At least 27 people were killed and 63 injured on this day in September 1952 after a jet fighter disintegrated and fell into the crowd at the Farnborough Air Show in Hampshire.
The De Havilland 110 fighter had just broken the sound barrier when it broke up over the spectators, showering them with debris. Among the dead were the pilot, John Derry, and the flight test observer Anthony Richards.
Derry was the first British pilot to exceed the speed of sound on September 6, 1948, in a DH 108 research aircraft.
The two airmen had completed one fly-past in which they amazed 130,000 spectators by breaking the sound barrier to produce a sonic boom. But during the second low-level fly-past, when the plane was travelling at about 500 miles an hour (804kph) over the aerodrome, its nose lifted and the whole plane disintegrated.
The two engines broke loose and one plunged into a dense crowd watching on a hillside. The other engine fell on open ground but other members of the public were injured by parts of the cockpit. Fire engines and ambulances arrived within minutes and, after a short break, the air display continued.
Squadron Leader Neville Duke, a close friend of Derry, even flew a Hawker Hunter jet up to a height of 40,000ft (12km) and demonstrated a double sonic boom.
The directors of the De Havilland aircraft company expressed their “profound sorrow” at the tragedy. In a statement, they said:
“Every possible step will, of course, be taken to trace the course of the accident.”