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Crosswind caused Suffolk pilot to lose control before fatal crash in Norfolk, investigation finds

12 October, 2017 - 07:00
Maurice Hammond, the pilot of a Mustang plane which crashed in Topcroft. Picture: NIK COLMAN

Maurice Hammond, the pilot of a Mustang plane which crashed in Topcroft. Picture: NIK COLMAN

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A fatal crash involving a vintage American fighter plane occurred after the Suffolk pilot lost control due to a crosswind, an accident report has said.

John Marshall, who was in his 80s, died when the two-seater Mustang aircraft plunged into a field in Topcroft, near to the former RAF Hardwick Airfield, on October 2 last year.

Pilot Maurice Hammond, who is in his 50s, was preparing to land when the aircraft was blown to the left of a private airstrip, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

The plane was a US-made P51 D Model Mustang nicknamed Janie, owned and operated by Mr Hammond.

A friend said at the time that Mr Hammond was regarded as one of the finest pilots in the country of that type of plane.

The Mustang bounced twice before Mr Hammond attempted to abort the landing, but it remained at a low level until it struck a tree, crashed to the ground and caught fire.

The AAIB found that he “would have normally been capable of flying under the prevailing conditions” but lost control due to the crosswind and the effect of increasing engine power at low speed.

Crosswinds could have reached 18 knots when the crash occurred which is “not considered excessive” for a pilot of Mr Hammond’s experience, according to the report.

Investigators did not discover any evidence of a malfunction with the aircraft which might have contributed to the accident.

Emergency services were unable to save Mr Marshall, of Willoughby Waterleys, Leicestershire, who died at the scene after suffering serious injuries to his head and neck.

He was not wearing a helmet, although investigators believe this is unlikely to have affected his chances of survival.

Mr Marshall was being flown over a number of Second World War US Army Air Force airfields in Norfolk.

Mr Hammond, of Suffolk, was airlifted to hospital with a number of serious injuries, particularly to his neck and burns to his face and neck.

The AAIB said he has “no recollection of the accident.”

He is an expert on vintage planes and has restored them for Plane Resurrection, a series shown on Netflix and the Discovery channel.

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