Cloud could have caused Steve Hislop to lose control of helicopter

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The helicopter crash that killed British Superbike star Steve Hislop likely happened when the rider climbed sharply to get clear of cloud, an air accident investigator stated during day two of a fatal accident inquiry.

Former RAF pilot Paul Hannant told the inquiry that GPS data for Hislop’s helicopter showed the rider rapidly climbed by 1000ft and turned through 180 degrees moments before his crash in the Scottish Borders in 2003.

Hannant said he believed the data indicated that Hislop had made an emergency climb, a manoeuvre recommended to pilots to help them get clear of heavy cloud.

An air accident investigation into the crash in 2005 concluded that the main rotor of the helicopter had struck the tail boom, but did not specify what had caused the collision. Hannant’s testimony suggests the rapid climb could have been to blame.

Friends and relatives of Hislop maintain that pilot error was not to blame for the crash. The inquiry also heard from William Wilds, who had trained the motorcycle racer to fly.

Wilds told the inquiry that Hislop was “a natural” in handling the helicopter, noting that the same was true of many racers who he has taught to fly.

The instructor disagreed with Hannant’s view that Hislop became disoriented in heavy cloud, stating that Hislop’s skill at navigating would have helped him to cope.

Hislop’s training covered all aspects of piloting a helicopter, including emergency landings, Wilds said.


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Michael Carroll

By Michael Carroll