Gloster Meteor RA487, Hagg Side, Peak District.

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Gloster Meteor RA487, Hagg Side, Peak District

Edit 04 February 2014; please see comment below by the pilot of this aircraft.

Sergeant Joseph Harrington, pilot of Meteor RA487, had got into difficulties, baled out, deployed his parachute and landed safely in a ploughed field near Castleton, 8th December 1950. This site is only a mile to the South East of where Boulton-Paul Defiant N1766 crashed after its crew had baled out too, in similar circumstances, nearly 10 years earlier.

While on a night navigation exercise, Sgt Harrington found himself above low cloud while aware of the hills somewhere beneath him. The Meteor’s radio had packed in, leaving him unable to get a fix by any means other than a visual. In fact, according to Cunningham, Sgt Harrington did see a road and considered a forced landing, as his fuel was almost depleted, but a looming chimney forced him back up and into the cloud.

Cunningham says Sgt Harrington did “what so many others lost in the region had signally failed to do: deciding that enough was enough…” he took his Meteor up to 5,000 feet and “…made the balanced decision to leave the aircraft to its own devices.”

The abandoned Meteor crashed into woods above Ladybower. These fragments are all that remain.

Joseph Harrington went on to fly airliners for Swissair.

Sgt Harrington’s unit was 66 Squadron based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York. This unit was to be less fortunate in the coming years, losing four men and four aircraft in the Peak District; two Gloster Meteors in 1951 on Black Hill and then two Sabres on Kinder Scout in 1954.

For more;

Gloster Meteors on Black Hill

North American Sabres on Kinder Scout

Details from Peakland Air Crashes – The North, by Pat Cunningham (2006)

24 comments on “Gloster Meteor RA487, Hagg Side, Peak District.
  1. Tech Owl says:

    It looks quite densely wooded so perhaps quite a fire – wonderful story of how it all happened. And the decision to bale

  2. Ian D B says:

    There was a fire, apparently nearly set the whole wood alight. There’s an impressive scar on the ground where the jet came down, a pleasant little glade where there were trees. I didn’t hang around tho – it was a bad day for midges!

  3. Deputy Don says:

    Just a thought – presumably Sgt Harrington would have decided that the plane, left to its own devices, was unlikely to crash into a densely-populated urban area? I hasten to add, not a decision I’d want to be faced with!

  4. pasujoba says:

    This is a great story and a great shot too ,it looks to be a very attractive wood .
    Very glad that last time I flew Swissair I did not have to bail out .

  5. Ian D B says:

    He can’t have known where the aircraft would come down. Knowing the area will have had some bearing on his decision, but a couple of minutes at speed in most directions over the Peak District would have put him over towns and cities. Not a decision I’d like to make either!

  6. andyholmfirth says:

    One in the woods ! Is that a first for you Ian ?

  7. Ian D B says:

    Yeah, suppose it is. Not many so low down the hillside.

  8. Tony-H says:

    Fascinating story … and the pilot certainly made the right decision, but I’m not so sure I’d like him to fly me !

  9. Pleasureprinciple2012 says:

    Wreckage site in amongst woodland at low level? It’s not like you, fancied a day on the lower slopes rather than your normal high altitude stuff eh!!
    Gloster Meteor was the first airfix "jet" that I ever made, it ended up looking like this one as well.

  10. Ian D B says:

    "it ended up looking like this one as well"
    very good.

  11. Ang Wickham says:

    Fantastic! Another one who made the right decision. Haven’t seen any woods shots before, this was a new one and surprise find 🙂

  12. joe harrington says:

    I was the pilot of RA487 and got jammed against the cockpit wall at the first attempt. I made a better job of the trimming of the aircraft and after a certain whoosh was clear of the aircraft. The ground was conmpletely covered by cloud and I was not certain whether I was over land or sea , on the way down I heard a bang when the aircraft hit the ground luckily away from built up areas. It was a very dark winters night which meant that I could not see the ground so prepared for landing. When I touched down my feet went backwards and I fell face down into a muddy field! Looking to the left I saw a house, knocked on the door and said that I had just baled out. The lady said “please come in and have a cup of tea” The nearest village was called Hope!

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Joe,

      How lovely to hear from you! It is not often the pilot of one of these aircraft gets to comment on these pages (one other I recall is Harry Bate Wright who survived when his Chipmunk came down about 13 miles from where you did 7 months later).

      Incredible story, must’ve been a scary descent. Thank you so much for adding your recollections of the event. Nice detail to add about the lady at the house who sounded unfazed by your arrival!

      Some of the remains in the above photo have been taken now. These two photos are from the last time we visited which was in April 2013.



  13. Paul says:

    Its tremendous to have Joe Harrington add his personal experience of the event to your blog Ian .
    Thanks for showing interest in it Joe . It was good for us to visit a site that is not a tragedy for someone and even better to hear from the man involved who clearly as gone on to lead a full life .
    brilliant !

    • Ian D B says:

      My thoughts too Paul.

      Also a good opportunity to use that picture of you at the crash site!

      Just re-reading that part of Pat Cunningham’s book, mentions Joe having flown Lancasters and Lincolns late in the war. He has nothing but praise and adds it was his first introduction to air crash sites in the area; Pat was flying for British Midland (while Joe Harrington was with Swissair) and a member of his cabin crew, Anne Harrington told him “My father is in a Peak District air crash book” before adding that he was “a captain with a real airline!”

  14. Dawn Harrington says:

    Hello All,

    Possibly the daughter in question may have been Dawn Harrington. It’s great to read all of your comments

  15. Keith Glendinning says:

    Hi all,
    I am Joe Harrington’s nephew by his sister Tessie and I remember being told of “Uncle Joe’s” bale out. He became a member of the Caterpillar Club, an award given by the parachute manufacturer. When my brother Barrie and I lived in Meryl Gardens in Hartlepool in the 1950’s, Joe would fly over the house in the Meteor and “waggle” his wings.
    Last year (2014) was his 90th birthday and my wife and I and my brother Barrie attended a great family get together at his home.

  16. Myra West says:

    Hi All
    I am Joe Harrington’s niece. My husband, three brothers and I by his sister Dorothy (RIP Oct 2016)visited him on Sunday 4th June and had a wonderful afternoon hearing of his war escapades and particularly this one about the crash. He is now 93 and still full of great stories that we could have listened to all evening.

  17. Keith Glendinning says:

    Sadly today I attended the funeral of my uncle, Joseph Harrington. Remarkably, along with his two elder sisters, he lived to the grand age of 95. One of the youngest of 11 children, he had a life of self made achievements, from a Lancaster bomber pilot, to a Meteor fighter pilot after WW2 until his final senior flying role as a “Check Pilot” with Swissair.
    You grabbed the bull by the horns Joe and the whole family are extremely proud of you.
    RIP Uncle Joe.
    Keith Glendinning.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Keith,

      I am sorry to hear of the death of Joseph Harrington. He was one of the few people featured in these pages to have been in touch with me (back in 2014) the majority of course did not survive the crash. 95 a great age, but for those who love him it will always be too soon.

      Thank you for letting us know.


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