Seconds From Disaster: As A Sea Harrier Lands On A Cargo Ship
October 21st, 2016 | by Web Desk
Seconds From Disaster: As A Sea Harrier Lands On A Spanish Cargo Ship
Hawker Siddeley Harrier is a V/STOL aircraft and what that means is that it can take off and land vertically. V/STOL is short from vertical and/or short take-off and landing. This technology was designed by Britain and incorporated into Harrier plane. Royal Air Force started using it in late 60s. Later it was developed into Sea Harrier for Royal Navy.
It proved itself in Falklands War when Argentine military invaded Falkland Islands.
In 1983 HMS Illustrious, the same aircraft carrier that participated in Falklands War was part of the navy’s exercise of the coast off Portugal. Sub.Lt. Ian Watson was also in this exercise. He flew his sea harrier in Atlantic until suddenly his navigation equipment failed.
He tried to use radio but it was no good, he lost radio contact. Without navigational equipment and radio contact it was impossible to find his ship. The main problem was fuel. He was running low on fuel and with darkness descending he had to think fast.
He spotted a ship on his radar 70 miles away and without thinking if this is a fishing boat or something larger he immediately headed straight to it. It was his only hope.
When he reached the ship he realized it was a Spanish cargo ship. It was one fifth the size of HMS Illustrious. He was flying his plane around it and then landed vertically on the ship. If he was flying some other plane than Sea Harrier than he would have to ditch the plane.
This Sea Harrier Accident soon turned into a spectacle when the ship came into a harbor. The plane has slipped backward when the pilot was landing but no catastrophic damage to plane nor ship was made. The skill and training of the pilot paid off. Diplomatic solutions had to be made in this bizarre situation.
British diplomats came to discuss with harbor management and company executives from company that owned the ship. The pilot was OK and unharmed. He told his adventure to the press and confirmed that he had only one minute of fuel left when he landed on Spanish cargo ship. Much praise came to the pilot for his skillful action.
The plane was transferred to Britain where it will be examined and determined what caused navigational equipment to fail. In the end it was for the Naval Board of Inquiry to decide what to do next.
In the end everything finished well. The pilot was safe, the people on the ship were also safe and everyone had a good laugh. It certainly is one of the most bizarre accidents in military aviation history. Mistakes like this happen often in military.
Sometimes equipment fail or someone can’t figure out his location. There was a case when Royal Marines accidentally invaded Spanish beach. It was an exercise and instead landing on shore of Gibraltar, a platoon of Royal Marines landed ashore near a Spanish village to the bewilderment of the local population. The most important thing in both cases is that no one got hurt.
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