Accident Avro Vulcan B.1 Prototype VX770,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 55327
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Date:Saturday 20 September 1958
Time:12:58 UTC
Type:Silhouette image of generic VULC model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Avro Vulcan B.1 Prototype
Owner/operator:Rolls-Royce Ltd
Registration: VX770
MSN: 698/1
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:3
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:Hucknall, Nottinghamshire
Destination airport:Hucknall, Nottinghamshire
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
On 20 September 1958, the prototype Avro Vulcan had left its base at Hucknall on a test flight relating to its Conway engines. If time permitted at the end of the test flight the Vulcan was to make a flypast at the RAF Syerston Battle of Britain At Home display. The bomber was being flown by a crew from Rolls Royce Ltd with an RAF navigator.

At 12:57 Z (GMT) the Vulcan approached Syerston from the west to make a run down Runway 07 at a height of 250 feet and at a speed of between 200 and 300 knots. Passing the Control Tower at a speed estimated by those on the ground to be about 350 knots the Vulcan started a shallow climb and began to roll to starboard. At this point a kink was seen to appear in the leading edge of the starboard wing which then began to break up.

The wing became enveloped in a cloud of fuel vapour and was seen to have broken off up to the starboard wheel well. The aircraft then began a shallow dive with a roll to port, shedding the vertical fin. The starboard wing was now on fire.

The bomber continued its roll to port with the nose coming up to vertical, and a fire now breaking out in the port wing. The Vulcan was then obscured momentarily in a plume of flames, but reappeared with its nose pointing almost straight down. It continued in this attitude until striking the ground adjacent to the far end of RWY 07.

The aircraft's port wing destroyed the fire/rescue Land Rover parked there as well as the runway controllers' caravan, killing 3 RAF servicemen and seriously injuring another. All four crew members were killed as were three ground crew. The ground crew were associated with a ground caravan near the crash point. They were runway controllers.

The official primary cause for the accident was a gross structural failure of the aircraft's main spar, which was confirmed by amateur footage, photographs and eyewitness accounts. The reason for the failure was not determined by the Board of Inquiry (BoI), but it was suggested by an accident investigator called in by Rolls Royce that the main cause was that the pilot, upon performing the planned aerobatic display, exceeded the prototype's briefed speed and turning rate limits. The accident investigator submitted a statement to the BoI, but did not give evidence under oath.

The BoI was apparently not informed that the aircraft manufacturer considered the basis for the statement to be invalid. The Technical Officer of the Board of Inquiry (BoI) identified a suspected fatigue failure of the inboard arm of the front bottom wing attachment main forging, and suggested vibration from the high airflow volumes required by the RR Conway 11 engines as a possible cause. The Royal Aircraft Establishment carried out a structural analysis of the wreckage and produced a report on 21 April 1960, but no copy has been found in the public record. Tony Blackman argues that the maintenance crew failed to properly inspect the aircraft for known issues with stress damage to the aircraft's leading edges and structural ribs, which had been observed in another prototype he had flown earlier.

Fatalities - Crew
Captain; Mr. K.R. Sturt, Rolls-Royce Hucknall Civilian Test Pilot
2nd Pilot; Mr. R.W. Ford, Rolls-Royce Hucknall Civilian Test Pilot
Navigator; Flight Lt. R.M. Parrott, RAF
Flight Engineer; Mr. W.E. Howkins, Rolls-Royce Hucknall Civilian Flight Test Officer

Fatalities - Others/Ground Crew
Sergeant E.D. Simpson,
Sergeant C. Hanson and
S.A.C. Tonks.


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.197 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/403:
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File DEFE 7/2463: (September 20 1958-March 21 1962) -


Revision history:

01-May-2009 02:41 angels one five Updated
18-May-2010 20:19 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
16-Aug-2011 04:22 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
12-Mar-2012 04:06 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
12-Mar-2012 17:41 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Registration, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
12-Apr-2012 00:51 Dr. John Smith Updated [Embed code]
26-Jul-2012 03:47 Updated [Embed code]
04-Sep-2013 19:00 Paul Updated [Narrative]
05-Feb-2014 16:08 TB Updated [Time, Embed code, Narrative]
26-Jun-2014 22:51 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
24-Jan-2020 23:17 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Cn, Operator, Source, Embed code, Narrative]

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