Crash pilot ‘not qualified to fly in poor visibility’

A plane similar to the one which crashed. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
A plane similar to the one which crashed. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
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The pilot of a light aircraft which crashed in low cloud off Kintyre killing both people on board was not qualified to fly in poor visibility, air accident investigators reported today.

Tony Woodward was returning with his friend Bob Archer from climbing Ben Nevis to raise money for a children’s hospice when the plane came down on Loch Fyne last May.

They were flying from Oban to Carlisle when the Piper PA Cherokee Arrow encountered low cloud, mist and fog and hit the water two miles north east of Skipness.

Mr Woodward, 62, who chartered the plane in Carlisle five days earlier, had more than 200 hours of flying experience.

However, the UK Department for Transport’s air accident investigation branch (AAIB) said he “was not qualified and had not completed the required training to fly unsupervised in ‘instrument meteorological conditions’.”

That is where pilots have to rely on cockpit instruments rather than sight in poor visibility.

The AAIB said the plane crashed 25 minutes after taking off on 25 May. Wreckage was spotted hours later by a vessel and Coastguard helicopter. The bodies of the men were recovered.

The AAIB said: “As the pilot flew south down Loch Fyne, the reducing visibility would have made it more difficult to identify the horizon.

“With a gradual reduction in visibility, the pilot might not have been aware how poor the conditions had become.

“There was no evidence that he reduced his airspeed [of about 150mph] to give himself more time to react to any external visual cues. The visibility would have reduced to below that permitted for visual flight rules [where the pilot can see where they are 
going].

“The accident probably occurred as a result of the aircraft being flown, in poor visibility, into the sea.”

CalMac ferry sailings nearby had been suspended because of the visibility.

The AAIB said safety action had been taken over procedures for missing aircraft.

The men had been fundraising for Shooting Star Chase, a hospice in Surrey.

In a tribute from Mr Woodward’s company, freight firm Mapcargo said: “Tony was a great character and could never do enough for the staff, family or local charities.

“He was a great part of our team and loved by all.”