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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 151375
Last updated: 21 September 2021
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Type:Edgley EA-7 Optica
Owner/operator:Hampshire Constabulary
Registration: G-KATY
MSN: EA7-004
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Ringwood, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Aerial patrol
Departure airport:Lee-on-Solent Airport (EGHF)
Destination airport:Bournemouth, Hurn (BOH/EGHH)
Investigating agency: AIB
Edgeley Optica G-KATY was operated by the Hampshire Constabularly Air Support Unit and on the morning of 15 May 1985 it was flown (not by a professional pilot but by a serving police officer with a PPL and a CAA exemption) from its base at Lee-on-Solent Airfield to Ringwood, where it was authorised to take aerial photographs (the photographer/passenger also being a serving police officer rather than a professional photographer) of traffic congestion in the town, on its market day, from an altitude of between 1000 and 1500 feet (although it seems that it was actually doing so at about 800 feet). For that purpose it was orbiting the town. It had made three or four such orbits, on the last of which (which is said to have been closer than the predecessors) it dropped from its previous operating height to only 100-150 feet. At this height it crossed the A31 road and made a banked turn to starboard.

Almost immediately the angle of bank increased - from about 45 to about 90 - and the nose of the Optica dropped and it spun in, hitting trees at an angle of 70 nose down and 110 to the horizontal and coming to rest 11 metres on. On first impact, the starboard wing tip was torn off the Optica. Then the leading edge of that wing was torn away, exposing the fuel tank in that. Next the cabin struck a tree, extensively damaging the former, and the port wing struck another tree, exposing the fuel tank in that. Finally the remains of the Optica came to rest. The pierced fuel tanks spilt their contents on the ground and some 20 to 30 seconds afterwards this ignited. The intensity of the subsequent fire was such that it destroyed the forward fuselage of the Optica. Its two occupants had been killed on impact and thus were spared death by fire. The accident was deemed not to have been survivable.

The AAIB investigated the crash but this was hampered by the extent to which impact damage had destroyed and the fire had consumed much of the cabin and wings of the aircraft. However it could find no evidence of pre-crash defects to its structure, engine or fuel and control systems. This deprived the investigators of the potential to offer a definitive cause for the crash. However extrapolating from the available evidence, they came to the conclusion that:

1. The Optica's descent from about 800 feet to about 100-150 feet may have been due to loss of engine power, which may have resulted from an attempt to change the fuel tank supplying the engine; and

2. The loss of control, at about 100-150 feet, may have been due to a stall in the turn or the nose dropping or - and this seems to be the preferred option - possible interference with the controls by the photographer/passenger.

As to the former, the AAIB noted that the fuel selector design was such that it was possible inadvertently to switch to 'off'' when intending to switch from right to left tank or vice versa. Thus there was the possibility that the engine was starved of fuel, leading to loss of power and the descent of the Optica. As to the latter, in its report the AAIB commented that, quote:

"There have been three incidences recorded by the operator of inexperienced passengers in the right seat of an Optica, during a steep turn to the right, grabbing something because of a feeling of insecurity engendered by a combination of the perspex sided cockpit and the inertia reel upper torso restraint. On one of these occasions, the passenger grabbed the central control column, causing a sudden increase of bank angle. This action may have been repeated by the photographer who was on only his second flight. In this event, with normal control inputs to achieve the 45 bank turn, the sudden increase in bank angle would cause the nose of the aircraft to drop and enter a spiral, in exactly the manner which was seen to occur".

The report concludes as follows, quote:

" was not possible to identify the cause of either the initial descent or of the subsequent loss of control, however, the loss of control occurred at a height which was too low for recovery to be made. The balance of available evidence suggests that the aircraft was serviceable immediately before the impact but that the pilot was forced to descend by a partial or transient power loss, possibly occasioned by mishandling of the fuel tank selector or some other cause. A contributory factor could have been the ease with which a mis-selection of the fuel tank selector can be made in certain circumstances".

Crew of G-KATY were:
Police Constable Gerald William Spencer: Died 15 May 1985, aged 37 (pilot)
Detective Constable Malcolm James Victor Wiltshire Died 15 May 1985, aged 44 (observer)

G-KATY was ex-G-BLFD (re-registered on 2/4/1985) and was owned by Christopher Foyle Aviation (Leasing) Company t/a Foyle Air, from whom the Hampshire Police had leased it. Registration G-KATY cancelled by the CAA as aircraft "destroyed" 22/1/1987


1. Flight International 30 August 1986, p.54.
2. Dundee Courier - Thursday 21 August 1986 (Inquest into deaths of the two crew)
3. AAIB Report:
4. AAIB Appendices:
5. CAA:

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


Revision history:

22-Dec-2012 11:14 Dr. John Smith Added
30-May-2013 00:09 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
13-Nov-2014 12:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
25-Oct-2015 12:57 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Phase, Source, Narrative]
17-Nov-2020 14:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Nature, Departure airport, Source, Narrative, Accident report]
19-Nov-2020 16:18 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
19-Nov-2020 16:21 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]

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