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Sun, Feb 15, 2009

WRC Champ Did Not Have Valid License

Helo Crashed After 'Undertaking A Demanding Maneuver' At Low Altitude

The UK's Department of Transport Air Accidents Investigation Branch published its report Thursday on the 2007 fatal crash of a helicopter with race car legend Colin McRae at the controls.

As ANN previously reported, 39-year-old McRae was flying a Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel low and fast over his Scottish estate with 5-year-old son Johnny and two family friends onboard when the pilot undertook "a demanding maneuver," the report said. The rotor then struck a fir tree, causing a loss of control and subsequent crash, killing all four occupants.

The AFP reports that the investigation revealed McRae was flying illegally. Although the report does not challenge his flying ability, it does show that McRae's pilot license had been allowed to lapse, expiring in February 2005. His type rating for that particular aircraft had also expired a year before.

The AAIB did not reach a definite conclusion as to the cause of the accident, stating instead that "the helicopter crashed in a wooded valley while maneuvering at high speed and low height. It was intact prior to impact, and the available evidence indicated that the engine was delivering power.

"The cause of the accident was not positively determined. Although no technical reason was found to explain the accident, a technical fault could not be ruled out entirely.

"However, it is more likely that the pilot attempted a turning maneuver at low height, during which the helicopter deviated from his intended flight path; whether due to the pilot encountering handling difficulties, misjudgment, spatial disorientation, distraction or a combination of such events.

"There were indications that the pilot had started a recovery but, with insufficient height in which to complete it, the helicopter struck trees in the valley and crashed, killing all four occupants."

FMI: www.dft.gov.uk

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