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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 182980
Last updated: 24 December 2019
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Date:20-MAY-1951
Time:16:20 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic VAMP model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
de Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.Mk 3
Owner/operator:604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron Royal Air Force (604 (County of Middlesex) Sqn RAF)
Registration: VG700
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Swifts Park, Cranbrook, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF West Malling, Kent
Destination airport:
Narrative:
De Havilland Vampire FB.Mk.3 VG700, 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, RAF. Written off (destroyed) 20 May 1951 when crashed at Swifts Park, Cranbrook, Kent, during an air race. The pilot - Squadron Leader Keith Temple Lofts, RAF, DFC & Bar (Service Number 90483) aged 33 - was killed.

On Sunday May 20th 1951, several RAF aircraft were taking part in the second heat of the Cooper Trophy air race for Auxiliary pilots. Squadron Leader K. T. Lofts DFC was piloting Vampire III VG700 in this race, and on his second lap of the circuit he attempted to 'cut inside' the turn made by the proceeding two aircraft. Stresses on the airframe caused the top nose cowling to become detached and strike the canopy. The Vampire climbed vertically in a slight turn, stalled and went into a spin. Lofts managed to recover from the spin but attempted to pull out of the resultant dive too harshly, causing another stall and spin. VG700 struck the ground in a shallow dive and the pilot was killed.

Police Sergeant William Albion was on the scene within minutes, having been on duty at Cranbrook in connection with the air race and having seen the crash. On arrival he found the plane 'burning furiously', and he found the top of the skull of the pilot lying near the aircraft. With assistance he recovered the body from the cockpit - multiple injuries suggested (not surprisingly considering the find near the wreckage) that death had been instantaneous.

According to the Witness statement of Group Captain Horace Stanley Darley DSC, RAF West Malling Commanding Officer:

"At approximately 3.20pm on Sunday, 20th May, 1951, I was at West Malling Aerodrome when I saw Squadron Leader LOFTS seated in the cockpit of a Vampire Jet Fighter Plane No. VG700. A few minutes prior to this I spoke to LOFTS whilst he was seated in the cockpit. I passed the remark to him that his aircraft appeared to be in excellent trim. LOFTS smiled in reply. He appeared to be in excellent health and not least excited. I also dined with him at lunch time when he seemed very fit.

I watched LOFTS taxi away and take off perfectly normally. A few minutes later LOFTS passed over the airfield having completed one circuit of the 45 to 50 mile course of an air race organised for R.A.F. auxiliary personnel. The plane disappeared from my view in a westerly direction on its second lap of the course. There were three aircraft in this particular heat. Two planes shortly afterwards completed the second circuit but the third plane which I now know to be that piloted by LOFTS failed to appear at West Malling. About five minutes later I received notification that LOFTS' plane had crashed at Cranbrook. I visited Swifts Park, Cranbrook, at about 4.20pm 20th May, 1951, and there saw the wreckage of a Vampire jet plane No. V.G. 700, which I identified as that flown by Squadron Leader LOFTS. Near the plane I saw the body of a man. On this body was the shirt of a peculiar blue colour which I saw LOFTS wearing immediately prior to the race. To my knowledge he was a very experienced pilot."

Sources:

1. Halley, James J (1999). Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents. Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.114. ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Last Take-off: A Record of RAF Aircraft Losses 1950 to 1953 by Colin Cummings p 138
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/50: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C424171
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/31/S2526: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6578372
5. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=643.0
6. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/dh/_DH100%20prodn%20list.txt
7. http://www.rafcommands.com/archive/03850.php
8. http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Lofts.htm
9. Photo of grave: https://www.flickr.com/photos/harlowirish/3239887308


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
31-Dec-2015 21:48 TB Added
23-Dec-2019 23:00 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Operator, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
23-Dec-2019 23:01 Dr. John Smith Updated [Date]
23-Dec-2019 23:09 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
24-Dec-2019 09:40 stehlik49 Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Operator]

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