Fairey Gannet: Wikis


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Fairey Gannet AS 4 of the Fleet Air Arm
Role Anti-submarine warfare aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Fairey Aviation Company
Designed by H. E. Chaplin
First flight 19 September 1949
Introduced 1953
Retired 15 December 1978[1]
Primary users Fleet Air Arm
Royal Australian Navy
German Navy
Armed Forces of Indonesia
Produced 1953–1959
Number built 348

The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm by the Fairey Aviation Company. It is a mid-wing monoplane with a tricycle undercarriage and a crew of three, and double turboprop engine driving two contra-rotating propellers.


Design and development

Fairey Gannet AS.6 at the Imperial War Museum Duxford

The Gannet was built in response to the 1945 Admiralty requirement GR.17/45, for which prototypes by Fairey (Type Q or Fairey 17, after the requirement) and Blackburn Aircraft (the Blackburn B-54 / B-88) were built.

After considering and discounting the Rolls-Royce Tweed[2] turboprop, Fairey selected an engine based on the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba: the Double Mamba (or "Twin Mamba"), basically two Mambas mounted side-by-side and coupled through a common gearbox to coaxial contra-rotating propellers. Power was transmitted from each engine by a torsion shaft which was engaged through a series of sun, planet, epicyclic and spur gears to give a suitable reduction ratio and correct propellershaft rotation.[3]The ASMD 1 engine (2,950 hp/2,200 kW) was used in the Gannet AS 1; ASMD 3 (3,145 hp/2,345 kW) in the AS 4; and ASMD 4 (3,875 hp/2,889 kW) in the AEW 3 variant. The Double Mamba engine could be run with one Mamba stopped to conserve fuel and extend endurance for cruise flight. The contra-rotating propellers meant that when only half of the Double Mamba was running there were no thrust asymmetry problems[4]. The Mamba exhausts were situated on each side of the fuselage, at the root of the wing trailing edge. The gas-turbine engine can run on kerosene, "wide-cut" turbine fuel or diesel fuel, allowing the Admiralty to eliminate the dangerous high-octane petroleum spirit required to operate piston-engined aircraft from carriers. [4].

The pilot is seated well forward, conferring a good view over the nose for carrier operations[2], and sits over the Double Mamba engine, directly behind the gearbox and propellers. The second crew member, an aerial observer, is seated under a separate canopy directly behind the pilot. After the prototype, a second observer was included, in his own cockpit over the wing trailing edge. This addition disturbed the airflow over the horizontal stabiliser, requiring small finlets on either side[5]. The Gannet has a large internal weapons bay in the fuselage and a retractable radome under the rear fuselage.

The Gannet's wing folds in two places to form a distinctive Z-shape on each side. The first fold is at about a third of the wing length where the inboard anhedral (down-sweep) changes to the outboard dihedral (up-sweep) of the wing (described as a gull wing). The second wing fold is at about two-thirds of the wing length. The length of the nose wheel shock absorber causes the Gannet to have a distinctive nose-high attitude, a common characteristic of carrier aircraft.

Operational history

The prototype first flew on 19 September 1949 and made the first deck landing by a turboprop aircraft, on HMS Illustrious on 19 June 1950, by pilot Lieutenant Commander G. Callingham. After a further change in operational requirements, with the addition of a radar and extra crew member, the type entered production in 1953 and initial deliveries were made of the AS Mark 1 variant at RNAS Ford in April 1954. A trainer variant (T Mark 2) first flew in August 1954. The RN's first operational Gannet squadron (826 NAS) was embarked on HMS Eagle. The initial order was for 100 AS 1 aircraft. A total of 348 Gannets were built, of which 44 were the heavily modified AEW.3. Production was shared between Fairey's factories at Hayes, Middlesex and Stockport / Ringway near Manchester.

An Airborne Early Warning variant (AEW Mk 3) was developed to replace the American-supplied, piston-engined Douglas Skyraider aircraft. This aircraft carried the American AN/APS-20F radar in a large, bulbous radome suspended beneath the fuselage, under the wing leading edge, requiring a major structural redesign[6]. The fin area was increased to counter increase in side area of the radome, and the undercarriage had to be extended to provide the necessary ground clearance, giving the AEM 3 a more-or-less level stance on the ground. The two radar operators were located in a cabin in the fuselage, sat facing the tail, accessed by small hatches over the wing trailing edge. This variant first flew in August 1958, with trials carried out with HMS Centaur in November. For stability, it required a redesigned fin and rudder together with the small vertical fins on the tailplane fitted to the other versions. When the AEW 3s were withdrawn and scrapped, their radar equipment was recycled into the Royal Air Force Avro Shackleton AEW 2.

