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JohnT

English Electric Lightning - did it splash a C130?

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Carried over from the other thread I stared today from this book Chapter 7 relates a tale from Rick Groombridge who was on QRA at Wattisham with 29 Sqn one night when called by the duty controller. He relates that he was told to hand over his aircraft with no questions asked to an American Exchange Officer who would be about to pitch up at QRA and then to stand down. He asked if that "was it" and was told simply "Yes" and was hung up on.

The US guy dutifully turned up and one Lightning was handed over. Rick duly retired to the officers mess to hear a Lightning take off shortly thereafter.

An hour or so later a Lightning returned and he was called and told to resume QRA duties. He says there was no routine flying going on so he concludes he had to have heard a QRA aircraft take off and return.

A short while later he heard that a C130 from Mildenhall had been taken by a USAF sergeant on pretext of a taxi test, took off and headed for the USA. It had gone into the sea.

Everyone was tight lipped about the Lightning but he says rumours abounded. One was that the Lightning that came back only had one of her two missiles and on landing she had taxied to the airfield missile site before returning to the QRA hangar with the normal quota

After reading the above a Googled a search and there is some stuff on the sites such as prune but its all rather iffy

One thing is certain is that the C130 was taken and it did go into the sea.

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This story has appeared before and I believe that the British Aircraft Research Group did some research into it about thirty or forty years ago. As related by JohnT, the story of the C-130 being taken by a disgruntled USAF Sergeant is correct (from Mildenhall) and speculation abounded at the time as to whether or not it was shot down or simply crashed into the English Channel. I'll dig through my old copies of BARG and see what I come up with.

DR

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I do love a good conspiracy theory too ! but....

Wouldn't the American have had to be checked out on the Lightning (exchange posting )and why involve the RAF when (USAF) F4's where available.

LOVE IT !!!

D

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I have heard this story too, but the fighter was said to have been an RAF Phantom visiting Yeovilton. The Hercules part of it was well reported. These stories do get about, and they change from bar to bar........

About the same vintage, perhaps a little older, was the story that one Lightning at Binbrook carried a red star under the cockpit, but it was kept out of sight of prying eyes.

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The Americans said the C-130 crashed into the Channel as it could not be flown single handed, I don't know it that was true of the earlier Herks. Thereafter the Herks were chained down overnight to prevent a repetition. I believe the Sergeant grouncrew wanted to go home to see his wife/girfriend or whatever, and couldn't get leave.

Edited by bentwaters81tfw

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An hour or so later a Lightning returned

Surely that line right there tells you it can't be true..... :coolio::whistle:

Ken

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Surely that line right there tells you it can't be true..... :coolio::whistle:

Ken

You mean it would have had to have been gliding??!!!!

Edited by Pat C

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I do love a good conspiracy theory too ! but....

Wouldn't the American have had to be checked out on the Lightning (exchange posting )and why involve the RAF when (USAF) F4's where available.

LOVE IT !!!

D

John does say an exchange pilot (Were there any US pilots on exchange at Wattisham at that time?) and it would have been an RAF aircraft as the USAF aircraft would not have been on QRA in the UK, although most US sources quote F-100s

http://www.f-16.net/f-16_forum_viewtopic-t-4694.html

including a contribution from the step son of the 'pilot'

Wiki says:

  • May 23, 1969 : A drunken U.S. Air Force assistant crew chief, Sgt. Paul Adams Meyer, 23, of Poquoson, Virginia, suffering anxiety over marital problems, starts up a Lockheed C-130E Hercules, 63-7789, c/n 3856, of the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 316th Tactical Airlift Wing, on hardstand 21 at RAF Mildenhall and takes off in it at 0655 hrs. CET, headed for Langley AFB, Virginia.[9] At least two North American F-100 Super Sabres of the 493d Tactical Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, a C-130 from Mildenhall, and two RAF English Electric Lightnings are sent aloft to try to make contact with the stolen aircraft.[10] The Hercules flies over the Thames estuary and heads south toward Brighton. After flying over the English Channel, it appears that Meyer turned northwest. North of Cherbourg he changes direction, heading south to a point 30 miles north of Alderney Island.[11] The Hercules crashes into the English Channel off Alderney (5000N, 0205W)[12] ~90 minutes later. In the last transmission from Meyer, to his wife, in a link-up over the side-band radio, he stated "Leave me alone for about five minutes, I've got trouble."[13] There is speculation whether the Hercules was shot down.[11] Some wreckage was recovered but the pilot's body was never found. Meyer had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly earlier in the morning in the village of Freckenham and had been remanded to quarters, but sneaked out to steal the Hercules.[14]

I'm not sure I beleive it - there are other similar stories (Lightning v Harrier in Germany, Javelin v Indonesian C-130)

Edited by Dave Fleming

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Can't elaborate but I heard this story about 20 years ago from a very believable source. I believe it happened. Along with other 'interesting' stories too!

