Mystery over crash helicopter's mayday call

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Accident investigators have been unable to establish the reason for a Mayday call made from a helicopter shortly before it crashed killing both people on board, it was revealed today.

Flying with a student, the Schweizer 269C instructor Steven Edward Lewis, 38, had made a Mayday transmission 20 minutes into the flight from Blackpool airport.

Received at Blackpool, the transmission mentioned the word "failure" but the requested further transmission a few seconds later consisted mainly of background noise, a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

The report said: "Transmission of the Mayday indicates that the instructor had identified an emergency situation and, although it was not possible to determine what this was, the Mayday itself was delivered in a voice that, according to family members, sounded calm and held no sense of panic.

"Analysis of the final transmission, however, suggests that the helicopter was by then no longer in controlled flight."

The AAIB said examination of the helicopter, which crashed on the east bank of the River Wyre, near Stalmine, Lancashire, on the morning of September 22 last year, revealed that the main rotor was turning at low speed on impact, "but the reason for this could not be established".

The AAIB said the most likely cause of the accident was "a loss of control during an attempted forced landing downwind".

Mr Lewis was from Rainhill, Merseyside. His student, who was also killed, was Philip Charles Gray, 45, of Mawdesley, near Chorley, Lancashire.

Another AAIB report published today involving a fatal helicopter crash told how a Robinson R22 came down in a field at Pinford Farm, Macclesfield, Cheshire, on the afternoon of November 15 last year.

The report said the pilot, father-of-four Tony Sullivan, 69, of Woodford, near Stockport, Greater Manchester, may have been attempting a precautionary landing and that the tail of the helicopter contacted the ground, leading to a loss of control.

The AAIB said corrosion was found in the left magneto - part of the ignition system - "which could have caused an increase in engine vibration and noise and possibly led the pilot to attempt a precautionary landing".

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