ||203 ||XF708 ||Aircraft was on a mandatory pilot training sortie, when the no. 4 engine forward prop flew off, damaging both the second prop and the rear fuselage roof. Engine hung from the wing by 20 degrees. Aircraft was over the sea at the time of incident. A safe three-engined landing was made at RAF Luqa.|
|22.09.69 ||McD F-4 FGR.2 ||2 ||XV436 ||2 Squadron had arrived from RAF Coningsby en route to RAF Akrotiri for an APC detachment. Squadron arrived and departed the same day, but XV436 refused to start, departing on the 25th. The ten aircraft again routed via Luqa on 13th October on their return to Coningsby. In alpha-numeric order, the remaining nine Phantoms were XV403, XV418, XV420, XV425, XV429, XV437, XV442, XT897 & XT914.|
|23.09.69 ||K. H-2 Seasprite ||  ||150172/56/HT ||Based on the USS Galveston. Made an emergency landing on shore. Most probably repaired on site. Helicopter was participating in airlifting crew from the tanker Angel Gabriel, which had run aground at Il-Gzira Point, limits of Marsascala due to a severe north-easterly gale. See Eyewitness Report at bottom of page.|
|10.11.69 ||A. Shackleton ||120 ||  ||Aircraft lost an engine in flight, inbound to Malta from Sharjah via Luxor, Egypt. Captain decided not to divert to RAF El Adam in Libya because of the political situation there, but continue to Malta. A test flight on the 12th following an engine change, with the aircraft departing on the 13th.|
I received the following information from Mr. Colin Dawe.
I was at the scene in a RAF Police Landrover out from RAF Luqa, as I remember I had the radio link with my police section who in turn were keeping ATC at RAF Luqa advised by land-line of the rescue. Not sure how many of the ship-wreck crew got ashore and how, but this American helicopter played a large role in the rescue. I seem to remember an American 'helicopter' carrier was in the harbour (Valletta) at the time.
Anyway as the last persons were being taken off the vessel an extra ordinary large wave hit the side of the vessel and literally covered the helicopter in the wash. As the wave dropped away the aircraft seemed to 'cough' and had to 'autogyro' (no engine!) on to the rocks and stop - it was definitely a 'Cat 3' insurance job and was not going to fly off as it was! I believe the crew were OK but of course they lost communication with their base. Which meant my RAF Police radio nearly melted with the panic traffic as everybody and his mother wanted to know what was happening.
And so, my chances of getting away back to base for warm clothing and a warm drink were temporarily scuppered. I can recall at least two Maltese Civilian Police in my Landrover, sheltering from the weather at the time.