(Too) late avoid­ing action

Pilot - - SAFETY MATTERS -

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.

(IL­LUS­TRA­TION COUR­TESY OF POOLEY’S)

With a light tail­wind, the Lus­combe pi­lot elected to take off downhill on R25, us­ing part of R24 to ex­tend his run

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