Fatal Yorkshire plane crash caused by 'failure to pull out of a spin'

Ajvir Singh Sandhu, 25, and Cameron Forster, 21,
Ajvir Singh Sandhu, 25, and Cameron Forster, 21,
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An investigation has concluded that a fatal plane crash near Castle Howard was likely caused by the pilots being unable to pull out of a spin.

Ajvir Singh Sandhu, 25, and Cameron Forster, 21, died when their plane crashed into a field near the stately home close to Malton, just after 9.30am on April 30 last year.

By Paul Atkinson

By Paul Atkinson

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has now published its findings into the fatal accident and to what may have caused the 30-year-old Slingsby T67M MKII Firefly to crash.

The report found that there were no faults with the aircraft and also said investigators were unable to ascertain which of the men was the pilot at the time of the crash, as the plane had dual controls.

However, it was noted that one of the pilots had been trained on how to recover a spin in another type of aircraft, a Tucano, which required a procedure that was different to that of the Slingsby.

The report concluded: “The extensive damage to the aircraft was wholly consistent with a high-energy impact with the ground. Examination of the aircraft and its systems found no evidence to suggest the aircraft had suffered a structural failure or technical malfunction which could have contributed to this accident.

By Paul Atkinson

By Paul Atkinson

“The investigation established that, when found, both occupants were holding their respective control column but it was not possible to establish which occupant was handling the aircraft at any point during the flight.

“Given that the aircraft may have been in the process of recovering from the spin in the very last moments of the descent, it is possible that an incorrect spin recovery technique was used as the requirement to move the control stick progressively forward is a critical element of the spin recovery action in the Slingsby T67.

“This was not a requirement for spin recovery the Tutor or Tucano; aircraft on which the pilot had previously received spin training. It is possible that if the pilot initially adopted the technique applicable to those aircraft, the spin recovery would have been delayed.”

It added that the weather was “suitable” for the intended acrobatics.

On the day of the crash, one eyewitness said she saw the plane “spiralling downwards in a corkscrew movement” as she drove near Castle Howard.

In December, an inquest into the deaths recorded a verdict of “accidental death”, with “pilot error” and not a mechanical reason likely for the failure to pull out of the spin.

Mr Sandhu and Mr Forster were both trainee pilots at RAF Linton on Ouse, where they flew Tucano planes.

They had chartered the Firefly privately from Full Sutton airfield near York to practise aerobatic manoeuvres.

Post-mortem examinations found that Mr Sandhu, from Essex, died instantly from blunt head injuries and Mr Forster, from West Sussex, died from torso injuries.

Coroner Michael Oakley noted that the plane was not carrying parachutes, something the pilots were under no legal obligation to do.

He said: “This plane was not carrying a parachute. That’s something I consider does need perhaps looking at.”

“Similarly, the issue has been made with regard to the specific spin training.

“There’s the issue that every aircraft may have its own idiosyncrasies and clearly this aircraft does have that.”

The family of Mr Sandhu claimed during the inquest that the plane was known as “a flying coffin and a “widow maker”, with 48 deaths recorded since 2009.

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