A PLANE crashed into a hillside after a flying instructor mistakenly believed it was safe to descend, an investigation has found.
Adrian Smith, a senior air traffic controller at Blackpool Airport, thought the aircraft was flying over low ground just before it crashed into the upper slopes of Ingleborough at more than 100mph.
Mr Smith, 55, and his pupil, from Blackburn, miraculously survived the crash on March 21 this year.
They used a mobile phone to alert rescuers and were beginning to suffer from exposure when they were found late on a winter’s night about four hours after the crash in a remote area of the Yorkshire Dales.
The report by the Air Accident Investigation Bureau said Mr Smith admitted making a human error but adds “light conditions were poor and there were few visible features, if any, that the crew could use to confirm their position.”
The plane, on a night cross-country navigation training flight, had gone around 25 degrees off course.
Mr Smith believed they were above Ingleton in North Yorkshire after seeing lights below, when in fact they was above Settle.
He told his pupil to descend in order to gain more ground visibility but after starting the descent their “next recollections were of regaining consciousness after the aircraft had crashed on high ground”.
The plane, although destroyed did not catch fire, but both men suffered injuries including a broken leg.
The report adds “the instructor acknowledged he incorrectly identified the aircraft’s position” and this “led to the instructor initiating a descent which he believed would be over lower ground and therefore safe.”
However it says a call to air traffic control “could have confirmed the aircraft’s position when it was near Settle.”
The Cessna plane had left Blackpool Airport at 7.18pm on the night of the crash to undertake a training flight for Westair Flying School, based at the airport.
The AAIB said: “It was fortuitous the crew had a mobile phone with them and were able to call for help from their remote accident site.
“The crew were both seriously injured but the outcome could have been worse.”