A one-way flight to France turned deadly when the two pilots of a light aircraft lost control in treacherous weather conditions and neither the plane nor the bodies of the victims were found
Two pilots lost their lives flying into “unusual weather conditions” that rammed their light plane into the English Channel at over 100mph, according to an aviation accident panel.
Lee Rogers and Brian Statham had taken off from Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks, on the morning of April 2nd.
They were en route to Le Touquet, a coastal town in northern France, when their Piper Cherokee Arrow II lost radar contact and crashed into the sea.
Police said at the time the pair appeared to have lost control in treacherous weather as they flew with six other planes from their flying club.
An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) concluded that the two men got into trouble after flying into “strong convective clouds” that would have resulted in waterspouts and tornadoes.
Investigators said none of the men were qualified to fly in clouds and they may have encountered severe turbulence and rain and snow showers.
At the last radar contact, the aircraft was at about 4,600 ft and was rapidly losing altitude. The plane descended at just under 10,000 feet per minute (about 110 miles per hour).
A joint response was launched by the French Coastguard and HM Coastguard, but the planes and their bodies were never found.
The AAIB report said: “None of the pilots on board were qualified to fly in clouds. Shortly after this transmission, the aircraft disappeared from radar.
“The evidence available at the time of publication of this report indicates that control of the aircraft was lost as it entered the clouds.
“A comprehensive search of the area was coordinated by the British and French Aviation Rescue Coordination Centers, but neither the plane nor its occupants were found. It is likely that the aircraft sustained significant damage when it hit the sea.
“It is very dangerous to go to the clouds unless you are properly qualified or in current practice of instrument flight.
“The radar evidence indicates that the aircraft hit the water with a high rate of descent and the damage found to the seat indicates that the aircraft was subjected to significant forces and significant disturbances.
“It is therefore unlikely that the occupants had any means of escaping the aircraft.”
Crispin Orr, chief inspector of the AAIB, said it was a “tragic accident” and reminded pilots of the importance of “pre-flight weather decisions”.
He said the AAIB had “investigated numerous accidents in which control of an aircraft was lost in these circumstances.”
He added: “The accident shows how dangerous it is to fly into the clouds if you are not properly qualified or not in current practice of instrument flight.”