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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 144390
Last updated: 25 June 2020
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Date:05-DEC-1956
Time:day
Type:Silhouette image of generic HUNT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Hawker Hunter F.Mk 4
Owner/operator:247 Squadron Royal Air Force (247 Sqn RAF)
Registration: XE660
C/n / msn: HABL/003003
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Wivelrod, 2.8 miles west of Alton, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Odiham, Basingstoke, Hampshire (ODH/EGVO)
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Hawker Hunter F.4 XE660, 247 Squadron RAF: Written off (destroyed) 5 December 1956. Broke formation in cloud at 4,000 feet and dived into the ground two-and-a-half miles west of Alton, Hampshire. The pilot did not eject and was killed.

A Hawker Hunter from No.247 Squadron at RAF Odiham smashed into the ground in a field at Wivelrod, near Alton, on the 5th December 1956. The pilot, Flying Officer J.P.T. O'Mahony, died in the impact. He had been briefed to fly as No.2 in a pair formation during a high level tactical formation and cine exercise. Satisfactory radio checks were made during the taxi out and a normal formation take off followed. The leader checked that the position of his No.2 was correct immediately after becoming airborne, and one minute after take off a low rate turn to port was commenced.

The leader straightened out after the turn, informing O'Mahony of his action, and they both entered cloud at approximately 2,000 feet. Upon emerging from the top of the clouds, at around 4,000 feet, the leader noticed that XE660 was no longer with him and he commenced a series of banks to allow him to search for his stray companion. He spotted the other Hunter on the fringe of the cloud tops, 1,000 feet below him and apparently inverted...witnesses on the ground later saw the aircraft emerge from the clouds and crash.

Flying Officer O'Mahony, aged just 22, was a General Duties pilot with over 222 hours experience as first pilot, of which 64 hours was logged in the Hawker Hunter. However, his experience had been gained in a period of just over three years, and his records showed that he was not considered to be a 'natural' pilot, and was rated as 'low average' due to what seemed to be slow reactions.

Despite the fact that the servicing records for XE660 showed that it had an extended history of lateral trim difficulty upon engaging manual aileron control, O'Mahony was found to be responsible for the accident because he lost his No.1 in cloud, and then lost control on reverting to instruments. The observations of the Court of Inquiry are interesting..

The Court of Inquiry found that the only logical reason for the pilot failing to either pull out or jump out is that the time available between breaking cloud and striking the ground was too short - even for a pilot with quick reactions... The Court felt very strongly that a system which puts a pilot, of Flying Officer O'MAHONY's limited experience and with slow reactions, into a front line fighter squadron should be examined to prevent a recurrence of this type of accident.

A Squadron Commander is loath to take official action when no obvious fault can be found with a pilot's flying ability other than he is "somewhat slow". A remark so often used to describe this type of pilot is, "he is bound to kill him sometime, it is just a matter of when".

The reported crash location of Wivelrod is a hamlet in the large civil parish of Bentworth in Hampshire, England. The nearest town is Alton, about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) to the east. At a spot height of 712 feet (217 m), it is one of the highest settlements in Hampshire.

Sources:

1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.184 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft XA100-XZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 2001)
3. http://www.ukserials.com/losses-1956.htm
4. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=6105.0
5. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=XE
6. http://www.hampshireairfields.co.uk/hancrash.html
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wivelrod


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
14-Mar-2012 08:36 Dr. John Smith Added
16-Aug-2012 08:18 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
03-Feb-2020 22:44 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Cn, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
04-Feb-2020 17:23 stehlik49 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Operator]

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