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Martin Coates , killed while crop spraying in The Sudan in 1962

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Martin Coates , killed while crop spraying in The Sudan in 1962

Old 1st Jun 2012, 20:01
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Martin Coates , killed while crop spraying in The Sudan in 1962

I first saw the following post on Key Forums and as yet it has had no replies so with the posters permission , Kate Showell who lives in Australia , I re-posted it on the Air Britain forum were I've had several replies , one identifying the aircraft involved as Piper PA-18A ST-ABV . I just wondered , hoped , that someone on PPRuNe may be able to help more ? Thank you .

"My mother wishes to visit the grave of her first fiancée who was killed in a small plane accident on 2 November 1962 when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Sennar dam in Sudan. He was working for Crop Culture Aerial which was an English firm based on the Isle of Wight.

His name was Martin Edward Coates - sometimes spelt Coats. He was a New Zealand citizen, born 13/3/1931 who was living in Sydney when my mother became engaged to him. His family chose not to have him brought back to New Zealand and he was buried by the company in Khartoum.

I'm trying to find out which cemetery he is buried in. It will the 50th anniversary of his death this year and my mother wishes to visit the grave on that date. She was unable to attend the funeral and the company arranged for flowers to be put on the grave for her.

Unfortunately Britten-Norman have advised they have no records of Crop Culture Aerial as they only have records going back to 2000 when they took over the company. The UK embassy in Khartoum only has information on Commonweath war graves though are seeing if any families they know may know which cemetery he was buried in. I am also seeking advice from the embassy on other possibly avenues to find the cemetery and my mother and I will write to the Sudanese government.

Any information, advice or assistance would be much appreciated. We have booked our flights and will be in Khartoum on November 1st. While we plan to visit the site of the crash, visiting the gravesite is the most important thing."
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Old 2nd Jun 2012, 13:20
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Sudan Crop Dusting.

David,

I have sent you a PM which you should find of interest.

O.P.
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Old 2nd Jun 2012, 14:47
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Googling produces five cemeteries in Khartoum and presumably you can discount the WWll and Jewish cemeteries. This would leave the Al Farouq/Farroq, Sahafa and Maghabat Khogali cemeteries. I would assume that the embassy would have a record. Hope you are successful in your quest and will keep us informed of your progress.
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Old 3rd Jun 2012, 09:06
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Jim McMahon ran Crop Culture...this may lead onto to other contacts

Aussie Influence In Ag History [Archive] - PPRuNe Forums
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Old 3rd Jun 2012, 09:53
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I must dig out my copy of Peter Charles's book "Six Feet Over", to see if he might have known Martin Coates. ISTR Peter worked for Crop Cuture. I see Peter 2 or 3 time a year - he does not "do" internet - and I am happy to pass on messages, as I will be gliding from near him in September

Last edited by Wander00; 3rd Jun 2012 at 10:27.
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Old 4th Jun 2012, 11:19
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PM's replied too and thanks to everyone for the replies so far which I have forwarded to Kate Showell in Australia .
Thank you
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Old 6th Jun 2012, 22:50
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Thanks to Kate Showell I now have a copy of a four page report into the accident which was compiled by a Mr Hewitt the Operations Manager for Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd of Khartoum . The only other Crop Culture employees mentioned were an AT Toms the Technical Manager (Crop Culture) Sudan and a Mr Whitworth an entomologist .
If anyone would like a copy of the report please PM me with your details .
Thank you
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Old 14th Jun 2012, 11:24
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Cropdusting in Sudan.

David;

Private message enroute.

O.P.
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Old 17th Jun 2012, 16:08
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PM replied to Ocean Person , thank you .
I've attached below a reply Kate received from Arthur Ord-Hume which may be of interest in regard to Martin Coates , Britten-Norman and Mr Ord-Hume himself . Does anyone know if Les Hewitt is still alive ?
Thanks for reading


Dear Kate Showell:

I have received your message regarding your quest for information regarding a pilot who lost his life with Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd..I have also read your extended request on the ascribed 'link' you provided.

