Aircraft safety proposals 'ignored'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AVIATION officials ignored government safety recommendations that could have helped prevent an air crash in which one man died and another was seriously injured.

The safety measures were recommended almost four years ago following an accident involving a light aircraft, but the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulatory body, reversed an earlier commitment to implement the changes.

This failure is highlighted in a new report by the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch into a fatal air crash last October. Its inspectors have again asked the CAA to enforce their earlier recommendation to thoroughly examine fastening bolts hidden by fabric.

A missing nut and bolt, which had worked loose, were blamed for causing a light aircraft to go into a spin and plummet into a field at Stancombe Farm airstrip, at Askerswell in Dorset, on 3 October. Hugh Elder, 34, was killed instantly when the two-seater Stolp Starduster biplane crashed. The pilot, Richard Boswell, who flies helicopters for the Royal Navy, suffered serious head injuries.

The inspectors discovered that flying wires joining the biplane's wings to the fuselage had come loose while the pilot had been performing aerobatics. They concluded that the vital nut that secured three flying wires had been missing for some time. The bolt is covered by fabric. The branch recommended that all future CAA inspections should include 'the removal of sufficient fabric to enable adequate inspection' of the bolts.

The report said a similar recommendation had been made in May 1990 following an accident. The CAA had promised to implement the recommendation, but failed to fulfil that pledge, the AAIB report said. It added that the CAA had stated in its 1993 progress report that the recommendation was classed as 'Fully Accepted'.

A CAA spokesman said this week there had been an error - the report should have said it was 'Not Accepted'. He said: 'We accepted the recommendation in May 1990 and investigated changing the requirement, but subsequently decided that it did not need changing. We are looking at it again.'