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Narrative:Avro 500 Type E Military Biplane, Avro Flying School. Prototype aircraft built August 1911 by A.V. Roe & Co., Brownsfield Mills, Manchester. Written off (damaged beyond repair) 29 June 1913 following a side-slip while doing a circuit at Shoreham Aerodrome. Wight survived the crash but was unable to free himself from the wreckage before the fuel from the ruptured fuel tank caught fire; those on the scene pulled him free, but he subsequently died "from the effects of the fire" (presumably a reference to dying of severe burns injuries?). Tim Webb & Dennis Bird give an account of this crash in their book on the history of Shoreham Airport. In that they say:
|Date:||Sunday 29 June 1913|
|Type:||Avro 500 Type E Military Biplane |
|Owner/operator:||Avro Flying School|
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1|
|Aircraft damage:|| Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||New Salts Farm, near Shoreham Aerodrome, Shoreham, Sussex -
|Departure airport:||Shoreham Aerodrome, Shoreham, Sussex|
|Destination airport:||Shoreham Aerodrome, Shoreham, Sussex|
|Confidence Rating:|| Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources|
"On June 29th 1913, Shoreham witnessed its first fatal accident. Richard Norman Wight stalled his Avro biplane, and dived into the garden of New Salts Farm to the south of the railway line. The wreckage burst into flames, and although Wight was still alive, his would-be rescuers had difficulty in cutting him free.. By the time wire cutters had been found he had received fatal burns, and died the same night in Sussex County Hospital. He had been transported to the hospital by Eric Pashley [the brother of Cecil Pashley] who was later fined five pounds for speeding! (A harsh penalty under the circumstances as the speed limit at the time was only 20 m.p.h.). The crash was a major blow for the Avro Flying School.
Some people claimed that Wight's real surname was Gair, as many pilots of the time disguised their names to avoid recognition by relatives who did not approve of flying. However the official records still show Wight."
According to a contemporary report in "Flight" 19 July 1913 (see link #6)
"ACCIDENTS INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE OF THE ROYAL AERO CLUB.
REPORT No. 15.
REPORT ON THE FATAL ACCIDENT TO MR. RICHARD NORTON WIGHT, WHEN FLYING AT SHOREHAM, ON SUNDAY, JUNE 29TH, 1913, AT ABOUT 6.15 P.M.
Brief Description of the Accident:-
Mr. Richard Norton Wight was flying an Avro Tractor Biplane fitted with a 60 h.p. E.N.V. motor, at the Shoreham Aerodrome, on Sunday, June 29th, 1913, at about 6.15 p.m. The aircraft started northwards against the wind, made a half-circuit over the Aerodrome, and then crossed the railway embankment which borders the Aerodrome, at a height of about 100 feet.
Shortly after crossing the railway line, the aircraft made a sharp left-hand turn as if to return to the Aerodrome. This turn developed into a sideslip followed by a nose-dive to the ground. The shock of the impact with the ground broke the petrol connections between the tank and the motor. The petrol escaped on to the motor, which was still running, and burst into flames, which spread along the fuselage.
The pilot endeavoured to extricate himself, but one of his feet became entangled with a wire, and he fell head downwards. By the time he was freed he was badly burnt, and died in the hospital about five hours afterwards.
Mr. Richard Norton Wight was granted his Aviator's Certificate, No. 462, on April 22nd, 1913, by the Royal Aero Club.
The Committee sat on Monday, July 7th, 1913, and heard the evidence of several eye-witnesses. Mr. H. V. Roe, of Messrs. A. V. Roe and Co., the designers and manufacturers of the aircraft, attended and gave evidence on various points raised by the Committee.
From the consideration of this evidence, the Committee regards the following facts as clearly established:-
(1) The aircraft was built by Messrs. A. V. Roe and Co., in Manchester, in August, 1911
(2) The wind at the time of the accident was estimated at about 12 miles per hour.
(3) The flight lasted less than 5 mins., and during the whole time the aircraft was flying tail down.
(4) The motor was so overloaded by an unsuitable propeller that its speed was 100 revolutions per minute below the normal.
(5) The pilot was not apparently injured by the fall, but lost his life from the effects of the fire.
(6) The fire originated subsequent to the fall, and was the result and not the cause of the accident.
(7) The various controls were intact.
Opinion:- The Committee is of opinion that the cause of the accident was an error of judgment on the part of the pilot, who, contrary to the advice of the pilot in charge, attempted an extended flight instead of a straight flight down the aerodrome. The pilot in charge, who had just previously made some straight flights, warned him that the aircraft was not flying strongly enough for a circuit.
The Committee is satisfied that the aviators and mechanics who were at the aerodrome at the time, ran to the spot as quickly as possible and took great risks in removing the pilot from the flames, but from the evidence given it appears that if the spectators who were in the immediate vicinity at the time of the accident had been able to render prompt assistance, the pilot's life might have been saved.
Recommendation.—As this is the fourth accident which has been reported on by the Committee, which has occurred owing to pilots persisting in flying with aircraft developing insufficient power to give them their safe flying speeds, the Committee hopes that those responsible will take such measures as may be possible to prevent pilots risking themselves in this unnecessary manner."
Mr Wright was pinned down by the broken stays, and before he could extricated from that position he had been badly burned. He was taken to the Sussex County Hospital, where he succumbed.'
There are reports that this incident was the first ever fatal aircraft crash in Sussex (at least, for heavier-than-air craft, excluding ballonns). It is more certain that this incident was the first fatal aircraft crash at Shoreham.
1. Avro Aircraft Since 1908, A.J. Jackson (Putnam, 1965 & 1990)
2. British Aeroplanes 1914-18, J.M. Bruce (Putnam, 1957)
3. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
4. Dundee Courier - Monday 30 June 1913
5. Cambrian Daily Leader 30 June 1913
6. Sussex County Mail of 5 July 1913.
9. Flight magazine 19 July 1913 page 792 (Accident Report #15) at https://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1913/1913%20-%200766.html
||Dr. John Smith
||Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]|
||Dr. John Smith
||Updated [Registration, Source, Narrative]|
||Dr. John Smith