Saturday 10 June 2017

Supermarine Scimitar, Farnborough air Show 1959, death of Commander John Russell, commanding officer of 803 Naval Air Squadron, September 1958

An original c1959, official manufacturers image (with backstamp of Vickers Armstrongs Ltd )depicting Supermarine Scimitars entering a vertical ascent possibly at the Farnborough Air Show 22 August 1959.

Second photo shows Supermarine N. 113 later dubbed 'Scimitar'. This is the first Type 544 prototype WT 854 at Farnborough Air Show c1959. First flight 19 January 1956. Note the long nose boom with pitot head. This aircraft took part in general trials for carrier operations making deck landings on Ark Royal in April 1957 and through 1958. The aircraft also conducted land-based trials with arrester gear at the RAE, Bedford in late 1958 and was later scrapped. (1964)

At the time of posting these items were available on David O'Neill's Ebay sales page here

Three Supermarine Scimitar F.1s of 736 Naval Air Squadron Lossiemouth at the SBAC show, Farnbrough 8 September 1962. '611' (XD265) in the foreground was lost later that year (15 November) in a birdstrike at 400 feet: the pilot ejected safely.

At the time of the Scimitar's introduction most of the Royal Navy's carriers were quite small and it was a comparatively large and powerful aircraft. Landing accidents were common and the introduction of the type was marred by a fatal accident which took the life of Commander John Russell, commanding officer of 803 Naval Air Squadron, the first squadron to operate the Scimitar. After a perfect landing on the newly recommissioned HMS Victorious and in full view of the press, one of the arrestor wires broke, and Russell's Scimitar (serial XD 240) fell into the sea.

With no means of ejecting through the jammed canopy and despite the efforts of the crew of the Westland Whirlwind planeguard helicopter to perform a rescue, Russell's Scimitar sank to the bottom and Cdr Russell drowned. The incident was captured on film by British Pathé News. Overall the Scimitar suffered from a high loss rate; 39 were lost in a number of accidents, amounting to 51 percent of the Scimitar's production run..