Sixty years ago Marlborough film-maker Paul Davidson was a 14 year old kid standing in a huge crowd beside Wellington Airport's runway. It was the great Capital Air Show celebrating the official opening of the new airport, and Paul will never forget the heart-stopping moment when a giant delta-wing Vulcan bomber almost crashed right in front of him.
The R.A.F. Vulcan hits the end of the runway with it's port undercarriage, and it's wing came very close to hitting the runway, which would have resulted in a serious crash.
There were other near-misses in the gale-force northerly winds of that day, most notably when a Sunderland flying boat making a low pass actually hit the runway, punched a hole in its keel and almost sunk on its return to base.
But what has never previously been revealed is that there was almost another disaster when the Vampire aerobatic team ran into cloud - and nearly the ground - on their last act of the day. Paul has now tracked down the crew of these aircraft, who have given first-hand accounts of their dramatic experiences on that day. He has combined their stories with actual footage of the event and created this intriguing short film which brings that momentous day back to the present.
"I will never forget that day" says Paul "and after talking to the pilots I know they never will either."
Sunderland co-pilot Robin Klitscher went on to fly helicopters in Vietnam and become a highly decorated Air Vice Marshall, while Vampire pilot Tom Enright flew almost every type of passenger jet all over the world. Both are now well retired, but Tom certainly says luck was on their side that day, and Robin ruefully reflects on his logbook entry for the day - a "touch and go" for his flying boat.
The Vulcan powers away from the airport with the damaged undercarriage leg dangling from the port wing. This was one of three near disasters during the airshow.
Now Read About It
Vampire pilot Tom Enright’s book "Many A Close Run Thing" is available from publishers Harper Collins (in hard copy and as an ebook), and it's a great account of Tom’s 45 year flying career, with lots of interesting historical military and civil flying material. Sunderland flying boat operations around the Pacific and SAR operations in difficult conditions, including one in a severe hurricane, are covered.
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