In 2009 a famous incident occurred at the Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, United Kingdom, involving a Cold War Handley Page Victor bomber.
The Victor was a strategic bomber that first entered service with the RAF in 1957, as part of the ‘V bomber’ nuclear strike force. The V bombers comprised of the Victor, the Vickers Valiant, and the famous Avro Vulcan.
The Victor was retired from the nuclear strike force in 1968, with many of them being converted into aerial refuelling tankers. It was retired completely in 1993.
Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome’s Victor XM715 is kept in taxiable condition. This is where an aircraft that is no longer registered to fly is maintained to a level where it can replicate a take off sequence. This allows spectators to see an aircraft in motion, without it having to fly.
On this day in 2009, the Victor, ironically named ‘Teasin’ Tina’, was commanded by 70 year old ex RAF pilot Bob Prothero. Bob flew Victors during his RAF career, with his last flight in the aircraft in 1980.
His pilots license had long expired, although a license isn’t required for a fast taxi display. Teasin Tina was also not a registered airworthy aircraft and had been sat on its landing gear since the 1990s, so was considered unsafe, and strictly not permitted to fly.
The display was a simple one; replicate a take off sequence, accelerate up to 115 mph, then throttle down and come to a stop at the end of the runway.
After reaching between 90-100 mph, Bob gave the co-pilot the order to throttle down.
Terrifyingly, the co-pilot, with a hand on the throttle, had frozen in this situation of high stress. Bob demanded the co-pilot to throttle down, but he was still unresponsive.
Thundering down the runway and realising his co-pilot had frozen on the spot, Bob knew he must throttle the aircraft down himself. This required taking his left hand off the control column, which is controlling the aircraft.
As he did so, the 75 tonne aircraft leapt almost 100 feet into the air, achieving flight. A strong cross wind then blew the aircraft off the runway and over the adjacent grass. Spectators looked on in shock and confusion.
Bob, fearing the aircraft would stall, was surprised to feel the long retired Victor was comfortably reacting to his control inputs.
He had a split second to decide if he had enough runway to land, or if he needed to attempt a fly around to use the whole runway.
Still having half the runway, Bob decided to plant the aircraft back down on the ground. The aircraft touched down on the grass, but Bob quickly steered the aircraft back onto the tarmac. It safely came to a stop before the end of the runway, and without a scratch.
The ‘co-pilot’ was a young mechanic that maintained the Victor, and had no flying experience whatsoever. This is still legal when performing a taxi run.
The aircraft was most likely very underweight, as it would have had no payload and just enough fuel for the taxi run. Without this weight, the four powerful Rolls-Royce Conway engines easily got the Victor airborne.
Bob Prothero’s experience and instinct had managed to stop this situation from becoming much, much worse.
The Civil Aviation Authority investigated the incident, but concluded the co-pilot had frozen, causing Bob to momentarily loose control of the aircraft. No legal actions were taken.
While he states it was “the most terrifying nine seconds of my life”, Bob enjoys being able to say he is the last pilot of a Victor bomber.
The videos below captured this shocking incident.
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