Avro Shackleton M.R. Mk.3 (Prototype) WR970 crashed at Foolow, 7th December 1956 whilst on a test flight from Woodford

Avro Shackleton Mk.3 Prototype WR970
Image ©: The A.J. Jackson Collection, Brooklands Museum, http://www.ajjcollection.co.uk


Jack Bertram Wales DFC, OBE, TD Squadron Leader Pilot Killed
Geroge Alan Blake Mr Flight Engineer Killed
Charles O’Neill Mr Technical Observer Killed
Roy Ashton Greenhaigh Mr Technical Observer Killed

At 10:42 on the 7th December 1956 WR970 took off from Woodford airfield and flew one and half circuits of the airfield before flying in an easterly direction and climbing up through the cloud in the area.

The intention of the flight was to test the effectiveness of stall warning detectors that had been fitted to the aircraft while flying with the bomb bay doors open and the radar scanner in the lowered position (attack configuration).

At 10:55 the flight engineer on an RAF Lincoln (which was flying at about 8,000ft) saw WR970 in a climbing turn at about 6,500ft, he saw the aircraft enter a spin and go through two revolutions before disappearing in to the cloud at about 5,500ft.  The aircraft was next seen by people in Foolow when it emerged from the cloud to the north of the village, it was described as flying very slowly with the nose down and sinking rapidly and the engines were said to be running very rough and making popping and banging sounds. As the aircraft passed over the village it turned slowly to port and stalled, the port wing tip then struck the ground close to a stone wall and the aircraft cart wheeled destroying the wall and burst into flames.  The rear fuselage was flung into the middle of the field and fragments were finally stopped by the next wall.

The investigation found that engine oil had got into the intake manifolds on the engines and been forced into the cylinders fooling the spark plugs and therefore preventing those cylinders from firing. The only possible explanation for the presence of oil is that the engines had been inverted and oil had flooded the area around the cam shafts and was drawn into the inlet system along the valve guides.  The crankcase and rocker breathers would have also be blocked allowing pressure to build and force oil into the magnetos and supercharger further reducing engine performance.

As well as being a test pilot for Avro, Squadron Leader Wales was the officer commanding of No.613 (City of Manchester) Auxiliary Squadron  which at the time was based at Ringway.  He had flown with the RAF in WWII in the Far East and joined Avro in 1949, he completed just short of 3,150 hours of flying.

Crash site of Avro Shackleton M.R. Mk.3 WR970 at Foolow, Tideswell, Derbyshire
This photo shows the wall that the aircraft destroyed when it crashed, the rebuilt section is the darker coloured stone in the middle of the shot.
Crash site of Avro Shackleton M.R. Mk.3 WR970 at Foolow, Tideswell, Derbyshire
The main bulk of the rear fuselage came to rest in the area shown in this photo.
Crash site of Avro Shackleton M.R. Mk.3 WR970 at Foolow, Tideswell, Derbyshire
The last items of the aircraft came to rest near where this photo was taken from.