A fast taxi in memorial to Squadron Leader K J Tait and Flt. Lt. C R Ruston
Saturday 24th March 2012
ROB TAIT AND XX894 MARCH 24th
I first became interested in Buccaneers when I became a father. I wanted to find out more about what my own father did while I was a child on the RAF Germany airbase of Laarbruch. I was always aware of his red arrows service because I had the flyers and badges but the Buccaneer was more of a mystery. He flew with 16 squadron first then XV. While with 16 Squadron he was lucky enough to fly in the now famous Red Flag 77 exercises in Nellis, Nevada. He was part of the second batch of sorties and flew several of 208 squadron’s two tone desert schemed Buccs. He eventually became Squadron leader of XV squadron and leapt at the chance to compete in Red flag 80. Unfortunately on the 7th February 1980 the Buccaneer XV345 suffered a catastrophic failure of its starboard wing, separating from the aircraft causing XV345 to pitch sharply and break up. Flying at such low level meant impact was just seconds later and my father, Squadron Leader K J Tait, and Flt. Lt. CR Ruston were tragically lost.
By the time I was ready to find out more about this incident all the Buccaneers had been retired for over 15 years and I thought my research was going to be purely academic. That was when I found out about the amazing work that had been going on in Bruntingthorpe. Not only had they saved several from the scrapheap but had maintained and restored them to taxi able condition. Delving into my father’s log book I found that he had flown all of these Buccs at one time or another but that XX894 was of particular importance. This was the plane that he and Flt. Lt. CR Ruston flew from Laarbruch to the Red Flag range in Nellis in January 1980 via Lajes, Gander, Seymour Johnson and Offutt. It was also this plane that they flew their last sortie in before stepping into XV345.
So it was that 32 years later, thanks to the hard work and generosity of the Buccaneer Aviation Group, that I found myself strapped in the back seat of XX894 preparing for a fast taxi run down Bruntingthorpe’s massive runway. Mike Birt had given me a tour of the pilot’s cockpit to get a feel for the controls, briefed me on safety then helped me into the navigator’s Martin Baker seat. We waited for the two other Buccs alongside to start their Spey engines and then the canopy slid over my head and our engines powered up. The experience of sitting in a 1950’s designed nuclear bomber as it powers its 15 ton bulk down the runway with two more in pursuit is a unique experience and one that causes a grin even as I write this weeks later! I had visited Bruntingthorpe the previous year and was blown away by the fact that you could walk alongside the Buccaneers as they taxi back to their parking places but this was a whole new level of experience that I can whole heartedly recommend. It is so fortunate for enthusiasts and for Britain’s heritage that there are people like Dave Webber and the Buccaneer Aviation Group with the skill, enthusiasm and dedication to keep these buccaneers alive and I thank them for doing a terrific job.