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The Royal Air Force as seen by John Cooper

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Splashdown in the Mediterranean of Hastings TG613


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Of 152 Handley Page Hastings constructed, only two aircraft crashed/ditched into the sea, with no loss of life and no serious injuries. One aircraft a C-1 TG579 of 48 Squadron RAF Changi came to grief just off RAF Gan in the Maldives in 1960, this is well documented on other pages on this site. There appears to be very little known regarding the other Hastings a C-1 TG613 from 99 Squadron Madras Presidency Squadron from RAF Lyneham which met its end in the Mediterranean on 22nd July 1953 in somewhat dramatic style, making the TG579 episode look like a picnic in comparison!

TG613 had previously taken off from Lyneham en route to Castel Benito (Idris) in Libya with a Senior Engineering Officer, Air Commodore Moreshead and other staff from Transport Command Headquarters on board, a total of 9 passengers and 7 crew members, including an additional Flight Engineer plus two spare Hercules piston engines as replacements for two that had gone unserviceable on another Hastings stranded at RAF Habbaniya in Iraq, the aircraft was approaching its All Up Weight (AUW) of 80000lbs.with other cargo on board.

The SEO and his staff were on a visit to inspect Staging Posts and other Technical Units of the Middle and Far East Air Forces. The events that follow are bizarre to say the least as up to this accident Bristol Hercules engines had a habit of oil gulping with the loss of all oil through the breathing system but as each engine was dependent on oil from its own tank, the loss of more than one engine would be considered almost unheard of as oil unlike fuel could not be transferred from one tank to another. Most four engined aircraft were quite capable of flying on 3 engines with one propeller feathered putting the faulty engine at rest.

At 0700hrs GMT TG613 departed Castel Benito heading towards Cyprus on the second leg of its journey to cruise at 9000ft. At 0820hrs at a position 180 miles NNE of Castel Benito and 200 miles SE of Malta the two inner engines failed and both propellers were feathered, a radio distress message was transmitted at 0822hrs, the captain Flight Lieutenant Wright immediately changed course to head for Benina, Benghazi, Libya which was the next available airfield along the North African coast. Within four minutes of the first two engines failing, number one engine port outer failed and the propeller was feathered, there was no alternative but to ditch the aircraft in the sea as flying on one engine with a maximum AUW could not be sustained.

Whilst the crew remained in the cockpit area, the Navigator and spare Flight Engineer were ordered to the passenger compartment to prepare for ditching, whilst the crew continued to send Mayday messages, all available fuel was jettisoned to reduce the risk of fire and explosion. Passengers and crew all donned Mae Wests and each of the emergency exits were removed for quick escape purposes. Within eight minutes of first having diagnosed engine trouble the aircraft impacted the water where upon both wings and the tailplane were ripped off.

Somehow the Air Quartermaster, who was at the AQM station on the Flight Deck managed to scramble over the freight and like the other passengers were able to exit the aircraft through the port parachute door and fuselage hatches, whereupon the freight moved and jammed up against the door leading to the flight deck, the crew of two pilots, signaller and flight engineer vacated the cockpit by exiting through the astrodome hatch on the top of the fuselage. The order of evacuation was pilot, co-pilot, engineer and air signaller I understand that the Air Signaller a Flight Lieutenant Pearce was still connected by his communication lead and somehow this had wrapped around his neck and impeded his immediate exit. Bearing in mind that the aircraft had filled up with water almost immediately and from the time of impact to disappearing below the waves only 90 seconds had elapsed!

There are many similarities now regarding TG613 and TG579. A passenger threw a J4 dinghy that was stowed by the main door into the sea where the passengers and crew were. Fortunately, as the wings became detached from the fuselage the 4 wing dinghies inflated as they were designed to do and the passengers and crew made there way to these dinghies for safe refuge. Two of the wing dinghies became unusable, one having sustained a huge rip in the floor, whilst another had a leak from the air chamber. Three of the four wing dinghies were eventually retrieved, a roll call was organised within the dinghies and all 16 on board were accounted for, those that had suffered cuts and bruises were attended to with emergency medical equipment on board the dinghies.

