A light aircraft crashed near Elgin last summer after the engine suffered a “total loss of power”, investigators have said – though the cause of the issue is still unknown.
The pilot of the plane, who was the only person on board at the time, was seriously injured and taken to hospital following the crash at the Highland Gliding Club’s home of Easterton Airfield on July 8.
An investigation was launched by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) the following day, and the resulting report has now been published.
They found that the Druine aircraft was damaged “beyond economic repair” in the incident, with the engine separating from the rest of the body and the fuselage splitting in two.
The 55-year-old man who was flying the plane told investigators he believes he was knocked unconscious for a few seconds, and realised the severity of the situation after coming round.
The report says: “The fuselage had broken at the front of the cockpit, though the pilot had remained secure in his five-point harness.
“He managed to release his harness and was then able to crawl clear of the wreckage and telephone the witness who had seen his departure.”
The witness, a doctor, called the emergency services, and ambulances arrived 10 minutes later.
Helmet reduced head injury severity
However, realising the significance of the incident, paramedics called the air ambulance and the pilot was flown to the major trauma unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary 35 minutes after the original call.
The report added: “It is likely that the pilot’s decision to wear an RAF flying helmet reduced the severity of his head injuries and thus allowed him to remove himself from the wreckage and telephone for assistance.”
The aircraft, which was over 60 years old, had been repaired and refurbished in August 2018 after it was badly damaged in a “heavy landing” around 1980.
Despite considering various hypotheses for how both electronic ignition controllers failed at the same time, the AAIB was unable to find a definitive cause.