21 May 2024 Military Aviation » Accidents - Military » 1960 - 1969  


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.


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!'
09.02.60 V. Valletta Malta Communications Flight VX574 Aircraft departed at 07:30hrs on a VIP flight to Cyprus, but was forced back by engine trouble, landing back at Ta Qali at 10:30. A 15-minute air test at 13:00, followed by a departure at 14:00hrs.
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 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.
25.03.60 Gl. Meteors MC&TTF WG964 Aircraft, in formation with WH401, flew to Cyprus on the 23rd. Their return from Akrotiri on this day was delayed by 24 hours due to a strong Westerly jet stream in the Eastern Mediterranean.
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. 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. 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 a violent engine overspeed caused by suspected clutch failure. The three crew were rescued by a helicopter from Hal Far.

c/n WA165. The helicopter was operating off HMS Ark Royal.
25.05.60 F. Firefly U.9 drone. 728B WB245/592 Crashed during take-off from Hal-Far.
25.05.60 F. Firefly U.9 VT470/591/HF 728B c/n F.8354. Destroyed (by missile or anti-aircraft gunnery practice unknown) and crashed into the sea off Hal Far, Malta. Formally Struck Off Charge 26.08.60 as Cat. ZZ. (Information courtesy of the Aviation Safety Network.)
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.
17.06.60 V. Valiant B.1 7 WZ366 Cat.3 damage to undercarriage doors and flaps. Repairs at Safi MU. Departed on 12.08.60.
25.06.60 EE Canberra B(I)8   WT342 Brake pressure fall when flying at altitude. The aircraft was diverted from Luqa to Wheelus AFB as that base a 3,000 (2743.2mtr) yard long runway. The pressure gauge started rising back to normal during the descent, caused by air in the instrument.
09.08.60 Gl. Meteor U.15 drone 728B RA387/658 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship. gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”
09.08.60 EE Canberra PR.3 39 WE135 Port undercarriage remained retracted during continuation training at Luqa. Despite all attempts, the wheel remained “up”, and the pilot was forced to perform an emergency landing at Ta Qali airfield.
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 Ship gunners failed to shoot it down. Aircraft crashed during landing at Hal-Far, without tail hook being lowered, and ran off the end of the runway. Undercarriage collapsed, and aircraft deemed damaged beyond economic repair. Formally Struck Off Charge as Cat. ZZ on 30.08.60. (Information courtesy of the Aviation Safety Network.)
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. Temporary repairs at Safi, and aircraft flown to the UK, Cat.4.
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 WB374/595/HF c/n F8579. Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from HMS Girdle Ness.

Aviation Safety Network gives cause of destruction as being by a Sea Slug Surface-to-Air missile.
17.10.60 V. Valetta Malta Communication Flight VX574 Used for VIP flights. At the start of a major servicing, extensive corrosion was discovered in the rear fuselage due to leakages from the toilet compartment. A VIP DC-3 to be ferried as a temporary replacement.
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.
07.11.60 Gl. Meteor MC&TTF WH402 Aircraft had gotten airborne from Ta Qali with Meteors WG964 & WH401, for a formation flypast during the A.O.C.’s annual inspection. Pilot heard a loud bang, and was back on the runway after three minutes. The remaining two Meteors continued with the flypast.
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.
14.12.60 Gl. Meteor U.15 728B VW258 Delivered to 728B squadron on 19.10.60. Shot down by missile from RN ship.
16.12.60 EE Canberra PR.3 39 WE135 Training flight from Malta to RAF Wildernath, Germany, landing from a GCA approach in marginal weather conditions. Both main tyres burst, the aircraft, the aircraft swinging off the runway, the port wheel oleo collapsed. Cat.3 damage, no injuries.
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.
09.03.61 Gl. Meteor 7 MC&TTF WG964 Aircraft lost brake pressure as it was taxying out of the squadron dispersal and ran into a stationary tractor, damaging the engine cowling.
16.03.61 EE Canberra x2 These two aircraft diverted to RAF Ta Qali because of a runway obstruction at Luqa.
18.03.61 EE Canberra     c/s MPRHF. Burst tires on landing runway 24 at RAF Luqa.
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.
27.04.61 Gl. Meteor F.8 MC & TTF WH401 Aircraft burst a tyre during its take-off run. No injuries to pilot, but aircraft suffered Cat.2 damage.
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 WS115/574/HF Port wheel bay caught fire during start-up. Struck off charge as Cat.5(c) 04.08.61 at Hal Far, used as a spares source.

