Lt. John P. "Jake" Smith
On Tuesday 22nd May 1956 Jake Smith
joined "HMS Eagle's" carrier circuit, and downwind at about 400ft and
for some unknown reason ejected. There was no radio call and both he and
his fighter were not recovered!
". . . I have read recently that Jake's second
accident in which he lost his life, may have been caused by fuel starvation.
There may have been something wrong with the aircraft's fuel gauges, and it
may not have been fully refueled, but nobody will never know because the
aircraft crashed and sank into very deep waters in the Mediterranean. He had
rejoined HMS EAGLE's carrier landing circuit and was 'downwind' when his a/c
was seen to plunge steeply into the sea. Jake ejected, but too late or may
have been caught on the canopy structure as the a/c struck the sea. Sadly he
was also not recovered, and all evidence was lost."
Fleet Air Arm
Tuesday 22nd May 1956
The FAA Museum gave me a copy of the Accident Summaries relating to our Dad's
last two crashes, in Wyverns VZ791 and WP339. The summary for the 22nd May 1956
crash (WP339) states as follows:
"Aircraft flew into sea on down wind leg with undercarriage down prior to
recovery. Recovery of pilot by Helicopter was abandoned as it was not possible
to remove open parachute which prevented successful netting. Pilot's body was
recovered by Sea Boat."
. . . the plane wasn't recovered. It was sunk by ship's crew holing the wings
with rifle fire because the floating plane posed a hazard to shipping.
The Commander-In-Chief, Mediterranean on 10th June 1956 (and Lords of the
Admiralty at a later date) took issue with certain findings made by the Board of
Inquiry dated 29th May, 1956, particularly as follows:
3. Ejection. The opinion of the Board (No. 2) that the pilot made
no attempt to eject does not appear to be supported by the evidence. Medical
opinion was that the pilot ejected (questions 86 and 87): the Chief Airman (S.E.)'s
opinion was that the ejector seat operated (question 193) and the Air Ordnance
Engineer Officer's opinion was that the seat could not operate itself (i.e. the
pilot operated it) (question 186)..."
And greatly important was his comment "Recommendation No. 4 is agreed.
Aircrewmen in S.A.R. aircraft should be equipped with a knife capable of cutting
through parachute harness and other equipment: it is considered that a knife,
quick release, pattern No. B.11/8061 is suitable for this purpose and should be
provided forthwith to all S.A.R. Aircrew. I have issued instructions in the
Aircraft Carrier Squadron to this effect."
I am grateful to members of Lt. John P. Smith's family for
photographs and permission to include the details of his career and ejections on
this web site and to Michael Doust for his additional information and
remembrances of Lt. Smith.
page last updated
Tuesday, 24 February 2009 11:27