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Munich Air Disaster: Causes, Facts and Photos of the Plane Crash That Killed Manchester United Players, Staff, and Crew

On 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight 609, carrying the Manchester United football team along with supporters and journalists crashed in thick snow at Munich Airport. 23 people lost their lives including eight Manchester United Footballers. The tragedy happened when the team was making its way back from a European Cup game.

Aircraft and crew

In early 1958, the Manchester United team also knew ‘Busby Babes’ eliminated the Red Star Belgrade of Yugoslavia in the semi-finals and they were returning to Manchester along with other passengers including supporters and journalists. They boarded on British European Airways plane Flight 609. The aircraft was a six-year-old Airspeed Ambassador 2, built-in 1952. The pilot, Captain James Thain, was a former RAF flight lieutenant. They flew from Belgrade airport to fly back to Manchester.

Plane Crash

At around 1.15 pm the plan landed in Munich for refueling. After the aircraft had been refueled the crew attempted to take the aircraft but they failed a second attempt was made three minutes later but it also failed.  The passengers alighted from the plane, but they were called back after 15 minutes because the pilot Thain was anxious to stay on schedule and he made the third attempt. A few of the players were not confident fliers, particularly Liam Whelan, who said, “This may be death, but I’m ready”.

the snow had caused the runway to be carpeted in a thick blanket of slush, and the plan did not reach high enough speed to take off. As a result, the aircraft skidded at the end of the runway, crashing through a fence surrounding the airport and into a nearby house. The plane and the house caught fire. Twenty passengers including seven Manchester United players died immediate tragedy, three died later in the hospital. Duncan Edwards died 15 days later in the hospital. The pilot James Thain survived but co-pilot Captain Kenneth Rayment died from his injuries 28 days later.

Investigation

After the crash, an investigation committee was formed to investigate the incident and they initially blamed the pilot, Thain, and German airport authorities. However, the pilot was cleared a decade later when subsequent investigations revealed that the crash was caused by the slush on the runway which slowed down the aircraft.

Here below are some historical photos from the crash site, players, and the aftermath.

#1 European Cup Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Red Star Belgrade 3 v Manchester United 3, February 1958

European Cup Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Red Star Belgrade 3 v Manchester United 3, February 1958

Manchester United's Bobby Charlton scores their 3rd goal, On the return air flight home many of Manchester United's team and officials were tragically killed in the Munich air crash

#2 The wreckage of the plane after the crash at Munich. 6 Feb 1958.

#3 Rescue workers in a snowstorm at the wreckage of the B.E.A. Elizabethan airliner G-ALZU “Lord Burghley” after the crash. 6 February 1958.

#4 The interior of the plane that was crashed carrying Manchester United players and Journalists.

#5 Rescue workers near the crash site at Munich Airport. 6 February 1958.

#6 The snow covered fuselage, part of the wreckage of the B,E,A, Elizabethan airliner G-ALZU “Lord Burghley” after the crash at Munich. 6 February 1958.

#7 Part of the wreckage of the plane that was crashed at Munich airport.

#8 The wreckage o plane on the slushy runway following the Munich Air Disaster.

#9 Manchester United footballers Dennis Viollet (left) and Albert Scanton share a basket of fruit in their ward at Isar Hospital Munich, 13th Feb 1958.

#10 Sir Matt Busby (1909 – 1994), football manager of Manchester United, lying in hospital in an oxygen tent after the Munich air crash, 13th Feb 1958.

#11 Manchester United survivor Ray Wood in hospital with his teammate Bobby Charlton (left) following the Munich Air Disaster.

#12 Manchester United survivor Ray Wood holds a tankard of beer following the Munich Air Disaster.

#13 An orderly shaves Manchester United survivor Ray Wood following the Munich Air Disaster. Feb 1958.

#14 A ward sister serves mugs of soup to Manchester United survivors Kenny Morgans (left) and Bobby Charlton following the Munich Air Disaster

#15 Survivor Peter Howard, Daily Mail photographer, on the telephone following the Munich Air Disaster.

#16 Survivors of the Munich air disaster leave Munich for London, 8th February 1958.

Survivors of the Munich air disaster leave Munich for London, 8th February 1958.

At the top left is Captain James Thain, the pilot on the ill-fated flight, in the light jacket is wireless operator George W. Rogers and in the foreground are stewardesses Rosemary Bellis and Margaret Cheverton.

#17 Manchester United’s Dennis Viollet and captain Bill Foulkes talk in a Munich hospital.

#18 The B.E.A. aircraft carrying the coffins of the victims of the crash at Munich. 11th February 1958

#19 A crane removing the wreckage of the BEA Elizabethan airliner G-ALZU ‘Lord Burghley’ from Reim airport, Munich. 16th February 1958

#20 The front page of the Daily Sketch reporting the Munich air crash. 7th February 1958.

#21 Captain Ken Rayment lies injured in hospital in Munich. 8th February 1958

Captain Ken Rayment lies injured in hospital in Munich. 8th February 1958

Captain Ken Rayment lies injured in hospital in Munich, Captain Rayment was co-pilot of the plane.

#22 Manchester United’s goalkeeper Ray Wood in the Isar hospital in Munich. February 1958.

#23 Manchester United Munich air crash survivor Dennis Viollet with his wife Barbara and children.

#25 Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton is interviewed at the Isar hospital in Munich. February 1958.

#26 Manchester United football manager Sir Matt Busby lying in an oxygen tent in Munich Hospital. 8th February 1958

#27 The funeral of Manchester United and England centre forward Tommy Taylor at Barnsley, Yorkshire. 13th February 1958

#28 Manchester United’s Kenny Morgans recovering in hospital after being injured in the Munich Air Disaster. February 1958

#29 The wreckage of the plane after the crash at Munich. 15th February 1958

Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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