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April 12 , 2009

The Munich Air Disaster – The True Story behind the Fatal 1958 Crash: The Night 8 of Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ Died


Uncover the true story behind the tragic Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958, the night that 8 of the Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ died

They were players about to become legends, the famous Manchester United ‘Busby Babes’, the back-to-back title winning side of 1956 and 1957 on the hunt for a third successive league win and seeking glory in the European Champions Cup. With an average age of 22, the ‘Busby Babes’ were the cream of English football and seemed destined to dominate English and European football for years to come.

Instead, on 6 February 1958, they were tragically cut down in their prime. On a fuel stopover on their way home from a Champions Cup fixture against Red Star Belgrade, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off in a blizzard from an ice- and slush-covered runway at Munich Airport.

The fatal crash claimed the lives of 23 passengers and crew, including 8 Manchester United footballers. 7 United players were killed instantly in the crash. Three weeks later, the legendary Duncan Edwards died in hospital while two other players, Jackie Blanchflower and Johnny Berry, were injured so badly that they never played again.

What caused the plane to careen off the runway? Why did experienced pilot Captain James Thain insist on taking off in such treacherous conditions? Why were the Manchester United management under pressure to return to England as soon as possible?

The German inquiry blamed the accident on pilot error. However, Stephen Morrin’s The Munich Air Disaster establishes beyond any question that this was not so. Based on his enormous technical knowledge of aircraft accident investigation, years of research and interviews with those involved, Morrin shows that the pilot, Captain James Thain, performed heroically and was shamefully treated by the aviation authorities for many years.

The crash at Munich airport swept away a generation of gifted footballers including Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne, David Pegg, and Liam Whelan from Dublin. Stephen Morrin’s authoritative book is a story of tragedy, a pilot’s heroism in adversity, legal treachery and one of the defining moments in the Manchester United story. It was a sporting disaster that gave birth to a legend — a legend which fifty years later shows no sign of diminishing.

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The Munich Air Disaster: Table of Contents

  1. In the Beginning
  2. Birth of the Babes
  3. Kid Dynamite
  4. Passport to Europe
  5. The Last Season
  6. End Game
  7. Prelude to Disaster
  8. Runway
  9. Blood in the Snow
  10. Dealing with Disaster
  11. Aftermath
  12. Scapegoat
  13. Captain Thain’s Ordeal
  14. Fifty Years On
  15. Epilogue

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