Munich air disaster

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The Munich air disaster happened on February 6, 1958, when British European Flight 609, a British European Airways "Elizabethan" class Airspeed Ambassador charter aircraft (G-ALZU 'Lord Burghley'), carrying players and backroom staff of Manchester United F.C., plus a number of journalists and supporters, crashed in a blizzard on its third attempt to take off from Munich-Riem airport.

Twenty-three of the forty-three passengers on board the aircraft lost their lives in the disaster.



Although originally blamed on pilot error, the crash was subsequently found to have been caused by the build-up of slush towards the ends of the runway, causing a deceleration of the aircraft and preventing safe-flying-speed from being attained. Previous aircraft types fitted with tail-wheel undercarriages had not been greatly affected by slush, (due to the geometry of these undercarriages in relation to the aircraft's centre-of-gravity) but newer types incorporating nosewheel landing-gear (such as the Ambassador) with the mainwheels behind the centre-of-gravity were found to be vulnerable. The accident resulted in the instigation of operating limits for the amount of slush build-up permitted on runways.


United were returning from Belgrade where they had just beaten Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup and had stopped off at Munich for re-fuelling. The team that was decimated by the crash is known as the first generation of the Busby Babes. These were the youth-based teams of manager Matt Busby.

The crash resulted in mass grief and sorrow throughtout the footballing world and paticularly in the United Kingdom. The slow recovery of Matt Busby, the legendary Manchester United manager was watched as a threadbare United team completed the 1958-1959 season. Eventually, Busby rebuilt a second generation of Busby Babes, including George Best, who went on to win the European Cup, beating Benfica.

The Crash in British Culture


  • The English folk band The Spinners released a song about the disaster, titled The Flowers of Manchester, in 1962.
  • The Mancunian singer Morrissey released a song called Munich Air Disaster 1958 (as a b-side to Irish Blood, English Heart) in 2004, and performed it live several times that year. It later appeared on his live album Live at Earls Court in 2005.

--Film-- Barry Navidi is currently working on a script for a Hollywood film about the Munich air crash. The Manchester Evening News (April 22, 2005) reported that the survivors had not been consulted and were concerned about how accurate the film would be. Bill Foulkes was quoted as saying "If the film was made properly and was respectful to those who perished, it could be a tribute to the Busby Babes which could be seen for generations to come. And those great players who died that day deserve to be remembered. But what worries me is that none of the survivors have been contacted by the film-makers. And without that first-hand knowledge, I don't believe it is possible to make a film like this with any degree of accuracy." Harry Gregg said "I am sure all of us who were lucky enough to survive the crash have the right to know how we are going to be depicted in the film. Even more important is what the film might say about our team-mates whio died that day. They left behind wives and children who are still alive and people over in Hollywood need to take their feelings into consideration before making a film like this." John Doherty, a United player who had not travelled to Belgrade because of injury, was less restrained: "I think it's a terrible idea. It couldn't possibly be a tribute to the Busby Babes, because whoever is making the film doesn't know the people involved. Unless you were there, how could you know what conversations took place? ... As far as I'm concerned, the whole thing stinks. The only reason anyone would want to make a film like this is to make money."


Manchester United players

Other victims


Manchester United players

Still living survivors:

Other survivors

Still living survivors:

See also

External links



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