I was fortunate enough to leave 47 Sqn in June 1987 and go to Wyton, not to 51 Sqn, but to 231 OCU, home of the Canberra. This was one of the ‘unknown’ jobs for FEs, as instructors on Canberras in my case, but the job was echoed at the Andover OCU, MEng Jim Skate being my opposite number if memory serves as well.
I enclose a photo of the OCU switch over from Sqn Ldr Dave Humphrey-Evans to Sqn Ldr Dave Frost. The photo also demonstrates clearly alternative uses of the aircrew knife and how rich morale was for the changeover.
It was with Dave Frost, I flew in the RH seat of the Blue Canberra which was meant to represent the Canberra prototype flown by Roland Beamont on its 40th anniversary (another good buy for the RAF). Our aircraft was a T4. As I flew now and again, one memorable trip was Wyton – Pratica di Mare (Rome), then onwards after night stop to Akrotiri as a 4 ship.
The skipper and nav were both slightly hors de combat for some reason and on the climb out I was handed control to allow the skipper to be introspective for a couple of hours. Nav brief was ‘can you see the three Canberras in front of us . . . well follow them’ (Noduff). Which I duly did, so I was manually poling it for some 2½ hours and about a mile behind #1.
At FL450 I had fun flying down the con trails – the direction of rotation of the Avon engines was clearly noticeable. Not being brave in any way, I re-engaged the skipper at about 3 miles/1000 feet configured for landing. A unique experience, helped by a tour at 6FTS on the Dominie as a PA and later, was repeated as my last tour.
My return trip was as a passenger on my next posting the Tristar. En route to Brize I burst out laughing when, sitting on the jump seat behind the skipper, I was asked if I wanted my croissant warm (Noduff) with breakfast. The contrast between flying on a bang seat one way and a jump seat the other couldn’t have been more stark . . . yes of course I had it warmed.
I’ve been grateful to my time on ‘faster than prop jets’ as it put me in good stead when acting as Aircrew Editor in another life with BAE Systems working on Hawk, Harrier and Tornado aircrew publications for the RAF and air forces various. I ran into several guys on fast jets that I’d taught on Canberra. As you all will know, it’s a very small world in aviation (even smaller now).”
MEng Brian May