1971 RAF Hercules crash

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1971 RAF Hercules crash
C-130 Hercules 1.jpg
A Hercules aircraft dropping paratroopers, similar to the aircraft which crashed
Date9 November 1971 (1971-11-09)
SummaryControlled flight into sea
Site17½ miles west-south-west of Pisa
Aircraft typeLockheed Hercules C.1
Aircraft nameChalk 4
OperatorNo. 24 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Flight originPisa Airport, Pisa, Italy
DestinationVillacidro, Sardinia, Italy

On 9 November 1971, a Royal Air Force Lockheed Hercules C.1 crashed into the sea off the coast of Livorno by Meloria shoal, Italy, killing all 46 passengers and 6 crew.[1] At the time it was described by Italian officials as the worst military air disaster in Italy in peacetime.[2]


The Hercules serial number XV216, from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, was due to carry out an early morning parachute drop at Cagliari, Sardinia, as part of a large-scale joint training exercise called Coldstream. Ten aircraft were to be involved;[I] nine Hercules and one Hawker Siddeley Andover. Their order of takeoff was marked by a serial number, chalked onto the fuselage of each aircraft.[3] The Hercules known as Chalk 4 was the fourth of the 10 aircraft due to depart at fifteen-minute intervals from San Giusto military airport in Pisa, Italy.[2][4] The aircraft crashed near the Meloria rocks, four miles west of Livorno.[2] At Pisa, the stream take-off was cancelled, another four aircraft had followed XV216 into the air but the last two were prevented from departing.[2]

All 52 on board were killed, they included five British aircrew from 24 Squadron, a British parachute jumping instructor from No. 1 Parachute Training School at RAF Abingdon and 46 Italian paratroopers from the Folgore Parachute Brigade.[2][5][6]


It was at first difficult to find the wreckage due to a persistent wind and low clouds.[2] The wreckage was found lying in 200 feet (61 m) of water, although small fragments had already been recovered, the salvage operation, which was hindered by the bad weather, was led by the Italian Navy.[7] The cause of the accident was not found.[8]


A memorial plaque in Livorno commemorates the accident.

A memorial plaque was erected in Livorno in 2003 to commemorate the accident. On 21 November 2006, a memorial service was held in Pisa, attended by a delegation from No. 24 Squadron, current operators of the C-130J Hercules, and relatives of the lost crew members.[6]


I^ : Five of the ten aircraft were from the Royal Air Force.


  1. ^ "Lockheed Hercules C.1 XV216 Pisa". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Peter Nichols (10 November 1971). "RAF Plane crashed in Italy, killing 52". The Times (58321). London. p. 1.
  3. ^ Falciglia 2011, p. III.
  4. ^ "Memorial in Italy to Hercules tragedy". Bristol Post. 14 November 2008. Archived from the original on 21 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ Halley 2001, p. 89
  6. ^ a b "35th Anniversary of the Hercules crash in Pisa". LynehamVillage.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  7. ^ "RAF aircraft lost". Flight International: 839. 18 November 1971.
  8. ^ Halley 1999, p. 225


  • Halley, James (1999). Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom: Air-Britain (Historians) Litd. ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
  • Halley, James (2001). Royal Air Force Aircraft XA100 to XZ999. Air-Britain. ISBN 0-85130-311-0.
  • Falciglia, Aldo (November/December 2011). "Gesso quattro non risponde" – La sciagura alle secche della Meloria. Folgore (Associazione Nazionale Paracadutisti d'Italia) (Nos. 11–12)

Coordinates: 43°32′52″N 10°13′07″E / 43.5478°N 10.2186°E / 43.5478; 10.2186