Information courtesy of the Aviation Safety Network.
06.07.61 EE Canberra PR.3 39 WE173 Crashed at RAF Wyton when on a navigational exercise, no injuries. Cat.4. Taken off 39 sqd charge.
13.07.61 Av. Shackleton Mk.2 210 WL797 Mainplane and aileron damage in MT accident. Cat.2 repairs with assistance from Safi, completed on the 29th.
17.07.61 V. Valetta C.1 MC & TTF VW831 Aircraft burst a tyre on the runway at Ta Qali.
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 bale 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 WH861 Emergency landing on with starboard wheel up. Repairs concluded on 16.11.61.
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.

He recalls:

"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."

Jerry recalls:

"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.


25.10.61 H. Hunter   XF521 Aircraft was in transit to Cyprus, but suffered from unknown Cat.3 damage at Luqa. Departed back to the UK on 22.11.61.
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.
20.11.61 Gl. Meteor MC&TTF WH401 Starboard tyre burst when the aircraft was stationary on the ASP. With the port tyre having also burst when being towed on the 15th, the aircraft was grounded for investigation. Main wheel tires changed to nylon.
23.11.61 F. Firefly U.9 drone 728B VT413/597/HF c/n F8313. Shot down by a Scimitar from HMS Centaur.
23.11.61 F. Firefly U.9 drone 728B VT430/596/HF c/n F8330. Shot down by a Sea Vixen from HMS Ark Royal.
27.11.61 F. Firefly U.9 drone 728B WB391/598/HF c/n F8588. 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.
08.03.62 Av. Vulcan 101 XH479 Aircraft was conducting a refuelling exercise over Malta. Crew experienced severe “splashing”, breaking the probe in the process. With insufficient fuel for a return to base and a diversion, he landed in Malta. Departed on the 10th.
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.
19.05.62 Canberra c/s MPMNN. Crew mistakenly landed at Ta Qali instead of Luqa.
04.06.62 V. Varsity c/s MPTFD. Aircraft burst a tyre during taxying out for departure from RAF Ta Qali. Departure date unknown.

This was one of seven aircraft that had arrived on a navigational exercise from RAF stations Stradishall & Topcliffe the previous Friday, the 1st.
04.07.62 Gl. Meteor Mk. 7   WG964 Fatigue life expired. Aircraft was allowed enough time for a one-time flight from RAF Ta’ Qali to Safi.
09.07.62 Av. Shackleton 38 WL758 Unspecified damage to aircraft.
01.08.62 EE Canberra PR.3 39 WE139 Received Cat.3 damage due to unknown cause/s. Returned to the squadron a month later.
27.08.62 Gl. Meteor     Aircraft operated by RN. After landing at Luqa, pilot reported that observed had bailed out after aircraft hit mast of RN ship. One RN helicopter, 2 USMC helicopters, five RN ships, a RAF Rescue & Target Towing Launch and 38 squadron Shackleton participated in the SAR mission. The search was abandoned at dusk after consultation with the Royal Navy.
28.08.62 Av. Vulcan 50 XH506 Diverted to Luqa for unknown reasons. Departed on the 29th.
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.
26.09.62 Varsity   WF369 Suffered fire damage after take-off from Ta Qali. Eventually departed Malta on 21.12.62 after completion of repairs.
25.10.62 Av. Vulcan 50 XH483 Damage to starboard undercarriage after a tractor towing a trolley, collided with the aircraft. Repaired by MU at Safi, departing on 01.11.62. Squadron was at Luqa for a Sunspot detachment.
01.11.62 EE Canberra B(I)8 16 XM275 Delayed at Luqa for 24 hours due to fog at its base in Germany at RAF Laarbruch.
23.11.62 V. Varsity One of four similar aircraft on a navigational flight form RAF Topcliffe. This unknown aircraft diverted to Luqa with technical problems, landing on one engine. Departure date unknown.
14.01.63 EE Canberra PR.9 39 XH167 Made a nose wheel-up landing.
25.01.63 V. Valiant     Three Valiant tankers arrived at RAF Luqa on 09.01.63 to provide inflight refuelling to Javelin fighters on a fighter reinforcement exercise (Operation Canterlup) to the Far East. The start of the exercise had already been delayed by 2 days because of bad weather conditions in the United Kingdom.

The first refuelling of the fighters began on the 10th. The return flights started on the 25th and the first section of 3 Javelins with a Valiant tanker was forced to land at Luqa because of bad weather in the UK. Another section of three Javelins was diverted into Luqa on the 29th.

