Pilots 'did not see each other'

9 June 2011, 11:05

Two aircrafts were in a mid-air collision during a race - the pilots lost sight of each other, a report said.

It happened last September, whilst they were taking part in the Merlin Trophy Air Race over the Isle of Wight.

Two men in one of the planes were killed, the other plane was damaged but managed to land.

The planes were a Mooney M20J and a Vans RV-4 plane. The crew of the Mooney, who were killed were Michael Willis, 73, from Stanmore, north-west London and his 42-year-old son James Willis, from Hillingdon, north London.

The Mooney broke up in flight and fell to the ground, while the RV-4 was badly damaged, but the pilot managed to land at Bembridge Airport, both occupants were left with minor injuries.

Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said that the aircrafts were closely matched on speed and after the last turn of the race, the Mooney began to overtake the RV-4 from a position below it, shortly after which the two collided.

The investigation modelled each pilot's ability to see the other aircraft during the final moments before the collision.

"The RV-4 has a bubble canopy, providing good visibility in most horizontal directions and above the aircraft.

"However, its low wing configuration limits the pilot's view below the aircraft.

"The Mooney, as well as having a low wing obscuring part of the view below the aircraft, has a solid opaque roof limiting the ability of the pilot to see above the aircraft."

The report added:

"The results indicate that the RV-4 would not have been visible from the Mooney for 39 seconds before the collision."

It concluded:

"The accident occurred because the pilots of both aircraft lost sight of each other.

"When the Mooney was in the blind spot of the RV-4, and neither pilot could see the other aircraft, the Mooney pitched up into the RV-4 and a mid-air collision occurred."

As a result of the accident, the Civil Aviation Authority and Royal Aero Club Records, Racing and Rally Association are reviewing air race procedures and the risk air racing poses to third parties, the report noted.

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