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Short Solent Air Disaster 1957

REF NR: 2120

The City of Sydney had taken off from Southampton Water at 22:46 on its way to Las Palmas and Madeira via Lisbon. Suddenly only eight minutes later at 22:54 the crew radioed to report that the number four engine had been feathered and they were turning to come back.


The Aircraft

Late in the 1940s the Short brothers developed from the larger Short Sunderland the smaller Short Solent aircraft. It was too late to enter service in the Second World War but went into regular service with independent airlines on routes like that of the UK to Johannesburg, which took only 4 days from start to finish with BOAC. Another smaller airline was that of Aquila Airways which was operating the City of Sydney on this fateful day.


The Crash

With over 50 people on-board, the craft appeared to lose power rapidly and crash into the disused chalk pit just above the small villages of Chessell and Shalcombe. Sadly the crash took the lives of 43 of the passengers and crew. Valiant efforts were made by locals including that of the author JB Priestly and a local policeman but before they could assist anymore passengers or crew the aircraft burst into flames and anyone left in the plane sadly perished.


Short Solent MK III - Cockpit

The Enquiry

The subsequent enquiry suggests that an attempt to deal with number four engine failure, may have led to a possible error by the crew and the turning off of a cut off actuator, thus causing the number three engine to also fail. The planes final attitude on impact again tends to suggest it was banking with a 45 degree angle which would suggest that all starboard engines were feathered or non-functional at the time. However there was no real evidence to support these theories, thus the final decision of the Air Investigation Public Enquiry reported a final conclusion of "cause unknown."