Pilot died in Bourn airfield crash - investigation

INVESTIGATION: The report highlighted the position of the aircraft's flaps which prevented take-off

INVESTIGATION: The report highlighted the position of the aircraft's flaps which prevented take-off - Credit: Archant

A pilot died in a crash at Bourn Airfield when he tried to take off with the aircraft’s flaps in the wrong position, an investigation has shown.

The passenger was also badly hurt when the Cessna 150 span into the ground at the end of the runway last October.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said that an instructor in another aircraft on the airfield spotted the flaps were in the fully-lowered position and tried to radio a warning.

The instructor saw the Cessna flying at low level towards some trees, start to make a turn and then began to spin, crashing into the ground.

Rescuers were able to assist the passenger from the aircraft and the pilot was also pulled clear but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The report said that the 58-year-old pilot, Thomas William Battersby, had been planning to take his father-in-law for a flight to Oxfordshire and back when the accident happened.

Investigators found that the flaps - which provide extra lift for take-off - had been unintentionally left in the fully-extended 40 degree position, rather than at the correct 10 degrees, creating drag which would have slowed the aircraft down, preventing it climbing properly.

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The report said: “The aircraft took off but failed to climb sufficiently to clear a line of trees beyond the end of the runway.

“The takeoff was attempted with 40° flap, probably unintentionally, which led to an inability to climb because of the additional drag. This was exacerbated by the aircraft being above its maximum allowable weight.”

It added: “A gentle turn to the left towards open ground or an early decision to abort the take-off and land ahead could have prevented the accident.

It is likely that the pilot did not realise why the aircraft was not climbing.”

The report said that the pilot had 363 hours of flying time but had no experience with Cessna aircraft when he started flying at Bourn and had taken further instruction on the 150 and 152 models in use there. He had not flown the 150 without an instructor before the accident.

Another club member watched the pilot make pre-flight checks and noticed the flaps had been deployed, which the pilot may not have spotted as he prepared to take-off.

The investigation said there had been previous fatal accidents involving the flaps on the 150 and that there were significant differences between the ways the flap controls worked on the 150 and 152 models. It recommended specific training to highlight the differences.

A verdict of accidental death on Mr Battersby was recorded at an inquest in Huntingdon.