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Do You Remember?

#3: Archie's bounce by Gary Parsons

1992: It was the last display season for the mighty Phantom, and two FGR2s from Wattisham had been specially prepared for the selected aircrew, Flt Lts Archie Liggat and Mark Mainwaring. ClickOne of the first displays was at the traditional season opener, Fighter Meet at North Weald. Now, North Weald may have been a front-line jet fighter base in the fifties, but Hunter F4s are considerably less meaty than the Phantom F4, so the runway was never extended beyond 6,000 feet; somewhat of a tight fit for the thirty-ton fighter. Nevertheless, the runway was in sufficiently adequate condition to allow fast jet operations, so many of the front-line RAF types were present.

A beautiful early summer's day, the Phantom's display went without a hitch, a gentle breeze blowing from the north-east. North Weald's runway runs south-west/north-east, so most of the take-offs and landings were approaching from the south, over the hedge by the road that skirts to the south of the airfield. From this direction though, the runway slopes downhill, making an already tight runway for a F-4 that much shorter in reality...

His display over, Archie lined up for the landing, and sped over the hedge at a rate of knots. Wanting to get the Phantom down early, a carrier-type landing ensued, the mighty beast slamming down onto the piano keys. Unfortunately it was a bit too enthusiastic, as a bounce of some 1,000 feet ensued, by which time the Phantom had used a good fifth of the runway. Speed undiminished, the braking chute was deployed and the brakes applied energetically, as was evidenced by the clouds of rubber smoke from all main wheels. It couldn't last, and as she passed the 3,000 ft marker board a loud 'pop' was heard, the starboard main tyre taking no more. Rolling to a rest at the end of the runway, she was down, almost in one piece!


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