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ALTITUDE KIT COULD HAVE SAVED LIVES; Inquiry hears how air smash may have been averted.

Byline: Duncan Gibbons NEWS REPORTER

ONE of two aircraft involved in a fatal mid-air collision over Coventry was not equipped with a device that may have averted the tragedy, an inquest heard.

The Rand KR2 was not fitted with a 'transponder' that would have given air traffic control more detail about its identity and altitude.

The kit-plane did appear on the radar screens at Coventry Airport, but with limited information.

On August 17, 2008, the single-engined kit-plane collided with a twinprop Cessna 402C near Coombe Abbey, killing five people.

An inquest being held at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington was told there was "no requirement" for small aircraft like the Rand KR2 to possess a transponder.

But air traffic controller John Tarplin, who was on radar duty at Coventry Airport on the day of the crash, told the hearing: "It would ease our job considerably because if you can identify a particular aircraft on the radar, you have a better awareness of where aircraft are.

"Transponders also actually 'talk' to each other - they tell each other if there's a conflict, and warn the pilot."

On board the Cessna were Harvey Antrobus, aged 28, of Shawbury Lane, Fillongley, and James Beagley, 34, of Broad Street, Warwick, along with pilots Sybille Gautrey, 33, from Towcester, in Northamptonshire, and Sophie Hastings, 28, from Swadlincote, in Derbyshire.

They all worked for Baginton aerial survey company Reconnaissance Ventures Limited (RVL), and were calibrating the landing guidance system at Coventry Airport, a mission that involved making three high-speed low-level passes over the runway without landing.

At the controls of his kit plane was 70-year-old Brian Normington, from Blackdown, in Leamington.

The inquest heard that air traffic controllers had been given conflicting information regarding the nature of the Cessna flight, with one sheet of paper saying it was an instrument landing system test, which was correct, and another saying it was an instrument rating test.

Mr Tarplin said: "I did not know specifics about what the aircraft was wishing to do that day."

Both aircraft were in so-called 'uncontrolled' airspace where pilots have a responsibility to 'see and avoid' a collision based on information given to them by air traffic controllers. Once an aircraft re-enters an airport's airspace, the responsibility transfers from the radar operator to the tower controller.

The inquest heard both pilots and the four air traffic controllers on duty were properly licensed, and none had medical conditions that would have affected flight safety.

A jury is presiding over the inquest, but no person or organisation is on trial and there is no prosecution or defence. On Monday, Air Accident Investigation Board inspector Geraint Herbert told the inquest that the two Cessna pilots would not have seen the Rand because of its small size, their own high speed, and because of a windscreen blindspot.

And he said by the time air traffic controllers realised the planes were on a collision course, it was too late.

CAPTION(S):

COLLISION COURSE: The G-Bolz (above) was not fitted with a transponder and (right) the radar show the two planes just before they hit
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 10, 2012
Words:515
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