RAF crew ‘aware of crash plane problems’
EXPERIENCED RAF crew noticed problems with a plane just days before it suffered engine failure and crashed, killing a test pilot, an inquest heard.
Flight Lieutenant Alex Parr, 40, died when the Yak-52 civilian aircraft crashed during an emergency landing close to Dinton airfield in Wiltshire in July 2016.
Some pilots and flight engineers undergoing high-level training at the Empire Test Pilots’ School discussed the “unserviceability” of the plane, with some of the instruments not working.
But the inquest in Salisbury heard that these concerns were not reported to staff who ran the school at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.
Flt Lt Jim Goodship, an RAF engineer, was taken up in the Soviet Union-designed plane by civilian pilot John Calverley just days before Flt Lt Parr died.
He said he was in the rear seat of the plane, with Mr Calverley in the front seat in command, and he noticed the RPM gauge, gyro horizon gauge and compass in his cockpit were not working as they taxied up the runway.
“I can’t remember his exact words, but the impression I got was that his instruments were working,” Flt Lt Goodship said.
The witness said he did not know whether the instruments in the front and rear cockpits were directly linked or not.
“It would have caused me more of a concern. I would have questioned it a lot more. I would have wanted to satisfy myself a little that he was capable of setting the RPM himself,” he said.
“Without the benefit of hindsight I would have continued the sortie. Everything else I was content with.”
Flt Lt Goodship was asked why he had not reported the faulty instruments, and he replied: “I assumed it may have been raised by someone else.
“At that particularly point in the course, I was probably struggling and I was under a lot of pressure.”
John Cooper QC, representing Flt Lt Parr’s widow Alice, asked him whether he thought there was “complacency” at the training school.
“At the time I do not. At the time I would not have said there was a complacent attitude,” he replied.
He also rejected the suggestion that by raising concerns about the plane he would be seen as “pedantic or a worrier”.
“No, that thought never crossed my mind,” he said.
Flt Lt Leo Cheng, an RAF pilot, told the inquest that during the initial briefing on the Yak-52 fellow students were informed that the gyro horizon gauge and possibly the GPS indicator were not working.
“We were also told this aircraft was fully under the civilian permit to fly but you don’t need those instruments to be working,” he said.
“It would be like getting into a car and the clock was not working.”
He added: “It was common knowledge among the students that the RPM was not working.”
Flt Lt Parr, a married father-ofthree who lived in Marlborough, had been a pilot for 20 years and worked at the Empire Test Pilots’ School.
When he died he was a passenger in the Yak-52 with Mr Calverley as the pilot in charge and safety pilot.
The inquest continues.