Today in Aviation: 64 Years Since The Munich Air Disaster

Photo sourced from Wikiwand

LONDON – 64 years ago today, the Munich Air Disaster took place, killing 23 people on board, including some members of Manchester United’s football club.

British European Airways Flight 609 took off with the “Busby Babes”, club supporters and journalists onboard from Belgrade Airport, Yugoslavia, and was to stop over in Munich on the way back to Manchester.

On departure from Munich, the Airspeed Ambassador AS-57 registered as G-ALZU, indicating that the boost pressure gauge was fluctuating as the plane reached full power.

RuthAS, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The departure was abandoned, and the aircraft went back to make a second attempt, which was abandoned as well and resulted in passengers heading back to the airport lounge in Munich.

At that point, heavy snow had plagued the airport, with Manchester United sending messages to relatives back home making them aware that all flights had been canceled.

However, a solution had been made in regards to the boost surging in the engine, and suggestions were made to open the throttle more on departure.

Despite the fact that all flights had been canceled, United was keen to get back home to Manchester, meaning the passengers were called back to the aircraft 15 minutes after disembarkation.

Once everyone got on board, Captain James Thain and Captain Kenneth Rayment got the aircraft started once again and began their departure and final cockpit checks.

At 85 knots, the engine began to surge once again, with the crew pulling back the throttle marginally before pushing it forward again.

117 knots was marked as the V1 speed, where it would not be safe to abort the departure, but as they rose, the speed decreased from 117 to 112 and then 105 knots, with the crew now believing they won’t make it in the air.

G-ALZU then skidded off the end of the runway and crashed into the fence surrounding the airport and across a road before the port wing tore off and caught a house.

Out of the 44 occupants, 38 passengers and six were crew members. There were 23 fatalities onboard, 19 injuries, and 21 survivors from the whole ordeal.

On a personal note, especially as a Manchester United fan, I would like to express my condolences to the family of those lost United players including:

  • Players:
    • Geoff Bent
    • Roger Byrne
    • Eddie Colman
    • Duncan Edwards – He survived the crash but died in hospital 15 days later.
    • Mark Jones
    • David Pegg
    • Tommy Taylor
    • Billy Whelan
  • United staff:
    • Walter Crickmer – Club Secretary
    • Tom Curry – Trainer
    • Bert Whalley – Chief coach.

Two journalists onboard, being Frank Swift of The News of the World & Donny Davies of the Manchester Guardian also perished in the crash.

PeeJay2K3, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On top of this, my condolences go out to everyone else who was involved in this accident as well.

In all, it remains clear that this accident wasn’t just a big deal in the aviation world, but also in the football world as well, especially with the Busby Babes being very popular for their advances in football too.

I heavily encourage that if any of our readers are in the Manchester area, that they should visit Old Trafford to pay their respects.

Forever in our hearts!



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