First I have to correct some anomalies and mistake regarding the company, its founding, and its staff. John Britten and Desmond Norman formed a partnership at Ryde on the Isle of Wight to build and develop a small aircraft which they had designed (in the end it was a failure). This was in 1952. At the same time they contracted to build an aircraft for a Southern TV programme called ';This Week'. Meanwhile, an Australian friend, Jim McMahon asked them to design crop-spraying equipment for a Tiger Moth to convert it for agricultural use.

The upshot was the creation of two companies - Britten-Norman Ltd (directors John Britten and Desmond Norman with myself as aerodynamicist and designer/test pilot) and Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd with John Britten, Desmond Norman and Jim McMahon as directors. The 'works' was the Conservative Party Committee Rooms in Star Street, Ryde. In 1953-4 the businesses moved to Bembridge Airport that being vacant following the closure of the former Aero Club.

Britten-Norman and Crop Culture thus operated side-by-side from the beginning. Both expanded quickly and I became chief designer/test pilot under John Britten. Crop Culture's operations were mostly in the Sudan but all the equipment was made and tested at Bembridge and aircraft test-flown and then ferried out. In Khartoum Les Hewitt was Operations Manager for the Middle East operations.

All records of B-N and Crop Culture (Aerial) thus go back to the earliest days and the words that B-N have no records of CC(A) before 2000 'when they took over the company' is rubbish. B-N itself had several owners including Fairey and Pilatus and I can only assume that the records were lost at that time. Jim McMahon lived in the Fort on Bembridge Down overlooking Sandown Bay and the airfield: he died a few years back.

CC(A) had a number of aircraft and employed a number of pilots. Initially the aircraft were all Tiger Moths, then Piper PA-18s but there were also several Edgar Percival EP.9 machines. By that time, I had left B-N (having designed the wing of the Islander) and gone to join Percival at Stapleford to develop the EP.9.

Now to Martin Coates. No, I did not know him, but I had heard of his name. The date of the accident you quote, November 2nd, 1962, is interesting because CC(A) lost two aircraft in fatal accidents. The first was in the prototype EP.9, G-AOFU, and the second was in a locally-registered PA-18, ST-ABV. Both were fatal accidents and they were separated by two days. Which of these might have been the accident you name \I cannot confirm.

Unfortunately I believe all the people who might be able to assist you are dead now. Records of accidents in the Sudan are sketchy and records of accidents to crop-spraying aircraft are notoriously difficult to confirm or even check.

Might I suggest your best bet would be to try local sources out in the Sudan. My own log-books for that period merely confirm the existence of the aircraft in that region.

Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd may not still be in existence: I have had no contact or news of them for some while and ceased business with them early 1960s when I became designer for another company before founding Phoenix Aircraft Ltd (managing director & chief designer).

I hope this information may clear some of the background for you but regret that it can shed no further light on your predicament. As I say, there are many people who can profess to offer a guess but few left with the truth.

Your sincerely:

Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume
(former technical director: Britten-Norman Ltd)

(sent from my desk)
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Old 20th Jun 2012, 09:41
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Cropdusting in Sudan:

David,

Private message enroute.

O.P.
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Old 11th Jul 2019, 14:17
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My father, John Hunter-Weston, was a crop-spraying pilot and went to Sudan in 1961. He also worked in the UK. Originally from New Zealand. I know very little about him and I am trying to piece together his very short career. Sadly he died crop-spraying in UK in July 1963. Does his name ring a bell with anyone? He might have worked for Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd.

