- 1958 Bristol Britannia 312 crash
Winkton Air Crash Accident summary Date 24 December 1958 Type Pilot error and CFIT Site Sopley Park & Winkton
Passengers 7 Crew 5 Injuries 3 Fatalities 9 Survivors 3 Aircraft type Bristol Britannia 312 Operator BOAC Tail number G-AOVD Flight origin London England Destination Hurn Airfield
On 24 December 1958, much of the south of England was covered in thick fog making travel by any means hazardous. Many aircraft had to be diverted as visibility was below the minimum permissible distance at most of the airports on the south coast. To a pilot who was less than aware of the conditions on the ground and the altitude at which they were flying, this fog would have an appearance very similar to normal cloud cover. For the pilots of G-AOVD this may have added to the illusion that they were at a much higher altitude and that they were reading the instruments correctly.
The aircraft departed London Heathrow Airport at 10:10 am on a test flight to renew its certificate of airworthiness with 12 persons aboard including 5 crew. After completing the test, at approximately 11:55 am, the crew requested clearance to descend from 12,000 feet to 3,000 feet for approach to Hurn Airport, possibly as an alternate destination due to poor weather at Heathrow. Approximately 3 minutes later, at 11:58 am, Hurn Airport lost contact with the aircraft as it struck the ground, crossing a road into a ploughed field, bringing down telephone lines and trees and alerting residents in the nearby villages. Upon realising they had lost contact with the aircraft, the controller at Hurn contacted the emergency services giving the last known position before contact was lost. Likewise the residents of Winkton, Sopley, and people living near Bransgore contacted emergency services saying they believed that they had heard the sound of a low flying plane accompanied with the sound of a crash.
Emergency response and rescue of survivors
At approximately midday the members of the volunteer fire service in Burley and Christchurch were alerted by way of an air raid siren, calling them to the station to respond to the report of the crash. The initial report from Hurn Airport stated that they were unaware of the type of aircraft involved or how many passengers were being carried, and that they believed the aircraft was to the north of the airport when it crashed. However, on receiving updated information on the reports from Winkton and Sopley the fire crews decided to start the search for the aircraft in that area.
The fire service searching in Winkton discovered the location of the wreckage after travelling a short distance along the Burley Road and finding telephone poles and cables which had been broken and dragged into a field off the road. A foot search was mounted and eventually the crew spotted some broken trees along with aircraft debris and a fire. The crew chief sent a message to fire control to confirm the location of the crash and set up a rendezvous at a local public house to give emergency services a positive location. Another appliance which had been sent to Sopley to search there was unable to be contacted as it was not fitted with a radio; fortunately, however, its crew came across other appliances heading the other way to the incident, and were then informed of the location.
Another hindrance to the emergency effort was the lack of a four-wheel drive appliance which meant that the firemen had to attempt to drive an 8 ton vehicle over a ploughed field which added delay to the rescue and was only accomplished with a lot of effort. While this was going on, the crew chief and some of the crew from the first appliance on the scene continued to search on foot and eventually found the remains of the cockpit with the injured co-pilot trapped inside. They began to cut him free and as further emergency services arrived on the scene, a co-ordinated search and rescue effort was mounted over the site, fanning out and finding a further two survivors. The fire station was eventually able to confirm what aircraft had been involved and the number of people on board at the time. Having received this information the emergency services were able to account for all the people involved and to continue putting out the fires.
The crash was attributed to a failure on the part of the Captain and First Officer to correctly establish the altitude of the aircraft before and during the descent. The Britannia aircraft was fitted with a 3-handed altimeter which required a higher degree of concentration to read correctly than was desirable. The crew misread the instrument believing that they were at 11,500 feet when they began descending, when in fact they were only at 1,500 feet. As a result they flew the aircraft into the ground which was obscured by fog at the time. The type of flight in which the aircraft was engaged was also thought to be a contributing factor.
It was concluded that this crash was a type known as Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) and that there were no defects with the aircraft or its systems which contributed to the crash. For this the failure to read the instruments correctly rests with the captain. This was not the first crash involving a crew misreading this type of altimeter in this long distance, high altitude aircraft. As a direct result of this and other similar incidents, altimeters would now be required to display a cross-hatch or chequered flag when indicating an altitude below 1500 feet. Furthermore, all fire appliances in Christchurch would now be fitted with radios for improved communication, and when four-wheel drive appliances became available, Christchurch was one of the first rural stations to be allocated one.
- Some other crashes where three-handed altimeter misreadings are suspected:
- "Hampshire crashes". Archived from the original on 15 January 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080115070417/http://daveg4otu.tripod.com/hancrash.html. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
- Photo of G-AOVD taken in New York from the Ed Coates collection
- G-AOVD on the register of the Civil Aviation Authority
Sep 02 London Vickers Viking accident
Oct 22 British European Airways Flight 142
Dec 24 Bristol Britannia 312 crashIncidents resulting in at least 50 deaths shown in italics. Deadliest incident shown in bold smallcaps.
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