Grey mammoth to raise Harrier jet
LOW tide today should signal the start of a delicate mission for a Felixstowe salvage crew as they stand by to recover a crashed RAF jet.Experts from Felixarc Marine have been called in to bring the Harrier jump jet which smashed into the sea at the Lowestoft air show up from its watery grave.
By Richard Cornwell
LOW tide today should signal the start of a delicate mission for a Felixstowe salvage crew as they stand by to recover a crashed RAF jet.
Experts from Felixarc Marine have been called in to bring the Harrier jump jet which smashed into the sea at the Lowestoft air show up from its watery grave.
The multi-million pound jet has been in the sea 200 yards offshore a week since stunned flight fans watched it apparently lose power and plunge into the water - while the pilot ejected to safety.
Divers surveyed the plane yesterday tea-time and the lifting operation is now expected to start early this evening.
John Gray, general manager of Felixarc Marine, said the massive Gray Mammoth salvage and supply pontoon had been dispatched to Lowestoft to carry out the operation.
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The 224-ton tug has 110-ton hydraulic sea crane and a 40-ton winch on board and has worked at salvage operations all around the coast.
It was sent to Plymouth earlier this year to free Willy when the oil tanker got stuck on rocks and a village of 150 people had to be evacuated because of the fears of explosion.
Mr Gray said the Harrier jet was submerged in four metres of water. Hausers and a sling will be fixed to it and it will be first lifted clear of the sea to drain out all the water before being winched on board.
It will then be taken to the dock at Lowestoft to have its wings and fin removed, before being taken back to its base at RAF Wittering, where it will be examined to establish why it crashed.
"It is in quite shallow water, but it is full of water and sand and other sea debris by now, and bits will probably have broken off," said Mr Gray.
"We tendered for the salvage job and the Ministry of Defence asked for the Gray Mammoth specifically. The lift will be close to her capabilities but they have been through the figures twice and seem happy.
"It should not take too long once everything is in place. The eyes of the world will be upon us but I am sure it will all go as planned and we have contingency plans ready if there are any difficulties."
The 27 metre long Gray Mammoth has been operated by Felixarc Marine, part of the massive Adsteam Marine group, for 12 years. It is powered by two 402hp twin propeller engines.
After RAF divers examined the £15 million Harrier GR7 yesterday, they said it was "not as in as good condition as we had hoped", although it is relatively intact.
Lowestoft police today thanks air show spectators for their co-operation during the two-day event before during and after the Harrier incident.