Lowestoft Air Show 2002
In August 2002 at the Lowestoft Air Show which attracts up to 400,000 visitors while watching a display by a RAF GR7 Harrier jump jet flown by Flight Lieutenant Tony Cann the aircraft suddenly seemed to drop, the pilot ejected and the GR7 crashed into the sea.
That night I watched it on the television, thinking who will recover the plane? The next morning the phone went and that’s when I knew it would be me!
Felixarc Marine and the Grey Jumbo a heavy lift barge was the perfect tool for the job.
Paul Mathews and myself were appointed supervisors with Carl Symes and James Masters as the only non-ex RN. All had to sign the Official Secrets bits! Pulling rank I wanted to be the first diver in. After long briefings by the RAF chaps and the MOD representative, in I went watched by crowds of people on the shore that had come to see the plane come up.
The plane had crashed in shallow water which made the constant swell difficult to hold on to the wreck, the main job was to fix lifting strops and a spreader beam to enable the craft to come up on an even keel. It took several dives to give the information required by the RAF and MOD. The size of beam and length of lifting strops sorted out we started to fit the strops in place and get beam in place for lifting.
This proved difficult due to the constant swell. All the time we were diving we could hear from the local radio station a steady report on our dives,when the last diver went in the anticipation with the crowd and on the radio grew, James could not get the heavy shackles in place and grew tired.
‘Get him out’ I told the crew ‘I will go in and sort it’
As I was just about to jump in on the radio we heard the reporter say “Must be a problem, the older diver is going in” This gave us all a good laugh, and as we said the “old diver did get the shackles on and out came the plane”.
On commercial diving around docks and harbours with lots of sharp barnacles and nasty bits that can cut a suit to bits, part of the aircraft had broken bits of carbon fiber which is like running your hand on a pack of razor blades. We have found the best suits for wear and tear are tri-laminate; all our suits are Oceanic simply the best.
Back at the shop the next day one of our regular customers asked if I had being diving at the weekend, “yes” I told her,so did we she told me “we found some old bottles on a wreck” did you get anything she asked, “yes, a Harrier Jump Jet”
Beat that !!!
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Carl Symes,a good friend, a good diver and a really nice guy.