by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
It was action stations for Stingray on Wednesday afternoon after a distress call from the WAF Wombat transporter aircraft Valkyrie.
The carrier aircraft, which made its debut appearance at the London Airshow some months ago, sent out a mayday over the North Pacific while in the middle of a routine training flight to Marineville. The pilot reported a freak systems failure, that they were losing engine power and could not trace the source. After verifying their position with Marineville Control, the Wombat crew confirmed their intention to ditch into the ocean.
No further messages were received and Commander Sam Shore ordered the Stingray crew to investigate immediately. He explained, “The Wombat is a brand new design and even though it was a test flight, we just couldn’t afford to take the chance that anyone could find the craft and learn its secrets. However, more than that, we hadn’t received any signals from the escape unit, or indeed any confirmation that it had been jettisoned. We were getting pretty concerned that the crew may not have had time to get clear, so Stingray, our fastest undersea craft, was the obvious choice to investigate.”
It took Stingray a little under an hour to reach the Wombat’s last reported position. Captain Troy Tempest told us, “There was no sign of any surface debris. The sea was calm and the visibility was excellent. We carried out a wider search, but figuring that the Wombat may have sunk, we took Stingray down to search the ocean bed.”
Within a very short time, the Stingray crew located the Wombat perched on the edge of an undersea ridge. Lieutenant Phones was surprised and added, “We just couldn’t believe it. There she was, lying off the port side on the edge of a crevasse. The most amazing thing was that the plane was all in one piece with no sign of damage at all. I guess the pilot must have made just about the most fantastic water landing to keep the Wombat in that kind of shape.”
It wasn’t long before the Stingray crew saw a light in the flight deck of the Wombat and realized the crew were still trapped on board. Captain Tempest recalls the difficult situation, “It wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the second that we started moving the craft, we could either tear open the hull and flood it, or send it over the edge of the ledge it was perched on. After establishing radio contact with the crew, Phones and I put on our underwater gear and swam across to the aircraft. We did our best to stabilize it and hopefully stop it from sliding over the ledge.”
Working quickly, Troy and Phones attached hydro-static lifting apparatus to structurally sound portions of the Wombat’s air-frame. With the utmost care, they were able to slowly bring the craft to the surface in one piece. The crew are recovering from their ordeal and the Wombat has been airlifted to Marineville for repairs. It is expected to be returned to its home base within a matter of weeks.