Date & Time: Dec 10, 1935 at 1645 LT
Type of aircraft:
Savoia-Marchetti SM.73
Operator:
Registration:
OO-AGN
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Brussels – Croydon
MSN:
30004
YOM:
1935
Region:
Europe
Crew on board:
4
Crew fatalities:
4
Pax on board:
7
Pax fatalities:
7
Other fatalities:
0
Total fatalities:
11
Circumstances:
Crew started the approach to Croydon in poor visibility due to clouds and at sunset. While flying too low, the three engine aircraft hit tree tops, stalled and crashed into flames in a wooded area located some 13 km short of runway, near Tatsfield. All eleven occupants were killed.
Crew:
Jean Schroonbroodt, pilot,
Jean Desmet, radio navigator,
Alphonse Verbinnen, engineer,
Raymond Strechfuss, steward.
Causes:
It was concluded by the UK Accidents Investigation Branch that the pilot, who did not request bearings from the airport and tried to navigate on his own, had descended out of the clouds prematurely, apparently uncertain of his position. He then must have initiated a steep climbing turn to the left to avoid the surrounding hilltops or after realizing that the visible lights were in fact those of Biggin Hill Aerodrome, not Croydon. During the evasive manoeuvre, the SM.73 apparently lost flying speed and stalled, resulting in an uncontrolled descent. And after the stall, some of the passengers may have been thrown forward, causing a weight distribution imbalance that would have hindered the ability of the pilot to regain control. No evidence was found of any prior mechanical or structural failure in the aircraft.