Photograph of Captain T. J. Hanley taken approximately 15 minutes

Photograph of Captain T. J. Hanley taken approximately
15 minutes after the Forced Landing.
By kind permission of
Topham Picture Post, England.
HELD ON MARCH 25TH – 27TH, 2002
The anomaly exixts that EI-ACF was cruisi
Press Reports of 7,000 feet show divergence between the actual EIACF event and the official record of evidence, which was based on a
flawed investigation. In a telephone call to his wife, Agatha, on Jan.
1st, the Captain recounted he was flying at 7,000 feet when he made a
rapid descent to 5,600 feet. This fact seems from the evidence to have
vanished from the record. Other Press Reports from England and
Ireland are included with evidentiary documents at the conclusion of
this document, and reflect the true testimony comprehensively.
Crash-landing near Birmingham
An Aer Lingus D. C. 3 airliner, on a flight from Dublin to Birmingham,
crash-landed yesterday in a ploughed field near Spernall Ash, 14 miles southsouth-west of Birmingham.
Although it tore through two hedges, smashed into an oak tree and broke
in half, none of the 22 passengers was hurt. Two members of the crew were
slightly injured.
The passengers said the hostess, 23-year-old Miss Philomena McCloskey,
walked from seat to seat telling those on board to pray after one engine had gone
dead and the other was spluttering.
The aircraft-the St. Kieran- was the same plane which, last Monday, had
carried the Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, home from Utrecht, Holland. It left
Dublin Airport at 9.25 a.m. and was due in Birmingham at 10:50 o’clock.
Its pilot, Captain T. J. Hanley, of Butterfield Drive, Rathfarnham, Dublin
and First Officer P. J. (“Paddy”) Whyte, of Larchfield Road, Roebuck Park,
Dundrum, Dublin, were slightly injured.
The most remarkable aspect of the crash-landing was described by
Captain Hanley to his wife last night, when he telephoned her from Birmingham.
He told her how one engine failed at 7,000 feet and the second one at 4,000 feet,
but that it was not until his altimeter was reading 700 feet that he emerged from
heavy cloud. As the plane broke through the cloud he had only a “few hundred
feet” between him and the ground.
What Mrs. Hanley described as “pathetic little field” was the only
possible place for the plane to land, with a farm house near by.
Captain Hanley told how, when belly-landing in the field, he saw
telegraph wires, and had to swing the plane to avoid them. He then saw a tree
and had to swing again.
In spite of the unexpected and shocking buffeting they received, Captain
Hanley said that the passengers “were fine,” and had behaved very calmly.
Although it was reported that Captain Hanley was injured, he said First
Officer Whyte was the only person to receive any injuries, and even they were
not serious. Captain Hanley told his wife that he had been to see his First
Officer in the hospital where he was detained in Birmingham, and that he was in
good form.
A special word of praise was given by Captain Hanley to the people living
in the farm-house near where the plane crash-landed. They brought cups of tea
for the passengers, who included a baby-in-arms and two small children, and did
everything to help them.
Mrs. Hanley said she expected her husband would remain in Birmingham
for a few days, to help to discover the cause of the engine failure.
The tailplane was torn off the Dakota and flung high into an oak tree and
the starboard wing was broken off by the impact. The two engines and
propellers were left behind in the ploughed field. Only the port wing and main
body of the fuselage were undamaged.
A farmer saw the plane make its forced landing in the remote countryside
and immediately raised the alarm. Ambulances, fire-engines, doctors and nurses
were rushed to where the plane lay. Local police and residents from farms near
by were quickly on the scene.
All the passengers were still in their seats when the plane came to rest. It
came down exactly five minutes before its estimated time of arrival at Elmdon
Airport, Birmingham.
Sergeant John A. Thomas of the Warwickshire Police, who was first to
arrive on the scene, said: “Most of the passengers were very calm, but the
children were screaming. The pilot and his co-pilot had both been cut, and
Captain Hanley was given an anti-tetanus injection immediately, before being
taken to Stratford-on-Avon Hospital. Captain Hanley’s first comment to me
was: ‘It would happen to me on the first day of the year, but thank God, no one
was hurt.’”
A Ministry of Civil Aviation official, who inspected the plane after the
crash, said it was “a miracle” that nobody had been killed.
