Killed pilot Alistair Mathie 'may not have heard propeller'

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A former RAF pilot killed by a rotating propeller at a Norfolk airstrip was wearing a headset and may not have heard it, an investigation has found.

Alistair Mathie, who was coaching a pilot, walked into the propeller after exiting a light aircraft at Tibenham.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found the headset "would have reduced his ability to hear the engine and propeller".

It said training would now include the dangers posed by propellers.

Killed instantly

Mr Mathie, 67, of Burgate, near Diss, was tutoring a 38-year-old pilot in a Piper J3C-65 Cub on 28 January.

Start Quote

The evidence shows that the coach was wearing his headset; this would have reduced his ability to hear the noise of the engine and propeller”

End Quote Air Accidents Investigation Branch

The engine was still running when the coach got out of the aircraft at Priory Farm, the AAIB report stated.

He climbed out via the front of the wing struts, spoke briefly to the pilot and turned away towards the front of the aircraft.

The AAIB said another witness saw Mr Mathie, who had 30 years experience with the RAF and 14,709 flying hours, turn and step forward into the arc of the propeller. He was killed instantly.

His injuries were "consistent with the coach having his head down to some extent", and his headset was later found in a badly damaged condition, the AAIB stated.

The report said it was "not unusual" for the engine to be left running between flights.

'Respected and experienced'

There were no defects or aircraft damage that might have contributed to it, the report added.

"[Mr Mathie] was a respected and experienced coach with the Light Aircraft Association and had flown a large number of different types of light aircraft," the AAIB said.

"The evidence shows that the coach was wearing his headset; this would have reduced his ability to hear the noise of the engine and propeller."

The report added: "As a result of this accident, opinion was sought on whether the engine should be left running.

"Whilst there are hazards, it was considered equally hazardous having to hand-swing the propeller in order to restart the engine, especially when it is hot.

"This accident illustrates the value of the procedure used by some pilots of following a path along the edge of the wing to ensure clearance from the propeller."

It said the Light Aircraft Association would "broaden" its training to include the "additional dangers posed by propellers" while entering and leaving aircraft.

The AAIB said there had been 15 accidents involving light aircraft propellers since 1991.

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