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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 152789
Last updated: 29 June 2020
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Date:09-JAN-1956
Time:11:45 UTC
Type:Gloster Meteor NF Mk 14
Owner/operator:153 Squadron Royal Air Force (153 Sqn RAF)
Registration: WS727
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Hunton Hill Wood, Coxheath, near Maidstone, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF West Malling, Maidstone, Kent
Destination airport:
Narrative:
A fatal accident occured on 9th January 1956 when Meteor NF Mk14, WS727, struck the ground near Maidstone, killing both of the crew on impact. This accident occurred towards the end of a two-aircraft cine photographic mission from West Malling - one Meteor was to pursue the other and make quarter attacks whilst filming. After being airborne for around 20 minutes both jets were observed flying in line astern at about 1000 feet. Without warning, the lead Meteor started a turn to port which developed into a steep climbing turn. The formating aircraft followed - at a height of around 4000 feet the lead aircraft commenced a roll to port at about 200 knots. The other aircraft followed until almost inverted, and then rolled out into a climbing turn as the pilot considered the manoeuvre too dangerous at their present altitude. The lead aircraft was last seen in a steep dive, and shortly afterwards it struck the ground at Coxheath, near Maidstone.

The pilot of WS727 was Flying Officer D. R. Arundell, a 31 year old with an 'Above Average' assessment and over 430 hours on Meteor Mk.12's and 14's. The navigator was Flying Officer F. Webb. The Court of Inquiry blamed the pilot of WS727, noting that Arundell did not like formation flying and often carried out violent evasive action to shake off his number two. He was found guilty of culpable negligence for carrying out an aerobatic manoeuvre below a stipulated height.

Station commanders recorded comments on the finding of the court:-
"The finding of the Court in this instance is based, in the main, on the evidence of a single witness and this evidence certainly does not prove to my satisfaction that Fg.Off. Arundell was guilty of such negligence. I do not, therefore, accept this finding, and submit that, in my judgement, the root cause of this accident must remain obscure and that there can be no more than a suspicion that it was a loss of control stemming from disobedience of orders...Arundell was accustomed to unusual attitudes in Meteor aircraft of all marks...moreover, provided the configuration of the aircraft permits, aerobatics are performed (in the approved areas) at the discretion of the pilots of aircraft at this Station...I cannot offer any satisfactory explanation for the steep climbing turn described...the cine film in question is being held in safe custody at this station for further examination if required...I am hurt and angered by the heartless and irresponsible nature of the press report...this Court of Inquiry failed to probe this accident with nearly sufficient care to justify a finding of culpable negligence against the pilot concerned."

Crew of Meteor WS727:
Flying Officer David Radcliffe ARUNDELL RAF (pilot, Service Number 578647, aged 31)
Flying Officer Frank WEBB RAF (navigator, aged 24)

According to the summary of the Accident Investigation into the accident:

"Meteor NF12 (WS662) was manufactured in July 1953 and had flown 118 hours since new. The pilot held an 'average' flying assessment and had flown 500 hours in Meteors, from a total of 761 hours in all types of aircraft. The accident occurred when the Meteor was taking off from West Malling on Runway 25 - it was part of a formation that was taking off in pairs, and WS662 was No.2 of the third pair and was to 'pull low' on take off. The weather at the time was good with excellent visibility. Runway 25 slopes with the end of the runway being some 60 feet higher than the take off point. The leader of the formation became airborne about 100 yards before the end of the runway and 'held low', at which point WS662 was still not fully off the ground. It continued over the escarpment of the overshoot area and crashed into an orchard - the Meteor disintegrated and both occupants, as we know, were killed.

Inspection of the scene showed that WS662 had struck the trees at a moderately high speed, and tyre marks on the end of the runway showed a considerable braking effect. Tyre marks on the overshoot area suggested that the Meteor had sunk whilst still laterally level. Both engines had been running at moderately high RPM, the air brakes were fully extended, and nothing in the wreckage suggested a technical failure to explain the fact that the aircraft failed to take off. The Investigators concluded from the tyre marks etc that the pilot had tried to abandon take off.

It may be that the pilot viewed with some apprehension whether the leader was going to get airborne in time and this may have been due to the leader pulling very low on his late take off".

Sources:

1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.177 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 93)
3. Category Five; A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009 by Colin Cummings p.172
4. Court of Enquiry documentation January 1956
5. https://www.key.aero/forum/historic-aviation/3860699-gloster-meteor-nf-mk-14-ws727
6. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=WS
7. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=642.0
8. http://www.planetrace.co.uk/1950-1959_26.html
9. http://www.ukserials.com/losses-1956.htm
10. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=909.0


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
25-Jan-2013 11:42 Dr. John Smith Added
04-Feb-2013 10:20 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
03-Mar-2013 12:54 SteveA Updated [Time, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
29-Jan-2014 19:24 TB Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
26-Oct-2017 18:57 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Source]
06-Nov-2018 21:18 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
07-Feb-2020 20:30 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
08-Jun-2020 19:38 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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