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Narrative:On 27 July, 1909, Hubert Latham made a second attempt to cross the Channel. He was within minutes of arriving in the vicinity of Dover when engine failure again forced him into the sea. This time he could not control the angle of descent as well as he had in his first attempt and when he hit the water he seriously damaged the aircraft and suffered severe lacerations to his forehead.
|Type:||Levavasseur Antoinette VII|
|C/n / msn:|| |
|Fatalities:||Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1|
|Aircraft damage:|| Substantial|
|Location:||The Channel, 2 km off Dover, Kent -
|Phase:|| En route|
|Departure airport:||Calais, France|
|Destination airport:||Dover, Kent|
Although no definitive cause of engine failure for this second attempt was found, two possibilities were put forward. One is that the innovative fuel-injection system became clogged due to unfiltered fuel. Aviation pioneer Gabriel Voisin, who used Antoinette engines in his own planes, posited another possibility which he argued was also the cause of Latham's first failure: "The Antoinette V-8 [motor] furnished a significant fraction less of its power after running more than 15 minutes. It was this problem that provoked Latham's fall into the sea."
Mystery surrounds the rest of his life. Anonymous reports suggest he was shot in the head while game-hunting in Chad in 1912, although his death certificate suggests he was killed by a wounded buffalo! However, in one anonymous contemporary newspaper article which appeared in 1914, it was claimed that the adjutant-commandant of a French Colonial Army fort located just outside Fort Archambault, who retrieved his body after his death, had found that Latham had sustained a single head wound and saw no marks on or around Latham's body consistent with a rampaging buffalo. The writer claimed that the commandant believed, based on the physical evidence and on the conflicting reports of the porters under questioning, that it was possible Latham had been murdered by one of more of his porters, perhaps in order to steal his rifles, but was unable to prove it. Latham was originally buried in Fort Lamy (now N'djamena, capital city of Chad), because French colonial law forbade the transport of any human remains to another country until a full year had lapsed since death. In January 1914 Latham's mother arranged to have her son's corpse disinterred and shipped to Le Havre where he was re-interred in the family plot. He had never married and thus left no direct descendants.
There is a statue of Latham a few miles West of Calais on a hill named after him - Mont Latham
1. archive Bleiente
4. King, Stephen H., The Passion That Left The Ground: The Remarkable Airplanes of Léon Levavasseur, p. 61.
5. Voisin, Gabriel, "Levavasseur". Pionniers: Revue Aéronautique Trimestrielle des Vielle Tiges, October 1956, p. 12ff.
8. Walsh, Barbara (2007). Forgotten Aviator Hubert Latham. Glocs, UK: The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4318-8.
Latham a few weeks after second Channel attempt. Note the scar on his forehead from the crash injury
Latham is buried with his parents in Le Havre, France. In error, one of his middle names, Charles, was replaced by Louis on the headstone. This has never been corrected
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