first Buccaneer squadron I was privileged to serve on
was also the first to be equipped with the S Mk 2. As
is the custom with new British military aircraft there
were many things that didn't work properly on this new
wonder jet; the engines in particular were of a constantly
changing modification state and so the numbers of engine
changes undertaken in the very close confines of the
hanger of HMS Victorious must have run into treble figures.
Nevertheless, the engineers performed miracles, driven
hard as they were by the fearsome junior AEO (or JEngo
in Crab speak). The junior AEO was an impressive individual
known as Split Pin. He sported a huge bushy red beard,
drank vast quantities of Tiger and San Mig and was all
in all the epitome of a Viking looter and rapist. At
the end of this mammoth sequence of engine changes the
Senior Pilot decided to reward the indefagitable Split
Pin for his efforts with a trip in the back seat.
Now Split Pin had never flown before, let alone non
diversion in the back seat of a Mk2 Buccaneer with two
brand new Speys on either side of him. The sortie was
naturally a double engine test flight. In the steamy
heat of a South China Sea morning Split Pin was strapped
unceremoniously into the back seat by two of his ratings.
Not surprisingly he was hot, nervous, very uncomfortable
and probably not looking forward to the sortie at all.
Shortly aver engine start Split Pin somewhat diffidently
enquired of his pilot as to whether the aircraft was
serviceable. "Of course not, none of the jets you
lot of useless engineers muck about with are ever serviceable"
came the reply from the front seat. Much relieved, Split
Pin undid his uncomfortable straps, made the bottom
handle safe (there was a flap, not a pin, in those days)
and sat back in anticipation of a short taxi up into
As expected, the aircraft taxied forward along the flight
deck. But what was this? Split Pin suddenly found the
aircraft being guided onto the catapult and being tensioned
up! "What's going on? I thought said we were u\s!"
gulped Split Pin. "Certainly not! I was only pulling
your p....r" replied the pilot. "Hold tight!"
Down went the green flag and off went our heroes, Split
Pin unstrapped and on a safe seat. Split Pin didn't
contribute much to the conduct of the engine test flight.
He spent most of the sortie attempting to reconnect
his straps and by the time the aircraft was back in
the landing circuit had at least got his lap straps
done up. Sadly, he never did get his shoulder straps
secured so smote his forehead a mighty blow as the aircraft
caught a wire. His image as a Viking marauder, although
dented physically, was safe because no one who knew
what had happened ever told the Senior Pilot or the
AEO, until today. It only goes to show that you need
to be very careful what you say to engineers particularly
when they have been reluctantly strapped into your aircraft.