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1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAn entirely different event occured during the time that some extension work was being done to the apron (hard-standing) outside the Squadron hangar. A trench had been cut a short distance away outside the hangar threshold and parallel to it. The Erks had the unenviable task of pushing all aircraft over this trench by using three wide, suitably placed planks. It so happened, one day, when I was the last to land and taxi in, rather than, as per orders, stopping the aircraft and climbing out on the outer hard-standing I decided to help the lads. With plenty of forward speed and more than adequate brake pressure, I stopped the engine and carried on rolling forward, lining myself up with the planks. With still enough speed in hand, and perfectly lined up, I let my aircraft roll across the planks, then stopped immediately afterwards, much to everyone's satisfaction. With my cockpit canopy back I could hear a cheer from the lads as I had saved them work, and speeded things up so they could get away for an earlier tea than expected. I was immediately popular, but for one thing. Hearing the cheer from his office, the Boss looked out of his window and saw what had happened. I was sent for and received a stern, yet mild, ticking off for my troubles. The consequences of my actions, had anything gone wrong, were well and truly made clear.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesAnother incident, of which I am ashamed, was the time when I did not do my pre-flight checks thoroughly enough. I taxied and took off with my pitot head cover still on. Nobody noticed that I had been careless. I found myself climbing away at zero airspeed! It took me a moment to check round the cockpit and found that both my VSI and altimeter appeared to be behaving strangely. Everything else was OK. Fortunately I was in clear air. It was only when I looked aft that I noticed the warning streamer still flying from the pitot head cover. By this time in my flying career I knew well how an aircraft felt at different speeds so, with no-one about to see what I was doing I slowed and switched the pitot head heater on, hoping it might burn its way through the cover. It didn't, and I didn't want to lose face. I had a landing to make and certainly didn't want to call any emergency. Next, I climbed to what I judged to be high enough for a Mach run. The streamer tore off in the air flow and, in so doing, must have put enough stress on the fabric cover to peel it back away from the end of the head. Suddenly I had altitude, speed, and a working VSI! I nominally completed my sortie, landed, and taxied back to dispersal. The aircraft marshal didn't notice anything amiss, but as I climbed out of the cockpit one of the ground crew saw the pitot head cover ruckled back against the fin. He was alone so I swore him to secrecy and walked aft and pocketed the offending item. Nothing was said.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesIn preparation for the Squadron's conversion to Sabres we were issued with new flying kit. Our flying suits remained the same and we retained our Mae Wests, gloves, and aircrew watches, but we handed in our leather helmets, goggles, and oxygen masks. In their place we were issued new oxygen masks, soft inner helmets incorporating slim headphones, and an outer hard helmet (bone dome) to which was attached a dark visor for high altitude work. We were also issued with string vests, soft collar-attached shirts, a 'G' suit, 'Sabre boots', and a very comfortable anorak.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesBefore converting to Sabres I had to cut a slit in the side seam of my uniform trousers so that the pipe from the 'G' suit (worn over our underclothes) could protrude. String vests were initially popular but were soon not used because, to put it in the vernacular of the time "They rubbed our tits off". The new helmets took some getting used to, and later proved themselves essential. The new 'Sabre boots' were like shoes, but with a boot extension above. This was said to make them waterproof and, in an evasion situation, could be cut away to resemble shoes. They replaced our then habit of wearing crêpe-soled shoes for flying. These were silent when marching and became dangerously slippery on spilled aviation fuel.
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