Monday, 14 September 2015

Living Near the Airport: Accidents

U3A member Peter Day continues his post on the sometimes dangerous consequences of living near Croydon Airport:

Nothing was more likely to raise a storm of complaint, though, than an aeroplane crashing close to the airport, especially if it collided with a nearby house - such events were not infrequent: 

Date
Operator
Events
Distance from Airport
Fatalities
July, 1928
Imperial Airlines
Crashed and caught fire
3 miles
4
Nov, 1928
Surrey Flying Services
Crashed onto roof of house
2 miles
0
Nov, 1929
Deutsche Lufthansa
Crashed into trees and caught fire
7 miles
7
Nov, 1929
RAF
Mid-air collision, fell on houses
1 mile
0
April, 1930
German cargo flight
Crashed and caught fire
10 miles
2
June, 1930
Private plane
High speed crash
Less than 1 mile
2
Sept, 1930
Belgian Airmail carrier
Forced landing then burst into flames
Less than 1 mile
2
April, 1931
Private flying
Stunt flying, crashed near a Church
2 miles
2
April, 1931
Imperial Airways
New pilot, failed take-off, caught fire
0 miles
0
Aug, 1931
Air Union
Misjudged landing in fog, crashed through perimeter fence crossed and blocked road
0 miles
0
Sept, 1932
Air Union
Crashed into grounds of Selsdon Park Hotel
3 miles
1
May, 1934
Air France
Petrol failure, forced landing onto cricket ground interrupting match in progress
0 miles
0
May, 1934
French cargo/mail service
Struck wireless mast in fog, struck houses beside aerodrome
0 miles
2
Dec, 1935
Sabena
Heading for Croydon, misjudged position in fog, stalled and crashed
8 miles
11
May, 1936
Commercial Air Hire Co.
Crashed shortly after take-off
Less than 1 mile
1
Aug, 1936
Imperial Airways
Crashed into houses after take-off
Less than 1 mile
4
Dec, 1936
KLM
Crashed into houses after take-off
Less than 1 mile
15
Nov,1937
Lufthansa
Crashed into hangars after take-off in fog
0 miles
3

Following the crash of the Belgian flight carrying air mail in September 1930 it was suggested at the Inquest that trees around the aerodrome constituted a danger to planes. The Council immediately moved to register a strong protest with the Air Ministry against any suggestion that trees in the vicinity of the aerodrome should be cut down and that pilots should be required to circle within the aerodrome perimeter whilst gaining height before crossing residential areas, and the same process in reverse while landing. It was felt that removing trees would exacerbate the low flying problem that already existed.

Inquests proved to be another route for protest. In the inquest into the deaths of two men in April 1931 the Doctor called to give evidence about the deaths, Dr Cressy, said he was a long-term resident of the area and that he wished to make a strong public protest against stunting and low flying being carried out over houses in the district.

In September 1931, following the incident where the Air Union plane crashed through the fence and blocked Stafford Road, the Wallington & Carshalton Times carried a leader column entitled "Aerodrome Menace" strongly critical of the very existence of a Continental Aerodrome in a residential suburban area and called for the removal of the aerodrome to some open space, high up, away from residential parts. Two weeks later another Air Union plane crashed into the grounds of Selsdon Park Hotel! At the inquest into that crash the jury said there should be someone in charge at the aerodrome to instruct pilots to turn back when fog made landing dangerous.

The Council and the Ratepayers Association and concerned individuals continued with their protests and petitions and letters to the press - though for every letter objecting to the airport there seemed to be at least one in support. It was all to no avail, in 1937 the Air Ministry announced plans for further investment at Croydon to improve the landing ground and that protestors should hold out no hope that the Aerodrome could be given up. The only olive branch on offer was that as other airports opened Croydon might become less busy. In fact the Second World War intervened, commercial flying was largely stopped and the RAF took over at Croydon.

Perversely, not long after commercial flying returned to Croydon after the war, it became evident that the lack of opportunity to expand meant there was no real future as a major commercial airport and that steps would be taken to close it down. There were howls of protest from the Council, the Chamber of Commerce and others and for a short while even a proposal that the Council should purchase the airport and continue to operate.

Peter Day

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