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Student Village Academy Forums GENERAL DISCUSSIONS What are some of the most expensive errors ever committed throughout history?


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    • #51647
      What are some of the costliest mistakes ever made in history?
    • #51649
      Shekinah Brama

      In 1966, an engineer named Walter “Taffy” Holden found himself in a dangerous predicament when he unintentionally took off in a jet without knowing how to fly it. Holden, who had limited experience with smaller aircraft, was in charge of the No. 33 Maintenance Unit of the Royal Air Force (RAF) at RAF Lyneham. His unit was responsible for maintaining the English Electric Lightning F.1, a high-speed jet fighter capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 2.

      On the day of the incident, Holden was working on the jet, attempting to replicate an electrical issue. While trying to lightly press the throttle, he accidentally engaged the afterburners, resulting in a sudden surge of power. Unfortunately, the jet had throttle locking gates that engaged when the afterburners were activated, and Holden was unfamiliar with how to release them. As a result, he found himself hurtling down the runway at high speed, with another plane ahead of him.

      In a split-second decision, Holden chose to take off rather than shutting down the engines. Despite lacking a helmet, communication with an experienced pilot, and having the landing gear locked in the down position, he narrowly avoided the other aircraft and successfully lifted off. However, his attempts to eject from the jet proved futile as the ejection seat was in service mode.

      Now airborne and in control of the jet, Holden turned it around and made an attempt to land on a different runway. After two unsuccessful tries, he finally managed to touch down using a maneuver called the “taildragger,” a technique he had learned from his experience with single-seat aircraft. Although not ideal for the Lightning, this landing method allowed him to safely bring the jet to the ground.

      The aircraft was subsequently repaired and returned to service. Today, it can be seen fully intact at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. Holden’s actions were later recognized as being in the best interest of himself and the aircraft. He continued to serve in the RAF until his retirement many years later. Holden passed away in 2016 at the age of 90, leaving behind a remarkable and cherished story of an engineer who unintentionally flew a jet. While not the most costly mistake in history, it remains an intriguing tale.

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