SEA VIXEN XJ490

The following is a facsimile reproduction of a report, dated October 1971, and supplied to QAM in May 2004 by the author of the report, Paul Eitzen.


 

October 1971.

Sea Vixens XJ579 & XJ490.


PRE-AMBLE.

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 aircraft.

UNLOADING.

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.

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.

CONCLUSION.

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.

 

R.P. Eitzen, Lt R.N.
A.E.O. 3, 899 N.A.S.

 

ANNEX A.

Corrosion Found to Date on XJ490.

1. Radome ring between 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock lower edge to a depth of approx. inch.
2. Radome hinge lower attachment point.
3. IFR probe casting leading edge to a depth of 1 inch (AT LEAST), pitting over whole casting and holes between casting and mainplane.
4. Panel 185, (between probe and pinion tank).
5. Fuel bay door centre strut (needs replacing).
6. Rudder trim actuator.
7. Nose wheel door brackets.
8. Stbd E.C.U.
(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.
9. Port E.C.U.
(a) Compressor casing - general light surface corrosion.
(b) Throttle linkage.
(c) FCU and ext. wheel case.
10. Wingfold locking pins castings, particularly round attachment points.

General Aircraft finish very bad with corrosion extensive.

Corrosion on XJ579.

Generally light 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."

 

ABBREVIATIONS
ECU
Engine Change Unit (the complete Avon)
FCU
Fuel Control Unit
IFR
In Flight Refuelling
IGV
Inlet Guide Vanes
MARTSU
Mobile Aircraft Repair Transport and Salvage Unit
POAF Petty Officer Air Fitter