Mystery surrounds the cause of a crash in which a light aircraft was badly damaged after take-off from an airstrip at Hundon from which the pilot and his three passengers all walked away unhurt.
An official air crash report has failed to identify the cause of the crash on August 26 last year, when the 1971-built Piper Cherokee, registration G AZDX, owned by Michael Cowan of High Street, West Wickham, lost power just after take-off.
As the 66-year-old pilot, who had 1,900 hours flying experience brought it down in a field a wing was torn off and the other wing and tail plane were severely damaged.
However, a newly published Air Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident says crash investigators have been unable to identify what caused the loss of power that led to the crash.
The report says that the plane was taking off for St Omer in France but lost power and failed to climb away. It says the pilot kept the wings level and carried out a forced landing through a hedge and into a field.
The engine had started as it should and pre-flight checks had given no clue anything was wrong.
The report continues: “After a normal takeoff run the aircraft became airborne and the pilot expected the aircraft to climb away normally. Then, without warning, there was a sudden reduction in power. The pilot kept the wings level and carried out a forced landing through a hedge and into a field at the end of the runway.The pilot and his passengers vacated the aircraft without injury.”
The aircraft had been refuelled earlier with sufficient fuel for the planned flight and was below its maximum takeoff weight, says the report.
It adds that the pilot was very familiar with the airfield and noted that the aircraft became airborne exactly where he had expected it to, as it had done on numerous occasions before.
It continues: “Based on the readings obtained during the power checks carried out prior to takeoff, there was no indication of an impending problem with the engine. At takeoff the fuel pump was running and the carburettor heat set to cold.”