Balers and sponges were used to remove the excess water from the dinghies and a radio transmitter was attempted to be erected via a kite but due to wind velocity below 7 knots this was not achieved.

Two twin engined Grumman SA-16A Albatross amphibian aircraft were dispatched from the large USAF Wheelus airbase near Tripoli in a search and rescue mission , this was the C Flight aircraft of the 7th Air Rescue Squadron. One aircraft arrived on the horizon at 1200hrs GMT and saw the discharge not of the two star red distress flares that had been fired but the smoke from the cartridges and flew over the dinghies, within a very short period of time this aircraft dropped a two way portable VHF radio by parachute. Contact between the Albatross and the survivors was established and they were advised that a destroyer HMS Barfleur had been dispatched from Malta to pick up the survivors.

The survivors were advised that the if the destroyer had not arrived by sundown , a Grumman Albatross would alight upon the water and pick them up rather than the possibility of losing sight of the dinghies in darkness. This appeared less likely as the swell was by this time 15-20 feet, a second Albatross arrived on the scene together with a USN Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune and a RAF Avro Lancaster carrying five Lindholme survival canisters, these were dropped nearby, later three of the five canisters were retrieved. Later a further Lancaster arrived on the scene with an Airborne Lifeboat but this was not dropped as a further Albatross managed to land at 1530hrs to pick up the survivors, they all stayed on board the Albatross until the arrival of HMS Barfleur, which was guided in by a further Lancaster discharging flares at 2200hrs when they were transferred to the destoyer. The Albatross however could not take off until the next morning due to the huge swell, in the meantime the destroyer stood by the Albatross overnight in case of a further emergency! The Albatross managed the extremely hazardous lift off to return to Wheelus AFB on the morning of the 23rd July. The destroyer returned to Malta with the survivors and arrived at 2100hrs, the survivors were all returned to RAF Lyneham by air on 25th July.

To summarise: From 9000ft to hitting the water eight minutes had elapsed, three engines had failed, the wings and tailplane were torn off, the freight shifted blocking the crews exit to the easier escape route through the passenger compartment, 90 seconds after impact the fuselage had disappeared below the waves. These guys were extremely lucky! In the case of TG579 we know that the aircraft was vacated within one minute, I recall being the third person out of the parachute door within 45 seconds and that was after I put a Mae West on!

Of the nine passenger seats on TG613 all were seats normally fitted to Avro York aircraft, when 613 impacted the water all nine seats broke free and ended up among the freight, thankfully all were rearward facing seats which undoubtedly saved those passengers from very serious injuries.

I havent seen the Form A1180 Official Accident Report on this incident but much of the above information was given to me by Chris Charland to whom I am deeply indebted. If there is anyone who can throw any light on to this crash please get in touch with me.

Technical problems:

Much information has come in regarding recycled oil that the RAF used in their aircraft engines at about this time, it is this that has given theories to engine oil gulping where the whole of the oil capacity within the oil tank is discharged through the engine breathers, eventually leading to no oil for lubrication purposes, friction builds up resulting in the loss of power from that engine. I have already mentioned that there is no way that oil could be transferred from one engine to another therefore in such circumstances that engine becomes isolated. It is known at about this time in the early 1950s that there was an ongoing problem with Bristol Hercules gulping oil, I can only recall one incident of this happening on a Hastings aircraft and the resultant mess was apparent for all to see!

On TG613 we know that both inboard engines were isolated and the propellers feathered, it is also thought that Number 1 engine had an overspeeding propeller and that too had to be feathered, it is also known that one Hastings crashed as a result of an overspeeding propeller, which flew off and hit the fuselage. It is hard to believe that three engines, independent of each other, should fail within a period of four minutes of the first such failure. Some analysts have stated that the engineering team were on board 613 to ascertain the problems of oil gulping first hand, well if this was the resultant cause, they then had first hand knowledge of this and ironically were the first passengers to lose at least three engines on a single leg of a journey flying in a Hastings and ending up in the sea!

