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Duncan B

The Mystery Mildenhall Hercules may have been found in the English Channel

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Sgt Paul Meyer stole a C-130 Hercules from RAF Mildenhall on 22nd May 1969 and took off into the night. What happened after that and where he eventually crashed has been shrouded in myth ever since but it appears the wreckage may have finally been discovered according to the BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-46624382

 

There has always been a lot of speculation around whether he crashed or was shot down, maybe we will now be able to find out?

 

Duncan B

 

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thanks for posting  - how come just the phone call with the wife was recorded ..and not the entire incident ?   the link to the Bolivian Eastern Air lines crash on that same page is equally fascinating - who knew that sometimes when terrain is 'inaccessible' the authorities don't bother retrieving the black box ?

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There was a multi-part report on Radio 4 about this earlier in the year. All sorts of information came to light: an armourer from an RAF Lightning unit who said that all the aircraft scrambled from his unit came back with all their weapons, another RAF Hunter pilot who insisted that an aircraft from his unit expended all its 30mm ammunition and its pilot was isolated by RAF Police/Security Service immediately on landing. It's a conspiracy theorist's dream come true, but also a human tragedy.

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Unfortunatley as most governments that want information to remain unobtainable, we probably never will know

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In many ways a sad story.  It does seem clear that despite the delight conspiracy theorists take in this case the bigger picture is that a somewhat sadly disturbed guy took a C-130 and managed to get it airborne and flew some distance.  Whether he was shot down or forced down, shot down by a USAF or RAF aircraft/pilot or crashed through lack of control almost does not matter.  Today after 9-11 we would consider  not taking the C-130 down almost a dereliction of duty and that is perhaps another sad aspect of how the world has changed and not for the better.  

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7 hours ago, FalkeEins said:

thanks for posting  - how come just the phone call with the wife was recorded ..and not the entire incident ?   the link to the Bolivian Eastern Air lines crash on that same page is equally fascinating - who knew that sometimes when terrain is 'inaccessible' the authorities don't bother retrieving the black box ?

The fact that he was able to operate the radio with enough expertise to contact his wife as well as be able to start up the Herc and fly it shows that he was well versed with the aircraft systems.

There was a B-36 (carrying a live A Bomb) that crashed in Canada and wasn't found for years as it had been abandoned over the Pacific and thought to be at the bottom of the sea but had turned around and headed inland (there was a suspicion that the co-pilot had stayed onboard). Once it was found the US mounted a hush hush mission to destroy the bomb and the aircraft remains but there is still a lot of the wreck on that particular mountain side. There was a very interesting Documentary about it on TV earlier this year.

 

6 hours ago, Mitch K said:

There was a multi-part report on Radio 4 about this earlier in the year. All sorts of information came to light: an armourer from an RAF Lightning unit who said that all the aircraft scrambled from his unit came back with all their weapons, another RAF Hunter pilot who insisted that an aircraft from his unit expended all its 30mm ammunition and its pilot was isolated by RAF Police/Security Service immediately on landing. It's a conspiracy theorist's dream come true, but also a human tragedy.

I've heard various conspiracy/urban myths related to this incident, human nature I suppose. One featured a USAF exchange pilot on Lightnings at Wattisham being ordered to intercept and shoot down the Herc. I have no idea if there is any truth in any of these stories and I doubt we'll ever know for sure. The wreck itself may well hold some clues but having been involved in marine archaeological operations I know it is a very expensive and very difficult operation to carry out, especially in the English Channel when strong currents, bad visibility and years of trawling are added into the mix.

3 hours ago, JohnT said:

In many ways a sad story.  It does seem clear that despite the delight conspiracy theorists take in this case the bigger picture is that a somewhat sadly disturbed guy took a C-130 and managed to get it airborne and flew some distance.  Whether he was shot down or forced down, shot down by a USAF or RAF aircraft/pilot or crashed through lack of control almost does not matter.  Today after 9-11 we would consider  not taking the C-130 down almost a dereliction of duty and that is perhaps another sad aspect of how the world has changed and not for the better.  

My own opinion is that the order to shoot him down before he strayed into populated areas/airspace will have been issued (I suspect there were probably already procedures in place for such an incident or for dealing with a defection attempt). He may well have crashed either accidentally or on purpose before that happened but I have no doubt that he would not have been allowed to fly around for any length of time without intervention. The risk to the general population of any of the Countries within range of his aircraft would have been taken into account along with the potential scandal if he had crashed into a populated area.

