G-ANSY Avro 685 York C.1 crash at Zurrieq valley

Avro 685 York C.1

Avro York G-ANSY departed from rwy 24 Luqa airport enroute to Stansted UK, approximately 3 minutes later at 13:23LT the aircraft crashed at Zurrieq valley in an area referred as ''it-Tirxija''. All on board died on impact - the 5 crew members of the Scottish Airlines and 45 passengers, all RAF personnel except one Army Private.

Twelve of these soldiers were on this flight after winning the lottery which was organised among themselves when they were at the Suez Canal zone, and the winner was to travel to England by air rather by sea.

 

Notwithstanding the fact that a Board of Inquiry has been set up which was attempted to unravel the mystery surrounding the case, most of the information that has surfaced so far has been inconclusive. Nobody really knows for certain what actually happened from when the Avro York with registration G-ANSY took off from rwy 24 till when it crashed 3 minutes later.

The aircraft type Avro York having the aviation terminology of ''Sugar York'' was of Scottish Airlines based in Prestwick. It had been chartered by the Royal Air Force and was being used to carry troops from Suez in Egypt, to the UK., with a stop-over in Malta.

It was on Saturday 18th February 1956 when the aircraft with 5 crew members and 45 passengers departed from Abu Sueir in Egypt enroute to Stansted UK however it made a technical stop of more than 1 hr in Malta at 11:46LT and was loaded with 2,000 gallons of fuel.

As the plane took off from rwy 24, the ATC saw smoke coming from the left engine, and informed the pilot in command, Captain Frank Coker, immediately. The plane appeared to climb to around 1,000ft, shortly thereafter it banked to the left and plunged almost vertically into the cliffs.

As it was loaded with around 2,000 gallons of high octane aviation fuel, the plane exploded on impact and was engulfed by flames. When the rescue services arrived at the scene it was clear that there were no survivors. The bodies of the pilot & co-pilot, navigator, radio officer and an air hostess were taken to UK for burial, and the others were left in Malta and buried at Imtarfa.

 

The first person to arrive at the crash site was the Leading Airman Edwards whose first reaction was to save passengers however after going near the back of the aircraft that was not yet on fire he didn't find anybody.

It resulted that all on board the Avro York were driven in front on impact as all the bodies were found in the bottom part of the plane were it took fire. After that the fire was extinguished the search and rescue began with the hope that lifes will be saved however unfortunately all 50 persons on board were death with the major part of them burned.

The day after the accident on Sunday 19th February 1956 a Board of Inquiry was set up by T. R. Nelson and J. Goulding, 2 high Officials from the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation that were sent to Malta from England.

From the investigaton it was resulted that the weather observations at Luqa airport at the time of this tragic accident was with light wind, visibilty 22 NM and temperature 14 C.

During the course of the investigation several theories were studed on what actually happened during those 3 minutes such as:-

- 1. that during take-off there was a bird strike according to Thomas Robinson Master Pilot RAF;
- 2. aircraft was sabotage maybe a bomb exploded after take-off as before coming to Malta the aircraft stopped 4 hrs and 51 mins at Nikosia to unload cargo;
- 3. had 297 kg more than normal, however according to the Air Navigation Order Regulation of 1954 it was always assumed that every passenger weight 75 kilos and so the aircraft was capable of carrying 289 kg;
-4. Engine failure on no. 1 engine however it was excluded that this engine was the cause of the accident as this aircraft was with 4 engines and normally the pilot would have flew the aircraft with 1 engine failure;
-5. Improper manoevrability of the aircraft velocity of 108 knots-125 knots.

The Scottish Airline did not agreed with the court that the cause of the accident was pilot error and does not exclude that the cause of the crash was due to explosion (sabotage) since the aircraft passed from Cyprus which at that time was considered a hot zone.



Aircraft Accident Brief Description
Date: 18 Feb 1956
Time: 12:23Z [UTC + 1 hr]
Type: Avro 685 York C.1
Operator: Scottish Airlines
Registration: G-ANSY
C/n: [Avro Yorks built for the RAF weren't allocated construction numbers]
Year built: 1945
Engine: 4 1280hp R.R. Merlin 24
Crew: 5 fatalities / 5 on board
Passengers: 45 fatalities / 45 on board
Total: 50 fatalities / 50 on board
Location: Zurrieq (Malta)
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature: Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Flight: Dep: Malta-Luqa Airport (MLA) Dest: London-Stansted Airport (STN)

Remarks: Written-off. Avro York G-ANSY took off from rwy 24 Malta-Luqa Airport at 12:20Z for a flight to London Stansted. Shortly after becoming airborne the boost enrichment capsule in the carburetor of the no. 1 engine failed, causing a fire in the engine. It is presumed that the engine stopped producing power after 30 seconds of flight. The propeller was not feathered as the aircraft slowly climbed to 700-800 feet amsl (300-400 feet agl) with a 'crabbing' or 'yawing' motion to the left. Shortly after retracting the flaps, while still in a nose up attitude at very low flying speed, the aircraft stalled and crashed to the ground.

The cause was recorded as due to an engine failure and the pilot's improper recovery techniques:- Engine failure due to cracks in the boost enrichment capsule however the failure alone did not cause the accident which was caused by an error of judgement of the pilot:-
- failure to feather the No. 1 left engine;
- failure to correct the nose high attitude;
- failure to stop the leftward swing of the aircraft using the rudder;
- loss of speed;
- consequent loss of control;

Aircraft Historical Log:
Avro York C1, MWl93 Royal Air Force, 511 Sqn del 30.10.45; 242 Sqn transferred 01.05.46; Royal Air Force Abingdon transferred 02.02.49; Royal Air Force Bassingboum transferred; WFU & stored 12 MU Kirkbride, Cumbria 10.50; G-ANSY Scottish Aviation bought 12.07.54; Scottish Airlines (Prestwick) Ltd transferred 28.10.54; (Used serial XG929 for trooping flights); Crashed and destroyed by fire on take off Luqa, Malta 18.02.56.


Several sources have been used to compile this accident coverage:-
- ICAO Accident Digest No.8, Circular 54-AN/49 (41-49)
- Newspaper it-Torca Issue No. 3208 - journalist Brandon Pisani
-
Accident Investigation Report published in 19 June 1956 by William Hardling
- Photos Copyright Brian John Bennett
- Malta Aviation Museum
- Capt. Mark Said - AFM Air Squadron
- Hermann Buttigieg - Maltese Aviation Historian
- DOI - Department Of Informaton - Malta
- ASN - Aviation Safety Network



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