Priceless 'warbird' plane narrowly missed house before crashing in Somerset

Credit: BPM Media

A priceless historic aircraft was destroyed when it crashed after its engine seized a mile away from Yeovilton airfield, according to a government report.

No-one was seriously injured in the crash, which happened in April last year.

It saw the Royal Navy Hawker Sea Fury from 1949 skim over the roof of a house and smash into the ground while on a training flight.

The 60-year-old pilot and his passenger were able to scramble clear of the wreckage and avoid serious injuries.

Both were wearing full military-style flying kit and helmets, which protected their heads during the accident, says a report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The report says the pilot suffered a small fracture but his helmet - which suffered a significant blow - protected him from a much more serious head injury.

The pilot was unable to “feather” the propeller, meaning an increase in drag making it impossible to land on the airfield. Credit: BPM Media

“The fact that both occupants were wearing helmets almost certainly saved them from any serious head injuries despite the cockpit coming to rest almost inverted," it added.

The report says the aircraft hit the ground half a mile short of the runway at the Royal Naval Air Station just 10 seconds after its engine seized suddenly.

The aircraft was being positioned for a landing after the pilot noted low engine oil pressure.

The propellor could be seen separated from the rest of the plane in the field. Credit: BPM Media

The report says the pilot, who had 11,550 hours of flying experience of which 36 were in the historic Sea Fury, noted the engine oil pressure was low shortly after take-off.

He immediately informed the airfield’s air traffic control and turned back towards the airfield.

“The engine continued to run, but the pilot described it is as rather 'lumpy and unsteady'," says the report.

The pilot made a Mayday call before the Sea Fury hit the ground in a paddock area, where it broke into several sections. It initially struck a telegraph pole, having cleared the roof of a nearby house by just six metres.

The two-seater aircraft slid across the surface of the paddock before striking a hedge, leaving a 95-metre trail of wreckage.

The report concludes that the point at which the engine seized left the pilot with no choice but to complete a forced landing short of the runway.

400 yards of Church Street were closed with a cordoned-off area on the day of the crash, including the Lamb and Lark Inn. Credit: BPM Media

What is a Sea Fury Plane?

Sea Furies entered service with the Royal Navy in 1947, and production ceased in 1955.

Several of the single-engined aircraft remain airworthy around the world and are popular with airshow organisers.

The Sea Fury - a so-called “warbird” - is a large aircraft, and its weight is roughly equivalent to two Spitfires.