Investigation reveals probable cause of Cross in Hand plane crash

5th March

The 65 year-old pilot of a small plane that crashed at Cross in Hand airfield in August last year probably suffered from a cardiac arrest shortly after take off an AAIB investigation has revealed.

Photo courtesy of AAIB

The Rans S6-116 aircraft took off on 4th August from Bradley’s Lawn airstrip in Cross in Hand. Witnesses then saw the aircraft make a spiral descent to the ground.  There was a post-impact fire, the aircraft was destroyed and the pilot was found deceased. 

A post-mortem examination indicated that the pilot probably suffered a cardiac event resulting in incapacitation shortly after take off.

The report explains that pilot was intending to fly to Hampshire that morning to meet his partner.

The landowner, who had been chatting to the pilot ten minutes earlier, was walking down a track behind the hangars when he heard the aircraft start up. He stated that the takeoff looked and sounded normal but when he turned away he heard a loud bang a few moments later and looked up to see a column of black smoke and flames rising upwind of the airstrip.

Witnesses on the opposite side of the valley to the airstrip had a clear view of the airstrip and the hangars.  One said they saw the aircraft come into view from the direction of the airfield and fly normally before suddenly “spinning” twice and disappearing behind some trees.  A plume of smoke rose above the treeline. 

The emergency services arrived within 10 minutes of the call to find that an intense post-impact fire had destroyed most of the aircraft. 

According to the report the pilot had owned the plane since 1993, soon after he had gained his licence, and gained the most of his flying experience on it. The pathologist concluded that the lack of soot indicated the pilot was not alive during the fire. The pathologist stated that the findings were: ‘entirely consistent with a medical event, of likely cardiac origin occurring shortly after take off with unconsciousness and cardiorespiratory failure occurring prior to the crash. There is no evidence to suggest that the pilot was alive at the time of the impact or when the fire started.’

Although the aircraft sustained extensive damage during the impact sequence and subsequent fire, there was no evidence of a pre-existing technical issue with the aircraft or engine.  Although one witness reported hearing the engine stop shortly after he lost sight of the nose-down attitude aircraft behind trees, this may have been as a result of the trees and wind masking the sound.