On Friday 14th October 2016, Flying Officer Paul Ferguson RAFVR(T) of 422 (Corby) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets, was a guest of honour at the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
The reason for the visit was to acknowledge Paul’s involvement and response to an aircraft crash and subsequent rescue of its pilot.
The incident which took place on the 11th of September 1991 at RAF Wittering; headquarters to South and East Midlands Wing ATC, involved the BBMF Hurricane Aircraft No LF363.
Paul was a serving RAF Fire-fighter at the time, and based at Wittering. Paul was the deputy crash crew commander and in-charge of the rapid intervention vehicle.
The Hurricane was en route to Jersey flying in formation with the Lancaster and Spitfire when the engine started to run rough. The pilot of the aircraft, Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Allan Martin reported that the engine was running rough and he was diverting to Wittering.
Paul and his crew were alerted by Air Traffic Control of the situation and were deployed on to the airfield to await the arrival of LF363.
Whilst driving to the predetermined position for aircraft emergencies, the Tower upgraded the emergency as Squadron Leader Martin had declared a ‘mayday’ call as the engine had now failed.
More information was announced via radio that the aircraft could potentially crash. Paul deployed his vehicle and crew so that they could be as close to the runway and anticipated crash zone as possible.
LF363 crossed the Station perimeter fence and had flames and smoke emitting from the front of the aircraft. As the Hurricane got lower it stalled and the right wing tip impacted the ground, causing it to cartwheel wing tip to wing tip.
A large fire started and engulfed the cockpit area. Paul deployed his crew and without any hesitation jumped on to the starboard wing, and released Squadron Leader Martin’s straps, pulling him from the burning aircraft.
The pilot suffered a broken left ankle and was unconscious when Paul rescued him.
The fire was very quickly extinguished and after a number of years LF363 was rebuilt to full flying condition.
Unfortunately, no record of the live rescue of Sqn Ldr Martin was documented and 25 years on it was by pure default that Paul’s heroic actions had been discovered.
A former BBMF Commanding Officer, Sqn Ldr Clive Rowley RAF Ret’d, and current BBMF Historian heard of the true facts of the incident and contacted Paul for his story. He invited Paul to the Flight to chat about the events and to offer Paul a personal tour of the Flight’s aircraft, in particular a close up with LF363.
Paul said of the visit “I was thrilled to be a guest of the BBMF and indebted to Clive Rowley for hosting me today. It was great to see LF363 again in all her glory. I am proud to be part of her return to full flying duties, in particular my rescue of Sqn Ldr Martin “.
The pictures show Fg Off Ferguson next to LF363 at BBMF today and on the 11 September 1991.