Tag Archives: farnborough

Valiant Disaster


A short section from my dads book about his air accident investigation work at Farnborough, Hampshire, England.

This is regarding the Vickers Valiant disaster.

In 1956, one of the V-Bombers was being used at Farnborough in a variety of roles. It was instrumented and equipped for measuring such things as structural vibrations and deflections and other parameters of interest to aerodynamicists and structural engineers. One such experiment required the use of electrical energy, and conveniently this was drawn from one of the bomber’s domestic services at the navigator’s station.

It must be pointed out that this particular type of aeroplane was rather unique; its controls were fully electrically operated and not by some form of hydraulic power assistance as with other contemporary aeroplanes of such a large size.

As a type, this bomber has been flying quite successfully and had never experienced loss of control due to major electrical failure. As far as possible, the designer incorporated safeguards against all possible eventualities. The safeguards included not only the usual fuses – much like those used domestically in the home, only larger – but also circuit breakers. These are spring loaded switches which ‘pop out’ under excessive electrical loading, thereby protecting the associated circuit and equipment.

On Friday 11 May 1956, just after lunch, the bomber left Farnborough to carry out a flight, primarily for a scientist to conduct the experiment connected to the electrical outlet at the navigator’s station. The aeroplane had full fuel tanks and was likely to be airborne for several hours. On the way to the south coast, the scientist switched on the experiment. Almost immediately the appropriate circuit breaker ‘popped out’. Imprudently, the scientist reset it, and it again ‘popped out’. The scientist reported the situation to the pilot that his experiment could not be carried out, and because this was the main purpose of the flight, the pilot decided to abort the flight. However, before returning to Farnborough he had to use up a large quantity of fuel to bring the landing weight to an acceptable figure. He had taken off fully laden and was now returning very much earlier than originally intended.

The pilot set up a low level flight pattern over the sea off the south coast with conditions set for maximum fuel consumption. The flight continued quite satisfactorily for some considerable time. During this, the bomber was flying in and out of low cloud near to Shoreham and Brighton.
Now it seems that while this was being done, the scientist could not leave well alone, and in went the circuit breaker, not once by several times. Suddenly the pilot felt a stiffening of the controls and saw indications on the instrument panel of an electrical failure of major proportions. He immediately eased the bomber into a climb to make height for he now had a major emergency on his hands.

The bomber emerged from cloud at about 1,000 feet over Shoreham. Due to the electrical failure the flying controls were completely unresponsive. The pilot ordered everybody to eject.

They were now descending fast towards Shoreham railway station. At almost the last second, one ejector seat was seen to leave and its occupant made a short but safe descent, landing not more than fifty yards from where the bomber struck the railway embankment, near the station. All other crew members perished in the crash although the escape hatch was found away from the bomber. The aircraft disintegrated upon impact and debris was strewn for hundreds of yards across the playing fields of a nearby school. Mercifully, the fields were clear of pupils at the time.

Within an hour I was being flow down to Shoreham from Farnborough, and as it was only twenty minutes flying time, I was to make this trip several times in the next few days. Discussing the accident with the manufacturer’s design staff as we walked around the wreckage, some of the story of the flight began to emerge. A certain amount of information had already filtered through from Farnborough Control Tower and of course there was the surviving co-pilot. It was clear that there had been a major electrical failure and in company with the manufacturer’s chief electrical engineer, we paid special attention to the state of any electrical components that we could see.

The engineer appeared next morning having spent much of the night working on a hypothesis to account for much of what we knew. Could the wreckage evidence support his theory, or would it produce some other explanation?

We isolated as much of the electrical material as possible from the wreckage and this was sent to Farnborough. The remainder of the wreckage was to follow. There was an air of supreme urgency as other aeroplanes of the type could have been at risk. Our searching and examinations, along with the work of the electrical design staff at the manufacturer’s works, had shortened the list dramatically. It now transpired that if, as we suspected, the circuit breaker had been repeatedly reset, then the consequences must have included the ‘blowing’ of many fuses, but one in particular – the navigator’s station equipment circuit – would really prove the theory.

My priority task became the search for that one fuse to determine if it had ‘blown’ electrically. The fuse in question was about three quarters of an inch in diameter, and about one and a quarter inches long. It consisted of a heavy ceramic body, with metal end caps, attached by bolts to heavier items known as bus bars. There were many such fuses fitted in banks or rows in the bomber and although originally marked with paint for identification purposes they were broken and now devoid of such identify. They were also mixed with tons of twisted and burnt looms of wire and metal.

My fuse, either intact or in pieces was in the large mound of wreckage now at Farnborough. It was the Whit Monday holiday and I planned an assault on that mound. I had the help of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled people. The approach was simple. I formed a pyramid of searchers with the unskilled at the mound. They were briefed to sort out all wreckage of a certain character. I made sure they would include more material than I wanted to ensure that the right stuff would come through for searching. Unwanted wreckage was discarded and required material passed back to a second row of helpers who had been briefed in more detail. They in turn passed back this selected material, and so the search continued. Each row of searchers was more qualified to select than the one before, and I was at the apex of the pyramid to make the final decision.

