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14 May 2015, 06:25
A plane passenger died from severe burns when a light aircraft crashed and burst into flames after taking off from a Scottish island, an investigation has found.
The pilot reported a loss of engine power shortly after leaving the airstrip on Bute in the Firth of Clyde on August 9 last year.
Thomas McGowan, 63, suffered 80% burns in the crash.
A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said he was helped out of the flaming wreckage by the pilot after the SportCruiser ended up in a ditch.
Mr McGowan was airlifted to hospital in Glasgow, where he died the following day.
The 53-year-old pilot, who suffered 40% burns, survived the crash.
The accident happened during a return flight to Strathaven Airfield in South Lanarkshire, where the aircraft was based.
An aviation pathologist said there was no evidence of significant impact injuries; however, evidence suggests the temperature in the cockpit had reached between 650C (1,202F) and 1,200C (2,192F).
The AAIB said: "The pilot reported that the aircraft flew satisfactorily on the outbound flight to Bute and that it was during the climb from the airstrip on the return flight to Strathaven that he experienced the symptoms that caused him to believe that he had a partial loss of engine power.
"The lack of performance could have been due to a combination of factors including a technical fault, handling and aircraft weight.''
The report said the home-built aircraft had been fitted with unrecorded modifications which meant it was likely to have been over its approved weight of 1,323lb (600kg) when it left Bute.
The AAIB also noted that the single-engine plane was fitted with a Ballistic Parachute Recovery System (BPRS) which was not activated during the flight.
It issued seven safety recommendations relating to the system, which deploys a parachute by use of a rocket.
Emergency responders should be made aware of the risks associated with the device, and how to spot and disable it following an accident, investigators said.