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  101 Squadron Vulcan B2, XM600, crash 17 Jan 1977

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Updated: 6 Nov 13

Vulcan B2 XM600 departed RAF Waddington and crashed in a field near Spilsby at 1545 hrs on 17 Jan 1977 following an engine bay fire apparently caused during a routine air test of the RAT (Ram Air Turbine) emergency generator/AAPP exercise.

XM600 was returning from an exercise over the North Sea when fire broke out in one of the engines. Fire extinquishers in the engine bays failed to douse the fire. Lincolnshire police said it was a miracle that no-one on the ground was hurt. Wreckage was scattered over 20 acres. Thick fog enveloped the scene shortly after the crash, hampering early investigations. By coincidence, the captain knew the first person he met after parachuting down. He was walking along a lane when he met a former Vulcan AEO who had retired to the area four years earlier. He took the Vulcan captain to his home where he telephoned Waddington to tell them what had happened.

A Phantom from nearby Coningsby carried out an airborne inspection and the crew confirmed the extent of the fire at the back of XM600. The captain gave the order for the three rear crew to vacate the aircraft. One of the crew members encountered difficulties in his egress and Navigator John Clark helped resolve the problem enabling all three of the crew were able to bail out. However, this delay had given the fire time to burn through the flying controls which meant the captain could not follow through with the original plan of flying out over the sea where he and the co-pilot would eject to safety and the stricken aircraft would have crashed into the water.

The rear crew abandoned the aircraft between 15,000 and 10,000 ft when it was clear the fire could not be put out. The pilots tried to fly back to their base at RAF Waddington but ejected at a few thousand feet when the fire burnt through the control runs.

The aircraft being out of control, the remaining crew ejected over land. XM600 subsequently crashed near Spilsby with no further injuries on the ground, although debris did cause damage to Miningsby Grange, north-west of East Kirkby. The captain stayed with the aircraft until the last seconds and was credited with saving Spilsby - only half a mile away during market day.

An eye-witness report in the local press reported: "I watched events unfolding from the school sports field...a Vulcan coming in from the coast with a large light visible....no light, but a fierce fire with as it got closer a trail of black smoke quite visible....somehow I felt it would keep going...but then we saw a parachute, then another, and then a third...even then I still felt it would fly on by..but it suddenly pointed 45 degrees downwards...another parachute was seen....then the Vulcan went out sight..and a huge fireball errupted..but I don't recall any bang...a huge smoke ring slowly drifted off to the North.

I was very concerned at seeing no fifth 'chute and it was only on the early evening news that I learnt that the pilot had in fact escaped ok..landing in Northorpe road Halton Holegate outside the home of a former squadron colleague.!!"

When the aircraft Captain 'Bob' rang RAF Waddington operations from the nearby farm he told them he had seen 4 parachutes. Initially Ops did not twig that he had descended on a fifth parachute, causing a short-term panic that there might have been a fatality.

Navigator John Clark and others were treated for his injuries at RAF Hospital Nocton Hall.

THe revised Boar of Enquiry highlighted that the RAT was out of limits, but once dropped it came on line like it or not. There was nothing at that time an AEO could do to stop it over-volting, and sadly it was sparking across to an already pitted fuel line. The the crew were exonerated by the enquiry, because once the routine RAT/AAPP drill was started the airframe was doomed.

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