March 6, 2008

Harrier Jet Makes Emergency Landing

By Jim Entwistle

AN RAF Harrier jet was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday after the aircraft's canopy smashed during mid-flight refuelling.The fighter diverted to Durham Tees Valley Airport after its pilot reported getting into difficulties at 2.42pm.The airport was placed on full emergency status.But the Harrier, on routine exercises from RAF Cottesmore, in Leicestershire, limped to safety and touched down at 2.55pm.Emergency crews were stood down ten minutes later.Speaking last night, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said the incident happened while the aircraft was refuelling in mid- air.The Northern Echo understands that the valve on the end of the refuelling hose struck the canopy of the Harrier as it was preparing to take on fuel.The spokesman said: "The aircraft safely diverted to Durham Tees Valley Airport."The pilot was not injured and the aircraft was otherwise fine."RAF Cottesmore is home to four Harrier squadrons.All the squadrons use the Harrier GR9 aircraft, which entered service in 2006 and can reach 660mph.The aircraft can carry a range of ammunition, including the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the Maverick air-to ground missile, and cluster bombs.It is unclear if the Harrier involved in yesterday's incident was carrying ammunition.Yesterday's scenes were reminiscent of a similar incident in August 2006 when an [pounds]18m RAF Hawk jet struck a bird over Barnard Castle.The force of the impact shattered the canopy, and debris showered the town below. The pilot of the Hawk had to endure the full force of the wind in his face as he diverted to Durham Tees Valley Airport for an emergency landing. The jet was on a routine exercise from RAF Leeming, in North Yorkshire. Both crew members were shocked, but unhurt.

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