ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 20530
Last updated: 30 November 2021
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Type:Silhouette image of generic CNBR model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
English Electric Canberra B.2
Owner/operator:English Electric Co.
Registration: WD991
MSN: 71064
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Merry Tree Farm, Valentine Lane, Cottam, W of Preston, Lancashire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:Samlesbury, Balderstone, Lancashire (EGNG)
Destination airport:Warton, Preston, Lancashire (EGNO)
At 11.45am on Tuesday 25th March 1952, Canberra Mk.2 WD991 became airborne for the first time, as it took off from English Electric's airfield for the short first test flight to the company's nearby Warton airfield. The pilot for this trip was 29 year old Thomas Benjamin Oswyn Evans, who had first qualified as a pilot with the RAF in 1942 and had joined English Electric as a test pilot in November 1950. Though was still attached to 42 Reserve Centre, RAF Fazakerly, Liverpool and held the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He was to have been joined on this flight by another English Electric Employee, Mr Thomas Burnell to act as Flight Test Observer, but apparently a mix up over the issue of parachutes from the stores led to Evans taking off alone.

WD991 had been inspected and certified fit for flight that morning and with fine weather conditions, the flight appeared routine, with all pre-take off procedures being carried out normally. Tommy Evans made no radio contact after take off, though this was normal procedure, and only four to five minutes later witnesses observed the aircraft flying level at approx. 1000 feet over the North of Preston. The aircraft was described as flying "low and fast" when suddenly it entered a steep dive, with no apparent attempt to pull out, striking the ground at an angle of approx. 80 degrees at an estimated speed of 400-450 knots. WD991 instantly completely disintegrated, scattering wreckage for some 600 yards beyond the main impact crater and sending a column of black smoke into the sky. Fortunately the impact was in open farmland and the only nearby building - a bungalow on Valentine Lane - was peppered with debris, shattering all the windows facing the impact and tearing several holes in the roof. Fortunately no one was at home at the time.

Such was the complete destruction of the aircraft that it made the job of the Accidents investigation Branch a difficult one and all the wreckage recovered was taken back to Samlesbury and laid out in a Hanger for detailed inspection. From this it was ascertained that no failure of the flight controls had occurred and that the aircraft had been trimmed for level high-speed flight at about 450-500 knots. Engine malfunction was also ruled out as unlikely with no evidence of any pre-crash fire and further theories citing anoxia or accidental inflation of the dinghy in the cockpit were also ruled out. However the possibility of an elevator being jammed down gained importance with the finding of a crushed 2BA box spanner amongst the debris. Examination of this tool showed that it had been trapped between three points causing bending and cracking of the spanner and although it could not be proved, it was felt that it was certainly possible that this small tool could have prevented movement of the control column and thus affected elevator adjustment.

Crew:Pilot only.
Flight Lt Thomas Benjamin Oswyn "Tommy" Evans 29 English Electric Co. killed.

Tommy Evans is buried at Lytham St Annes Park Cemetery and WD991's impact site in the Cottam area of Preston is now covered by a housing development, removing all traces of the drama, which took place there. However, as the development of the area continues in phases, leading to one of the new roads in the area of the crash, being named "Canberra Lane" in recognition of the event.


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p 127 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Last Take-off: A Record of RAF Aircraft Losses 1950 to 1953 by Colin Cummings p 232
3. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 31)
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT 233/82:
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT 233/81:
6. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/32/S2563:

Revision history:

03-Jun-2008 22:39 JINX Added
03-Apr-2013 22:46 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
29-Dec-2019 22:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
30-Dec-2019 22:50 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description