Passengers were loud in their praise of the hostess (Miss McCloskey), who
is a native of Claudy, Derry, and resides at 19 Charleston Road, Rathmines,
“She was marvelous,” said Mr. W. Manifold, of Coventry, who had been
visiting Dublin with his wife and child. “She kept calm as the plane came down,
and the next thing we knew was that there were a few bumps and the plane
seemed to crumple up about us.”
Miss Eleanor Morris, a school teacher, of Solihull (Warwickshire), said
there was no panic. “Even before we got out of the plane someone was calling,
‘Has anyone lost a pen?” she added.
Another traveller, returning from a wedding celebration, found the top
tier of the wedding cake undamaged in his luggage.
A terrier, which was in the aircraft’s cargo, and consigned from Dublin
to Mrs. Kirkwood, of Brockhampton, Gloucestershire, was last night found in
Alcester near by.
Captain Scott, Operations Manager of Aer Lingus, and Mr. Frank
Delaney, Assistant Chief Engineer, arrived on the scene from Dublin in the
afternoon and began examination of the wreckage with British Ministry of Civil
Aviation experts.
Miss McCloskey returned to Dublin later in a relief plane, which had
been flown from Dublin Airport to take the afternoon return service, in place of
the plane that crashed.
Although First Officer Whyte’s injuries were not serious, he was detained
overnight in Stratford-on-Avon Hospital for observation.
The Dublin off ice of Aer Lingus gave the following list of passengers: “Mr. and
Mrs. R.M. Hudson, Master Hudson and Baby Hudson, of Bray, Co. Wicklow;
Mr. P. Glynn, of College Road, Alum Rock, Birmingham; Mr. and Mrs. Bryan,
c/o the N.C.O.’s Club, U.S.A.F., Brieze Norton, Oxford; the Hon. Mrs. G.
Bowlby, of Croughton House, Brackley, Gloucestershire; Mr. Williscroft, of New
Premcridge Road, Cannock, Staffordshire; Mrs. McGlone, of Nicholas Street,
Dublin; Mrs. Morissey, c/o Duleek Post Office, Co. Louth; Mr. H. Egan, 2
Annesley Park, Rathmines, Dublin; Mrs. Taylor,
2 Valentia Road, Drumcondra, Dublin; Mrs. Field, 62 Croydon Park Ave.,
Fairview, Dublin; Mrs. Every, 36 Ballymun Road, Dublin; Mr. W. O’Keefe, 34
Belgrave Sq., Monkstown, Dublin; Mr. J. O’Flaherty, (gave an address of a
Nuneaton travel agency); Mr. Maguire (address of Co-Op Travel Bureau,
Coventry); Miss Eleanor Morris, c/o Cook’s, Birmingham; Mr. and Mrs.
Manifold and baby, c/o Godfrey’s Travel Agency, Coventry.”
Less than an hour after the St. Kieran was forced down another Aer
Lingus Dakota, en route from London to Dublin, was forced to turn back
because of severe icing on the wings. The plane was piloted by Captain Richard
Quin, of Dublin.
A member of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association last night said that
Captain Hanley deserved the highest praise and recognition “for his most
brilliant piloting. Landing his aircraft, both engines having failed, in such a
manner that all the passengers stepped out of it unscratched is a tribute to his
magnificent professional skill.”
“So successful a recovery from such a sudden and grave emergency has probably
seldom been equalled and, I believe, never surpassed.”
Captain Hanley has been flying for over 25 years. He joined the Army
Air Corps in 1926, and was the chief flying instructor at Baldonnel for several
years. He is well known to many people for his demonstration of aerobatics at
the pre-war flying displays.
He joined Aer Lingus before the war, returning to the Army Air Corps
during the war, to become Officer Commanding the Coastal Patrol Squadron
based at Rineanna. At the end of the war he rejoined Aer Lingus, of which he is
a senior captain first-class.
Captain Hanley is probably the most experienced pilot in the company.
He is chairman of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association, an office which
he has held for several years, and he has represented Ireland at international
conferences of air line pilots.
Statement of J. P. Greethead, Warwickshire.
Consecutive Report No. PC. 242/76.
Division: Stratford on Avon Station: Studley.
