Channel Airways flew in weather conditions that no other airlines would entertain. They were well known for this and it was documented by the enquiry.
However research indicates that at times Channel planes approached Portsmouth at such a low altitude because of poor visibility that they actually hit boats in the harbour and there were a number of compensation claims from yacht owners claiming that passenger aircraft had damaged masts on their approach. This seems unbelievable but I have also heard a story that at times pilots had found it necessary to pull up sharply to avoid fences on farmland while on 'finals'. If even part of these claims are true, and they may not be although they come from several reliable sources, this might show a near suicidal attitude to passenger flying or horrendous pressure on crews to fly in near impossible conditions. Or it might be that in the post wartime spirit, some pilots were just 'pressing on regardless' as the RAF used to say. Many senior flight crew were ex RAF Bomber Command and used to taking risks that would be unthinkable in today's operations.
One issue that was not often mentioned, perhaps it was not well known, was that many
of the Channel Airways flight crews had been sacked from previous airlines or had
been forced to resign for a variety of reasons that may have had no bearing on their
flying. This was no reflection on their airmanship -
However there are stories about highly colourful characters, and it appears that Channel hired flight crews who might find it difficult to get aviation employment elsewhere. At a time when hiring and firing was easy, these highly qualified people found they were just cogs in a wheel and with a surplus of wartime pilots they were anxious to hang on to their positions. It also enabled Channel to hire highly experienced crews who sometimes for no fault of their own, were unemployed. This enabled much lower wages to be paid which was a major benefit for a low cost airline, and they did provide a lifeline for many people who would have had no future in aviation without a job with Channel Airways.
Apart from earning a living, flying is in the blood and for many, flying was their
life. Thus they might have been easy prey for a management seeking to run a low
cost airline and the pressure that can be applied in these circumstances is understandably
Channel was a happy operation and much loved by its employees; it has been described as a huge family. It seems to have been a caring organisation where everyone mucked in to keep the show on the road, and it had an excellent safety record, but there also seems to have been an unwritten rule amongst some smaller privately operated airlines that if someone didn't do as ordered, and many of the management had been senior officers in the RAF and had the same attitude to their employees as they did to their junior officers, their flying days would be over.
You have to wonder what happened in the crew room at Jersey airport. There was that heated discussion and ZB's crew left the office ‘incandescent’ according to a witness. Perhaps, just perhaps, in the circumstances that day, operating a relief flight, with delayed passengers, bad weather and the airline running up losses, they felt their jobs were on the line if they didn't try to reach Portsmouth.
The Stewardess told passengers that the pilot would ‘do his best’ to get them home, yet not long before, after several attempts he had given up on the grounds of safety. It hardly seems the action of a ‘meticulous’ pilot that a short time later he would attempt the same thing, but this time with a plane full of passengers.
We can never know, but something , or perhaps someone, made him decide to try again.
|Radio Hams Raise the Alarm|
|An Alternative Theory|
|Pressure On Crews|