By patience, persistence and careful search and study, we discovered the first of the end caps after only two hours. It was still bolted to a piece of identifiable bus bar, although this itself had been badly damaged. An hour later the other end cap was found. Both caps contained pieces of ceramic body protruding but not mating to make up the body. We found other odd pieces of ceramic and one of these made the link between the end caps: I had my fuse.

I took the end caps to my microscope and there was the evidence that I sought. Traces of fuse wire had been electrically overloaded. The wire ends had formed into globules – a tell-tale sign of a fuse melted by electrical overheating and not by crash fire burning.

We now knew that the electrical supplies in the bomber had been disrupted by the repeated resetting of the circuit breaker – a senseless, illogical action which had led to tragedy and loss of life, including the life of the instigator of the situation. The repeated resetting of the circuit breaker was akin to tackling the symptom and not the cause of the experiment failure.

However, the accident prompted a long hard look at the electrical circuitry of all the large bombers and some shortcomings were brought to light. As I have said on other occasions, regretfully, in aviation someone must suffer, it seems, if aeroplanes are to be made safer.

This passage was extracted from the book “Air Crash” The Clues in the Wreckage.
ISBN 0-86379-094-1. Published in 1986. This book was written by Mr. Fred Jones ©.

Usable Snow!

Finally some snow that is useable/usable (depending which way you face the Atlantic) … Thick enough & icy enough for a sled, and at a weekend so that I can go out with the family & enjoy said snow!

A cracking time was had – and don’t be fooled by the movie… That hill was way faster than it looks…

Amazing Find…

I just stumbled across a short story someone wrote…


It features my dad (Fred Jones)… and yes, his role in the V2 saga is accurate.

Author’s Note: The following owes much to ‘Air Crash’ written by Fred Jones.

Mr Jones was employed in the English government services between 1935 and 1980.

Mr Jones worked out of Farnborough and specialised in Air Accident Analysis. Fortunately for me he was there during WW2 and was involved in one very particular bit of analysis which is mentioned below…and yes, he did have ring-ins for the job, but he doesn’t say who or where from. This being the case I took a minor liberty and added one of my own people.

August 1st 1944 – Weybridge, England

I take a simple view of life: Keep your eyes open and get on with it. – Sir Laurence Olivier

Hope had been staring at the telephone in perplexity for over five minutes…Mac had been timing it. It was an odd expression of her face and Mac was less than comforted by it. It was an expression she tended to wear when something had gone wildly wrong with an aeroplane. It was an expression which had been becoming more frequent ever since work had begun on the jets. No one knew what happened with high speed flight, the casualties were mounting and the problems becoming increasingly bizarre and senseless.

“Hope?” There was complete silence and Hope continued to stare at the telephone.

“Hope!” A little more volume drew no more response.

“HOPE!” Mac settled for a yell and was relieved to see Hope twitch, it would take a moment or two before her full attention returned from where ever it was though.

“Something up?” Hope looked around and blinked rather owlishly.

“You’ve been staring at the telephone as if it’s a particularly nasty crash.”

“Oh.” Hope moved away from the telephone and found a chair. “It was Jones from Farnborough, seems to think he’s got an interesting job on hand and wanted me to show up because of something to do with the recent crashes we’ve had here.”

“Our crashes have been remarkably boring…except for the fact that we seem to be studying how many pieces you can separate an aeroplane into.”

“That’s what worries me.” Hope twisted restlessly and frowned out the window. “Fred has seven others over there and all they do is spend their time dissecting smashed planes. Why me?”

“Did you tell him no?”

“He said it would be interesting.” Hope was frowning at the counter top.

“Then go pack.” Mac settled himself down carefully. “Me and the twins will endeavour not to destroy ourselves, or the house, before whatever interesting problem has passed and I trust the big sneeze doesn’t mind letting you go.”

“It’ll probably come out of my leave.”

“You haven’t had leave in years.”

“Take it up with him, not me.” Hope was frowning at the bookcase, one book in hand and her intention clearly to obtain another one. “I really…no, no, no…possibly not…maybe…is it at all important?” Hope turned away from the bookshelf with a perplexed expression.


“It coming out of my leave. Is it an important matter?”

“No one else given such an invitation or request would have it taken out of their leave.”

“Oh.” Hope turned back to the bookshelf and pulled a book out. “Fred’s usually reliable…or at least if not reliable he’s not boring…that Halifax…”

“Which Halifax?” Mac looked up from the book he had acquired.

“Oh, it was back at the beginning of the war.” Hope returned the book she held and grabbed another. “Rocket assisted bombs or something like that. The Halifax blew up and no one knew why.” Hope began to flick through the book. “It was really rather idiotic because they loaded the plane for multiple tests and one of the bombs fired but wasn’t released…it was rather bad for the aeroplane.”

