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The Sea Vixen had a particularly high accident rate during its years of service with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. One has to remember that these losses were in
peace time, during a period that we now refer to as the "Cold War".
The aircraft was a High and Low Level Day/Night All Weather Interceptor. It was also used for ground attack, fighter escort, strike and photographic reconaisance. Many aircraft were lost at night on self illuminating target flare ground attack. This was the Glow Worm Attack and is the subject of an article on this site to explain why so many aircraft and crews were lost.
This large aircraft was operated from small aircraft carriers by day and night. It was difficult to deckland because being an aerodynamically clean aircraft it had low profile drag. The consequence of this was that the throttles were retarded to about one third of their travel in order to command the low thrust required for a constant speed approach critical for deck landing. The engines were therefore operating in the lower rpm response time margins when fully configured on approach to land. Speed control was difficult and speed accuracy was essential to the safe conduct of a deck landing.
The Pilot sat slightly left of center with the Observer seated in a dark "Coal Hole" off center right. He was lower than the pilot and had a small gap where he could see the pilots right thigh. He had a small window on his right and he was covered by a metal hatch. This hatch was always slow to jettison in the event of an ejection. This caused delay in comparison to the pilots seat and many Observer deaths. In later years of service a frangeable hatch was fitted so the Observer could eject through it. With his limited vision he was hurled and thrown around the skies under high g forces in this multirole aircraft.
These Naval Observers had the utmost courage and were exceptionally brave. They had to completely trust their pilot at all times. The General Public should always admire them as they were a special breed of men.
This site is dedicated to RN Aircrew and RAF Aircrew on exchange duty who lost their lives.