Its 40 years ago today that the former World Champion F1 driver Graham Hill was killed along with 5 passengers. November 29th 1975 was in fact a very sad day for general aviation because also on that night The Chief Flying Instructor of the Warwickshire Aero Club together with Eric Allchin and two passengers were killed in a similar weather related accident at Birmingham.
Both accidents, which happened at night within 30 minutes of each other, had common themes:
1 – Both pilots were flying their own private twin engined aircraft illegally
2 – Both pilots attempted approaches in weather below public transport minima(although they were not bound by this as they were private flights)
3 – Forecast radiation fog covered the Midlands and South East England
4 – Suitable alternative airfields were available and had been considered but not actioned
5 – Both pilots placed ‘getting in’ ahead of operational safety and used phrases such as “ we will have a look” or “we will have a go”
6 – Both pilots acted irresponsibly and were ultimately responsible for the deaths of all of their passengers ( a total of 8 passengers were killed)
7- Both aircraft crashed on golf courses and were destroyed by fire
8 – Both pilots had tried these sorts of approaches before in bad weather
9- The negligent action of both pilots caused life changing financial implications for their families
Negligent action is something that some pilots never consider before flight and it is easily overlooked especially if the pilot concerned is a risk taker by nature.
As a result of Hill’s actions his family home had to be sold by his widow which left the family in a very difficult financial position.
In Allchins case the courts ruled that the pilot (Allchin) died first so everything went to his wife who had been seated in the rear. She had not left a will so everything went to her son from her first marriage. The pilot’s son was left homeless and orphaned!
What should be obvious from the above is that the decision making process starts a long time before flight. Ensuring that your legal and moral obligations are fulfilled should be part of every pilots mental checklist.
Next time I will discuss the actual flights and approaches that these pilots involved themselves in but for now I will leave you with the thought that a PPL with 20 hours P1 would have most likely made a better command decision in both of these cases. Perceived experience can sometimes bring delusions of infallibility, couple that with ‘get in itus’ and the scene is set for both your last flight and your last rights!
The two AAIB reports are below.
Graham Hill at Elstree
Eric Allchin & Arthur Penzer at Birmingham
ERIC ALLCHIN & ARTHUR PENZER