An Australian Gannet AS 1 on the USS Philippine Sea in 1958.

By the mid-1960s, the AS 1s and AS 4s had been replaced by the Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 helicopters. Gannets continued as Electronic countermeasures aircraft: the ECM.6. Some AS 4s were converted to COD 4s for Carrier onboard delivery—the aerial supply of mail and light cargo to the fleet.

The Royal Australian Navy purchased the Gannet (AS 1—36 aircraft). It operated from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the shore base HMAS Albatross near Nowra, New South Wales. The German Navy bought the AS 4 and T 5 variants. Indonesia bought a number of AS 4 and T 5s (re-modelled from RN AS 1s and T 2s) in 1959. Some Gannets were later acquired by various other countries.

A preserved German AS.4

The Federal Republic of Germany bought 15 Gannet AS 4s and one T 5 in 1958. They operated as the anti-submarine squadron of Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (2nd Naval Fighter Wing) from Jagel and Sylt. In 1963 the squadron was re-assigned to MFG 3 at Nordholz until the Gannets were replaced by the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantique in 1966. During its operations the German Navy lost one AS 4, on 12 May 1966, when a plane crashed shortly after take-off from Kaufbeuren, killing all three crew members.


Accidents and Mishaps

  • 21 November 1958 - Fairey Gannet AS 1, WN345, suffers belly landing during test programme, caused by a partially retracted nosewheel. Pilot Harry Rayner tries unsuccessfully to get the gear to deploy. Lands gear-up on foam-covered runway 22 at Bitteswell, suffering minimal damage. Repaired, it is back in the air within weeks.[7]
  • 29 July 1959 - Royal Navy Fairey Gannet AS 4, XA465, 'C 234', cannot lower undercarriage, makes power-on deck belly landing into crash barrier on HMS Centaur. Crew okay but airframe written off, salvaged in Singapore, ending up on fire dump at Sembawang.[8]
  • 23 January 1964 - Royal Navy Fairey Gannet ECM 6 XG832 suffers double engine failure caused by a phosphor bronze bush on the idler gear of the port engine’s primary accessory drive failing. Fine metal particles from the gear were carried away by the shared oil system of the two engines, causing both to be destroyed. All three crew baled out near St Austell and survived.[3]
  • 12 May 1966 - German Navy A.S. Mk 4 UA-115 crashed shortly after take-off from Kaufbeuren, killing all three crew members. The crash was deemed the result of pilot error.[9]

Harness restraint issues

Tests on the harness restraint system in the Gannet AEW3 were carried out in response to a mid-flight failure involving Royal Navy pilot Lieutenant K. P. Jones, and problems were found to stem from the housing through which the release cables were routed. The accident itself was the result of engine failure, most likely caused by a disconnection of the HP cock linkage on the starboard engine, but the more critical issue was the failure of the harness quick-release mechanism.

The following is Flag Officer Naval Air Command's citation for the Green Endorsement awarded to Lieutenant K. P. Jones:

"On May 19, 1973, Lieutenant K. P. Jones, Royal Navy was climbing away in a Gannet AEW after a night catapult launch from HMS Ark Royal sailing off the coast of Puerto Rico when the starboard engine RPM ran down to 60% and the propellor could neither be feathered and braked nor could the engine be relit. The aircraft had reached 4,000 feet but height could not be maintained in this configuration. Lieutenant Jones took control of the situation calmly, initiated a “Mayday” call and told his Observers to check their harnesses and run through emergency drills. He ordered them to bale out as the aircraft descended through 2,000 feet and then called each Observer by name to ensure that they had gone.
Lieutenant Jones next attempted to bale out himself but the negative “G” harness strap would not release and he could not free himself from the cockpit. He was then committed to an unstrapped-in night ditching, as the remainder of the harness had fallen clear. He levelled off above the sea, judging his altitude by reference to the barometric altimeter and managed to slow the aircraft to about 70 knots before it stalled into the sea.
Throughout, Lieutenant Jones displayed high professional ability, a strong sense of responsibility for the rest of his crew and excellent judgement in making a successful ditching under most demanding circumstances."[10]

A brief report in Cockpit, Q4 1973, concerning the accident:

