The plane came in to land at high speed and a 95kg passenger meant it had too much momentum to stop
By Tom Mack – Senior Reporter
A pilot suffered serious head injuries after overshooting a runway he was landing on and crashing into a hedge.
The 63-year-old man was coming in to land at Stoke Golding Airfield, near Hinckley, when the accident happened.
After a fast approach, he only managed to touch down about halfway along the runway.
He was used to landing the Pelican propeller plane on shorter airstrips so he thought he would be alright. But despite braking as hard as he could after touching down, he went past the end of the runway, still doing about 17mph, crashed through a hedge and dropped into a ditch.
He was flung forward and smashed his head against a metal bar.
A report on the crash was published yesterday by the government’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch. It suggested that the accident happened because the pilot was with a 95kg passenger – who was not injured – which added about 20 per cent to the weight of the aircraft.
The report stated the injuries were due to the pilot wearing his harness “comfortably”, instead of having the shoulder straps tight.
“The aircraft had flown from Oxenhope Airfield in Yorkshire and, with a northerly breeze, its pilot positioned to land on Runway 08 at Stoke Golding Airfield,” the report stated.
“He reported being slightly fast on the approach, which resulted in a protracted flare and deep landing approximately halfway along the runway.
“Despite applying maximum braking, the pilot could not stop the aircraft, which overran the runway.
“It entered the boundary hedge and tipped nose-first into a deep ditch, where it came to an abrupt halt.
“The pilot sustained severe injuries having struck his head on a metal bar running across the top of the cockpit.
“A post-accident field trial by the Light Aircraft Association showed that a slack shoulder strap would allow enough body movement for a seat occupant’s head to strike the metal bar during a rapid deceleration.”
The crash, which happened just after midday on August 20 last year, also caused a lot of damage to the plane, including to its propeller, wings, landing gear and fuselage.
Despite his injuries, the pilot was able to climb out of the aircraft.
The report stated: “The occupants were able to exit the aircraft using the door on the right side of the aircraft, although progress was hindered by the hedge’s thorny branches.
“Bystanders were quickly on scene to assist.”
The conclusion of the report stated the weight of the plane, the looseness of the straps and the pilot’s decision to go ahead with the landing instead of going round and trying the landing again were all factors.
It said: “For very light aircraft, relatively small increases in weight and excess speed can have a disproportionate effect on performance.
“The pilot reflected that, having not controlled the approach speed accurately or landed in the first third of runway, he should have gone around.
“It is likely that the pilot’s injuries resulted from his shoulder strap being ‘comfortable’ rather than tight.
“The slackness in the shoulder strap was likely a result of the pilot adjusting it so that he could reach the instrument panel during the flight and not pulling it tight for landing.”