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Ron Gray Remembers Hitting a Bank During Landing on the Short Runway at Sylt in a Sabre on 16May55

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   Charlie Boyack and myself had been left behind at JEVER.  His Sabre radar caught fire and burned his small pack; my Sabre would not start.  The briefed runway at Sylt by Sqn. Ldr Gilpin was the long one but by the time I got there the wind had veered somewhat.

   Struck bank of earth in undershoot of short runway in use (1200 yds I seem to remember) at Sylt.   The German contractors who were putting in new airfield lighting had not advised ATC that they were working halfway across runway thresh-hold.  J (Jig) (XB923) lost port wheel and tank.  I jettisoned the starboard tank at the second attempt over the airfield.  The electric circuits had obviously suffered and had to use the lavatory chain on the floor, behind the control column.   (See Cockpit Picture Item 58 and description Page 72 Para 97 (ii)).  The tank rolled outward along the wing and bent the pitot head outwards at 90°.  This rather upset the instruments it served. I spent what seemed to be several hours mesmerised at the altimeter and VSI, which were flying up and down beyond anything possible.  The ASI said I'd stalled ten minutes ago and did I want to restart the game?

   A 93 member was airborne at the time, when I was explaining the wee problem to Tony Vasey who had replaced Boss Gilpin on the Tower frequency, and offered a formation landing.  I thanked him but as the reaction of the aircraft was uncertain I flew a circuit, on their long runway this time, using the power indications (in percentages on the F86), popped it down and held the port wing up as long as possible.  The guy in the caravan told me afterwards that the approach and landing were spot on.

   The newly promoted CO of 93, Squadron Leader Browne, held the Court of Enquiry.  The best support I had was from the Wing Commander Flying at Sylt.  The aircraft was Cat. 4.  The port wheel ended up in a garden in Westerland, thankfully not causing any injury.  Obviously I was a trifle upset and Bob Smith showed me a plaque which he had hanging on his accommodation wall which said, "If you never make a mistake, you will never make anything".  Felt better after that and we went for a drink or three.

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