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Accident description
Last updated: 26 June 2016
Date:Thursday 6 February 1958
Type:Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador 2
Operator:British European Airways - BEA
Registration: G-ALZU
C/n / 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
Airplane 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: The German accident investigators in 1960 concluded that the accident must have been caused by icing. This theory was not accepted by the UK. The inquiry was finally reopened in 1965; slush on the runway was considered a 'further cause', though icing was still considered the essential cause of the accident. As this explanation was still unacceptable, a new British hearing was opened in 1968. The report of this was made public in 1969, concluding the accident must have been caused by the nose wheel re-entering the slush following V1. The lowering of the nose wheel was in its turn caused by an increased slush drag on the main wheels. Whether icing was also a cause was not clear, however possible, this was very unlikely.

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


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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).

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Airspeed Ambassador

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