December 14, 2020 | Susan Napier-Sewell

What Went Wrong: Mid-Air Collision During Annual Charity Event

Two aircraft had what was initially believed to be a “near-miss” while giving air experience flights to disabled children at a multi-aircraft charity event.

It was later discovered that the two aircraft had collided, with one aircraft, sustaining minor damage, but both aircraft landed safely. The investigation discovered that one of the accident pilots was asked to present the pilots’ briefing at short notice.

The briefing did not include a discussion of how all participating aircraft would be deconflicted or how they would communicate. Neither aircraft had any form of Electronic Conspicuity.

The airfield that hosted the event has committed to take safety actions before hosting the event again.

History of the flight

Eight aircraft were participating in an annual charity event at White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire. The purpose was to give air experience flights to disabled children who were accompanied by a parent or caregiver. The airfield is situated in congested airspace, 11 nm west of Heathrow Airport, on the edge of the London controlled airspace.

The route to be flown was predominately under controlled airspace with a base of 2,500 ft amsl. At the time, Runway 07 was in use, the visibility was in excess of 10 km, and there were scattered clouds at about 1,700 ft amsl. Prior to the aircraft departing, the pilots attended a briefing.

As the Deputy Airfield/Safety Manager, who had given the briefing in the past at this event, was not available due to sickness, the pilot of G-BXGV was asked to conduct the brief “at the last minute.” This was because he had flown at this event previously. However, no guidance was offered. In the brief, he instructed the pilots to fly a counterclockwise route from White Waltham via visual reporting points November, Whiskey, Sierra. and back to the airfield (see Figure 1).

They were reminded to keep a good lookout, given the number of aircraft involved, and communicate clearly when approaching the airfield. They were also told that should any passenger feel unwell they were to return to the airfield immediately.

Read the report in full from Air Accidents Investigation Branch  (AAIB; GOV.UK) to get all the details.

Conclusion

The aircraft collided while taking part in a multi-aircraft charity event under and adjacent to controlled airspace where no form of deconfliction or a communication plan was briefed to the participants.

This accident highlights the importance of avoiding distractions, looking out and the benefits of employing electronic conspicuity, especially during multi-aircraft events in congested airspace.

There were no active controls to prevent the occurrence having a catastrophic outcome.

Safety actions

The host airfield stated that it will conduct a risk assessment before holding the event again.

It will also ensure that the Deputy Airfield/Safety Manager or another responsible representative from the airfield is available to make a full and complete briefing, adopting the template of their Members’ Day briefing.

An overview of the flying will also be maintained throughout the event. The owner of G-BXGV has fitted an EC device and linked it to the navigation software installed on his personal electronic device.

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Categories
Accidents, Human Performance, Investigations
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