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From the January 2004 issue                    Back to index

LETTER OF THE MONTH - Gannet Incident

SIR�With reference to the excellent Database on the Gannet in the October 2003 issue of Aeroplane, I would draw your attention to the Double Mamba. All the development flying for this engine in the Gannet and Black�burn YB.1 took place at Bitteswell where Armstrong-Siddeley Motors (ASM) were a lodger unit of Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft.
On November 21,1958, Harry Rayner (Siddeley 5) in Gannet WN345 took off at 1415hr on his second flight of the day on that aircraft from Runway 22. This was a Gannet Mk 1 modified to take the latest Double Mamba for the Gannet AEW.3 version. The flight was to entail general handling including slam accelerations.
About 1430hr Harry reported that he had an undercarriage problem and returned to the Bitteswell circuit for a visual check on the aircraft. The
main wheels were fully extended with the nose leg semi-retracted. The conclusion was that the nose wheel door, which should have opened to allow the wheel to enter, had not done so and the leg had jammed trying to enter.
The chief test pilot, Tom Frost (Siddeley 1), hastily visited the Bitteswell Control Tower and on R/T conversed with Harry Rayner.
Tom returned to the ASM Flight and with Jim Wem as observer took off in Jet Provost XD694 at 1450hr. As prearranged the Jet Provost located the Gannet at about 4,000-5,000ft locally. The Gannet's rear propeller was feathered and the Jet Provost flew underneath the Gannet where I understand Jim Wem, using a "brush shaft", tried to release the
nose wheel of the Gannet. They were unsuccessful and the Jet Provost landed back at 1539hr. It was decided to lay a foam carpet for the first 600yd of Runway 22 and whilst this was in progress the Gannet remained at low level in the locality to use fuel. Eventually at 1620hr Harry made a perfect landing on the foam carpet with little damage to the aircraft, as may be seen from the accompanying photograph.
It was night before the company photographer arrived and car headlamps were used to illuminate the scene. As there were no deaths or injuries there was little in the national press, although I think there was a diagram of the escapade on the back page of the Daily Mail.
We had a party in the Man at Arms in Bitteswell when we found out Tom and Harry had been awarded gold watches by the Armstrong Siddeley management.

JIM MORROW (ATCO Retd, Bitteswell),Blaby, Leicester

Fairey Gannet WN345 before (top) and after (above) the incident described by Jim Morrow.

From the  April 2004 issue

Gannet to return to UK after nine-year absence

PROTOTYPE FAIREY GANNET trainer XT752, currently stored at Blaine, Minnesota, looks set to return to the Britain in the spring, destined for North Weald-based warbird pilot Mark Grimshaw. A team from North Weald has already been out to examine and ground-run the aircraft, which was exported to the USA in 1995 following its acquisition at auction by the Amjet Aircraft Corporation. After overhaul the Gannet was operated by the Polar Air Museum at Anoka County Airport, near Minneapolis.
What is now T.5 XT752 first flew as WN365 on August 16, 1954, as the prototype T.2. The new version was fitted with duplicate controls and a periscope mounted between the two front cockpits, and had the radar deleted, the rearmost cockpit being available for either a radio operator or two passengers. After the Indonesian Naval Air Arm ordered 18 Gannet AS.4s in January 1959, WN365 was registered G-APYO and used by Fairey to train Indonesian pilots at White Waltham until 1961. After a period in storage, 'YO was reworked to T.5 standard with the more powerful Mamba 101 engine, and reserialled XT752 in 1966, serving at Lee-on-Solent, Brawdy and Culdrose, before retirement from the Fleet Air Arm in November 1978.
ABOVE Fairey Gannet T.5 XT752, seen here in foreign skies over Minnesota 1997, is set to return to the UK this spring to be based at North Weald.