2nd January, 1953
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Chief Constable, Chief Constable’s Office, Warwick. Submitted.
1st JANUARY, 1953
At 11.10 a.m. on Thursday, 1st January, 1953, information was received at
Studley Police Station, to the effect that an aircraft had made a forced landing in the
Parish of Spernal, near Middle Spernal Farm.
This information was at once passed to Alcester Police Station by telephone,
where it was received by John A. Thomas, Police Sergeant 291: who caused the
information to be transmitted to Operations Room Police Headquarters, and to
Divisional Headquarters.
Sergeant Thomas then went at once to the scene, arriving at 11.18 a.m. Upon
arrival at the crash, Sergeant Thomas will say, that all passengers and crew had
alighted from the aircraft. The Second Pilot, Flying Officer Patrick Whyte had
sustained a lacerated scalp, and had been taken by private car to Doctor Fitzpatrick of
Alcester, for medical attention. The Captain of the plane – Captain Thomas Hanley,
was still with the craft, sustaining, what appeared to be superficial injuries to his head,
face and left hand. The majority of the passengers and Hostess were uninjured, and
others were only of a minor degree, but all were suffering from slight shock.
Sergeant Thomas made immediate arrangements, and accompanied all women
and children, and the more shocked of the passengers, together with the Captain, to
shelter at New End Farm, Great Alne (about ½ mile away). They received treatment;
and the Sergeant set up temporary headquarters at the Farmhouse, where a telephone
was available.
A progress report was here sent to Operations Room, Headquarters, informing
them of the position at this time. Mr. Bishop of Elmdon Airport Control was
telephoned and informed of the exact location, and general position in regard to the
passengers, crew and craft.
John P. Greethead, Police Constable 242, had arrived shortly after the
Sergeant (at 11.23 a.m.) and had caused the remainder of the passengers and Hostess
to be taken to Middle Spernal Farm (about ¼ mile away, here the telephone was out
of order, owing to the crash). He had the passengers personal luggage removed to
safety and covered, and all members of the general public, were excluded from the
Police Sergeant Thomas then returned to the scene. The Warwickshire County
Fire and Ambulance Service were in attendance.
Inspector Hinksman, Headquarters Staff, then arrived at the scene, and took
charge of traffic and communications, pending the arrival of Superintendent
Wardman, Stratford on Avon Division, who arrived a short time later, and directed
Police operations.
A police guard was commenced at the scene at 11.23 a.m., on the 1st January,
1953, and maintained.
Immediate enquiries were made by Police Sergeant Thomas and Constable
Pilot’s certificate - No. 32, Air Line Pilot’s Licence, issued by
Department of Industry and Commerce Civil Aviation Instrument Rating; 6/6/52 –
Certification of Airworthiness – In order.
General Declaration – In order.
Pilot’s Log – In order – “Left Collinstown Airport, Dublin at 9.36 a.m.,
destination – Elmdon, Birmingham, due in 11.15 a.m..”
The Passenger Manifest, showed the following details:(1) Mr. R.M. Hudson; (2) Mrs. P. Hudson; (3) Miss J. Hudson;
(4) Master P. Hudson; (5) Mr. P. Glynn; (6) Mr. D. Field;
(7) Mrs. D. Taylor; (8) Mr. Bryan; (9) Mrs. Bryan; (10) Mr. Every;
(11) Mr. W. O’Keefe; (12) Mr. O’Flaherty; (13) Mr. Maguire;
(14) Miss Morrissey; (15) Mr. Manifold; (16) Master Manifold;
(17) Mr. Manifold; (18) Hon. Mrs. G. Bowlby; (19) Mr. Wolliscroft;
(20) Miss McGlone; (21) Mr. H. Egan; (22) Mrs. Morris. (Detailed
particulars of passengers are not yet to hand.) In addition to the Captain
and Second Pilot, an Hostess – (Miss) Philomena McCloskey. Was
The Cargo Manifest showed that a quantity of Newspapers carried, and one
box containing a terrier dog. This dog was found to be missing from its box, but was
later found, and returned to its owner.
Mr. V.G. Goddard, Preventative Officer, H.M. Customs, Water Guard,
Elmdon Airport, and Mr. K.V. Panteny, Control Officer, H.M. Customs and Excise,
Elmdon Airport, arrived at the scene, and examined all luggage and took possession
of the aircraft dutiable cargo.
