Avro Shackleton MR Mk.3 XF702 of No.206 Sqn RAF crashed onto Creag Bhan near Lochailort 21st December 1967

 

Michael Charles McCallum Squadron Leader Pilot Killed
Terence Charles Swinney Flying Officer Co-Pilot Killed
David John Evans Flying Officer 3rd Pilot Killed
Bruce George Wishart Mackie Flight Lieutenant 1st Navigator Killed
Ralph Joseph Fonseca Flying Officer 2nd Navigator Killed
Malcolm Arthur Jones Sergeant Air Engineer Killed
John Verner Young Flying Officer Air Electronics Officer Killed
David Jones Harris Flight Sergeant Air Electronics Operator Killed
Michael Barry Bowen Sergeant Air Electronics Operator Killed
Charles Peter Matthews Sergeant Air Electronics Operator Killed
Kenneth Browne Hurry Sergeant Air Signaller Killed
Harry Harvey Squadron Leader Flying Wing Air Electronics Leader – Passenger Killed
Iain Campbell MacLean Pilot Officer Passenger Killed

 

The crew had been briefed for an Anti-submarine training exercise in the sea area around the Hebridean island of Tiree, the flight was to be conducted under Instrument Flying Rules with the assistance of Moray Radar control.  The aircraft’s Captain and 1st Navigator had received a full weather briefing in writing before setting out, this had warned of a weak cold front between 5 and 6 degrees West which would produce “mainly moderate icing” conditions but that over the hills this could become severe.  The freezing level was stated as being between 8,000 and 7,500 feet. After the crash it was stated that the freezing level was down to as low as 6,000 feet on the afternoon of the crash.  One item of importance was flagged up as possibly unreliable, this was the stall warning system which had been adjusted following the aircraft’s previous flight.  It was stated that before being certified as reliable an air test would have been required.  The pilot had several thousand hours of flying to his credit and had previously dealt with an emergency when he belly landed a Canberra.  In addition to a normal crew there were two passengers, the Wing Air Electronics Leader from RAF Kinloss and a Secretary from No.1 Group Headquarters.

The aircraft took off from Kinloss at 12:30 with the call sign of JBE63, and climbed to 8,000 feet, it was stated that the aircraft “almost certainly entered cloud at a temperature of below freezing shortly after leaving the Inverness Beacon at about 1240 hours”. This would have meant that ice would have been forming on the aircraft from shortly after it took off. The crew reported at 12:52 that they were some 64 miles from Kinloss a few miles to the East of Kintail in the region of Loch Cluanie, 6 minutes later they reported their position as 78 miles from Kinloss in the area of Loch Quoich, at the eastern end of Knoydart. It was remarked upon in the accident report that the aircraft had flown between the Inverness Beacon and its first reported location a little slower than normal and that it was flying at a lower speed between there and its last reported position to the east of Knoydart. At 12:59 the pilot contacted the Scottish air traffic centre to request permission to cross the airways in the west of Scotland. Approximately 5 minutes after this call the aircraft suddenly departed controlled flight and within less then a minute had dived into the ground, while still in cloud having covered only 94 miles from base.

The RAF Board of Inquiry recorded that “the aircraft impacted in a near vertical attitude (within 20o) on a heading of approximately 350oM”, this is certainly consistent with the scar on the hill which shows the full profile of the wing. The aircraft was completely destroyed on impact which then immediately caught fire, though the wet ground and weather prevented it from spreading and it soon abated. Two of the engines Griffon remained more or less intact while the starboard engines were wrecked. One of the reduction gears was reported to have been found nearly 300 yards to the east of the site, having been flung there by its own inertia. The Viper jet engines had both been flung away from the crash site, one had rolled down the hill for a short way. The other had done much the same as the reduction gear from one of the Griffons but had travelled only half the distance.

The Board concluded that the most likely cause of the accident was that the planned route took the aircraft through a weather front where there were icing conditions which on occasions were severe and slightly worse than those predicted in the weather briefing with the icing level being some 2,000 feet lower than expected. The aircraft had “accumulated ice, at least on those parts of the aircraft not protected by the anti-icing system” these areas included the propellers and undersides of the wings and tail planes. As the crew were flying the outward leg of the flight the aircraft would have been heavy and its power to weight ratio meant that there would not have been much power reserve available from the Griffon engines (the Vipers were only to be used on take off and were then shut down) to overcome drag caused by icing. The aircraft’s speed had fallen too low due to the ice build up and the aircraft eventually stalled, while still flying at around 8,000 feet and then entered a dive from which it did not recover. During the stall the aircraft had rolled beyond 187o, causing the gyro compass to topple, this the Board stated indicated a deep stall. Throughout this it is stated, the two pilots would not have been able to “place any reliance upon the stall warning system”.

Scar at the crash site of Avro Shackleton Mk.3 XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
The crash left a large scar on the hillside, it extends for the full wingspan of the aircraft.
One of the distinctive features of the crash site are the circular marks at either end of the crash site.
These were remarked upon at the time and were stated as having been caused by the wing tip fuel tanks exploding on impact.
Small amount of wreckage and cairn at the crash site of Avro Shackleton XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
At the centre of the scar is this cairn, seen here in October 2000, with a few scraps of the aircraft gathered into a pile next to it.
Alan at the crash site of Avro Shackleton XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
Alan beside the cairn, again taken in October 2000.
Memorial plaque attached to a rock at the crash site of Avro Shackleton XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
On the 19th May 2007 a memorial plaque was placed on a rock at the crash site by the Moidart Local History Group with relatives of those who died present.
This photograph was taken on the 19th July 2008, there is some staining on the rock caused by a grass fire which burnt across much of the area last summer.
A write up by Ken Bowker can be seen on the MLHG website.
Memorial plaque at the crash site of Avro Shackleton XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
Above is a close up of the plaque which was dedicated to the memory of the 13 crew and passengers.
Crash site of Avro Shackleton XF702 on Creag Bhan, Lochailort
This photograph, looking back towards Lochailort shows the original cairn, still in place, and the rock with the memorial plaque on the uphill side of the crash site.

 

Several of the crew were laid to rest at Kinloss Abbey.