Emergency landing at sea

Forums General Discussion Emergency landing at sea

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #573808

    I saw Alan Heath today, former Saturn Section Director, and amongst other things we talked about, he said he’d heard a story that a Harrier Jumpt Jet had made an emergency landing on a cargo ship in the 1980s as it was running out of fuel. The ship had flat cargo on deck. It tanspired the falt cargo was the mirror of one of the telescopes being shipped to the Canary Islands. 

    I’ve since had a look online and there is a Wikipedia page on the incident, the “Alraigo incident“, but it doesn’t clarify what bit of a telescope it was, or to which telescope it belonged.

    Does anyone know as I would be interested to find out, and I said I let Alan know in due course if I did find out.

    James Dawson


    Dominic Ford


    The internet seems to think it was “anecdotally” the Jacobus Kaptyn Telescope.

    Best wishes,


    Grant Privett

    In that case, could the ship owners claim salvage rights on the Harrier? That must have been a fair amount.

    Dominic Ford

    It’s noticeable how little ever seems to have been said about the incident, so everything is “anecdotal”.

    The navy seems to have been understandably embarrassed by the incident — fighter jets aren’t supposed to get lost at sea.

    The Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope was part of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, which was (until 1998) owned by the Royal Greenwich Observatory. For a long time, the Royal Greenwich Observatory was run by the Admiralty. I’m not sure whether that was still true in the 1980s — I think not — but the two organisations still had close ties.

    So, the telescope may have effectively been navy property and I suspect the astronomers would have been disinclined to publicise their patron’s embarrassment.

    A Telegraph article from 2007 (when the MoD archives were released) says the ship’s owners did indeed receive a £570k salvage payment from the Navy, which I’m guessing would have also included a confidentiality clause.


    Lee Macdonald and I have had some email discussion about this. We’d both heard the story. I think I may have heard it in a lecture to the SHA, but can’t remember any more details.

    We think it might have been the mirror for the Isaac Newton telescope rather than the JKT.

    Lee also points out that “the Royal Greenwich Observatory was not run by the Admiralty in the 1980s. The Admiralty relinquished it in the mid-1960s and by the mid-1980s the RGO was part of the Science and Engineering Research Council.” But ties and loyalty to the Admiralty might still have held.

    Mike F

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.