On this day in 1950, 80 people were killed in the Llandow Air Disaster, which at the time was the world’s worst air disaster.
The aircraft, an Avro Tudor V, had been privately hired to fly rugby union enthusiasts to and from an international game in Ireland, to watch Wales compete against the Irish in the Five Nations Championship at the Ravenhill stadium.
On its return to Llandow aerodrome, the aircraft stalled and crashed on its approach to land in Siginstone in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The aircraft was initially booked for 72 passengers, but was striped to accommodate another six and 5 crew.
Eyewitnesses at the time, including a Mr Russell state that at 3:05 pm the Avro Tudor was approaching runway 28 of Llandow aerodrome at an abnormally low altitude with the undercarriage down.
The pilot attempted to correct the descent by increasing the power of the engines and brought the plane up. The aircraft rose steeply to 100 m (300 ft) attaining a nose-up attitude of 35 degrees to the vertical, and then the aircraft stalled.
Star Girl plummeted towards the ground with the right wingtip hitting the ground first, followed in turn by the plane’s nose and left wing, which separated from the fuselage when it made contact. The plane turned clockwise and finally came to a rest near a field beside Park Farm close to the small hamlet of Sigingstone. There was no explosion on impact or ground fire.
Two passengers who were sitting in additional seats bolted in at the back of the tail section walked away unaided, and a third man, who was in the lavatory and knocked unconscious at the time of the crash, survived but was in the hospital for four months.
Eight more survivors of the initial impact died later in hospitals of their injuries, bringing the final death toll to 80, 75 passengers and all five crew.
The March 13, 1950 edition of the New York Times reported thus: “London, 12 March—Eighty men and women were killed in Wales today in an aeroplane crash, the worst disaster in the history of aviation. Three men survived. The death toll eclipsed the previous record for airplanes, set last Nov. 2, when an fighter plane rammed an airliner near the National Airport in Washington, causing the deaths of fifty-five persons.
It also exceeded the toll of seventy-three dead in the loss of the United States Navy dirigible Akron off Barnegat, N.J., on 4 April 1933. The eighty persons lost in Wales went to their destruction in a type of aircraft – the British Avro Tudor – that had already caused fifty-four fatalities and had been banned from passenger service on Britain’s publicly owned international airlines.”
In a statement released today (12th March) South Wales Police said “Long may we remember the victims of the Llandow Air Disaster, and commend the police and emergency services who tried to help them.”