Developed by the Fairey Aviation Company, the Fairey Gannet was a mid wing monoplane with a tricycle undercarraige. The Gannet's wings folded in two places to form a distinctive Z shape on each side. The second wing fold was at about two-thirds of the wing length. The length of the nose wheel shock absorber caused the Gannet to have a distinctive nose high attitude, a common characteristic of carrier aircraft.
A story from 849 Squadron
It was Autumn 1966, Hermes was working up in the Moray Firth and waters beyond. Our Gannet was launched on a sunny October morning, all set to control Sea Vixens . And, as always, because the radar of those days took a good while to warm up, we were launched 15 minutes ahead of everyone else.
Even for a big bloke like me, the Gannet's cockpit was comfortably spacious and the bubble canopy gave a great view of the world. Warm sun, blue sea and sky, what a nice morning. And then.........
There was no physical connection between the cockpit and the rear cabin where the two Observers worked their radar etc., but you could smell if they were pouring coffee or smoking. Two or three minutes into the sortie it was quite clear this wasn't either, I put my mask back on and switched the supply to 100% oxygen.
A strained voice on the intercom said "Was that YOU?" "No! I thought it was YOU!" "Well, it wasn't ME!" And so we came to the conclusion that nobody was guilty, or prepared to admit it, but we had an unusual and unpleasant smell in the aircraft.
More seriously, smells usually have an electrical source, so we started turning things off. By about 10 minutes into the trip we realised the source was the radar - and our radar was essential to the launch about to take place.
Hermes would have to know, and very soon. But how on earth to tell the ship, and which of us would do it? Of the three Lieutenants on board, Rick was the senior. Tony and I instantly delegated it to him. The exchange went something like this.......
"Charlie, this is 330"
"330, go ahead"
"Roger Charlie, 330 requests return U/S"
Audible sigh - "Roger 330, report nature of unserviceability"
"330 has a strange smell in the aircraft"
"Roger 330, report nature of smell"
Rick, in a strangled voice "We really don't think it would help you to know!"
"330, your AEO present, says essential report nature of smell"
"OK Dave, it's a strong FARMYARD sort of smell!"
Long pause "Roger 330, return to overhead Charlie and wait"
We did and, orbiting overhead, we watched the chaos we had caused on the flight deck and imagined the similar activities in the hangar. Hermes had to delay this launch and get another Gannet airborne asap, so......
Push back the Vixens that were ready to launch, some already had engines running.....
Get another Gannet out of the hangar and up the side lift, crew manning it at the rush.....
Start and launch the Gannet........
Move all the Vixens etc. back to catapult readiness positions, wait 15 minutes for the new Gannet's radar to be OK, start and launch the Vixens..........
Clear any remaining aircraft forr'ard to beyond the Safety Line, and.......
Let us land on, an hour and forty minutes after we had launched
There was total silence from everyone - the NAM who helped me unstrap - the Squadron flight deck crew - all the flight deck party - the FDO's - the entire population of the ACR - they none of them said anything, they just looked at us.
Lunch was a strangely quiet meal, we three lepers ate more or less alone.
Our AEO (Dave Richardson, a gentle and placid bloke) was overheard to say "OTHER Squadrons bring them back U/S, only MY crowd bring them back smelling of S**T!".
At end of the day's flying, our Gannet was set up on the Flight Deck, engines were started and the radar warmed up to run under dummy load.........and the smell was there.
It was finally traced to a transformer burning out, but the three of us had a hard time living it down!
by Mike Cole-Hamilton
Length: 44 ft (13.41 m)
Wingspan: 54 ft 4 in (16.57 m)
Weight: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)
Wing Area: 490 ft squared (45.5 m squared)
Loaded Weight: 25,000 lb (11,400 kg)
Powerplant: 1 x Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba ASMD 4 turboprop, 3,875 hp (2,890 KW)
Propellers: 2 contra-rotating 4 bladed
Maximum Speed: 250 mph (217 kn, 402 km/h
Range: 700 mi (609 nmi, 1127 km)
Service Ceiling:25,000 ft (7,600 mi)
Endurance: 5-6 hours