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          Reflections

Thank you for visiting the site.  It has been something of a 'labour of love' and  has grown as time and circumstances permit.  However no personal or private information will be published without the express permission of those involved.

There was no memorial to this tragedy and anyone visiting the scene of the accident,  which is on a most beautiful part of the Isle of Wight, would pass through the crash site, unaware that anything had ever happened there.   It has been a great privilege to rectify that.

The Aquilla Airlines crash is well known and documented, but for some reason the Channel Airways accident is not - indeed few on the Island seem to have any knowledge. It is certainly remembered in the town of Ventnor, where most older people know of it, but like other distressing events, many prefer to let it pass. There were a number of other incidents on the hillside, both civilian and during the War as this was the site of the famous Chain Home radar station immortalised by the Battle of Britain and the hill is pock marked with craters and wartime structures.  However the accident was the second worst on the Island and a very violent impact, so perhaps for many, if they don't have to remember, it is easier and more sensible to forget.

While a plaque on site was perhaps most appropriate, I did not feel it was my place to arrange one.  The next best thing was to construct a small web site and to combine a virtual memorial with a synopsis of the accident and a request for information -  and to provide a point of contact. Then progressively the idea of a physical memorial grew, at first from an informal chat in an Isle of Wight Hotel, then from contact with relatives and survivors,  and as you will see from the updates page, on the 41st anniversary of the accident, we dedicated a plaque.

Two years of research, hundreds of letters and emails and many miles travelling have combined to provide the information you read here - which is still only a fraction of what we have in the files. Indeed the website is now on its fourth major revision and is aimed to go ‘live’ on the 51st anniversary of the accident.

I have tried to make the site interesting, to tell the story with enough technical information to show what might have happened, but not to get bogged in useless detail - or to include lurid details of the crash. That is also why no names are given and why no attempt is made to attribute blame.  It would serve no purpose today and if the accident investigators at the time didn't provide the underlying causes of the tragedy, then they are unlikely to be published by an amateur researcher some half century later. All the theories are just that - theories - we can never prove what happened on May 6th 1962 but  the passengers, crew - and heroic Ted Price who plunged into the wreckage to rescue survivors, not once but seven times, are not forgotten.

That said, it is my personal and amateur opinion that although the Captain was blamed for the accident,  it was not his fault. If anything, he was one of the people  least to blame, but the circumstances required a scapegoat and he fitted the bill. When in doubt blame the skipper -  at the time he was unable to defend himself .

Perhaps the true cause was what one would describe  in today's fashionable language as  'institutional' - a combination of custom and practice, unwise ( in hindsight ) but not wildly irresponsible decisions, failure of the Government to enforce rules or check what was going on, an increase in bureaucracy when there was neither the capacity nor the ability to deal with the work load, and a general seat of the pants - get out there and fly it - attitude left over from the War.

However it is important to put this crash in perspective - the Channel accident wasn't unique and was one of a huge number of incidents World-wide in similar circumstances.  It was the only passenger fatality in the long operating history of a small independent airline.  Channel had an extremely good record, more so given the way they operated old planes intensively on short routes, and at a time when even the national airlines were flying planes into cliffs, ditching in the Atlantic and regularly coming home on three engines.  

This accident need not have happened -  but that is with hindsight.  It was a combination of circumstances that all came together at the wrong time and the wrong place -  the essence of any accident. Perhaps the one thing that would have prevented the crash is if the Air Ministry had enforced their rules, rather than turning a blind eye to what was going on, and stopped Channel Airways and other airlines from even attempting to land at primitive airfields in horrendous conditions.

Although not a 'famous' incident,  many were affected, directly and indirectly,  and those effects are still evident today. The crash still ripples through time like a pebble dropped into a pond. However it was the catalyst towards a change in bad weather operation by the industry, better communications and a general tightening up of procedures. The accident enquiry took a surprisingly long time to report on what was a relatively simple accident and by the time it had done so, things had moved on. However perhaps the delay and findings were a welcome relief as the crash must have concentrated the minds of those in authority.  Were they relieved that more searching questions were never publicly asked - we can never know.  Many of the changes  that followed were discrete - they had to be to avoid awkward questions - but nevertheless, things were done to prevent a repeat, so the lessons were quickly learned.

It is a certainty that if this accident had not happened, another one would have;   it was just a matter of time as so many operating procedures among the independent airlines had reached the limit of prudence and sooner or later the pyramid of circumstances would have taken effect. This little known tragedy may actually have saved lives, even if that is absolutely no consolation to those who suffered, but at least the plane wasn't full to capacity. That said, it embodies all the horror of an air crash, particularly one in an ex wartime aircraft with few safety features.









It has been a privilege to meet and correspond with survivors,  relatives, those who were directly involved at the time or who were touched in some way by this tragedy.   If one thing has come out of the project, it is the way in which people have been prepared  to help with no thought to inconvenience or cost.  I have had photocopies turn up from people I've never met and received technical reports which would have cost a fortune if done commercially.  Others have opened up commercial facilities at unsociable times so that we could visit, driven hundreds of miles to help raise funds, brewed tea and made cakes, provided memories, sold tickets , investigated the site, arranged to dig holes on a bleak hillside - and provided hard cash when the memorial looked as if it might run into a crisis.

As I said at the beginning, this has been a labour of love and without the enthusiasm and kindness of everyone involved we could never have done it. In spite of everything you hear about the Internet and our society, this little project has proved that genuine and caring people still exist - people who are prepared to help when there is no possibility of personal reward or even acknowledgement.

Hopefully these pages will serve as a small memorial to the passengers and crew of G-AGZB and also to the families, airline staff, management, rescuers and witnesses who were so deeply affected.  If we have achieved that, then it has all been worth it.

Best wishes and safe journey, wherever you may go.

Ross











Revised :

August 2008, December 2011, May 2013