Lack of checks led to Channel Islands Air Search crash landing

Channel Islands Air Search Islander plane after crash landing in Jersey
Image caption A lack of awareness of a previous crash may have been a contributing factor, the investigation found

A lack of pre-flight checks was one reason a search plane crashed landed in Jersey, a report has found.

The Islander plane, operated by the Channel Islands Air Search (CIAS), was sent out to look for two missing fishermen but crash landed shortly afterwards on the north coast.

In its report, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) also found fuels tanks were not routinely checked.

CIAS said it accepted findings of the AAIB report.

The report said the plane had taken off with its fuel coming from its tip or reserve tanks, rather than its main fuel tanks and when these emptied, the engines started to lose power after 15 minutes in the air.

AAIB's findings

  • The levels of fuel in the main and tip tanks were not routinely measured
  • No operational flight plan or log was kept
  • Pilots were not required to use a written checklist
  • The three checklists provided did not reflect the procedures detailed in the flight manual and all listed different checks
  • No brace position had been established for those onboard
  • Limited awareness of previous accident involving tip tank selection

It said the pilot was "fairly certain" he tried to switch tanks as the second engine stopped, but there was "very limited" time to re-establish power.

The report said the crash landing, from which all five crew members walked away, was "largely as a result of good fortune" as the plane came down in "one of the very few areas on the north side of Jersey where a survivable landing might be attempted".

It found "no mechanical or electrical defect had been a factor in the accident".

Image caption The Lion's Pride crash landed during a search for two fishermen missing in a dinghy

Three similar crash landing were cited in the report, including one in Guernsey in 1981, of which the AAIB said the air search pilots had "limited awareness".

Channel Islands Air Search

  • The charity has been operating in the island for more than 30 years without any other incidents
  • The volunteer crews work with British and French coastguards
  • They are capable of searching 4,000 sq miles of water surrounding the Channel Islands and the adjacent French coast
  • The charity's only plane is based at Guernsey Airport in its own purpose-built hangar provided by the States of Guernsey
  • The charity is run as a private operation by volunteers - unlike most UK helicopter emergency medical services - so does not require an Air Operator's Certificate

The plane, called the Lion's Pride, which is fitted with search equipment including radar, homing beacons and a thermal imaging camera, was written off in the crash.

The organisation has ordered a replacement Islander fitted out with the same equipment, but in the meantime is using leased Islanders, without the full range of search equipment.

It has been given permission by the Director of Civil Aviation to resume operational flights from this month until April, with a review of the updated processes during that time.

CIAS said its interim and new aircraft had "revised and improved tip tank configuration", which made it easier to monitor the fuel tanks.

It said it had introduced an internationally recognised 30-page safety document, as well as a robust pre-flight check list, which "will make an incident such as this highly unlikely to ever occur again".

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