Inquest Into Death Of Pilot And His Son

An inquest will be held into the death of a retired airline pilot and his son, both from London, who died when they were involved in a mid-air collision during an air race.

Michael Willis, 73, of Stanmore, Middlesex, and 42-year-old James Willis, of Hillingdon, north London, were in a four-seater Mooney M20B aircraft when it crashed with a sports aircraft over Havenstreet on the Isle of Wight on September 4, 2010.

The Mooney M20B is understood to have broken up mid-air and plummeted into remote woodland, killing the pair. The sports aircraft, also carrying two men, suffered damage but limped safely back to Bembridge Airport with both its occupants escaping serious injury.

The planes were among 19 aircraft taking part in the Merlin Trophy races, a precursor for the main annual Schneider Trophy, which was subsequently cancelled.

The full inquest is to be heard at Newport Coroner's Court on the Isle of Wight.

Jonathan Willis, son of Michael and younger brother of James, explained after the accident that his father had saved the lives of more than 100 passengers during an incident during his career as a pilot. He described how his father brought the tourist flight back safely to the UK in the late 1970s without navigation equipment during a storm.

Mr Willis, 38, from Harpenden, Hertfordshire, said:

"My father Michael was a lively man who was fun to be around."

Speaking of his brother, he added: 

"James was not just a great brother but also a great friend. He was kind, thoughtful and generous. He had a good sense of humour, was loved by his wife and adored by his children.

"Although not a pilot himself, James had a great interest in aviation and frequently navigated for Michael at air races. He also enjoyed recording and producing electronic music."

An investigation into the Isle of Wight accident was launched by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).