Safety advice follows inquiry into fatal crash

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NEW pan-European safety recommendations have been made after the wings came off a glider in a fatal accident at Bicester Airfield last summer.

The gliding instructor boyfriend of 25-year-old PhD student Amy Barsby, who was originally from Longridge in Lancs, was among those who watched in horror as the wings broke away from her glider when it was launched on the afternoon of August 8.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said a crucial bolt in the main wing fitting had not fully engaged, and that it had not been possible for those preparing the glider to detect the problem.

“As a consequence, when the glider became airborne, the partially-secured joint was unable to sustain the wing-bending movements associated with the winch launch and the lower bevel bolt failed.

“This allowed the lower attachment lugs to disengage and the wings to fold up and separate from the fuselage,” the report stated.

The Inter-University Gliding Competition, involving 60 students from around the country, was being held at the airfield that day.

Miss Barsby, a pilot of 10 years’ experience, and her boyfriend Bruce Duncan had travelled down from their home in Edinburgh to take part.

She had already performed one successful flight in the 45-year-old Foka 4 glider owned by her boyfriend, and was being launched on her second flight when the accident occurred.

Miss Barsby’s aircraft was at around 1,000ft and still appeared to be attached to the launching winch when the wings separated, the fuselage went into a steep nose-dive, and hit the ground.

Despite the efforts of paramedics, Miss Barsby was pronounced dead at the scene. The AAIB’s report indicated those readying the glider for flight had done all they could to make it safe.

“The design of the wing main fitting is such that correct assembly can only be checked by visual inspection of the top joint. It is not possible to verify correct assembly of the lower joint, neither visually nor by feel; rather this must be assumed by reference to the top joint,” it said.

In conclusion, the report said the European Aviation Safety Agency should require owners of Foka 4 and similar gliders to find a way to ensure bevel bolts can be checked.