The Fly Navy Heritage Trust's Sea Fury carries out an emergency landing

6th August 2014

Derek has been recently appointed as an ambassador for the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, the Royal Navy charity that raises money to keep the Royal Navy's rare and remarkable historic aircraft flying.

Having been invited to ride as a passenger in the Trust’s historic Hawker Sea Fury T20 at RNAS Yeovilton, Derek was looking forward to flying in the aircraft and meeting the team who keep the Trust’s aircraft in the air. Unfortunately, as has been widely report in the media, the Sea Fury suffered a loss of power during a display manoeuvre at RNAS Culdrose Air Day on 31st July, forcing the pilot, Lieutenant Commander Chris Götke Royal Navy, to take swift action and carry out a dramatic emergency landing. 

Lt Cdr Götke’s quick thinking and skilful handling put the aircraft on the ground safely, saving both the aircraft and himself. A witness on the display line said “I have complete and utter respect for the pilot for being so professional. It was a text book forced landing in extremely difficult circumstances.”

“The aircraft lost power at a critical point in the display” said Commodore Bill Covington, a Trustee of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust. “Chris did a fantastic job. As the aircraft started its descent from 2000’ significant vibration was felt from the engine and Chris had to make a series of split second decisions in a complex and potentially dangerous situation. It rapidly became apparent that the engine was not producing any usable power and Chris displayed superb judgment and outstanding piloting skills, deciding to stay with the aircraft and attempt a forced landing  Carrying out a successful forced landing in one of these heavy fast heritage aircraft is extremely difficult. It is hard enough to get it right even in practice – let alone from the middle of an air display. Our number one priority at all times is safety. His quick reactions and calm decision-making protected the public and saved a rare and historically significant Navy Heritage aircraft.”

The aircraft, which is based at RNAS Yeovilton with the Royal Navy Historic Flight, landed with the gear down but one wheel didn’t lock in time causing the aircraft to collapse on its undercarriage and skid off the runway on to the grass. The accident and emergency services at RNAS Culdrose were on the scene immediately and Lt Cdr Götke escaped injury and climbed out of the aircraft unhurt.

A photographer who witnessed the crash said “I was filming the display when I noticed smoke billowing from the Sea Fury’s engine. The pilot diverted around the edge of the crowd and was obviously heading in to make a swift landing. Great skill and calm was shown by the pilot. There was an audible sigh of relief and a spontaneous round of applause when the pilot quickly emerged from the aircraft.”

An investigation is currently underway to establish the cause of the incident and the Trust is working closely with the Royal Navy and military investigators to piece together what happened and get the aircraft repaired and flying again as soon as possible.

An early assessment of the damage by the specialists at Weald Aviation who maintain the Sea Fury T20 is that she is eminently repairable.  “We have the specialists and the spares to rebuild her and get her back in the air again as soon as possible” said Tim Manna. “The offers of help from Fly Navy Heritage Ambassadors and Supporters have been incredible. A beautiful historic aircraft like the Sea Fury needs to be flying - and as soon as the investigation is complete we will be devoting all resources to repairing and restoring her to full serviceability again.”

Derek, the Trust’s newest Ambassador commented “I was due to fly in Sea Fury this week, coming from a motor sport background, I understand that mechanical problems will and do occur, so I look forward to flying in the Sea Fury once it has been repaired” going onto say “it underlines the importance of supporting the Fly Navy Heritage Trust to ensure that these wonderful aircraft remain in flying condition”

To find out more about the Fly Navy Heritage Trust and to make a donation please click

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