A SPECIAL reception was held in Antrim on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s worst aviation disaster.
Twenty-seven people were killed when a domestic flight from London-Northolt Airport crashed at then then Nutts Corner airport, with four crew and 31 passengers on board.
Among those attending the reception hosted by the Mayor and Deputy of Antrim, were families of some of those who died in the air crash.
Members of the Ulster Aviation Society - who are campaigning for a memorial to the victims of the crash - were also present.
Guy Warner, Ulster Aviation Society, said: “There is no memorial or mark anywhere of what happened that night.”
Indeed, it is hard to pinpoint the actual site of the former airfield with the area now used for motorsports, the Nutts Corner market, as well as local businesses.
“It was a very dark night, there was no moon, and some drizzle. The board of inquiry came to the conclusion later on that the captain had got it slightly wrong. The pilot had made an honest mistake,” Guy said.
He added: “In summary you could say it was an accident which happened due to pilot error, but there were mitigating circumstances.”
On the evening of 5 January 1953, the BEA Vickers Viking aircraft named ‘Lord St Vincent’ was approaching Nutts Corner airfield.
As the pilot took over from the air traffic controllers on the ground, they informed him he was flying a little higher than the path which would have brought him safely to the end of the runway.
The aircraft hit some landing lights, then a vehicle and finally a building, before breaking up.
A subsequent report found that he must have overcompensated and came down sooner.
The report concluded that the pilot, Captain Hartley, made “errors of judgement” but that no moral blame was to be attached to him regarding the accident.
Ten years later the airfield was shut down, flights coming instead in and out of the nearby Aldergrove airport.