New report into Norfolk pilot’s emergency landing drama

A cool headed pilot from Norfolk managed a near perfect emergency landing in challenging conditions after he was faced with a possible fire in the cockpit of his light aircraft, as he flew at 1,200ft over the sea.

Gary Cotterell, 53, from Fincham, had just taken off to fly from Eshott in Northumberland to Southery, near Downham Market, when the emergency happened.

Now the drama, which happened in June, is spotlighted in a newly published Air Accident Investigation report which indicates that the pilot not only managed a safe landing but as he made his landing approach to a field near then had to divert to another, less suitable field after spotting people on the ground where he had intended to put down.

Mr Cotterell, who had 885 hours flying experience at the time of the accident, was flying in a five-year-old Jabiru aircraft over Blyth, near newcastle, when smoke appeared inside the cockpit and the engine oil pressure began dropping rapidly.

'He made a MAYDAY call to Newcastle Air Traffic Control, who were able to monitor the aircraft on radar and subsequently alerted the emergency services,' the air accident report says.

'The pilot turned the aircraft towards the west and prepared to conduct a forced landing. However, during the approach to his chosen field, the pilot noted a number of people were in the landing area.

Consequently, he was forced to land, with a tail wind component, in an adjacent field where the surface consisted of a series of ridges and furrows. The landing was successful although the rough nature of the field resulted in some damage to the nose landing gear and the firewall to which it was attached.'

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Speaking after the incident, Mr Cotterell said: 'I do a lot of flying and a lot of test flying so I'm very current, I know the procedure and everything went like clockwork.'

The report says that later investigation by air crash experts revealed that the aircraft had lost a large quantity of oil via a split along a seam at the rear of the engine oil cooler which had only just been fitted. The smoke that came into the cockpit had been caused by some of the oil dropping on to the hot exhaust pipe.

As a result of the incident the Light Aircraft Association is to conduct a survey of owners of similar aircraft to establish the extent of oil cooler problems, whilst at the same time evaluating other available oil coolers.