Pilot’s narrow escape from runaway aircraft in Welwyn Garden City

A PILOT had to dive out of the way of his runaway plane, which went on to clip another aircraft before crashing into an earthy embankment.

The 62-year-old flier was manually starting up the Beagle B121 Pup and had just turned the propeller by hand when he was forced to dive beneath the right wing for cover, as it broke free of its tie-downs.

It shot off the hardstanding at Panshanger Aerodrome, WGC, at full power, striking the left wing-tip of a parked Cessna 310, and then crashed into a mound 200 metres away before plunging nose-down into a ditch.

The 42-year-old low-wing monoplane suffered damage to its propeller, landing gear and wings, while the engine also “shock loaded”.

A report published this week by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the accident happened one day after a 50-hour maintenance check.

It stated the crash was caused as the ignition switch was left in the ‘Right’ instead of the ‘Off’ position, despite there being no key in the switch, due to the use of an “incorrect” key by the engineer.

As the pilot, who had 681 hours of flying experience, was running through his pre-flight inspection he looked at the ignition switch, saw no key present, perceived the switch was in the ‘Off’ position and checked the parking brake was on.

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The report added: “Parallax error made it difficult to differentiate between the Right and Off switch positions.

“In addition, the lack of a key in the switch reinforced the pilot’s perception that the switch was in the Off position, as this is what he had become accustomed to expect during seven year’s ownership of the aircraft.”

It stated the external inspection checklist required the pilot to configure the Pup in a state in which the engine would start and “in this respect, the checklist design was a dormant failure”, as it only “required a single breach of the only available defence”.

It added although the use of an incorrect key caused the accident, “a similar hazardous condition could have arisen”.

Following the accident, just after 3pm on April 22 this year, the flight manual and service manual checklists have been adapted.