The crew of the plane were flying enthusiasts. The Captain -
The First Officer was new to the Airline, but an experienced RAF Transport Command pilot with over 4000 hours. Living in Southend on Sea, the home of Channel Airways he was a motor sport enthusiast, had tried a career in accountancy after leaving the Services, but flying was in his blood and when a chance came to join Channel, he took it.
Both pilots had young families and a very steady, professional approach to flying passenger aircraft. They were fully qualified to fly the plane in all conditions and massively experienced in the aviation industry. They were neither inexperienced nor reckless as one newspaper claimed. One journalist, presumably looking for a sensation and regardless of the distress caused, tried to imply that there had been a 'race' between two planes of the same airline. The other aircraft, a de Haviland 'Dove' was scheduled for the same destination and took off shortly before the Dakota. This was carrying passengers while Zulu Bravo had passengers and freight; overspill from the delays caused by fog, and Channel Islands daffodils and irises destined for Covent Garden Market. Who went on which aircraft was a matter for fate to decide.
The stewardess learned French at night school so that she could get a job with the
airline. All three were respected and well liked by colleagues. They come over as
being a thoroughly nice, reliable and professional crew who would do all they could
to help their passengers, but would not break safety rules -
Like something from a Greek tragedy, none should have been flying that day. Due to the delays that had built up because all flights had been grounded by the dreadful weather, all three had been called in at the last moment to operate an additional service in an attempt to return stranded passengers as soon as there was any chance of flying. The Pilot and Stewardess were on standby, and looking forward to a day off.
The Stewardess didn’t really want to fly that day -
Perhaps the beginnings of the tragedy were in place even before the phone rang.
The flight deck of a Dakota.
|Radio Hams Raise the Alarm|
|An Alternative Theory|
|Pressure On Crews|