It is assumed that the first section remained at Luqa, as the Air Headquarters Malta ORB states that “. . . the complete force returned to the UK by the scheduled date of 31st.”
25.01.63 Gl. Javelin     Diverted into Luqa with the above tanker.
29.01.63 V. Valiant     As above.
29.01.63 Gl. Javelin     As above.
12.02.63 V. Varsity No. 1 Air Navigational School   8 Varsities had arrived on a navigational exercise from RAF Stradishall on the 8th. Bad weather delayed the departure of these aircraft until the 14th.
25.02.63 V. Valetta MC&TTF VX574 Took off on a training flight to Libya but was forced to return to Luqa after ten minutes after trouble with the starboard engine, which was shut down.
12.03.63 V. Valiant 214 XD858 The winching mechanism on the aircraft failed to operate properly, and this led to an attempt to jettison the air-to-air refueling hose over Ta’ Qali airfield. Unfortunately, the hose fell on private property, half a mile (0.8 kms) from the airfield.
25-28.03.63 EE Canberra PR.9 39 XH176 Sustained unknown damage between these dates.
29.03.63 EE Lightning x2 111   Four aircraft arrived on 18.03.63, and were scheduled to return to the UK on this day. Two Lightnings were delayed by unknown issues, and didn’t depart until 1st April.
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, the pilot asking for political asylum. Until the fate of the aircraft became known, the crew of Shackleton WR956, 38 squadron, were asked to assist in searching for the aircraft.
22.05.64 EE Canberra PR.7 58 WT512 Aircraft was on the way to RAF El Adem but forced to divert to Malta due to minor technical problems. Departed Luqa on the same day after five hours.
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.
18.11.64 V. Valetta MC&TTF VX539 Flew to Bari and Naples on the 16th, but was delayed at Naples for thirty hours by an unserviceable C.S.U. control linkage. It eventually retuned on the 19th.
05.12.64 EE Canberra 14   Aircraft was returning to Germany from Idris. Diverted to Malta due to pilot sickness.
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.
28.01.65 Av. Shackleton   WL758 Landed with tail wheel retracted, Cat.2 damage to rudders, tail wheel doors and camera cupola.
20.04.65 V. Valetta MC&TTF VX539 Departed on a training flight to RAF Northolt via Nice. Shortly after take-off, the port life raft cover was observed to lift at the rear end, forcing the crew to return to Luqa. They took off again for Nice three hours later, but were too late to land at Northolt, and diverted to Lyneham.
02.06.65 EE Canberra T.4 39 WT481/L The aircraft took off for an instrument flying training sortie with an Instrument rating examiner, squadron pilot and navigator. They climbed to 40,000 ft., later being cleared to descend to 20,000 ft. Having acknowledged this clearance, the pilot was heard issuing a brief mayday call.

Crashed in sea 35 miles SW of Malta, with three fatalities. Search & Rescue missions by 38 squadron Shackletons, 39 squadron Canberras, Sea Prince and Whirlwind from Hal Far, aircraft from HMS Centaur, and HC-97 aircraft from the 58th Air Rescue Squadron, Wheelus AFB, Libya. Marine craft from MCU located debris from the aircraft.

From the fragmented nature of the wreckage recovered, the Board of Inquiry found that, in all probability, the aircraft had plunged into the sea at high speed.Although the evidence was circumstantial, the most probable cause of the accident was thought to be a loss of control during instrument flying. The weather was excellent at the time of the accident.
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.
25.08.65 V. Valetta MC&TTF VX539 Aircraft turned back from a flight to Nicosia with a technical fault. Departed after 3.5 hours.
16.09.65 EE Canberra PR.9 39   Aircraft blocked runway for approx. 2 hours after suffering undercarriage problems.
22.10.65 HP Victor     Aircraft was refuelling two Lightnings from RAF Akrotiri to the UK. Due to deteriorating landing conditions at Malta, the formation was forced to divert to Sigonella. It was the first time that RAF aircraft had diverted to Sigonella for real, other than for practice.
13.12.65 Av. Vulcan Mk. 1A 50 XH480 Aircraft was on a flight to RAF Akrotiri but was forced to divert to Luqa due to bad weather over Cyprus. Returned to Waddington on the 14th.
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.
29.01.66 V. Valetta Malta Communication Flight VW856 A sports team, which had been flown to Akrotiri Cyprus on the 26th, were being flown back to Malta via El Adem, Libya. Shortly after getting airborne from Libya, the aircraft was struck by Lightning, but continued towards Malta without further incident. The aircraft was later declared u/s.
02.02.66 EE Canberra PR.7 58 WH796 Crew were on a navigational “Lone Ranger” exercise to Luqa. Aircraft suffered from a fractured hydraulic pipe, departing Luqa on the 5th.
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 05.07.67 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.
21.04.66 EE Canberra B (I)8 16   Canopy separated as aircraft was landing at Luqa.
01-09.07.66       A depression in runway 24/06, 600 yards from the 06 threshold, was noted in October 1965. The depression, nearly the width of the runway, got worst, and in February 1966 more extensive damage was noted. Meetings were held between 13-21 June to discuss the closure of the main runway.

