Friday, April 18, 2008

OK, here's a weird one

I had a dream last night where I was watching traffic at Heathrow airport in what appeared to be the late 1950's. Now I was only born in '57 and have never been to London, so that's weird enough alone. Anyway, 2 Vickers Vikings collided mid-air and brought down what I thought to be a Boeing C-97. I looked it up and that's exactly what it was. (At least I got my plane recognition right on both counts.) Now I don't recall a 3-way crash like that ever happening, but there you go. And I've only ever seen pictures of Vickers Vikings, so why I thought of that aircraft I don't know. The same goes for the C-97, which is of course a Boeing cargo version of the Stratocruiser.

The rest of the dream involved family and friends, none of whom were of the correct age for the period, but then again it was a dream so anything is possible. But one of the characters in the dream is English and could have been either a 10 year old plane spotter or possibly lived near Heathrow at the time. I haven't seen him for 20 years and can't check.

What else could I do, I had to search for this crash. I found the crash stats for Vickers Vikings (24% survival, not bad; 54 hull losses, which sounds a lot). I also found Madden's excellent Air Transport Safety Resources, with 3 mentions of the Viking:
Interesting that it was an "Airnautic" Viking as one of the characters in my little dream ran an operation called "Aironautica". Hmmm. Still, no exact matches, and no C-97s nearby at all. But if nothing else it gave me something more to search on. So I did.

If that wasn't interesting enough, the Longford Residents Association tells the tale of the Vulcan bomber - the very first - coming back from what must have been a simply wonderful trip to Australia, with the Air Vice Marshall so keen to greet the dignitaries awaiting the craft at Heathrow that he had (a) displaced the co-pilot from his seat and (b) over-ruled warnings not to land in a thunderstorm... you can guess what happened (it includes Brussel sprouts, btw) or read it all here: On 1st October 1956, the first Avro Vulcan bomber taken on charge by the RAF, returning from a successful flight to Australia and New Zealand, crashed on approach to Heathrow Airport (then called London Airport).

According to the aforementioned LRA Heathrow's history as an airport is in itself quite alarming: The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was party to the whole plot but complained about the unsuitability of the proposed layout of runways for their civil aviation requirements. To maintain the ruse, a runway was built which was totally unsuitable for civil purposes and which was subsequently abandoned without ever having been used... ...The airport was formally opened on 31st May 1946. According to that reference Stage 1 was a military use, but it didn't happen. And Stage 2 didn't happen either, btw. So the lucky residents got a wonderful set of long concrete strips and massive traffic jams instead.

In short, no luck so far on the search but some interesting research there... well I'm interested, anyway!

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