Monday, 27 February 2012

50 Years of Victor XL231-------------Ray Poore

Victor XL231 shortly after delivery to RAF Wittering
Its hard to believe that 50 Years ago I saw a gleaming white, sleek aircraft coming into land at RAF Wittering. That aircraft was of course Victor XL231. It was the first Victor to take its place, with others arriving later, on 139 (Jamaica) Sqdn.

Shortly after the Victors arrived, all of the electrical ground crew had to go on a Victor course for a week. The electrics were like no other I had come across, and I had serviced on many aircraft in my time! The last three years of my RAF service was taken up working on XL231 and others.

XL231 with 'Blue Steel'
From the gleaming white to camouflage to Blue Steel, which I am proud to say I designed (and got paid for!) designing a switch test box for the Butt Connector circuit, considerably reducing testing time for that circuit.

Ray Poore (sitting) in Jamaica in 1962

In 1962 I went to Jamaica with XL231 and three other Victors, for the Jamaican Independence.

XL191 & XL231 on detachment to Jamaica
My vivid memory of XL231 was testing the Alternator voltage, at the terminal ends, situated on the engines, the test was carried out when the engine was running at about 80%, not for the feint hearted! I'm sure I got my tinnitus from carrying out that test over three years! Those ear defenders did very little to reduce the engine sound. The best part of the test was going into the cockpit and checking the voltage and frequency of each alternator, and then parallelling them all together, pushing the buttons at the right time. I remember it well.

In 2011 whilst staying with EX RAF friends near Whitby, we visited Elvington Museum, and there after 50 years I saw this great Victor, XL231, how the memories came flooding back. Since that day I have been like a 77 year old kid with a new toy; have bought a plastic scale model, complete with XL231 and Lusty Lindy transfers, got the "T" Shirt, key ring, car sticker, and finally the 2012 calendar! Do I like this aircraft or not?!

I wish to thank Andre Tempest and all the XL231 Team for keeping alive all my and many others memories of this wonderful aircraft.
Ray Poore with XL231 in 2011
Ray Poore Electrical Fitter retired, Electrical Engineer retired.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mayhem on the A1!

Many spare parts are needed in order to keep such a complex machine in working order so an offer of spare undercarriage assemblies was not refused.

The day started off with a stop off for breakfast at a McDonalds on the motorway, one of the team suggested that the scrambled egg looked more like the new insulation in his loft at home - we knew somehow it was going to be an interesting day!

After many hours of motoring including seeing a sign indicating directions to a 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' (Kelvedon Hatch) We all had a good laugh and uttered "How can it be secret then??" "Don't tell the Russians!"

 We arrived at Hanningfield Metals, Essex and a Victor main undercarriage and nose undercarriage assemblies were then loaded onto my car trailer and the assembled mass resembled some sort of crazy buggy from 'Mad Max'!   "This is going to raise some interest on the motorway" I thought and I wasn't wrong.

After 'mountaineering' around the vast piles of interesting crumpled aircraft in the yard like a bunch of kids in a toy shop we set off for home.

Driving down the sliproad onto the motorway I suddenly got the feeling the car in the inside lane was hanging back and giving us a once over. It was then I realised it was a Police patrol vehicle. "Nobody look" I said. "There's a Police car and he's given us the eye!"  At that point everyone (except me) turned and gawped at the Police Officers in the car alongside. With a return look that I can only descibe as 'maniacs' the Police sped off!

Some time later driving up the A1 near to RAF Wittering I again noticed a white car level alongside my window. "Nobody look", I said yet again, thinking the worst...   One of the guys then recongnised the driver of the white car who was waving like crazy at us. "Its Captain Flack!" said Andy King. It was Mike Lousada aka Captain Flack to one and all that know him and he just happened to be driving up the A1 that particular day.   He then pulled in front of us indicating us to stop and so we pulled into the first turning. Unfortunately he mis-judged the stopping distance of our Mad Max creation and stopped suddenly. We had to take 'evasive action' and swung around him in order not to take his now open car door off or at worst knock him down! 

"I just KNEW it had to be you with that lot on the trailer, it couldn't possibly be anybody else!!" He said, obviously pleased to see us all. Shakily and still in mild shock for not killing him I uttered something along the lines of "What a coincidence it was to be on the A1 at the same time etc".....

This particular day is firmly etched in the folklore of XL231 and is often mentioned, usually over a beer or several.....

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Air Vice Marshall 'Johnnie' Johnson

Air Vice Marshall James Edgar 'Johnnie' Johnson was a highly successful fighter pilot during World War 2 and achieved a combat record of 34 victories. The highest score achieved by an Allied pilot.

As a controversial Group Captain with a known 'reputation' he commanded RAF Cottesmore during the Victor B1 Bomber era and was a qualified Victor pilot. Many tales (unrepeatable!) have been passed onto us by 'those that were there'...

In 1997 a special gathering of WW2 fighter aces from both sides was organised at Elvington and 'Johnnie' was amongst those invited to attend. I decided that it would be a good idea to let him see inside a Victor again and participate in a Taxy demonstration on the runway. He gratiously accepted the invitation.

Unfortunately on the the day the press were in attendance and he decided to leave early as everyone seemed to want a piece of him!

