Accident de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide G-ACPM, Tuesday 2 October 1934
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Date:Tuesday 2 October 1934
Type:Silhouette image of generic DH89 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide
Owner/operator:Hillman's Airways
Registration: G-ACPM
MSN: 6251
Fatalities:Fatalities: 7 / Occupants: 7
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:English Channel, 3 miles off Folkestone, Kent, England -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Stapleford Tawney, Abridge, Essex (EGSG)
Destination airport:LeBourget Airport, Paris, France (LBG/LFPB)
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
First production DH.89 Dragon Rapide: Registered as G-ACPM [C of R 4955] 7.6.34 to Hillman's Airways Ltd, Stapleford, Essex. C of A 4365 issued 5.7.34. Entered by Lord Wakefield in King's Cup Air Race 13.7.34, flown by Capt Hubert Broad, but withdrawn following hail damage over Waddington, Lincolnshire. Delivered to Hillman's Airways 27.7.34.

Destroyed when crashed into English Channel in low cloud 3 miles off Folkestone 2.10.34. On the morning of the day of the accident, the weather conditions over south east England and the Channel were moderately bad, but not bad enough to cause any disorganisation to the scheduled services, or to call for "Bad Visibility Notice". A belt of low cloud covered a large area of country and enveloped the high ground, but at altitudes between 3,000 and 8,000 feet the skies were clear, with little or no wind. The French coast was enjoying good weather conditions. Bannister was detailed for the flight, and given the weather reports and the day's forecast. He was advised by the Chief Pilot of Hillman Airways to climb immediately to 3000 feet and proceed on a direct course by compass - advice that he chose to ignore, with tragic consequences.

Ten minutes after departure Bannister reported to Croydon, but transmission was poor due the fact he apparently left a generator switched on which caused interference. The pilot called for "Position" at 10.30, and repeated his request two or three times in the next ten minutes but without expressing any urgency. The pilot was asked to wait for the information as the W/T stations were fully engaged dealing with incoming aircraft. In the meantime he was given True Bearing, 90-92 degrees at 10.34 and 92 degrees a minute later. At 10.40 the pilot, who had not acknowledged any of these signals, was asked "Are you receiving me" and replied "Not very well". whereupon he was told to switch on again for a Bearing. At 10.44 he was given a bearing of 92 degrees and told he would be called for a "Fix" as soon as possible.

The Chief Pilot, listening in at Stapleford, telephoned the Duty Officer at Croydon and demanded that they give G-ACPM a "Position" without further delay as it was obvious that the aircraft was off course. Immediate steps were taken to comply, but at 10.55 and at later intervals the aircraft was called without response. The Dragon had been seen flying low in the Canterbury neighbourhood at some point, and possibly over the foreshore at Deal and Sandwich.

The Captain of the German cargo vessel Leander (the first to arrive at the scene of the crash, some 3 miles off Folkestone Harbour) reported to the S.S. Biarritz that neither he nor any of his crew had heard the aircraft approaching, but an instant before the crash there was a sudden roar as of an aircraft engine being opened up to full power. Fragments of wreckage, mutilated bodies of passengers, articles of clothing, handbags, books and papers were found strewn over the surface of the sea for a distance of 100 yards or so, and beyond the line of debris petrol and oil were seen rising to the surface, presumably where the bulk of G-ACPM had sunk. The body of the pilot and one passenger were not found at that time - I have no idea if they were subsequently recovered.

The opinion of the Investigator was that the pilot had ignored advice, and had he been an experienced navigator he would have chosen to make the trip above the cloud layer rather than flying at low level in conditions of bad visibility. No blame was attached to Croydon, and it was stated that their delay in responding to Bannister's requests for "Position" had not contributed in any way to the accident. All seven on board (pilot and six passengers) were killed:

Flying Officer Walter Robert Bannister (pilot, aged 43) killed
Louis Beigneux (passenger, French national) killed
Jean Louis Bordaz (passenger, French national, aged 32) killed
Miss Phyllis Budden (passenger, aged 19) killed
Andrew McGregor Ritchie (passenger, aged 31) killed
Albert Paul de Sanno (passenger, American national, aged 66) killed
Helene Slabodsky (passenger, French national, aged 32) killed

First accident involving a De Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide. The UK Air Ministry attributed the cause of the accident to a lack of skill and knowledge in matters of navigation on the part of the pilot. Significantly, it was noted in the investigative report that he lacked both a navigator’s license and previous experience in instrument flying. Evidence indicated that the pilot had followed the coastline, remaining below the clouds, rather than proceeding on a direct compass course to his destination.

Apparently losing sight of land while over the Channel, he may have turned back towards the west in order to once again make visual contact with the coast of England. It was theorized that while in a gradual descent through the mist he failed to distinguish the glassy surface of the water in time to avoid the accident. The crash was believed to have occurred fewer than 10 minutes after a second request from the pilot to Croydon Aerodrome for a position. However, the delay and ultimate failure to provide bearing information was not considered a contributing factor.

Registration G-ACPM cancelled 2.10.34 due to destruction or permanent withdrawl from use


1. Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 03 October 1934
2. El Litoral 2 October 1934, page 1
3. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 03 October 1934
7. Flight, 10 January 1935 page 57 at
9. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/16/C291:

Revision history:

20-Jul-2017 20:29 TB Added
24-Oct-2017 23:15 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
24-Dec-2017 00:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source]
24-Dec-2017 00:30 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location]
24-May-2018 21:57 Dr. John Smith Updated [Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
23-Feb-2020 21:49 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
23-Feb-2020 21:58 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
17-Mar-2020 18:08 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
31-May-2024 21:47 Nepa Updated [Time, Location, Operator]

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