During exercise "Mallet Blow" Panavia Tornado IDS 44+45 from Jagdbombergeschwader (fighter bomber wing) 32 crashed in trees behind Stannersburn village in Northumberland on the morning of 24/10/1985. These pictures show the crash site, the memorial and some wreckage found in the trees. Hptm Hans Joachim Schimpf and Hptm Holger Zacharias were killed in the accident.
First a bit of history surrounding the accident, our house is located between Otterburn and Spadeadam ranges, and during the Mallet Blow exercises (run 4 times per year) around 60 planes from various NATO countries would fly 170 sorties per day dropping bombs on the ranges and dogfighting overhead which was an amazing spectacle to watch. The Royal Air Force organised the Mallet Blow exercise to allow aircrew to practise attacks against ground targets, and to provide realistic training for attacking aircrew, defending fighter squadrons, communications and jamming personnel, and surface-to-air missile units.
On the morning of the 24th I heard the rumble of an approaching jet, it was nothing unusual as the RAF generally fly through our valley as low as 70m, but the noise suddenly turned into a massive booming sound and the house shook like an earthquake. I looked up the hill to see the remains of the aircraft burst from the forest edge in a fireball bouncing through fields and setting the hillside alight. I made a quick 999 call before heading up the hill with my father to assist in whatever way possible.
We were the first to arrive at the crash site, one huge lump of metal (the engines) stood out from the rest Ė it was burning fiercely and there were lots of small fires over the hillside, there was also smoke coming from the treeline. Wreckage was spread everywhere and part of the aircraft had damaged the road. It looked like no-one had survived so my father headed back to block the road and to divert the emergency services to the scene while I headed into the forest with some other residents from the village to search for survivors, unfortunately what was found in the trees concluded that no one had survived.
The weather that morning was misty and it looked like the pilot had misjudged the height of the hill and the trees. At the initial impact site the Tornado had cut a swathe through the treetops for hundreds of metres before climbing out slightly, re-entering the trees and disintegrating spreading wreckage over a 1.4km long area.
Over the next few months the RAF Regiment guarded the area while the crew and the wreckage were removed from the site and by the New Year it was all quiet and back to normal. As soon as the winter snow melted, my brother and I headed up to the site to have a look around and were amazed to find large amounts of wreckage spread through the forest, it turns out that the winter storms and snow had flushed out anything that was hidden away in the treetops. We spent several weekends collecting parts together, but one particular find stood out from the rest. Under a tree we found a bag containing hundreds of classified documents containing everything from mission parameters, radio frequencies and weapon manuals. A quick call to the local MOD base resulted in a house call within the hour, and some very thankful police. We explained that we had found tons more wreckage in the forest and the next day we were treated to a ride in an RAF Rescue Seaking over the site to help the RAF locate and recover it.
As the months went by the sequence was repeated, every storm would shake more wreckage down, then we would spend our weekends recovering it followed by a call to the MOD to have them take it away. Finally we were told the investigation was closed and that they were no longer interested in collecting any more parts, after this we left what we found in the forest.
Years later Jim Corbett of ACIA Home Page - Air Crash Investigation & Archaeology got in touch for information for his website and book. This along with the ZD809 THREAD rekindled my interest in the crash so I have gathered together the last remaining fragments from the site and photographed them before burying them back in the forest. Unfortunately Tornado 44+45 was very camera shy and I have not been able to locate a photo.
Tornado from the same JGB32 similair to the crashed 44+45.
Newspaper article from 1986, the last paragraph relates to crashed Tornado 44+45
Hptm Holger Zacharias
Memorial to the two crew of Tornado 44+45 at the Pheasant Inn, Stannersburn, crash site in the background.
Crater where the engines came to rest, looking back towards the main impact site.
Forest where the main wreckage was spread, trees have been felled and replanted since the crash however wreckage can still be found.
27mm Cannon mount and what it should look like.
11 Foot long part of the wiring loom.
Aviation fuel still visible where it crashed.
more to follow......