ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 137059
Last updated: 27 August 2020
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Type:Hawker Sea Hawk FB Mk 3
Owner/operator:767 Sqn FAA RN
Registration: WF298
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Harrow Hill, 5 miles northwest of Worthing, West Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:RNAS Ford, (HMS Peregrine) Yapton, West Sussex
Destination airport:RNAS Ford, (HMS Peregrine) Yapton, West Sussex
During the night of 7th March 1957, a Hawker Sea Hawk from RNAS Ford was on a training flight when it crashed into Harrow Hill, Sussex. The aircraft was being flown by Sub-Lieutenant Ian Torrens-Burton who perished in the crash.

Sub-Lt Torrens-Burton was attached to 767 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm and was flying Sea Hawk FB.Mk.3 WF298 (713-FD). Torrens-Burton was training to do a "Ground Controlled Approach" (GCA) which basically means that the altitude, speed and direction are all dictated to the pilot by a ground based Air Traffic Controller who is operating a dedicated radar known as a "Precise Approach Radar". The pilot operates all of the instruments and flies the aircraft but it's position in the sky and where it is going are told to him - effectively the pilot is making a blind approach to landing and does exactly what he is told. Prior to the introduction of Instrument Landing Systems most pilots would receive GCA training at night to replicate poor weather conditions

On the night of 7th March 1957 this GCA went wrong and the aircraft grew directly into Harrow Hill, Sussex. The aircraft exploded and Sub-Lt Torrens-Burton was killed.

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Worthing Herald - Friday 22 March 1957):

A YOUNG Royal Naval trainee pilot who was being talked down to Ford aerodrome should have been passing overhead at about 1,000 feet when his Sea Hawk jet fighter crashed into 549 feet high Harrow Hill, Patching, late on the evening of March 7.

"But it would be quite reckless to hazard a guess why he was not at that height. There is no-one alive who can say," commented the Deputy Coroner, Mr T. E. Bangor-Jones, at the inquest at Littlehampton on Tuesday. Evidence was given that ground control approach staff at Ford suddenly lost radar and radio contact with the aircraft.

The pilot, Sub-Lieutenant Ian Alexander Torrens-Burton, aged 21, of Horsenden Grange, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, was killed instantly in the crash. At the time he was engaged in dummy deck landings by night, with other trainee pilots of 767 Squadron, to which he belonged.

Lieutenant Ronald Gordon Lewis, ground control approach officer, said in the course of evidence, "I had a definite acknowledgement that Torrens-Burton was going to fly at 1,500 feet, but I could not say whether he reported getting down to that height."

Replying to Mr M. Comer (Marsh and Ferriman), for the pilot's father, Lieut. Lewis said that he followed the aircraft on the "search" screen, which gave no indication of its height. It was about to reach the final "talk down" stage, when it would be covered by other equipment giving height, when it disappeared.

The senior pilot of 767 Squadron, Lieut.-Commander I. R. Fraser, said that Sub-Lieut. Torrens-Burton was an "above average" trainee, including ability at flying on instruments.

Sub-Lieutenant Anthony Tower Binney, another trainee pilot, said he had no difficulty with reception. At 2,000 feet he was just above the cloud bank and thought the top of Harrow Hill would be in the clouds, or only just below.

Police Constable T. M. Coyne, of Angmering, said that the aircraft appeared to have struck the north-east side of the hill about 100 feet from the top, demolishing part of a fence, and then to have cleared the top and slid down to a point 60 to 80 yards to the south-west.

Mr Bangor-Jones recorded a verdict of accidental death".

Mr J. R. Walsh (Brutton, Birkett and Walsh) watched the hearing for the Admiralty.

Sub-Lieutenant Torrens-Burton was the grandson of the late Captain A. T Burton, who was appointed M.B.E. for work in Worthing, Shoreham and Southwick Civil Defence forces during the war. Other members of the family live in Worthing."



Revision history:

29-Jun-2011 17:09 angels one five Added
29-Jun-2011 17:10 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
16-Aug-2012 08:41 Nepa Updated [Operator]
09-May-2013 07:09 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Operator, Destination airport]
21-May-2014 14:39 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
28-Jun-2014 02:23 angels one five Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Narrative]
03-Mar-2015 18:53 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
12-Nov-2018 17:33 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
10-Feb-2020 20:28 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
10-Feb-2020 20:36 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description