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Birdy Bigg's Ladder on Take off - 12th April 1956.
As told by Eric Pigdon and Brian Dunbar to Mick Ryan   

"Birdy" Biggs of No 93 Squadron was so named because of the tales of his female conquests when he was a Master Mariner on the New York to Bermuda run.

On 12th April 1956, on an early trip in a Hunter F.4s, he was briefed to taxy out to the dispersal at the end of the runway and to replace one of the Hunters on Battle Flight standby on the ORP at the end of the runway.   Just as he arrived at the ORP, with his ladder still in place, clipped to the side of the aircraft, two Verey flares went up which was the signal to scramble the 4 Battle Flight aircraft.

Four Hunters quickly got airborne with Birdy frantically trying to catch up as a number 5.   On being warned over the R/T that he had taken off with the ladder still attached - his only response was "There's no ladder now!"

The story gets worse; as so often happens when something goes wrong, problems escalate. The air traffic controller, unaware that 5 aircraft were now involved, spotted "Birdy"'s ladder still attached and called urgently on the R/T "Blue 4 abandon takeoff!"; thinking that the last aircraft on the runway must be No. 4 in the formation.:

I'll leave Brian Dunbar, Blue 4, to finish the story himself:

I was Blue 4 in a B Flight Battle Flight standby at the end of runway 29.   As we were scrambled I noticed Birdys aircraft taxiing at speed down the peri track.   As I lifted the nosewheel A.T.C. called "Blue 4 abandon takeoff".   I took off the power and proceeded to test the anti-lock braking system to destruction - as it turned out later.   About 2 seconds after the call Birdys aircraft went over the top of me with his ladder attached.

I ran out of runway and was stopped by the airfield fence, however, it was only stretched a bit since I had nearly made it.   I was very surprised to see Boss Browne arrive in his Landrover almost immediately and wave frantically at me to get out of the aircraft.   When I jumped out I realised the urgency - the port wheel was on fire.   This was attended to by the crash crew very quickly.   The Boss asked me who was in the 5th aircraft and suggested I get back into mine and give him the good news, which I did leading to the famous "Well its not there now!"   Later I learned they found deep scratches over the top of the canopy caused by the barbed wire on top of the fence - glad I did not open it earlier.   Birdy was grounded for 2 weeks - 1 for each of the Boss's precious aircraft.

[Click here to read the F540 report of this incident.]

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