A Spitfire XXI (LA303) of No.1 Squadron crashed at RAF Hawkinge on the afternoon of 27th September 1945, killing the pilot, Flying Officer Thomas Glaser. The aircraft had taken off from Hawkinge on a bombing exercise at 15.53, part of a Flight of three Spitfires, each of which was carrying four inert GGS practice bombs. Four minutes after becoming airborne, Glaser called up over channel 'A' and said he was returning to base as his engine was giving him trouble. The two other Spitfires continued on the exercise and LA303 headed back toward the airfield. The pilot called Flying Control on channel 'B' and repeated his message - within a few seconds his Spitfire was seen on the north-east side of the airfield, flying south in a right hand circuit. In an attempt to make the runway the Spitfire banked steeply to starboard, stalled in the turn, and flipped over onto its back before crashing to earth. The wreckage, just a quarter of a mile from the airfield, was all concentrated in a small area with little forward scatter, showing a complete stall had occurred.
Flying Officer Glaser had been assessed as a 'proficient' fighter pilot, and had trained at No.16 EFTS at Burnaston, Derby. He had flown DH82's, Harvards and Spitfires - logging a total of 483 flying hours, 93 of these had been on Spitfires. LA303 was constructed in July 1945, and the Rolls Royce Griffon 61 engine had been built at Crewe on 26th October 1944.
Examination of the engine revealed that the failure had been caused by fracture of the inlet outer exhaust springs on A2 and A4, causing burning of the flame traps opposite A2 and loss of power due to backfiring. Rolls Royce examined the failed springs at their laboratory, baffled because this was the first ever instance of spring failure in a Griffon engine whilst in service. The results of their analysis showed that the fracture of the rear inlet outer valve A2 was caused by an intermittent seam in the wire, and A4 rear inlet outer valve spring failure was from a fatigue crack developing from a corrosion pit on the surface of the wire. Following this accident, Rolls Royce investigated the possibility of enamelling the springs to prevent corrosion. A contributory factor to the accident was given as the apparent reluctance of the pilot to make an immediate forced landing which resulted in his attempting to turn to starboard in order to make a runway approach, during which turn the aircraft stalled.