No Minister

Frights and fun

with 5 comments

A terrific article here written by the man, Wg Cdr Taffy Holden, who was at a the centre of a famous incident with the RAF back in the 1960’s.

A Memorable Fright

Taffy was a flight engineer and a pilot – though not of jet fighters like the famous English Electric Lightning (photo above), a twin jet, supersonic beast designed to intercept Soviet bombers. He was testing electrical faults in a Lightning on the ground when he suddenly found himself rolling down the runway at rapidly increasing speed and was forced to choose between crashing and flying.

Before my thoughts could again return to getting myself out of reheat, I was gathering speed and about to cross the main duty runway, where a Comet had just passed on its take off run. I then had no time to look for reheat gate keys, my eyes were on what next lay ahead. Two things, the end of the short runway 07 and just beyond was the small village of Bradenstoke, which I just had to miss. There was no chance of stopping, none whatsoever. I had gained flying speed (that is what reheat is for, short sharp take offs) and I had no runway left.

He chose the latter and lived to tell the tale, which you can read about at the link and/or click on this YouTube version. Two sections that I think worth of excerpting concern not the flight itself but the aftermath. First with the MSM:

I steadfastly refused offers, although for a two-page article in the Sunday Express I requested the editors to make a contribution to the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund. Despite prompts, no monies were ever handed over and I became very disillusioned with all publicity media. Some friends thought I had gained reward for an article in ‘Mayfair’; it was written without my knowledge and authority but, because it was factually correct, I had no redress from the Press Complaints Board. Nonetheless, I was extremely annoyed.

Second with his internal world, despite his being calm after the incident:

Some years after the incident, my hidden fears of high speed flight came to the surface and I had to spend two periods in hospital. I had not come to terms with the emotional side of the event. To return to my wife and family, after five close encounters with death, was indeed a miraculous experience, but I had not been honest with myself, to accept it as such, so I needed psychiatric help.

Then there’s this type of danger.

NO. HELL NO. To say that the “Developing World” has different attitudes towards life and death than the West is often an understatement.

After two views of heart-stopping danger here’s some fun that’s almost like flying.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 28, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Aerospace, Britain, Military

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5 Responses

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  1. The English Electric Lightening, one of the great aircraft designs of the world, except it didnt sell.

    The Americans topped it with the Star Fighter, but the Lightening could beat the arse of it from zero to 40,000 feet.

    Enough fuel basically to shoot down one Russian bomber.

    Similarly the low level Buccaneer, in my view one of the most beautiful looking aircraft in the world ever designed, it never sold, and both could have been developed and evolved into better aircraft. The Buc by making it supersonic.


    January 28, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    • I’d bet that the Lightning had a better survival rate than the bloody Starfighter. As cool as that plane was the Luftwaffe called it “The Widow Maker”, such was its death rate.

      To make matters worse it’s fairly certain that Lockheed got their friends in the US government to arm-twist the West German government to buy the Starfighters. That claim arose out of the 1970’s prosecutions of Lockheed execs for bribing foreign figures for various such purchases, and although I don’t think the early-mid 60’s German story came into the courtroom picture it wasn’t too hard to figure they’d pulled the same stunt on the Starfighter deal.

      Tom Hunter

      January 28, 2023 at 5:05 pm

      • Yeah totally correct Tom, and I bet the Germans had an aversion to buying anything British so close to the end of the war, WW2 that is.

        Shame really but they eventuallu changed their tune and co-operated in a number of joint Euro fighter aircraft.

        Still think the F16 is the best choice for a re-juvenated NZ airforce, of the Grippen.

        Gen 4 is way beyond our capability.

        In the mean time if you want to see a video on a great plane re-build, and how American technology won WW2, have a look at the rebuild video of an F4u Corsair, and the engineering and basic metal work skills that are needed.

        Take note educators.


        January 28, 2023 at 10:12 pm

    • A friend of ours who was base commander of RAF Khartoum in the 50s when they did all the hot weather aircraft testing there, said the Lightning was his favourite plane to fly. He flew everything up to the f4 Phantom.


      January 29, 2023 at 7:28 am

  2. Its a bit like a friend who was on Strikemasters, doing live bombing circuits, he had been around a few times as he hadn’t got it set up properly for the release point. On the 3rd circuit he was admonished by the instructor, and as well as feeling the pressure for not getting it right, he inadvertently selected rockets.

    Having got it set up right for bombs he pressed the tit on the stick, and was very surprised to see 2 x pods of rockets salvo off.

    As they were on the bomb range and flying level the rockets travelled a certain long distance before impacting.

    The only damage, fortunately, was to his name, thereafter known as “Rockets Bloggs” (real name withheld)


    January 28, 2023 at 4:56 pm

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