Home Author's Note Story of the Last Flight The Crash Site Alternative Theories Tribute to Ted Price Reflections Dedication of the Memorial 50th Rededication & Conclusion Roll of Honour External Links Site Sponsors & Special Thanks

Portsmouth Airport

Most of Channel's problems seem in hindsight to have revolved around this 270 acre grass airfield, situated just 12 feet above sea level and built on marshland next to the shoreline of Portsea Island.  Although it had been well used before the war, it was never fully developed by the Council who owned the site and although at the forefront of South Coast aviation, it was never regarded by the authorities as much more than a large flying field with a passenger terminal.  As we shall see, this was to be a fundamental aspect of the accident.  Portsmouth airport was always the poor relation and when in 1967 two Channel Airways HS.748 aircraft slid off the grass following a heavy rain shower, the airport began to decline, finally closing in 1973 when it was redeveloped for housing.  

Preparing for take off - Zulu Delta running up engines

However in 1962, Portsmouth was Channel's newest operating base and they were the first operator since the end of the war to bring passengers there direct from Europe.  The Portsmouth - Channel Islands service was also the fastest direct link from the mainland and to cater for the traffic, Channel Airways built their own terminal building adjacent to the Southsea - Portsmouth dual carriageway to provide easy road access.  The terminal included a restaurant, cocktail bar  and Customs Hall and was a major investment for the airline.  

It is almost beyond comprehension that the local Council and the Air Ministry did not respond in kind.  Given the amount of trade being brought to the city by Channel Airways, which had turned a backwater flying field into a thriving airport with daily international connections, there was almost no improvement in facilities, and incredibly no air traffic control system or communications.  Despite all the traffic that was using the facility by 1962, there was no approach radar, the nearest being at Thorney Island and operated by the RAF (but not as we shall see at the weekends ),no modern landing aids and the standard approach and landing was flown by ‘turning left at the Phillips factory neon sign’.

However one of the key factors of this accident was that there was no method of communicating with aircraft other than by use of a very pistol and coloured flares technology from the First World War. Hence the only way for a crew to know if the runway visibility was sufficient or even if the runway was clear was to try a landing approach - with the risk of flying into buildings, the ground or collisions with other aircraft.  Even in 1962 this is difficult to comprehend.  All for the sake of the outlay on a radio set.