On this day in history : 3rd July 1970 – A charter flight from Manchester carrying 105 holiday-makers and 7 crew goes missing over Northern Spain….

The Comet jet, DAN-AIR Flight 1903, chartered by British tour operator Clarksons Holidays, had left Manchester just after 4pm bound for Barcelona; most of the passengers onboard were from the Greater Manchester area…. On reaching Parisian airspace a change of route had been issued due to air traffic control delays….

The aircraft which crashed, seen in 1964 when it was operated by B.O.A.C. – Image credit : Ralf Manteufel GFDL 1.2

The flight had been due to land at Barcelona at 7pm local time; the last radio contact air traffic controllers had with the plane was around this time, when it was supposedly 12 miles northwest of Barcelona at 6,000ft…. The weather was clear, there had been nothing to indicate there were any problems….the aircraft simply disappeared….

An all-night search took place and eventually the wreckage was found the following day…. The plane had crashed onto the wooded slopes of Serralada del Montseny, in the Montseny Mountains of Catalonia, Northern Spain….the highest peaks of which are over 5,600ft…. All lives had been lost, the impact explosion would have killed instantly….

Les Agudes, one of the highest peaks of the Montseny mountain range – Image credit : Pere Lopez CC BY-SA 3.0

There was some confusion as to the location of the wreckage, as it was 32 miles north of where it should have been at the time…. It appears the Dan Air crew had mistakenly reported flying over a recognised landmark….at the same time another plane was coincidently flying over the area that the crew thought they had reached…. Air traffic control assumed the echo of the second aircraft was that of the Dan Air plane….so did not pick up on the navigational error…. The Spanish Air Ministry report, which was published in November 1970, concluded a mutual misunderstanding as the aircraft was off-course due to navigation errors by the crew….

The dead were buried in a mass grave in the village of Arbucias….Sadly no relatives were able to attend the funeral as Spanish law insists remains have to be buried within 48 hours for public health reasons…. At the same time as the funeral memorial services were held across Manchester….


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