Carvair G-ARSF

ATL.98 Carvair – c/n 3/18339

With CAB from Jul 1962 to Dec 1962

Given Name – ‘Pont de l’Europe’

This particular aircraft – N88709 – was purchased from Braniff in the U.S where she had been in open storage for several years, still in the rather weather beaten livery of its last lessor Riddle Airlines. Naturally, it was not in the best of condition and Aviation Traders engineers had to put a good deal of work into the aircraft both before and after delivery. As far as Carvair operators were concerned, Carvair Sierra Foxtrot was to be the first of her kind for Channel Airways who had previously been in consultation with the Irish aviation authorities about operating car-ferry services across the Irish Channel. However, when it became clear that Channel would be using Carvairs rather than smaller Bristol Freighters on these services, the subsequent obfuscation and somewhat exhaustive operational limits placed upon Channel, eventually resulted in them cancelling their order.

So, the aircraft would go to Channel Air Bridge instead and after 11 months of conversion work, she finally departed from Stansted and landed at Southend on the evening of June 28th 1962 from where she would make a number of pre-delivery test flights before finally being handed over to CAB on July 7th. While she would be the third Carvair to join the airline, her service history would see her flying a number of firsts for both CAB and the aircraft type itself. While CAB had been flying a considerable number of short hop flights across the Channel since the mid-50s with its Bristol 170 aircraft, the introduction of the Carvair in effect gave Channel Air Bridge ‘longer legs’ and thus it was decided to launch the ‘deep penetration’ routes which would transport CAB passengers and vehicles to the central and alpine regions of Europe.

As such, G-ARSF would make the very first flight between Southend and Geneva on August 3rd 1962, while over the coming weeks she would also take in Basle and Strasbourg too. However, the Carvairs could also be seen supplementing the Bristol 170s on the shorter routes and from 1962 onwards, the Carvairs would more increasingly appear on the Rotterdam, Ostend and Calais services, the last of these again being flown for the first time by Sierra Foxtrot on August 7th 1962. However, while CAB’s other two Carvairs would soldier on until the late 60s, Sierra Foxtrot’s life would be cut short by a tragic landing accident at Rotterdam on December 28th 1962.

Making her first trip of the day from Southend, this Carvair was approaching Rotterdam Airport in almost white out conditions after a period of heavy snowfall in Holland. Just prior to touch down, the main undercarriage struck a drainage ditch several hundred meters from the threshold of the runway. The aircraft then rose slightly into the air before the right wing stalled, causing it to impact the ground and swing the aircraft around completely about its y-axis. The wing then detached and the aircraft rolled onto its back, crushing the cockpit and the tailplane in the process. Of the 18 crew and passengers on board, Capt. John Toothill would sadly lose his life while the co-pilot was badly injured. However, the rest of the crew and passengers escaped relatively unscathed with a few minor bumps, cuts and bruises. As a testament to how well the loads were secured aboard the aircraft, the cars remained firmly attached to the now inverted floor and could only be removed once the damaged airframe had been righted.

G-ARSF Crash

It was later revealed that a too steep descent due to a lack of engine power, the difficulty of seeing the ditch in snowy conditions and the snow obscured markers that denoted the boundary of the airfield were all major contributing factors to the accident. The wreck itself was quickly removed from its crash site and was temporarily stored at Rotterdam while Aviation Traders engineers set to work dismantling it for return to Southend, this taking place on February 23rd 1963. Any useful parts were later salvaged and what remained of the wreck was sent to Stansted the following month where it was scrapped.

You can read a full and comprehensive account of the accident written by Dutch, Carvair enthusiast Maarten Brouwer by clicking on the link below…

G-ARSF Accident Report


History of G-ARSF

7/61 to 7/62

Aviation Traders

7/62 to 12/62

Channel Air Bridge


Crashed at Rotterdam airport 28/12/62


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