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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 206345
Last updated: 11 October 2021
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Date:11-APR-1939
Time:day
Type:De Havilland DH.94 Moth Minor
Owner/operator:De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd
Registration: G-AFRD
MSN: 94001
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Wheathampstead, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Test
Departure airport:Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Destination airport:
Narrative:
mid-1937: Built by De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd at Hatfield, England. Prototype DH.94 Moth Minor
22.06.37: First flight at Hatfield, pilot Geoffrey de Havilland. Test flown in "Class B" registration as "E-4"
04.04.39: Registered [C of R 9040] as G-AFRD to the De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd, Hatfield, Hertfordshire
11.04.39: Crashed at Wheathampstead, near Hatfield, Hertfordsahire, wreck burst into flames on impact. Company test pilots Geoffrey de Havilland Junior and John Cunningham bailed out and were not injured
12.04.39: De Havilland transferred the registration paperwork to a newly-completed airframe c/n 94006. To confuse matters, G-AFRD "the second" retained the c/n identity 94001 of the original airframe in its documentation, despite it being c/n 94006.

The events surrounding this confusing identity change are described in Janic Geelen's book series Magnificent Enterprise which give an intimate account of the De Havilland Aircraft company and people. All the early test flying for the D.H.94 had been done exclusively by Captain Geoffrey de Havilland Junior, until he asked John Cunningham to join the test pilot team and take over all flying of the D.H.94s.

"In those days Hatfield was still out in the country and there were no organised lunch facilities. Cunningham often joined Geoffrey Jnr and the other test pilots for a bowl of soup and a pint in "The Crooked Chimney" at nearby Lemsford. Early in 1939 Cunningham had all but completed the flight tests of the first open-cockpit Moth Minor, when he decided to ask Geoffry Jnr to check the handling before it was put into large-scale production. Geoffrey Jnr replied that he was far too busy but Cunningham insisted that he was not qualified to sign it out. Geoffrey had to agree and suggested that they should make the aft-centre-of-gravity-spin-test, just to be sure.

On 11.4.39 they climbed into 94001, test registration "E-4" and took off from Hatfield with John Cunningham in the rear cockpit. They climbed to about 8,000 feet where Geoffrey de Havilland Junior threw the machine into a left-hand spin. They completed eight turns and made a perfect recovery. Then they climbed back up to 8,000 feet and started a right-hand spin. The engine coughed and stopped, the nose suddenly reared up and the Moth Minor went into a flat spin.

After a few turns Geoffrey spoke through the Gosport tube to tell John that he was getting no response from the controls. Cunningham tried his controls but got no response and suggested they jump.Cunningham climbed out and, standing on the wing, watched Geoffrey get out. They jumped free and their chutes opened. Now pilotless, the Moth Minor pulled out of its spin, the propeller started to turn and the engine started up. The aircraft now continued its spiral descent, circling the pilots before it crashed near Wheathampstead, where the wreck burst into flames.

Cunningham landed near the burning wreck, found his camera and took a photograph. He gathered his parachute and tucked it under his arm. He and Geoffrey went to a farmhouse and phoned Hatfield."

Rather than waste the registration fee of the Moth Minor that had crashed, the company selected another one and painted it with the same registration reserved for it (G-AFRD). The official documentation for 94001 was never altered even though the machine was really 94006."

As a result of this crash, modifications were made to the tailplane design, including increasing the rudder area, raising the tailplane and changing the rudder foot pedals to give greater rudder movement. Production Moth Minors could be spun in complete safety in either direction.

Also, as stated above, G-AFRD "the second" (originally c/n 94006) took over the identity of the crashed aircraft, first flew at Hatfield on 24.4.39, and went on to have a long and varied career in Australia and New Zealand as VH-AAQ, ZK-AHI and ZK-ALN; it still exists to this day, stored at Te Puke, New Zealand, pending restoration

Sources:

1. http://afleetingpeace.org/index.php/15-aeroplanes/80-register-gb-g-af
2. https://cwsprduksumbraco.blob.core.windows.net/g-info/HistoricalLedger/G-AFRD.pdf
3. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/gy/reg_G-A11.html
4. http://www.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/dh94/dh94mothminor.htm
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Moth_Minor#Design_and_development
6. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Accmisc.htm


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
19-Feb-2018 20:35 Dr. John Smith Added

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