Crew on the Forward Lift to the Sick Bay
Lt Chris Hunneyball (P) standing in wet flight suit on the left looking on.
Lt Bill Hart (O) the Stretcher. This was his second ejection.
Later in life he underwent spinal fusion surgery.
The parachutes were packed by
Gordon "Pixie" Parkes. L/ASE2 (Killick 893 Sqn 1965/1967)
Well done Pixie !!
Personal Testimony of Lt (O) Bill Hart RN. (November 2013)
Approx 50nm south of Gan, Indian Ocean.
5th August 1966 – 1130 local time.
Sea Vixen Mk 2 of 893 NAS – XS 586 side number V 246
The history of XS 586 that day was in a way quite ominous. I was crewed with Chris Hunneyball who I had previously been crewed with on my first frontline squadron in Ark Royal. We were one of the few night qualified crews on 893 at that time, as a consequence we were on the Flypro for the dawn launch so we would be able to fly that night. We were allocated XS 586 for this launch but suffered a complete intercom failure before we reached the catapult so were aborted. The aircraft was struck down for the radio section to work on and we were slotted into the third sortie in order to be available for night flying that night. When we briefed again for the rewritten Flypro we were again assigned XS 586 as it was back up on deck with the fault supposedly rectified. Startup, taxi and Cat load went as normal but as we surged down the cat track the intercom again failed and the ensuing silence caused me to focus more intently on the ASI and AH etc. I could sense the onset of a starboard roll – checked the view from my tiny window. Seeing nothing but saltwater it confirmed my belief that a can of worms was developing. During Catshots I always had my right hand on the manual canopy jettison handle so I used it then went for the top D ring and initiated my ejection. After a catapult launch your seat harness is usually slack. This is because you are compressed back into the Parachute Pack by the enormous G-forces of the launch. Thus as you leave the catapult behind you are slightly looser and need to retighten your harness. If at this point you have had to eject then you are not 100% tight with the seat and Parachute. This is where I suffered the initial back injuries. ( three crushed vertebras in my neck area and five lumbar vertebras crushed ). With the sea rushing up at me I was instantly slipped the chute because there was a 16 to 20 foot swell running and I was trying to make sure I would not get snagged in the parachute lines. Unfortunately I was too quick and fell about 30 feet without the chute. The result of this was I went down somewhere between 30 and 50 feet, this was partly due to the swell, and I nearly drowned myself. The people who witnessed the crash tell me that it was about a minute before I surfaced, I can tell you it felt like only a few seconds. This must have something to do with the adrenalin rush one experiences during deck operations and accidents. I was unable to get into my dinghy on deployment as my back had arched so was trying to drag the dinghy under me when the Ships Flight Helo arrived. The crewman came down on the cable and was slowly being drowned by the swell, one second he was about 10 feet clear of the water, then the swell rolled through and he was way under the surface. I was trying to wave him away and indicate my back problem but in the end I grabbed to strop with intention of not reversing the shape of my “arched” back, guessing it would do more harm than good!! He prevented me from using it back to front and my fears were confirmed. The result was the damaged vertebras were then damaged on their opposing sides and I wasn’t able to fly in ejection seat aircraft for just over twelve months. I now trade emails with the Aircrew Diver Dennis Woodhams and hope to get the chance to buy him a drink when next I get to UK. For years I had incorrectly thought it was a failure of the flap system causing an asymmetric situation. Shortly after the event, flat on my back and on high morphine doses, in the Vic’s Sick Bay, a phot section chap showed me the 16mm film of the launch which was just a bit of a blur to me at that time. Later when I met Chris on a visit to Yeovilton he put me right and explained that it was in fact a compressor failure in the starboard engine.