“Really?” Mac carefully swallowed a smile as he noticed that Hope now had seven books and was searching for more.

“I wonder…” Hope had pulled yet another book from the shelf and was thoughtfully thumbing through the pages. Mac smiled quietly to himself and went back to his book, the house could blow up and Hope wouldn’t hear it now.

Hope knelt among the litter of metals and knew a moment of awe. They’d been working for days now, simply sorting the different fragments into their individual metal types. There were days more work to do before they even began attempting to assemble this mess, and they intended to compress the assembly time and analysis time as well. It was the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. It was also a secret which Germany undoubtedly considered to be safe…to any sane person this was the outcome of obliteration. The people gathered at Farnborough were not sane though, mathematicians were already working on the trajectory information balanced by the mass of metal which had been collected. This mess was a gift from Sweden, a high altitude explosion and many fragmentary scraps of metal…well, hardly a gift, the Swedes got Spitfires in return. This and some mathematics were all they had to work with, but Hope knew no doubt, they would know success before Hitler ever used it against them. Hope fingered a sharp-edged piece of metal and pondered which of the millions available to choose from would actually have once joined it. The clues were sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly obvious, but always there. Explosions sometimes actually made the job easier, for explosions marked the metals. This was going to be fun…long, hard, fun.

“I trust your absence for the past couple of weeks has been suitably interesting.” Mac glanced up from some cheap paperback as Hope let herself in through the back door. Hope noted with faint curiousity that there was actually quite a significant stack of books next to Mac’s chair.

“Yes.” Hope sank into another chair with a sigh. “Marmelade and Marine?”

“Upstairs and asleep.” Mac laid the book aside and rubbed his forehead. “Very hush-hush?”

“Hmm?” Hope blinked in momentary bewilderment. “Oh, yes.” Hope gave her head a small shake. “Some rocket which came out of Germany and detonated. We think we got it sorted…but we may be wrong.”

“That is always a possibility.” Mac smiled faintly and then it slowly widened. “Payload?”

“Nasty…also a whole sudload of senseless electronic stuff. At a guess we assume they’ll start arriving in London within the next couple of months…but we’ve got their flight trajectories, ranges…we know where to look for the launch sites even if we can do nothing about them.”

“Nice.” Mac picked his book up again.

“Mac?” Hope had finally managed to bring her mind back to the present and that pile of books was bothering her.

“Mm?” Mac looked up from his book.

“It’s two o’clock in the morning and you have eight thrillers piled next to your chair.”

“Oh.” Mac glanced at the pile with a faint frown. “Obviously I only thought about aski…” Mac stopped what he was saying and turned back to his book.

“Mac?” Hope’s brows had risen questioningly.

“Picked a fight with the back door and lost…resulted in some enforced rest I’m afraid…the kitchen is the most shocking mess.”

“When?” Hope was feeling distinctly resigned.

“Ten..twelve days ago.” Mac gave a slight shrug. “Just something else I’ll have to get the hang of not doing.”

“Why do you usually seem to save your best attempts at killing yourself until my back is turned?”

“Skill.” Mac gave a tired smile. “Marmelade’s managing the dogs so you needn’t worry about that this time…though I might have to worry about finding a new job…he’s good with them.”

“Well…try not to get one in London.” Hope gave a tiny smile.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Mac returned the smile and then picked up his book. “I’m not sleeping much courtesy of pain, there’s no need to wait up.”

“Am I allowed to sit and chat with a husband for a bit after not seeing him for twenty days?”

“Certainly…said husband felt his company was pretty rotten though.”

“Well, said husband is not made up of crumpled pieces of duralumin I’m trying to piece together and is therefore a very welcome change.”

“Oh.” Mac laid his book aside again. “That being the case said husband will stop imitating being a piece of stuffed furniture.” Mac rubbed the back of his neck and then yawned. “You’ve been offered a week of leave.”

“Good.” Hope kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet up. “Such an odd fin formation on that thing…must have a chat to someone about the effects of such variations…might be a…” Hope trailed off her eyes fixed on something in the infinite distance outside the window. Mac smiled quietly to himself and picked up his book once more. Life was good.

A/N: September 8th 1944, the first V2 Rockets arrived in Kent with specifications exactly matching those predicted by RAE…the senseless electronics were absent though, they were a remote flight control system which had never received permission to use a rocket.

V8 Leaves the party

It’s been a hard May for us, losing Crispy and Turbo… but then we rescued some new girls and the flock increased to 12…

for 24 hours.

V8, healthy yesterday, has been taken by egg peritonitis.

This, from PoultryKeeper.com

Egg Peritonitis is when the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) becomes inflamed due to an infection from bacteria. Peritonitis can occur after prolapse or when yolk goes into the abdominal cavity, instead of going down the oviduct and out in the normal way.

