Sea Vixens XJ579 &
The aircraft were shipped to Singapore Naval dockyard as deck cargo on the S.S.
Glenfallach, XJ490 being forward of the bridge superstructure and XJ579 aft of
it. From reports compiled by POAF Rose (MARTSU), who accompanied the aircraft,
the sea state was moderate to rough and the wind greater than Force 5 for the
majority of the passage. A ship's officer stated that salt water and/or spray
had been coming over the bows on all but two days of the journey. On 2nd October
1971, 18 days before reaching Singapore, the polythene covering on XJ490 starboard
wingfold started coming adrift and subsequently the radome covering on the same
The ship anchored approx. 4 cables out from the dockyard at 202030 (local time).
The aircraft were unloaded and ferried ashore singly, XJ490 first. No real problems
were encountered apart from a certain amount of difficulty in attaching the sling
to the first aircraft and also the downpour which was almost continuous and heavy.
The operation was completed by approx. 210130, the aircraft being stowed in a
locked dockyard hangar awaiting towing.
XJ490 was towed on the night of 21/22 October, commencing at 2300 from inside
the dockyard and leaving the dockyard gate at 2359 under police escort. Particular
hazards were a narrow bridge between HMS Terror and the Rotherham Gate and also
roadworkings between Rotherham Gate and the customs post. No undue difficulty
was experienced passing these obstacles and the only other problem occurred about
three miles from Tengah. The port main wheel sank approx. 5 inches at the side
of the road when avoiding a parked lorry. A ramp was dug and the aircraft successfully
towed back on to the metallic surface. The aircraft was finally stowed in No.
2 hangar, S.A.F. Tengah, at 0445. XJ579 was towed the following night and nothing
untoward happened, the aircraft being stowed at 230420. The help rendered by the
MARTSU team (P.O. Rose, L.A.M. Pinkard, N.A.M.s Doyle and Woodhouse) during the
tow was invaluable and they were of great assistance.
PREPARATION OF AIRCRAFT FOR EMBARKING ON H.M.S. EAGLE.
One Senior Rate and two Junior Rates who were not involved in the towing commenced
untaping and maintenance of XJ490 on 22nd and it soon became apparent there was
considerable corrosion on the aircraft, particularly wingfold, radome and IFR
probe casting areas. A more comprehensive list is included as Annex A. Further
defects came to light later, particularly corrosion in the stbd. E.C.U. causing
its subsequent rejection. Added to this the aircraft were not prepared correctly
i.a.w. DGA Letter NAI/IP/AI/4 and certain items signed as being carried out on
job cards had not in fact been done (see Annex B). [not available - Ed.] Generally
XJ579 is in good condition and appears to have had a complete respray and extensive
rewire recently. XJ490 is extremely badly corroded, presumably caused by its position
on deck for shipment and what would seem to be a lack of corrective anti-corrosion
treatment and incorrect preparation for transit by sea before leaving the U.K.
To date over 200 man hours have been spent on anti-corrosion treatment to XJ490
and this does not include the stbd. E.C.U. This has considerably delayed routine
maintenance and functional tests required on the aircraft for embarkation. It
would also appear that the IFR probe casting is unacceptable, corrosion going
to a depth of at least one inch. The amount of corrosion found suggests extensive
internal corrosion particularly as the boom and mainplane drain holes were taped
up and yielded upwards of two pints of salt water when uncovered. All visible
corrosion is being treated but before the aircraft becomes fully operational the
wingfold and IFR probe castings would have to be changed at a minimum.
It is recommended that a MARTSU survey be carried out on the aircraft to establish
the full extent of the corrosion on XJ490 and also to assess the amount of work
involved to bring it up to a satisfactory flying standard. It is anticipated that
XJ579 will be ready to fly onboard by the end of October.
A.E.O. 3, 899 N.A.S.
Found to Date on XJ490.
|| Radome ring
between 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock lower edge to a depth of approx. ½ inch.
|| Radome hinge
lower attachment point.
|| IFR probe
casting leading edge to a depth of 1 inch (AT LEAST), pitting over whole casting
and holes between casting and mainplane.
(between probe and pinion tank).
||Fuel bay door
centre strut (needs replacing).
(a) Seam 7th stage compressor (due to ingress of water through 7th stage bleed).
(b) Aft of temperature file mounting.
(c) Combustion chamber casing.
(d) I.G.V. pivots.
(a) Compressor casing - general light surface corrosion.
(b) Throttle linkage.
(c) FCU and ext. wheel case.
pins castings, particularly round attachment points.
finish very bad with corrosion extensive.
and reasonable, finish good.
In May 2004,
Paul Eitzen provided some additional details of the operation.
"The lighter ferrying the aircraft from ship to jetty came in at such an angle
that it hit the dockyard crane power cables. A bit like a firework display for
a few seconds and we had to use a different crane. There was an obstruction within
the dockyard that made a gap about 2ft too narrow - a dockyard workers portacabin
style building all plumbed and wired in. No problems; they unhooked the aircraft
tow wagon and drove it full on into the building a couple of times and shifted
it back the required amount. Some of the telephone wires strung across the main
road were a bit low and we used sailors with long brooms, stood on the inner wing,
to lift the wires above the folded wings as we passed under. Some wires were too
low for this treatment so the Singapore police shinned up the poles and cut the
wires to let us through. I appreciated what was done but queried the poor telephone
users. The reply was along the lines 'we want you off the road before morning
and we will sort them out after tomorrow night when the second aircraft has reached
Tengah'. From what I remember, the pilot who was with us to test fly the aircraft
was Marcus Edwards, the squadron QFI, who later joined the Rothmans Aerobatic
team. I met him at the Farnborough Air Show a few years ago and he was part of
the de Havilland Aircraft Restoration Society and thrilled that he was going to
be able to fly a Sea Vixen again. Sadly he died before he got the chance but the
aircraft flies at air displays in UK. Bearing in mind the short time before the
Squadron disbanded and the amount of work required on XJ490 it was decided fairly
rapidly by the powers-that-be to abandon it - besides my Chief Artificer was not
prepared to ground run it, I was not prepared to certify it airworthy and Marcus
was not prepared to fly it, so they had little option. The last I heard of XJ490
for some years was that it was being used for fire practice by the SAF though
many years later I vaguely recall meeting an RAF officer who claimed to have towed
a Vixen in Singapore. There can't be many others."
Change Unit (the complete Avon)
Aircraft Repair Transport and Salvage Unit
Officer Air Fitter