Above: Phantom F4K XV590 007 being launched during Northern Wedding, Arctic 1970.
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On 17th June 1970 this aircraft was the one flown ashore with a nose undercarriage leg stuck in the fully extended position, and thus not retractable, despite application of the pneumatic emergency shrink system. It was thought that the ship's company were going to witness the aircrew eject alongside the ship. After some discussion in Ark's upper hangar where options were discussed, one idea was to override fully extended retraction by popping control panel circuit-breakers in the observers cockpit. I did a quick guesstimate and offered that this would place the nose wheels under the LOX pack. This would have presented a wheels up landing fire hazard with a deadly cocktail of spilt hydraulic fluid, mag' alloy wheels, rubber and oxygen only requiring heat to ignite. The pilot Lt John Leng, courageously diverted ashore and landed the aircraft safely despite the rigid nose leg and with stabilator tips practically scrapping the deck and no nose-wheel steering (switched out in fully extend so that wheels could not castor on the catapult) which had the potential to put even more strain on the main nose-leg strut unless the aircraft was very gently handled.
I recall this aircraft having another adventure, this time at Yeovilton during a night landing in wet weather on 8th April 1971. The starboard tyre burst and the aircraft ran off the runway onto grass that had been absorbing rain water for days. The nose leg quickly sank placing undue strain on the leg actuator which shattered, the broken end pierced the pilots cockpit floor as the leg folded stretching the cable connecting the ejection seat rocket pack cartridge sear to the anchorage point on the floor. A rocket pack firing without an ejection initiated would have had most unfortunate consequences for the pilot Lieutenant-Commander Kenworthy-Johnson and his observer Lieutenant Chase.
892 Squadron required a replacement aircraft as XV590 was then placed Cat HY 'Heavy damage' for off-site repair. Only two damage categories are worse than this; HZ - Heavy damage, likely to be beyond economical repair, ZZ - Total loss, clearly unrepairable or beyond economic repair. Notwithstanding her damage XV590 was back in service in 1972 being transferred to the RAF in December 1978 serving there until retirement and scrapping in 1992.