The yolk should go into the ‘ovarian pocket’ (the space surrounding the ovary). This often occurs after some viral diseases like Infective Bronchitis where the disease damages the reproductive tract. A ruptured intestine can also cause this problem.

Diagnosis and Treatment.

Sometimes a ‘Penguin Stance’ can indicate an egg bound hen or peritonitis but more often than not they don’t show this and may just be swollen around the abdomen and it is often hard to diagnose this problem whilst the bird is alive. The bird can have a blue comb, and diarrhoea but no book seems to believe these are conclusive and can also indicate many other problems. A post mortem on birds will show an inflamed abdomen and there will be a very putrid smell with yolk. Some birds have been treated with antibiotics and had the fluid drawn off but the chances of success are slim and you can often have a big bill at the end of this. It is usually better to have the bird put to sleep.


All a man made problem – It’s the trouble with how they’ve been bred into egg machines. If the already dodgy internals go wrong, the blockage is often quick & serious, as they have no recovery time before the next egg follows on. Okay, it’s a bit more complicated then that, but you get the picture.

Chris was saying the other day how all other birds lay seasonally (otherwise you’d forever see ducklings at a pond etc). Chickens have been manipulated to lay daily. That’s like running a car engine on the red-line…. all of the time.

Some battery farms artificially control the light so instead of a 24hr day, the hens have an 18hr day (e.g).

This year has been pretty crap for the girls. You get used to it because, well, it’s how they are. They are so characterful & individual though, it’s obvious when one goes.

Best we can do is give them a happy retirement!

Any day spent in freedom, is a better day for these girls.

Exit Crispy, Stage Left

Crispy the Hen went today. Dammit…

She was healthy looking, but prone to quiet spells. She had stopped laying a while back – She was the oldest of the girls.

She was a bit quieter today, and retaining fluid (Chris put this down to egg peritonitis – very basically: not laying, but still producing the protein).

Chris took her to the vets to get her checked out & fluids drained.

X-Ray showed that our plump bird had a large mass in her.

As she was drained she passed away.

The vet offered to find out what it was, and Chris said that it would be fine – if she could watch.

The vet (Fred McKenzie) from Farnborough’s Pets at Home – Companion Care was very interested to find out, as they don’t often deal with chickens. Chris watched on, equally interested.

Sure Crispy was a pet – but Crispy the clucking, squawking hen had ceased to be a pet the moment she passed away, now Crispy the pet was a memory, and the vet could learn from her to potentially help others.

The vet was excellent. After dissecting her, he found that the large amount of protein due the peritonitis meant that a certain cellular disease had a wonderful playground. Excuse my language, but ‘fuck you, cancer‘.

He even phoned later, after Chris had returned home, to say he had looked further in to it. He talked with Chris and confirmed the previous discussed diagnosis, and the dissection, was confirmed by his post-op research.

Crispy – Ruler of the Garden

Once more, as with the others, she was happy right up until the end.

No pain, no suffering.


What snakes are good at maths?

Ah yes, the old ‘Adder’ pun…

Off on a run around the local lake (Farnborough, South East England) I noticed a fast moving branch in the road. Instinctively I realised it could not be a branch, as they tend to sleep during the day (have you ever seen one slip across a road during the day? No… which proves my point).

I walked up to the ‘not a branch‘ slowly and turned off my audiobook app (I was listening to Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played with Fire ) and switched over to my camera. I took a few photo’s of this beautiful female adder (thanks to a friend on Twitter who helped with the recognition).

The last time I saw one of these in the wild, was  a few years ago whilst I was driving along near my house. It was in the road in the opposite lane. A bus ran straight over it. Driver probably thought it was just road debris, but I was right next to it waiting for the bus to pass.

According to the Forestry Commission, this siting was absolute text book! Mid April, hot day… near water… not shying away from people. This following information is from their website.


 The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have  the most highly developed venom injecting mechanism of all snakes,  but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will only use their venom  as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. No one has  died from adder bite in Britain for over 20 years. With proper  treatment, the worst effects are nausea and drowsiness, followed by  severe swelling and bruising in the area of the bite. Most people who  are bitten were handling the snake. Treat adders with respect and  leave them alone.


Adder (Vipera berus)



Adders are relatively common in areas of rough, open countryside and are often associated with woodland edge habitats. They are less inclined to disappear into the surrounding undergrowth when disturbed and so are probably the most frequently seen of the three British snakes. The best time to see them is in early spring when they emerge from their hibernation dens. By mid April, the males have shed their dull winter skin and are ready to mate. There is a lot of frenzied activity on warm days, with males looking for females and occasionally wrestling with other males for supremacy. The ‘dance of the adders’ was thought to be a mating display, but it is a larger male attempting to drive off a smaller one. The snakes writhe around each other in an impressive way, often covering the ground at great speed.


