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Accidents – Civil/Military

April 6, 1946: RABAT TRAGEDY

Extracts from reports and the editorial:

The air disaster which occurred at Rabat yesterday when a Wellington (aircraft) crashed in the built-up area has stunned Malta ...

Such a tragedy as this recalls the days of war when death walked the streets ... Men reverted to a wartime atmosphere when men in the services and civilians worked shoulder to shoulder in the rescue work.

At an early hour this morning the casualty roll was 16 killed (including the four members of the crew), three missing and 12 injured. The number of injured was formerly 13, one of whom has since died.

Last reports from Bugeja Hospital state that PC Peter Mifsud and Maria Bugeja are very seriously injured and in danger of death.

At the close of yesterday's meeting of the National Assembly the Secretary, Mr R.G. Miller, expressed his sympathy for the next-of-kin of all victims of the Rabat tragedy and proposed that the Assembly observe a one minute silence for all who had lost their lives as a result of the aeroplane crash.

The President of the National Assembly upheld the proposal saying that the Secretary could not have interpreted better his own feelings and the proposal was adopted accordingly.


From a Staff Reporter. It was about a month ago that Major Albert Dimech landed on a chartered aircraft from London at Cagliari in southern Sardinia.

They had been forced down by shortage of fuel on their way to Malta. For two days, they were shadowed by the Sardinian police. They were not allowed to take off again after refuelling because they had landed without permission.

Contacting the British Embassy in Rome, Major Dimech finally managed to obtain a permit for them to leave. They arrived in Malta without incident.


An RAF Hastings transport aircraft which landed at Luqa Airport at about midnight on the night of Monday-Tuesday overshot the run- way and crashed. The aircraft was carrying about 70 passengers, none of whom was injured. The Hastings was damaged.


A Hermes four-engined aircraft belonging to Airwork Limited with 57 passengers and crew on board ditched into the sea off Trapani, on the western tip of Sicily in the early hours of yesterday (Monday) morning.

An extensive search for survivors was made and 50 people are known to have been picked up from the sea alive, besides three bodies. Four are still missing. Reports from Sicily state one of the missing persons is a stewardess.

Survivors flown to Malta yesterday afternoon all expressed admiration for the skipper of the aircraft Captain Willie Winsland and other members of the crew, including the two stewardesses...

The aircraft control tower at Trapani reported losing contact with the aircraft at about 2 a.m. and rescue launches and seaplanes were sent out from Sicily at dawn when the wreckage was located. RAF aircraft from Luqa, as well as Royal Naval fighters and seaplanes, joined up with Italian flying boats to search for the survivors...

The aircraft, which was on a flight from Blackbushe near Camberley, Surrey, to Khartoum had been chartered by the Sudan Government and was flying officials, their wives and children back from leave. The Airwork Hermes was due to land for a short stop at Malta.

A Viking aircraft of Airwork took off from Luqa yesterday and brought 18 of the survivors back to Malta in the afternoon. The survivors were accommodated at the Hotel Phoenicia.

Thursday, October 9, 1952: PLANE CRASH AT LUQA AIRFIELD

Tragedy was narrowly averted at Luqa airfield last night when a Lockheed Neptune P2V-5 patrol bomber of the United States Navy crashed on landing and burst into a flaming mass not long afterwards.

The aircraft, belonging to Patrol Squadron 5, United States Navy, temporarily based at Royal Air Force Station, Luqa, was completing a normal night landing, when, according to eye witnesses, the undercarriage collapsed.

The crew, with the pilot, Lieutenant Commander H.E. Belew, United States Navy, got out of the crash unscathed, but were in danger from the resultant fire which enveloped the Neptune quickly.

Patrol Squadron 5 have been stationed at Luqa for almost two months, and hold a high record of efficiency, holding United States Navy Battle Efficiency Pennants for the consecutive years 1951 and 1952.

Based normally at Jacksonville Field, Florida, Patrol Squadron 5 is commanded by Commander J.C. Houghton USN. The crash is believed to be the first serious mishap to befall a US Navy Plane since the Americans were granted a temporary base in Malta last year.

Tuesday, December 2, 1952: AIRCRAFT CRASH SCARE OFF MALTA

Malta's air-sea rescue services went into action yesterday morning, when an aircraft was reported to have crashed into the sea off Malta. Reports were circulated that an aircraft had been seen to splash into the water off Fort St Elmo. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force stated that as far as they knew, no aircraft of theirs was missing, although Lancaster aircraft from Luqa were seen to be circling and weaving at a low level off the seaward side of Valletta searching for the plane. Rescue Coordinational Centre, Malta, later stated that the search had been called off. It was further stated that all British and American military aircraft and all civil planes had been accounted for.

