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Royal Air Force 56 Sqn

Meteor Mk.8

WH283

16th December 1953

Royal Air Force 2 Sqn Jever Swift FR.5 WN124/S 27th August 1959

Roy Rimington

 

My first ejection


                                                  Roy Rimington

Flg. Off. Roy Rimington

 

. . . . . . . .  was fairly straightforward and was from a Meteor 8 over Cambridgeshire on 16th December 1953. There were four of us airborne from 56 Squadron at RAF Waterbeach when the weather deteriorated. It was the very early days of GCA and although we did not have one at Waterbeach we made two or three attempts at the newly installed GCA at (I believe) Duxford. We were flying in two pairs, myself with Fg. Off Hoppy Hoppitt ( now deceased) and Al Martin with Neil Weerasinghe. When we were almost out of fuel Hoppy and I decided we had had enough and climbed into the sunshine to eject; while Al Martin and Neil decided to have one more try. Al ran out of fuel at 900 ft and ejected which was below the recommended minimum for the Mk 1 seat, and consequently injured his back since the parachute opened only just before he landed. Neil ran out of fuel and tried to land in a foggy field. He survived but was completely paralysed and crippled for life.

My engines cut within seconds of each other at 4,000 ft and I ejected. Hoppy reached 8,000 ft before deciding to leave. The seat was the Mark 1 ( E, I believe) where one had to release the seat harness after ejection, push the seat away and then pull the parachute rip‑chord. Hence Al Martin's miraculous escape. I landed in the fog uneventfully as did Hoppy.

 

 

My second ejection


                                                                                    Roy Rimington

Flt. Lt Roy Rimington 

 

 

. . . . . . . .  was on my 28th birthday on 27th August 1959. I was flying a Swift Mk5 in Germany on a low level photo reconnaisance sortie with Flt. Lt. Taffy Wallis. We had decided to use a photograph of an inverted Swift flying by the Kaiser Wilhelm Denkmal in the Minden Gap at Porta Westfalica for the No 2 Squadron Christmas card". It was a beautiful summer's day and we could see the Minden gap from some 30 or 40 miles away so I told Taffy to try one more practice pass before we reached the statue. I had just inverted at about 400 ft and 250 knots when there was an enormous bang and the revs rapidly died, subsequently found to be due to a bearing failure. I rolled the right way up, still in power control, climbed and ejected at about 600 ft. Taffy managed to get a photograph of a Swift with full aileron deflection and molten metal coming out of the jet pipe.

 

The seat in the Swift was the Martin Baker Mk 2 (G, I think) which was automatic but still had 2 harnesses. The first thing I remember after ejecting was a tremendous wrench on my left leg as the parachute opened and I found myself hanging upside down. I can remember seeing the river Weser below and wondering how I could guide myself away from it with the lift webs about ten feet above me. However, I barely had time to inflate the Mae West before falling headfirst into the middle of the Weser about ten. miles south of Hamlin. In hindsight if I had not landed in the river I would probably have broken my neck. On landing in the river my harness fell away completely and by the time I reached the bank I realised that it was only the friction between the lap strap buckle and the seat loop which held my leg and this released when the weight was reduced. I was fortunately picked up by a British Army patrol and taken to Rinteln Army hospital for back X‑ray, where I was pronounced fit. They did in fact X‑ray the wrong area because it was discovered about eighteen months later that I had fused three vertebrae and lost 1/2 inch in height. However, it did not stop me continuing flying

 

It was about this time that Dick Carrey had his accident and naturally the Flight Safety people were convinced that neither of us had inserted the spring clip which prevented the parachute harness plunger being depressed even after turning. Experiments, however, were carried out and it was shown that if the four straps of the parachute harness were pulled tightly then even locked and with the spring clip in place the parachute would often come undone if the release box was given a sharp tap with a metal object. This in fact is what happened on ejection if the seat harness metal box was directly on top of the parachute harness box, and the spring holding the balls in position were weak. The force of the new charge in the Mk 2 seat, which incidentally was later found to cause 100% spine fractures, would momentarily release the steel balls against the weak springs of the parachute harness box and the whole harness would be undone on automatic separation from the seat. I did write to Sir James Martin following that ejection and he replied that a modification to the parachute harness was being introduced using a spring clip insertion; this however we were already using. It was thus apparent that nobody even then believed the parachute harness would release of its own accord in the locked configuration and this was the subject of the series of letters in Flight International some twenty five years later. (see left hand column)

