Fatal crash of vintage plane in Topcroft caused by crosswind, report finds

The WW2 P-51D Mustang fighter plane close to the former RAF Hardwick base in Topcroft, Norfolk on Sunday 02/10/16.
The WW2 P-51D Mustang fighter plane close to the former RAF Hardwick base in Topcroft, Norfolk on Sunday 02/10/16.

A fatal air crash in Topcroft last year was caused after the pilot lost control of his Second World War aircraft due to a crosswind, a report has concluded.

Eye pilot Maurice Hammond suffered a number of injuries and passenger John Marshall, who was in his 80s, a farmer and military history enthusiast from Willoughby Waterleys, near Countesthorpe in Leicestershire, was killed in the crash on October 2, 2016.

A report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Mr Hammond, who is in his 50s, was flying the North American P-51D Mustang back to a private airstrip in Topcroft.

On landing, the aircraft, named Janie, among a fleet of vintage aircraft owned by Mr Hammond, was subjected to a crosswinds of up to 18 knots –which the report found would not be considered “excessive” for a pilot of Mr Hammond’s experience.

It bounced twice before striking a tree, crashing to the ground, and catching on fire.

The report concluded: “The pilot was experienced on the type and would have normally been capable of flying under the prevailing conditions.

“However, in this case directional control was lost during the go-around due to the handling effects of increased engine power at low speed and the crosswind from the right.

“This, and the inability to accelerate and climb away in the space available led to a collision with a tree during the go-around.”

It said there was “no evidence” of any aircraft system failure or malfunction which could have contributed to the accident.

It added the passenger, Mr Marshall, was “fatally” injured, with significant injuries to his head and neck.

Although he was wearing a headset, he was not wearing a helmet, or “any other form of head protection”.

However, the report said: “Medical assessment of the injuries sustained was that it was unlikely that the wearing of a helmet would have changed the outcome.”