Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mystery still surrounds the aircraft deaths of two men: Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk, G-BODP, Flintshire Flying School; Accident occurred August 16, 2012 in Bruera, Cheshire, UK

Open verdict at inquest into Chester crash which killed Flintshire pilot John Green and Caergwrle student Karl Hendrickson

What happened in the final minutes of a flying lesson that ended in the tragic deaths of two Flintshire men may never be known, an inquest has heard.

Experienced pilot John Green, 50, and his student, dad-of-one Karl Hendrickson, 43, died ‘instantaneously’ when their Piper PA-38 Tomahawk crash-landed in a field at Bruera near Chester on August 16, 2012.

Summing up the two-day inquest held in Warrington, which heard evidence from witnesses, emergency services and representatives from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), Alan Moore, assistant coroner for Cheshire, said: “What happened in this case? Very sadly only Mr Green and Mr Hendrickson could answer that question with any degree of certainty.”

Mr Green, who worked for Flintshire Flying School and Mr Hendrickson, of Caergwrle, had been in the air less than an hour when tragedy stuck.

The inquest heard from witness Nicholas Whitley, of Wrexham, how he had seen the aircraft descending nose first at a very steep angle, heading straight down towards the ground.

He said he had it in view for a matter of seconds before it disappeared behind a tree line but knew it was in trouble.

Mr Whitley, who had been in his car when he saw the plane, was first on the scene and called emergency services.

Fire and paramedic teams arrived and both men were pronounced dead at the scene. A post mortem examination revealed they both died of multiple injuries consistent with a light aircraft crash.

Student log books indicated that Mr Hendrickson had been scheduled to complete a stalling exercise during the lesson, which was his eighth with Mr Green.

It was heard during the inquest how American experts had raised safety concerns about carrying out these training maneuvers at low altitudes.

It was said that a revision was made to the pilot training manual in May 2012 advising a rise in altitude when carrying out stalling exercises.

This was not widely available in the UK until September 2012 and it is unknown whether Mr Green was aware of these changes.

Andrew Blackie of the AAIB said it was impossible to know the height of the plane or its speed prior to the crash.

He said: “We don't know what maneuver plane had done in the air but we do know it had struck the ground during a spin.”

The inquest also heard how the 31-year-old plane had been fitted with a new engine earlier than year and another instructor had reported it to be ‘rough running’ on the runway three weeks prior to the incident.

This was discovered to be a double spark plug failure which was repaired 30 flying hours before the crash on August 16.

The jury returned an open verdict after three hours deliberating.


Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk, G-BODP 
Location: Near Bruera, Cheshire
Date of occurrence: 16 August 2012
General Aviation - Fixed Wing

Summary:   The instructor and student were conducting PPL training for slow flight aircraft handling. At an estimated height of between 2,000 and 3,000 ft, the aircraft turned rapidly through about 180° and descended at a high rate, crashing in a field. The evidence indicated that the aircraft had been in a spin to the left when it struck the surface. Both occupants were fatally injured.

A manufacturer’s revision to the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH), dated May 2012, included advice on the altitudes at which slow flight and stall manoeuvres should be initiated, to provide an adequate margin of safety in the event of an inadvertent spin. This revision, which related to a Safety Recommendation made by the United States of America’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 1997, reached the flying school in the month following the accident.

 NTSB Identification: CEN12WA562 
Accident occurred Thursday, August 16, 2012 in Bruera, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Aircraft: PIPER PA-38-112, registration:
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On August 16, 2012, about 1940 universal coordinated time, a Piper PA-38-112 airplane, United Kingdom registration G-BODP, impacted terrain during an instructional flight near Bruera, Cheshire, United Kingdom. The flight instructor and student pilot were fatally injured. The local flight departed from Hawarden Airport (EGNR).

The accident investigation is under the jurisdiction and control of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). This report is for informational purposes only and contains information released by or obtained from the government of the United Kingdom.

Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Air Accidents Investigation Branch
Farnborough House
Berkshire Copse Road
Aldershot, Hampshire
GU11 2HH, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0) 1252 510300

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