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A day in the life of the crew chief on XX894

Saturday 24th March 2012


ts late August 2011 at the Cold War Jets Open Day. Both XX894 and XW544’s Speys spool to silence in front of the watching crowd. The whir of the generators click offline signalling the start of a frantic winter season for The Buccaneer Aviation Group. XW544 will be fully overhauled and repainted whereas XX894’s sick engines will have to be repaired.

Spring forward to March the 27th 2012 and the end is in sight. 894’s engines are now operable and 544 is rolled out in to the sunshine looking all pristine and new.

The accumulation of 7 months of hard work by the team is coming to fruition. All of their effort will be shown off the following day in front of the public and press attending XW544’s Rollout Event.


Julian and I spent most of the day servicing both aircraft and fixing the odd minor snags. Most of my morning was taken up with 544’s electrics and then on to changing seals and bleeding the brakes on 894 in the late afternoon.

An evening meal followed by sleep and a hearty breakfast  and it was finally time to prepare for the main event!


Both aircraft were fired up, checked and fully exercised. 544 was repositioned to the far end of the runway whereas 894 was lined up with sister ships XX889 and XX900.


For the opening part of the event my role was to connect the air hose to 544’s engines for the start sequence. Moving around underneath the Buccaneer with both engines running is an awesome experience but demands complete concentration and respect.

With engines running and ground checks complete I leave Julian to marshal the aircraft and jump in to TBAG 1 (the groups transit van) in order to follow 544 up the length of the runway. Dave is my passenger along with ladders, fire extinguishers and various other essentials. As Ollie starts his display routine I park TBAG 1 on the side of the runway far down from the crowd. Soon Ollie speeds  past at 100 knots  and Dave and myself congratulate each other on having the best seat in the house!!


TBAG 1’s acceleration is not so spritely, but I gave it my all to catch Ollie at the end of the runway for the brake check. 544 pulls up to a halt and myself and Dave leap from TBAG 1 to check the brakes and look for signs of any leaks or damage. The starboard brake is a little warm but the run back down to the crowd line will be sufficient to cool things down. Dave gives Ollie the thumbs up and 544 is on the move once more.

The same checks are completed again back at the crowd line after 544’s engines fall silent.


The afternoon plan was originally to run with just two Buccaneers, but myself and Kingy were talked in to turning XX900 around in order to perform a three ship. Just over an hour later with checks and minor servicing complete, I give 900 the all clear to run.


Back on the air hose again but this time with three Buccaneers to crawl under whilst the engines are running! My job now done I can stand back to watch in awe as pilots Mike, Ollie and Dennis do their thing at speed.


As the three Buccaneers taxi back in to an appreciative crowd I feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that no other past time could even come close to. It’s a truly awesome feeling!

Francis - Crew Chief XX894