In 1953 I had just turned 14 years of age, I was mad keen on flying in whatever aircraft I could go up in, my father Flight Sergeant Joe Cooper was stationed at RAF Lyneham and was in charge of Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF), and as long as I wore an Air Training Corps uniform I could fly in almost any type that wasnt leaving the shores of the UK. As the Handley Page Hastings aircraft was the dominant transport aircraft this would be the type I would often fly in. I recall the discussion my father had with me after TG613 crashed as it was still school holidays when my flying activities took place, and he asked me if I still wanted to fly in those aircraft? This was not a problem to me then, I also recall how after the Board of Inquiry had convened and the result was announced as to what caused this accident, well like all other RAF accidents this would have been subjected to the thirty year rule applying on all aircraft crashes and I recall him saying this was as a result of the wrong type of oil being put into the engine oil tanks at Castel Benito. As I recall the incident at that time some local labourer at CB filled up the engine oil tanks with Oil Mineral Detergent (OMD) this was a flushing oil used to thoroughly cleanse every working part of an internal combustion engine and was only used during major engine servicing. Detergent oil would rid the inner workings of all of the impurities within the engine, it was a cleansing agent and under pressure and heat would cause frothing and under prolonged use would overheat the engine and the oil would be exuded through the breathing system. Oil Mineral was the usual oil to be used, unfortunately in my time in the RAF (1956-1969) the oil bowsers were always painted an air force blue colour and the only difference to the two oils was shown on a white or yellow circle with the code OM(D)270 or OM270 and this is where the confusion arose.

If the wrong oil had been inserted into say two, three or maybe all four oil tanks then the effect would all be found at the same time, say 80 minutes after take-off from CB and all engines malfunctioning within a few minutes of each other which in fact was the case. After my drop in the ocean at RAF Gan in 1960 my father narrated the same story to me on my arrival home and so this has lived with me vividly for very nearly 50 years. I do not know what the Accident Report says about this oil but this is my theory and after all if this was kept under wraps under the 30-year rule who would be about today to dispute this theory.

Updated 9th October 2003 I have today received the Accident Report Form A1180 as kindly supplied from the RAF Museum at Hendon. There is scant information which follows:

Pilot Flight Lieutenant J C Wright * AFC Aged 32 holder of Master Green Instrument Rating Certificate

Co-Pilot Pilot Officer M B Geldart(? spelling) Aged 23 who according to the 1180 had not flown a Hastings as Co-Pilot previously.

 

Of the 14 people on board (The information from the RCAF Archives states 16 as there was a spare Flight Engineer on board! So here there is a discrepancy):

Casualties: 6 passengers including A/Cdr Moreshead slightly inj(ured)

3 Passengers & 5 other members of crew uninjured 

On the reverse of the Accident Record Card the only other wording is:

3 engines failed in flight - a/c ditched successfully - became submerged in approx 2 mins.

412:- Cause of engines failing not established. Some items of distress organisation criticised.

Remedial Action: Action by Command & AM (Air Ministry), taken(?) on items in distress organisation criticised by court - See Acct(???) file

A precise location for this accident is given as 3230N 1750E

This accident report, is like all others, is handwritten and is not completely legible.

*Updated 5th November 2003, Russell Wright the son of Flight Lietenant J C Wright has made contact to inform me that his father was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC) in the New Years Honours Awards of 1954.

