RAF 229 OCU

Vampire 5

VV490

7th August 1953
Afternoon

RAF Chivenor
Pilot Officer Edmund Anthony McCullagh

     

      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.


 

Eddie McCullagh

(18th August 2006)

 

Eddie received Certificate No 559 after notifying the GQ Parachute company of his successful bale-out becoming yet another member of the Gold Wings Club

 

 

 

 My 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."