Pilot Officer Eddie McCullagh
was on a routine peacetime operational flight
from RAF Chivenor during the afternoon of Friday August 7th, 1953.
The day was about to change dramatically.
"I had done my jet conversion on the Meteor followed by a short (about
eight hours) conversion to the Vampire 5 prior to going to Chivenor for
operational training. For my fourth flight there in the Vampire 5 I was
tasked to act as target for a Vampire T11 on an instructional sortie.
This mainly involved flying in circles. In due course I was told to join
up in formation for return to base. At this stage I was furthest from
base so had to go flat out to catch up.
I extended the airbrakes as I moved into position but hardly slowed at
all as I did not then realize the ineffectiveness of the Vampire's
airbrakes compared to the Meteor's. I put full bank on to pull away, the
result of which was that the T11's wing speared between my twin booms
and took off half my tailplane. There was little damage to the T11 which
returned safely to base but when I looked back I could see the remaining
half of my tailplane gently moving up and down for what seemed moments
before it broke off.
(18th August 2006)
Certificate No 559 after notifying the GQ Parachute company
of his successful bale-out becoming yet another member of the Gold
aircraft then went into a sort of downward spiral while rolling at the
same time. It was a simple matter for my to jettison the hood, undo my
straps, wait until I was next upside down and then kick out.
The collision occurred about 8,000 feet. I have no idea of my height
when I got out but doubt if I lost as much as 2,000 feet. I found myself
lying on my back with my head lower than my feet so without the wind in
my face I had no difficulty in looking down to reach for the ripcord. I
pulled the ripcord completely out of its housing and threw it away in
case it got tangled with the parachute lines - at least that was my
thinking at the time. The canopy opened. And when I looked up I could
see a small triangular tear in it. I monitored this as I descended but
it didnít get worse. I was drifting close to the cliffs on the coast and
despite pulling on the rigging lines I wasnít able to counteract the
wind so I let myself drift out to sea. I came down in the sea about one
to two miles off the north Devon coast and was picked up by a pleasure
boat, having already inflated my dinghy and climbed aboard. All my
equipment worked as it should and I had no trouble in remembering my
drills including unhitching the dinghy pack from my harness and letting
it hang from its lanyard so it hit the sea first and gave me an accurate
check of my height above the water."