All photographic images
on this page © the author.
These pictures were taken at RNAS Yeovilton on
September 29 2001 at a reunion open to all ex-Sea Vixen
fliers, maintenance crews and partners. There were also some
aviation enthusiasts in attendance.
Dynax 7 and Sigma
50-500mm on Provia 400F at ISO 800, transparency scan at 710
Chocks now placed under
the steerable nose wheel. In this shot the observer's
(navigator's) small side window can be seen just above the
roundle and below the bulge of the frangible observer's hatch.
The frangible hatch was a late modification to just some Sea
Vixen FAW 2s to allow the observer to eject through it rather
than having his seat launch delayed whilst the hatch was
jettisoned. Thus saving vital seconds.
Detail from 'Moment of
Truth' by Robert Tomlin.
Scan of a limited
edition print from an original oil painting
This picture of XP 924
being launched from the waist catapult of HMS Eagle is placed
here with the permission of Buccaneer Distributions, Lancaster
Buildings, 29A Central Avenue, Wigston, Leicester. LE18 2AB.
Tel: +44(0) 116 257 1157 FAX +44(0) 116 257 1141
The aircraft is in the
markings of 899 Squadron with the later 'winged fist' emblem
on the tail. The first 899 emblem that appeared on Sea Vixens,
Mks 1 and 2, was a vertical chain mail gloved hand against a
white circular background. The disposable catapult strop can
be seen falling away as the aircraft leaves the catapult.
These strops were not of insignificant cost and so with the
introduction of the Phantom, and a more expensive strop, a
means of catching these strops for re-use was installed on HMS
Ark Royal. This aircraft is shown in full configuration with
200 Imperial gallon overload (drop) tanks, 24 shot Microcell
rocket pod and Red Top IR missile. The in-flight refuelling
probe can be seen to port, beyond the pilots canopy and
Note the flat attitude of
the Vixen at launch. This is in stark contrast to all other
second generation jets such as the Scimitar, the Buccaneer and
especially the Phantom, operated by the Fleet Air Arm which
were all launched at high angles of attack with the nose in
the air. The Vixen launched and recovered so flat that near
the deck it would ride on its own air cushion, 'ground
effect'. There is one story of a pilot who, convinced he had
caught a wire, throttled back then discovered his mistake and
opened up again. By the time the aircraft ran out of deck the
engines had not returned to full power and the aircraft sank
towards the sea. Just at the surface it managed to ride its
own air cushion and pull away, leaving an amazing wake. The
pilot then recovered the aircraft as normal and the observer
Whilst studying Sea Vixen
references I have come to realise that there is an historical
anomaly in Tomlin's picture. The date of the picture is stated
as representing some time in 1969 which works with the
winged-fist tail emblem on the fins and the frangible
observer's hatch. However at this time XP924 would have been
carrying the call sign 134 and not 124 as depicted.
To be sure she did carry
the call sign 124 during an earlier period including whilst
being filmed on Eagle in 1966. The DVD Warship Eagle from
BUELAH, available from
the Fleet Air Arm Museum includes a sequence of XP924
catching a wire and then moving forward to the deck park
folding her wings as she goes. This is well worth watching and
reveals that at the time XP924 was sporting the 124 call sign
and that 899 were still using the earlier fin insignia of a
mailed-glove on a white oval background bounded by a thin
black oval and with no sign of a frangible hatch.
A most useful reference is
'Fleet Air Arm Fixed-Wing Aircraft Since 1946' by Ray
Sturtivant and Lee Howard, at ISBN 0 81530 283 1 available
from Air Britain
(Historians) Ltd. which provides records, in varying
levels of detail, of all relevant aircraft by maker, type and
It is good to see that
XP924 has now been refinished, at the expense of the previous
sponsor Red Bull I understand, in her original full service
dark sea grey and white glory with the later flying fist tail
insignia and call signed 134. Now all we can hope is that
another sponsor is found else the prospects of future flying
by this aircraft, which never ceases to impress the crowds,
looks uncertain, I would be more than happy to learn of
promising developments on this front.
Feel free to e-mail
me with any comments and feedback.