Pilots in mid-flight crash had no time to avoid tragedy, investigation reveals

The wreckage of the plane crash above Tempsford
The wreckage of the plane crash above Tempsford

Two pilots who collided mid-flight in a fatal crash did not see each other until it was too late, it has been revealed.

Funeral director Stephen Spavins, 46, was flying at 3,000ft when his Kitfox machine hit a Cessna light aircraft.

The two planes spiralled downwards but the Cessna pilot managed to regain control 800ft above the ground and make an emergency landing at a nearby airfield.

Mr Spavins however was unable to save himself and he crashed into a field near Rectory Farm, outside Tempsford.

The other pilot, 56, who has not been named, told the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) he did not see Mr Spavins’ plane until it was about 20ft away.

The AAIB said a low sun position may have contributed to the problem.

Mr Spavins regularly used his Kitfox to fly from his home in Spalding, Lincs to his work at the G & H Seamer Funeral Directors in Sandy, landing at a local airfield.

The surviving pilot had taken off from Fowlmere Airfield, Cambridgeshire, and was heading for Sywell Aerodrome, Northamptonshire on a route he also regularly made.

He told investigators he suddenly saw a red, light aircraft that he “thought was climbing towards him”.

Considering a “collision was imminent”, he pulled the control panel back and to the left.

He thought Mr Spavins had not seen his aircraft because he did not appear to have taken evasive action, he told investigators.

The tip of the right wing of Mr Spavins’ plane then hit the G-AZTW’s propeller, the report said.

Nearly half of the G-TOMZ wing was found over a wide area, suggesting the damage had been caused in the air.

Mr Spavins was pronounced dead at the scene and a post-mortem examination concluded he died as a result of multiple injuries caused by the crash.

The investigation concluded the accident occurred because neither pilot saw the other aircraft “in sufficient time to take effective avoiding action”.