Ter­ri­ble freak of na­ture caused fa­tal plane crash

TAIL WIND: Wife was killed as pi­lot hus­band tried to make forced land­ing

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Sam Len­non slen­non@thek­m­group.co.uk

A CORONER has told a pi­lot in a fa­tal plane crash that killed his wife that he could not have avoided the tragedy.

Max Rip­pon had been fly­ing a light air­craft, with his wife Danielle as a passenger, when it crashed and struck the only oak tree in a field.

Mrs Rip­pon, 66, died at the scene from mul­ti­ple in­juries.

An in­quest jury on Mon­day re­turned an ac­ci­den­tal death ver­dict.

Coroner Rachel Red­man told Mr Rip­pon: “I be­lieve there was noth­ing you could have done to avoid this tragedy.

“It was a ter­ri­ble freak of na­ture that the plane col­lided with the oak tree.”

The crash hap­pened just min­utes af­ter the plane had taken off from an airstrip at Fridd Farm, Bethers­den, on Septem­ber 30, 2007.

The in­quest at Dover heard that the plane had en­coun­tered a par­tial loss of en­gine power in mid-air. Mr Rip­pon tried to land safely but the plane ended up strik­ing the tree.

The in­quest at Dover heard that Mrs Rip­pon’s safety harness had failed in the im­pact, throw­ing her for­ward and she most likely suf­fered her in­juries by strik­ing the in­stru­ment panel and joy­stick.

A pathol­o­gist told the in­quest that had the harness re­mained in­tact she may have en­dured no more than the mi­nor in­juries sus­tained by her hus­band.

The Depart­ment of Trans­port’s Air Ac­ci­dents In­ves­ti­ga­tions Branch (AAIB) in­ves­ti­ga­tion said the en­gine trou­ble had been caused by a block­age in the car­bu­ret­tor.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors said that Mr Rip­pon, an ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lot, had got into fur­ther dif­fi­culty by choos­ing the wrong run­way to land on, one that was in the di­rec­tion of a tail­wind.

But they stressed that this was done un­der in­tense pres­sure, in a flight last­ing less than four min­utes.

They be­lieved that had he had more time to think he would have made the right choice.

Mrs Red­man also said she would write to the Euro­pean Avi­a­tion Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which im­ple­ments and mon­i­tors fly­ing safety rules, con­cern­ing the main­te­nance of car­bu­ret­tors.

The AAIB had pro­duced a re­port last Novem­ber analysing the cause of the crash and its one safety rec­om­men­da­tion was for the re­moval and in­spec­tion of car­bu­ret­tor bowls.

Pic­ture: Gary Browne PD1298344

Emer­gency crews at the scene of the crash near Bethers­den in Septem­ber 2007

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