Following mating, females seek out a suitable place to give birth, often travelling over 1 kilometre from the hibernation site. Births take place in late August / early September. Unlike most reptiles, adders do not lay eggs. Young snakes are born about the size and shape of an earthworm, but a perfect miniature of the adult snake.


During the autumn, adult snakes follow scent trails left by other adders to find their way back to the hibernation site, which is often used by many snakes over several years. The young adders tend to hibernate in the area where they were born. Their survival largely depends on the severity of the weather in the following winter.


Adders usually eat small rodents, such as the short-tailed vole. They will also eat lizards, frogs and newts, and have been seen taking young from the nests of ground nesting birds. When hunting, adders strike swiftly at the prey, injecting a lethal dose of venom. They then wait until the prey dies before starting the often lengthy swallowing process. Like all snakes, adders eat their prey whole, their teeth are designed to grip the prey as it is swallowed. Their jaws are linked by extensible connective tissue so each of the four main bones can move independently. This means they are able to swallow items much larger than the width of their head. The lower ends of the ribs are not joined as in most animals and can also open out considerably. The adder’s digestive fluid is amazingly powerful and will digest the flesh and bones of their prey almost completely. Only the hair and teeth of rodents pass through intact.


Young adders are threatened by a variety of predators, including birds of prey such as the common buzzard and sometimes adult snakes. Others may be killed and eaten by rodents while in hibernation. Adders are protected by law against being killed or injured through human activity.


Most adders are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the spine and an inverted ‘V’ shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey with a black zigzag. Females are a pale brown colour, with a darker brown zigzag. But some adders are entirely black and can be mistaken for some other species.

How we manage our woods

Most of the woods managed by the Forestry Commission are suitable for adders. The way we manage the woods – cutting down older trees and planting young trees – provides excellent habitat. For the first 10 years as the young trees grow, adders can build up large populations unseen. Then as the tree canopy closes overhead, the snakes seek out the light and warmth that is available at the woodland edge.

Caustic Podcast

Although my friend “technology” tried its best to slam me into the ground, Tech Mike from Caustic Soda pulled my voice from the burning wreckage, & with the Caustic Soda team the podcast flew.


I’m not one to call myself an expert, but you really can’t call yourself an air disaster enthusiast now, can you?

I had a lot of air accident knowledge & history rub off on me, & I took a great deal of interest in it, so if anything I’m just a more focused layman than expert… but hey, the podcast was fun to do – even with the Canada/UK web faults, my audio equipment problems & the fact it was after midnight for me. I’m just glad the team managed to salvage a podcast out of the wreckage!

If there is a next time, I’ll be flying with better sound equipment at the UK end…

Fred Jones OBE, MRAeS, C.Eng

Not many people are lucky enough to have a Hero and a Father rolled into one…

I haven’t written much about the greatest man I ever knew – simply because if I start I fear that I would not be able to stop. As such I hand over to the tribute from The Times.

This report, a montage of information published by the broadsheets upon his passing. This is from The Times, and a few other additions.

In a career of 50 years at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, during which he became an expert in wreckage analysis, Fred Jones was involved in some of the most important accident investigations of the early years of jet-powered flight. Among his most telling assignments was the leading role he played in the intensive investigation that followed the — at first seemingly mysterious — series of Comet disasters of the early 1950s, events which gave the death blow to Britain’s hopes of leading the world in civil aviation.

Before that, Jones had studied the fragmented remnants of the swept-wing, twin-boom DH110 prototype, and his findings enabled the aircraft to be modified in such a way that it was subsequently able to enter service as the Sea Vixen naval fighter.

During the 1952 Farnborough Air Show. When he saw the aircraft pitch violently upwards, he already had some idea of what might have happened to it, even before getting among the wreckage. His investigation confirmed that the skin of the leading edge of the wing had separated from it, causing the plane to rear upwards with such violence that the engines broke from their mountings, ripping their way out of the fuselage and ploughing into the crowd. It was a catastrophe that claimed the lives of 28 spectators, as well as those of the pilot, John Derry, and his navigator, Tony Richards.

Fred Jones was born in 1920 in Cove, Hampshire, within earshot of the roar of engines from nearby Farnborough. Educated locally, he left school at 14 to join the Royal Aircraft Establishment as an apprentice.

In 1941, at the end of his apprenticeship, he became a member of the newly founded accidents section at RAE, thereafter working as a “disaster detective” on cases occurring both in Britain and abroad. At RAE his habitual place of work was the “Aeroplanes’ Graveyard”, three sombre black hangars to which the mortal remains of crashed aircraft were brought from all over the world for reconstruction and examination.

