Billerica, Massachusetts – February 16, 1980
At 2:10 p.m., on February 16, 1980, a Bristol Britannia 253-F, four-engine turbo-prop cargo plane (Registration # G-BRAC) with eight people aboard left Logan International Airport in Boston bound for Shannon Airport in Ireland. The plane was carrying computer equipment, and its tanks were topped off with 6,650 pounds of fuel. (Some news accounts indicate there was 10,000 pounds of fuel, but the UK crash report states 6,650.)
It was foggy and snowing at the time the plane left Logan, with a 400 foot overcast, and 1/2 mile visibility. Icing conditions as well as air turbulence had been reported by other pilots.
Shortly after becoming airborne the pilot reported he was having trouble climbing. As the flight was passing over the town of Billerica, Massachusetts, a community just northwest of Boston, it suddenly lost altitude and crashed in a thickly wooded area behind a business on Route 3A. The plane cut a huge swath through the trees and exploded.
Seven of those aboard were killed. The sole survivor, Richard Creer, 59, of Dorset, England, was found by first responders, and transported in critical condition to St. John’s Hospital in Lowell, Massachusetts. (Today known as Saints Memorial Medical Center.) He eventually recovered from his injuries.
The cause of the crash was attributed to ice and snow buildup on the wings.
The dead, all British citizens, were identified as:
(Pilot) Capt. William Coburn, of Lechlade-on-Thames.
(1st Officer) Jack Jones, of Malmesbury, Wilts.
(Navigator) Anthony Beckett, of Hove, Sussex.
(Load Master) David White, of Milton Keynes, Bucks.
(Ground Engineer) William Brady, of Luton Beds.
(Load Agent) Lionel Heady, of Charlwood, Surrey.
(Passenger) Mrs. Sharon Parker, of Lyneham, Wilts.
Mr. Creer, the sole survivor, was the Flight Engineer.
The aircraft was owned by Redcoat Air Cargo Ltd. which ceased operations in 1982.
UK Government- Air Accident Investigation Branch – Report # 3/1981
Ocala Star-Banner, “Six Die In Plane Crash At Boston”, February 17, 1980
Glasgo Herald, “Crash Plane Took Off In Snow Storm”, February 18, 1980
Boston Globe, “30 Years Later, Fatal Plane Crash Still A Vivid Memory”, February 11, 2010.
Lowell Sun, “Remembering The Billerica Plane Crash of 1980”, February 16, 2010
Aviation Safety Network
Wikipedia- Redcoat Air Cargo Ltd.