Better safety 'may have prevented air deaths'

By Matthew Bates Thursday 11 October 2012 Updated: 23/10 11:23

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The tail wing of the Cessna 402 being loaded onto a recovery vehicle by the RAF. 34.08.016.jg4

A PLANE crash could have been prevented with better safety management, an air traffic controller has claimed.

Gary Smith made the split-second decisions moments before the crash in 2008, which saw five people killed when two aircraft collided in mid-air.

He said priorities might have changed had he been made aware of the nature of one of the plane's flight.

The comments were made yesterday (Wednesday) on the third day of a jury inquest into the deaths at Leamington Justice Centre.

The Sunday, August 17 crash over Coombe Abbey, near Coventry claimed the lives of Meriden Young Farmer John 'Harvey' Antrobus, 28, from Fillongley and Warwick man James Beagley, 34, who were passengers in a Cessna 402 piloted by Sophie Hastings from Derbyshire and Sybille Gautrey from Northants who also lost their lives.

Also killed was Brian Normington, 70, from Blackdown near Leamington who was the pilot and only person onboard a Rand KR-2 plane he had spent ten years building.

The Cessna crew, all employees of Baginton-based Reconnaissance Ventures Ltd (RVL), had been carrying out specific training which saw their plane travel 40 knots faster than usual.

However, when the crew had informed air traffic control of their intention the night before, the information was incorrectly categorised by a staff member.

Air traffic controller Mr Smith, who now works at a different airport, described the safety assessment carried out as 'erroneous'.

"I believe the accident would have been resolved if safety had been better managed," he said.

It also emerged Mr Normington's plane was not fixed with a transponder device which could have helped avoid tragedy.

On Monday, the jury heard from Geraint Herbert, senior inspector of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, who said probable reasons for the crash included the pilots not seeing each other or having enough time to avoid a collision.

He showed how Mr Normington's plane could have been in a blindspot from the cockpit of the Cessna 402 and was 'notoriously difficult' to see.

The inquest is to hear from further witnesses including experts in flight safety and a boss from RVL, as well as Mr Herbert. No person or organisation is on trial and the inquest continues.

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Tragic loss - John 'Harvey' Antrobus was one of five people whose lives were cut short by the mid-air crash near Coventry airport in 2008. (s)

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