FARNBOROUGH: 60 years since air show's worst accident

Farnborough
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This year's Farnborough will mark 60 years since the air show's worst accident involving a de Havilland 110, which killed its pilot John Derry, observer Anthony Richards and 29 spectators.

The incident happened on 6 September 1952 shortly after the twin-boom DH110 broke the sound barrier (Mach 1) on a low-level run. On entering a climb, the aircraft broke up and parts of it fell into the crowd. Amid the terrible wounds and turmoil of the tragedy was the story of bravery as Neville Duke, a fellow test pilot and friend of Derry's, took the Hawker Hunter on a similar supersonic run later that day.

After the accident, air displays were no longer permitted to have flight paths and manoeuvres too near the crowd, the only recent exception being the initial entrance of the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows jet display team over the crowds. The DH110, with its nose section and wing leading edge altered - the leading edge design was implicated in the disaster - later became the successful Royal Navy interceptor, the Sea Vixen.

While a Sea Vixen has been brought back to flying condition for various air shows, the aircraft will not be seen at Farnborough this year. Apart from the fact that it had a minor crash after its nose wheel collapsed in April, the Sea Vixen's twin booms would perhaps have brought back too many sad memories for the Farnborough crowd.