As the plane was operating from Eire to England, no Health or Immigrations
officials were in attendance.
Permission was then given by the Airport Customs, for passengers and
luggage to travel to Elmdon Airport, arranged transport, having by this time arrived.
A search was carried out by Sergeant Thomas and Constable Greethead, in the
immediate locality, and it was then found that the plane was completely wrecked.
The fuselage lay across a deep ditch, facing in a northerly direction, some 50 yards
west of Broad Lane, Spernal (Map Reference – Sheet 131/102613). The rear part of
the fuselage was extensively damaged, and the cockpit, nose and undercarriage were
also extensively damaged. The port wing was still attached to the main member, and
appeared slightly damaged. The tail plane and landing wheel, attached had been
ripped apart from the fuselage and remained suspended and wedged in a nearby oak
tree (slightly eastward of the main body). The starboard wing was extensively
damaged, the outer part being torn off and missing.
Further examination of the craft revealed that the landing gear was down and
in position for landing, both port and starboard propellers were missing, together with
the cowling of the port engine.
Following the trail marks, made by the plane ploughing through the field,
towards the road and in an easterly direction from the wreckage, the missing wing tip
was found 15 yards from the roadway. Continuing over the roadway, in an easterly
direction, two propellers and miscellaneous debris from the plane were found
(this line illegible)
observed that plane wheel marks were visible for a distance of about 50 yards, and
running in north easterly direction towards Upper Spernal Farm.
The point at which the plane had first struck the ground was apparent, owing
to the propellers cutting into the soft earth. From this point to where the fuselage had
come to rest was a distance of 210 yards. There were no marks on the road,
indicating that the plane had cleared the roadway.
The locality is about 300 feet above sea level, Upper Spernal Farm and the
land to the East being the highest points. The land is general open agricultural, and
sparsely wooded, it is undulating, and slopes gradually towards the south and west.
Subsequent enquiries revealed that the only material witness, was a Randolph
John Gibbons, of 6 Spernal, Nr. Studley, a farm worker at Upper Spernal Farm, who
was standing at the time of the crash, near some outbuildings attached to the
farmhouse (on the Westward side) and about 400 yards from where the plane finally
came to rest.
The witness – Gibbons will say, that the aircraft passed overhead at about just
over 30 feet from the ground, its undercarriage was down, it was losing height, the
starboard engine was backfiring rapidly and flames were coming from it, the port
engine seemed to have “cut out”, it came down at about landing speed, tilted to its
nearside and with tail uplifted, travelled for some distance over the field on the east
side of the road, bounced and cleared the road, turning slightly as it did so towards the
west, continued in a like manner for some short distance over the field on the west
side of the road, when the tail struck an oak tree and was ripped off and wedged in the
tree, the remaining and main member was turned in a northerly direction when it
came to rest over a ditch near the oak tree. He was first on the scene. (His statement
is herewith attached).
It has been ascertained, that the aircraft was a Douglas Dakota – D.C.3,
registered as “E.I.A.C.F.”, owned and chartered by Aer Lingus of 43 Upper
O’Connell Street, Dublin, on service from Collinstown Airport, Dublin, Eire, to
Elmdon Airport , Birmingham. It was due to land at Elmdon at 11.05 hours on the
1st January, 1953. A few minutes after 11 a.m., on that date, the Captain of the plane
made wireless contact with Elmdon Airport Control, stating that he was within range
of the airport, and that he was then flying at 4,000 feet having one engine failing.
Very shortly afterwards, the Captain again reported by wireless that he was down to
2,000 feet and that the second engine was failing. Wireless communication then
ceased. It is believed that the plane crashed shortly after.
Police guard is being maintained until a clearance is received from Group
Captain Williams of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Which is anticipated will be
granted on the 3rd or 4th January, 1953.
(Signed) John P. Greethead
Statement of Fleet Air Arm Flying Officer R. M. HUDSON, passenger in ACF.