As an apology for letting us down he sent the following letter to myself;

Victor Arrested!

A Victor was entering a dispersal at the end of a short night transit sortie when the crew chief suddenly signalled the aircraft to stop. The aircraft was stopped and subsequently shut down; the starboard refuelling pod had collided with a portable barbed wire fence that had been left too close to the edge of the taxi way. The pod suffered Cat 1 damage and was subsequently replaced.

The station was gearing itself up for a mineval due to start a couple of days later and the police SNCO who had positioned the fence had clearly been over-zealous in his preparations!

Wing Commander Spry said "Remember - flight safety is everyone's business; those whose jobs take them close to aircraft manoeuvring areas need to be continually alert to potential hazards. If you are not sure that what you are doing is completely safe, check with your supervisor"

Monday, 20 February 2012

End of an era

On the 15th October 1993 the directive to disband the Victor fleet was issued.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The hand that shook the hand of Wilbur Wright - Lee Atwood

With the legendary American aircraft designer Lee Attwood. Left to right;Captain Paul Elmer, Lee Attwood, Andre Tempest

Lee Atwood was the designer of the P51 Mustang, F86 Sabre and X-15 rocket plane, as well as numerous other famous types and was heavily involved with the design of the Command and Service Modules for the Apollo Programme, America's Moon Landing Missions

He went around every inch of the Victor with minute scrutiny and pointed out various air intakes and fairings. His comments went along the lines of; " See these beautifull intakes in the nose? "Yes" I said. He replied with; "Very pretty but a total waste of time! Giving you a drag ratio of "(whatever figure he said on the day!) Then he mentioned the oil cooler intakes under each engine; " Well designed but useless aerodynamically!"

Then he shook my hand and said; " You've just shook the hand that shook the hand of Wilbur Wright". What could I say to that?? I was amazed by him, he was in his 90's and had just landed in the UK after travelling alone from California, he must have been tired out but, he held a lecture at YAM that night and the next day headed off back to America. He was so impressed with how he had been received in Yorkshire that he waived any fee and paid his own air fair. An amazing man and a total privelidge to meet him. It was very sad to learn that he passed away not long after his visit.

Lee Atwood 1904 - 1999. Died 5th March 1999, aged 94.

Find out more about Lee Atwood's contribution to aerospace here:

Friday, 3 February 2012

When I first met 231……………………………by Mike Beer

We first met in 0ctober 1964- an encounter which could have resulted in the quickest aircrew tour in history. I was a 20 year old Pilot Officer first tourist AEO arriving at Wittering from the Victor 2 Ground School at Gaydon to do my simulator and flying training on Victor Training Flight before joining 139(Jamaica) Squadron. I had already acquired the trappings of a young officer- a written off car and an outstanding loan. I now drove a badly dented 1946 Bentley bought for £30 in some rugby club. The Bentley was a pig- nothing much worked and had a pre-selector gear box. Pre start checks were difficult- the electrics were shot so I had to raise the bonnet, set the throttle by jamming a book under the linkage and swing it on the starting handle.

On my first day at Wittering, I was scheduled in the simulator, down near the Ops Block, a distance from the Officer’s Mess. I awoke late, a few too many Norwich’s the night before and rushed the niceties of hygiene and into uniform. To get to the sim quicker, I decided to use the Bentley. I did the pre starts in the car park and shot away to the Ops Block. It was a frosty Winter morning and the car was iced up. As I searched for a car parking spot at Ops, I slowed down and the bitch died on me in the road. My slot time was not far off so I left the cab hurriedly, rushed to the bonnet, jammed In the book and swung the handle. It roared into life- excellent I thought until it started off down the road on its own- I had left it in third gear.

In a panic I tried restraining it, hands thrust forward. By the time I worked out that I needed to be in the cab, it was going too fast and brushed me aside. And off the Bentley set, unmanned with Pilot Officer Beer in pursuit on foot. The road ended in a T junction. Straight on was the apron of a hangar and the taxi way. I looked at what lay straight ahead. And that’s when I first set eyes on XL231.

She had been towed out of the hangar and parked on the apron. The Bentley set course to the aircraft like a dog on heat. Bugger I thought- my first day at Wittering is shaping up to be my last. She picked up speed, reached the T junction, tore across it, mounted the kerb and onto the grass heading for the apron. A collision between car and undercarriage seemed inevitable. I watched in horror- convinced my third party insurance would need talking up for the impending disaster.

But lo- she began losing speed- could it be my career was on track again. Yes- the Bentley was definitely running out of puff. She reached the edge of the apron and quietly halted in trail to the port undercarriage. I dashed down the road and there was my book- the throttle jammer- lying on the grass dislodged by the jolt mounting the kerb causing the throttle to close and cold engine to stall. Quickly looking around noticing that the debacle had no witnesses, I crewed in, gear to neutral, did the pre starts and drove it back to Ops. I made the sim slot on time- but my underwear needed changing.

On 16 November 1964 I completed my first solo sortie as a Victor 2BS AEO- in 231. She bore no malice and I swear she was smiling.

Congratulations to Andre and his hard working team. 231 is a magnificent aircraft which I have been privileged to fly as a B2 and K2. Long may she trundle the runway.