Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK

Hill of Stake, N Ayrshire













Aircraft Photos


Pre-Accident Photos



BELOW: Northern & Scottish Airways Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK awaiting passenger boarding.


Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK prepared for boarding.


Photo: pre-1938, courtesy Ron Geesin



BELOW: Looking toward the tail of G-ACYK.


Looking toward the tail of G-ACYK.


Photo: pre-1938, courtesy Ron Geesin



BELOW: Can you identify any of these passengers? If so, please let us know.


If you can identify any of these passengers, please get in touch.


Photo: pre-1938, courtesy Ron Geesin



BELOW: In-flight photo from Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK, looking out across the starboard engine and wing towards the hills and moorland below.


In-flight photo from Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK.


Photo: pre-1938, courtesy Ron Geesin




Post-Accident Photo



BELOW: Spartan Cruiser G-ACYK after crashing at Hill of Stake, North Ayrshire, in 1938.


overview of spartan wreck shortly after crash on hill of stake


Photo: ©  2007 James Towill. (National Museum of Flight display)


See also here for photo of aircraft type





Aircraft Type and Background


Spartan Cruiser Mk III / G-ACYK


The Spartan Cruiser Mk III, 8-seater (6 passengers and 2 crew) monoplane was powered by three 130hp de Havilland Gipsy Major engines.


Several of these small civilian aircraft were operated by Northern and Scottish Airways—later incorporated within British Airways Limited (known originally as Allied British Airways, but later renamed British Airways; not, however, the same as the present day airline of that name). This British Airways merged later with Imperial Airways to become British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C). The present day company known as British Airways resulted from a merger in 1973 of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.


While a subsidiary company of British Airways Limited, this Northern and Scottish aircraft operated under the name Northern Scottish Air Taxi.


Founded on 31 November 1934, Northern and Scottish Airways was later to become a member of the Whitehall Securities group (later, Pearson plc). Whitehall Securities held major investments in companies such as Saunders-Roe, the aircraft manufacturer.


In addition to its Glasgow (Renfrew) to Campbeltown and Islay route, Northern and Scottish operated for a short time on a route from Glasgow (Renfrew) Airport to Hall Caine aerodrome on the Isle of Man.





Aircraft Accident Details


The particular aircraft featured here was one of a small fleet based at the former Glasgow Renfrew Airport. At the time of the accident, it was en route with a cargo of cinema films from Renfrew to Campbeltown. However, due to deteriorating weather conditions, the pilot decided to return to Renfrew.


Unfortunately, and due to a malfunctioning altimeter, the captain was led to believe that he had gained sufficient height to clear the North Ayrshire hills, before beginning his descent into Renfrew Airport. In fact, the plane was flying too low to clear the hills safely. Consequently, the Spartan struck Hill of Stake—the highest peak in this area. The two occupants of the plane, however, escaped without significant injury. After their amazing escape, the captain and the wireless operator made their way across the rugged moors to Largs—a distance of about 5 miles—where they sought assistance.


Although crashing originally on higher ground, the fuselage was to be found later at the SW base of Hill of Stake, close to the South Grane Burn (NE of Greeto Water).





Aircraft Crew


Both crew members survived this accident. The pilot was:

  • Captain McGeevor

The name of the wireless operator on this flight is unknown.





Crash Site Photos


BELOW: In 1967, almost 30 years after the crash, the fuselage shell was all that remained of the Spartan Cruiser at Hill of Stake in North Ayrshire.




Photo: © 1967-2010 John Martindale



Six years later, in 1973, the fuselage was removed from this site and transported to the National Museum of Flight in East Lothian. In 1974, it was placed on display in the Museum (see museum photos below).



BELOW: The recovery operation which took place close to Hill of Stake in 1973.


The fuselage shell is being lifted by a Royal Navy Westland Sea King helicopter from 819 Naval Air Squadron, of HMS Gannet (Prestwick).


Cruiser recovery in 1973 by RN Sea King helicopter


Photo © 1973-2011 Ian Moore
 (Ian took this photo while in charge of the ground party during the recovery operation)



BELOW: A photo of the Spartan Cruiser fuselage taken within a Museum of Flight hanger at East Fortune.


unrestored spartan cruiser fuselage at museum of flight, east fortune


Photo: © 2007 Dougie Martindale



BELOW: Close-up of the Spartan's fuselage still showing the graffiti and scars from its time spent lying at Hill of Stake in Ayrshire. Only just visible below the windows is the aircraft operator's name: Northern & Scottish Airways.


closer view of cruiser showing faded company name - northern scottish airways


Photo: © 2007 Dougie Martindale



On display at:



national museums scotland logo



National Museum of Flight

East Fortune




BELOW: The display at the National Museum of Flight showing the crashed Spartan Cruiser with accompanying details.


descriptive  plaque at national museum of flight


Photo: ©  2007 James Towill.



BELOW: Spartan Cruiser description. (National Museum of Flight display)


Spartan Cruiser description - on display at museum


Photo: ©  2007 James Towill.


