Accident Agusta A109A Mk II G-GBCA,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 171361
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Date:Friday 7 June 1985
Time:21:25 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic A109 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Agusta A109A Mk II
Owner/operator:British Car Auctions (Aviation) Ltd
Registration: G-GBCA
MSN: 7272
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 5
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Glyndebourne, near Lewes, East Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:Glyndebourne, near Lewes, East Sussex
Destination airport:Blackbushe, Hampshire (BBS/EGLK)
Investigating agency: AIB
Confidence Rating: Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
Written off (damaged beyond repair) 07.06.1985: crashed on take off from Glyndbourne, near Lewes, East Sussex. According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Saturday 8 June 1985 (from the 'News Digest' column)

"Helicopter crash probe

The wreck of a helicopter which crashed seconds after taking off from a field near Glyndebourne Opera House in Sussex will be examined by experts today.

The pilot and four passengers - two married couples - managed to walk unhurt from the wreckage after the accident late last night. The couples were thought to have been on their way home to Oxfordshire after a night at the opera".

Per the summary from the official AAIB investigation into the incident:

"Agusta A.109 G-GBCA had been flown to Glyndebourne on the afternoon of 7 June 1985, no doubt transporting people who were attending the opera there. When, presumably, the opera finished and the helicopter's passengers had embarked, the pilot prepared to take off. It was about 21:25 and it was starting to rain. The intensity of the rain increased, which caused misting of the cabin glazing. Thus the pilot deferred his departure whilst the screen heater was applied. As he took off, the rain became heavier still and the wind increased, resulting in the screen misting again. In order not to be flying blind, the pilot sought to clear the moisture from the screen with his hand. At the same time he experienced difficulty with the cyclic control. Perhaps as a result of both, the helicopter flew backwards and its main rotor blades came into contact with nearby trees. This broke the blades off and the helicopter fell onto its port side, demolishing a wall.

The pilot cut the electrics, opened his door, climbed out and then helped his passengers to escape through the uppermost starboard door. Subsequent examination found no evidence of any pre-existing mechanical or control system defect. Thus it would seem that this accident was caused by a number of factors which, in isolation, might have been manageable but which, in combination, led to this unfortunate outcome. The helicopter suffered significant damage, of an extent which appears to have rendered it beyond economic repair. Thus on 3 September 1985 its registration was cancelled by the CAA as permanently withdrawn from use.

Registration G-GBCA cancelled by the CAA 3.9.1985 as "Permanently withdrawn from use". The wreckage was bought by a film company for filming purposes, as a result of which it was repainted in fake US Army markings as "V33-221" (seen as such at the International Helicopter Museum, Weston-Super-Mare, on 20.3.2016, see link #6)

The crash location of Glyndebourne is an English country house, the site of an opera house that, since 1934, has been the venue for the annual Glyndebourne Festival Opera. The house, located near Lewes in East Sussex, England, is thought to be about six hundred years old and listed at grade II.


1. AAIB Final Report:
2. Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Saturday 8 June 1985

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: AIB
Report number: 
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report

Revision history:

16-Nov-2014 20:07 Dr. John Smith Added
04-Aug-2022 20:42 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative, Category]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description

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