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Narrative:XJ756, Westland Whirlwind HAR.2, first flown 23 January 1956, delivered to RAF 8 February 1956, issued to 22 Squadron at RAF Thorney Island
|Type:||Westland Whirlwind HAR2 (S-55)|
|Owner/operator:||22 Squadron Royal Air Force (22 Sqn RAF)|
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2|
|Aircraft damage:|| Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||Whitehorse Wood, 4 miles NNW of West Malling, Kent -
|Phase:|| En route|
|Departure airport:||Felixstowe, Suffolk|
|Destination airport:||RAF Thorney Island, Emsworth, Hampshire|
|Confidence Rating:|| Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources|
On 12th December 1956 this Westland Whirlwind helicopter from 22 Squadron was authorised for a cross-country flight from Felixstowe to the RAF Station at Thorney Island in Sussex. At the controls was Flight Lieutenant K. R. B. Jones, a highly experienced pilot with over 1,400 hours logged as first pilot, although only 82 of these had been in helicopters. His Navigator, Flight Lieutenant P. Walker (who was actually the pilot's Flight Commander at Felixstowe), had flown over 200 hours in Whirlwinds. The aircraft was described as being fuelled and fully serviceable when it took off at about 0858 hours, but the weather forecast along the route was poor - 6/8ths to 8/8ths cloud with a 600 to 800 feet base, visibility 2 to 4 miles but deteriorating in periods of heavy drizzle. The 'actual' at Thorney Island was 8/8ths cloud, base 600 feet, visibility 3 miles.
Nothing was heard from XJ756 until Flight Lt. Jones called RAF West Malling at 10.39 hours for a course to steer - during the next six minutes four similar bearings were passed to the helicopter and the last message from the pilot stated that he was flying at 750 feet on a course of 160 degrees, which would have taken him directly to West Malling. No further replies were received despite repeated calls from Air Traffic Control at West Malling. At about this time, witnesses on the ground saw the helicopter flying slowly towards the south under very low cloud. The engine note sounded normal as XJ756 edged slowly along through patches of mist and drizzle, and a strong breeze appeared to be buffeting the helicopter. Shortly after passing out of sight the engine note suddenly increased in volume, followed by the sound of the aircraft crashing through trees. Both of the crew died in the impact, and the wreckage was almost completely destroyed in the fire that followed.
XJ756 crashed among saplings on high ground, a quarter of a mile north of the southern-facing escarpment of the North Downs. Examination of the trees showed that the helicopter had 'slipped' into the wood in a 45 degree, nose-down and right-bank attitude. Red paint smears and a 2.5 feet gash on the tail cone showed that the tail rotor blades had detached during the crash. The wreckage was gathered and examined at West Malling, and no evidence of pre-crash failure of engine, hydraulics etc was found - the conclusion drawn was that the crash was the result of the pilot losing control whilst attempting to fly in poor visibility and turbulent conditions.
1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.184 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft XA100-XZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 2001 p 50)
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/378: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C424499
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/35/S2858: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6578638
||Dr. John Smith
||Updated [Source, Narrative]|
||Dr. John Smith
||Updated [Location, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]|
||Dr. John Smith