Phantom F4K Royal Navy
Aircraft Carrier Fighter/Supersonic Interceptor
Ground Attack/Strike.

Aircrew Testimony

This incident may have led to a hull loss but I don't know, there was some talk of grafting the front end to another wrecks back end.

Ark Royal was working up off the west coast of Scotland. The weather was foul with low cloud and a rough sea. We were launched for a night AI sortie just after dusk. The sortie was routine and we were vectored back for a CCA. All the way down the glideslope was thick cloud but just at minimums we broke out underneath to see the deck almost horizontal with a very red meatball. There were shouts of "power" from all sides but the Phantom's spool up time was very slow. Eventually the nose came up and I lost sight of the deck but before that I had a distinct impression of looking UP at the red light on the end of the round-down. A thump as we hit the deck followed. Being an ex-Vixen observer I was used to judging a landing by the noise, as we had no other input. I had experienced a few landings where an oleo collapsed and this landing sounded similar except the graunching noise came from the back. I was sure we had made a ramp strike. As we boltered down the deck flyco ordered us to go round and do another CCA. I did not want to obey this order and persuaded the pilot to divert ashore. On the way I was getting nervous that I might have over-reacted but I was slightly re-assured when we had a runaway nose down trim that has us diving for the sea. I was even happier when, after landing gingerly at Lossiemouth, I inspected the aircraft and found the whole underside of the tail severely dented with the hook having been rammed right up inside the empennage. When they stripped the aircraft down they found every rib and stringer broken with only the skin panels holding the tail on. Had we attempted another deck landing with the tail in this condition the results would probably have been disastrous.

There was no word from the ship asking how we had got on or how we were to get back, so eventually we bummed a ride on a supply ship heading to the carrier. As I climbed back on board I was feeling quite good that I had saved the Navy an aeroplane and possibly two crew but I was quickly disabused of this with a ferocious rocket from the CO for disobeying flyco followed by "and what took you so long to get back?". My name was mud thereafter. I wandered to the back of the ship and, while viewing the large rip we had taken out of the lip of the roundown and the dents in the deck, I pondered the strange ways of senior Naval Officers.

Mark Jenkins July 2007

Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
Phantom F4K
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