From the October 2003 issue

Fleet Air Arm Gannet squadrons

700 Squadron � Re-formed at Ford on August 18, 1955, from 703 and 771 Sqns as the Trials and Requirement Unit for the Gannet AS.1. This unit assessed the suitability of new aircraft types for Fleet Air Arm (FAA) use. Gannet AS.4s arrived in February 1957. Ford closed as part of the Defence cuts in 1958, 700 Squadron moving to Yeovilton on September 19, 1958. Gannet T.2s arrived in March 1959. When 700 Squadron was disbanded on July 3, 1961, any Gannets on strength went to 771 Squadron, a Fleet Requirements Unit
700G Flight � Intensive Trials Unit which assessed the Gannet AEW.3 for service use at Ford between August 1959 and January 1960
703X Flight
� Intensive Trials Unit of 703 Squadron which formed on March 15, 1954, at Ford to assess the Gannet AS.1. This included tropical trials and operating from a carrier deck. The trials ended on December 21, 1954, with the Gannets passing to 700 Squadron
719 Squadron
� Operated with 737 Squadron as a Naval Air Anti-Submarine School at Eglinton, Northern Ireland. On November 22,
1957, 719 absorbed 737 with a name change to Naval Anti-Submarine Operational Flying School. Gannet AS.1s and T.2s arrived in November 1955 and stayed in use until March 1959
737 Squadron � As part of the joint training unit with 719 Squadron the unit received Gannet AS. 1s and T.2s in March 1955 and operated them until the change of role in November 1957
744 Squadron � Re-formed at Culdrose on March 1, 1954, as a Naval Air-Sea War Development Unit operating Firefly AS.6s. The unit moved to St Mawgan on October 23, 1954, and received its first Gannet AS. 1s in May 1955, joined by Avenger AS.5s in July of that year. In October 1955 the units name was changed to reflect its new role
� Naval Anti-Submarine Development Squadron. The squadron disbanded on October 31, 1956
796 Squadron � From early 1956 this squadron became the Observer and Air Signals School operating Fireflies. A Gannet T2 arrived in February 1957 for crew training, followed in April by Gannet AS. 1s. After converting to Skyraiders the squadron disbanded on October 1,1958
810 Squadron
� On April 20, 1959, 810 Sqn reformed at Culdrose with six Gannet AS.4s and after working up moved to Gibraltar in June in preparation to join HMS Centaur. A cruise through the Mediterranean was followed by a trip to the Far East and on to Australia. They returned in April 1960 to Culdrose but re-embarked for a visit to Stockholm. The squadron was disbanded aboard Centaur on July 12, 1960, after which the Gannets flew ashore to Culdrose
812 Squadron � Reformed on November 7,1955, at Eglinton as an anti-submarine squadron. It received eight Gannet AS.1s and a T.2 before embarking in HMS Eagle for a Mediterranean work-up in April 1956. On August 3, 1956, the Gannets flew ashore to Hal Far, Malta, on standby for action during the Suez Crisis. They flew to Lee-on-Solent where the squadron was disbanded on December 13, 1956
814 Squadron � This unit received eight Gannet AS.4s and one T.2 at Culdrose on January 14, 1957. The squadron embarked in HMS Eagle in August 1957 and took part in Exercise Strike Back in Norwegian waters. HMS Eagle moved to the Mediterranean where the squadron spent time between the ship and Hal Far, Malta. Early in 1959 they took part in another exercise and after a visit to Brest flew ashore to Culdrose where the squadron disbanded on September 30, 1959
815     Squadron � Reformed with eight Gannet AS.1s and a T.2 at Eglinton on February 6, 1956. Embarked in HMS Ark Royal in January 1957 and spent three weeks in American waters during May. During this period FAA squadrons cross-operated with aircraft from the American carrier USS Saratoga. In December 1957 the Gannet AS. 1s were exchanged for AS.4s and time was spent with Ark Royal in the Mediterranean before returning to Culdrose to disband on July 15,1958
820 Squadron
