BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 17:38 GMT
Tornado alert pilot tells of relief
Flight Lieutenants Simon Grieve (left) and Graham Harvey
Flight Lieutenants Simon Grieve (left) and Graham Harvey escaped unhurt
A pilot has told of his relief after landing a Tornado jet on its belly at 200mph and walking away unscathed.

The undercarriage malfunctioned on the F3 air interceptor shortly after Flight Lieutenants Simon Grieve and Graham Harvey took off from RAF Leuchars.

Flt Lt Grieve, who has only eight hours' flying time on the aircraft, landed the aircraft without wheels.

He said the 15m jet came down with a sound of scraping metal and admitted: "I was just very relieved."

The Tornado crew declared a mayday at about 1700 GMT on Thursday when they discovered that they could not lower the aircraft's undercarriage.

They were 10 minutes into a training mission after taking off from RAF Leuchars in Fife.

Ground staff activated the station's emergency plan and two rescue helicopters were scrambled.

We discussed what we were going to do if things went wrong with the landing
Flight Lieutenant Simon Grieve
The Tornado landed safely on its belly on the main runway shortly after 1730 after burning fuel over the North Sea.

Flt Lt Grieve, 29, from Kirkcaldy, said he had been pleased to be able to land rather than abandon the aircraft.

He said the landing had been "fairly soft and gentle" rather than the hard impact he had anticipated.

"I was just very relieved. It was not what I was expecting as I thought there might be some sort of deceleration or some sort of shuddering shoulders.

'Like a rollercoaster'

"All there was was a sound of scraping metal," he said.

Flt Lt Grieve, who has 12 years' service with the RAF, said the landing had been better than he expected.

"Once you've got the aircraft down, it was like a rollercoaster coming to a stop.

"We discussed what we were going to do if things went wrong with the landing.

An investigation has been launched
"We both decided that if we could see upon landing the back of the aircraft on fire we would be leaving the aircraft.

"Likewise, if we were going to be skidding off the side of the runway then we would be leaving the aircraft as well."

The two men walked away from the aircraft unscathed.

Navigator Flt Lt Harvey, 34, from Walthamstow in east London, said he and Flt Lt Grieve shook hands after the landing.

"It was a little bit surreal standing on the grass looking at the plane on the runway covered in foam," he said.

Runway damage

"We were both happy that we had opened the canopy, got out and run away to the grass."

Their commanding officer, Air Commodore Simon Bryant, said the Tornado skidded down the runway for a mile before finally coming to rest.

"The plane looks in remarkably good state, but it's difficult to say at this stage the extent of the damage," he said.

The officer added that there was some "insignificant" damage to the runway, which would be easily repaired.

The RAF has launched an investigation into the incident.

The BBC's John Morrison
"Crash investigators are trying to work out why the undercarriage got stuck"

BBC Scotland's Alan Grant
"This has only ever happened once before to a Tornado"

Inquiry into Tornado alert
05 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Tornados return from the Gulf
11 Apr 03  |  Scotland
RAF squadron switches base
23 Jan 02  |  Scotland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific