North American Mustang Mk.IV KH838, being delivered by No.14 Ferry Pilot Pool, ATA, crashed at Wrightington, Lancashire, on the 15th February 1945
|Albert Edward Roy Fairman||Third Officer||Pilot||Killed|
On the 15th February 1945 23 year old Third Officer Fairman was flying the second leg of a ferry flight of a brand new North American Mustang Mk.IV from Lockheed at Renfrew where the aircraft had been assembled following its transport from the United States by sea to a Rootes Securities site at Meir near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The aircraft had been flown by another ATA pilot from Renfrew to Kirkbride, near Carlisle, during the morning of the 15th February with Third Officer Fairman taking responsibility for the aircraft beyond there.
While at Kirkbride the aircraft had its fuel tanks topped up, with 18 gallons being added, it had taken off from Renfrew with 150 gallons onboard.
He took off from Kirkbride at 15:20 and was going to fly via Ringway, no radio communication was had with the aircraft and at 16:10 while in the Chorley area of Lancashire the aircraft was seen on a south to north track (heading away from the planned destination) at which time it was observed circling above Wrightington. Witnesses on the ground saw it carry out two shallow dives, during the second it rolled to the left and the pilot left the aircraft. The Mustang then went into a steep dive until it crashed into what at the time was a pond beside a farmhouse. After leaving the aircraft Albert Fairman’s parachute only partially opened and sustained damage which meant he descended much faster than was safe. On landing and he sustained a serious injuries from which he died before reaching hospital.
It was felt that the visibility was poor in the Manchester area and Albert Fairman may have decided to return north, either all the way to Kirkbride or another airfield where he could land and wait for the weather to improve further south.
An Accident Investigation Branch inspector attended the scene of the crash and after inspecting the wreckage could not find evidence of and pre-crash failure of the aircraft, with particular attention being given to areas where previous failures had occurred in Mustangs of the RAF and P-51s of the USAAF. It was not clear whether Albert Fairman had intended to abandon the aircraft, it was noted that the seat harness was not easy to adjust and when ferrying aircraft where changes of pilots occurred en-route later pilots had a habit of not adjusting the harness if it was too slack, also on ferry flights the pilots tended to sit on the aircraft’s documents, which for a Mustang would amount to a pile about 3 inches thick. Under negative g it would be possible for a pilot who was not proper secured by the seat harness to be ejected from the aircraft. The investigator had found that the shoulder straps from the seat were broken, which suggested they had been subjected to higher than normal loading.
For a further account of the crash, and more detail about the pilot and excavation of the crash site, please see the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team page about the project.