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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 236732
Last updated: 24 October 2021
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Date:10-NOV-1955
Time:11:00 LT
Type:Fairey Gannet AS.1
Owner/operator:817 Sqn RAN
Registration: WN459
MSN: F.9205
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Sea off St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight, England -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:HMS Daedalus RNAS Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire
Destination airport:HMS Seahawk, RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall (EGDR)
Narrative:
Fairey Gannet AS.1 ("313/CU") 817 Squadron, Royal Australian Navy: Written off (destroyed) 10/11/55 when crashed into the sea off St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight on a sortie from HMS Seahawk (RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall). All three crew were killed:

Sub Lieutenant James P Van Gelder, Royal Australian Navy (pilot)
Lieutenant David Padgett, Royal Australian Navy (Observer)
LAC Airman Norman J Self (Flying Telegraphist (Air)), Royal Australian Navy, Service Number 44779

According to the following extract from the biography of the pilot, Sub Lieutenant James P Van Gelder:

"He was then posted to HMS Seahawk (RNAS Culdrose) a major training base. This is where he began conversion to the Fairey Gannet, a bulky anti-submarine aircraft with a crew of three; pilot, navigator/observer, and telegraphist in separate cockpits. He then returned to HMS Gannet for a specialist ‘Double Mamba’ course – the turbo-prop engine used in the Fairey Gannet.

On 12 May 1955 van Gelder was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant. Upon return to RNAS Culdrose he joined 817 Squadron, the RAN’s new Fairey Gannet squadron [817 Squadron was commissioned at RNAS Culdrose on 23 August 1955]. From May onwards, more RAN pilots and aircrew arrived from Australia for conversion to the Fairey Gannet – later to join HMAS Melbourne which was due to be commissioned in October 1955.

The training regime on the Fairey Gannets at RNAS Culdrose was intense, involving dual training, Double Mamba engine practice, ASW and navigation exercises, and weapons drill, progressing to carrier deck landings at sea. James van Gelder’s Gannet training exercises involved lengthy flights from RNAS Culdrose, at the tip of Cornwall near Heston, mostly over the ocean on realistic patrols, flying with other crew members on board.

It was on one of these exercises, flying along the English Channel, from RNAS Lee-on-Solent, that at approximately 11 am, on 10 November 1955, a Fairey Gannet was seen to crash onto the sea off St Catherine’s Point, near the Isle of Wight. Those killed were Sub-Lieutenant James P. van Gelder (P) RAN; Lieutenant David Padgett (O) RAN and LACMN Norman J. Self (T) RAN; whose bodies were not recovered. The cause of the accident could not be determined, although the excerpt from HMAS Melbourne’s Report of Proceedings for November/December 1955 surmises that the cause may have been a handling error."

A board of inquiry was convened at RNAS Culdrose on 16/11/55. It was established that, while flying on one engine, the pilot had allowed the aircraft to stall and spin, without being able to effect a recovery from that situation. There was no evidence to explain why that situation had happened, but structural failure of the airframe was not suspected.


Sources:

1. https://www.faaaa.asn.au/van-gelder-j-p/
2. https://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1955.htm
3. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=WN
4. https://www.faaaa.asn.au/7842-2/
5. http://www.adf-serials.com.au/n3.htm .


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
06-Jun-2020 14:20 Dr. John Smith Added
06-Jun-2020 18:35 MIG29 Updated [Operator, Location, Operator]
07-Jun-2020 15:01 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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