A MICROLIGHT pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in a Highland loch following a bird strike at 1,000ft, investigators have reported.
The solo pilot escaped uninjured in the incident near Mallaig in June, in which his aircraft sank.
A report by the UK department for transport’s air accident investigation branch said the Quik GTR was ditched near the edge of the loch after missing rocks and boulders.
It said the 46-year-old man shut down the engine and made a forced landing after his propeller and aircraft controls were damaged by hitting a large bird, thought to be a seagull.
This was found to have caused two propeller blades to separate, which passed through a wing and broke one of its joints.
The pilot reported a loud bang and the microlight rolled rapidly to the right.
He was left with only limited control of the two-year-old aircraft, which he later attributed to this damage, and found he could not prevent it turning. There was also a high level of vibration.
The pilot attempted to land on a flat grass area but could not slow the microlight down sufficiently. It then descended towards burns flowing into Loch an Nostarie, south-east of Mallaig, and rocks and boulders.
The report said: “The pilot became committed to a touchdown in the loch itself and he ditched about 20ft from the bank. The microlight came to a sudden stop before the fuselage section sunk backwards below the water.”
Investigators said the pilot had been able to unfasten his harness without difficulty and swam to the shore.
He had been wearing a dry suit and lifejacket, which he did not need to inflate.
The man had been flying south between Plockton and Glenforsa on Mull in good weather on 24 June when the incident happened shortly before 11:30am.
Two hillwalkers raised the alarm after seeing the microlight coming down, and contacted the emergency services.
Police and Mallaig coastguard reached the scene about an hour later.
Mallaig lifeboat was also launched because it was initially believed the aircraft had ditched in the sea.
The microlight was recovered from the loch later in the day after leaking fuel into the water.
Previous microlight crashes have included a pilot escaping with minor injuries after crashing into a wall when sheep crossed his path as he took off from East Fortune airfield in East Lothian last September.