Accident report into fatal vintage aircraft crash at Bedfordshire airshow

A passenger airline captain's loss of control of a vintage aircraft which crashed in gusty winds in front of hundreds of air show spectators in Bedfordshire has been described in an accident report.

Trevor Roche, 52, was killed in the crash of the 1923-built De Havilland DH53 Humming Bird at Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade.

He was on a re-familiarisation flight in the 1960-rebuilt aircraft before starting a practice display ahead of an afternoon air show at the aerodrome which is home to the Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aircraft. A level turn took the aircraft close to, and downwind, of a copse of trees. Shortly after that, the aircraft crashed nose-down.

In a report on the accident, which happened on the morning of July 1 last year, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the aircraft, by modern standards, had "low stability and power margins and poor flight instrumentation".

The report went on: "It seems likely that the loss of control was the result of a combination of the challenging operating/handling characteristics of the DH53, the turbulent effect of the trees and the gusty wind conditions."

Around 600 people were reportedly at the airfield at the time. Rebuilt and re-engined in 1960, the DH53, which was substantially damaged in the crash, was the only remaining airworthy example of its type.

Previously a military test pilot, Mr Roche, from Salisbury in Wiltshire, was employed "by a major airline as a commander on passenger jets", the AAIB report said.

The report said Mr Roche had talked about weather conditions during a brief discussion with the Shuttleworth Collection's chief pilot before his flight.

The report went on: "The chief pilot had considered that the conditions were unsuitable for some of the flying planned for the day and he had cancelled some aircraft and less-experienced pilot combinations. However, he saw no reason to disagree with the accident pilot's own assessment that the weather was acceptable for the planned flight."

The AAIB said the weather at the time of the flight was changing from a moderate constant wind to conditions including gusts of 25mph to 28.7mph.