ON THE 1st
JAN, 1953,
At approximately 09.25 on the 1st January, 1953, my wife, two children – aged 4 ½
years and 9 months – and myself boarded the Aer Lingus Dakota “St. Kieran” bound for
Birmingham and took our seats in the second row from the front, my wife, with the baby,
sitting in an outside seat Port side, my elder Son and I inside and outside seats on the
Starboard side. Weather conditions were good and the prospect of a comfortable journey
The hostess issued ear plugs, safety belts were fastened and the aircraft taxied out to
the end of the runway, faced down it and the engine check was carried out in the usual
manner. There was no sign of any trouble.
Take off was normal and after climbing clear of the Aerodrome and gaining height the
aircraft turned out to sea.
My family and I settled down for the journey after the safety belt and no smoking sign
had been removed. Engines sounded normal.
As we approached the British coast the cloud became more dense and the sea could
only be seen intermittently. The cabin window kept frosting over very rapidly and
consequently we gave up trying to see out.
The flight report was passed back and from this point onwards we were flying either
through or over cloud until the last few seconds of the flight.
As we approached the coast my Wife, who had been having some trouble in getting
the younger child to sleep, went to the rear of the cabin at the suggestion of the Hostess as
there was room to stand and nurse him. Coffee and biscuits were served very soon
Up to the time of my Wife’s change of position and right up to the time of coming in
to land there were no air bumps, conditions being quite stable. We saw the sun several times
and I noticed a blanket of cloud below and a scud type of cloud at about the same height as
ourselves after we had passed the coast.
The first alteration in the rather dull routine of the flight occurred at 11.00 hours when
I experienced the sensation of losing height rapidly, at the same time the engine note changed
as if the Pilot had throttled back. This was about five minutes before we were due to land and
I can remember looking up at the safety belt sign and even although it was not showing fixed
my Son’s and my own belt in position. I had just completed this when the Air Hostess passed
me on her way to the cockpit. I cleaned the window at this point and saw we were
surrounded by dense cloud. The Perspex did not frost over so quickly as it had done earlier
in the flight.
Incidentally my Wife told me later that at this juncture she was sitting in the rearmost
outside seat on the Starboard side and she heard the buzzer which called the Air Hostess
The Hostess returned almost immediately to the cabin and from her face I surmised
things were not as they should be. I can remember glancing up almost as soon as she passed
me and seeing that the safety belt sign was showing.
Again I learned from my Wife that as the Hostess came back through the door into the
cabin she had risen and started back to her seat beside me. The Hostess made her sit down at
once in the seat she had just vacated and fixed her safety belt for her. She sat down beside
her for a second, then got up and came forward looking at each persons safety belt in turn and
saying “We must all pray”.
To carry on with my own experience I remember telling my Son, “I think we are
coming to land through the fog” and experiencing a turning sensation to Port as if we were
banking. There was a distinct bump almost as if we had hit something but I have since
realized we were too high to have done that and actually it was probably a very sharp control
movement of tail unit or aileron. The engines or engine I cannot be certain revved up and
died away several times during this period and then died altogether and due to my ignorance
of the height we were at I thought we were making a power assisted approach on a beam. I
even looked through the window waiting for buildings, etc., to loom into view through the
dense vapour surrounding us.
Immediately after the bump sensation which I have already mentioned I became
aware of the Hostess coming forward and talking to the passengers behind me, both engines
had ceased to function by now. As she came past me I caught the words, “We must all pray”.
She turned faced the passengers and then crouched down with her back to the bulkhead at the
forward end of the cabin. We were still in dense cloud.
From this point onwards I have no recollection of hearing the engines again, the only
sound was that of the aircraft gliding. At no time did I see or hear any sign of panic. Before
we broke cloud cover I can remember glancing at the Hostess two or three times bracing
herself against the bulkhead and I feel, in my own mind, that her simple directive to the
passengers though perhaps a little unorthodox and her composure as we lost height through
the cloud contributed greatly to the calm which was apparent throughout.
We broke cloud at a very low height and saw trees, hedges and ploughed fields below.
From here on sensations are rather blurred as things happened so rapidly but I believe the
following to be the correct sequence of events.
The aircraft broke cloud then dropped her Starboard wing, righted herself, rocked
once or twice about her longitudinal axis as if the Pilot was swinging into the best line which
he could achieve under the circumstances, for landing and after that either taking avoiding
action or counteracting air currents.
