Aviation Historian 20
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R.Riding - Three deadly minutes
Taken during one of the preceding days’ displays, this photograph shows the Atlantic with its undercarriage retracted and with its bomb­bay doors open and forward-fuselage radome extended, as per the planned routine. During the Friday display the undercarriage remained down throughout, the radome was never extended and the bomb-bay doors were not opened. It appears that by this point on the Friday, Saint-M’Leux had all but abandoned the planned routine and was already struggling with an aircraft that was lower and slower than it should have been, with its pair of Tynes delivering asymmetric amounts of power.
With the propeller of its port Rolls-Royce Tyne engine feathered, and the undercarriage extended, Aeronavale Breguet Atlantic serial “43” was captured by the author performing its final, fatal display routine on September 20, 1968. Moments later the aircraft lost all flying speed and sideslipped into the Black Sheds at the eastern end of Farnborough’s runway.
With Capitaine de Corvette Jean Saint-M’Leux at the controls in the right-hand seat, Atlantic “43” is positioned before take-off on its final flight. The pilot opted to take what is customarily the copilot’s seat as the display routine included mostly turns to starboard, for which the right-hand seat would provide better visibility from the cockpit.
Probably taken during the same display as the previous photograph, this image shows the Atlantic with its undercarriage extended and the port propeller feathered during its first run along the turn-safety line after take-off.
The Atlantic begins its turn to starboard after lifting off from the Farnborough runway. The type bristled with electronic equipment for its maritime patrol role; note the distinctive magnetic-anomaly detector (MAD) tailboom.
The Atlantic lines up on the "piano keys" at Farnborough the day before the tragic events of September 20. Saint-M’Leux was also at the controls for this display, in which he stuck to the plan, although it was later suggested that comments had been made to him by another member of the team after the Thursday display that it seemed to be too far from the crowd to gain the full effect of the routine.
A poor-quality but vivid photograph showing the Atlantic’s final few moments as it cartwheels into the Black Sheds at the eastern end of the Farnborough runway. Although some of the sheds were demolished during the accident, some still remain today, and now house the BAE Systems archive.
The wreckage of the Atlantic after the fires had been put out. Frederick Jones surmised that “it was not possible to determine a specific speed for the aircraft at the moment of impact, but a general assessment of the nature of the disintegration of the aircraft... would categorise it as ‘low speed’, of the order of about 100-150kt”.
The severed port wingtip of the Atlantic in its final resting place among the Black Sheds. Jones’s examinations of this piece of wreckage concluded that the port wing had been moving upward relative to the horizontal plane, suggesting that the aircraft was rolling to starboard at the time of the initial impact.
While the pall of thick black smoke continues to climb and starts drifting northwards, emergency vehicles rush to the scene of the crash; a Westland Scout carrying a hopper of water or fire-retardant returns from the Black Sheds to pick up another load. In marked contrast to air events today, the aircraft display programme continued shortly afterwards.
Directly preceding the Atlantic in the display order was Royal Navy McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 XT859 of Yeovilton-based No 700P Sqn, whose CO, Cdr Anthony Pearson, was at the controls, with Lt-Cdr Davis in the rear seat. As the Phantom touched down, Saint-M’Leux prepared to begin the Atlantic’s 5min display routine.
Japan’s Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop-powered NAMC YS-11, JA8714, lands through the smoke in the aftermath of the Atlantic crash, the first fatal accident at the SBAC show at Farnborough since the shocking break-up of the de Havilland D.H.110 during a display by John Derry in 1952, as a result of which 29 spectators were killed.