Plane crash

PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:54 06 May 2010

SIR, — Following the letters of Mr Ian Leckie and Mr Colin Ratcliffe (a neighbour) on the 1952 plane crash in Harpenden, I have looked into the details of the incident with the help of Colin and Mrs Coral Cox at the local library. The Harpenden Free Press

SIR, - Following the letters of Mr Ian Leckie and Mr Colin Ratcliffe (a neighbour) on the 1952 plane crash in Harpenden, I have looked into the details of the incident with the help of Colin and Mrs Coral Cox at the local library.

The Harpenden Free Press archives contain four reports - earlier I also found some information on a Key Publishing Aviation Internet forum - which cover the inquest over a period of some five weeks. I have summarised the main points below.

The aircraft was an RAF Meteor 4 (RA475) flying out of RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire on September 3, 1953, and was being flown on a training exercise by Pilot Officer Coupland, who came from South Shields.

Several people saw or heard the aircraft pass over and crash - at high speed and high angle of attack - at about 1pm. The aircraft struck the ground at what was Hetts Farm and is now the Aldwickbury golf course. The impact caused a crater some 10 feet deep and 20 feet in diameter. Wreckage was strewn over a large area but a lot of the wreckage was buried under heavy clay in the crater.

The pilot had only flown 2hrs 40mins solo but this was not considered unusual for carrying out the planned exercise - a relatively shallow dive at high speed from some 35,000 feet.

The maintenance history of the aircraft was presented by the RAF and was reported to be in good order with no causes for concern.

During the latter part of the inquest, a metal door was discovered by a Mr Woodward while driving a tractor at Sandridge. This was some 4ft 7ins by 2ft and was identified by the RAF as the starboard outer undercarriage door of a Meteor.

Several theories, as to the cause of the accident, were put forward, including lack of oxygen to the pilot, the loss of the door and pilot inexperience but nothing could be proved

A verdict of accidental death was recorded.

GARTH ROGERS,

High Firs Crescent, Harpenden.

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