Jet crash passenger claimed pilots were arguing

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The Independent Online
An actress on an executive jet which crashed into a van on a busy road after overshooting an airport runway claimed the two pilots were arguing as they came into land, an official accident report said yesterday.

Lisa Hogan, whose acting experience consists of a brief appearance as an assistant to Ronnie Corbett in John Cleese's film Fierce Creatures and a one-liner in an Australian soap opera E-street, said she thought the captain of the Learjet had forcibly removed the co-pilot's hand from the power levers.

But both pilots, who are Spanish, were adamant there had been no disagreements in the moments before the aircraft careered on to the A40 by RAF Northolt airfield in Middlesex in August 1996. The report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch report also points out that Ms Hogan did not speak Spanish and could have misinterpreted the crew's actions.

The crash left a trail of wreckage, leaving the jet sprawled across the busy road. Gary Jewell had to be cut from his Ford Transit when the Learjet hit it, but escaped with minor cuts and bruises.

The Learjet, chartered by Ms Hogan's boyfriend in Majorca, was destroyed but the two pilots were only slightly hurt.

The AAIB report concluded that the difficulty in the co-pilot's understanding the English air traffic control instructions led the captain to take on too heavy a workload as the aircraft came into land.

Pilots are not required to speak English, but need to understand 200 standard phrases used by aviation authorities around the world. Earlier this year, the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers claimed that many pilots who fly in British airspace have such a shaky grasp of English that they are safety hazard.

However the Civil Aviation Authority denied that poor English was a serious safety hazard. "Of the 3,200 incidents reported this year, only three appear to have communications difficulties as a prime factor involving a pilot whose native language is not English," wrote Richard Profit, head of the aerodrome and air traffic standards division at the CAA.

The report also called for the RAF to alter its air traffic control procedures. "These were being changed regardless of this report," said an MoD spokesman.

According to the report, the pilot was distracted and the plane came in too fast. The disaster may have been averted if the crew had used the deceleration spoilers on the wings after touchdown.

The Learjet collided with three approach light units, burst through the boundary fence and collided with Mr Jewel's van which was travelling at more than 60 mph. Skid marks near the scene showed another vehicle had swerved to avoid impact.

The report pointed out that the proximity of the A40 to the end of the runway contributed to the severity of the accident.

Mr Jewell, 32, said he was happy with the final report. The incident had cost him his job. His employer sacked him for taking too much time off work after the accident.

The incident did nothing for six-foot blonde Ms Hogan. Despite being "inundated by offers" she has not worked as an actress since the crash.