Staines Air Disaster
At precisely 16:11 on June 18 1972 BEA Flight 548 smashed into the ground in open country near the A30 close to Staines. As with the Stockport Air Disaster in June 1967, it may be that the pilot was able to manoeuvre his aircraft enough to avoid landing in a built-up area.
Two passengers were found alive: one, a young girl, died at the scene; an Irishman was rushed to hospital but died within hours. The death toll was 118, the worst accident of its kind in the UK until the Lockerbie Disaster 16 years later.
The three-engined Trident jet had just taken off from Heathrow , heading for Brussels. The subsequent Lane Inquiry set up by Aviation Minister Michael Heseltine concluded the plane had been travelling below the speed necessary to avoid stalling, and that the crew reacted incorrectly when stall warnings were given, including disabling the stall recovery system. There was speculation – and it will only ever be such – that the pilot, Captain Key, may have been experiencing pain from a heart condition which diverted his attention disastrously. Equally, it has also been speculated that a problem existed with the aircraft’s engineering or design – for example a speed gauge reading wrongly. We will never know for sure.
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