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croydon aerodrome air safety

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croydon aerodrome air safety

Old 1st Nov 2009, 21:31
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croydon aerodrome air safety

Hi All

I don't want to sound morbid, but did Croydon aerodrome have an unblemished air safety record ?
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Old 1st Nov 2009, 22:56
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did Croydon aerodrome have an unblemished air safety record ?
No, although fatalities were relatively few. The worst pre-war wreck, which killed autogiro pioneer Juan Cierva and 13 other passengers and 2 crew, was KLM DC-2 PH-AKL which crashed on take off 9/12/1936. Post war this was exceeded on 25/1/47 by another take off crash when a Rhodesian DC-3struck a Czech DC-3 with the loss of 18 in all.

Earlier an Imperial DH.34 crashed in Purley on Christmas Eve 1924 with the loss of 8 lives after failing to gain height after take off. This showed up the inadequacies of the original Plough Lane field and resulted in the extension of the airfield to the size which it maintained through the 30s and 40s to closure in the 50s.

There was one other fatal crash , 2 persons on an Air France LeO 213 which struck a radio mast on take-off, 22/12/34. Also at least 7 non fatal crashes pre war.
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Old 2nd Nov 2009, 10:47
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The various pre-war incidents are described in a separate chapter of the book "Croydon Airport The Great Days 1928-39", published by the London Borough of Sutton (surprisingly much of the airport is in Sutton, not Croydon). The houses in Foresters Drive around the south side of the airfield seem to have received more than their fair share of misfortunes.
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Old 2nd Nov 2009, 16:12
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My parents lived in Foresters Drive which was on the boundary of the airfield before I was born. They told me that a DH 34 took the chimney stack off the house but I don't suppose that will figure in the stats because people took such things fairly calmly in those days.
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Old 4th Nov 2009, 09:10
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Originally Posted by pontifex View Post
.....a DH 34 took the chimney stack off the house but I don't suppose that will figure in the stats because people took such things fairly calmly in those days.
This not unknown type of incident was caused from time to time by the use of long wireless aerials trailing below the aircraft, which were wound in and out from the cockpit for takeoff/landing by the wireless operator. Forgetfulness during the downwind checks (if they had such a concept then), aerial stuck, winding handle breaking off, etc would lead to the cable striking the ground on finals, house roof tiles etc being a prime recipient.
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Old 4th Nov 2009, 22:19
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There used to be (early 1970's) clear evidence of some damage to one of the many pairs of semi-detached houses in Foresters Drive just south of Waterers Rise on the north western corner of the field. The southern half of the semi had teh original hipped roof; the northern (damaged) half had a repaired roof but with a gable end. Obviously a cheaper repair at the time when materials were scarce.

Last time I was over that way I noticed that both roofs were now the same - pity.

I'm sure "Treaders" will be on here soon giving us the benefit of his more detailed local knowledge.
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Old 5th Nov 2009, 16:27
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I seem to recall something like Airspeed Oxford crashing on to the roof of a church on the corner of Stafford Road and Woodcote Road Wallington - probably a little after the war.

Treaders, I think you and I have discussed this over a beer sometime.

Croydon, considering it pioneer status, had a remarkable history of safety. The DC-2 was by far the worst there IIRC. Incidentally, it had already aborted a take-off in fog - it was the second attempt that proved fatal.
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Old 5th Nov 2009, 17:27
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Certainly have PP - I have a vague recollection of a DC-3 or a Viking perched atop a house which I think may have been at Northolt, but something similar but more destructive also happened at Croydon.
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 07:16
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I have two photographs of the burned out Czech DC 3 at Croydon taken by my father.
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 12:24
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Treadigraph... Yes the "rooftop" Railway Air Services DC-3 on 19 Dec 1946was ex-Northolt, no serious casualties on board or in the South Ruislip semi on which it settled - the house subsequently being re-named "Dakotas Rest".

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Old 13th Nov 2009, 13:54
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Although it wasn't in the immediate vicinity of the aerodrome, the Sabena Airliner that crashed in nearby Tatsfield in December 1935 is presumably not the only mishap that occurred to planes heading for Croydon and which should therefore be counted as part of the less fortunate history.
I grew up in the village and though the event was well before my time, there are still oldies there today who remember the occasion. Back in those days there was a Plessy Air Lighthouse south of the settlement, one of a string that illuminated the course from the south coast to Croydon. (The site of this, now occupied by a radio mast, is still enclosed with the original wooden fence visible in old pictures of the beacon.)
Flight included a short comment on the report in November 1936:


Reflecting on the invariable responses so frequently encountered in this very forum upon contemporary incidents, I note there is also an article in Flight just a few days after the accident including the statement of "... a Croydon correspondent...' who had '...little doubt...' that ice formation had something to do with the loss of the aircraft. A few lines later, we are told that '...opinion among the pilots of five nations is unanimous ... 'That it was in no way the fault of that fine and experienced pilot..."
The AIB report on the accident however comes to the seemingly well considered opinion "That the accident must be attributed errors of judgement on the part of the pilot; errors to which the bad weather conditions undoubtedly contributed." having excluded the likelihood that ice was a contributing factor.

