1946 Railway Air Services Dakota crash

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The 1946 Railway Air Services Dakota crash was the crash of a Douglas Dakota 3 of the British airline Railway Air Services 1 km north-east of Northolt Airport, London, United Kingdom on 19 December 1946.[1]

1946 Railway Air Services Dakota crash
Douglas Dakota Mk..., Channel Airways AN0223119.jpg
A Dakota of Channel Airways, similar to the accident aircraft
Date19 December 1946 (1946-12-19)
SummaryFailure to climb due to snow and ice contamination of the wings
Site1 km North-East of Northolt Aerodrome, London, United Kingdom
51°33′34.76″N 0°23′50.78″W / 51.5596556°N 0.3974389°W / 51.5596556; -0.3974389Coordinates: 51°33′34.76″N 0°23′50.78″W / 51.5596556°N 0.3974389°W / 51.5596556; -0.3974389
Aircraft typeDouglas Dakota 3
OperatorRailway Air Services
Flight originNortholt Airport, London, United Kingdom
DestinationRenfrew Airport, Glasgow, United Kingdom


The Dakota involved made its first flight in 1944 as Douglas C-47A 42-92633 military transport of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and had Douglas serial number 12455, it was transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF) as KG420. KG420 was registered to Railway Air Services as a Dakota 3 in March 1946 with the British registration G-AGZA, powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp engines.[2]


The Railway Air Services Dakota was ready to depart from Northolt Aerodrome, London, United Kingdom on a scheduled service to Glasgow Airport on behalf of Scottish Airways and had a total of four crew and one passenger on board. The aircraft had been de-iced since it was a cold, snowy evening which had delayed the departure. While the Dakota was waiting the temperature dropped and snow began falling which froze on the wings. The aircraft was finally ready for departure and taxied into position for take-off. The snow storm had closed the airport to incoming traffic and outbound traffic was subject to long delays. The aircraft had been waiting for more than an hour for clearance. When the flight received clearance, the pilot ran the engines up to 45.5 inches of manifold pressure and 2,500 RPM.[2][3]

When the pilot accelerated down the runway he noticed that when the aircraft lifted off, it could not gain any height. The ice on the wings disturbed the air flow, which resulted in the aircraft not gaining any height. It was however too late to abort take-off so the crew was forced to try to get the aircraft to climb.[citation needed] The aircraft flew only a few metres high straight down Angus Drive from the end of the runway until the left wing contacted some rooftops and the aircraft slewed through 90 degrees and came to rest on the roofs of two houses at 44 & 46 Angus Drive in the London suburb of South Ruislip.[4]

G-AGZA was severely damaged and radio officer Murdoch was fortunate that he wasn't sitting in his seat as some metalwork was pushed through the seat and it would probably have killed him had he been sitting there.[citation needed] Irene Zigmund and her 4-month old-son David were in the neighbouring house (44 Angus Drive) house at the time, but the aircraft came to rest on the roof without even waking the child who was asleep in his cot upstairs.[4] In fact no one was injured in the incident, the crew and passenger all descended into the house's loft, down the loft ladder onto the landing and then down stairs out the front door.[4] The aircraft was a total loss and the house was damaged, but not greatly.[citation needed]


It was quickly determined that the cause of the crash was the snow which had frozen to the aircraft's wings while G-AGZA was waiting to take-off, resulting in the aircraft not gaining any height and making an emergency landing on the roof of 46 Angus Drive.[citation needed] The house was subsequently nicknamed "Dakota Rest".[4] The pilot was also assigned a cause factor for failing to abort take-off after noticing it had been snowing and his aircraft being covered in snow.[citation needed] The crash landing on the houses earned the captain the nickname "Rooftop Johnson".[5]


  1. ^ "The Rooftop Dakota". bbc.co.uk. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "Accident description". aviation-safety.net. 1996. Retrieved 5 February 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Piercey 1981, pp. 316–317.
  4. ^ a b c d Piercy 1981, p. 316.
  5. ^ Piercy 1981, p. 318.
  • Piercey, Stephen (June 1981). "Dakota's Rest". Aeroplane Monthly. Vol. 9 no. 6. pp. 316–318.