Warning to pilots after woman struck by propeller at RAF Henlow

INVESTIGATORS looking into an accident at an airfield in which a woman nearly lost her arm after it was struck by a propeller have warned pilots of the importance of safety briefings.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) has released a report following the incident at RAF Henlow in April, when passenger Cathy Daly, about to take her first flight in a light aircraft, was seriously injured.

The 37-year-old female pilot, who has not been named in the report, told investigators she had realised just before the 1978 built Piper Tomahawk was due to take off that Ms Daly did not have a head set on. The pilot told her to exit the aircraft, privately owned by Paul Dribble of The Lodge, Arlesey Road, Henlow, and pick one up from the control tower.

At this stage the engine was idling as it had only just started and she had been told during her training that the engine should not be shut down immediately after being started.

The pilot, who had 144 hours of flying experience, said that prior to the flight she had briefed the passenger on the procedures for entering and exiting the aircraft and, when she saw the passenger moving towards the front of the wing as opposed to the rear to get back on to the ground, she had banged on the screen of the cockpit and indicated that she should get off at the rear.

When the passenger stepped off the front of the wing she shut down the engine but the moving propeller hit the passenger’s arm. Ms Daly was taken to Lister Hospital where surgeons saved her limb after a 10-hour operation.

The report stated that Ms Daly told investigators that she “was not told how to exit the aircraft and the route to follow to the control tower, nor that she was to walk around the rear of the aircraft.”

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“She did not believe that the pilot tried to gain her attention as she walked forwards”, the report said.

“She stepped off the front of the wing and did not notice the propeller.”

The report concluded: “The differences between the two accounts of events were not reconciled by the investigation. Nevertheless, the accident demonstrated the danger represented by propellers, highlighted the importance of pre-flight safety briefings and reinforced the points from Safety Sense Leaflet 2, any one of which had the potential to prevent this accident.”

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