"A Gannet was launched at night from Ark Royal and climbed to 4,000 ft. Shortly afterwards the starboard engine ran down to 60%. Attempts to feather and brake the engine, and a subsequent re-light were unsuccessful and the aircraft was unable to maintain height. (It is considered that the most likely cause of the accident was disconnection of the HP cock linkage). Both observers baled out at 1,800ft, but when the pilot tried to bale out he could not free himself from the negative 'G' strap. However, the rest of the harness had fallen clear and so the pilot was committed to a ditching without any restraint from shoulder or lap straps. This was successfully accomplished and the aircrew were all recovered safely and uninjured, the Observers by sea boats from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Devonshire and the pilot by Sea King.
"Although the ditching was successful, the most disturbing factor of the accident, was the inability of the pilot to release himself from the negative 'G' strap..."[11]


In FAA service, the Gannet generally wore the standard camouflage scheme of a Sky (duck-egg blue) underside and fuselage sides, with Extra Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces, the fuselage demarcation line running from the nose behind the propeller spinner in a straight line to then curve and join the line of the fin. Code numbers were typically painted on the side of the fuselage ahead of the wing; roundel and serial markings were behind the wing.


Gannet AS Mark 1
Three-seat anti-submarine version, 180 built.
Gannet T Mark 2

Training version of the Gannet AS 1. The Gannet T 2 trainer entering service in 1955, 35 built.

Gannet AEW Mark 3
Airborne early warning aircraft for the Royal Navy. The Gannet AEW.3 entering service in 1958/1959, 44 built.
Gannet AS Mark 4
Three-seat anti-submarine version, with improved performance from a more powerful engine, 82 built.
Gannet COD Mark 4
AS.4 Gannets modified to operate as cargo/passenger transport aircraft.
Gannet T Mark 5
Training version of the Gannet AS 4 trainer, eight built.
Gannet AS Mark 6
Small number of Gannet AS 4s fitted with new radar and electronics.
Gannet ECM Mark 6
Electronic countermeasures version, operating from shore bases.


  • German Navy
    • Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (1958-63)
    • Marinefliegergeschwader 3 (1963-66)

TNI-AL. (Indonesian Navy)

 United Kingdom


Gannet AEW3 XL472 at Gatwick Aviation Museum


Specifications—Gannet AEW Mark 3

Data from British Naval Aircraft since 1912 [15]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 44 ft (13.41 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 4 in (16.57 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 10 in (5.13 m)
  • Wing area: 490 ft² (45.5 m²)
  • Loaded weight: 25,000 lb (11,400 kg)
  • Powerplant:Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba ASMD 4 turboprop, 3,875 hp (2,890 kW)
  • Propellers: 2 contra-rotating 4-bladed


See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ 849 Naval Air Squadron flying Gannet COD.4 aircraft from Ark Royal and RAF Lossiemouth
  2. ^ a b Williams 1989, p. 94.
  3. ^ a b Gardner, Bob. "Gannet Down! Five Terrifying Minutes." Aeroplane via aeroclocks.com, October 2007. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  4. ^ a b Taylor 1969, p. 361.
  5. ^ Williams 1989, p. 95.
  6. ^ Williams 1989, p. 97.
  7. ^ Willis 2006, pp. 43–44.
  8. ^ Smith 2008, p. 42.
  9. ^ " Marineflieger-geschwader 3." fly-navy.de. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  10. ^ Cockpit, Issue No 67, Second quarter 1974.
  11. ^ "Accident Briefs reports". Cockpit, Issue 65, Fourth Quarter 1973.
  12. ^ Cornwall at War Museum
  13. ^ a b "Fairey Gannet." airliners.net. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  14. ^ "Gannet A.S. Mk 1 XA334." camdenmuseumofaviation.com.au. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  15. ^ Thetford 1978, p. 190.
  • Smith, Dave. "Hit The Deck." Flypast, No. 328, November 2008.
  • Sturtivant, Ray and Theo Ballance. The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. London: Air-Britain, 1994. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.
  • Taylor, H.A. Fairey Aircraft Since 1915. London: Putnam, 1974. ISBN 0-370-00065-X.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Fairey Gannet". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969 (reprinted 1977). ISBN 0-425-03633-2, ISBN 978-0425036334.
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft Since 1912. London: Putnam, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.
  • Velek, Martin, Michal Ovčáčík and Karel Susa. Fairey Gannet Anti-submarine and Strike Variants, AS Mk.1 & AS Mk.4 . Prague, Czech Republic: 4+ Publications, 2007. ISBN 80-86637-04-4.
  • Williams, Ray. Fly Navy: Aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm Since 1945. London: Airlife Publishing, 1989. ISBN 1-85310-057-9.
  • Willis, David. "Fairey's Versatile Gannet - Part Two", Air Enthusiast, Number 124, July–August 2006.

External links


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