Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Survivor

With three Distinguished Flying Crosses to her career, this helicopter has seen action all around the globe and has a service record second to none. In the past twenty-six years she has served in the Falkland Islands, Lebanon, Germany, Northern Ireland, Kurdistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the Falkland Islands War, the SS Atlantic Conveyor was carrying six Chinook HC.1s when she took two Exocet missiles to the side and burned.

Only one helicopter, the “Bravo November” - was in flight at the time, meaning she was the lone survivor. Hence the name it's carried ever since

The ship also went down with nearly every tool used in maintenance except a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. The other helicopters aboard were all lost, along with the second-line repair and maintenance support equipment and stores.

The crew of 'Bravo November', captained by the late Sqn Ldr Dick Langworthy, managed to make it to safety on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.

Operating without spares, tools or lubricants, the Survivor got filthier and filthier - parts fell off, her rotors got out of track, she developed a leak of oil in her rear rotor’s gearbox, but she gamely flew on without nearly any form of maintenance.

The British forces loved her, giving her the new nickname, “The Shuddering Shithead."

On her way back from a night mission she flew into a snowstorm. While the crew was trying to figure out how to get home, they flew into the sea at 100 knots, due to a faulty altimeter.

The impact threw up spray that flooded the engine intakes but Langworthy and his co-pilot managed to get the helicopter back in the air.

As the helicopter settled, the bow wave reduced. We had the collective still up and the engine wound up as we came out of the water like a cork out of a bottle. We were climbing!

The fuselage was damaged, an antenna had been lost and the co-pilot’s door was lost too.

The crew was unable to navigate or communicate with other forces, so it returned to San Carlos for damage inspection. The impact had caused "little more than dents to the fuselage and damage to the radio systems.” For the rest of the war she flew without a side door, leaving the copilot shivering.

By the time the Argentines surrendered, Bravo November had notched up over a hundred flying hours, carried some 1,500 troops, 95 casualties, 650 POWs and 550 tons of cargo.

At the end of the war she had one last thing to do.

Flying into Port Stanley at the cessation of hostilities, she landed next to an Argentinean helicopter that had been grounded by an air strike.

Her crew took their single screwdriver, unscrewed the Argentine door, and put it on the British helicopter. Allegedly, she still has the Argentine door today.

What’s even funnier is that, a decade later, her original door washed up on shore and was discovered by a Falkland Islander.

Thanks Steve!

From Wikipedia:

In April 1982 Bravo November was loaded, along with three other Chinooks, aboard the container ship MV Atlantic Conveyor bound for the Falkland Islands on Operation Corporate. Atlantic Conveyor was hit by an Exocet missile destroying the vessel along with its cargo. Bravo November was on an airborne task at the time and managed to land on HMS Hermes, gaining the nickname "The Survivor". It was the only serviceable heavy lift helicopter available to British forces involved in the hostilities. The first of its four Distinguished Flying Crosses came for actions in the Falklands. Ever since, the name Bravo November became associated with this aircraft that has become "most famous" in the popular imagination. The aircraft is the subject of an exhibit at the RAF Museum.

Bravo November has had a distinguished career within the Royal Air Force serving in every conflict of the last 30 years and has seen four of its pilots awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions whilst at the controls of the aircraft.

Twenty years after the Falklands conflict Bravo November saw service in Iraq, being the first British helicopter to land Royal Marines ashore. After departing from HMS Ark Royal, Bravo November landed the first Royal Marines on to the Al-Faw peninsula to seize oil-pumping facilities before Iraqi troops could destroy them.

During a three-day period, the aircraft averaged nineteen flight-hours per day, delivering combat vehicles, artillery and troops. The mission was the first opposed UK helicopter assault since the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the largest in UK military helicopter history.


  1. Now see, you just don't get good stories like that just any old where!