A clue as to the origin of the aircraft crash was provided during the morning, when the Royal Navy stated that HMS Ricasoli was proof firing rocket projectiles seaward yesterday forenoon.

Wednesday, December 31, 1952: LUQA VILLAGE AIR CRASH

Heavy casualties were fortunately averted in Luqa village yesterday morning when a four-engined Lancaster aircraft of 37 Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron, Royal Air Force, cartwheeled across the main street into a row of buildings, bursting into flames almost immediately.

It is regretted that a member of the crew, composed of Sergeants, was killed instantly in the crash. A second member died in hospital yesterday afternoon. Two other aircrew members, making up the crew of four, are in hospital with critical injuries.

Civilian casualties are reported to be a 60-year-old Maltese woman severely injured and in danger of losing her life, a 70-year-old man slightly injured, and a young girl suffering from minor injuries.

As a result of the crash a Maltese family has been rendered homeless, and some fourteen buildings have been reported damaged in some degree as a result of the aircraft's crash. The accident occurred in mid-morning, during local flying and landing exercise from Luqa airfield. The Lancaster, whose pilot was stated to be making his first flight as an aircraft Captain, reportedly took off from the airfield with its port inner engine cutting out intermittently. On the take-off run the faulty engine is said by Service eye-witness to have cut completely. The pilot attempted to bring the aircraft round on three engines to land again, but the Lancaster, by now flying below its minimum safety quota, hit the edge of the south-eastern outskirts of Luqa village.

Help was forthcoming in the space of minutes after the crash, and in a very short time fully-equipped fire-fighting parties from Royal Air Force Station Luqa, and the Malta Police Fire-Fighting Section, were among the first to arrive.

Thursday, January 15, 1953: CDR. NOBLE - LIGHTNING HITS PIANE

The Valletta aircraft, in which Commander A.H.P. Noble, Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty was travelling, was yesterday morning struck by lightning whilst on a transit fight from Luqa airfield, Malta, to Ellenikon Airport, Greece. No casualties were incurred but the plane was slightly damaged and returned to Malta. After a short delay, Commander Noble took off again from Malta in another Valletta aircraft for his destination. This time the flight was without incident. Commander Noble later transferred to a Royal Navy Firefly aircraft at Ellenikon, and flew to the carrier Ocean exercising at sea, landing on her flight deck. The Parliamentary Secretary is today watching exercising front the Ocean, and afterwards from the destroyer Chevron, returning to Malta in that warship tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 4, 1953: Meteor Crash of GRAND HARBOUR

A 'Meteor' twin-jet fighter of 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force operating from Ta Qali crashed in the sea some four miles off Grand Harbour at midday yesterday.

The Squadron of weekend fliers arrived on the island a week ago today for their annual fortnight's training from their base at Finningley, near Doncaster, Yorkshire. Parts of the wreckage were picked up by a small vessel which was near the scene of the crash. The name of the pilot and the cause of the crash were not revealed yesterday.

Thursday, December 17, 1953: AIRCRAFT CRASH AT QORMI

A Vickers Valletta Military Transport based at Royal Air Force Station, Luqa, force-landed at Imriehel yesterday due to loss of engine power. It is regretted that one member of the crew lost his life as a result of the accident. Name and rank are being withheld pending notification to next of kin. An official report from Air Headquarters states that the aircraft La Valette was on a local air test after routine servicing, prior to returning to operational flying, when it lost engine power, force-landing in open country. The aircraft caught fire on landing. All the crew were safe apart from the one who was killed. The site of the accident was roughly half-a-mile from the back of the Simmonds-Farsons-Cisk factory, in line with the village of Qormi. Eyewitness reports state that the plane made a good forced landing, with wheels retracted; several people paid glowing tribute to the efforts of the pilot to warn field workers as the aircraft came down. The workers ran to safety before the plane crashed near a local fireworks factory.

The Malta Police fire-fighting section were on the spot within minutes, and civilians combined with members of the three Services to help the men get clear of their blazing machine. Medical aid was quickly forthcoming from Royal Air Force, Luqa, and the Station fire jeep was soon on the spot. H.M.S. Falcon flew a Royal Navy doctor up from Hal Far by helicopter.

Tuesday, January 19, 1954: AIR CRASH AT TA QALI

A Royal Australian Air Force Meteor Jet aircraft crashed during takeoff at Ta' Qali aerodrome yesterday morning. No other information is available, but it is believed that the pilot was seriously injured and the other occupant was killed.

