The first incident during my stay concerned Bill Bedford who had just
joined Hawkers. Bill was flying a Sea Fury when the engine failed.
Being the brilliant glider pilot that he was, he quickly selected a
field for a wheels-up landing, but unfortunately, just as he was
clearing the hedge he was confronted by a family enjoying a picnic.
Skilfully avoiding them he ended up in a field of cabbages. The
aircraft was brought back to Langley by road and sat in the hangar for
weeks. The smell of rotting cabbages will be with me forever.
The next incident concerned the first Dutch-Built Sea Fury which had
been flown into Langley for a Hawker inspection. It was finished in a
very high gloss paint scheme. The aircraft having been thoroughly
inspected our pilots were keen to carry out a flight test; Frank Bullen
got the job. On a high speed run the upper section of the engine
cowling parted company with the aircraft. Espying a liquid leaking out
Frank put out a 'Mayday' call and quickly landed away at an RAF
station. The leak, fortunately, was hydraulic and not fuel.
There was nearly a tragic accident after the aircraft had
repaired and it was being ground run. An RAF airman, marshalling a
noisy Meteor, nearly walked backwards into the Sea fury propeller.
Dangerous things, propellers.
The most exciting
incident that I witnessed concerned Neville Duke. He was flying the
P.1052 (VX272), Hawkers' first swept aircraft, out of Farnborough after
its restoration from a previous crash landing, when he suffered an
undercarriage problem. The port leg wouldn't lower so he decided to
land on Langley's grass.
We heard that
he was coming so many people
stood outside to watch. After a lovely smooth touchdown Neville held
the aircraft on the starboard wheel and the nose wheel until, as the
speed dropped off, the port wing lowered itself onto the grass and the
P.1052 took a circular route across the airfield. Our ambulance and
fire engine were in hot pursuit but there was no problem, Neville
climbing out perfectly safe. A group of fitters lifted the port wing
and the hydraulic hand pump under the fuselage was used to lower the
recalcitrant port leg. The sole damage was a bent flap and grass burns
to the wingtip. After a week of repairs the aircraft was flown back to
Hawkers' test group at Farnborough.
believe that this was the only
occasion that a jet aircraft landed and took-off from Langley although
the Hunter prototype (WB188) had overflown the site soon after its
first flight to show everyone what this new aircraft looked like.