Lucy
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Old 12th Jul 2019, 17:30
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John "Tmber Wood"

Although I cannot help with Martin Coats (Coats) I sincerely hope that your mother gets the opportunity to fulfill her wishes and visit. Many years ago the BBC or possibly PBS (US) did a program on the crop dusters of the Sudan which included a mention of either a building or airstrip used each year by contract pilots and included a "wall of fame (shame) showing all those that passed through the area. The program mentioned that, a test of skills for the newbie pilots was to fly under a local bridge and getting the wheels to spin by skipping the water. (I have no proof that that happened, although given the reputation of some of the pilots it's entirely possible)
My other reason for adding to this thread was that my father "Timber" spent many years doing the same work in the Sudan out of both Kenya and UK between 1950's - 1970's yet I have little knowledge of this time of his life, so any information would be greatly appreciated. (The Good, Bad or the Ugly!!! )
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 04:58
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Timber Wood flew for Farmair, Kent, U.K. in the late 70´s, spraying in southern England and Sudan. We had some good times together.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 09:51
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I knew Timber when in the Sudan. Nice guy and had some very interesting stories, especially from the times at WW2 end. IIRC, he was part of an evaluation team flying some interesting types of former enermy a/c.

As for "water sking" Timber and most other sensible and mature pilots who were established dirdn't indulge, unlike some of the undisciplined trying to make a name for themselves. It was a hanging offence in some companies. The opinion among the more established pilots, was the job was dangerous enough without adding more risk. As for going under the bridge, the only one was the crossing of the Blue Nile at Wad Medani. Less room under power cables. There were enough killed just doing the job. You only needed to hit something semi submerged or submerged then there could be trouble, earning a ticket home or to eternity. Look for trouble and you'll find it, sooner or later.

Last edited by Dan_Brown; 13th Jul 2019 at 10:26.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 14:00
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EP9 and Dan, Thank you for your comments and recollections. Timber (Dad) had an interesting life and although I grew up not really knowing him, my flying career has put me in places that seemed to have been "walked" by the Wood's before !!. Just prior to his passing in 87' I started to find out a little more but too little too late. Dan you answered a nagging question, his log books (all 11 of them) had some interesting entries without any explanation of aircraft that certainly where not standard RAF issue. I heard somewhere that another nickname was Heinz 57 relating to the number of different types that he had flown over the years. If either of you would like to pass on any other memories or information please feel free to post or PM me. ps I just ordered "Six Feet Over" which I hope will give me a better idea of those Sudan times.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 14:10
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inmate............ Your Dad receives several mentions in J Wedekind's ""Keith Campling and the story of aviation in East Africa"". Whole book is worth a read.

Lucy58... This maybe of interest:---- https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/search?...ch_type=simple

Last edited by Planemike; 13th Jul 2019 at 14:24.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 14:31
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Not a lot more to add. When we got to Khartoum the only watering hole was the Sudan Club. It was an old Colonial type building with a swimming pool, bar of course serving Camel Beer and accomadation upatairs. Used to met up with the boys there, including Timber. The club has since shifted I believe.

When I was in the Sudan, Farm Air, Kent owned by Doug Gladish had the cotton spraying contact in the Northern Gazera (the vast irrigation scheme built by the ruling British situated between the Blue And White Nile), Farm air operated from a strip and colonial rest house next to main itragation canal. The place was called El Tarabei. Not sure about the spelling. Was within an hours drive SSE of Khartoum. Farm Air for the Sudan work in '77 was made up of Farm Air PA 25's and a gaggle of C188' and a Grumman Ag cat from Mind Acre, who operated from Bungay Norfolk. IMSC All Flown down from the Uk to Sudan, mass formation.

Last edited by Dan_Brown; 13th Jul 2019 at 15:52.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 15:47
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If you want to get the flavour of the era, and especially crop dusting around the world, I recommend "Six Feet Over" by my late and much lamented friend, Peter Charles. The book is available still, I bought a copy a month ago, via the firm named after a S American river
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 15:53
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Yes a very good read indeed.
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Old 13th Jul 2019, 16:14
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Dan check your PM,s
The wife ordered the book yesterday so some good reading on weather days.
Planemike: I have the book and yes it's a very interesting read!!!, I was supposed to go and live in Kenya during the 50's however it never came to pass. He flew for Alex Noon during those days and Alex son Chris worked for him one summer. Ironically during the late 90's early 20's I flew in PNG and Chris was flying for Cathy Pacific, both of our companies owed by the Swire Group. Small world
Thanks to everyone for shining the light.
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