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AAIB report on McRae crash published
First Posted: Thu 12 Feb 2009
The AAIB has released its report into the crash of a Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel in which rally driver Colin McRae, his son, another six--year-old boy and a further adult died. The accident happened in September 2007.
As was already known, McRae was the pilot of the helicopter. The accident flight was a short one from a nearby farm to McRae's own house; the accident happened in a wooded valley 150 metres short of the intended landing site. The helicopter was manoeuvring at high speed and low height.
The AAIB could find no technical reason to explain the accident (although it adds that a technical fault could not be ruled out entirely).
It says, though, that in the light of witness reports and evidence from a camcorder being operated by the adult passenger, that it is "more likely that the pilot attempted a turning manoeuvre at low height, during which the helicopter deviated from his intended flight path. This may have been due to the pilot encountering handling difficulties, misjudgement, spatial disorientation, distraction or a combination of factors. There were indications that the pilot had started a recovery but, with insufficient height in which to complete it, the helicopter struck trees in the valley and crashed, killing all four occupants."
However, the AAIB did determine that at the time of the crash McRae held neither a valid pilots licence nor a valid type rating for the AS350B2. Both had expired, and indeed McRae had a history of allowing the type rating to expire before renewing it. The same went for his medical: although it was valid at the time of the crash, the AAIB identified two earlier periods in which McRae did not hold a valid Class 2 medical.
His licence appears to have lapsed in 2005, with no evidence of any attempt to renew (there is the suggestion that he may have believed that his licence was a lifelong one without the need for JAR renewal, and there was some general confusion during the adoption of JAR rules in this period); the type rating expired in March 2007.
Although his personal flight logging was not up-to-date, it was believed that McRae had flown 965 hours since his licence issue in 2000, of which 490 were on type and an estimated 15 hours in the past 28 days.
Among four safety recommendations made in the report, one is that "Authorised Examiners" should "check the licence and/or other applicable documentation of candidates presenting themselves for proficiency checks or skills tests". (The other recommendations refer to 'servo transparency' issues with this type of helicopter which arose in the course of the investigation).