Our first contact with the ground was a sharp bump followed a fraction of a second
later by a series of jolts which sent us rocking forward in our seats. I saw debris flying past
the windows. There was another sharp bump and we appeared to be in a slightly nose down
attitude, followed by a violent swing of the tail to the left. A rending of metal and fabric and
a great hole appeared in the fuselage above my head as the aircraft slithered to a standstill.
The last jolt had thrown me almost flat on my back from which I deduce we must
have been traveling tail first. My seat had broken away from its original position and seemed
to have collapsed into the aisle.
As soon as the plane had come to rest I scrambled to my feet, saw that my elder Son
was alright, looked aft and saw my Wife looking into the cabin from the access door which
must have been wrenched open during landing. She must have got out very quickly. In fact I
learned from her later she jumped out of the aircraft as soon as it came to rest, put the baby
down and came back to see if she could help.
For myself I undid my Son’s safety belt and handed him out to the Hostess through
the hole in the roof. She had scrambled out on to the wing and was directing the passengers
in a calm voice to get out as quickly as possible in case of fire breaking out.
The people in the rear portion of the plane got out by the door but several people
sitting near me were helped out on to the Starboard wing as my seat lay across the aisle.
As we got the people out from the forward end of the cabin I asked the Hostess if the
rest of the crew were alright as I had not seen them. She said she thought they were hurt so
while she continued to assist the passengers I went round to the front of the fuselage, bracing
myself for trouble and looked into the cockpit. It was empty. I looked round and saw the 1st
Officer walking towards me from the opposite direction in which the plane had come,
holding his stomach and looking dazed and having a gash over his left eye. I thought he had
probably been thrown out but have never checked this. I went to him and gave him support.
As we approached the crash I saw a car stop on the nearby road. I tried to persuade him to go
towards it as he was the person most seriously injured. He maintained he was still on duty
and would not leave the scene until he was assured that everyone was out of the plane and the
situation under control. He then walked with me to the car.
When I got back to the aircraft I found the Captain was round on the Port side of the
fuselage and that was why I had not seen him.
The Hostess by this time had rugs round the women and children and some spirits had
been issued. The passengers were standing in a group to the rear of the plane congratulating
each other on the truly miraculous escape.
Approximately 20 minutes after the crash a car from the nearby Farm took the two
Mothers with children back to the house. While we were waiting several of us assisted by
some farm labourers who had arrived on the scene got most of the luggage out. This I feel
was a dangerous operation as there was a smell of petrol about but we were concerned about
our personal luggage and therefore prepared to take the risk.
The Fire Brigade, Ambulance and police all arrived simultaneously between 25 to 30
minutes after our landing, the delay being due no doubt to the fact that we had broken the
telephone wires along the road.
Shortly after the arrival of the Police all the remaining passengers and the Air Hostess
were taken by the ambulance to a farm house where our immediate needs were most
generously catered for.
I have not been back to the scene of the crash since and therefore have had to work
completely on my memory. My view from the cabin window was restricted and therefore not
ideal to give any certain appreciation of the technical reasons for the emergency landing or of
how the Pilot brought us down. I do feel, however, that considering the very short time
which he had between breaking through the cloud cover and actually touching down he did a
wonderful job in keeping clear of any serious obstruction: and if I recall it correctly making
his approach into the wind.
R. M. Hudson
(Click on individual photos to see larger version)
EI-ACF at Dublin Airport.
The road traversed in air.
Results of landing with
retracted gear.
View from Starboard side,
ditch running underneath.
View of approaching road and
2nd Field.
View from Port side, ditch
running underneath.
Capt. Hanley, firemen, &
Sgt. Thomas.
Wreckage tidied at the scene.
Fuselage in 3rd field. Capt.
Hanley and Sgt Thomas.
Fireman stands beside
Starboard wing. Swiftly flowing
stream is not visible.
(Click on individual photos to see larger version)
General photo of terrain
(note: taken in 1972).
Size of the oak tree avoided
by a ground loop.
Indicates width of road
hopped by aircraft.
The oak tree viewed from
the 2nd field.
Location where aircraft lay
across the ditch, looking
towards road.
Ditch as seen from road,
to show depth, with oak
tree in the distance.
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