Two friends who crashed in the English Channel ‘unqualified to fly in the clouds’

Friends Lee Rogers and Brian Statham took off from an airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon bound for Le Touquet in France, but tragically crashed into the English Channel in ‘abnormal weather conditions’ and died

Brian Statham (left) and his friend Lee Rogers (right) disappeared after their plane crashed on April 2

Two friends who died when their light plane crashed into the English Channel were unqualified to fly through clouds, investigators have said.

Ex-mechanic Brian Statham, from Solihull, took off from an airfield in Stratford-upon-Avon with his pal and co-pilot Lee Rogers, bound for the north of France on the morning of Saturday April 2.

The duo – who had over 20 years of flight time between them – were flying a Piper Cherokee Arrow II (G-EGVA) on a route with cloud forecasts.

The Piper was one of seven aircraft going on a “fly out” club with the South Warwickshire Flying School, birmingham live reports.

Both Brian and Lee were flying under “visual flight rules” – an aviation term for operating in clear enough weather that they could see their route.

None of them were qualified to fly using the aircraft’s instruments, investigators said.

The duo would have entered a cloud above the channel then contact was lost with them 20 nautical miles west of Le Touquet shortly before 9:20 a.m.







The duo’s plane crashed into the English Channel at 100mph after losing control in thick cloud producing tornado water sports (circled in red)
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AAIB / SWNS)


Warwickshire Police previously said the pair encountered ‘abnormal weather’ on the canal, although crash investigators said ‘the cloud was expected’ and indeed seen by pilots en route.

The plane descended and then climbed with investigators believing the pilots may have been trying to avoid the cloud.

At the last point of contact, it spun and descended at a speed of over 100 mph (10,000 feet per minute), where it is believed to have crashed into the channel.







Brian and Lee had over 20 years of flying experience between them
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Warwickshire Police / SWNS)


A special bulletin issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Board on May 13 stated: “It is not possible to know the intentions of the pilots, but these altitude changes may have been an attempt to avoid cloud.

“Once they reached 7,000 feet, they couldn’t climb any higher due to the controlled airspace above.

“Shortly after reaching 7,000 feet, the aircraft’s radio transmission confirmed that the aircraft had entered cloud. Neither occupant was qualified to fly in cloud.

“We don’t know if they entered the cloud inadvertently.

“Video recording from G-EGVA and photographs from the other aircraft show that the cloud was clearly defined and visible several kilometers away.

“So there should have been enough time to turn around if they weren’t able to get around the cloud.”







The plane plunged into the sea at speeds of around 100 mph
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Warwickshire Police / SWNS)








Investigators say their previous cloud flight experience may have encouraged them to try again
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Warwickshire Police / SWNS)


He continued: “It is possible that the occupants’ previous experience of flying through the clouds without incident encouraged them to attempt to cross them on this occasion. It is unclear when exactly the aircraft entered the clouds. clouds.

“However, minutes before the aircraft was lost from radar, the aircraft began to vary its heading and altitude before descending into an increasingly steep right turn.

“The forecast severe turbulence and icing in the clouds may have contributed to the deviation from controlled flight.

“When the last radio transmission was made, the aircraft was descending to 7,000 feet at approximately 3,000 fpm.

“At the last radar fix, the plane was over 4,600 feet and descending at just under 10,000 feet per minute.

“The initial assessment indicated that the damage to the seat recovered from G-EGVA and its release from the aircraft was consistent with the airframe having been subjected to considerable forces and substantial disruption.”






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A Piper PA-28-300 Cherokee Arrow II landing at Wellesbourne Airfield, Warwickshire, UK
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Picture:

Alamy Photo)


Crash investigators said control of the plane was lost when it entered “a very active cumulus cloud, which had been forecast”.

It said: “None of the occupants were qualified to fly in IMC [instrument meteorological conditions].

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

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

The AAIB report added: “It is very dangerous to enter clouds when not suitably qualified or when not in current instrument flight practice.

“The AAIB has investigated numerous accidents where control of an aircraft was lost after intentionally or inadvertently entering cloud under these circumstances.”







Seat recovered from aircraft G-EGVA
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Picture:

AAIB / SWNS)


He was referring to the Civil Aviation Authority’s Safety Sense leaflet which states: ‘More than three quarters of pilots killed when they lost control in IMC were flying in instrument conditions without an instrument rating.

“Disorientation can affect anyone, especially those who haven’t been trained enough to fly on instruments and who haven’t stayed in practice.

“Being able to see and recognize clouds early enough to safely avoid them is important.”

Despite searches organized by the British and French aeronautical rescue coordination centres, neither the bodies of the two men nor their plane have been found.

But objects from the plane washed up on the French coast, including a bag containing a flight license from one of the pilots, a flight log and other flight documents.

A knee board and a creased passenger seat.

Mr. Statham grew up in Coleshill and ran a garage in Castle Vale for over 40 years.

His family have already paid tribute and said: “Brian was one of the most caring, kind and honest men in the whole world.

“He always put his family and friends first and never refused to solve or help solve any problems he encountered.

“Brian was a larger than life character, still living his life to the fullest. He will be dearly missed by all.”

While the family also paid tribute to Mr Rogers, who worked in IT at Alcester, saying: ‘Anyone who knew Lee will bear witness to a larger than life character who lived his life to the fullest, a man with a big heart and unlimited generosity.

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

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