Updated 27th December 2004

Walter Cockerell forwarded this account to me regarding the SAR rescue mission:


I was a signaller on the second Lancaster from Luqa and we dropped the
Lindholm canisters. The standard procedure at Luqa was to have one
Lancaster from 37 or 38 squadron on standby for SAR duties and this would
be fitted with an airborne lifeboat. On this particular morning the
first aircraft to take off for the search was the 38 squadron Lancaster
which was carrying the airborne lifeboat. As the survivors were safe in
a dinghy when the aircraft got to their position it was decided not to drop
the lifeboat so we took off from Luqa at 1005 in TX273 'Victor' of 38
squadron with the Lindholm gear and homed on to the first Lancaster.
When we got there we dropped the canisters, before the amphibian
touched down. At that time the sea looked too rough for it. One of the
cords connecting the canisters snagged on part of the aircraft and
broke and that was the reason that only three canisters were recovered.
Later the Albatross touched down with a tremendous splash
and disappeared in the spray. Looked as though it had sunk. Then it
reappeared and taxied up to the survivors and took them on board.
Having done that it called us on VHF to say that it was over its all up take
off weight and would have to wait for the destroyer and please tell them
not to come too close as they didn't want to be sunk. We stayed at the
site for some time until relieved by another Lancaster and passed the duty
destroyer on the way back to Malta. A most impressive sight at full
speed in quite a heavy sea.

 

 

 

 

I would love to hear from you if you have any comments you wish to make.

Patrick Duncan wrote on 30th June 2010
 
I was an Air/Sig on 47 Sqn in the briefing room at Lyneham about to depart on the 'Fayid Slip' on 20th July 1953. I recall a FltSgt (?) Nav arriving in a rush having been called out from his married quarter to take over from the original Nav who had gone sick. He had just acquired the necessary Air Almanacs to cover UK to Changi, quite a large bundle tied up with lashing tape.
From my log book I see we departed for Luqa at 1515hrs, obviously with the usual delay! We returned to Luqa from Fayid on 23rdJuly and I have memories of the NCO crew of 613 arriving in the Transit Mess, flying suits, hands and faces glowing bright orange from the fluorescine dye marker used in the life jackets. We had quite a party, there was always a large number of slip crews at Luqa whilst the slip service was operating. I said to the Nav that he need not have bothered to acquire all the Air Almanacs after all! He said his most vivid memory was of climbing into the dinghy to be confronted by the AirCmdr with his hat on and the 'scrambled Egg' on the peak glinting in the bright sunshine!
In addition to the 'gulping' problem, at the time the Hastings engines were also prone to 'coring' but this could be overcome by feathering the affected donk for a short time then restarting it. 613 lost oil pressure and temps off the clock, it would have resulted in fire if the engines were not feathered. The pilot did a great job and fully deserved the AFC. 
 
Updated 7th May 2011
 
My thanks to Carol Bergquist PhD who kindly sent this report in, Carol is the daughter of Squadron Leader F A Plinston who was on board TG613 when this accident happened 
 

SPLASHDOWN IN MEDITERRANEAN OF HASTINGS TG613

ACCOUNT BY SQ/LDR F A PLINSTON DFC

 

In July 1953, I was serving as a Personnel Staff Officer at Headquarters Transport Command, at RAF Station Uphaven.  I was detailed to undertake an inspection tour, headed by Air Commodore Moreshead; Senior Technical Officer of Transport Command, of the staging posts on the route from England to Singapore .  At this time, the RAF was carrying out all movements of personnel overseas by air, so Transport Command was responsible for the establishment of officers and airmen to refuel and for servicing of all aircraft passing through.  Most of which were Transport Command aircraft, carrying airmen to and from overseas postings.

 

The first leg of our journey from Lyneham to Castel Benito, a few miles south of Tripoli , was without incident.  We flew around Paris and had a distant view of the Eiffel Tower .  We arrived at Castel Benito about midday and carried out inspection duties in the afternoon.

 

Next morning, we took off at 7am for Cyprus , our next inspection.  About an hour later we noticed that one engine was had stopped, and the propeller had been feathered.  This did not cause too much alarm, as the Hastings flew quite well on three engines.  However, the feathering of the next propeller was followed soon after by the stopping of the third engine and we all knew we’d soon be landing.

