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1967 - APACHE

Piper Apache G-ATFZ, owned and operated by Dan - Air, crashed into trees at Loxhill, near Godalming en route from Gatwick to Lasham on September 1, 1966, had attempted to  remain  below cloud when such an operating technique was not practicable in the weather conditions prevailing. The  aircraft  was on a communications  flight  with two crew  aboard (only the pilot had an instrument rating) and was well equipped for IFR operation yet the decision was  taken to fly VFR. The inspector of accidents in his report  just  published notes that radar services were standing by at Lasham to give approach guidance to the Apache, and that the weather information passed to the pilot indicated a cloud  base at Lasham of 300ft  above ground with a visibility of  1.5 to miles. The inspector notes that "a direct VFR flight to Lasham would have saved considerable time, and it may be that this was what the pilot had in mind.  However, in the circumstances, the decision to attempt the flight below cloud was bad airmanship and the fundamental cause of the accident." The aircraft  struck  trees near the top of the 644ft Loxhill, a mile north of Dunsfold. The last communication with ATC was noted as;
"Negative 1,500. I don't think we'll get above 500 feet we're just on the bottom of this stuff."
The aircraft crashed just one minute later.
The pilot was John Sibert, aged 30, who had learned to fly in the U.S.A in the late 1950's. He had joined Dan - Air in January 1966, and had flown 110 hours in Piper Apache aircraft at the time of the crash. The co-pilot was Harold Johnson, aged 42, who had qualified as a pilot in the R.A.F. He joined Dan Air as a cadet pilot in 1960, obtaining his commercial licence a year later. He was only onboard this flight on the chance that he might be able to carry out some instrument flying practice prior to an upcoming rating test.

Both pilots were killed but the report considers
that the degree of injury received (almost entirely to the head and upper torso)  would  have  been  considerably  lessened if shoulder harnesses and protective helmets had  been  worn."  Only lap straps were  fitted to the Apache.
, in bad weather on 1st September 1966. Flying from Gatwick to Lasham to pick up company personnel for onward flight to Bristol, Dunsfold Air Traffic Control answered a call from the Apache at 1034 GMT - when Dunsfold said that they understood G-ATFZ was going to overfly at 1,500 feet, the pilot replied;

Safety Aspects. Accident to Piper G-ATFZ on 1st September 1966.

1. Following our discussion on 27th of June, this extract from the Pathologist's report may be of use to you.

2. The seats of both occupants appear to have held firm. Lap straps only were provided; a buckle which was recovered from the wreckage of the right-hand seat indicated that this harness, at least, was fastened at the time of the crash. The pilot and passenger were not wearing protective helmets.

3. There is no medical evidence as to the cause of the accident. The distribution of fatal injuries in each case, however, strongly indicated that death was positively associated with the use of lap belts without shoulder harness. The near isolation of fatal injuries to the head and upper thorax is becoming common place in fatal light aircraft accidents; there is very suggestive evidence that these would be mitigated, though not abolished, by the use of shoulder harness and it is strongly urged that consideration be given to the compulsory incorporation of such equipment into the design of light aircraft, especially those intended for private use. It is also possible that fatal injury would be less likely if protective helmets were worn in such aircraft. The difficulties surrounding the general use of such helmets in private and other light aircraft are well understood - it is, however, felt that intensive propoganda should be waged to encourage the use of protective helmets in such light aircraft types as is feasible.


_ July, 1967.

Mr.Neill - DSF.


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