Memories of John Saxon's flight accident of Victor bomber with a Blue Steel rocket on board August 17, 1962.

"We had to do another Blue Steel drop test to test the missile systems - they had become almost routine by then. I was a civilian who worked for Elliott Brothers, an English firm, now part of the GEC as far as I know. We had to complete the first phase of the final testing of one of the world's first INSs designed to point the missile. Our Handley Page Victor B.2 bomber was parked at Edinburgh Airfield, near Adelaide in South Australia. The 6-ton missile, which was 11 metres long, was suspended from the aircraft, fully loaded with high-component hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, which was an extremely dangerous mixture (so the missile's transport trolley always spilled water carefully just in case).

We climbed aboard - Avro's commanding officer and chief pilot John Baker, Captain Jimmy Kathleen was sitting in the starboard chair, Captain Charlie Gilbert was in the middle of the back of the cockpit, controlling the navigation system, and Captain Glenn Glynning took the place of an officer of electronic systems on my right hand. He watched the autopilot of the rocket and other aircraft systems. Frank Longhurst, another civilian from Avro, was sitting in the 6th folding chair, who had to watch Glenn handle their rocket properly. At this stage of the test, the civilian crews began the gradual training and handover to the Royal Air Force crews, who were to complete the tests. We "entered" the LTO, oxygen equipment, air-cooled flight suits and began seemingly endless pre-flight checks.

Everything went smoothly, we took off and took off, turning southwest to begin climbing to the first control point over Kangaroo Islands. Despite its weight of about 80 tons, the Victor climbed quite easily. It took about 8 minutes to climb from sea level to 15 kilometers, but with a suspended rocket, the pace was slightly slower. Nevertheless, the mark of 3 kilometers we passed quickly and when we reached 14 kilometers, a real hell broke loose: quick negotiations in the forward cabin and attempts to raise the nose of the plane, which arranged a real Russian slide, the sound of the engine did amazing things. In the rear cockpit it seemed that we were making a half-shell, accompanied by a sharp increase in positive and negative overloads. John Baker turned on the "get off the plane" sign and relieved the pressure in the cockpit, while Frank (who was technically supposed to be the first to get off the plane through the back door) unbuttoned from the seat and immediately hit the roof, not trying to reach the door again. According to the plan to leave the plane, I was next in line, and I was able to stand up and cling to the bracket of the camera on the navigator panel. But I couldn't get to the side door any further because we were spinning fast and it seemed like a fast dive was going on. Then, after a seemingly long period of time (actually 20 seconds had passed), a loud clap was heard in the back of the plane, and the rotation turned into an almost vertical dive, accompanied by a squeak and grit, dust rising, pencils flying in all directions, tablets, etc.. But we were back in almost horizontal flight again at an altitude of about 5 kilometers!

Happened, as far as I know, that's what happened. When we reached an altitude of 13700m, the air speed indication system failed, it started to show a speed of 1.03m. The transonic flight signal went to automatic stabilizers, which were set to a larger angle, because the Victor was not designed for supersonic flight. However, the pilots compared the right and left air speed indicator sets, and as soon as the pitch angle began to increase, they were guided by a faulty right indicator. So they tried to reduce the speed even further, and it ended with a sharp increase in pitch angle to almost upside down, followed by a quick spin that was impossible to control. Fortunately for us, John Baker did a lot of tests, during which it was common to use the brake chute to move the plane into a more stable dive. This had never been done on an 80-ton Victor bomber with a sickle wing, but there was nothing else left.

The plane was overloaded from -3 to +5 (more design restrictions!), and the whole incident lasted about 60 seconds, with a loss of altitude from 14 km to 4.9 km in just 20 seconds - "vertical" supersonic!

A few things we did before we finally landed. First we started with the correct air speed indication, as the two half sets of pointers still worked differently. Then possible damage to the structure. Fortunately, the radio was still working because we needed an escort plane. It was decided to jettison the missile as it contained highly explosive fuel (whose temperature was rising) and even some TNT explosive for self-liquidation in case it went beyond the test site. Also due to the lack of a tail parachute, in case of problems with the chassis or brakes, landing with a fully loaded rocket under the fuselage would have been very spectacular!

...Despite a good "walk" for strength constraints, the aircraft was in good shape and after a small repair returned to the Blue Steel test, of course, at Woomer's range! He later returned to Britain and, after a repair at the Handley Page plant, took over the reconnaissance duties of the Royal Air Force Squadron.