(Too) late avoiding action
Aircraft Type: Luscombe 8A Silvaire
Date & Time: 19 April 2019 at 1225
Commander’s Flying Experience: PPL, 2,366 hours (of which 1,500 were on type) Last 90 days: 3 hours
Last 28 days: 2 hours
The pilot had planned to carry out a flight from Baxterley Aerodrome in Warwickshire to Old Warden Airfield in Bedfordshire. He had operated from Baxterley for fifteen years and was familiar with the trees on the southern side of the runways and at the western end. The weather was good with a light surface wind from 075° at less than 5kt, CAVOK, OAT 22°C and QNH 1030 hpa. The pilot elected to depart from Runway 25, which is 450m long by 15m wide. Although the takeoff was downwind, the wind was light and the pilot considered it was compensated for by the down slope.
Following normal pretakeoff checks, including engine power checks, the aircraft was lined up some fifty metres north-east of the beginning of Runway 25 along the Runway 24 extension. Full throttle was set, and the acceleration appeared normal with the aircraft becoming airborne at about the usual point on the runway. The climb was shallow as the
aircraft accelerated to its climb speed of 70mph during which it drifted to the left of the runway towards some trees. The pilot could see a tree which was on the left side of a gap in the trees at the end of the runway. He applied right bank but no rudder to avoid it, but the aircraft continued towards the top of the tree, which he thought it would clear by some ten to fifteen feet. It then became apparent that the aircraft might hit the tree and so the pilot applied a further fifteen degrees of bank to try and avoid it. The left wingtip struck the tops of the tree with a “bang” and, in seconds, the right wing dropped and the aircraft spun through 180°, impacting the surface of the field adjacent to the aerodrome.
Although the pilot was not seriously injured, which he thought was due to the energy absorption of the seat cushions and his harness, he was trapped in the wreckage by his leg which was beneath the instrument panel. He was unable to turn off the fuel but turned off all the other switches, including for the electrical system. The Fire Service arrived and were able to release him.
‘The pilot considered that the aircraft performance had been normal,’ says the AAIB it its report ‘and he was aware of the trees to his left and those at the end of the runway. The slight tailwind component possibly reduced the angle of climb which reduced his normal vertical separation from the obstacles, which he could see and initially thought he would clear. When it became apparent that he would not clear them, his attempt to turn away to the right was not made early enough and the left wingtip contacted the upper branches.’
The pilot concluded that an early decision to avoid an obstacle is better than waiting to see if the aircraft will clear it.
With a light tailwind, the Luscombe pilot elected to take off downhill on R25, using part of R24 to extend his run