Just over 30 years ago I had just completed a 12 hour shift at RAF Kinloss I was sorting my gear out for the weekend it was December the 7 th and a wild night even at sea level. The phone rang in the mountain Rescue Block it was our control at the ARCC Pitreavie Castle. “You have a plane crash in Skye USA F111 it may be armed the Sea king is inbound in 10 minutes will pick up 6 of you. The forecast is appalling heavy snow at sea level and winds giving blizzards and white outs be prepared to walk in from sea level if the helicopter gets there! ” 10 minutes to sort out your life never easy and going to Skye on a winter night with no support was a huge learning curb.
At 7.45pm on Tuesday 7th December 1982 a United States F-111F aircraft, tail number 70-2377 crashed on Sgurr na Stri. Maj Burnley L. Rudiger and 1 Lt Steven J. Pitt were killed. I lead a team of 6 plus my dog that flew in on that wild night in a blizzard from RAF Kinloss in Morayshire in 40 years of Rescues all over the UK this was one scary night. We were praying for a good outcome as we had a few months previously been to a recovery of both crew of another F111, who had ejected in the capsule. This was unique to this aircraft. It was wonderful to get both crew alive unfortunately in Skye this did not happen.We searched everywhere, it was dark, the ground was very difficult, wet rock on fresh snow with big cliffs guarding the way. We were hoping to find the crew but there had been no time to eject. I have been back on several occasions to the crash site and told the tale in my blog and it will be always be difficult trip and some hard memories for those involved.We must never forget that these tragedy’s involve real people and families who have to live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives. Major Rudiger (37) , the pilot, was from Virginia USA and 1st Lieutenant Pitt (28), the aircraft’s weapons systems officer, was from New York. Both men left a wife and two children who were, at that time resident in the south of England. Major Rudiger was highly experienced, having flown F-111s since 1969. It is never easy for those who are left behind.
One of the amazing things is how the families still thank 30 years later for those who were involved in the recovery on that wild night. Their words are incredible and though we have never met, even in a tragedy it is these contacts that give you faith in.
Thinking of you all.