View Full Version : Early Canberra crash

9th Aug 2003, 22:10
In 1951, the fourth prototype Canberra, VN850, crashed on Bulwell Common, Nottingham after an engine fire . The pilot, Mr R.B. Leach was killed. This Canberra was, at the time, being used by Rolls Royce for Avon R.2 development trials and was returning to its base at Hucknall, one wing-tip tank was supposed to have been jettisoned. This was the first Canberra to be "lost" in an accident.

Query, does anyone on this knowledgeable forum remember the crash or have any further information they can share about this? For example, Was Mr Leach an ex-wartime pilot?

Reason for asking is that the event has been "remembered" in a local paper's "Bygones" supplement and memories are being sought. The paper wants to do an article with background to any memories they get.

Thanks in advance.

John Farley
9th Aug 2003, 23:51
If you have access to UK Flight Testing Accidents 1940 to 1971 ISBN 0 85130 311 1 then you will find many details of the flight and accident plus four further references.

If you do not have the book and would like me to post more here just say so.

10th Aug 2003, 02:26
If you have access to UK Flight Testing Accidents 1940 to 1971 ISBN 0 85130 311 1

Thanks John, I don't have such access. Appreciate it if you could post any detail here :ok: - it might also interest the other forum members.

I do know that VN850 was the first Canberra to be fitted and flown with jettisonable wing-tip tanks, also that it was the first of its kind to be shown overseas - at Paris, Orly in 1950.

John Farley
10th Aug 2003, 06:02
UK Flight Testing Accidents 1940 1971

Has the following entry

13 JUNE 1951 CANBERRA B.1(P) VN850

Mr R.H.B.Peach (Test Pilot), Rolls Royce, Hucknall. Test flight.

Part of 100 hour intensive flying trials on Avon RA7 engines, the starboard engine fitted with high energy ignition. One hour and 22 minutes after take off the pilot advised that the port engine was out and be was unable to re light.

He was cleared for a direct approach to the runway. At about 250ft on finals the aircraft was seen to drop the port wing, the nose then went down, the aircraft turned 45 degrees to port and the undercarriage was retracted but the flaps stayed down.

Climbing slightly and turning slowly to port the aircraft crossed the airfield before dropping the port wing again and the aircraft dived into the St.Alban's railway sidings at Bulwell Common railway station, Nottingham:

The speed had been allowed to become too low on the approach by a pilot inexperienced on type (3.15hrs) and he was unable to use the full thrust of the starboard engine to recover the situation.

It is likely that retraction of the flaps caused the final wing drop and dive. This was the first fatal accident involving a Canberra 1 killed. Cat 5.

(refs 38, 47, 195 & 360).

These references are listed as

38 Canberra - the operational record ISBN 1 - 7183-0619-8

47 English Electric Aircraft and their predecessors ISBN 0-85177-806-2

195 R-R Heritage Trust Archives - Courtesy of David Birch

360 AIB reports various - Contained in PRO AVIA/5 Folders No20 - 38

My only comment is that for the year of 1951 this accident was the 17th out of a total of 34. How times change.


10th Aug 2003, 07:14
Thanks for that John, rounds out the background.

In my copy of Robert Jackson's Canberra The Operational Record there's a tad more detail about VN850 itself. It was the 1st Canberra to be fitted with jettisonable wing-tip tanks; 1st to exceeed 500 KIAS; it was the airframe used to display the Canberra's flying capabilities to a US delegation at Boscombe Down (leading to the US interest in building the kite under licence). VN850 also carried out several more public demonstrations in 1950 - the Belgian International Air Show; twice at Farnborough and did the flight from Warton to the Paris, Orly demonstration in 54 mins!

Barry Jone's book on the Canberra however gives the pilot as a Mr R.B. Leach! Your gen is better though as, apart from being *official", aligns with local "memories" of the pilot in the newspaper.

Maybe someone else knows a bit more about the pilot?

Agree with your comment, but I would add that it was also a time of greatness and significance in British aviation history as we moved into the jet-age, the EE Canberra was but one element of that history (still flying in service though :D )

OK, thanks again for your research John, I'll pass the gen along.

LesB :ok: