Another Meteor bites the dust!

My Ejection from a Meteor by Nick Carter, 257 Sqn RAF.

A Martin-Baker seat saved my life, no big deal some might say, the same can be said for nearly 7,000 others - but mine was the 72nd and it was from a Meteor! It was in 1954, with the squadron in the process of re-equipping with the Hunter F2. Whilst I was eagerly awaiting my turn to convert to this lovely aircraft I was briefed to fly as No.2 in a battle four formation.

The trip was uneventful until the formation leader instructed us to form long line astern for a tail chase whilst descending from 30,000 ft back to our base at RAF Wattisham. I tucked in about 300 yds behind and slightly below the leader and I raised the gun sight to practice ranging and tracking on the aircraft ahead. It was whilst I was easing back on the stick to hold my position when coming out of a barrel role that the aircraft suddenly flicked inverted and started a high speed spiral earthwards. I immediately closed the throttles and selected the air brakes out but then, when I tried to apply aileron to stop the spiral, I found I couldnít, the controls were locked solid.

The speed was 0.84M and passing 15,000ft and still unable to recover I thought it might be a good idea to test Mr Martinís new seat. The first shock after jettisoning the hood was the noise, the extreme turbulence and the dust coming up from the cockpit floor. The next horror was discovering that because of the ĎGí effect I couldnít raise my hands to pull the blind which of course was above and behind my head!

I tried pushing my right hand up over my face with my left arm but it was caught in the slipstream and smashed. In desperation I crawled my left hand up over my bone dome and touched the handle just as the deck seemed to be very close to the windscreen - in shear desperation I pulled it, one handed, and hoped for the best.

When I came round I found myself thankfully not looking at the pearly gates but hanging in my parachute about 500 ft above Rendlesham Forest. I also caught sight of blood running down the leg of my flying suit from my smashed arm. It was fortunate for me that the seat in this aircraft had within the last few months been upgraded from manual operation to fully automatic as there was no way I would have been able to released the seat harness and deploy the parachute, even if there was sufficient height to do so.

Seconds later I hit the deck and finished up on my back being examined by some farm workers. Eventually I was located by a search party from the American base at Bentwaters and taken by ambulance to the Borough General Hospital in Ipswich. Coming round a day later I discovered that my bed was the first in the ward, next to Sisterís office, an indication that you are either of some important or about to snuff it. I hoped it was the former! Later I was told by the house doctor that I had a large wound on my right arm just above the wrist, the Ulna and Radius bones were both shattered; I had some broken fingers; a broken leg; a broken ankle; and damage to my right foot.

"Oh and your little toe is missing" he said as an after thought. "What did you take it off for?" "Sorry old chap" he said with a grin, "It wasnít there when you came in"

The subsequent Court of Enquiry established, following my evidence and that of others, that in a spiral dive at high mach the controls in a Meteor would become ineffective and that any attempt to recover by pulling back on the stick would only made matters worse! The Court reported that recovery was dependant upon air temperature and would become effective between 9,000 and 1,000ft! Within months the Air Ministry had also specified that all future seats should have an alternative firing handle located on the seat pan.

In due course I became a member of the Caterpillar having used an Irvin parachute, and, as was the custom at the time, I was entertained to lunch at Denham by Mr James Martin (as he was then) who presented me with my ejectee tie and a pair of Martin-Baker wings. After fifteen months I rejoined the squadron and rather belatedly I converted to the Hawker Hunter - it had been a long sortie.


The full story of Nick Carterís ejection, plus his experiences flying Meteors and Hunters with Fighter Command, and later with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, is entertainingly presented in his book Meteor Eject! Price £9.95 from Woodfield Publishing