On the 27th, the first 600 yards of 06 were closed for take-offs and landings, but full radar and lightning facilities were retained.

On the 30th, No. 13 & 39 squadrons were transferred to Hal-Far, but the QRA aircraft were retained at Luqa.

On 01 July, repairs started at 04:00Z, and completed by 09:00Z on the 09th.

24/06 was closed during the repair works, except between 00:30Z and 04:00Z when 2000 yards of r/w were available. A strike by asphalt mixing crews delayed the opening by two days.
09.08.66 EE Canberra     c/s 43. Burst a tyre on landing 24. r/w obstructed between 21:10Z till 22:50Z.
28.09.66 Av. Vulcan B.IA 44 XH498 Aircraft was grounded at Luqa due to hydraulic problems. Departed for the UK on 15.10.66.
__.10.66 EE Canberra     Struck by a Shell Company tanker,
__.10.66 EE Lightning x2 56   These 2 aircraft were meant to refuel on their way from the UK to Cyprus. Forced to divert to Luqa, when the Malta-based Victor tankers were unable to get airborne due to unservicablities.
06.10.66 EE Lightning F.3 XR719/D 56 Diverted to Istres due to technical problems, arriving at Luqa on the 9th.
06.10.66 EE Lightning F.3 XS456/A 56 Diverted to Istres due to technical problems, arriving at Luqa on the 9th.
11.10.66 Gl. Javelin FAW.9 29 XH888/S Squadron flew to Malta from Cyprus, via El Adem, Libya, for a Air Testing of Defences exercises on the 10th. This aircraft was forced back to El Adem by fuel problems, arriving a day late.
15.10.66 Fo. Gnat Red Arrows XR897 The team gave two displays on this date, and this aircraft suffered a bird strike during the second display, but recovered safely to Luqa.
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.
30.12.66 C-53 Italian AF MM61765/SM-13 c/s I-1765. Aircraft swung to the left during its take-off run from r/w 24, but managed to get airborne without any damage.
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.
05.01.67 EE Canberra PR.9 39   Brake trouble led to aircraft leaving the runway, but no, or no significant, damage.
18.01.67 EE Canberra PR.9 39 XH167 Aircraft aborted take-off run, after losing lost the canopy during its take-off run. Engaged the crash barrier at end of runway.Towed to its dispersal after its tyres were change.
24.01.67 Av. Shackleton MR.2 38 WG533/W Aircraft was photographed landing on three engines. (Information courtesy of Godfrey Mangion.)
29.01.67 B. Britannia     Aircraft arrived for a 10-day pilot training programme. Because of a dispute between the Maltese government and the British services, leading to the former not supplying duty-free fuel, the crew were forced to return to the UK on the 30th.
__.02.67 DH Sea Vixen     Aircraft burst a tyre on landing.
24.02.67 Gl. Javelin FAW.9 29 XH884/Q Put in reserve at Luqa on 08.11.66 with XH776/P but was transferred, along with XH884/Q, to Hal Far in Dec 66. SOC on 24.02.67 and was seen on the fire dump at Hal Far on 30.04.67. Reportedly the aircraft was towed over an inspection pit and the cover collapsed.
02.03.67 H. 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,
06.03.67 Gl. Javelin FAW.9 29 XH776/P Aircraft was passed from 29 sqdn, coded ‘P’ to the Luqa reserve on 08.11.66, but were transferred to Hal Far in Dec 66. It was declared Cat 5C on 06.03.67, having been dropped whilst being weighed. SOC on 23.05.67.

