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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 82611
Last updated: 26 September 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic F4 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR2
Owner/operator:31 Squadron Royal Air Force (31 Sqn RAF)
Registration: XV431
MSN: 3140
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:RAF stn Bruggen -   Germany
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:RAF Bruggen, Germany
Destination airport:
Crashed on take-off from RAF Bruggen, West Germany, when the outer wings folded after they had been left unlocked. Both crew - Flight Lieutenant Ray Pilley (pilot) and Flight Lieutenant Kevin Toal (navigator) - ejected safely.

Per eyewitness report from Flight Lieutenant Ray Pilley (pilot):

"The Loss of XV431 - An Accident Waiting to Happen

If ever there was an accident waiting to happen it was this one. Having bought the Phantom as a stop gap measure the Brits managed to double the price and make it go slower. Principally this feat was achieved by cramming into the fuselage the Rolls Royce Spey engine.

One other way was to make the wings fold manually so there existed a situation where the wings were down but needed locking by an engineer with a brace and socket. A really nice added touch was to remove the wing pin warning lights in the cockpit so that not only could the wings be down and unlocked but there was nothing to warn a pilot as he lined up for take off.

All the warning lights were out.! In the case of XV 431 the tiny wing spigots had been over sprayed green which blended in perfectly with the camouflaged wing.

The ejection was interesting. The aircraft became airborne but immediately pitched to the vertical and I was sure it was going over on its back. Full forward pressure on the stick did nothing and at about a hundred feet rolling slightly to port I ordered my navigator to eject.

In the event I left the aircraft about 0.6 of a second ahead of him which, in the event, saved both our lives.

In those days there were no explosive bolts on the canopies and the seat would not fire until the canopy interlock had been removed. My canopy went over Kevin's canopy just as his was leaving, and I passed over Kevin just as he was rising up the rails.

My rocket motor lit at the advertised 6 feet and lightly toasted Kevin. No time to lower the personal survival pack and without a full parachute we both hit the ground very hard just as XV431 blew up 100 feet from the QRA pen housing 4 nuclear loaded F-4's.

Shortly afterwards the canopies were fitted with explosive bolts and the operating procedure in a time critical situation was changed so that the pilot left without warning, save for a loud bang, which would catch the attention of the most docile navigator.

Alas nothing was done about those little old warning lights and eight years later only the sharp eyes of a caravan controller saved yet another one of Her Majesty"s precious Phantoms."



Revision history:

14-Nov-2010 11:55 ASN archive Added
21-Nov-2011 07:00 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
11-Apr-2013 14:02 Nepa Updated [Operator, Location]
02-Jul-2013 13:39 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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