� Received nine Gannet AS. 1s at Eglinton on March 7, 1955. Embarked in HMS Centaur during January 1956 for operations in the Mediterranean and Far East, after which the squadron relinquished its Gannet AS. 1s into storage at Donibristle. Formed up at Eglinton on July 30, 1956, with eight Gannet AS. 1s. Embarked in HMS Bulwark in June 1957 but was disbanded on December 2, 1957
824  Squadron � Equipped with eight Gannet AS.1s in February 1955 followed by a T.2 in April. After a short spell in HMS Bulwark the squadron embarked in HMS Ark Royal during October 1955 for Exercise Dawn Breeze. The squadron disbanded at Ford on April 17, 1956, only to re-form at Culdrose the following month, still with Gannet AS. 1s. In October these were replaced by nine Gannet AS.4s and the following January joined Ark Royal. A move to HMS Albion followed before being disbanded at Culdrose on November 1, 1957
825  Squadron � Re-formed on July 4, 1955, at Culdrose with eight Gannet AS.1s, receiving a T.2 in October. In January 1956 the squadron embarked in HMS Albion and visited the Far East before returning to Lee-on-Solent to disband on August 7,1956. On May 6, 1957, the
squadron re-formed at Culdrose with nine Gannet AS.4s and flew to Hal Far, Malta, in January 1958. The squadron relinquished its Gannets on April 29, 1958, when it disbanded at Culdrose
826  Squadron � Received eight Gannet AS. 1s on January 17, 1955. Joined HMS Eagle in June 1955 for a trials period in the Mediterranean. Later that year took part in Exercise Sea Enterprise operating in Scandinavian waters and off the Faroe Islands. Happy with the results
showing the Gannet to be an effective anti-submarine aircraft, the squadron returned to Lee-on-Solent to disband on November 22, 1955
831 Squadron
� An Airborne Electronics Warfare squadron formed by renumbering 751 Squadron at Culdrose on May 1, 1958. Although operating various types of aircraft two Gannet AS. 1s were received for A Flight, joined in February 1959 by a Gannet ECM.4. For efficiency in training with the Fleet during 1959-60, 831 Sqn was awarded the prestigious Boyd Trophy. In July 1963 the squadron moved to RAF Watton, Norfolk, for better liaison between the two services on electronic warfare. The unit was disbanded on August 26, 1966; the Electronic
Countermeasures (ECM) role was handed over to 360 Sqn
847 Squadron � Formed up from 812 Squadron on March 17, 1956, at Eglinton. Three Gannet AS. 1s were based at Nicosia, Cyprus, to provide daily patrols to curb arms smuggling. The AS. 1s were replaced by three Gannet AS.4s in June 1958 and continued until November 1959. The unit then disbanded at Yeovilton on December 1, 1959
849 Squadron
� This unit was unique in that it consisted of a Headquarters Flight which was permanently shore-based, and four Flights, any one of which could be supplied to a carrier when going on a commission. Each Flight was normally made up of four Gannet AEW.3s and one Gannet COD.4 to provide ship-to-shore communications. When not required the Flights were shore-based with the HQ Flight
1840/1842 Sqns
� Gannets joined 1840 Sqn of the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve (RNVR) in February 1956 when 11 Gannet AS. 1s and a T2 replaced the unit's Fireflies. Sharing the aircraft as part of the Channel Air Division was 1842 Squadron, both being based at Ford. In the Defence Review cuts of 1957 all RNVR squadrons were disbanded on March 10, 1957
Ship's Flights � Carriers Ark Royal, Eagle, Hermes and Victorious all operated Gannet COD.4s at various times between November 1961 and December 1969

Station Flights � Abbotsinch Gannet T2         Sep 1958-1962
Gannet T.5        Sep 1958-May 1959
Anthorn      Gannet T.2        May 1956-Sep 1957
Culdrose    Gannet T.5         Apr 1959-Sep 1966
Eglinton      Gannet T.2        Jul 1957-Nove 1958
Ford           Gannet T.2        Nov 1956-Feb 1958
                            Yeovilton    Gannet T2     May 1959-Jun 1959
Gannet AS.4     Feb 1961-May 1962          

The Royal Radar Establishment (RRE) at Defford used a Gannet AS.1 in 1956 for tests on the Blue Silk Doppler navigation radar system
RRE Pershore used two Gannet AEW.3s during 1969-72 for AN/APS-20 radar development