One final coincidental point is that after being married for about 5 years I suddenly realised that my wife's birthday, December 16th was the anniversary of the day I first ejected. She was then a language student in Hamburg and it was her 19th birthday many years before we were to meet.

R. Rimington
September 2005

 

Roy Rimington
September 2005

 

FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL, 26 April 1986
Letters page 50 col. 2 & 3

Harness hang‑ups

SIR‑Although I missed the item in your March 15 issue concerning a tragic accident involving a Bulldog pilot, I read with great interest the letter from Mr C. Buttars (April 12), in which he mentions a pilot falling from his harness after ejecting from a Hunter in 1957. As I must be one of the few people to have experienced this mishap and survived, I feel obliged to comment.

After ejection from a Javelin Mk1 in February 1959, I had a very rough ride in the ejection seat down to the auto‑separation altitude. The drogue assembly had been damaged in exiting through the plexiglas canopy, with the result that the seat was spinning and somersaulting all the way down from 42,OOOft. My relief when the automatics operated perfectly turned to consternation when I pitched forward, not only out of the seat, but out of my parachute harness as well.

Luckily for me one of the thigh straps jammed in the crotch loop, and I ended up, at 10,000ft,hanging upside down by one leg. I must confess that this was a bad moment. By hauling myself upright by the dinghy pack I was able to hook my arm through the harness and clasp my hands together before the jammed thigh strap gave way. By the time I landed, on a small island in the Scheldt estuary, I seemed to have been hanging from that arm for a very long time.

My claims that my harness had been correctly fastened before this incident were, of course, greeted with incredulity, but within days another 2nd TAF pilot had an almost identical experience. Ft Lt Roy Rimington, in a Swift F.R.S,had ejected at low level after an engine seizure and had found his parachute harness open, but was saved

by a jammed leg strap, just like I was. Being at low level, Rimmy had no time to pull himself upright before landing, but with the luck of the devil fell headfirst into the river Weser and was fished out by some British soldiers.

The Hunter, the Swift and the Javelin, all of which I have flown in squadron service, had certain features in common. Not only did they have separate seat and parachute harnesses, but the pilots at this time all wore the dreadful American designed A13 oxygen mask. The connector on the end of the oxygen tube was a great big casting which we clipped to the front of the lifejacket to prevent it lashing around in the event of an ejection.

This lump of metal sat right over the release plate of the parachute harness. I believe that it was more than enough to strike the plate a hard enough blow, and the antics performed by my seat could well have unlocked the box, as described in Mr Buttars' letter. However, both Rimington and I were using the spring clip as described, which, although cheap, simple, and idiot proof as Mr Buttars claims, unfortunately did not work.

A year after my accident I recall mounting a simple demonstration at RAF Cranwell, where I was a QFI on Vampires. A student was asked to sit in a chair wearing a correctly fastened parachute (with safety clip), and four others were told to pull on the four webbing straps to keep them as tight as possible. Provided the tension on the fasteners was sufficient, a smart blow on the release plate with a hide‑faced mallet would open the harness every time. The principle involved was that a shock loading would cause the pistons in the release box to bounce, allowing the ends of the straps to escape. The great Houdini is reputed to have been able to open hand‑cuffs by banging his wrists together.

The type of parachute release box described was rapidly taken out of service, and must now have been obsolete for more than 20 years, so was certainly not fitted to the Bulldog. Ejection seats nowadays have combined seat and parachute harnesses, and one has never heard of similar accidents happening subsequently. Who knows? Perhaps the powers‑that‑be DO learn by past mistakes.

 R. A. J. CARREY Stockbridge Hampshire