April 2017 AAIB Bulletin

There are two sad reports where it seems likely that medical incapacitation led to fatal accidents: together they raise the perennial issue of the practical value of aeromedical examinations.  One aircraft was a Rotorsport UK MT-03 gyroplane with a 79 year old male pilot and the other was an ASW 27-18E glider with a 60 year old female pilot. Fortunately there were no passengers or others involved in either case. These days solo glider pilots meet their medical requirements if they hold a current driving licence and I presume that the argument goes that if the authorities believe that you do not represent a material risk to the public if you drive a ton or more of motor car in close proximity to other vehicles and pedestrians then you should reasonably be able to take a solo glider into the skies. The likelihood of causing death or injury to others with the car is, of course, far greater than the likelihood of doing so in the glider. In the case of the glider pilot there was some family history of cardiac trouble and the pilot had expressed some slight concerns about her health to a friend some 13 days before. Thus the possibility of cardiac trouble being the cause of the accident receives more attention than any other likely cause. Other possibilities are considered at length but with no positive conclusions.  

On the other hand the conclusion of the report on the death of the gyrocopter pilot is that the accident was most probably the result of a sudden medical incapacitation of the pilot. It is ironic that this pilot held a Class 2 medical certificate granted only five months previously and that the Aeromedical Examination had included an Electrocardiogram. This accident suggests once more that the aeromedical examination is a rather porous system. Fortunately fatal GA accidents that are the result of medical incapacitation of the pilot are very rare and those that lead to death or serious injury to others are extremely rare. GASCo extends its sympathy to the families and friends of the two pilots.

The other Field Investigation Report in this bulletin concerns a Piper Cub that got caught in a wake vortex system from a helicopter which had hover-taxied across the runway approximately two minutes earlier. While taking off the pilot was unable to correct the roll induced by the vortex system before the aircraft struck the ground. He suffered minor injuries and the aircraft was destroyed. The report refers to Safety Sense Leaflet 15c. When following a helicopter, pilots of light aircraft should consider allowing a greater spacing than they would behind a fixed wing aircraft of similar size, especially if the helicopter has been hovering.  

There is a Correspondence Investigation Report in the Commercial Air Transport section of a Socata TBM 700N with a 79 year old PPL pilot with 5272 hours (1585 on type and 5 in the past 28 days). In visibility of 4500 m the pilot commenced the final turn from a relatively close downwind leg, requiring a higher angle of bank than usual to complete. In the latter stages of the turn, with flaps at the takeoff setting, the bank angle was increased and there was a sudden and rapid departure from controlled flight that was consistent with a stall. The pilot’s next recollection was of being in a bank away from the final approach path and seeing only sky ahead. Your editor’s observation, not the AAIB report’s, is that many pilots at this point would instinctively pull back on the yoke to avoid the impending collision with the ground. This pilot, however, had the presence of mind to push forward, regain a modicum of control and eventually hit the ground with wings level, coming to a stop within 85 m. The pilot suffered major injuries and the passenger minor injuries. Had the pilot pulled back at the crucial moment, as so many seem to do, the outcome would very probably have been two fatalities.  

Of the remaining Correspondence Investigation Reports, 4 are landing accidents, one involving gear failure, 3 are forced landings, one being the result of a canopy coming unlatched, and there are one each of damage suffered during aerobatics, one take off accident and one taxying accident following gear failure.

15 Jan 2017   G-ATMT Piper PA-30            Fatal accident at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire   Under Investigation
 04 Dec 2016  G-CLJK/G-CSFC     SZD-51-1 Glider/Cessna 150L  Fatal accident after mid-air  Under Investigation
 04 Dec 2016 G-CFNG  Schleicher ASW 24  Fatal accident at Dartmoor  Under Investigation
 17 Oct 2016 G-BDZC  Reims Cessna F150M  Fatal accident at Bourn Airfield, Cambridgeshire  Under Investigation
 02 Oct 2016  G-MSTG  North American P-51D Mustang  Fatal accident near Hardwick Airfield, Suffolk  Under Investigation
18 Sep 2016  G-GARB  EV-97 Team Eurostar  Fatal accident near Builth Wells, Wales  Under Investigation
 15 Sep 2016 G-LFIX  Spitfire IXT landing gear collapse on landing at Sywell Aerodrome, Northamptonshire Under Investigation
 14 Aug 2016 G-ARNZ Druine D.31 Turbulent  Aircraft ditched in the sea during airshow near Herne Bay, Kent  Under Investigation
02 Aug 2016 G-ETDK Breezer B600E  Loss of control at Lochnell Castle, Oban, Argyll  Consultation stage
 19 Jul 2016 G-SCIP  Socata TB20  Nosewheel collapse on landing at Sleap Airfield, Shropshire  Scheduled for Publication - AAIB Bulletin 5/2017
 17 Jul 2016 HA-PPC Sud SA-313B Alouette II Fatal accident at Breighton Aerodrome, Yorkshire Consultation stage
08 July 2016 G-YAKB  Yak-52  Fatal accident near Dinton, Wiltshire  Under investigation
30 May 2016 G-MYES  Rans S6-ESD (modified)  Fatal accident near Shifnal Aerodrome, Shropshire  Under investigation
30 Apr 2016 G-BNSO  Slingsby T67N MKII Fatal accident at Whitwell Grange Cottage, Whitwell, North Yorkshire Scheduled for Publication - AAIB Bulletin 5/2017
 20 March 2016 G-CDNR  Ikarus C42 FB100  Fatal accident at Burrows Lane, Middle Stoke, Kent  Scheduled for Publication - AAIB Bulletin 5/2017