 

I had been told by someone who had experienced a landing at sea that on touching down everything went dark and it felt as if the aircraft was diving to the bottom.  He was quite right.  However, the aircraft bobbed up to the surface very soon and when the door was opened, the sea surface was about level with the door sill.  The first thing to do was to launch the dinghy that was in the cabin with us.  It operated with no trouble outside the door.  We all embarked in the one dinghy and cast adrift from the fuselage.  Nobody had been injured and we were all present.

 

Once the aircraft had sunk, after about two minutes, we looked around and saw the wing about 50 yards behind us. 

 

The wing of the Hastings is set in the bottom of the fuselage, and four engines hang below the wing.  So on contact, the engines hit the water first and this tears the wing off the fuselage.  The wing contains a large dinghy on each side, and these had automatically inflated but were still attached to the wing.  Another officer and I volunteered to swim over, collect the two dinghies and bring them back and make life more comfortable.  Being summer, the water was warm, and the Mediterranean is salty, so it is buoyant.  We got into the dinghies, fastened them together and paddled them back.

 

With the three dinghies we had lots of space.  With little wind and a relatively calm sea, we could only sit and wait for rescue, avoiding too much sunburn as best we could.

 

Later that afternoon, we heard an aircraft and saw an American flying boat, which came over and circled us.  He reported back to his base.  He then landed and taxied over to us.  We then learnt that a ship was on its way to pick us up.  The flying boat then took us all on board.  He could not take off as the swell was too high and he was well overweight.  He told us that they had first seen the dye marker trail and had followed it for some miles to find us.

 

Halfway through the night, the destroyer arrived and we were all taken aboard, given a cup of tea, and then bedded down for the rest of the night.  The ship stood by for the rest of the night, and we watched the flying boat take off in the morning.

 

The destroyer took us to Malta where we were bedded down for the next night, and next morning a Hastings aircraft arrived to take us back to Lyneham.  After it was refuelled, we boarded the aircraft and took off.  Ten minutes later, one engine was feathered and we returned to Malta .  However, it was only a minor fault and we got back to Lyneham that day.

 

Saturday 24th September 2011

 

I am indebted to an aviation historian who has forwarded this article to me overnight from Canada, I find it amazing that the Canadians hold more information on RAF accidents than we do, HH thank you so much and to Flight Lieutenant Pearce for writing up the article

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

PEARCE, Flight Lieutenant Douglas Roland, DFM (20368) - Queen's Commendation for Valuable Services Conduct in the Air RCAF, Attached RAF - Awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 13 March 1954 and AFRO 117/54 dated 5 March 1954.  Born 1920; home in Edmonton.  Trained at No.5 BGS and No.3 WS.  DFM awarded May 1943 for services with No.78 Squadron, 1943.  Photo PL-101620 is a portrait of him, February 1955.
 
On the morning of the 22nd July 1953, Flight Lieutenant Pearce was the signaller of Hastings flying from Idris, in Libya, to Habbaniya in Iraq.  Some one and one half hours after take off from Idris a state of emergency arose owing to the failure of two engines, followed shortly by a failure of a third engine.  Flight Lieutenant Pearce was ordered by the captain to send out a distress message. He had his wireless equipment set up on the distress frequency and despatched a distress message with admirable expedition.  On receiving an acknowledgement from a ground station, he clamped his key and then rendered very valuable assistance to his captain by fitting the safety waistcoat and adjusting his straps whilst the captain was fully occupied in feathering engines and controlling the aircraft.  When the aircraft came to rest on the water Flight Lieutenant Pearce displayed coolness and efficiency in the way in which he made his exit from the ****pit through the astro dome and in assisting other crew members to escape.  Once in the dinghy, Flight Lieutenant Pearce took charge of the dinghy radio and radar equipment, and operated them to the limits of the equipment performance.
 