Saturday, February 13, 1954: AIRCRAFT MISSING OFF MALTA

It is reported that ten people were aboard a Malta-based Shackleton aircraft which was yesterday morning reported missing off Malta. A subsequent air sea search conducted by warships of the Mediterranean Fleet and British and American planes from Malta failed yesterday to produce positive results. The Shackleton was on a night exercise from Malta in co-operation with Her Majesty's Submarine Tudor and was last heard of in a position roughly 20 miles west of Gozo, shortly before 2.50 a.m. local time. The destroyers H.M.S Chequers and H.M.S. Chevron were ordered to the scene and searched during the afternoon while Shackleton aircraft from Royal Air Force Station Luqa and a Neptune aircraft from H.M.S. Falcon carried out a local low-level search. Debris was sighted in a position some 26 miles north-west of Gozo, but definite confirmation as to the nature of the wreckage was impossible owing to mounting seas and very poor visibility.


A helicopter operating from HMS Falcon yesterday notched another "pick-up" rescue on its fuselage when it retrieved two naval airmen who had ditched in their Sea Fury trainer on a routine flight. The Sea Fury trainer developed engine failure off Marsaskala and the pilot had to 'ditch' his plane. Both he and his passenger abandoned the aircraft successfully after hitting the water. Not more than five minutes after their touching the sea a Hal Far helicopter was hovering above them, and soon they were both winched up into the hoverplane and back at their parent station, wet to the skin from their ditching.

A Malta Police motor-boat put out for the scene of the crash as soon as information came through that the Sea Fury was down in the sea.


Shackleton aircraft of the Malta Maritime Wing circled an area some 60 miles north of Messina throughout the night dropping flares to illuminate the sea where ships, including the large carrier Eagle and the Daring have been congregated to pick up the bodies of the passengers and crew of Comet aircraft G-ALYY which was last heard of on Thursday-Friday night soon after leaving Ciampino Airfield, Rome, for Cairo. The Comet, operating on one of the services which had recently been resumed after being suspended in January last following the previous Comet crash off Elba, was reported overdue at Cairo, one of the staging posts on its flight from London to Johannesburg.

Wednesday, April 14, 1954: AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT AT RAF LUQA

When a York aircraft of Scottish Airlines crashed at Luqa airfield early yesterday morning none of the crew aboard was injured. The plane was not carrying passengers at the time. It is reported from Luqa that the aircraft which had apparently experienced engine trouble the previous night was preparing to take off on a short air test from Luqa. The aircraft overshot the runway on taxiing tests and fell 10 feet into a field. The pilot, according to the reports, slowed as rapidly as possible, but it was not enough to prevent the plane from slewing to starboard at the end of the runway, and coming to a halt with a buckled undercarriage some 50 feet beyond the runway's end, in a field of onions and beans. Flying activities continued normally during the day while R.A.F, personnel worked on the damaged plane. Mr Smith, Director of Civil Aviation, has been appointed to investigate the incident.

Wednesday, April 21, 1954: COMET AT LUQA

A "Comet" aircraft landed at Luqa. The aircraft is being flown to the United Kingdom in a private capacity. It was ordered to be grounded while at an overseas station when Comet Yoke crashed in the Thyrrenian Sea earlier this month. The Comet will resume its flight to the United Kingdom today.


(Reuter's Service) - London. Two people - airman and a child - were killed when a York airliner belonging to the Scottish Airlines with 54 on board crashed on take-off outside London. The airliner chartered by the War Office was leav¬ing Stansted, north-east of the capital bound for Malta and Habbaniyah, Iraq, with RAF men and their families.

Saturday, May 5,1956: BOMBER LANDS IN FIELD

An RAF Canberra jet bomber crash-landed in a field at Ta' Sridaq limits of Mosta. No one was injured.

Monday, May 8, 1956: YORK TRAGEDY INQUIRY

HE the Governor [Sir Robert Laycock] has appointed the Hon Mr Justice Harding to be the Commissioner to hold the Public Inquiry that he has directed shall be held into the causes and circumstances of the accident that occurred on February 18, 1956, at Zurrieq, to Avro York aircraft.


Malta was jolted out of a sleepy super-hot afternoon siesta when a loud explosion shook most parts of the island. People craned their necks from windows, roofs and even in the street to look for a pillar of smoke or some other sign indicating the whereabouts of an explosion. But there were no signs. The mystery thickened when Service Estabilishments and Headquarters stated that they we’re not responsible for the explosion. Civil Defence Headquarters denied that it was part of Maltex 1956 series of incidents. The first gleam of light appeared when a Service representative who has heard the same explosions before elsewhere in the world said it sounded extremely like a supersonic boom - the sound made by pressure waves formed when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier. Although as far as is known British aircraft taking part in Maltex 1956 are not capable of going through the sound barrier – i.e. travelling faster than the speed of sound - it is thought that several French and American aircraft operating in the manoeuvre can accomplish such a speed in a dive.
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