Wheels up
BADGE 72 (1)

Two Greens and a Red

My thanks to Phil Batty for the following laconic and understated account of a hazardous landing in a Vulcan.   I can no longer remember exactly what kind of advice the emergencies section of the Flight Reference Cards gave for the particular landing configuration the crew found themselves in, but there is no denying that the situation was potentially fraught with danger.

I joined the V force in 1963, having completed the Vulcan conversion course at Finningley under the tutelage of Wally George. He always had trouble briefing us as the average height of the crew was over 6 feet and Wally was quite small!
   On completing the course we, as a crew, were posted to 35 Sqn, then based at Coningsby, but shortly thereafter moved to Cottesmore.

On the 29th of October we were briefed to carry out a long low level exercise.
  The crew comprised Flt Lt Gallwey (captain). Fg Off Grierson (Co-pilot), Flt Lt Bradley (Nav Plotter), Flt Lt Bowman (Nav Radar) and Flt Lt Batty (AEO).   We were allocated XM 654, a virtually new aircraft, and after completing the usual formalities we were soon in the air and on our way.

Our troubles began during a routine systems check when the Captain noticed that the hydraulic contents gauge was reading zero.   The customary sharp rap with the knuckle had no effect so we resorted to a more technical approach.   I checked the air scoop intake for the auxiliary power unit and discovered that it now failed to function.   Suspecting a major hydraulic failure we climbed to height and returned to base.

We informed ground control of our situation and went through the pre-landing checks.
  As expected, despite all the electrical circuits being OK, the undercarriage failed to extend.   The next step was to use the emergency air system.   This certainly worked; down went the undercarriage with a bang, but the indicators showed port main green (locked down), nose wheel green, and starboard main red (unlocked).   We climbed up to height to discuss the situation.

The captain suggested that we could bale out but, even as he spoke, I had the alarming vision of a large nose wheel undercarriage leg blocking my exit from the entrance door which doubled as an emergency escape chute.
  I therefore decided to turn down his kind offer of abandoning the aircraft and instead take my chance on a crash-landing.   The rest of the rear crew agreed.   The ejector seats were made safe and the co-pilot would blow the canopy on the approach, just in case the undercarriage collapsed on landing and we had to escape via the top exit.

In the event, the captain did an excellent job by holding up the wing until the last possible moment.
  The aircraft then went its own way, describing a half circle across the airfield before coming to a halt some 30 to 40 yards from another aircraft.   The two locked-down undercarriage legs withstood the strain and we were able to open the entrance door and walk away.

We were taken home by crew bus to reassure our families that all was well.
  As it happened, there was a ladies sherry morning in progress and they were all blissfully unaware of what had happened.   "Had a good trip?” my wife asked.   "Not bad!” I replied, “Although the landing was a bit bumpy!”   And so ended my rather eventful day at the office.

Phil Batty