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 dpi
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 e-mail email@example.com
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 150 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 windscreen.
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 his underwear.
Whilst studying Sea
Vixen references I thought that
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. Now I
understand that XP924 wore the 'call sign' 134 between
12.11.68 and 25.08.70. Ref' Buttler 2007.
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 serial number.
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.