Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Michael Roberts: 'We have a major problem... we're going in!' Minutes before he crashed into house, killing five - 31st May 2011

A pilot told air traffic control 'we have a major problem... we're going in' seconds before crashing into a house and killing all five people on board, an inquest heard today.

Michael Roberts radioed and asked to make an immediate return after reporting an engine vibration moments after take off in Biggin Hill, Kent.

But the doomed twin-engined Cessna Citation 500 never made it back and hit a house which burst into flames.

Coroner Roy Palmer, sitting in Bromley, Kent, said it was 'extremely fortuitous' that no one was in the house at the time and through 'great good fortune' that no one was killed on the ground.

Mr Roberts,who was supposed to be flying to Pau, south-west France, told air traffic control: 'We have a major problem, a major problem. It looks as though we're going in, we're going in.'

Witnesses reported seeing the Bermuda-registered aircraft flying low above a residential area and a playing area in Farnborough, Kent, before it crashed.

All five people on board the Cessna were killed, including Mr Roberts, 63, co-pilot Michael Chapman, 57, and passengers David Leslie, 54, Richard Lloyd, 63, and Christopher Allarton, 25.

Although an experienced pilot, Mr Chapman, from Shoreham, West Sussex, had only recently qualified on this type of aircraft, the inquest jury was told.

Nicholas Dann, of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), said Mr Roberts had considerably more experience on board such planes and it was understood that he was mentoring Mr Chapman during the flight.

Both pilots were qualified to operate on the day, March 30, 2008, and the weather conditions were good with a light westerly wind and good visibility with a cloud base of 4,000ft. Read More