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‘Heavy argument’ in cockpit may have caused Britain’s deadliest plane crash ever

A commemoration was held today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Staines air disaster – the deadliest non-terrorist plane crash in British aviation history, killing all 118 people on board

The tail of the aircraft was seen in debris in a field in Surrey shortly after takeoff after the crash
The tail of the aircraft was seen in debris in a field in Surrey shortly after takeoff after the crash

A ‘violent argument’ in the cockpit may have led to Britain’s deadliest plane crash ever.

All 118 people on board were killed when British European Airways Flight 548 from London Heathrow to Brussels crashed in a field in Staines, Surrey on 18 June 1972.

Over an hour before the plane was scheduled to depart, a heated argument broke out between pilot Stanley Key and a colleague named Flavell, according to the Daily Star.

Key was staunchly opposed to a strike among younger pilots for improved pay and conditions, with derogatory graffiti about him found on numerous aircraft, including the Hawker Siddeley Trident which later crashed.

The words “Key must go” were also found scrawled on a flight engineer’s desk.







Over an hour before the plane was scheduled to depart, a heated argument reportedly broke out between pilot Stanley Key (above) and a colleague
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Picture:

press association)

It was later revealed that Key had an existing heart condition called atherosclerosis, which may have been exacerbated by the pre-flight argument and may have affected his judgment, the reports Daily Star.

A report published in 1973 stated: “It is clear that Captain Key was indeed very angry, although his anger was short-lived.

“Since this event occurred about an hour and a half before takeoff, it is not unreasonable to assume that this may have been the cause of his initial spike in blood pressure, which led to the rupture of the small blood vessels.”

A speed error had brought the aircraft to a standstill shortly after takeoff.

The plane was not at a sufficient altitude for the crew to regain control, according to an investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Branch.







A speed error had brought the aircraft to a standstill shortly after takeoff
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Picture:

mirror image)

The plane split in two and fell almost vertically, hitting the ground tail first.

A former nurse, Frances Castledine, who was one of the first on the scene, recalled finding the wreck.

She told you before SurreyLive : “The weird thing about it was that it was absolutely silent, apart from the hiss of the plane, and no human voice could be heard.

“It was clear from the silence that nobody was calling for help, that it was a serious accident.”

A commemoration was held today to mark the 50th anniversary of the Staines air disaster, which remains the deadliest non-terrorist plane crash in British aviation history.







According to an investigation, the plane was not at a sufficient altitude for the crew to regain control
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Picture:

mirror image)

Wreaths were laid at a memorial during the service, which was attended by the families of the deceased and rescue workers.

Barry Dix, who was a journalist at Heathrow at the time of the accident, said so BBC : “It was such a serious incident.

“Fifty years later, I still can’t come to terms with the fact that this happened right on my doorstep.”

Councilor Susan Doran, Mayor of Spelthorne, added: “The thoughts of this council are with the families of the 118 people who have lost their lives.

“We also thank the emergency services at the scene who dealt with the sheer horror of the tragedy.”

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/violent-argument-cockpit-caused-britains-27269211 'Heavy argument' in cockpit may have caused Britain's deadliest plane crash ever

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