Glider death crash: pilot may have suffered heart attack

PUBLISHED: 10:53 16 July 2010

A WIMBISH man who died in a horror glider crash last year may have suffered a major heart problem before the accident, according to an official report.

The crash in which retired professional pilot, 64-year-old Douglas Brooks, of Elder Street, lost his life happened when the Discus glider, owned by Cambridge Gliding Club, crashed into a farm field not far from Gransden Lodge Airfield at Little Gransden near Sandy.

Now a newly published Air Accident Investigation Branch report into the crash indicates that Mr Brooks may have suffered a heart problem.

It says that some members of his family had suffered from a genetically-determined heart condition, which could produce abnormalities in heart rhythm or, possibly, sudden death.

Mr Brooks, who had 19,600 hours flying experience, had undergone regular heart checks which had revealed occasional abnormalities, for which he had been prescribed medication.

The report continues: “The possibility that the pilot may have suffered an incapacitating abnormal heart rhythm could not be entirely discounted as this can occur without leaving any pathological evidence.”

The fatal crash happened on the afternoon of July 9, 2009. The report says the glider had been pulled into the air with a winch and had been flying for around 10 minutes when it was seen to go into a spin from which it did not recover.

It says that if the spin had been intentional, it is not clear why Mr Brooks, who, prior to retirement had been a commercial pilot working for a number of airlines flying jet aircraft on international flights, was unable to recover from it.

The report says that during an annual check Mr Brooks had had demonstrated “exceptional skill” in recovering from spin manoeuvres and adds that there was no evidence to account for why the glider went into the fatal spin.

As far as possible heart problems were concerned the report quotes a report in which a pathologist says: “Although no significant cardiac pathology was evident at the autopsy, the possibility that the pilot may have suffered an incapacitating abnormal heart rhythm cannot be entirely discounted, as this can occur without leaving any pathological evidence.

“However to invoke this as a likely cause of the accident would require other strands of the investigation to suggest that medical incapacitation of the pilot was probable.”

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