On the 6th February 1958, British European Airways flight 609 crashed at Munich-Riem Airport while carrying the Manchester United football team, supporters and journalists. Of the 44 passengers on board the plane, 23 died as a result of the crash.

The Manchester United team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, were flying back to England from Yugoslavia after a 3–3 draw in a quarter-final match of the European Cup against Red Star Belgrade. The team had not been beaten for eleven matches, and were attempting to become the third club to win three successive English league titles.

The aeroplane, an “Elizabethan”-class Airspeed Ambassador, had landed in Munich to refuel, since it wasn’t capable flying non-stop from Belgrade to Manchester. The flight was already an hour behind schedule due to some confusion with player Johnny Berry’s passport and visa when leaving Belgrade. This was exacerbated by two abandoned take-offs from Munich due to an intermittent fault in the left engine.

Despite the engine problems, captain James Thain opted to attempt a third take-off by which time it had begun to snow. His plan was to accelerate slowly along the long runway to avoid stressing the engine, but as the plane reached the speed required for take-off the wheels hit slush that had built up on the runway. This slowed the plane down, but there was not enough runway left to safely abort the take-off. Consequently it skidded off the end of the runway before crashing through the airport fence, across a road, and losing its port wing after catching on a house. Twenty of the people on board died instantly.

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