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Capt. John Chard's account of an incident with G-AHPO on the 30th December 1953 in Nürnberg

Local Newspaper report of incident with G-AHPO

"Although there were times when pilots did undo their safety harnesses in flight, it was then and still remains a checklist imperative to secure the complete harness for take-off and landing. On the one occasion when I did not, I would have been killed had I not been able to fling my body out of the way of the Control Column as it rammed itself into the back of my seat. Correctly strapped-in my body would have been crushed!

Towards the end of 1953 we shared a contract with another operator to fly pedigree pigs to Yugoslavia. Five days before Christmas SABENA failed to put on their DC3 and we were asked to supply another aircraft. This meant using a Viking and I was given the trip. It promised to be a smooth enough flight although the weather was far from encouraging.

The route was from Blackbush to Belgrade with a refuelling stop at Munich where the weather was just above limits - but there were plenty of alternates available with weather conditions on or just above alternate minima. The flight would be perfectly legal but, in fact, there was nowhere really inviting!

Boarding the aircraft I found Reg Peake listening to weather broadcasts and decoding them. A small pile of his reports was already beginning to build at the side of my seat long before we started engines. Like many of his colleagues Reg was not only a first class Radio Operator but shared with them the quality of being a natural airman and an enormous asset to any crew having the good fortune to have them on board. This night he knew how important it was for us to have a constantly updated picture - and this he provided. Gordon Burrell (another ex-Mosquito pilot from 140
Wing) was the third member of the operating crew and a young pig-handler made up the foursome.

The weather picture did not change until we were very close to Munich when, as one, all airfields within fuel range went below our limits! We found ourselves in this situation in spite of Reg's meticulous and constant watch on the position! Not a very pleasant circumstance but the ILS below us was one with which we were familiar and the airfield was not an unknown quantity.

Therefore, with no better place to go to, we made an approach into Munich. I briefed the others, including the pig-handler, to look out for any lights on the ground, explaining my intention to go well below limits staying steadily on instruments, ready to carry out a landing if they saw any consecutive pair of lights (or more) which confirmed the existence of the runway below us. I can now admit to taking that aircraft below 100ft in an attempt to achieve a safe landing; but there was nothing to see for there was no shout from any of the others. I was unwilling to have a 'go' at a completely blind landing and climbed away to review the situation.

As we climbed away it was a relief to get a call from Chick Henderson who was flying the Dakota behind us. He passed on the good news that although the conditions at Nürnberg were well below limits for the ADF approach, (the beacon was some miles back on the extended centre-line of the runway), there was some reasonable visibility under a rather low cloud base. We high-tailed it to Nürnberg where it took two approaches to get lined up with the runway and then there was an enormous sense of relief to be safely on the ground - we thought.

Reg gave me a friendly thump and settled back to complete his log before signing off. But it was not over yet! The final length of that runway was surfaced with PSP - pierced steel planks that were designed to create temporary runways in war-time wherever they were needed. That night this part of the runway was covered in ice and we just slid on as I braked furiously trying to bring the aircraft to rest.

There was no overrun; we simply dropped a few feet on to a track passing the end of the runway, tipping the aircraft forward before sliding down a bank on the nose and main wheels! And as we slithered down the slope the nose crumpled and the control column - which extended through the instrument panel and into the nose of the aircraft - was pushed backwards until it buried itself in the back of my seat. Had I been strapped in I could not have released myself and avoided it in time. How come I was not strapped in? I still ask myself that question.

Thankfully we suffered no personal injury but the aircraft was severely damaged - one pig was lost. We were delayed for a couple of days while statements were taken but we did make it home for Christmas. Later, in spite of my protests, the official German report actually stated that I had seen runway lights on that approach into Munich - but chose not to land!!! With nowhere else to go does that make any sense at all? But perhaps in this case it was done to draw attention away from the fact that although Chick had requested that sand be put on the runway, they had only done this
in the touchdown area! Not an act that makes any sense when you think about it! It certainly didn't help us that night.

In due course I even received a letter from the Ministry accusing me of descending below minimum height without visual reference with the ground. I pleaded guilty but asked what other course of action they would recommend in such circumstances? I heard no more about that. And I must admit that this was not the only occasion that I had to break that rule: but the other problem was not fog - it was sand! A raging sandstorm over the Sahara at an airfield that was cleared for 'visual flights only' - for there were no landing aids published for Aoulef el Arab"