Brian's picture

By late 1958 I was stationed with the RAF Liaison Party at Base Arienne 115 near Orange Caritat, Southern France.

Word spread quickly that an inbound Javelin aircraft was having a spot of bother. Most of the French guys and any of us lot who were off duty scurried toward the runway to get a grandstand view of events.

A section of the main undercarriage had locked up, leaving just the nose gear and one main wheel deployed. The pilot offered his navigator the option of ejecting over the field, but the nav. preferred to ride it out with the aircraft rather than on the end of a piece of silk.

The Javelin orbited the base for some time as its pilot burned off fuel to reduce the risk of fire on touchdown. Eventually the aircraft turned on final approach and steered for the active runway. As it touched down the pilot did an excellent job of holding off the wheel-less wing, but as his speed bled off the inevitable happened.

Though at the time it was a jaw-dropping moment, it was with some glee that I remembered later how the aircraft’s port wing hit the runway in a huge shower of sparks and cacophony of noise. As it did so, the scene resembled a human ant heap which had just got a good kicking. Many of the French, intent on getting a grandstand view, had strayed too close to the action. As its pilot lost control, the Javelin slid off the runway, and churning up tons of mud and earth, skated towards a section of the over-enthusiastic audience. Gallic screeches echoed across the field as the scene became reminiscent of one of those speeded-up early movies.
How great it would have looked on film to the accompaniment of the Laurel & Hardy theme tune!

Sadly, having handled the event in true Biggles manner, the pilot was over-eager to evacuate his seat, leaped out of the aircraft, and in a second awkward landing, broke his ankle.

The French sense of humour leaned away from the Elstree studio model toward that of broken bones scenarios, so at least they got something to chortle about in the end.


Joined: 22/01/2018
Posts: 4

Your experience at the RAF Liaison Party at Base Arienne 115 near Orange Caritat, Southern France seems so good. The college paper org review talked about it all recently and I felt amazing hearing about it. Thanks for bringing me closer to it.