Former rally world champion Colin McRae’s flying licence was out of date when he crashed his helicopter in woodland near Lanark on 15 September 2007, just 150yards from the family home, after he was returning from a short trip to a friend’s farm. Colin (39), his son Johnny (5), and two family friends, Graeme Duncan (37) and Ben Porcelli (6) died in the crash.
In a statement, Mark and Karen Porcelli (the parents of Ben) said: “We are relieved that the AAIB report has finally been published. The cause of the crash is clearly outlined in the report. Most of the flight was captured on video and it is clearly evident that unnecessary risks were taken and that the accident was completely avoidable.”
An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the tragedy found no cause could be positively determined. The report said disorientation, misjudgement, distraction, or other factors, may have led to this deviation. The investigation also highlighted something referred to as the “servo transparency phenomenon” which the Eurocopter company, who made the helicopter, has advised “may give a pilot who is not aware of this phenomenon an impression that the controls are jammed”.
The report made four safety recommendations including a tightening of licensing and proficiency check procedures. It also recommended that Eurocopter reviewed its information and advice about the servo transparency phenomenon. The report also said that Mr McRae’s five-year flying licence had expired in February 2005 and he was also not authorised to fly the type Eurocopter Squirrel helicopter he was operating as his “valid type rating” had lapsed in March 2007. It added: “The investigations into the pilot’s licensing history revealed several cases, between 2004 and the time of the accident, of non-compliance with existing regulations.” The AAIB said that when Mr McRae had flown from Scotland to London in March 2006 he would have known his type rating had expired since the purpose of the flight was to meet with an examiner to renew it.
Speaking on behalf of the McRae family, Colin’s father Jimmy said: “The AAIB report, in line with the findings of our own experts, has been unable to reach any firm conclusions on the accident and it is therefore extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that we will never know the actual cause of the crash. It has been confirmed by the instructors, examiners and fellow pilots with whom he flew, that Colin’s skills as a helicopter pilot were of the highest order. This has been a very sad and distressing time for us, as it has been for the Porcelli and Duncan families, and we would now like to draw a line under this tragic affair.”
The McRae family’s solicitor, Mr Peter Watson, said: “We acknowledge that the report recognises the fact that, whilst Colin’s licence was out of date, this was not a contributory factor in the accident. Colin first qualified during the transitional period whilst the British lifetime licence system was being replaced by the European Joint Aviation Requirements five year licence and this caused considerable confusion.” He added, “We welcome the fact that the AAIB have made several safety recommendations as a consequence of this crash and that operators of this aircraft – the Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel – should now be informed by the manufacturer as to certain hazards and recovery actions relating to the operation of the craft.”
Source: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Colin-McRae-Helicopter-Crash-Rally-Champion-Driver-Lacked-Valid-Flying-Licence/Article/200902215221466?lpos=UK_News_First_UK_News_Article_Teaser_Region_1&lid=ARTICLE_15221466_Colin_McRae_Helicopter_Crash%3A_Rally_ ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7884088.stm?lss
The Full AAIB Report can be downloaded here: McCrae AAIB Report