Abnormal weather conditions cause two pilots to crash into the English Channel and die

Lee Rogers and Brian Statham had taken off from an airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon when their Piper Cherokee Arrow II lost radar contact before crashing into the sea

Two pilots presumed dead after their plane crashed into the English Channel at 100mph lost control in thick cloud producing tornado waterspouts

Two pilots are presumed dead after their plane crashed into the English Channel in tornado downpours.

Lee Rogers and Brian Statham had taken off from an airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon.

They were heading for Le Touquet, a seaside town in northern France, when their Piper Cherokee Arrow II lost radar contact before crashing into the sea on April 2.

Police said at the time the couple lost control in “abnormal weather conditions” while flying with six other planes from their flying club.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) probe has now revealed they struggled after taking off from Wellesbourne Mountford airfield and flying into ‘highly convective cloud’ which created waterspouts ‘water.






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Brian Statham is one of two pilots presumed dead after their plane crashed into the English Channel at 100mph
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Picture:

Warwickshire Police / SWNS)


Investigators said none of the men were qualified to fly in cloud and they may have encountered severe turbulence as well as rain and snow showers.

A joint response was launched by the French coast guard and HM Coastguard but the plane and their bodies were never found.

The AAIB report said: “None of the pilots on board were qualified to fly in cloud. Shortly after this transmission, the aircraft disappeared from radar.

“The evidence available, at the time of publication of this report, suggests that control of the aircraft was lost when it entered the cloud.







A photograph taken at 9:19 a.m. showing the cloud in the middle of the English Channel with the waterspout outlined in red
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Picture:

AAIB / SWNS)


“A thorough search of the area was co-ordinated by the British and French Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centres, but neither the aircraft nor its occupants were found.

“It is likely that the aircraft was substantially damaged on impact with the sea.

“It is very dangerous to enter the cloud when unqualified or when not in progress
practice of instrument flight.

“Radar evidence suggests the aircraft struck the water with a high rate of descent and the seat damage that was discovered suggests the aircraft was subjected to considerable forces and substantial disturbance.







Lee Rogers and Brian Statham had taken off from Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon
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Picture:

Warwickshire Police / SWNS)








Brian Statham was among two pilots presumed dead
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Picture:

Warwickshire Police / SWNS)


“It is therefore unlikely that the occupants had a chance to escape from the aircraft.”

The two friends, who met at South Warwickshire flying school a decade ago,
disappeared about 20 nautical miles west of Le Touquet.

Mr Rogers posted a video of them flying over the channel before their plane disappeared and they reported reports to London that they were in the cloud.

When last radioed, the aircraft was descending 7,000 feet at about 3,000 feet per minute (about 30 mph).

At the last radar fix, the aircraft passed 4,600 feet and descended just
less than 10,000 feet per minute (approximately 110 mph).

Crispin Orr, the AAIB’s chief inspector, said it was a “tragic accident” and reminded pilots of the importance of “pre-flight weather decision-making”.

He said the AAIB had investigated “numerous accidents where control of an aircraft was lost under these circumstances”.

He added: “The accident highlights how dangerous it is to fly in clouds when not suitably qualified or when not in current instrument flight practice. “







A seat recovered from the plane
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Picture:

AAIB / SWNS)


The AAIB said its investigation would continue to examine operational, technical and human factors that may have contributed to the crash.

Mr Statham, of Solihull, West Mids., was described by his family at the time of the crash as ‘still living to the fullest’.

They said: “As competent pilots, with over 20 years of combined flying experience, it was horrendous news to hear that their aircraft had gone missing over the English Channel.

“The families would like to thank the French and English coastguards for their time, hard work and dedication at sea working tirelessly to try to find any evidence, wreckage or clues as to what may have happened.”

The family of Mr Rodgers, from Stratford-upon-Avon, added: “Anyone who knew Lee will testify to a larger than life character who lived his life to the full, a man of great heart and boundless generosity.







An excerpt from a video at 8:46 showing the instrument panel and the cloud in front of the plane
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Picture:

AAIB / SWNS)


“A competent and enthusiastic pilot, a lover of all kinds of fast and noisy machines, which also included a new love of yachting.

“He will leave a great wake behind him and will be greatly missed – not only by his family but by his legion of friends and colleagues.

“Life isn’t fair, but few people leave a legacy like Lee, even though they’ve had a hundred lifetimes.”

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