Today in 1952, a DH.110 crashed at the Farnborough Air Show killing thirty-one people, including the pilot, John Derry and onboard flight test observer, Anthony Richards. The DH.110, a prototype, was being demonstrated at the Farnborough Air Show when during a manoeuvre, the aircraft broke up. The cause was a faulty wing leading edge design. The DH.110 was grounded and strict safety procedures were subsequently enacted.
The coroner’s jury recorded the deaths of Derry and Richards as ‘died accidentally in the normal course of their duty’ and of the spectators killed, the jury recorded that ‘the deaths were accidental’ adding that ‘no blame is attached to Mr. John Derry’.
The accident report of 8 April 1953 stated the manoeuvring had caused an airframe instability because of a faulty D-nose leading edge arrangement (which had successfully been used in the lighter subsonic de Havilland Vampire). The redesigned DH.110 resumed flights in June 1953 and was eventually developed into the de Havilland Sea Vixen naval fighter but of the 145 constructed there was a very high structural accident rate of 55 aircraft and deaths of over 50 airmen.
No member of the public has been killed at a British air show since.