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26th of May 1993

The crew of a Cessna 550 Citation II was to operate a multi-sector day, Oxford (England) - Southampton (England) -Eindhoven (The Netherlands) - Southampton (England) - Biggin Hill (England). The aircraft had arrived at Oxford on the evening of the 25th of May and had been refuelled, the tanks were full. Because of the time schedule, it had been arranged with both the airport authorities in Oxford and Southampton that the aircraft would operate the flight outside normal airport operating hours. And that no Fire and Rescue Services would be available.

For the first flight of the day, the commander was the pilot flying (pf) and the co-pilot was the pilot monitoring.

The burned-out wreckage on the M27 Motorway (Source aaib.giv.uk © Unknown)

At 05.19 lt (local time) the aircraft took off from Oxford and flew under VMC at 2400 feet towards Southampton. Ad 05.25 lt, while ~30 miles from Southampton they contacted ATC and assured a surprise controller that their early arrival was pre-arranged. (normal opening time for the airport was 06.00 lt. They were informed by ATC that runway 02 was in use and received the latest weather information:

  • SURFACE WIND 040°/12 KT

  • THUNDERSTORMS

  • Clouds; 2 OKTAS OF STRATUS AT 800 FEET, 3 OKTAS OF CUMULONIMBUS AT 1,800 FEET

  • TEMPERATURE 12°C

  • QNH 1007 MB

  • QFE 1006 MB

  • VERY WET RUNWAY

ATC informed the crew as well there was no radar guidance available and advised the crew '"ENTIRELY AT YOUR DISCRETION YOU MAY ESTABLISH ON THE ILS LOCALISER FOR RUNWAY 20 FOR VISUAL BREAK-OFF TO LAND ON RUNWAY 02 ." The crew discussed this and called ATC that they were established on the ILS for runway 20. At 05.33 lt ATC cleared the crew for a visual approach to the runway to runway 02. At that time the commander decided to land on runway twenty and informed the copilot about his decision. (this was based on the visible bad weather at the beginning of runway 02, furthermore, he calculated a tailwind component of 10 knots for a landing on runway 20) After confirming the commander's intention the copilot informed ATCwho advised them; that they would land on Runway 20. The controller then advised them: "YOU'LL BE LANDING WITH A FIFTEEN KNOT, ONE FIVE KNOT, TAILWIND COMPONENT ON A VERY WET RUNWAY" This was acknowledged by the crew.

Ground track of the aircraft from leaving the runway to coming to a stop (source and © aaib.gov.uk)


The commander briefed the copilot about his intentions in case they were too fast and that he would call for the speedbrake to be selected when he wanted it. The aircraft touched down ~267 meters from the threshold, the speedbrake was select and the commander applied heavy braking, but no deceleration was noticed, The co-pilot called for a go-around, to which the commander replied "NO WE CAN'T", as he considered that would be too dangerous. In an attempt to increase the distance available the commander steered the aircraft to the right edge of the runway and back to the left. This caused the aircraft to skid sideways of the runway and eventually down an embankment 90 meters from the end of the runway on the M27 motorway. The aircraft came to a stop with its tail on the central barrier of the motorway after hitting two cars. The Airport Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS), although not officially operational at the time, had two vehicles positioned on the west side of the runway in anticipation of the aircraft's arrival. When it became clear that the aircraft would not stop ATC activated the crash alarm and the AFRS responded immediately, containing the fires that broke out. The occupants of the cars and the flight crew sustained minor injuries.


The Air Accident Investigation Branch was alerted and they investigated the accident, and in May 1994 they published their final report (Available by clicking here). The following causes were identified;

- The commander landed with a reported tailwind of 15 kt which was outside the aircraft's maximum tailwind limit of 10 kt specified in the Cessna 550 Flight Manual.

- The co-pilot did not warn the commander that he was landing with a reported tailwind component which was outside the aircraft limit.

- With a tailwind component of 10 kt, the landing distance available was less than the landing distance required.

Several contributing factors were listed in the report, as well as 3 safety recommendations.




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