1973 – January The Ben More ( Crianlarich) Viscount Crash. Part 1

1973 Ben More Viscount Crash

1973 – 19 -23 January – Ben More Crianlarich – Viscount Aircraft GAHI – from Glasgow Abbotsinch  all 4 crew killed. In memory of Captain Walter Durward Co – pilot Stan Kemp  Engineers  Paddy Quinn and Jimmy Moore

Viscount Aircraft

ps://heavywhalley.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/viscount802_bea_heathrow_35.jpg”> Viscount Aircraft – a big aircraft.

[/caption]One of my first aircraft search was for a Missing Viscount aircraft from Glasgow airport that crashed on Ben More (Crainlarich) in the winter 19 -23 January 1973. The aircraft was on a short air test from Glasgow. The two engineers involved requested that an air test be performed so that they could examine the aircraft controls in flight. This was arranged, and later the aircraft was taken by a standby crew, led by Captain Walter Durward, on a test flight from Glasgow Airport.

The aircraft then proceeded N from Glasgow, and was about to return to the airport when it vanished. It was located two days later about 600ft NE of, and about 100ft below, the summit of Ben More (3,852ft). Wreckage was scattered widely on the hillside and down a gulley. Some of the wreckage rolled downhill to Ben More Burn, at the western base of the mountain. This Ben More is E of Crainlarich and about 56 kms (35 miles) N of Glasgow. Poor weather conditions were prevailing at the time, with rain and heavy snow persisting.

I was a young member of the RAF Kinloss MRT it was my second winter in the team and it was an epic callout taking 2-3 days to recover the 4 casualties.  I remember the wild drive from Forres in Morayshire and the Police escort from RAF Kinloss and the snowploughs on the A9 in front of the convoy. These were the days before the snow gates were put on the A9 was single track, it was a long 5-6 hour drive. We arrived in the dark for  a first light callout, the weather was too bad to go out that night and we had few clues where the plane may be. The heavy snow and huge areas to search in wild conditions it made it a call-out that stayed in my mind for years. It was such a scary and long drive down in the snow and the hills were plastered with snow, it was a big winter. Both RAF Teams  Kinloss and Leuchars stayed in Lochearnhead Village Hall and there were 50 -60 of us there. A lot of locals helped out there was no local team in the area then it was in the days of limited resources and communications.  It was very tight in the village hall and the hill gear was always wet and very basic in these days. As always all the teams worked well together and the locals could not do enough for the team during such a tragic event. Lots of people searching for people they never knew an incredible feeling.  I remember information was vague no one had heard much but we had a few ideas from people who phoned the Police and thought they had heard or seen something.  In the early morning we had a briefing in the Hall By “Taff Tunnah ” the RAF Leuchars Team Leader. George Bruce was our Team Leader and he was speaking to the Police and getting and trying to sort out the reports from the public. I have a photo of this that was used in the press of the briefing on that first day, we were very young. see below:

The Briefing at Lochearnehead Village Hall. Taff Tonner the RAF MRT Leuchars Team Leader and a very young Heavy and Tom MacDonakd, this was the only time we were dry in the next 3 days. Press photo

I had an

[/caption]I had an awful day searching in the Trossachs in the area between Glen Gyle ( West Loch Katrine )and the Balquidder Glen, with the late John Hinde in charge a MRT Legend.  The plan originally was for the teams to split into 5 groups to search the main ridges as this is high priority on a aircraft search with limited information. The team had a capability of splitting into smaller groups of two with a radio in each party. In the event the snow was very deep knee deep in places with very strong SE winds and clouds above 1500 feet and we stayed together for the whole long day.

I have recollections that this became a survival Exercise on and off the hill, the Snow chains and shovels were essential as were the land rovers to get to the road heads and snow shoes would have been invaluable. My memory of the first day that it was along hill day even after 40 years’ experience on rescues on the hill in winter this was a hard callout. Teams had no clue where the aircraft had crashed and covered as much ground as possible in the conditions.

On the first day of the Search RAF Leuchars MRT found pieces of wreckage from the Viscount very early in the day a few miles from Ben More Farm.  This was from one of the RAF Leuchars Team Steve Brooks – “Just checked my diary, it was around 6pm when Leuchars arrived having had a puncture on 3 tonne truck along way. It was 10:00am next day at 1500′ that documents from the aircraft were found on Ben More, think it was John Couls group, the search was then more concentrated and by evening more wreckage had been found along with 2 seats and 4 casualties”  Most of the RAF Kinloss team were not recalled and completed their search area in desperate weather.  Communications were very poor in these days, no mobile phones and we just kept going, In a Rescue you always hope to find people alive but it is very rare in an aircraft crash in the mountains. I was exhausted when we got back soaked to the Village Hall where we were updated. The others had moved into the area along with some SAS troops and a civilian party had an even worse day “in desperate conditions” ( these were words rarely used by George Bruce and Taff Tonner the Team Leaders) Small parts of wreckage and papers from the aircraft were found as was the four bodies of the crew. The snow was falling very heavily and they did not have a easy time, the avalanche risk would be very high in the Corrie and it was going to be a difficult recovery of all the casualties. The weather was very bad and the teams had to pull out as darkness and conditions had got even worse, the crew sadly had to be left in situ on the hill. They had died instantly and the crash was not survivable.


We arrived back

[/caption]We arrived back at the Hall and got ready for the next day, it had been a long hard day and there was more to come!

To be continued!

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Equipment, Gear, Munros, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 1973 – January The Ben More ( Crianlarich) Viscount Crash. Part 1

  1. gpcox says:

    It was sad enough to lose the crew, but then there was danger to the rescue party – a hard way to start a new job!


  2. Al Coy says:

    waiting for part two Heav’s


  3. Louise Campbell says:

    My Dad JC Campbell who is a past member of Kinloss MRT was there. He knows Heavy and Tom McDonald.
    Proud daughter Louise Campbell


  4. Pingback: Viscount Crash on Ben More – Crianlarich – Calum's Road

  5. Hammy Anderson says:

    I remember it well. The snow was up to 3 feet deephh

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ian McKellar says:

    I remember a telephone call coming through to my late father that evening.. He was the Divisional Police Commander for North and West Stirlingshire. They had been advised of a missing plane and that locals had reported a very low flying aircraft over the village of Fintry, some 40 miles south of the accident scene. The weather only permitted a limited search that night and arrangements were made to send a rescue team out on the Fintry Hills in the morning. However Perthshire Police then confirmed the likely scene was around Crianlarich and the team was stood down.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michael Durward says:

    Good evening,

    I would be very interested to see any photos that you may have of these events.



    Liked by 1 person

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