Munich air disaster

Munich, Germany

Munich air disaster

The Munich air disaster occurred on 6 February 1958 when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany. The aircraft was carrying the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the "Busby Babes", along with supporters and journalists. There were 44 people on board, 20 of whom died at the scene. The injured, some unconscious, were taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich where three more died, resulting in 23 fatalities with 21 survivors.

The team was returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, having eliminated Red Star Belgrade to advance to the semi-finals of the competition. The flight stopped to refuel in Munich because a non-stop flight from Belgrade to Manchester was beyond the range of the "Elizabethan"-class Airspeed Ambassador. After refuelling, pilots James Thain and Kenneth Rayment twice abandoned take-off because of boost surging in the left engine. Fearing they would fall too far behind schedule, Captain Thain rejected an overnight stay in Munich in favour of a third take-off attempt. By that time, snow was falling, causing a layer of slush to form at the end of the runway. After hitting the slush, the aircraft ploughed through a fence beyond the end of the runway and the left wing was torn off when it struck a house. Fearing the aircraft might explode, Thain began evacuating passengers while Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg helped pull survivors from the wreckage.



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