Fatal midair Sussex crash report released

The BBC has recently reported that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has released a report into a fatal mid-air collision over Sussex that occurred on July 4, 2011.

The accident involved a former British Airways captain named Alan Weal, 62, of Goring (near Worthing) who was conducting a test flight of a friend’s Vans RV-6A aircraft which had been modified. Weal had more than 20,000 hours of flying experience and he was on his third flight of the day when the crash happened.

The other aircraft, a Diamond DA40, came from a flying school based at Shoreham airport and its crew had more than 3,400 hours of flying experience. When the crash occurred, a flight instructor from the school was upgrading his instructor qualifications and was practicing teaching instrument flying to another instructor.

According to the AAIB report, the pilots failed to spot each other despite clear weather conditions plus information from air traffic control. However, the BBC quoted aviation analyst Chris Yates as saying:

Given the colour schemes of the aircraft and given the background colour of the sky it’s often difficult to spot other aircraft that may be moving the in the sky very close to you…. everybody involved had done what they were supposed to have to done to the letter.

For its part, the AAIB said its carrying out a study into improving aircraft visibility but certainly the accident goes to show that pilots always need to be vigilant for other aircraft – even in seemingly perfect flying conditions.

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