An Ungainly End
I hope to use the log of the Royal Household trip to kickstart a charity fundraiser, and for me, first prize would have been getting Hastings 491 airworthy enough to recreate the trip, making an extra leg to come and fetch the log books from Cape Town. But alas, this was not to be, as the aircraft came to a rather ungainly end. Sergeant Dave Curnock, in 24 Squadron at the time, recalled the incident on John Cooper's Splashdown site as follows:
My limited recollection of the above incident follows.I was, at the time, a Sergeant (Engines) on 24 Sqdn.Aircraft WD491 was returning empty of pax or freight from Germany during an exercise in which we had been using West Raynham as our detachment base. This was to be the last trip prior to our return to Colerne, so we were quite glad to see it arriving downwind to land. My attention was diverted elsewhere during the final stages of the approach but everything seemed normal at that point. On touchdown, which was unseen by me due to the presence of a large grassy bund between our detachment HQ (TENT!) and the runway, there was a loud bang followed by a scraping noise. The bang had attracted my attention just in time to see the tailfin of the Hastings appear above the top of the bund. Being quite surprised by this, I joined the rush to see the resulting damage. The aircraft was standing on its nose, on the grass between the runway and the bund.The crew had exited the aircraft via the starboard flightdeck escape hatch - except for the AQM (Loadmaster these days) who had left via the port para door using the escape rope. There was no fire and the only injuries were to (I think) the co-pilot, whose fingers were rapped against the panel when the control column was slammed forward as the nose hit the deck, and the flight engineer (Dave Hughes ?) who claimed somebody had stood on his hand as they made their exit out of his escape hatch!!. He had remained at his post to complete the 'After Crash Checklist' - Power off, Fuel off, clear off .It transpired that the starboard mainwheel casting / rim had failed - the subsequent rapid deflation of the tyre causing the severe swing off the runway, and then jammed in the wheel arch causing the 'nose down' on the grass. Several prop blades were slightly bent as they hit the ground - the underside of the nose was flattened and, I believe, the cross-shaft between the control columns was distorted.The ground crew eventually made it back to Colerne after a road trip to Mildenhall, from where we were collected by another Hastings. I made a return to West Raynham some days later, after 491 had been returned to its more usual 'tail down' attitude, with a small party to remove V&A inventory items from the aircraft. There was quite a smell on board - a mixture of Racasan and the contents of the Elsans from the rear bogs which had been decanted throughout the freight bay. The aircraft was deemed 'beyond economical repair'.
Dad would have been sorry to hear of the demise of the aircraft (he was still in the RAF at the time, so perhaps he knew), but, as he was no respecter of persons, I suspect he would have had a good chuckle over the irony of a VIP aircraft ending up smelling of, er, roses!
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