Review of safety at airfields after M27 jet crash

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SAFETY at all the UK's 128 airfields is to be reviewed following an accident investigators' report of a crash at Southampton when a private charter jet ran off the runway and hit two cars on the M27.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which licenses airports, has been asked to assess the potential hazard of aircraft overruning runways and, if necessary, to ask the airport operator to install a system such as netting or a sandpit which would slow down any aircraft which was out of control.

As a result of the accident on 26 May last year involving a Cessna 550 Citation II on a flight from Oxford, the owner of Southampton airport, BAA plc, plans to install a 'ground arrester' system. The airport's managing director, Paul Barlow, said yesterday that there had been discussion about installing one while the motorway - completed in 1983 - was being planned, but it was ruled out as unnecessary.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch report found the accident was caused by the decision of the commander, Albert Thomson, 63, to land the jet with a 15-knot (17mph) tailwind - outside the maximum allowed. There were puddles on the runway from recent thunderstorms and, with the tailwind, the aircraft went into a 200-metre skid, running onto the motorway which is only 88 metres beyond the end of the runway. Taped radio conversations showed Mr Thompson had acknowledged the high wind speed before carrying on with the landing.

Two cars were 'picked up bodily by the wing' but amazingly the three occupants received only minor injuries. The two flight crew were also only slightly hurt, but the aircraft was destroyed in the subsequent fire.

The report also recommends that a public safety zone - an area in which no schools or other public buildings may be constructed - should be declared at both ends of the Eastleigh runway.

Report of an accident to Cessna 550 Citation II, G-JETB, DoT, pounds 20.