Death crash pilot 'apprehensive' about plane

IAN CLARKE A pilot who crashed to his death near a Norfolk airfield had been “apprehensive” about flying his new gyroplane, an air accident report revealed.Company director Ian Broderick Pit Steel died when his small aircraft plunged in a wheat field about half a mile from Shipdham Airfield, near Dereham, on June 29, 2003.

IAN CLARKE

A pilot who crashed to his death near a Norfolk airfield had been “apprehensive” about flying his new gyroplane, an air accident report revealed.

Company director Ian Broderick Pit Steel died when his small aircraft plunged in a wheat field about half a mile from Shipdham Airfield, near Dereham, on June 29, 2003.

The 44-year-old - known as Brod - was well known in the local flying community and had experience in flying fixed-wing planes.

But the crash happened on his first unsupervised flight after completing his Private Pilot's Licence (gyroplanes) course.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report published yesterday said the accident resulted from the rotor blades of the gyroplane striking the rudder which made the aircraft “uncontrollable.”

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The report said the specific reasons for the blades striking the rudder could not be determined but “a pilot-induced oscillation (PIO)” appeared to be the probable cause.

PIO happens when a pilot inadvertently carries out “an often increasing series of corrections in opposite directions.”

The report said that during his training “occurrences of over-controlling had been noted and attempts made to rectify the tendency.”

But towards the end of his course, his instructors considered he appeared more confident.

However, the report added: “Comments made by the pilot's partner indicated that he remained somewhat apprehensive of gyroplanes. The pilot had mentioned instances of PIO during the course that alarmed him and he expressed some anxiety about flying G-BIGU.”

Witnesses said the G-BIGU was flying straight and level at a reasonable speed just before the accident, although there were reports of “over-controlling” during the flight.

People heard noises described as “clunk” or a “bang” before the plane crashed.

The AAIB investigation highlighted the poor safety record of gyroplanes compared with other recreational aircraft and a series of recommendations have been made including training and licensing.

The report said Mr Pit Steel had completed an approved course for gyroplanes and had submitted his licence application to the Civil Aviation Authority.

At the time of the accident the CAA had not processed the application and so had not issued the licence.

But the authority later confirmed he had met all the requirements for the issue of the PPL (gyroplanes).

The report showed he had 324 hours flying experience, of which 43 were in gyroplanes

The safety record for gyroplanes was described as “poor” compared with other aircraft with a fatal accident record from 1989-2004 of 27.1 per 100,000 flight hours.

The comparable rate for light fixed-wing general aviation aircraft was 1.1.

Last year an inquest returned a verdict of misadventure into Mr Pit Steel's death.

*The full report can be seen on the AAIB website - www.aaib.gov.uk.

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