'The wing was ripped off and the fuselage had buckled'
With its wings ripped off, these pictures show how pilot Robin Duckett is lucky to be alive after his plane crashed - but he walked away unscathed.
Robin was looking forward to flying his Zenair CH 601UL Zodiac when terror hit on take-off.
He was flying with his 24-year-old son Alex when he was “caught out” after hurtling down the runway.
Now the 60-year-old has revealed how his £23,000 aircraft was wrecked when it crashed at Headon Microlight Strip near Gamston, Nottinghamshire, and it’s a miracle he walked away uninjured.
“We were shaken but not hurt,” said Robin, of Gateshead, director Sightlines Initiative, which has worked to improve early years teaching in scores of schools throughout the country.
“The plane was a complete write-off, the wing was ripped off and the fuselage had buckled. We walked away without any injuries but it could have been a lot worse.
“We were lucky. That plane has now long gone and I’ve got myself another one - a newer version of what I had before.”
Robin’s nightmare happened on the morning of July 22 last year when he and Alex had flown to meet up with other plane enthusiasts.
The perfect Mediterranean-like conditions of a beautiful summer’s day created a “freak condition” which caused the crash.
As experts release a report into the dad-of-two’s accident, he added: “I was caught out due to marginal factors and it being a very hot day, about 26 degrees. It meant the plane struggled to take off. There was no head wind and no breeze to fly into. The plane didn’t hit air speed and possibly a warm thermal current came over a hedge which caused the plane to dip.
“We took off and was about 15ft in the air. We span around and hit the hedge, which acted like a cushion. We didn’t have time to be terrified, but we escaped without injury. The plane on the other hand was a write-off.
“It hasn’t put me off flying as a I talked to a lot of instructors and inspectors. It was almost a freak situation why we crashed and it is very unlikely that it would happen again.”
Aviation experts carried out an inquiry into the incident and a newly published Air Accident Investigation Branch report says Robin, an education consultant, was “caught out” by the conditions on the day.
The report said he believed the runway’s down-slope would have compensated for the fact he was taking off with a 3 knot tailwind.
However, heat can impact on the performance of the aircraft - the temperature on the day was 26C, the plane was close to maximum weight and the pilot had not calculated the take-off run he would require given the conditions.
The report says that the take-off roll was longer than expected and, although the pilot rotated - applying back pressure to lift the nose wheel off the ground - he believed, in retrospect, that he probably rotated at a slightly lower airspeed than normal.
The report added: “At this stage the controls felt ‘heavy’ and, when only a few feet above the ground, the left wing dropped. The pilot was unable to regain control and the aircraft veered into a hedge and span around its left wingtip.
“Although the aircraft was severely damaged, the canopy opened normally and the two occupants vacated without assistance. They had been wearing lap and diagonal harnesses and were uninjured.”
Robin, who had 187 hours flying experience at the time, told investigators that in future he intended to calculate his aircraft’s takeoff performance, with appropriate allowance for the ambient conditions.
“He believes he was caught out, on this occasion, by the combined effects of a tailwind and the low atmospheric density,” said the report.
Story, photos and video: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk
Runway 14 was used for takeoff as the pilot believed this offered sufficient downslope to compensate for a possible 3 kt tailwind. The temperature was 26ºC and the aircraft was close to maximum weight but the pilot knew the airstrip well and did not calculate the required takeoff run. He anticipated being airborne before reaching a prominent dip in the grass surface, approximately two-thirds of the way along the 600 m strip.
The takeoff roll was longer than expected and, although the pilot rotated just before the ‘dip’, he believed, in retrospect, that he probably rotated at a slightly lower airspeed than normal. At this stage the controls felt “heavy” and, when only a few feet above the ground, the left wing dropped. The pilot was unable to regain control and the aircraft veered into a hedge and span around its left wingtip. Although the aircraft was severely damaged, the canopy opened normally and the two occupants vacated without assistance. They had been wearing lap and diagonal harnesses and were uninjured.
In future, the pilot intends to calculate his aircraft’s takeoff performance, with appropriate allowance for the ambient conditions. He believes he was caught out, on this occasion, by the combined effects of a tailwind and the low atmospheric density.
Accident report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk