I am heading for Ardgour tomorrow before I head to Arran for a few days with the Moray Mountaineering Club. The weather looks not great and I was wanting to climb some of the Corbetts I have left to do in this wild place. It is special place and has a ferry and if not used a long drive along some wild single track roads, It has no Munros but many great Corbetts and acres of unclimbed rock. Many of the hills are pathless and these are wild hills with a test in bad weather. Access is by the Strontain Ferry or a long 40 mile drive along single track roads but the views and peace and solitude are exceptional. It is a must visit and I have been often but due to the weather have never been to the Voodoo Crash that was a huge incident in 1964.
I was asked to check out an aircraft crash that occurred over 50 years ago in the remote West Coast of Scotland in Ardgour. This was an American aircraft a Voodoo F -101 and involved a huge search on the West Coast of Scotland. This is a big incident in the history of the RAF Mountain Rescue and the search was a huge event at the time. This was the Cold War and much of the story was kept under wraps!
Originally, the Voodoo F-101 was intended as a long range escort fighter for the B-36 bombers.McDonnell F-101 Voodoos were operated by the USAF and later by the RCAF. At the time of the accident, the F-101C Voodoo featured here was on a training flight from its base at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk, England. However, while flying over the Scottish highlands at 28,000ft as part of a 3 ship sortie the fighter 56-0013 exploded in mid-air. This was according to the other aircraft apparently without warning. The pilot had no opportunity to eject from his stricken aircraft. Wreckage from the fighter-bomber was strewn over a wide area in the vicinity of Maol Odhar (Creach Bheinn) in the Ardgour area of the Scottish Highlands, about 15 miles SW of Fort William. An extensive search was conducted by the USAF, RAF and mountain rescue teams. However, the crash site was not discovered until 10 days later. It was a massive search and one can only imagine what the pressures were to find the aircraft.
This was a massive search that involved no less than eight Hercules aircraft from Prestwick; eight HC-54s (Skymasters), and eight C-47 (Skytrain / Dakotas), together with other aircraft and ground search teams. It was a huge search. As usual the Press reports speculated that live ammunition or nuclear bombs / warheads had exploded causing the crash.
The airman who died in this accident was:
- Capt. Morris H Reed (28). Pilot.
This was before my time but my friend Ray Sefton/ John Hinde was involved in the search planning. The search was 9 days long 7 May – 16 May. RAF Kinloss/ Leuchars/Leeming/ Valley/St Athan were involved Glencoe & Lochaber Mountain Rescue Teams and Coastguards . This must have been a huge search to get the Southern RAF Mountain Rescue Teams up to assist, the pressure on the teams must have been immense! John Hindes report states: All mountain ridges and summits in allocated areas searched heavy mist and poor cloud base most days. Weather hail, rain but some summits clear. John mentions there was lack of direction from the search controllers for the first 2 days. Local reports meant the teams searched areas like Glenfinnan but it was another aircraft at a similar time. Eventually sightings and reports of a bang in the Loch Linne area and updates from the lead pilot of the sortie tied in with local reports. The aircraft was spotted by a USAF C47 on the 15 May. Next day RAF Kinloss located the aircraft after a search of Meall Odhar, the point of impact was at 2500 feet less than 30 feet below the corrie rim on very steep loose ground. The impact had made the area pretty dangerous and recovery would be a difficult and hazardous task” The USAF recovered the wreckage and remains and there is plenty of wreckage still within the area, much of it in the Corrie Floor below. One of the comments was the teams need more binoculars there were only issued with 3 per team! Binoculars are still a great Search tool today!
This wreck site is quite remote and little known, and the story deserves to be told. It lies in the hills of the Morvern peninsula on the west coast. The Voodoo jet fighter crashed near the 794m summit of Maol Odhar, about 1km east of Creach Bheinn. The wreck site is unusual in being a relatively recent military aircraft crash site that has never been cleared. I bet there are a few stories connected with this Search and recovery?
I hope to visit these hills soon and pay my respects!
Footnote In 2005 – On Ardgour, Erik Brunskill and Gavin Macfie added Voodoo Buttress (V,6) on Maol Odhar. Erik described this as one of his best days out in Scotland ever, praise indeed!
From another friend a climber was killed on the mountain Meal Odhar at the crash site in 71/72 whilst looking for the crash of the Voodoo. Be aware that some of these crashes are in remote and steep ground and can be dangerous if not a mountaineer. I will look into this incident and get back when I return from Ben Nevis.
From Ray Sefton who was on the crash.
You told the story well. What started the search in the Glen Finnan area was a report of a jet belching flame and smoke disappearing into cloud on a hill adjacent to Loch Shiel. It took 3 days for a scimitar pilot to admit he was beating up the Glen Finnan viaduct.
Ray Sefton “My lasting memory of this call out was the absolute squalor that the troops lived in and still maintained their morale. Apart from the first night in the old shed the rest of the bases were in tents. We had little kit and usually stood astride the “bomb” (Hydra Burner) tunnel, until we were dry. On call outs, we were always on compo rations for the first three days and then went onto fresh rations, if we were lucky. Because, this operation was of national importance our support from Pitreavie RCC, after the first day, was exceptional.
The bonus in Glencoe was that big Ingrid, the wife of the Youth Hostel Warden, made us very welcome and dried out as much kit as she could. (This lady became a friend of the team over many years.”
Life was hard in these days – for the teams!
Many thanks for this more information on the Voodoo Crash.
Fiona Wild wrote a great article in the Lochaber News from her late fathers John Hinde Diaries and is a great read if you can get a copy.