This is all my own opinion of course but there is a precedent of sorts when an unmanned aircraft (If I remember correctly it was a French Mirage that the pilot had ejected from) flew across most of western Europe before being shot down before it could cross into East Germany. Not exactly the same circumstances I grant you but still an aircraft out of control on an unauthorised flight plan (it was once the pilot had vacated).

 

Duncan B

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A further possibility that was floated was that the Armee De L'Air did the actually intercept, based on possible sightings of the Herc close to Jersey (and hence the French coast). What a mess!

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While he could have been shot down with the possibility that it was covered up for all the obvious reasons. The most likely scenario is that he lost control and crashed into the sea. Not only was he drunk he was no pilot and he certainly had no training and experience flying at night in poor weather, instrument flying in fact. Even trained and experienced pilots become disoriented in that situation. The fact that several fighters tried and failed to intercept him shows the difficulty they were having in the conditions. Picking up a target on radar is one thing getting close enough to intercept it is another.

He was doomed from the start. Whether he was shot down or not. 

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6 hours ago, noelh said:

While he could have been shot down with the possibility that it was covered up for all the obvious reasons. The most likely scenario is that he lost control and crashed into the sea. Not only was he drunk he was no pilot and he certainly had no training and experience flying at night in poor weather, instrument flying in fact. Even trained and experienced pilots become disoriented in that situation. The fact that several fighters tried and failed to intercept him shows the difficulty they were having in the conditions. Picking up a target on radar is one thing getting close enough to intercept it is another.

He was doomed from the start. Whether he was shot down or not. 

I would agree this is the most likely scenario and it's one thing to get an aircraft into the air but getting back down in one piece was always going to be the issue.

Wasn't there an incident with s stolen Dash 8 in Canada recently which was similar in that a non-pilot took it up and was actually filmed flying wildly before crashing?

 

Duncan B

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Indeed but he had no intention of landing. Maybe that's another possibility.

 

The tone of the phone call to his wife suggests he realised that.

 

That phone call, I wonder how it was technically possible back in 1969? 

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A truly tragic story- one would hope that his obvious stress disorder type symptoms would be dealt with a little more empathy these days- but on a technical note, his ability to start, taxi, and take off in a multi engine transport aircraft is astounding.

As far as a "Telephone call" from the aircraft, the only world wide comms at the time would have been over the HF radio system, and by using "Selective Calling" (SELCAL) it would have been possible to contact the aircraft directly.  (The transcripts of the call appear to show his wife trying to ascertain his/ the aircraft location, so I assume that the USAF contacted him, not vice-versa)

 

Poor bloke. may he rest in peace. 

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SELCAL, I hadn't thought of that. Didn't realise it was in use so long ago. HF of course can be spotty at times as is obvious in the transcript but it's still used for mid Atlantic and other communication. 

Actually your comment that the USAF contacted him no doubt bringing his wife to the base kind of implies they were fully aware of his attentions. Which makes the shoot down option less plausible. 

It is a tragic incident,  maybe he tried to turn back and lost control. It's a horrifying moment, don't ask me how I know!!!

When you remember how an experienced crew mushed a modern jet into the sea in the AF447 crash. You realise what he was up against.

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I'm not certain that the C130 at the time were equipped with SELCAL, but It had been in use for around a decade in Civilian Airliners and transports, so I am making an assumption, based on the reports. 

I might have a look at the story in detail, but after recently wading through a frankly shocking amount of Conspiracy Theorist posts on social media recently regarding the Apollo 8 documentary on BBC Radio, I'm wary of another subject that has attracted controversy, I find it a bit tiring. 

 

I take your point on the AF447 loss, horrendous. 

 

 

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AFAIK, SELCAL is merely a mean of letting the crew of the aircraft know that someone wants to get in radio contact with them - usually on HF. This requires the aircraft radio to be tuned to the frequency on which the SELCAL signal is transmitted.

 

Somw military Base Ops/Command Posts/Command HQs have the possibility to establish a "phone patch" where the HF/VHF/UHF communication can be conncted to the civilian phone system, thus allowing two-way communication between an aircraft in-flight and an ordinary phone.

