TWO AIRMEN, ONE OF WHOM WAS MR.
GEOFFREY DE HAVILLAND, CHIEF TEST PILOT OF THE DE HAVILLAND AIRORAFT
COMPANY, OF HATFIELD, HAD A FORTUNATE ESCAPE WHEN THEY HAD TO LEAP BY PARACHUTE
FROM A 'PLANE IN WHICH THEY WERE CARRYING OUT SPECIAL TESTS OVER WHEATHAMPSTEAD,
ON TUESDAY MORNING.
The 'plane crashed into a field at
Gustard Wood and burst into flames. Mr. de Havilland was pilot of
the machine and his' passenger was Mr. John Cunningham, who is also a De
Havilland test pilot.
were two photographs in the report. The first had a sub-title "Wreckage of
the 'plane strewn about the field and (inset) Mr. De Havilland (left) chatting
with Mr. Norbury after the crash. The second photograph showed about 6
people near the engine of the wrecked 'plane.
The machine in which they were
flying - a small open two-seater mono-plane – was seen circling over Gustard
Wood about 3,000 feet up when Mr. Cunningham jumped out and sailed
to earth with the aid of a parachute.
The machine continued to circle
round, and then Mr. De Havilland, who had presumably tried to regain
control o fit, followed his colleague, and landed by parachute in a field about
half-a-mile away from Mr. Cunningham.
It is understood that the pilots
had begun spinning tests at a great height and the spin had not been arrested
when the plane had descended to about 3,000 feet.
When Mr. de Havil1nd found
he could not pull the machine out of the spin, he told his colleague to jump,
and he followed suit.
.. The machine with its engine full
out continued to descend rapidly and after hitting a tree, it crashed through an
iron fence and burst into flames. There was an explosion as it struck the
around and debris was scattered over a wide area. The engine was thrown some
distance from the main wreckage.
The machine crashed within two
hundred yards of the house of Mr. C. G. Norbury, of Delaport, Gustard
The sound of the crash brought a
number of farm workers and others to the scene and one of the first to arrive
was Mr Fred Kelvey, of Wheathampstead, who is employed by Mr Cory
Wright and who was working close by a t the time.
He said to a "Herts. Advertiser"
reporter "I saw one of the pilots jump out and then the machine continued to
circle round as if it was still being piloted. The machine seemed to me to be
circling round the pilot as he descended with his parachute, and it was a
miracle that it did not hit him. I thought at first, it was some airmen
"The machine made straight for the
ground and it flew so low over me that I dropped flat on my face, thinking it
was going to crash near me."
Mr Kelvey was attending to
some horses in a field at the time, and the noise of the low flying machine
frightened the animals, which bolted across the field.
Both Mr. De Havilland and
Mr. Cunningham landed unhurt and they walked coolly back to the spot where
their machine had crashed, only to find smouldering wreckage.
Wheathampstead Fire Brigade
was called, but their services were not required.
After telephoning to Hatfield,
Mr. de Havilland and Mr. Cunningham returned to the De Havilland
Aerodrome, where they had started their flight, and after lunch they were up in
the air again doing more testing work and feeling none the worse for their
It is understood that, at the time,
Mr. de Havilland and Mr. Cunningham were carrying out research
work on an experimental machine of the Moth Minor type, specially
modified to meet the requirements of the research in hand. It is not unusual to
work out in small scale, some of the details of big military and commercial
aircraft. The nature of the experiments in progress on Tuesday have not been
Mr. de Havilland. 29-year-old
son of the founder of the De Havilland Company, has been chief test pilot since
1937, when he succeeded the late Mr. R. J. Waight, who was killed
in a flying accident at Hatfield Aerodrome. He is the eldest of three sons, all
of whom are on the staff of the Company, which he joined in 1928 as a
technical assistant. He has flown all types of De Havilland aircraft produced
Mr. Cunningham, who is 21
years of age, spent two-and-a-half years as a student in the De Havilland
Technical School and has been a test pilot for about a year. He is an officer in
the Auxiliary Air Force.
Contributed by Jack Hyde.
added September 2008