The following is from DND file 813-89/2 Volume 2 (Library and Archives Canada, RG.24, Volume 17766).
 
A Special Report on Ditching of Hastings TG613 on 22 July 1953
No.99 Squadron RAF
Lynham, Wilts.
29 August 1953.
 
General
 
 
1. For the purpose of clarity and dissemination this report will take the form of a brief narrative of the events in chronological order followed by a summary of the safety equipment and its value.
 
2. Narrative
 
On 22 July 1953 the undersigned was carrying out the duties of Air Signaller on Hastings TG613 which departed Idris, Libya for Habbaniya, Iraq on the second leg of a flight to Singapore, Malaya.  The crew of six consisted of a Captain, Second Pilot, Navigator, Signaller, Engineer and Air Quarter-Master.  A second Engineer was carried for screening purposes.  The passengers consisted of a party from RAF Transport Command Headquarters on an inspection tour of the RAF airfields used by TC aircraft in the Middle and Far East.  The senior passenger was Air Commodore V.D. Moreshead, STSO TCHQ.  The remainder of the aircraft load was made up of heavy freight, the all-up weight of the aircraft was approximately 80,000 pounds.
 
3. The aircraft departed Idris at 0700 GMT to cruise at 9,000 feet.  At 0820 GMT, at a position 200 miles SE of Malta, the two inner engines failed and were feathered.  At 0822 GMT a distress message was transmitted on 4575 KC/s the emergency HF/DF frequency, to the effect that the two engines had failed and that the aircraft was altering course for Benina on the North African coast. At 0824 GMT, a third engine, the port outer, also failed and was feathered, thus necessitating the immediate ditching of the aircraft.  This ditching information was transmitted on the HF/DF frequency and the morse key was clamped down.  Passengers and crew donned Mae Wests, emergency escape hatches were removed, fuel was jettisoned and the aircraft was prepared for ditching.  The Navigator and Spare Engineer retired to ditching positions in the passenger compartment and the Captain, Second Pilot, Signaller, Engineer and Quarter-master remained in the crew compartment in their normal positions.
 
4. At approximately 0828, the aircraft alighted upon the water.  When the aircraft had come to a stop it was discovered that the wings had torn loose from the fuselage and were left some 30 or 40 yards astern of the fuselage. The passengers evacuated the aircraft by way of the port parachute door, which had been removed following impact, and through the port emergency escape hatches.  The AQM also went out through the rear having crawled over the freight.  Following his escape, the freight shifted, blocking the doorway between the crew and passenger compartments with the result that the Captain, Second Pilot, Engineer and Signaller, in that order, left the fuselage by way of the Astro-dome.  By this time the forward part of the fuselage was almost completely submerged.  The aircraft floated for approximately one and one half minutes before sinking, the wings remained afloat a few seconds longer.
 
5. The survivors swam to a J4 type dinghy which had been stowed by the main door and had been thrown into the sea by one of the passengers.  The four dinghies from the wing stowages had inflated and were left on the seas surface when the wings sank.  Three of these dinghies were retrieved, the fourth having drifted to a point where recovery appeared doubtful.  A roll call of the personnel in the dinghies disclosed that the full complement of the aircraft had survived.  It was also found that only two of the four dinghies were serviceable, one having developed a leak in the air chamber while the other had a large rip in the flooring.  The first aid kits were unpacked and treatment given to those who had suffered cuts and bruises.  Emergency equipment was unpacked, the dinghies were baled out and emergency radio gear was set up for immediate use.
 
