A PLANE crash in Kent which killed five people on board including Apex Motorsport boss Richard Lloyd was caused by a mechanical failure, an inquest has heard.
The jury at the inquest, which was held at Bromley Civic Centre this week, returned a verdict of accidental death after a Cessna Citation 500 crashed into a house in Farnborough in March 2008, killing everyone on board.
Mr Lloyd, 63, from Helmdon, was the boss of Apex Motorsport, which is based in Buckingham. Also on board was driver David Leslie, 54, Christopher Allarton, 25, who also worked for Apex and pilots Michael Roberts, 63, and Michael Chapman, 57.
The crew on board the aircraft reported problems around a minute after take off from Biggin Hill, in south London, en-route to Pau in south-west France.
Mr Roberts asked to make an immediate return after reporting engine vibration.
He then told air traffic control: “We have a major problem, a major problem. It looks as though we are going in, we’re going in.”
Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft flying low above a residential area before crashing into the house, in Romsey Close, causing a major fire which destroyed the property.
The house owner was away on holiday while his wife was heading home at the time of the tragedy. No one on the ground was hurt.
The jury inquest heard the mechanical failure was caused after a small rivet head which secured the left engine cut-off lever was missing and could have resulted in the inadvertent shutdown of the left engine.
A bid to relight the second engine was most likely started before the relit first engine reached idle speed, meaning there was not enough time for thrust to be built up to help halt the jet’s rate of descent.
It also heard that it was ‘most likely’ that a mechanical failure within the air cycle machine – part of the air conditioning and pressurising system – caused what was believed to be engine vibration which led the crew to try to return to Biggin Hill.
Coroner Roy Palmer said it was ‘extremely fortuitous’ that no one was in the house at the time and he would be writing to the relevant authorities after crash investigators said their inquiries were hampered by the lack of a black box recorder, which the Cessna was not required by law to have.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has also recommended making it mandatory to examine rivets during maintenance checks.
There was no evidence of pre-existing defects with the aircraft.
Mr Lloyd, also a former Touring Car Championship runner up had three daughters and was married.