ASN Aircraft accident Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador 2 G-ALZU München-Riem Airport (MUC)
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Status:Accident investigation report completed and information captured
Date:Thursday 6 February 1958
Type:Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador 2
Operator:British European Airways - BEA
Registration: G-ALZU
MSN: 5217
First flight: 1952
Engines: 2 Bristol Centaurus 661
Crew:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 21 / Occupants: 38
Total:Fatalities: 23 / Occupants: 44
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:München-Riem Airport (MUC) (   Germany)
Phase: Takeoff (TOF)
Nature:Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:München-Riem Airport (MUC/EDDM), Germany
Destination airport:Manchester International Airport (MAN/EGCC), United Kingdom
Flightnumber: 609
The aircraft was being used to fly the Manchester United football team to Belgrade. On the return flight a refueling stop was made at Munich-Riem. The Ambassador arrived there at 14:17 in snowy weather. At 15:20 the crew received clearance to taxi to runway 25. At 15:31 the aircraft started the takeoff roll. An uneven engine tone and fluctuating pressure caused the crew to abandon the takeoff. The aircraft backtracked and was cleared for a second attempt. This time the no. 1 engine pressure rose, causing the crew to abandon this takeoff attempt as well. The aircraft taxied back to the tarmac and the crew discussed the problem. It was decided that opening the throttles more slowly, could eliminate the problem of 'boost surging'. Although fresh snow was falling, most of it was thought to have been blown off by the first two attempts to take off. Also, the few centimeters of slush and snow on the runway were not considered a problem by the airport authorities at the time. Around 16:00 the aircraft was again cleared to taxi to and takeoff from runway 25. Accelerating through 85 knots into the takeoff the no. 1 engine surged slightly. The no. 1 engine was throttled down until the surging stopped; power was then applied slowly again. The nose was lifted as the Ambassador accelerated. At 117 knots V1 was called. Before reaching V2 (119 kts) the aircraft entered an area of even slush. The airspeed dropped to about 105 knots, an speed insufficient to become airborne. Also, there was not enough runway length available to stop. The Ambassador ran off the runway and crashed through a boundary fence. After crossing a small road, the aircraft slammed into a house and a tree. The plane skidded another 100yds until striking a wooden garage containing a truck. The garage burst into flames and the forward section slid on for another 70yds before coming to rest.

Probable Cause:

In 1959 the German Luftfahrt-Bundesamt concluded:
During the stop of almost two hours at Munich, a rough layer of ice formed on the upper surface of the wings as a result of snowfall. This layer of ice considerably impaired the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft, had a detrimental effect on the acceleration of the aircraft during the take-off process and increased the required unstick-speed.
Thus, under the conditions obtaining at the time of take-off, the aircraft was not able to attain this speed within the rolling distance available.
The decisive cause of the accident lay in this.
It is not out of the question that, in the final phase of the take-off process, further causes may also have had an effect on the accident.

British tests on the effect of slush on the takeoff process of an aircraft led the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt to decide to re-open the investigation in November 1964.
In August 1966 the Commission arrived at the view that in the runway conditions obtaining at Munich-Riem at the time of the accident, the aircraft G-ALZU without ice on the wing upper surfaces could have attained the required unstick speed and would have been bound to have done so. The failure to unstick, and hence the accident, are thus to be attributed to a series of inter-related causal factors viz.:
1. Decrease in the lift coefficient resulting from ice on the wing upper surfaces and a consequent increase in the minimum unstick speed;
2. Increase in drag caused by ice accretion, particularly at the higher angle of incidence during the unstick process;
3. Reduction by slush and spray of the margin of performance of the aircraft and effect of the slush on the trim.

The differing assessments of the situation by the two pilots during the final phase of the take-off to be inferred from Captain Thain's statements resulted in their acting in opposition which probably increased the severity of the accident.

Failure to become airborne
Runway excursion

» Air Disasters / Stanley Stewart
» ICAO Accident Digest, Circular 59-AN/54 (63-74)
» CAA CAP 153, CAP 292


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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from München-Riem Airport to Manchester International Airport as the crow flies is 1130 km (706 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Airspeed Ambassador

  • 23 built
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