The war provided a flood of work for the new section. Jones’s first assignment was to investigate the reasons for the crash of a Stirling bomber. But the age of high-speed and hypersonic flight was just around the corner. The jet age brought stresses to aircraft skins and airframes that could scarcely have been envisaged in the era of the piston engine. In early 1944 Jones worked on the first Gloster Meteor (Britain’s only operational wartime jet fighter, though it never saw combat) to crash. Later, the remnants of the V1 flying bomb, and the V2 ballistic missile, came under the scrutiny of the section, as Air Defence of Great Britain — as Fighter Command had been renamed in June 1944 — sought solutions to these terrifying new weapons.

In the early 1950s, with Jones now in a senior position in accident investigation at Farnborough, his department was soon to be confronted by RAE’s most serious challenge. No problem to hit British aviation was to prove more damaging than that which dogged the Comet, the world’s first jet airliner, in 1953 and 1954. On May 2, 1952, BOAC had inaugurated the world’s first passenger jet service, with flights from London to Johannesburg. Travellers who experienced the smooth, swift and and silent ride at 40,000ft declared that they would never return to lurching through storm clouds at half that height in noisy piston-engined aircraft, which took twice as long to reach their destination.

The British aircraft industry seemed to have stolen a march on America and to be on the way to complete domination of the civil aviation market. Then, on May 2, 1953, a year to the day after its introduction into airline service, a Comet broke up in the air during a thunderstorm over Calcutta. On that occasion the storm was blamed for the aircraft’s structural failure. On January 10, 1954, a second Comet apparently disintegrated in mid-air and disappeared into the Mediterranean Sea off the isle of Elba, 20 minutes after taking off from Rome.

Yet after this second crash, the type was put back into service after modifications. The decision was a source of deep unease to Jones, who found it incredible that service could be resumed after two such serious accidents whose cause was simply not known. “But mine was a lone voice in the wildrness among all the experts,” he was subsequently to say.

It was to take a third crash, on April 8, 1954, this time of a Comet flying from Cairo to Rome, before civil flights were suspended indefinitely and RAE’s accident investigation team was ordered to swing into action. While one of its teams took an entire Comet fuselage and subjected it to fatigue tests in a huge water tank, Jones headed another team examining every single piece of the wreckage that had been retrieved from the bed of the Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily.

This operation eventually established that the pressurised fuselages of the Comets had simply burst as they climbed to cruising height, weakened by repeated pressurisation and depressurisation. After examining the fragments, Jones’s team noted that the fuselage had started to crack at the corner of one of the automatic direction-finder aerial cutouts. Meanwhile, the fuselage testing team found that cracks developed at the corner of one window and rapidly spread throughout the already dangerously fatigued structure.

Such fundamental discoveries meant that the Comet had to undergo radical redesign of many of its features, a process that enabled Boeing to overtake De Havilland in design and production. By the time the new Comet 4 went into service on the transatlantic route in October 1958 the technically superior Boeing 707 was ready to capture the world market, as it did from its introduction only a month later.

Among Jones’s other aircraft investigations was that of a Handley Page Victor bomber, which mysterious disappeared on a test flight over the Irish Sea in August 1959. On that occasion it was impossible to be certain about the precise reason for the aircraft’s destruction. Evidence pointed to the failure of a pitot tube, resulting in the involuntary extension of a Mach trim strut, causing a dive at more than Mach1 into the sea.

Jones also investigated a number of non-aircraft structural disasters. Notable among these was the collapse of a box- girder bridge, while under construction, at Milford Haven in 1970. Jones’s findings led to a rigorous reappraisal of the structure of such bridges, both in this country and abroad.

Jones was appointed OBE for his work in 1980. He retired as a principal scientific officer in the airworthiness division of the structures department at RAE in 1985.

Jones had always been a keen shot, and was a member of the National Small-Bore Rifle Association. He often shot at Bisley. Among his many prizes was the Hampshire Small Bore Rifle and Pistol Association trophy for 200 yards, which he won in 1976.

His book Air Crash: The Clues In The Wreckage, was published in Hardback by HALE, and softback by COMET.

Fred Jones, OBE, aircraft accident investigator, was born on September 4, 1920. He died on August 22, 2003, aged 82

The name: I changed my name due to family politics (due to an evil mother – Trust me on that one).

My Dad always knew that I was a Jones in my blood, and that the name didn’t change that. My son, Alex is Alex Henry in respect for my Father and his Father.

After the family politics issue I did think of changing back to my original name (Fred Jones Jnr), but I have the family now, so putting them through that name change hassle is not something I want to do – It was hard enough just for me.

I am still a Jones in all but name.

Snow kind of atmosphere

Finally!!! Snow that is PROPER snow!!! Not the few inches that people rant about! This is the best snow for close to 20 years! This is old fashioned snow! This is snow that eats unprepared drivers – and there were plenty of them today.

Read on for a few driving tips – and the mess that was my attempted drive to work!

