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Mon, Jul 02, 2012

A Miserable Weekend -- Two Pilots Lost In Int'l Airshow Accidents

Another Tough Airshow Weekend Takes Place...

The International Airshow community suffered extensive losses this weekend as an L-39 Albatros went down in South Africa, and a deHavilland Hummingbird, DH53, also went down in the UK.

Our friends at African Pilot Magazine, told ANN that at a Saturday morning airshow in Klerksdorp, in the North West province of South Africa, L-39 pilot Gianfranco Cicogna (pictured, left), went down about 1030 local time. Athol Franz, the Editor of African Pilot, reported that, "It appears that nearing the completion of the final loop in his privately owned L-39 ZU HIT following another L-39 in formation he got into the wake turbulence of the lead aircraft and encountered a compressor stall, quickly followed by a high speed wing stall before impacting the ground at a 50 degree downwards angle. His plane literally blew up in a massive fireball, fortunately well away from the crowd so no spectators were hurt in the accident."

Franz also noted that, "Gianfranco Cicogna was a great friend to me and my magazine and we flew to many airshows as a team. (He was) married to his lovely wife and two children who will now be orphans..."

A little bit closer to home, but still on the other side of the pond, the amazing Shuttleworth collection suffered an agonizing loss of a well-known and highly regarded flyer. Former RAF pilot Trevor Roche went down, Sunday, in a rare single engine low wing deHavilland DH53 Humming Bird -- thought to be the only one in airworthy condition at the time. Highly respected, Roche was a British Airways pilot and Gulf War veteran.

Shortly after the accident, the Military Pageant Air Show at the Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, was cancelled and a spokesperson for the Shuttleworth Collection noted that, "Todays planned airshow has been cancelled to allow accident investigators to assess the scene. We would like to thank both on-site and external emergency crews for their prompt reaction."

The Shuttleworth Collection website describes the aircraft involved in this accident as a 1923 DH53 Humming Bird. They recall that "the DH53 monoplane was built for the Daily Mail light aeroplane trials at Lympne in October 1923. Two aircraft were built for the competition 'Humming Bird' entered by de Havillands and 'Slyvia II' entered by A.S. Butler. Originally the aircraft were powered by the troublesome 750cc Douglas motorcycle engine and neither aircraft fared well in the competitions. However a memorable aerobatic display was put on by H.S. Broad in 'Humming Bird'. After the trials the two original aircraft achieved some success as private aircraft. As such the Air Ministry became interested in the type and ordered eight Humming Birds in 1924 as communications and training aircraft. Two of the RAF aircraft were also converted for experiments with launching from underneath the airship R33. When the RAF aircraft were struck off charge in 1927 they were all registered as civil aircraft. G-EBHX is the prototype DH53, originally entered in the 1923 Lympne trials as 'Humming Bird' and is the sole survivor of the type. After the trials the aircraft was fitted with a 26hp Blackburne Tomtit engine, given increased fuel tankage and registered as G-EBHX. A.J. Cobham flew 'HX to Brussels non-stop for the Aero Show, for which it was re-christened 'L'Oiseau Mouche'. It made the journey in 4 hours at a fuel cost of 10 shillings. In 1924 Cobham flew 'HX to fourth place in the 1924 Grosevenor Trophy Race at Lympne. The DH53 was discovered by Sqn. Ldr. L. A. Jackson of the Shuttleworth Trust in 1954. By then, the tailplane, engine and control surfaces were missing. However these parts were redesigned and built at the de Havilland Technical School. Now fitted with an ABC Scorpion engine, 'HX made its first flight after rebuild on August 4th 1960 and the aircraft was then presented to the Shuttleworth Trust. However on August 31st 1980 G-EBHX was damaged in a forced landing after engine failure and did not fly again until 1989. After another forced landing due to another engine failure, 'HX was restricted to taxying only. However the engine was overhauled during 2000 and it is hoped that it should now prove to be more reliable. As such it made its first tentative flights after the third Sunset display in 2001. The DH53 is now flown when conditions are suitable."

FMI: www.africanpilot.co.za, www.shuttleworth.org

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