Saturday 24 August 2019

Pilot (47) killed while performing acrobatic moves in new plane

Pilot William Hillick who was killed in Longford crash on March 20, 2016
Pilot William Hillick who was killed in Longford crash on March 20, 2016
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A 47-year-old pilot died when performing acrobatic manoeuvres in a plane he had received just seven days earlier, an investigation into his death has found.

Father-of-five William Hillick, owner of CQ Communications shop in Dublin city centre, was killed when his aircraft crashed into a field beside the runway at Abbeyshrule Airport Co Longford on March 20 2016 at around 17.45.

He was flying in a Laser Z200 single-seat, aerobatic aircraft which he had received week prior to the accident. It was his second flight in the plane.

According to an Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report, eight people witnessed the flight which ended in tragedy.

During the flight the pilot performed a so-called ‘wing-waggle’ manoeuvres which involves banking quickly to the left and right. This move is often used as a method of acknowledging people watching from the ground according to officials.

Following this Mr Hillick, who was fully licensed, and an experienced flyer, went on to perform a number of circuits with various manoeuvres including inverted flying and low-level aerobatics. These were done at around 800ft off the ground.

However during the eighth circuit the aircraft was seen descending rapidly towards the ground according to witnesses.

It hit the ground nose first, fatally injuring the pilot.

The flight lasted just over 13 minutes.

Footage of the flight was examined by Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) officials in a bid to determine the cause of the accident.

Investigators concluded that the pilot may carried out the moves at an insufficient height which did not allow a safe recovery from the final 'aileron rolls'. An aileron roll refers to a 360 degree spin.

AAIU officials also stated in their findings that "the pilot was aware that people were watching the flight from the ground, and that this may have influenced the pilot’s decision to attempt aerobatics at circuit height".

"The pilot attempted a ‘Split-S’ manoeuvre as a recovery technique, by pulling through a vertical nose-down attitude until facing southwards. This was an unsuitable manoeuvre given the height of the aircraft at that time," the report states.

Investigators concluded that the likely contributory causes to the accident were that the plane was not high enough to provide an adequate safety margin, the pilot was also deemed to be inexperienced on the Laser Z200 aircraft type and inexperienced when it came to conducting aerobatic manoeuvres in a competition aerobatic aircraft with the performance capabilities of the plane.

The report also found that there was inappropriate control inputs when conducting aileron rolls resulting in a significant loss of altitude.

Meanwhile, investigators also found that there is an absence of uniform regulatory requirements to complete formal training in the conduct of aerobatic flying in aircraft such as the plane involved in this crash.

The AAIU has now recommended that the Director General of Mobility and Transport should consult with EASA in order to define common minimum aerobatic training requirements for pilots wishing to operate, for the purposes of aerobatic flight, aircraft such as this.

Mr Hillick lived with his mother Margaret Hillick at Knockmant, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

The day after the tragedy, she said "He was passionate about being in the air.

"Every time he went flying I would worry about him. I felt so happy when he would walk through the door, but now he's not coming home."

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