Whilst reading the Personal Testimony of Lt.(O) Bill Hart R.N. in His opening Paragraph He Makes mention of a Deck Handler being killed by a Sea Vixen on board H.M.S Victorious. I was the Pilot involved. The incident occurred on the afternoon of the 26th May 1959, at 1522. (Not as stated by Bill ) during a launch of three Vixens during a shopwindow display put on for the combined Parliament of the day.
I had been appointed to 700Y Intensive Flying Trials Flight based at Yeovilton in October 1958 and in May 1959 embarked on H.M.S Victorious to carry out initial night deck landing trials. The team was the C.O. Cdr. Malcolm Petrie, Lt. Micheal McCook Weir, myself and our respective Observers, mine being the then Lt. Bob Mc Culloch. During the ensuing day DLPs including touch and go's (36) and (34) Cat shots, minor things happened like panels coming off, but one big problem emerged, and that was the beaks on the tail hooks were splitting the Deck Landing wires. These were swiftly replaced. And on the night of the 16th. May I carried out 5 night deck landings.
All went well until the afternoon of the 26th. The three Sea Vixens were to be launched from the Starboard Cat as the Sea Venoms were all parked aft from the port side of the flight deck. Malcomb was launched first, then Mike, then Bob and I were buckled into place. The usual routine followed and when I saluted the Flight Deck Officer and the green flag went down I readied for the launch. In to my sight a handler appeared from behind the first parked Venom, and was running across the Flight Deck. With past experience of some 200 cat shots, I figured out that an impact would happen in the vicinity of the Port engine intake. The Chappie in the Howdaw was probably looking at my aircraft, and I got the usual kick in the pants. As we proceeded down the Cat, I elevated the nose much higher than what was my normal as I feared that he could be sucked into the port engine intake. My take off attitude was to the point the booms might have reached deck level when the impact occurred. Thankfully due to thrust Weight Ratio of the vixen, the aircraft flew and the ensuing sink that followed was not to much. Handling the aircraft it felt that damage had been sustained to the port flap, so lifting the undercarriage and flap retraction was not on in my mind. A deck landing was out of the question. We talked to Flyco and asked to proceed to Boscombe Down. This was approved. We then carried out a slow flying check in the landing configuration and established that I started to lose it with approach power at 131 knots. We landed ok, and found damage to the port inner flap it was badly buckled, and slight damage to the underside of the port boom. After a couple Scotches, we were transported back to Victorious, and flew the rest of the trials, disembarking May 29 1959.
The name of the unfortunate Deck Handler was NA1 (AH3) T.M CRAIG LF/967938
I wrote personally to His Parents expressing my deepest sympathy to them
-- John Cary