6. At approximately 1200 GMT an Albatross aircraft of the USAF Air Rescue services appeared on the horizon.  Two-star red distress cartridges from the survival pack were fired whereupon the aircraft turned and flew over the dinghies.  A short time later, this aircraft dropped, by parachure, a two-way portable VHF radio.  Contact was then made with the Albatross and the survivors were advised that a destroyer had been despatched from Malta to pick them up and further, in the event of the vessel not arriving before sun-down, the Albatross would land and pick them up rather than chance losing the dinghies during the hours of darkness. A landing upon the water appeared extremely hazardous as the swell was between fifteen and twenty feet.  The Albatross was joined by a further Albatross about one hour later followed by a RAF Lancaster with Lindholme gear and a U.S. Navy Neptune.  The Lindholme gear was dropped and three canisters of the five were retrieved.
 
7.  At 1530 GMT the first Albatross alighted and the survivors were transferred to this aircraft to await the arrival of the destroyer which was scheduled for 2200 GMT.  About this time a Lancaster fitted with Airborne Lifeboat appeared but did not drop its lifeboat equipment.  At approximately 2100 GMT, HMS Barfleur arrived having been led in by flares dropped by a Lancaster.  Transfer of the survivors to a destroyer was completed by 21000 GMT.  Due to the ocean swell the Albatross was unable to take off until the next morning, the destroyer standing by the aircraft during the night.  After an extremely hazardous take-off on the morning of the 23rd July, the Albatross departed and the destroyer proceeded to Malta, arriving there at 2100 GMT.  The passengers and crew were flown by to Lyneham on 25th July.
 
8. W/T Distress Procedure
 
The distress call and distress message were transmitted on 4575 KC/s, the emergency HF/DF frequency of the Middle East.  The frequency had been worked a few minutes previously and contact was good.  Difficulty in contacting Malta on the control frequencies of 8837 KC/s and 6652 KC/s prior to the incident decided the Signaller in the use of 4575 KC/s when the emergency arose. Attempted contacts with Tunis and Cagliari on the M/F frequency of 333 KC//s precluded the use of this frequwncy.  Another deciding factor in the Signallers use of 4575 KC/s was the availability of DF on that frequency.  This enabled Malta, Idris and El Adem to take cross-bearings on the aircraft which, in fact, verified the aircrafts position as given in the SOS message.  The SOS message contained the aircrafts position and time, true course and IAS, altitude and type of aircraft, nature of distress together with the fact that the aircraft had altered course for Benina.  When ditching became imminent, the word ditching was sent and the morse key was clamped down with the transmitter on.  The fact that an acknowledgement had been received for the SOS considerably improved the morale of the survivors when in the dinghies.
 
Hastings Emergency and Survival Equipment
 
9. Passenger and Crew Seats
 
In Hastings aircraft, passenger seats are of the rearward facing variety.  In this instance, rearward facing York seats were modified and installed for the passengers as these seats are more comfortable than the Hastings type and compartment space permitted their installation.  All nine passenger seats broke loose upon impact and were forced back against the freight. Injuries to passengers were restricted to bruises about the knees.  Had the seats been of the forward facing type, head and face injuries would have resulted with possible unconsciousness, and as the aircraft remained afloat a matter of a minute, this could have resulted in loss of life.  The Air Quarter-masters seat was of the normal Hastings installation.  This seat did not break loose.
 
10. Rearward facing seats have proven their worth in RAF TC.  In two previous accidents of which the undersigned is aware, involving a Hastings and a Valletta aircraft, though the aircraft were complete write-offs, the passengers escaped virtually uninjured.
 
11. Escape Hatches
 
The escape hatches along the fuselage in the passengers compartment together with the astro-dome were removed.  The port parachute door was removed after the aircraft had come to rest.  Exit was made through the port escape hatches, the port parachute door and through the astro dome. No difficulty was encountered in leaving the aircraft.
 
