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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 145133
Last updated: 29 June 2020
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Date:13-APR-1922
Time:day
Type:Vickers Type 54 Viking IV
Owner/operator:Sir Ross Macpherson Smith
Registration: G-EBBZ
C/n / msn: 15
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Brooklands Aerodrome, West Byfleet, Surrey -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Nature:Test
Departure airport:Brooklands Aerodrome, West Byfleet, Surrey
Destination airport:Brooklands Aerodrome, West Bufleet, Surrey
Narrative:
Civil Registered as G-EBBZ (C of A 812) 14/3/22 to Sir Ross Smith. Written off 13/4/22. The aircraft crashed near Brooklands Aerodrome, at West Byfleet, Surrey, during a test flight of Type 54 Viking IV. The accident killed both crew. Lt James Mallett Bennett and Sir Ross Macpherson Smith, who died in the crash was from the 1919 England to Australia flight. G-EBBZ spun into the ground from 1,000 feet (305 metres), killing both. Keith Bennett, who arrived late for the test flight, witnessed the accident. Ross had not flown at all for many months, and had never flown this type of aircraft. The investigating committee concluded that the accident had been the result of pilot error. According to the following excerpt from a contemporary newspaper report ("Dundee Courier" - Friday 14 April 1922):

"THE BROOKLANDS DISASTER.
HOW SIR ROSS SMITH MET HIS DEATH.
BROTHER SEES CRASH.
Fatal Spiral Spin While Practising For World Flight.

Sir Ross Smith, the famous airman, and his mechanic, Lieut. J. M. Bennett, were killed in an aeroplane smash at Brooklands yesterday. The hero of the flight to Australia in 1919, Sir Ross Smith, and the mechanic went up for a practice flight the Vickers Viking aerial leviathan in which it was intended shortly to start upon flight round the world. The machine went up in perfect fashion, but after fifteen minutes' manoeuvres the great 'plane dipped her nose and swung into a spiral spin. The terrified watchers saw the aeroplane crash to earth. The famous pilot was found dead in his seat. The mechanic died shortly afterwards.

Found Dead His Seat.
We deeply regret that in a practice flight this morning Sir Ross Smith and Lieut. Bennett met with fatal accident. When approaching the aerodrome to land the machine got into a spin and crashed. Captain Cockerell, of Vickers. Ltd., had just previously flown the machine for about half an hour and had handed it over to Sir Ross Smith. Such was the announcement the disaster made from the offices of Vickere. Ltd., yesterday.

The tragedy has occurred practically on the eve of Sir Ross Smith's proposed flight round the world, which was to commence on the 25th of this month, a venture which would have meant a journey of 21,500 miles. The pilot, Sir Ross Smith, was to have been accompanied by his brother. Sir Keith Smith, who was to act navigator and wireless operator, and engineer, Lieut. J. N. Bennett.

HOW THE DISASTER OCCURRED.
Eye-Witness' Story Of The Fatal Spin.
The story of how the disaster occurred is told in messages from the Brooklands flying ground. Fifteen minutes after the 'plane had ascended it crashed. Its world-famous pilot, Sir Ross Smith, was instantly killed. The mechanic, Bennett, was so badly injured that he died a few minutes after being taken from the mass of wreckage.

The Viking had ascended in perfect fashion; Sir Ross waving his hand to hundreds of cheering Vickers' workmen who were out watching the maiden flight. She climbed gracefully and powerfully to 3000 feet, then higher still. Fifteen minutes had passed in excellent flying conditions when the Viking's nose dipped. The machine swung into a spiral spin. Gathering a terrific downward speed crashed on to the fence around the Brooklands track.

Brother Sees Crash.
The accident was witnessed by Sir Keith Smith, brother of Sir Ross.

"She swung over to a vertical position," said eye-witness. "One wing was dipping, the other pointing to the sky. Another slow twist followed, and she began spin slowly downwards; nose to the earth. Every one of us watching knew that the great aeroplane was not built for stunts. But we believed in the first seconds of that spiral spin that the pilot was testing the strength of the wings, and showing what the machine could do."

Out Of Control.
"But the spinning dive grew faster, and we saw that the aeroplane was out of control. As it dived lower, still spinning, its speed grew faster and faster. It was almost above our heads. Then in last downward rush it crashed to earth 150 yards from the crowd of terrified watchers. The machine, falling with terrific impact, was splintered into a heap of wreckage. The engine was thrown to one side at the impact, and all the stays and struts were torn from one another."

A man who dashed to the wreck saidó "We found Sir Ross Smith dead his seat. The mechanic Bennett in his seat next to the pilot was still alive but very badly hurt. He died soon after being taken out of the wreckage. There was no fire. The aeroplane seems to have been still intact until the moment when it met the earth."

The Fatal Dive.
Yesterday was the first time the machine had been in the air. The pilot was seen to be endeavouring to make a turn, and in doing so he got into a nose dive from which it was not possible to recover. Many pilots with much experience in flying who were present at Brooklands at the time agreed that it would have been quite impossible for Sir Ross Smith to have got out of the nose dive. In the words of an onlooker, there was not the slightest chance of saving the machine. The wrecked machine lies close to Byfleet Road in full view of passers-by.

Preparing for World Flight.
All the morning Sir Ross Smith, Lieut. Bennett and a band of mechanics had been busy on the machine putting the final touches to the engine and fabric of the splendid craft, which everyone confidently expected would complete the first flight round the world. The final preparations for the maiden flight, made just before noon, were watched by an enthusiastic throng.

Sir Ross Smith was in high spirits, and every portent was favourable to the success of the new craft. Tho ascent was perfect, everyone agreed, and the subsequent turning and climbing was all that could be expected of any aeroplane. So smooth and masterful were the machine's manoeuvres that hardly one of the watchers realised even during the spinning dive to earth that disaster had suddenly and tragically overtaken the great attempt to fly round the world.

When the machine came down Sir Keith Smith was one of the first to arrive beside his brother, and him carried from the wreck on to the track"

The bodies were transported to Australia and Smith was given a state funeral and later buried on 15/6/22 at the North Road Cemetery, Adelaide.

Sources:

1. Sir Ross Smith's Death: No Failure of the Machine", The Times, 17 April 1922
2. Dundee Courier - Friday 14 April 1922
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Macpherson_Smith
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/4/C49: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6576517
4. https://www.baaa-acro.com/crash/crash-vickers-54-viking-iv-brooklands-3-killed
5. https://cwsprduksumbraco.blob.core.windows.net/g-info/HistoricalLedger/G-EBBZ.pdf
6. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/gy/reg_G-E2.html
7. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-sir-ross-macpherson-8529
8. http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-heroes/smith.htm
9. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=14696.0


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
18-Apr-2012 13:44 ryan Added
18-Dec-2013 23:42 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
09-May-2018 16:10 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Source, Narrative]
26-Feb-2020 17:27 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
26-Feb-2020 17:32 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]

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