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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 58340
Last updated: 22 September 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic HUNT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Hawker Hunter F Mk 5
Owner/operator:1 Sqn Royal Air Force (1 Sqn RAF)
Registration: WP118
MSN: S4/U/2997
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Forest Row, 3 miles SW of East Grinstead, East Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
Destination airport:
WP118: Cen. Fuse. C/N S4/U/2997. Delivered 18-05-55, No.5MU, Kemble. Issued to 257 Squadron, (coded 'W'). Thence to 1 Squadron, RAF Tangmere (coded 'S').

Written off (destroyed) 5/12/55: The pilot of Hawker Hunter WP118 was flying as No.2 of a pair of aircraft and he had been briefed to carry out high level cine and tail chase exercises at an altitude of 32,000 feet.

Approximately twenty minutes after take-off from Tangmere the pilot began to experience a 'sponginess' of the aileron controls as he came out of a starboard turn. The speed of the aircraft at the time was noted as .75 I.M.N. Hydraulic system pressure appeared normal, and the pilot sent a radio message to tell ground Control that he was in difficulties.

He selected manual control on the ailerons, but immediately noticed starboard wing heaviness with a strong tendency to roll to starboard - he tried to re-select power control on the ailerons but this caused the control column to lock solid. Once again he switched to manual control but the control column refused to budge, the roll continued and then the Hunter went completely out of control and descended in a spiral dive.

Having made an emergency call and jettisoning the canopy, he then ejected at a height of around 22,000 feet. Unfortunately, due to the lack of leg restraints on the type of ejector seat he suffered serious leg injuries due to his lower limbs 'flailing'.

The Hunter struck the ground at very high speed near Forest Row, Sussex whilst the pilot landed at Cowden in Kent. The cause of the accident was attributed to loss of flying control due to an inadvertent manual reversion of the aileron power controls when the aircraft was flying under conditions of severe lateral asymmetric trim. This trim condition was attributed to a large angular deflection of the aileron trim tab from the flight neutral position.

The reason for such a setting was not conclusively established but it was considered highly probable that it was brought about by a false cockpit indication of the trim position, causing the pilot to select an out-of-trim condition when setting the cockpit indicator to neutral. Owing to the lack of material evidence the cause of the initial manual reversion was never determined but it was probable that the above mentioned trim condition and the resultant large aileron hinge movements may have had some bearing on the failure.

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer" - Tuesday 6 December 1955):

"Pilotless plane alarms children
An RAF Hunter jet fighter from Biggin Hill (Kent) crashed in flames at Forest Row (Sussex) yesterday, terrifying children who were leaving school. The pilot, Alan Ginn, baled out and landed eight miles away at Sussex House Farm, Cowden (Kent), the farm of the film star, John Mills. He was taken to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, with both knees dislocated. The pilotless plane roared low over the village, narrowly missing the parish church, the school and the village hall. Debris was spread 100 yards over the field in which it crashed."

As the above newspaper report indicates, the pilot who ejected was Flying Officer Alan W Ginn. Forest Row is a village and relatively large civil parish in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England. The village is located three miles (5 km) south-east of East Grinstead.


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.176 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 81)
3. Category Five; A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009 by Colin Cummings p.169
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/273:
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/34/S2793:

Revision history:

10-Jan-2009 11:55 ASN archive Added
04-Dec-2011 14:33 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
31-Mar-2012 17:18 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Source, Narrative]
15-Aug-2012 08:31 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
01-Oct-2012 02:11 RAFOHunter Updated [Cn, Operator, Source, Narrative]
03-Oct-2012 00:49 Anon. Updated [Source, Narrative]
22-Apr-2013 12:38 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
15-Jan-2020 23:16 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
15-Jan-2020 23:17 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
17-Jan-2020 14:33 stehlik49 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Departure airport, Operator]
06-Jun-2020 15:26 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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