Air H.Q. Malta ORB gives the cause of accident as “engine starter disintegrating during a ground servicing check”.
19.04.67 H. 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.
16/17.05.67 McD F-4B VF-103 1408/110/103 Diverted from USS Saratoga owing to low fuel. One of these two Phantoms had a burst tyre. Still at RAF Luqa on the 18th.
16/17.05.67 McD F-4B VF-103 151501/208/AC Diverted from USS Saratoga.
16/17.05.67 D. A-1H Skyraider VA-176 139810/413/AC Diverted from USS Saratoga.
16/17.05.67 D. A-1H Skyraider VA-176   Diverted from USS Saratoga.
16/17.05.67 NA A-5 Vigilante US Navy   Three hours after the Phantom, this aircraft also diverted, bursting a tyre on landing 24.
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.
13.05.67 B. Beverly   XB284 Landed With a 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. s.o.c. 28.03.68, to Luqa dump.
12.07.67 EE Canberra PR.9   XH135 c/s KWO06. Unable to lower nose wheel. Runway covered with foam, to reduce risk of fire. Aircraft landed on main undercarriage. No injuries.
20.07.67 Gr. HU-16 58 Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron 0-15306 Lost an engine in flight, and began to lose height. Canberra in the circuit at Luqa was diverted to assist and guided it to Luqa.
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 APC detachment*. Pilot broke probe during refuelling, and was forced to return to Luqa. Departure from Malta unknown.

* APC had been between 06 – 25/26 October.
09.12.67 Av. Vulcan 9 XM610 Aircraft had been part of a detachment sent to RAF Tengah, Singapore. The crew departed on the 7th, routing via Gan, Muharraq, and Akrotiri. Forced to divert to Luqa for unknown reasons, departing for RAF Wittering on the 12th.
29.01.68 V. Valetta Malta Communication Flight VW856 A route check for a Flight member had to be terminated earlier than expected due to a suspected port oil gauge failure.
25.02.68 McD F-4D 50TFW Hahn 65-0685 Date when noted at Luqa. Diverted to Luqa due to low fuel levels.
25.02.68 McD F-4D 50TFW, Hahn 65-0739 As above.
25.02.68 McD F-4D 50TFW, Hahn 65-0756 As above.
06.02.68 EE Lightning F.6 23 XR725/A 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 XR727/F Equipped with overwing fuel tanks.
06.02.68 EE Lightning F.6 23 XS938/E  
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.
20.02.68 HP Victor B2/SR 543 XH672 Crew were on a round the world trip which had started on the 5th, going to Goose Bay (but diverted to Loring due to bad weather), McClellan, Hickam (undercarriage problems), Wake, Anderson, Tengah, Gan, Muharraq, and Akrotiri.

Departed for Wyton, but diverted to Luqa for unknown reasons, departing for the UK on the 21st.
28.02.68       All flying by Vulcans on exercise Sunspot cancelled due to weather conditions.
11.03.68 EE Canberra   WJ770 c/s MYPAL. Aircraft was number 2 in a two-ship formation, flying in fog over Calabria, Italy. Pilot was late in executing a turn and flew into a mountain, killing all three crewmen.

Aircraft had been with 249 squadron, but believed to have been transferred to No. 6 at the time.
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.
29.04.68 EE Canberra     Pilot unable to check with ground stations due to faulty radio as he was returning from a ”Dawn Patrol”* mission. Contact re-established as the aircraft was nearer to base.

* This was an annual major NATO exercise involving Mediterranean countries.
__.05.68 Av. Vulcan B.2   XL443 Crew arrived on the 7th on mission Lone Ranger 4108. Crew sickness prevented the crew from making a low level flight to Libya. Returned to RAF Scampton on the 10th.
13.05.68 Canberra PR.9   XH171 Unknown incident.
11.06.68 EE Canberra PR.9   XH137 Unknown accident.
02.07.68 Av. Shackleton   XF706 Unknown “taxying” incident.
__.07.68 AW Argosy     Shell civilian driver didn’t disconnect refuelling hose after completion of task.
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.
20.08.68       A signal on 243 Mhz was heard by aircraft on a compass heading of 330 degrees. A USN helicopter from the USS Sylvania traced the source to a parked aircraft on Park 2, Luqa Airport.
26.08.68 EE Canberra B.(I)6 249 WT369 c/s MPNZE. 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
__.09.68 EE Canberra 32   An (unknown) incident to an aircraft of a different squadron necessitated a complete inspection off all undercarriage units at the beginning of the month, and was partly responsible for the slow start to the Luqa detachment.
__.09.68 EE Canberra 32   En route to Luqa, one pilot experienced a total hydraulic failure, necessitating the use of the hydraulic hand pump to lower the undercarriage. Remainder of the flight was uneventful.
__.09.68 EE Canberra T.4 32   Crew took off for a simulated bombing at the Filfla range. Pilot he experienced a two-engine flame out. Re-lighting the engines failed, the pilot then decided to return to Luqa.

