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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 17885
Last updated: 15 November 2020
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Time:10:51 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic J1 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Auster J/1N Alpha
Owner/operator:Colin Rudolf Harris
Registration: G-APOA
C/n / msn: 3381
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Chelsfield, near Orpington, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:Biggin Hill Airport, Biggin Hill, Bromley, Kent (BQH/EGKB)
Destination airport:Biggin Hill Airport, Biggin Hill, Bromley, Kent (BQH/EGKB)
Investigating agency: AAIB
Written off (destroyed) 15-11-1993 when crashed at Chelsfield, near Orpington, Kent, shortly after take off from Biggin Hill. The aircraft was six minutes into a flight from Biggin Hill airfield when, according to a witness, the engine cut out and the aircraft 'dropped from the sky', and crashed into the back garden of a house. Both persons on board were killed.

G-APOA took off from Biggin Hill Airfield a little before 11:00 am. On board were the eighteen year old pilot and a passenger. The Alpha was not licensed for aerobatic manoeuvres - it didn't have the requisite aerobatic seats installed and it was fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks, with which aerobatics were prohibited - but witnesses on the ground said that these are exactly what were being performed before it crashed.

Some witnesses said that a complete roll to starboard was performed and other witnesses said that what it performed was a loop. At the end of the manoeuvre the Alpha pulled up steeply and a loud bang was heard, followed by a puff of black smoke. The Alpha then went into a spiral dive or spin, making three or four full turns to starboard. Some witnesses said in the course of this parts of the fabric, covering the airframe, detached. The Alpha dived almost vertically into the back garden of a house. Both occupants of the aircraft were killed on impact. There was no fire.

The AAIB investigated and its report concluded that the Alpha had suffered structural damage to the port wing, the spar of which failed in flight. Having read the report several times, it is not clear to me whether the AAIB arrived at the conclusion that the aerobatic manoeuvres overstressed the wing, causing its failure, or whether there was a pre-existing defect to the wing. However what seems certain is that the wing failed, causing damage to the fabric covering the airframe, and, as a result, the Alpha, essentially, fell out of the sky.

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("The Independent" 16 November 1993 - see link #3):

"Pilot and passenger die as their 60-year-old aircraft 'drops from the sky' into a back garden

The wreckage of a 1930s Auster J4 Aiglet" [sic] "being examined in the garden of a house at Chelsfield, near Orpington in Kent, where it crashed yesterday morning, killing the two men on board. They were six minutes into a flight from Biggin Hill airfield when, according to a witness, the engine cut out and the aircraft 'dropped from the sky'. The dead men, both of Kent, were named as Ben Harris, the pilot, from Biggin Hill, aged 18, and Gary Abdee, 17, from Petts Wood".

Damage sustained to airframe: Per the AAIB report "Aircraft destroyed". As a result, the registration G-AOPA was cancelled by the CAA on 10-5-1994

Chelsfield is an area in south-east London, England, within the London Borough of Bromley. It is south-east of Orpington, near London's county border with Kent. It is within the historic boundaries of Kent but has been administered as part of London since 1965.


1. AAIB:
2. CAA:
3. The Independent 16 November 1993:

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: AAIB
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report


The Aviation Photo Company: Latest Additions &emdash; Auster J/1N Alpha G-APOA (1993)

Revision history:

17-May-2008 11:10 ASN archive Added
04-Jan-2012 13:24 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Country, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Damage, Narrative]
05-Jun-2012 14:25 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator]
12-Oct-2012 11:52 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Source, Narrative]
26-May-2014 19:54 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Source]
20-Nov-2014 13:43 Dr. John Smith Updated [Embed code]
21-May-2016 18:13 Dr.John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
04-Nov-2018 21:13 Anon. Updated [Narrative]
29-Mar-2020 19:26 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Source, Embed code]
29-Mar-2020 19:33 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
25-Jul-2020 21:37 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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