Plane’s wing flap not secured before take off, inquest told

steven fletcher
steven fletcher
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THE terrible chain of events that ended in a plane crash which killed a popular father-of-two was revealed at an inquest in Stamford this week.

Aviation photographer Steven Fletcher died because a flap on one of the aircraft’s folding wings had not been secured properly.

It meant the pilot was unable to keep the plane level in the air. It banked sharply after take-off and plunged into the runway, killing Mr Fletcher and severely injuring the pilot.

The crash happened at Sebring Regional Airport in Florida on January 25, 2009.

Mr Fletcher, 44, of Main Street, Baston, was covering an exhibition for magazine firm Key Publishing, of Stamford.

At an inquest on Tuesday, coroner’s officer Colin Allerston read out a letter from Anna Pajak, a coroners’ liaison officer from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which detailed the events leading up to the tragedy.

In the letter Ms Pajak said that on the morning of the crash a vital safety measure on the left wing of the Remos GX plane had not been connected.

The day before, the pilot and the Remos national service manager had been demonstrating two planes’ folding wing mechanisms to prospective customers.

The aircraft had been stored overnight with their left wings in the folded position. The next morning the two men brought the planes out of storage to make them ready for the day’s flight.

According to the letter, the national service manager inserted the securing bolt into the left wing of the plane Mr Fletcher would later fly in.

The manager then left that plane and went over to the other. He failed to reconnect the aileron - a flap on the wing that keeps the aircraft level during flight - or to advise the pilot to do so.

The pilot said he thought he saw the manager go into the cockpit and assumed he was making the connection.

The letter revealed that the aircraft handbook states the aileron must be connected after securing the wings. There was also a placard in the cockpit as a reminder to make the connection.

The letter said the pilot lost control shortly after take-off because the aileron was not connected.

Mr Fletcher died of multiple injuries.

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Gordon Ryall said: “The position is all too clear that this plane was not safe to take off, and the correct procedures had not been followed to make it safe.

“Because of that the aircraft soon lost control after take-off.”

Speaking to Mr Fletcher’s widow Sarah, Mr Ryall added: “The reason why the aircraft went out of control was found to be that one of the ailerons controlling the wings had not been put in the flight position.

“The possible failure on the part of the pilot led to the tragic death of your husband.”

Mr Ryall said he had no power to say any further action should be taken.

Born on March 29, 1964, Mr Fletcher went to school at Deeping St James Primary and then Deepings Comprehensive, now known as The Deepings School, in Deeping St James.

After attending Stamford College, he became interested in photography during his first job in the film processing lab at Anglia Supercolour in Peterborough, and went on to study the subject at North East London Polytechnic.

Mr Fletcher joined the staff at Key Publishing, in Stamford, before setting up his own freelance business AV8 Images in 2008. He had a passion for aeroplanes and aviation and enjoyed travelling, particularly to America, as well as skiing, biking, baseball and moto cross.

His reputation for regaling people with tales of his travels had earned Mr Fletcher the nickname “Storytime”.

He was a popular man and was regarded as a talented photographer among his colleagues.

He left behind two children, Tom and Georgia.