‘No fault’ on helicopter

Forensic officers examining the wreckage of the helicopter
Forensic officers examining the wreckage of the helicopter
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A helicopter flown by two former Blackpool pilots did not have a technical malfunction, according to air accident investigators.

Four people, including Captain Carl Dickerson, 36, of Thornton, and Captain Lee Hoyle, from Manchester, were on board when the Agusta Westland AW139 came down in thick fog on March 13.

The respected Blackpool Airport pilots worked for the 70-year-old Conservative peer Lord Ballyedmond, better known as Edward Haughey, who was also on board and died when the aircraft came down.

Dense fog had developed on the night of March 13 when the Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter crashed near Gillingham Hall in Norfolk, a special bulletin from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

The bulletin concluded: “AAIB investigation to date has not identified any technical malfunction which might account for the accident.

“The investigation continues, with the aim of identifying any technical matters of relevance, as well as focusing on flight in degraded visual environments.”

The report said the helicopter had been scheduled to leave Gillingham Hall for Coventry Airport at 6.30pm but the passengers had not been ready to depart until around 7.20pm.

The report went on: “By this time, night had fallen and dense fog had developed; witnesses described visibility in the order of tens of metres.”

Lord Ballyedmond, 70, who was Northern Ireland’s richest man and Declan Small, who worked for the peer, were the passengers.

The report said the helicopter lifted into a hover at 7.24pm and then hover-taxied to the middle of the paddock in which the helipad was sited. The captain, who was the pilot flying, briefed that he would climb vertically from the hover before setting course.

Both pilots are believed to have run a flying school out of Blackpool Airport before taking a job with Lord Ballyedmond at his charter business, Haughey Air. Lord Ballyedmond – who bought Corby Castle in 1994 – occupied a unique position in politics. He was the first person since the Marquess of Lansdowne in the 1920s to sit in both upper houses of the British and Irish parliaments, first as a senator in Dublin and later as a peer in the House of Lords.