We are however assured by the writer earlier in the piece, referring to the professional fraternity at Croydon, that, “Pilots' gossip is often very illuminating, for they know what they are talking about.”
The more things change....



(Not perhaps so inviting noticing as I Googled to check my info that on the same page as the accident results is a current ad for Cheap Sabena Flights to Europe... )
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 14:37
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Originally Posted by johngreen View Post
I Googled to check my info that on the same page as the accident results is a current ad for Cheap Sabena Flights to Europe... )
An interesting ad, seeing as Sabena went bankrupt and out of business in 2001 !
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 15:18
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...quite right... but it's still there....

Cheap Sabena Flights

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Old 14th Nov 2009, 17:00
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Rooftop Crash

The story I like was that the Radio Officer left the Aircraft went into the attic down the stairs and caught a Bus back to Northolt
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Old 19th Nov 2009, 15:30
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Hidden aircraft remains - croydon airport

total nonsense...? Anyone else have knowledge of this....

CROYDON: Is perfume warehouse hiding secret aircraft? (From This Is Local London)
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Old 23rd Nov 2009, 01:43
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Croydon "safety"

It was hardly Croydons fault that aircraft outgrew its suitability for public transport operation.
The HP42's seemed to manage ok.and their huge tyres could cope with the grass surface.
The airport's site was no doubt chosen due to its good road links to London, and less flying distance to Paris.It was always prone to fog,and also no doubt to the dreaded "smog",and would get water logged with ease.With no chance of extending its TODA or TORA any post war flying was going to be limited,and without a tarmac runway any aircrafts takeofff performance was going to be weather limited.
However it served to put transport flying into the public gaze,and pioneered many features that we now take for granted.The classic terminal building was designed to be "passenger" friendly",and was a model of efficiency in its day.It took a while for the post war regulations to catch up with Croydons situation,but once the "metal monoplanes " went from J52's to DC3's its future was sealed,but past never forgotten.
AS a youngster growing up in the area i well remember the powerful rotating beacon that could be seen for miles (it reflected on low cloud very well),and the railway station at Banstead that had its name on its roof (a legacy to Croydons early radio days).
BTC attended the first airshow there after it closed.
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Old 23rd Nov 2009, 09:38
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Miles Gemini G-AJZI Crashed on take off ,hit trees on high ground SW of the airport on flight to Milan ,crashed Ridge Park 27.2.48, 09:31 hrs. Pilot Wg/Cmdr W.H Wetton(ex Booker airfield owner ?) injured his passenger Mrs P .Beverley was killed. Presume heavy with fuel and baggage.
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Old 23rd Nov 2009, 10:44
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Gemini crash

If you looked at the performance of the Gemini,and the time of the year the machine probably never had a real chance of clearing out of the bowl-like airfield.
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Old 23rd Nov 2009, 11:03
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What was the pre-war reluctance with hard runways at the "major" airports of the time ? The significantly worse performance you get operating from grass really affected the low-powered types then around. 40% extra factor when operating off grass ? Could they not handle any crosswind and thus needed a circular field to give a landing/take-off in any direction ? Did fragile undercarriages need extra resilience ? Croydon had a hard apron but not runways.

Gatwick spent money on a new terminal and train station in 1936, only to have the whole lot become unusable due to waterlogging in the winter, and all the operators moved away.

I don't know if the runways were inadequate for DC3s and the like of the time; Croydon was 4,000 feet, and DC3s have operated effectively on comparable tasks from shorter strips. Tempelhof in Berlin was the grand new airport of Europe at the time, they had 5,500 feet and later operated 727 and One-Eleven jets out of there, and Comets to the Mediterranean, in the 1970s. Hard runway of course. I'm sure DC3s would get off in half that length.

Last edited by WHBM; 23rd Nov 2009 at 11:14.
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Old 23rd Nov 2009, 13:23
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croydon - airways beacon

Pobjoy (lovely little engine) mentions the Croydon beacon ...

There was an airways beacon light located on the west side (but maybe the east) of Grant's Lane, about half a mile north of Staffhurst Wood road. Grant's Lane runs north towards Hurst Green and Oxted on the Kent / Surrey boarder. As far as I know the concrete footing of the light assembly is still there ... it was in '50 when I lived in Edenbridge.

What a wonderful spot for aircraft spotting that was - all sorts of traffic following the railway line to and from Dover and Ashford, both military and civilian ... and the daily commercial traffic, DC3s, 4s, 6s, Connies heading off to Europe from London.

I was lucky to thumb a flight on a Rapide chartered by the BBC on the last day that Croydon was open - it needed a test flight before carrying out filming and the pilot (whom I had helped to push the aircraft out) kindly asked whether I would like to come along for the ride. Having returned to earth I then found myself being introduced to O.P. Jones who was being interviewed for the evening news ...

Ah! Youthful memories ...
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