XG332 English Electric Lightning

This famous picture was taken by Jim Meads and is of English Electric P1B Lightning XG332 (used for test flying by BAC and DeHavilland) being departed by test pilot George Aird on September 13th 1962. The aircraft suffered an engine fire which burned through the tailplane actuator rods causing XG332 to go into a violent pitch-up about 10 seconds before landing at the DeHavilland aerodrome at Hatfield (not Wattisham). The pilot ejected and landed in a greenhouse. He broke both legs, but was flying Lightnings again a year or so later.

The image became photo of the year 1962 after being cleared by the MOD. Jim recieved £1000 in prize money and this allowed him to become the photographer he is today,

Jim meads is my Grandfather,


  • Blake Smith 5y

    I remember this photo as a kid and studying it and thinking how most shots that exhibit astounding timing are so often blurred but this photo is crisp and from a steady hand. Its hard to estimate actual distance but it would seem that both the farmer on the tractor and your grandfather were pretty close to where that EE lightning is going to strike the ground! Deserved to be photo of the year 1962!
  • Oliver Meads 5y

    The plane landed just past the hedge in the back of the photo. The plane is actually falling left to right. The pilot landed in the green houses behind. They are still there today. There is also a bald patch of ground today.
  • Joshua Slocum 5y

    what a stunning picture
    I have never seen it before
  • Josh Mohror 5y

    Very cool photo and an interesting story! Thank you for sharing.
  • Steve and Jamie 4y

    Great picture and story.
  • PSParrot 4y

    Its a great photo,and the person on the tractor really adds to the whole scene.I am quite local to the site and still think about this picture ( That I saw in Flypast a few years ago ) , when I drive past the Oaklands College which I believe is where the greenhouses were ?
  • Oliver Meads 4y

    I believe the greenhouses are still where they stood in 62. At the bottom end of the runway.
  • Ralph Church 2y

    I can confirm that the Lightening pictured above is crashing close to the air field at Hatfield. The green houses at the point of impact are/were on the left of Sandpit lane as one approaches the mini roundabout at Smallford. This aircraft was often watched by my father (He used to work close by, at SLD Olding, now the Tesco site), flying around the area, often performing very noisy vertical climbs or roaring low across the airfield. He believes it was a test plane operated by DeHavillands who were based there and remembers the incident.
  • David Dyer-Bennet 2y

    F/8 (for the depth of field!) and be there! No time to run very far to create the layering, with the farmer watching from the tractor in the foreground. Jim Meads must have acted quite fast (probably was shooting other pictures, so he had the camera out and exposure set suitably) to get this! It deserves the award.
24 faves
Taken on June 15, 2010
  • Show EXIF
This photo is in 5 groups
This photo is in 1 gallery

Additional info

  • Viewing this photo Public
  • Safety level of this photo Safe
  • S Search
    Photo navigation
    < > Thumbnail navigation
    Z Zoom
    B Back to context