12. Life Saving Waistcoats
 
The life preservers carried in Hastings aircraft are of the Mae West type.  They are fitted with air bottles, fluorescent blocks and flash lamps.  A number of the Mae Wests carried contained Kapok while the remainder relied solely on the air content for buoyancy.  As the dinghies were located some distance from the sinking fuselage, personnel relied on their life jackets to keep afloat.  With but one exception, and luckily, the wearer was an experienced swimmer, the life jackets functioned.  The faulty life jacket had developed a leak in the junction of the air bottle and rubber tubing leading to the air chamber.  Though the use of Kapok in the Mae Wests makes the jacket somewhat bulkier, its addition is well warranted in the event of the failing of the air bottle or holing of the air chamber.
 
13. Dinghies
 
In the Hastings aircraft, there are four dinghies which are located one behind each of the four engines in wing stowages.  The means of inflation is by an air bottle attached to the dinghy and released manually by cables attached to release toggles adjacent the Engineers position in the aircraft.  In this instance, the pulling away of the wings from the fuselage had pulled the release cables which in turn had inflated the dinghies by discharging the air bottles.  When the wings sank the line holding them to the dinghies broke thus releasing the dinghies, so that they floated free.
 
14.  In addition to the wing dinghies which are of the 7-man J3 type, a J4 valise type dinghy was carried in the fuselage.  It was to this dinghy which was positioned off the port side of the sinking fuselage that the survivors swam.  When the wing dinghies were retrieved, the survivors were distributed between the available dinghies.  As this ditching took place under almost ideal conditions, little or no wind, moderate swell and in the hours of daylight, recovery of the wing dinghies constituted no real problem.  Had the ditching taken place in darkness, in heavy seas or even in moderate wind, recovery of the wing dinghies would have been impossible.  In view of this, the provision of valise type dinghies in the fuselage while over water flying appears highly desirable.
 
15.  Type 6 Packs
 
The type six packs are fitted in each of the wing dinghies and contain the following items:
 
    Tinned Water - Two tins of the water were used.  One was quite palatable, while the other was nauseating.
 
    Desalting Sets - While the requirement to desalt the sea water did not exist, it was observed that the one desalter kit which was examined had leaked, this leak taking place in the gummed tape seal.
 
    Emergency Flying Rations - The one set of rations which were opened appeared to be in excellent shape.
 
    Walter T.3180 - Two of these transmitters were salvaged.  Sea water had leaked through the seal with the result that the batteries were wet.  The one set was erected and turned on when the search aircraft was heard.  Unfortunately, the Albatross did not carry search radar and therefore the value of the equipment could not be assessed.  Some difficulty was experienced in mounting the aerial as the steady lines to the dinghy sides from the mast were too short with the result that one line had to be held by one of the survivors to keep the mast erect.
 
    Signal Cartridges - These consisted of two red star variety.  The search aircraft reported that though they did not see the two red stars, their attention was drawn by the smoke from the cartridges. The addition of smoke cartridges to the dinghy packs appears desirable.
 
    Baler and Sponge - Very practicable and useful.
 
    Matches - Match containers did not leak.
 
    First Aid Kit - The gummed tape seal had leaked and allowed sea water to seep into the container.
 
16.  Dinghy Radio - SCR 578
 
The dinghy radio is carried in each of the two inner engine wing stowages.  The equipment was set up for use and attempts made to fly the kite aerial.  These attempts failed as the wind was only three knots and a minimum of seven knots is required to raise the kite.  The present RAF dinghy radio equipment as carried in Hastings aircraft does not include a gas balloon and the kite is the sole means of raising the aerial.  The reception of a signal from the dinghies would assist immensely in the search and in addition would serve to bolster up the morale of the persons in the dinghy.  The inclusion of some other method of raising the aerial is considered imperative.
 
17. Ditching Drills
 
A wet ditching drill is carried out by all RAF aircrews at least once every six months.  Dry ditching drill is completed by the crew in the aircraft prior to every route flight from the UK, with the result that all aircrews are fully conversant with ditching actions.  The value of these drills was proven in the ditching of Hastings TG613.
 
(signed)
D.R. Pearce, F/L
99 Squadron
Royal Air Force, Lyneham



 

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