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Accident description
Last updated: 20 July 2017
Date:Saturday 2 October 1971
Time:10:10 UTC
Type:Vickers 951 Vanguard
Operator:British European Airways - BEA
Registration: G-APEC
C/n / msn: 706
First flight: 1959-10-17 (12 years)
Total airframe hrs:21683
Engines: 4 Rolls-Royce Tyne 506
Crew:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 8
Passengers:Fatalities: 55 / Occupants: 55
Total:Fatalities: 63 / Occupants: 63
Airplane damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:1 km (0.6 mls) E of Aarsele (   Belgium)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:London-Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL), United Kingdom
Destination airport:Salzburg-W. A. Mozart Airport (SZG/LOWS), Austria
Flightnumber: 706
En route from London (LHR) to Salzburg (SZG) at an altitude 19000 feet the rear pressure bulkhead ruptured. An explosive decompression of the fuselage occurred, causing serious interior damage and severe distortion of upper tailplane skin attachments. The tail surfaces subsequently detached, causing the airplane to enter a steep dive. The Vanguard spiralled down out of control and crashed in a field next to a highway.
During the investigation corrosion was found in the lower part of the rear pressure bulkhead underneath plating that was bonded to the structure. The bond was completely delaminated in this area and the bulkhead material literally eaten away. Fluid contamination, perhaps from the lavatory, was thought to have been the root cause for the corrosion.

Probable Cause:

CAUSE: "The accident was caused by the rupture of the rear pressure bulkhead, which led to the separation both tailplanes in flight and caused the aircraft to dive into the ground."

Accident investigation:
investigating agency: Accidents Investigation Branch (AIB) - United Kingdom
status: Final
number: AAR 15/1972
released:1 August 1972
duration of investigation: 10 months
download report: British European Airways Vanguard, G-APEC. Report on the accident which occurred at Aarsele, Belgium, on 2 October 1971 (AIB AAR 15/1972)


Fuselage failure
Loss of control

» Applying Lessons Learned From Accidents : Accident/Incident Summary Japan Airlines Flight 123, Boeing 747, Gunma Prefecture Japan

Follow-up / safety actions
Inspections of other Vickers Vanguard planes revealed similar corrosion in eight other aircraft. Inspection procedures were revised and the airplane was modified to improve access to the inspected area. The frequency of inspections was increased considerably.


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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 London-Heathrow Airport to Salzburg-W. A. Mozart Airport as the crow flies is 1043 km (652 miles).

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Vickers Vanguard

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