A microlight crash at an airshow in Northumberland was probably caused by flying into a helicopter’s downwash, according to an official report.
The pilot and a passenger were hospitalised after the accident, which took place on Saturday, September 22, just two hours after the Great North Fly-In began at Eshott Airfield.
The 50-year-old pilot had 666 hours of experience but while the approach was good, the downwash from a helicopter ahead caused the microlight to bounce across the next runway and hit another aircraft.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report states: ‘The approach was good, with the correct speed and approach angle, maintaining a constant distance from the helicopter ahead, until, crossing the threshold, G-MZED was ‘pulled from the sky’ and impacted the ground at a high rate of descent.
‘The aircraft bounced across the neighbouring grass runway and collided with a parked EV-97 Eurostar aircraft.
‘Both occupants of G-MZED suffered injuries, were released from the wreckage by bystanders and taken to hospital by air ambulance.
‘The pilot considers that the accident was caused by the microlight’s encounter with the helicopter’s downwash and that he had not been aware of the likely severity of this effect.’
At the time, Storm Smith, who owns the airfield, said the accident was ‘bad luck’ caused by the microlight flying through turbulence generated by a helicopter which had landed shortly before.
“There was no way for them to see the vortices put out by the helicopter,” he said.
“With the surrounding air being so still, the turbulence was not blown away and that created the loss of lift. The microlight pilot was very skilled.”
The accident required the attendance of the Great North Air Ambulance, plus a pair of fire engines which stood by as a precaution. Both casualties were taken to the RVI in Newcastle for treatment.
The pilot suffered bruising to his chest, while the female passenger required her broken arm to be pinned.
Another report from the AAIB reveals a further crash later on the same day at Eshott.
It says: ‘The aircraft (a tailwheel type) was not fully aligned with the runway on touchdown.
‘The pilot applied rudder to correct the situation but lost control of the aircraft, which ‘ground looped’.
‘Its right main landing gear collapsed and the right wing made contact with the runway. The propeller also contacted the runway and shattered.
‘The cockpit area was undamaged; the pilot and his passenger vacated the aircraft via the side doors.
‘Whilst on final approach, the pilot had noticed an aircraft taxiing towards the runway threshold for departure. He thought he had been distracted by this aircraft, with the result that the aircraft landed whilst not fully aligned, and that his use of rudder had led to the loss of control.’