The 9th Air Force Air Sea Rescue Service at Langley Field, Va., was on call 24 hours a day. Our squadron lived in an old Quonset Hut that was built during World War I and was in the old area called “Shell Bank”. We had an old potbelly stove in the middle of the floor of our living quarters to keep us warm during the cold winters.
One cold Sunday morning in 1947, we receive an SOS call that a British Vampire jet had ditched off the coast of Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean. (The Vampire jets were England’s first jet.) Our squadron only had about 75 personnel assigned to Langley Field at the time, and most men lived off base.
The enlisted pilot on call that weekend woke me up as I was the crew chief of his aircraft, and asked me to pre-flight our plane to get ready for our rescue mission. I towed our plane out of the hanger, checked everything out, started the engine for warm up. My pilot showed up and we took off from the grass runway next to the NASA Research Center.
The Coast Guard was standing by for information from us about the located of the British jet in the water.
It did not take us long to locate the plane with the pilot holding on to its wing a few miles from the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse. I called the Coast Guard and gave them directions to the downed plane. We then circled the site until the Coast Guard arrived in about half an hour.
The small plane never sank because of all the salt in the Atlantic Ocean, and it was towed back to shore. The plane reminded me of a VW Bug.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.