When 1950 commenced I had been on 213 Squadron, in Egypt, for approximately nine months, flying Tempest 6s, but with the new year we moved into the jet era, converting to Vampires.
Our rivals, 6 Squadron, had already changed over, and 249, the third Squadron in 324 Wing were to follow. The Tempests were stored at Kasfareet awaiting repatriation.
The ferry pilots that delivered the remaining Vampires were scheduled to take the Tempests back to the UK. This was far from popular with them, as most were not experienced on the type. We heard that several aircraft had been abandoned en route, in the main due to low oil pressure.
Crewroom, Deversoir 1950 L-R GordonTripp, Ted Sparks, Frank Atkinson: source Gordon Tripp
The Powers That Be decided the pilots of 324 Wing should do the remainder of the ferry flights. The cause of the problem, it had been discovered was, that when the engines were started after standing for several months, the carbon deposits broke up, found their way through the oil system and rapidly clogged the filters. Special new ones, described as wide enough to shoot peas through were fitted for the trip. This obviated the problem, but resulted in a thick, black, oily deposit from the exhaust stubs forming down both sides of the fuselage which wiped off easily onto flying overalls, and then stuck.
On 30th April four pilots from 213 proceeded to Kasfareet to air test some Tempests and ferry them back to the UK. Each aircraft was fitted with two 90 gallon drop tanks, and mine refused to feed from the starboard side. After an hour I decided to land.
I picked a speed at random of 120 knots for the approach. This was about 25 knots higher than normal and I figured it would give me a good margin. I could reduce it before touching down. At 200 feet I suddenly realised the stick was right up against the stop, something that just does not happen on a fighter. I had full aileron and was barely under control. I held the speed right until touchdown, and then started breathing again.
I suppose I could have jettisoned the tanks, but the prospect of a few days leave in the UK was enticing, and I knew I would not get another pair fitted in time.
One of the other pilots had been a boy entrant mechanic before re-mustering, which proved very useful. He hammered a piece of wood into the non-return valve, and I had no further trouble.
The following day we flew to Fayid for Customs clearance, then on to El Adem (Tobruk), and Castel Benito. Here, we were informed that a Meteor heading for 208 Squadron at Fayid had gone missing. We flew the next leg to Tunis at low level, searching, but failed to find any sign of the aircraft. At Tunis we overnighted. Next day it was Istres (Marseilles), and then on to Manston.
My radio was U/S by this time so I didnt receive landing instructions and just followed the others in. I was amazed to see a Meteor taxi past me on the edge of the runway as I touched down. I only discovered later that as the runway was so wide they habitually used the left side as a taxiway.
We were told that the Station Commander, who was in his car, saw the four Tempests in the circuit so drove to the dispersal to see them come in. The special filters had done their worst by this time and the aircraft were covered in oily grime. He apparently remarked to all in the vicinity: Those are the four filthiest aircraft I have ever seen
Then we got out, and he added, And those are the four dirtiest pilots flying them. and without further ado he got into his car and left.
We took a train to London and then dispersed for four days leave. That was all we could squeeze in. We had been given strict instructions to be back in Egypt for a very important event. We were due for an inspection by the AOC.
Links & Notes
213 Squadron Association http://213squadronassociation.homestead.com/
Hawker Tempest http://www.hawkertempest.se/
Hawker Tempest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_Tempest
page last updated 6 June 2010: © ACA Surrey Branch 2010