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Thu 19 Oct 2017 12:09 PM

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Pilot error to blame for fatal Dubai gyrocopter crash in 2015

GCAA report finds that the pilot became distracted by the loss of his helmet during high-speed manoeuvre

Pilot error to blame for fatal Dubai gyrocopter crash in 2015
Gyrocopters fly over the Gulf Emirate of Dubai during the World Air Games 2015 on December 9 2015. Photo for illustration purposes. Photo: KARIM SAHIBAFPGetty Images

A gyrocopter crash off the coast of Dubai during the FAI World Air Games Dubai in December 2015 was the result of the pilot losing control of the aircraft, according to the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

The incident led to the death of the pilot, a Dutch national, 10 days after was pulled from the sea by search and rescue divers.

According to a GCAA investigation report released on Thursday, the most probable cause of the accident was that the pilot lost control after becoming distracted by the loss of his helmet during a high speed left hand turn.

The sudden movement, the report notes, caused the aircraft to lose lift from its rotors, enter a negative g-load and lose engine power, causing the aircraft to roll and dive into the water at a high speed of 90 kilometres per hour. 

The investigation also found that the pilot was “most likely” not sufficiently experienced enough to participate in the gyrocopter race, as he had only about 20 hours of “pilot-in-command” time operating the small aircraft.

A civil aviation advisory publication (CAAP), published by the GCAA, stipulates that airplane or microlight pilots participating in an air race, contest or display should have a minimum of  45 hours of pilot-in-command time, including at least five in the type of aircraft being flown at the event.

The GCAA report also noted that the race course “did not have a safe height established”, with most of the flight performed at an average of 100 feet above the water, and that the flight was flown at speeds in the “yellow precautionary range” in excess of 120 km per hour.

The report included a number of safety recommendations for the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the world governing body for air sports which organised the 2015 event – including that it review the risks of gyrocopter racing, develop emergency response plans and reporting systems for sporting events, establish safety guidelines such as pre-flight checks, and consider whether gyrocopters with domed canopies may offer more protection.

Additionally, the report suggested that the FAI review pilot’s safety equipment, survival training and helmets, and whether gloves and g-force suits would offer additional protection.

The investigation also recommends that the GCAA take a number of safety measures, such as reviewing regulations for flying displays and establish a national federation within the UAE to monitor and control light aero sporting activities.  

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