13.12.1971 Central Flying School Gnat T1 XR567 Fl/Lt. David C. Longden AFC
Date: 13th December 1971 (Monday)
Unit: No. CFS (Central Flying School)
Type: Folland Gnat T1
Code: No.4 (FL557)
Base: RAF Kemble, Little Rissington, Gloucestershire
Location: RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire
Pilot: Fl/Lt. David Clem Longden AFC. 608732 RAF Age 28. Killed
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Richard Michael Storr RAF Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Fl/Lt. David Clem Longden AFC, an instructor at the Central Flying School at RAF Kemble at the time of the accident. Served Bahrain, Chivenor, Valley and Kemble/Rissington and had flown, Hunters, Provost and the Gnat.
XR567 was being flown as No. 4 in a formation of Gnats whose crews were on staff continuation training. Three of the aircraft made passes across the airfield before entering a turn to starboard to regain formation. XR567 was rolled twice rapidly, immediately after the last roll the aircraft pitched and yawed without changing its flight path, the fin, rudder and outer portions of the mainframe broke off the aircraft resulting in the Gnat tumbling and crashed into the airfield - bursting into flames and disintegrating.
The rear seated pilot, training to be a QFI, ejected sideways at 300 ft. but at an altitude insufficient for his parachute to deploy - both crew were killed.
Subsequent to the crash all Gnats were grounded for inspection with another Gnat, XR981 found to be also suffering from the same fatigue. XR981 (FL578 - shown below) crashed on the 3rd March 1978 in an unconnected incident. The crew, pilot, Fl/Lt. Stephen Edward Noble and his navigator, W/Cdr. Dennis George Hazell AFC were both killed.
Update November 2017:
Mr. John Nunn contacted us providing further details and also this touching story about the pilot:
"He was not a relative, just a really nice officer. The reason it sticks in my mind is, RAF Little Rissington was my first posting after training, arriving there late October 1971. I was detached to RAF Kemble to work on 4 Squadron and Red Arrows Gnats. Fl/Lt. Longdon was the only QFI who would regularly visit the flight line to have a cuppa and a chat with the lads on first line. So, apart from being a good bloke, he was also my first RAF fatality. As it happens, I have ended up at Bourton On The Water, just down the hill from RAF Little Rissington (now closed) and while walking the dogs I often go past the church and pop in to say hello. Hope that helps".
Fl/Lt. David Clem Longden AFC. St. Peters Church, Lower Rissington. Cloucestershire. Grave inscription reads: "A dear Son and brother who sunward climbed on silver wings and touched the face of god".
Fl/Lt. Richard Michael Storr. St. Peters Church, Lower Rissington. Cloucestershire. Grave inscription reads: "If god be for us who can be against us?
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Richard Longden for information and photographs. Richard is the son of Fl/Lt. Clement Longden a former WW2 bomber Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and David’s brother.