INQUEST: Welwyn Garden City pilot dies after crashing into field near Walkern
PUBLISHED: 13:07 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:14 21 June 2018
An experienced Welwyn Garden City pilot died after his aircraft nosedived into a field near Walkern, an inquest has heard.
Ian Brewster, 71 at the time, was flying his microlight on June 20 last year when he was seen to take a “steep descending left turn” before plummeting into a field off Newell Lane.
Horrified onlookers rushed over to help father-of-two, who was trapped underneath the wreckage, but despite attempts to save him he was pronounced dead at the scene at 10.40am.
Summarising witness accounts, Detective Constable Ben Stacey said one “heard the engine tone change dramatically and has seen the aircraft flying down towards the ground”, while another recalled hearing it go from “normal to a horrendous ‘clackety-clack, clackety-clack’ noise”.
Another local said they saw the aircraft in trouble before hearing a “crump crash”.
Mr Brewster told the last person he spoke to that morning that he was having engine problems, and was thinking about giving up flying altogether.
However, Mark Jarvis, senior investigator at the Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB), said that extensive follow-up assessments found no mechanical issues with the aircraft – adding the propeller damage indicated it was still working at impact.
“All the evidence is that the engine was operating normally at impact, and there was no reason why it should not have responded to Mr Brewster’s controls,” he added.
The 71-year-old, described as a “very skilled and experienced microlight pilot”, had his licence since 1990, and police investigations found no evidence of suicide or foul play.
Hatfield’s Old Courthouse heard that the aircraft is classified as “unregulated” and “deregulated” in the US and Britain respectively, which effectively allows it to operate without needing certificates of worthiness.
But Mr Jarvis said that despite being a simple aircraft that can be built at home, tests showed the model acts in a “benign manner”, and Mr Brewster’s logbooks – coupled with follow-up investigations – suggested it was well-maintained.
Toxicology and health reports also confirmed there was no suggestion of any physical incident that could have explained the collision.
Senior Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “In short it’s really not known why the plane crashed in the way it did.
“It’s clearly been investigated in an extremely thorough way, but seems to be one of those cases where despite that it is simply not known why the crash occurred.
“But there is nothing in the evidence to suggest there was anything untoward or suspicious.”
Following the inquest today (June 21), Mr Brewster’s death was officially listed as an accident.