Bob Prothero, a 70-year-old retired RAF group captain from Portsmouth, has described his terror when a vintage bomber he was manoeuvring at an airshow accidentally took off because his co-pilot hit the throttle.
The recently restored Handley Page Victor, a vital part of Britain’s nuclear deterrent in the 1950s and 1960s, was intended only to taxi along a runway in front of spectators, before stopping for photographs, at a Leicestershire airshow.
The 75-tonne V-bomber rapidly reached take-off speed and began to climb. As it lumbered into the air, reaching 150ft, it veered to the left — heading towards a housing estate.
Mr Prothero, who last flew a Victor in the 1980s and whose flying licence had long since expired, was faced with a split-second decision: “I was petrified. Everything was pure instinct,” he said.
“I was shouting at the co-pilot to pull the throttle back. I saw the nose rise into the air. I thought, ‘Oh God here we go, how are we going to get out of this one?’”
“I had to make a snap decision. I pointed the nose down and noticed we were well and truly airborne, but because of the crosswind we were not over the runway. Thankfully, I managed to pitch the aircraft back towards the runway and away from any spectators.”
Mr Prothero landed the aircraft — named Teasin’ Tina — without a scratch.
“Nobody could really believe what had happened. There were people slapping me on the back and congratulating me on not crashing the thing and ruining the day.”
Here at the Secret Nuclear Bunker, Biggin Hill, UK we raise a glass and a salute to Group Captain Bob Prothero!
Once a hero, always a hero. Jolly well done, Bob!