Hornchurch pilot likely lost consciousness before fatal Chigwell plane crash

13:25 17 October 2016

A plane has come down in a field near to Chigwell in Essex off Gravel Lane

A plane has come down in a field near to Chigwell in Essex off Gravel Lane


The pilot of a light aircraft, who died alongside his co-pilot when they crashed into a field a year ago, may have lost consciousness during the flight, a report concluded.

Robert Bull, the pilot killed after his plane crashed in Gravel Lane, ChigwellRobert Bull, the pilot killed after his plane crashed in Gravel Lane, Chigwell

The nine seater Beechcraft Super King Air 200, came down before 10.20am in a field off of Gravel Lane, Chigwell on October 3, 2015.

Experienced pilot Rob Bull, 40, of Hornchurch, and First Officer Francis Simmonds, 46, who lived in Luton, were both killed in the crash.

A government report concluded evidence suggests the pilot lost control of the aircraft in the moments leading to the crash.

It notes the pilot previously delayed departure because of poor visibility due to fog and low cloud.

The post-mortem examination finds the pilot became incapacitated with symptoms pointing to impaired consciousness or sudden death.

It suggest Mr Simmonds tried to recover the aircraft but was unable to do so in time before hitting the ground.

The report does not dismiss the possibility the pilot lost control of the aircraft because of “lack of skills” but deems it “highly unlikely”.

Mr Bull, who held a commercial pilot’s licence, had just completed an extensive period of supervised training.

He recorded 1,941 hours of flying, 50 of which had taken place in the last 28 days after qualifying as a pilot in 2003.

“On the balance of probabilities, it was likely that the pilot lost control of the aircraft due to medical incapacitation and the additional crew member was unable to recover the aircraft in the height available,” the report concludes.

The aircraft had reached 875ft after takeoff, when it began to descend. It struck some trees at the edge of the field before crashing to the north west of Stapleford Aerodrome, Stapleford Tawney, Stapleford Abbotts.

A witness walking about 30 metres from where the plane crashed said the aircraft looked intact and that it was “not falling” but flew “full pelt” into the ground.

The wreckage of the aircraft caught fire following the crash but the aircraft was examined and no pre-accident defects were found.

However, the report notes over the nine months preceding the accident there were a high number of defects that were not recorded in the aircraft technical log but this is not believed to have contributed to the crash.

At the time, both men were described as “highly-experienced” pilots by a spokesman for owner and operator London Executive Aviation (LEA).

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