The pilot flying a private jet which crashed killing three members of Osama bin Laden’s family was overwhelmed as he approached a small UK airport, leading to him landing too fast and too late, an inquest has heard.
A jury returned a narrative verdict for the four casualties at the Basingstoke inquest into the accident at Blackbushe Airport in Hampshire on July 31 2015, describing how “the plane overshot the runway and crashed, causing it to catch fire”.
The members of bin Laden’s family who died were his stepmother, Raja Bashir Hashem, 75, her daughter, Sana bin Laden, 53, and her husband, Zouheir Anuar Hashem, 56.
The hearing was told that the Jordanian pilot, 58-year-old Mazen Salim Alqasim, who had been a last-minute substitute for the flight, faced a “very high workload” from the jet’s automated instructions to avoid other aircraft in the area.
Julian Firth, principal investigator of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), said that although the pilot had flown to Blackbushe previously, he might have been more used to flying into airports which are more tightly co-ordinated by air traffic controllers.
North Hampshire Coroner Andrew Bradley said: “Blackbushe is not an all-singing, all-dancing airport and instructions from the control tower are not what you would get from Heathrow and Jeddah.
“He was approaching too fast, touching down at the wrong point, he’s making a decision to continue with his landing until it’s too late.”
Senior AAIB inspector Afandi Darlington said the Saudi-registered Phenom 300 jet approached the airfield at 151 kias (knots-indicated air speed), 40% faster than the target of 108 kias, and would have needed 616m of paved runway to come to a stop but there was only 438m available.
Mr Darlington added: “The AAIB investigation didn’t identify a technical cause for this accident.”
Detective Sergeant Paula James, of Hampshire Police, said the victims of the crash were identified by their dental records because their bodies were “incredibly charred”.
In a statement read to the court, Saad bin Laden, brother of Sana bin Laden, said his family had flown back from Milan in Italy, having attended a family wedding at Lake Como, and his last contact with them had been a WhatsApp photograph of the three of them that morning.
Mr bin Laden said the pilot had flown to Blackbushe four or five times previously and added: “I would regard him as a conscientious and careful pilot.”
The cause of death given by pathologist Dr Russell Delaney for all four victims was “the effects of fire” but added that they would most likely have lost consciousness from carbon monoxide prior to their bodies being “incinerated” by the fire which engulfed the aircraft.
The bin Laden family said in a statement released through Hampshire Police: “Raja’a, Sana’a and Zouheir still are much-loved members of our family.
“We are blessed to have had a wonderful mother, sister and brother in our lives; they will always remain in our prayers, as we continue to be devastated by this great loss, but nonetheless accept it was God’s will to lose them.
“We accept the findings of the inquest and we would like to thank our friends and family for their continued support throughout this difficult time.”
Mr Alqasim’s family said: “We are very sad that such tragedy occurred. He was a pure-hearted man, the kind of man that would carry the whole world on his shoulders, and the greatest father there is.
“Therefore we extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the families concerned. He left a huge gap in our lives yet he will remain in our hearts.”