The above plate reads:


(left column)


The Spartan Cruiser was a three-engined civilian passenger aircraft, typical of many designs of the 1930s. It was a modified version of a mail-carrier and first flew in May 1932. The Mailplane had a plywood fuselage, but it was all-metal in the Cruiser I and could accomodate six passengers and two crew.


(right column)


The Cruiser III had an aerodynamically refined fuselage, modified windscreen, tail, and streamlined undercarriage. Only three were built and initially operated by Spartan Air Lines. This was taken over by British Airways Ltd in 1936. From 1937, the aircraft continued in service with Northern and Scottish Airways, flying routes in the Highlands and Islands, until the outbreak of World War II.



BELOW: Accident summary for G-ACYK (Spartan Cruiser's civil registration).


Spartan G-ACYK accident summary at museum of flight


Photo: ©  2007 James Towill.


The above plate reads:


(left column)


On the evening of 14 January 1938 G-ACYK crashed on a hillside a few miles from Largs on the Ayrshire coast. It had left Renfrew Airport, Glasgow, in the late afternoon on a charter flight to Campbeltown with cans of films to be shown at the local cinema. Increasingly bad weather forced the aircraft to turn back when only 10 miles from Campbeltown, and it struck the hillside.


(right column)


The pilot and wireless operator, the only crew members, were unhurt, although somewhat shaken. Using the aircraft compass, they were able to walk down the hills to Largs. In 1974,1 with the assistance of a Royal Navy Westland Sea King helicopter with HMS Gannet at Prestwick, the fuselage was recovered for preservation in the Museum of Flight.



Footnote 1: As can be seen from the recovery photo above, and the date that photo was taken, the Royal Navy Sea King recovery operation took place in 1973. The year 1974 shown on the plate above appears to be an error.



BELOW: Spartan Cruiser specifications.


Spartan cruiser specifications


Photo: ©  2007 James Towill.
























Crash Date / Site


Page last updated: 24 Feb 2017


(Pre-accident photos added.)



Accident Date: 14 Jan 1938


Accident Site:

Hill of Stake (522m)


Region: North Ayrshire / Renfrewshire  boundary (Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park)


Nearest towns or villages:

Greenock, Largs or Lochwinnoch


Nearest large towns:

Greenock (N) or Largs (SW)


(Although crashing at Hill of Stake on the North Ayrshire / Renfrewshire hills c.4.5 miles (c.7.5 km) NE of Largs, the aircraft fuselage was to be found later at the SW base of Hill of Stake, lying beside the South Grane Burn (a stream that flows into Greeto Water).)


OS Grid Ref. 63 / NS 268629


GPS Ref: N/A


Present Condition: The almost-intact fuselage (latterly, without wings or engine), remained at this site from 1938 until 1973.

Then, on 25 July 1973, the fuselage shell was airlifted by a Sea King helicopter of 819 Naval Air Squadron to the nearest suitable road. It was then transported by road to the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune, near Edinburgh.


Original plans to restore the Spartan Cruiser for Museum display have not been realised, and there are now no plans to carry out restoration work. The fuselage shell, however, is on display at the National Museum of Flight, in East Lothian.




Air crashes in this vicinity:



South side of A760:


1) RN Fairey Firefly DT977, Blaeloch Hill.

(Now within the grounds of a publicly-accessible wind farm at Kelburn Estate.)
Some parts, including engine, remain at the crash site, and are described on information boards by the wind farm operators (RES). RES have created a visitor's car park off the A760, and walking routes for the area. [Map and route details here.]



North side of A760:


2) RAF de Havilland Devon VP969, Slaty Law / Box Law.

Wings, engines and under-carriage, etc., remain at the site.


3) RAF Vickers Wellington R1164, Box Law.

Fragmented wreckage only remains at the crash site.


4) BEA Vickers Viking G-AIVE, Irish Law.

Wings, engines and under-carriage, etc., remain at the site.


5) RN Supermarine Sea Spitfire ('Seafire'). Hill of Stake.

All remaining wreckage now removed from the site.


6) Northern Scottish Airways Spartan Cruiser, Hill of Stake.

(The aircraft on this page.)

Remaining fuselage shell was recovered from the site in 1973. Now at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.


7) RAF Bristol Beaufort L9817, Knockside Hills, S of Irish Law.
Wreckage removed by RAF recovery team. Fragments only remain at the crash site.


8) Starways Douglas C-47B Dakota G-AMRB, Greenside Hill, SE of Irish Law.

Fragments only remain at the crash site.




Aircraft Details


Registration or Serial: G-ACYK


Operator: Northern and Scottish Airways


Operating Base: Glasgow (Renfrew) Airport (Original Name: Moorpark Aerodrome) (X6GR)


Base Location: Renfrew, near Glasgow.


Current Airport Status: Extinct; closed 1 May 1966; now, overbuilt with housing and motorway.


Nearest Current Airport Name: Glasgow International Airport, Abbotsinch near Glasgow.



Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields




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Spartan Cruiser Links

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Renfrew Aerodrome

Simmonds-Spartan aircraft history


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