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Pilot killed in mid-air collision near Leicester airport 'had difficulty seeing'

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A pilot involved in a fatal mid-air plane crash might have had difficulty seeing the other aircraft due to the position of the sun.

The 48-year-old, who was flying an aerobatic Pitts Special, might also have had sighting difficulties due to the lack of contrast between the other aircraft and the surrounding countryside, accident investigators said.

The collision killed Coalville father-of-two Martin Hickin, who was piloting the other aircraft, a Taylorcraft BC12D.

The pilot and passenger in the Pitts Special were not injured in the accident, which happened on December 18 last year, close to Leicester airport.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said Mr Hickin's aircraft "became uncontrollable" and crashed to the ground after the collision.

The AAIB said data checked after the accident confirmed the two aircraft were on a converging course.

At the time of the collision – 2pm – the sun was 10 degrees above the horizon.

The report said the Pitts Special was flying at 110mph, at a height of 1,000ft and almost directly into the sun, "when the pilot heard a loud bang, the aircraft 'shuddered' and the propeller stopped".

The report went on: "His initial thought was that the engine had 'exploded'.

"However, on asking his passenger, 'What was that?' the passenger replied, 'Aircraft'."

The AAIB said the pilot transmitted a mayday call and looked for a suitable place to make a forced landing following the collision.

Meanwhile, witnesses saw 55-year-old Mr Hickin's aircraft "in a near vertical dive from which it did not recover".

The Pitts Special, with debris from the other aircraft trailing from its propeller, came to rest on its left side in the middle of a Leicester airport boundary road. Both occupants got out unaided.

The AAIB report said the lack of contrast between Mr Hickin's aircraft and the surrounding countryside, compounded by the position of the sun, would have made it difficult for the other pilot to see the Taylorcraft BC12D.

The AAIB said: "The two aircraft collided because their respective pilots either did not see the other aircraft or did not see it in time to take effective action."

Shortly after the accident, Mr Hickin's family said he was an experienced pilot who had loved flying since his youth. They said he had been a civilian glider pilot instructor for the RAF in his 20s.

The family said: "We are relieved that the two people in the other plane survived this horrific mid-air collision, and know that Martin would be, too."

Pilot killed in mid-air collision near Leicester airport 'had difficulty seeing'


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