Pilots not to blame for fatal air crash

Sybille Gautrey
Sybille Gautrey

Errors made by air traffic control and a flight operator led to a mid-air collision which killed a Towcester mum and four other people four years ago, an inquest jury has found.

Married mum-of-one Sybille Gautrey, aged 33, of Hazel Crescent, died when two planes collided near Coventry Airport in Warwickshire on August 17, 2008.

Pictures by Neil Plumb  18.08.08''The wreakage of the microlight plane lays in a field, near Coventry, Warwickshire. where two light airplane collided yesterday killing 5 people

Pictures by Neil Plumb 18.08.08''The wreakage of the microlight plane lays in a field, near Coventry, Warwickshire. where two light airplane collided yesterday killing 5 people

Mrs Gautrey was one of four people aboard a twin-engined Cessna 402C plane which collided with a single-engine Rand KR-2.

Sophie Hastings, aged 28, of Swadlincote, Derbyshire; John Antrobus, aged 28, of Fillongley, Warwickshire and James Beagley, aged 34, of Warwick were also killed, along with the pilot of the single-engined aircraft, Brian Normington, aged 70, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

At the inquest at Warwickshire Justice Centre into their deaths, the jury returned a narrative verdict which stated that the Cessna’s operating company Reconnaissance Ventures Limited did not discuss the nature of the flight the crew were carrying out.

This, the jury found, did not give the airport’s air traffic controllers the opportunity to identify any 
associated risks. The jury also found the information given to air traffic control by the Cessna immediately before take off was sufficiently comprehensive to 
enable controllers to understand the nature of the flight, but was not fully taken into account by the tower control when devising the plane’s landing sequence.

Brackley and Towcester Front Page August 22, 2008

Brackley and Towcester Front Page August 22, 2008

Further, the tower controller did not monitor or adjust his landing sequence in order to minimise the risk of the two planes colliding. No information was provided to Mr Normington about the presence, location and speed of the Cessna, which compromised his ability to see and avoid the larger plane, the jury said. And the tower controller gave the Cessna inaccurate information about the presence and position of the Rand, which had an “adverse effect” on the crew of the Cessna’s ability to see and avoid the smaller plane.

The jury concluded the respective pilots either did not see the other aircraft or did not see them in time to take avoiding action.

Coroner Sean McGovern, who took the unusual step of visiting the scene after the accident, is now considering a report on the case. He said it was a case which had stuck in his mind over the past four years.

Expressing his condolences to the victim’s families, he said: “Four years ago bad news came to each of the families which was unexpected and quite certainly changed their lives. Hopefully you will join me to offer our condolences to all of the families and all of those affected.”

The ownership of Coventry 
Airport has changed hands since the accident with air traffic control provided by a private firm.