LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS – These pilots found out the hard way that some clouds can have fatal hard centres. The THREAT is the GROUND, The ERROR is flying into it.
Bob Jones was responsible for the formation of Welshpool Airport and was a very experienced PPL. On the day of this fatal accident in the circuit at Welshpool his role appears to have been as a safety pilot in the right hand seat of a Piper Navajo. Bob knew the area like the back of his hand and had even flown from the Long Mountain site where the aircraft crashed. The commander was a retired airline pilot and current flying instructor, he too knew Welshpool well.
This is an accident that should not have happened, in fact I still cannot believe that two very, very experienced pilots, with in excess of 28,000 hours, allowed the aircraft to momentarily fly into an area of cloud in the circuit that both of them knew was in an area of high ground. It just shows that if you break the rules in flying, even just for a few seconds, the results can be catastrophic.
Graham Hill was a world champion Formula 1 racing driver possessing skills that very few people have but he broke a few simple rules and rather than divert to an alternate airfield he chose to make an illegal approach to an unsuitable airfield. A flawed decision based on an attempt to take a chance rather than fly the aircraft to the safest place cost him and five other people their lives. It also bankrupted his family.
Vic Wilson was an experienced PPL but had never received any instrument flying training and boasted to me once that he didn’t need any! Vic wasn’t as good as he thought he was and in a heated discussion I had cautioned him against flying in IMC without training but he dismissed my concerns. A few years later he flew into the Snowdon range in cloud killing himself and five passengers.
Bob Bentley was a well respected flying instructor at Woodvale but he also found out the hard way that clouds can contain hard centres. Bob was very lucky to escape with his life but was seriously injured and never walked again properly, ending up in a wheelchair and dying prematurely after a very long illness associated with this crash.
Along with two students, he was trapped by his legs in the aircraft and they spent two nights on Scafell Pike in the Lake District. He was in the process of turning back to Woodvale after deciding not to continue onto Carlisle in bad weather but he entered cloud below safety altitude, the picture below shows the result.
This accident highlights the importance of turning back early and also considering the direction that you turn to. If Bob had turned the opposite direction away from the mountains this accident may well not have occurred.