The first aircraft crash in the Glens of Antrim occurred on the 29th April 1932; the plane was an Avro 504, the pilot was a twenty-two-year-old man named John Frederick Sutton, writes Joe Burns.
John Frederick Sutton was born on the 4th February 1910, in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. His Father, Mr. Arnold J Sutton, was a draper of George Street in the town.
His mother, Harriet, had brought their three sons and daughter up to be well respected Methodists. Fred, as he was known, being the second son, was like his siblings educated in Wesley College, which was situated in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, at that time. Fred was a popular student, and became Senior Prefect before leaving the College.
A keen footballer, he received his Honour Cap when selected to play in the 1st XV. One day, at the end of the summer, Fred surprised everyone by announcing he wished to become an aviator. So it was with great enthusiasm in 1929, that John Frederick Sutton entered the Royal Air Force with a short service commission.
After training in England, on the 12th November, 1931, Fred, was posted to No. 502 Squadron, Aldergrove, County Antrim.
In early April, Flying Officer Sutton was returning from leave, in Enniscorthy, he, his mother and sister, Marjorie, travelled to Dublin from where he was to travel by bus to Belfast.
Fred said his goodbyes and left the two of them in Henry St., Dublin.
Later, to his mother and sister’s surprise he turned up having missed the Belfast bus, so he treated the two of them to tea and cakes in a city patisserie. They once again said their goodbyes, and Fred caught the last bus to Belfast. This was the last time any of the family were to see Fred alive.
On the morning of Friday 29th, April, Fred was to make a solo navigational flight, flying from Aldergrove to Larne, following the coast north to Cushendall, before returning to Aldergrove, the exercise taking approximately one and a half hours.
The aircraft was an Avro 504N, and this was the standard trainer of the time. The 504N had a top speed of around 100mph and carried enough fuel for a two-and-a-half-hour flight.
Flight Lieutenant Harry King Goode, who lived in the officer’s mess with Fred, looked on, as at 11.10am the Avro 504N with Flying Officer John Frederick Sutton, aged twenty-two at the controls, took off. He watched as the aircraft turned and climbed into blue skies.