Essex: Plane crash which claimed lives of two men was an accident - inquest
09:00 18 December 2012
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TWO men died when their light aircraft crashed into a lake in Essex after spinning to the ground during an aerobatic training exercise, an inquest has heard.
Instructor Simon Hulme, 33, and his 43-year-old student, Spencer Bennett, were killed when their plane crashed near Langford on April 28 last year.
An inquest jury sitting in Chelmsford returned verdicts of accidental death after hearing nearly two hours of evidence.
It was unclear which pilot was in control of the two-seater Yak 52 RA3585K when it plummeted towards the ground in an inverted spin.
The pair, who were on the third day of the three-day formation flying school, both had controls with the arrangement being that the student would fly the plane under the instructor’s supervision with the instructor taking over if felt necessary.
An examination of the plane after being pulled from the lake found the controls had meant for it to carry out the manoeuvre and was in the process of being corrected from the spin but it was thought the aircraft was already too close to the ground to be able to rectify it.
Witnesses said they thought the plane plummeted from around 1,800ft but it would have needed to be at a height of 2,500ft to come out of the manoeuvre and continue flying safely, the inquest heard.
It was unlikely the spin was intentional but there was no evidence that Mr Bennett had received any training in it or carried one out before, Tim Atkinson, senior investigator at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, told the inquest.
Mr Atkinson, who attended the scene of the crash, said recovery from the manoeuvre could have been adversely affected by the pilots’ unfamiliarity with it, ambiguity as to who should be in control and the pilots being unsure of the controls.
Mr Bennett and RAF pilot Mr Hulme, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, were joined by two other planes flown by students and their instructors as they carried out a series of manoeuvres.
The pair were in the middle of the formation, with one of the occupants of the plane at the back filming the sequence with a video camera strapped to his helmet. Jurors were shown the video which showed the only partially visible plane appear to spin to the ground before it could be seen many metres below in the lake.
Routine toxicology tests found no evidence of alcohol or drugs in either man’s system that could have contributed to the crash.