Author Topic: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913  (Read 1247 times)

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Offline pomme homme

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Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« on: October 15, 2011, 14:06:03 pm »
Again by reference to my probably incomplete and maybe not entirely reliable notes, the first fatal heavier-than-air aircraft crash in Sussex occurred on 29 June 1913 when an unidentified Avro 500 stalled and crashed on New Salts Farm (just south of the railway line which divides it from the present Shoreham Airport) with one fatality. However as some of my sources of information concerning earlier crashes in Sussex are rather scant, one of these might have been fatal. Does anyone know? 

Offline Craggs

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2016, 22:30:19 pm »
I'm not sure if it was the first fatal air crash in Sussex - but this is the one to which you refer :

Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 30 June 1913

BRITISH AVIATOR CRASHES -

INTO GARDEN DURING FLIGHT -

AND IS BURNED TO DEATH
.

Mr Robert Wright, a well known aviator, late of The Vickers Flying School at Brooklands, whose home was at Hill Cottage, Court Road, West Norwood, lost his life through a terrible accident at Shoreham.  

He had been giving an exhibition at Shoreham in a bi-plane. After circling at a height of about 100 feet, he was making in the direction of Bungalow village, when suddenly the machine dived and fell with a crash into the garden of a farm at Shoreham. Immediately the bi-plane touched the ground the petrol tank exploded and the machine burst into flames.

Mr Wright, apparently stunned by the force of the impact, was unable to extricate himself.  The occurrence was witnessed by a large crowd, hundreds of whom made straight for the place where the aeroplane had fallen. So fierce was the force of the flames that they were unable to extricate Mr Wright from the seat in which he was pinned until the petrol had burned itself out.

When Mr Wright was eventually got out it was found that all his clothes had been burned off him and he had been terribly burned about the head and body. First aid was rendered to him on the spot and he was removed on an ambulance to the Sussex County Hospital. On examination he was found to be so seriously hurt that his life was despaired of, and he died at a late hour of the night.


Offline Craggs

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2016, 07:21:44 am »
I'm still trying to work out what was the definitive "first fatal air crash in Sussex". 

The earliest air crash fatality in the UK was on the 16th July 1910 - posted on the Forum. The pilot was RT. HON. C.S. ROLLS - famously part of the Rolls-Royce partnership.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2019, 11:48:21 am »
I've just come across a photograph, online, showing the aftermath of this crash.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2020, 12:21:27 pm »
Tim Webb & Dennis Bird give an account of this crash in their book on the history of Shoreham Airport. In that they say:

Quote
On June 29th 1913, Shoreham witnessed its first fatal accident. Richard Norman Wight stalled his Avro biplane, and dived into the garden of New Salts Farm to the south of the railway line. The wreckage burst into flames, and although Wight was still alive, his would-be rescuers had difficulty in cutting him free.. By the time wire cutters had been found he had received fatal burns, and died the same night in Sussex County Hospital. He had been transported to the hospital by Eric Pashley [the brother of Cecil Pashley - see here and here] who was later fined five pounds for speeding! (A harsh penalty under the circumstances as the speed limit at the time was only 20 m.p.h.). The crash was a major blow for the Avro Flying School.

Some people claimed that Wight's real surname was Gair, as many pilots of the time disguised their names to avoid recognition by relatives who did not approve of flying. However the official records still show Wight.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2020, 15:30:20 pm »
Oh, the permutations on a theme! Robert Wright, Richard Norman Wight - and now Richard Norton Wight, who obtained his Aviator's Certificate Nº 462 on 22 April 1913, little more than two months before his death in this crash. Apparently his fatal crash is mentioned in Flight magazine of 19 July 1913 (Accident Report Nº 15). But as the Flight online archive no longer is available (at least, not without forking out a minimum of £165 p.a.) I can tell you no more of that beyond:

Quote
R.N.Wight, flying an Avro Tractor Biplane for the first time, crashed following a side-slip while doing a circuit at Shoreham Aerodrome. Wight survived the crash but was unable to free himself from the wreckage before the fuel from the ruptured fuel tank caught fire; those on the scene pulled him free, but he subsequently died "from the effects of the fire".

which I assume to be a synopsis of the report published in Flight magazine.

Online Pete

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2020, 16:43:52 pm »
AVIATOR PINNED UNDER BURNING MACHINE. A DARING RESCUE. The science of aviation has made, and continues to make, rapid progress, but unhappily it is costly in human life. To-day there are again fatalities to record Mr. R. Wight met with fatal injuries while flying from the Shoreham Aerodrome at Brighton last evening. The machine, descending abruptly, struck its nose on the ground with such force that there was an explosion, and the damaged machine caught fire. Mr. Wight was pinned down by the broken stays, and before he could be released he was badly burned.

Cambrian daily Leader 30 June 1913
Sussex Bonfire - a way of life, not just for Nov 5th

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2020, 12:02:08 pm »
I'm still trying to work out what was the definitive "first fatal air crash in Sussex".

I now think that this was the first fatal aeroplane (I use that word as I haven't found a reliable source of reference for crashes involving lighter-than-air craft, i.e. balloons and airships) crash in the County of Sussex. Perhaps the date is later than that of crashes in the other south-eastern counties as Sussex wasn't quite at the cutting edge of British aviation and didn't have flying grounds like Eastchurch, Brooklands and Farnborough. Those at Shoreham and Eastbourne came on the scene a little later.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2022, 11:09:23 am »
A lengthy and detailed account of this crash, and the unsuccessful attempts to extricate Richard Wight from the burning wreckage of the Avro and thus to save his life, appears in the Sussex County Mail of 5 July 1913. If that title is within the BNA, perhaps one of those with a subscription to that would care to transcribe or copy and post that.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2022, 11:20:01 am »
Apparently his fatal crash is mentioned in Flight magazine of 19 July 1913 (Accident Report Nº 15).

Found it!

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Avro 500 - fatal crash at Shoreham, 29 June 1913
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2022, 14:33:48 pm »
Mr Wight had been warned, by Mr Geere who was acting as instructor to the Avro flying school at Shoreham Aerodrome, that he should not attempt to fly circuits of the aerodrome as the engine (a 60 h.p. ENV) of the Avro 500 was running at 100 rpm below its normal speed due to an unsuitable propeller being fitted to the aeroplane.  Despite this advice, Mr Wight took off with difficulty and, even then, he made a tight turn to port (presumably in order to fly a circuit) in a nose up, tail down attitude. He then attempted another turn, in order to return to the aerodrome, but stalled the aeroplane and dived in. He had been flying for only a little more than two months after obtaining his aviator's certificate (Nº 462 dated 22 April 1913).