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Can't elaborate but I heard this story about 20 years ago from a very believable source. I believe it happened. Along with other 'interesting' stories too!

oh come on you have to tell us now lol

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1969? This can't be the same incident I'm thinking of. Was there something very similar in the 80s? Surely? I didn't have access to a TV in 1969 to have seen it mentioned on the news channels (the C-130, not the shooting down).

Edited by Graham Boak

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Thereafter the Herks were chained down overnight to prevent a repetition

very much doubt a tied down herk with 4 engines at full power would stay restrained,

Edited by Hawkkeeper

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The duty rumours about this are:

1. The C-130 crashed as the pilot was using the radio, lost focus on flying the aircraft and descended into the sea.

2. A Lightning shot it down

3. A Hunter from Brawdy/Chivenor/Boscombe was loaded with live 30mm ammo and shot it down

4. USAF F-100s shot the C-130 down.

5. USAF F-4s out of Bentwaters (?) shot the C-130 down.

6. The C-130 excited the attention of the French, who used an F-8 to shoot it down (other aircraft types are mentioned: Mirage III and Etendard).

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What I think takes this outside the usual "UFO?heard in the Pub" type story is that Rick Groombridge has stuck his head up over the parapet to say that his Lightning on QRA was taken off him and handed on to a gentleman from the US on an exchange posting after a phone call from the duty controller. Richard Pike in turn sticks the story in his book. I don't know either of these chaps but can only assume that Rick Groombridge has told the story straight and that Richard Pike has considered it and the source and seen fit to put it in a very good book on the experiences of Lightning pilots. He will not have wanted to stick a daft story in his book if he thought it was some sort of line shoot so I assume that the author must think that there is something to it himself . Just the handing over of a QRA Lightning is an odd occurrence on its own.

Turning to the C130 its certain that it was taken unlawfully by the sergeant and that it crashed into the sea. The only issue is whether it went in because of a loss of control by the chap who took it or whether there was some other intervention by an aircraft such as the Lightning. TBH I don't see the need for a cover up in this case if there was a shoot down. Its a sad tale of a chap who had clearly lost his way and pulled a C130 in some bizarre attempt to get to the USA. Given his lack of training the outcome is fairly predictable. A shoot down would only be necessary if life on the ground was threatened and the C130 seems to have been over the sea. I qualify that with recognition that any fighter might have had endurance issues (one might say especially the Lightning) and a decision might have been taken to avoid a scenario where the escorting aircraft had to break off for fuel and then the C130 turned around and was crashed overland with loss of life on the ground. A QRA machine would have been the only aircraft fuelled and armed, ready to go - at least I would have assumed so but others might know more about the readiness status of USAF aircraft in the UK at the time.

On the other hand if the thinking was just to follow and not to force down the C130 why send a QRA aircraft and why replace a UK pilot with a US one unless a shoot down was required from the beginning? A shoot down by a US pilot would have been more acceptable politically but if you go to that trouble why then cover it up and not say that it happened - if it ever did? As usual more questions than answers.

So I am not sure about the shoot down scenario. I could see an aircraft or two being sent up to see what was going on and to shadow the C130. Would the pilot have orders to shoot down if the C130 did not follow any instruction given? It seems rather extreme but I don't know what the thinking might have been. The incident did take place well before 9/11 and I suspect there was no thinking of the guy in the C130 intentionally doing the same or a similar thing given where he seemed to be headed.

I can't see the need for secrecy given what has come out from the cold war period already and this does not seem to be anything other than a tragic attempt by a poor guy who was not thinking straight so hopefully someone will set the record straight with the right story soon.

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I have often wondered about incidents like this,its well documentated that the soviets were aggresive in defending their airspace

so I wonder if we ever downed any ourselves, not likely that we would ever know, could cause a bit of a rumpus if true.

over to the rumour mongers!

