Report Published Into Plane Crash

A report has revealed a missing rivet in the engine of a plane may have caused it to crash into a house in Kent, killing the five people on board.

The light aircraft came down in Farnborough shortly after taking off from Biggin Hill airport in Kent in March 2008.

Just before the impact, the co-pilot had transmitted: "We have a major problem a major problem it looks as though we're, er, going in we're going in."

Former British Touring Car Championship driver David Lesley, 54, was among those killed.

Also killed were Apex Motorsport boss Richard Lloyd, 63; Christopher Allarton, 25; and pilots Mike Roberts, 63, and Michael Chapman, 57.

The aircraft hit a house on Romsey Close, causing a fire which destroyed the property - the owners of the house were away on holiday when it happened.

The report said the aircraft had left Biggin Hill airport and was heading for Pau in south-west France.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that one minute into the flight Mr Roberts transmitted a message saying they were making an immediate return to Biggin Hill and concluded that it was probable that a mechanical failure within the air cycle machine - part of the mechanism which helps with cabin ventilation - caused the vibration which led the crew to try to return to the airport.

The AAIB said a rivet head securing the left engine fuel cut-off lever had become detached at some time prior to the crash.

This missing rivet head ``may have led to an inadvertent shutdown of that (left-side) engine,'' the AAIB said.

The report said that an attempt to relight the second engine ``was probably started before the relit first engine had reached idle speed, resulting in insufficient time for enough thrust to be developed to arrest the aircraft's rate of descent before ground impact''.

The AAIB said: ``There was no evidence that either engine would not have been able to respond to flight crew control input. Both engines were operating when the aircraft struck the house. A single engine relight could have produced sufficient thrust in the time available to prevent ground impact. Both engines were relit prior to impact but with insufficient time to prevent ground

Mr Leslie was a father-of-two while Mr Lloyd had three daughters. Mr Roberts was from Effingham in Surrey and Mr Chapman was from Shoreham in West Sussex. Mr Allarton, who was from Newark in Nottinghamshire had graduated from Coventry
University and had just started working for Apex Motorsport.