Wirestrike Accident English Electric Lightning T4 XM971, Monday 2 January 1967
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Date:Monday 2 January 1967
Type:Silhouette image of generic LTNG model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
English Electric Lightning T4
Owner/operator:226 OCU RAF
Registration: XM971
MSN: 95071
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Tunstead, 2 miles east of RAF Coltishall, Norfolk. England -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:RAF Coltishall, Norfolk (EGYC)
Destination airport:RAF Coltishall, Norfolk (EGYC)
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Lightning T.4 XM971; C/N 95071 first flown by J.K. Isherwood 23 June 61 at Samlesbury. Delivered to RAF Middleton St George, 23 July 1962. Became "K" later "971" of 226 OCU.

Written off (destroyed) when crashed 2 January 1967. The nose radar fairing became detached and was ingested by the intake causing double engine failure. The crew - Squadron Leader Terry Carlton & Flight Lieutenant Tony Gross - ejected safely and the aircraft crashed at Tunsted, two miles east of Coltishall, Norfolk.

Per eyewitness report from one of the crew of Lightning XM971 (Squadron Leader Terry Carlton - see link #3 for the full story):

"The second interesting thing" [on the Lightning] was that the dielectric cone providing both the air intake and the cover for the radar had been responsible for what was the most memorable moment of my entire flying career. I somewhat uncertainly thought that my grandchildren might like to be let into a small corner of their grandpa’s past and thought, ah well, here goes!

So I began by telling them that one cold and frosty morning in January 1967, I was detailed to fly as instructor in the right-hand seat of a Lightning T4 — XM971 — with a student, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) Tony Gross, on a radar training exercise where the student pilot would perform interceptions on a Canberra target aircraft

The throttles were immediately pulled back and we turned back towards Coltishall which was visible just below our right wing. My initial assessment was that it was probably the nose wheel which had burst after its gyrations on take off. I announced my problem to Air Traffic, descended and planned to lower the undercarriage and fly past the tower to enable the undercarriage to be visually checked. All went unremarkably until at about 1,500 ft I started to level off and gently eased the throttles forward.

Nothing happened except that the jet pipe temperature needle went off the clock and the RPM gauges moved not a jot! The speed was decaying fast and we had to keep descending to retain flying speed, and with no power things started to happen very rapidly indeed.

When I signed for the aircraft it was noted that the nose wheel had vibrated somewhat on the previous take off but was considered acceptable. Sure enough, as the wheels were raised after take off, the nose wheel rattled away considerably more than usual before finally settling down.

The Lightning climbs very rapidly in cold power (and even more so in reheat when it could climb to 36,000 ft from brakes release in about 110 seconds: not many, if any, aircraft can do that even today!) and we were soon passing 10,000 ft when suddenly there was a loud bang from down between our feet

It was difficult at the time, never mind now, to recall exactly the sequence of events, but as we were descending well below 1,000 ft I realised that we had no choice but to leave the aircraft, made a rapid Mayday call and told Tony Gross to EJECT! He needed no second bidding! Suddenly, the hood went and half a second later I was aware of his mass rising literally up my left arm — we sat that close — and the bang which was his primary seat cartridge firing.

I then reached up and pulled my Martin-Baker seat blind; there was a short delay and then I was out, tumbling forward — I reckon one complete somersault — then I realised I was in my ‘chute looking down at the ground and the railway line between Norwich and North Walsham with a train coming straight at me about 100 yards away! But I immediately realised that I was drifting downwind, glanced that way and saw high tension cables looming up. In the event my feet missed these cables but they brushed the canopy shroud lines as I approached the ground. I reckon it was more than five but less than 10 seconds from my pulling the blind to landing on the frosty Norfolk ground.

As I completed quite a good parachute roll on landing, I spotted a fireball in the next field where the aircraft had “landed”. Tony Gross was about 100 yards away, on his feet by now, dusting off the mud. The train had stopped, the driver and passengers waved to us, we waved back, and then the Coltishall Search and Rescue helicopter arrived. So far so good!

We were helped into the chopper which immediately headed back to Coltishall..."

Wreckage recovered to the fire dump at Coltishall, since perished. Total flying time on airframe: 688 hours 30 minutes.


1. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 101/681: AIB and RAF reports and proceedings of Board of Inquiry https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C5070691
2. http://www.lightning.org.uk/histp11t4.html
3. Squadron Leader Terry Carlton's Memories of the incident: https://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Tangmere-Logbook-7-Autumn-2010.pdf
4. XM971 at RAF Middleton St. George 13/10/1962: https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/view/1521261
5. http://www.ukserials.com/losses-1967.htm
6. http://web.archive.org/web/20171102103253/http://www.ejection-history.org.uk:80/PROJECT/YEAR_Pages/1967.htm
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incidents_involving_the_English_Electric_Lightning#1960s
8. https://www.raf-in-combat.com/downloads/february-2017-english-electric-lightning-t-4-29-photos/
9. http://www.dtvmovements.co.uk/Info/Historic%20Logs/TeesAirShow63Pics.htm

Revision history:

15-Feb-2012 17:34 Dr. John Smith Added
06-Sep-2012 11:06 AvDb Updated [Registration]
29-Jul-2013 16:05 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
30-Jul-2013 17:14 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
12-Feb-2014 20:58 wyn purdy Updated [Narrative]
04-Dec-2018 09:59 Nepa Updated [Operator, Location, Destination airport, Operator]
29-Nov-2020 02:05 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
29-Nov-2020 02:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
29-Nov-2020 15:29 Glog Updated [Operator, Location, Nature, Operator]

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