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What a day… a good 5 to 7 inches  fell over night. I made a comment on Twitter to Robert “Kryton” Llewelyn (@bobbyllew on Twitter) saying “It’s cold outside, there’s snow kind of atmosphere….”. He replied saying that he was now singing that all the time… Sorry Robert!! (Red Dwarf fans will understand…)

I’ve driven in harsh snow before, so I was confident of getting to work – my only worry was the other road users…

I cleared all of the snow from the car – unlike those idiots that just do a window. Getting hit by chunks of snow and ice off of the roof of the car in front is stupidly dangerous. In some places it is a legal requirement to clear all that snow off  – and I think it should be made a law in the UK all the time there are people lacking this common sense and common courtesy to other road users.

Rant over – I digress… I get into my car (the engine and heaters were already running) and notice a warning lamp on the dash… the ABS lamp! Great… I had no anti skid brakes. Never mind, I didn’t have them in previous cars and I am a pretty good driver (experienced in many conditions), so I wasn’t worried…. until I tested the road conditions and the brakes. I was going about 5mph with nothing around and I eased the brakes on…. hardly any pressure and the car slid. The roads were going to be bad.

I cautiously pulled away again in second gear. A rule of thumb for ice and snow driving is to use a gear higher then the one you would normally use and keep the revs low. This really helps reduce wheel spin when you pull away.

Within minutes I was stuck in traffic. Worst of the drivers were people in their fancy 4×4’s who automatically think they know how to drive in bad weather!!! I’m sorry, but just because you own one of these vehicles doesn’t mean you have a clue how to drive them properly… but more on that later!

It took an hour to get the first 2 miles… I would have stayed home but I had an important document to deliver (more on that in a later blog!). I carried on – amazed at some peoples pure lack of driving skills.

The snow kept coming down and the temperature dropped again. I noticed an icicle slowly growing on my wing mirror it was that cold! I actually watched it grow as I was stuck in traffic!

I drove onwards! I reached a roundabout where I saw a 4×4 driver wheel spinning and not going anywhere – this was on a flat road with a hill up ahead! If they couldn’t do level ground, then they didn’t have a chance….. SO I called out with some friendly advice “Try a higher gear and less gas“… to which they responded “I can’t…it’s an auto…“. Holy Cow! I know that type of car and they ALL have a manual mode you can use… A perfect example of an idiot behind the wheel…

I hit the bottom of the hill and just kept up the momentum. There are two schools of thought on keeping going on ice – Low revs and crawl, or high revs and just keep going. I used an bit of both and passed an Audi 4×4 estate as it slid back down the road…. Jeez! I was in a Fiat Multipla!!! What was going on with these people!!! I passed a tree blocking half a lane of the road – the weight of snow had caused it to collapse. That would be a pain for people going the other way!

I finally made it another mile…. I drove down a hill and came to a stop behind more traffic…. this was now 2 hours into my trip… I saw some people spinning in circles up ahead. The traffic was stopped solid so I put the car into neutral, hand brake on and heater running. No one was moving anywhere.

Whilst we were all stationary I noticed this Twitter message from Downing Street. What a bunch of idiots – It’s all very well that they can work from home, but a majority of people can’t work from home – so this message was pure stupidity. Well done Downing Street – Once more showing you are in touch with the people of the land. Numpties – isn’t it about time you let someone else run the country? My sons nappy content could probably do a less damaging job.

As one car came in the opposite direction they called out to the traffic row I was in…. “The Junction is a mess – cars just hitting cars…. It’s all blocked“. The junction was fed by a hill in all directions… it was an ice trap. Well, I wasn’t giving up, so I carried out a three point turn and headed back the way I had come. On the hill I saw a 4×4 off roader slow, shuffle on the spot and stop. They had come to a slippery stop and couldn’t move away again. I had to stop behind them… there goes my momentum!

They sat for a while and finally figured out how to use the gear box and pulled away. That left me (and a few cars behind me) stationary. I tried to pull away in second gear and all I got was wheel spin. Damn.

I tried again… but no luck. The key in situations like this is to not try too hard. If you can’t move, stop that method and try another, or else you’ll just get in even more trouble!

I tried to pull away again, this time spinning my steering wheel from left to right. This moved the front of my one way and the other…although not moving forward I was fighting for traction instead of just spinning in one place. Slowly I inched forwards…and stopped again. Hmmm… New idea needed.

I got out and let my tyres down to half the normal pressure. You shouldn’t do this and then drive at fast speeds – but for me, I wasn’t going to be going more than 20mph on these roads. Partially deflating the tyres is dangerous IF you don’t re-inflate them before going over 20mph, as you could end up losing all the air and some people have even had the tyre come off.

With my lower tyre pressure I went for an off-roading technique I had been shown. Lots of left and right steering and plenty of revs once the car started moving. Add to this some brakes….

I’ll explain:

Most road cars with 2 wheel drive are only one wheel drive on ice. Most 4×4 cars are only 2×4 cars on ice. This is due to the thing called the differential. This allows the wheels to turn at different speeds when cornering. You see as you drive in a curve, the wheel on the outside of the circle has to go further (and faster) than the one in the inside. If the both wheels were joined together by a solid bar this couldn’t happen and you end up scuffing and juddering around corners……

But WHY BRAKES? When a car wheel spins, it normally only spins one wheel and the other doesn’t move at all – all due to the differential. By applying the brakes very slightly as you also put on the throttle,  you slow down the spinning wheel and fool the differential into putting power into the wheel that wasn’t spinning. This means you have both wheels turning. This means you get all the powered wheels turning (more traction), and not one side turning and one side stopped. End of lesson!

This worked well! I slewed the wheels back and forth, changed up the gears and kept the wheels grabbing for grip all the way up to and over the peak of the hill. Once it was down hill all the way I stopped and put my hazard lights on.

I stepped out of the car and walked back down the hill to help the others that were stuck. Straight away I was told “No way – I’m stuck…” by a driver. I told him to slew his wheels and pull away in second gear – and to keep going once he was moving. It took several attempts before he got the knack (or listened), but finally he pulled away. There was no such like for the huge lorry further down the hill….. This road was now closed.

I carried on home, as by now I realised that there were worse roads ahead and more snow due. If I did get to work I wouldn’t get back. A phone call to the office showed only 2 people made it in (locals). Game over for most of them then!

I negotiated my way around the fallen tree and past the two 4×4’s I had passed coming the other way earlier (still stuck, still spinning to try and move…. muppets!). A few more snow broken trees and stuck cars later I slowly drove home. Knowing that the road behind be was impassable I powered my window down and let drives heading the other way know the troubles ahead. Luckily they all managed to turn back at the roundabout i had just past.

I got to Farnborough and slipped down a short cut slope by the Police Station. Big mistake.

The road was blocked at one end. I had to turn around and get back up the steep hill on a curve. I realised that the road was stupidly icy here – It was a safe assumption as the guy in front had got stuck on the level ground, slipped sideways and stopped. He got out, slammed his door and the car slipped sideways away from him. Not looking good for me then!

It was then I noticed a lady with a young boy at the bus stop. I knew no buses would get down here so I offered her a lift. Crazy of me to offer – and crazy for her to accept. I guess the child seat in the car and high Police presence made her feel safe. I called Chris on my hands free car phone for two reasons at this stage – To let her know I was almost home and to let the lady see I was a local person. I could have been lying, but the evidence that I was a family guy was enough for her.

Her son was just over 3 years old and autistic. She was trying to get him to Frimley for a specialist group that took ages for her to get an appointment for – she really didn’t want to miss it. I chatted about Alex as we struggled up the hill (more rapid left/right steering and high gears!) and finally got onto the Camberley road. I dropped the lady and her son off and carried on home. I hope she got home alright later – but hey, at least she made the appointment – the trip home wasn’t a race aganist time for her!

I got home and the snow was begging for some Alex action! We don’t have a sled, so I took an old filing cabinet shelf and formed a ramp on the front. I then added some carpet tiles so Alex wouldn’t get too cold a bum, and finished it off with a cord to pull it. He loved it!!

It was Hellish trying to keep his mittens on, but apart from that he thoroughly enjoyed his parent powered sleigh ride!

The lake looked wonderful in the snow – but then don’t you think that most things look so much better with a nice layer of snow?

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The local main roads cleared up with the gritter lorries spreading their paint chipping loads all over the place. I figured that we may as well get the weekly shopping done as I had the safer car and Chris had no snow driving experience. The roads were pretty clear  – but tomorrow will be sheer Hell. It is already below freezing and that slush is going to be like sheet ice in the morning. I shall try to go to work again, but I think it will be worse on the roads tomorrow due to the ice. Today was just snow and pack snow – no real ice problems.

Once we got home it was dark out – but our neighbours were still building a snowman… and called me over to help! It took four of us to roll the middle section up onto the bottom section! It is way taller than me! (I’m 6ft 4in). You get the size idea from the crushed beer can buttons!!

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I told you the all seeing supreme being was malevolent…

The coldest temperature in England early today was -10C recorded at Farnborough in Hampshire, while several other towns recorded -7C.

The big chill today tightened its grip on London and the South-East with temperatures hitting as low as -10C making it colder than parts of Greenland and the Antarctic.

Yup… that’s what the news was this morning… You may have guessed I live in Farnborough, so I am sorry, but I think this might be all my fault….

You see, not satisfied with taking away my boiler and central heating, someone decided it would be a laugh to turn down the outdoor heating to -10 degrees C.

What am I talking about, you may ask… well look here, here and here at my previous blog entries…and then laugh along with me… Har. Har. Har.

That’s not rain from that cloud you know…

You have made me laugh so much I am now WETTING myself in hysterics!!! Mw

The Almighty supreme being says: "You have made me laugh so much I am now WETTING myself in hysterics!!!

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