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Hero pilot had run out of fuel.

Byline: By Sarah Knapton

Lives risked over basic error

A pilot hailed a hero after narrowly avoiding school-children when his plane crash-landed should have realis-ed he was running out of fuel, an investigation has revealed.

David Leeder, 55, was flying a hired two-seater Cessna plane when it came down on Wallsend Golf Course in October ( yards from the busy Coast Road and next to Benfield School.

In an interview with the Chronicle Mr Leeder claimed he had suffered unexplained engine trouble which forced him to ditch the aircraft.

But a report by the Air Accident Investigations Branch has concluded he simply ran out of fuel.

Mr Leeder told investigators he believed the aircraft could fly for four and half hours without the need to re-fuel but had discovered after the accident it was only four hours.

The report said: "The engine stopped through lack of fuel and the pilot then made a forced landing with no injuries to himself or anyone else.

"Nevertheless, it was unwise to continue the flight with the indications of fuel quantity shown on the gauges.

"Furthermore even with an expectation that the aircraft had an endurance of four and half hours, the pilot was close to the time limit for continued safe flight.

"Fuel planning and fuel monitoring is one of the essentials of good airmanship."

Mr Leeder, a cameraman of King Edward Road, Heaton, Newcastle, who has 30 years of flying experience, had set out on a two-hour flight from Eshott Airfield, Northumberland.

By the time he made the emergency landing, he had flown the aircraft for four hours since it had last been fully refueled.

When the engine stopped, Mr Leeder had just two minutes to glide down towards the golf course.

On landing, the plane skidded on wet grass, before crashing into a tree. Neither Mr Leeder nor anyone else was injured in the crash ( although the pilot later hurt his ankle as he helped police tow the plane away.

Crash investigators found there was `very little' fuel in the tanks when the aircraft was recovered.

Eshott airfield manager Steve Clarehugh said: "I am amazed a pilot with so much experience should have made a mistake like this.

"Fuel management is one of the most elementary things you learn. Every pilot should have their flight plan worked out and it is their responsibility to know how much fuel they have at all times."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2005
Words:401
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