Leicester

Pilot Robert Moulton 'mistook mown field for runway'

Scene of crash at Fenny Drayton
Image caption The high-wing monoplane hit the ground near Stoke Golding Airfield nose down

A pilot crashed his light aircraft, killing himself and his wife, after mistaking a mown grass strip for a runway, an inquest heard.

Robert Moulton, 76, is thought to have lost control of the high-wing monoplane after trying to correct his error.

He and wife Lillian, 84, died instantly when the aircraft hit the ground nose-down near Stoke Golding Airfield, Leicestershire, on 14 July 2013.

Their son, Michael Moulton, said the airfield was difficult to identify.

Giving evidence, he said: "My father was an experienced pilot, and I am myself, and even with several visits, a lot of visits to Stoke Golding, at an altitude below 1,500ft it's extremely difficult to spot the field.

"So it's entirely possible he may have mistook the runway."

He had been flying in an aircraft ahead of his parents on the day they died, but managed to land safely.

Speaking after the inquest in Loughborough he said: "Yes, it was a tragic accident. However, they died together, doing something they loved."

Misidentification 'not rare'

Post-mortem examinations showed the couple, who lived in Ashby de la Zouch, both died of severe multiple injuries.

They had been flying from Measham Cottage Farm, where they stored their aircraft.

Emergency services were called at 18:44 BST and the crash was later investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

Investigator Andrew Robinson found no engineering issues with the aircraft that would have caused it to crash.

Image copyright Air Accidents Investigation Branch
Image caption The airfield and mown grass strip were roughly parallel to each other

Investigator Timothy Atkinson said eyesight, the setting sun or windscreen glare could have been factors in misidentifying the runway.

Mr Atkinson said: "Misidentification is not something that happens rarely.

"History has shown us even airliners landing at the wrong airport because the flight crew have misidentified from the air."

Rutland and North Leicestershire Coroner Trevor Kirkman said: "Mr Atkinson was satisfied that, in his view, it is on the balance of probability likely that Mr Moulton mistook the distinctive mown strip in the field above Fenn Lanes, and was approaching that.

"[He] realised when he was fairly close to the ground that he was not approaching the correct runway, [which] prompted him to reassess his options at that point."

He concluded the deaths were accidental.

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