Rogerd

edit: I recall an incident in WW11 involving a B25?

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what was the book?

The Lightning Boys

reviewed here

http://www.aeroplanemonthly.com/features/book-reviews/325-the-lightning-boys-true-tales-from-pilots-of-the-english-electric-lightning

I did smile at one pilots comment on being warned not to let the Lightning get ahead of the pilot - "first time in her I was with the aircraft all the way right until brakes off"

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just a question, did F 100 carry any air to air missiles at that time, i know the cannon had a habit of jamming, so if a lightning was used could it have been to add a bit of air to air back up?? just thinking out loud

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John - I think you're probably right. I too would suggest that putting a USAF exchange bod into the QRA Lightning would have been done on the basis that if the need to shoot the Herc down arose it would probably have been more acceptable for a USAF pilot to shoot down a USAF aircraft. You can imagine the confusion that having an unauthorised flight (complete with unqualified pilot) would have caused. Was he defecting? Was he intending a spectacular suicide by crashing into an inhabited area, taking dozens of people with him? Was he going to prove a serious danger to the safety of people on the ground, even if his intention was to go AWOL in a rather prominent fashion? Launching Q with those questions unanswered would be an entirely sensible step; substituting the pilot would, I'd have thought, only be for political reasons, since the probability of Rick Groombridge going to the press, or writing a best-selling account of his experience was going to be pretty low...

It could be that there was a concern that if an RAF aircraft shot down a USAF machine, the Soviets would make propaganda hay out of this; if the need arose to shoot the Herc down and the incident became public knowledge, the chances are that the info released would have been along the lines of 'a number of RAF and USAF aircraft were scrambled, and a USAF pilot destroyed the Hercules when it became clear that it posed an unacceptable danger to the public, etc, etc'.

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I heard about this incident when I was a cop at RAF Woodbridge in the mid 70s. I was told that a Lakenheath aircraft was the one that took him down as it was a danger to aerial navigation, but the story for public consumption was that he lost control of it. We had aircraft on alert at both Bentwaters and Woodbridge, but the weapons load they had would have been useless in a case like this. Enough said on that. F-100s were capable of carrying Sidewinders even though air-to-air was not their reason for being.

Later,

Dave

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i have also heard stories that ba would send concord high and fast for the lightnings to catch,also that the f3 xr749 was very good at catching it

similar stories with u2's anyone else have any info on this.

regards Glenn.....

Edited by cardiff guy

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I'm not sure I beleive it - there are other similar stories (Lightning v Harrier in Germany, Javelin v Indonesian C-130)

I believe it could happen, after all the role of QRA is to intercept, identify and destroy (if necessary) unauthorised flights in UK airspace. Under those circumstances a shoot down would be even more likely as no Government wants to have to pick all the pieces up from lets say, a Primary school or housing estate abroad, then have to admit that it was stolen by a non qualified "loony". I would also expect that the French would have taken it out if it entered their airspace and they were aware of the circumstances anyway.

As for the Javelin v Indo C130, clarification would be good. I understand that interceptions were made or attempted and IIRC one Indonesian C130 was lost but can't remember the circumstances.

Don't know about the Lightning v Harrier in Germany but I do recall a (French IIRC) Mirage sans pilot having to be shot down over Germany in the early '80s as it was heading North East towards restricted airspace and built up areas and then there was good old finger trouble in the front cockpit of an RAFG Phantom as reported in The Sun, "Tallyho" being the headline!

Duncan B

Edited by Duncan B

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Just to add a little more on the subject of QRA. I do not have the exact details to hand at the moment but during the 50's a USAF F-86 was scrambled from Manston (Kent) to investigate what became a UFO encounter somewhere off the Essex /Suffolk coast.The aniversary made the TV news down here afew years ago.Not sure what the RAF were doing at the time though !

Keep the theories coming

D

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Re the Indonesian C-130.In the book.'Empire in the Clouds' (I think!)it reports that the Herc crashed whilst trying to get away from the Javelin.I believe that this is the Javelin's only kill but who knows.

wasn't there also a German(?)F-104 with the pilot dead at the controls or did it just run out of fuel and crash?

All interesting stuff.

RG

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the lightning harrier story i read was the harrier pilot ejected but the harrier then decided to fly straight and level all on its own. cue a lightning was called to shoot it down

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