To quote form the squadron ORB: “During the approach a slight delay occurred when a PR.9 was somewhat slow in clearing the runway. The probable consequence of his tardiness were graphically described over the RT by Flt Lt Butterworth thus simulating the other aircraft to action. A uneventful touch down at 150 knots was made with good braking bringing the aircraft to a halt.”
__.09.68 EE Canberra 32   During a streamed take off as the No. 2 in the formation, the pilot experienced slip stream resulting in partial port engine failure. Pilot abandoned take-off and came to a halt with both brakes on fire, which were extinguished, and the aircraft towed back to its dispersal.
__.09.68 EE Canberra 32   Ten minutes after take-off, pilot experienced low oil pressure in the port engine. Shutting it down, the pilot made an uneventful asymmetric landing.
02.09.68 EE Lightning 111 XR715/E Pilot engaged barrier after landing on r/w 24. Aircraft suffered Cat. 3 damage. c/s Black Leader. Aircraft repaired at Luqa by a 60MU working party.
06.09.68 EE Canberra 39   Pilot reported a cockpit fire but managed a safe landing.
__.10.68 B. Britannia C.1   XM520 Unknown incident.
23.10.68 Av. Shackleton 42   Captain reported the nose wheel failing to lower due to hydraulic failure. Foam laid on runway, but nose wheel locked on touch down, the aircraft making a normal landing.
30.10.68 V. Valletta   VW856 Being scraped at 137 MU, Safi.
07.11.68 HP Victor B2/SR 543 XM718 When it rains, it pours!

Crew left Wyton on a ”Lone Ranger” navigational exercise on 22.10.69, landing at Bahrein. They arrived at Tengah on the 26th with a hydraulic problem. As soon as this problem was solved, the fuel gauges were found to be u/s, necessitating spares being flown in. Departed for Gan on 5th November, and for Bahrein on the 6th, the Artouste airborne auxiliary power unit failing during their departure.

This does not appear to have been serious, as they departed for Malta on the 7th, unfortunately with the failure of the No. 1 hydraulic pump. Crew departed for Wyton on the 10th.
13.11.68 HP Victor B2/SR 543 XM718 Undercarriage failed to retract after take-off. Aircraft was one of three participating in exercise Eden Apple
17.11.68 McD F-4J Phantom VF-41 155507/106/AG Diverted from the USS Independence. Blew port tyre on landing.
According to the RAF Luqa Operation Record Book, this was the day of the incident, not the 18th, which was when the inquiry was set up.
17.11.68 D. A-4C Skyhawk 149608/515/AG VSF-1 Diverted from the USS Independence. Departure date from Luqa unknown.
17.11.68 D. A-4C Skyhawk 149633 '307' 'AG' VA-76 Diverted from the USS Independence. Departure date from Luqa unknown.
17.11.68 D. A-4C Skyhawk 146455 VA-76 Diverted from the USS Independence. Departure date from Luqa unknown.
17.11.68 Gr. EA-3B Skywarrior   8 Diverted from the USS Independence. Departure date from Luqa unknown.
__.01.69 Av. Shackleton Mk.3 42 WR974 Unknown accident.
__.01.69 EE Canberra PR.9     Aircraft burst tyre on landing r/w 31, Hal-Far. No injuries.
__.01.69 EE Canberra   WH970 Pilot diverted to Sigonella with a port engine fire warning.
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.
17.01.69 HP Hastings   WJ327 Aircraft suffered damage to one of its propellers after a Shell refuelling tanker hit it at Hal-Far, but the driver was not held responsible for the incident.
__.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?”



09-10.04.69 VC-10     Diverted to Malta for unknown reasons.
__.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.
16.06.69 Av. Shackleton     Captain feathered an engine 30 miles from Malta, and issued a Pan call. Landed safely.
03.07.69 Canberra PR.9   XH170 Suffered engine failure at 90kts during take-off. No injuries.
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 Av. 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.
13.09.69 Av. Shackleton MR.2 204 WG555/K Aircraft landed with one engine shut down. (Information courtesy of Godfrey Mangion, from his Aviation MT Facebook page.)
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.

Eyewitness report

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.

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