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Here's a transcript of the accident report- it confirms that Sgt Meyer contacted Langley AFB  via HF and they phone patched him through to his wife. 

 

It's an amazing story. 

 

Paul Meyer C-130 transcript

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A very sad story. I can only assume that Sgt. Meyer saw no other way out of his situation.

 

Chris. 

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13 hours ago, noelh said:

Indeed but he had no intention of landing. Maybe that's another possibility.

 

The tone of the phone call to his wife suggests he realised that.

 

That phone call, I wonder how it was technically possible back in 1969? 

When serving abroad we used to radio a monitoring station called Portishead (near Bristol?) and ask them to patch our transmission through via a reversed charges call to the wife back at home,...... so they would have done it that way,....... it was weird sitting in the back of a Landrover in the Middle East talking to the missus and using the pressel switch to talk! The first time I did it she thought that it was a wind up and that I was at a telephone box at the end of the street and had come home early!!

 

Cheers

           Tony

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16 hours ago, noelh said:

When you remember how an experienced crew mushed a modern jet into the sea in the AF447 crash. You realise what he was up against.

 

 .. the pilot in the seat there was an 'ab initio' hire with about four years experience. Airbus engineer and test pilot Bernard Ziegler used to boast that he had created airliners that were so easy to fly even "his concierge could fly them.."

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On 1/1/2019 at 8:33 AM, FalkeEins said:

 

 .. the pilot in the seat there was an 'ab initio' hire with about four years experience. Airbus engineer and test pilot Bernard Ziegler used to boast that he had created airliners that were so easy to fly even "his concierge could fly them.."

 Your point being, exactly?

 

Sgt. Meyer was trying to deal with significant and unpleasant personal and family problems.  I honestly think he was trying to get home to sort them out.  He lost his life in the process, and his new wife lost her husband.

 

Whether or not a C130 was (or an Airbus is) easy to fly isn’t relevant.  The poor man managed to have an aeroplane fuelled, and was able to taxi it to the active runway, take off and fly the thing raises questions about the organisation he worked for.  It’s up to them to consider how that could happen, and to introduce measures to prevent it happening again,  at RAF Mildenhall or anywhere else, not for BM member.

 

I’m  not trying to be over critical of FalkeEns’, or anyone else’s, comment(s). I just happen to think we need to have sympathy for a man clearly driven over-the-top by personal issues.

 

Just my £0.02 worth personal opinion.

 

Jonny

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On 1/1/2019 at 1:09 AM, tonyot said:

When serving abroad we used to radio a monitoring station called Portishead (near Bristol?) and ask them to patch our transmission through via a reversed charges call to the wife back at home,...... so they would have done it that way,....... it was weird sitting in the back of a Landrover in the Middle East talking to the missus and using the pressel switch to talk! The first time I did it she thought that it was a wind up and that I was at a telephone box at the end of the street and had come home early!!

 

Cheers

           Tony

When I first worked offshore we could only call home by radio through the Stonehaven Station connecting us to the telephone network. That was PTT too and Mrs B couldn’t get the hang of it. Once my Mrs found out every radio op in the North Sea and the operators at Stonehaven could (and did) listen in she never spoke on the calls ever again. I pretty soon stopped calling home while away. 

I digress, my apologies to me for the thread drift :)

 

Duncan B

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A sad story and hopefully his family will get some closure if they find out what happened.

 

Julien

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1 hour ago, Duncan B said:

When I first worked offshore we could only call home by radio through the Stonehaven Station connecting us to the telephone network. That was PTT too and Mrs B couldn’t get the hang of it. Once my Mrs found out every radio op in the North Sea and the operators at Stonehaven could (and did) listen in she never spoke on the calls ever again. I pretty soon stopped calling home while away. 

I digress, my apologies to me for the thread drift :)

 

Duncan B

Yeah I did have to explain that to the Mrs too,...... and it was a good laugh listening in to some of the other lads,...... especially when it got a bit fruity!! LOL

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Ah the good old days before mobile....Portishead radio portishead radio,this is warship ark royal warship ark royal....and likely all the ROs listening in ....perks I guess😂🤣

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I am aware of this incident. My understanding was that the aeroplane was shot down, to prevent it defecting to East Germany. 

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