Pilot killed in Co Longford doing aerobatics at too low an altitude

William Hillick did not heed advice to get lessons for 360 degree manoeuvres

William Hillick from Co Westmeath died when his aircraft came down at Abbeyshrule Aerodrome, Co Longford. Photograph: Facebook

William Hillick from Co Westmeath died when his aircraft came down at Abbeyshrule Aerodrome, Co Longford. Photograph: Facebook

 

An inexperienced pilot who did not heed advice to get lessons in aerobatics was killed when his plane went into a spin, an investigation has concluded.

Father-of-five and businessman William Hillick (47) from Mullingar, died when his Laser Z200 aircraft came down at Abbeyshrule Aerodrome, Co Longford, on March 20th last year.

Mr Hillick owned the family-run CQ Communications shop on Ormond Quay in Dublin.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) concluded that Mr Hillick performed aerobatic manoeuvres at too low an altitude and that he was inexperienced on the Laser Z200 aircraft.

A witness told the AAIU he had flown with Mr Hillick in the past and told him he was not performing aileron rolls (360 degree rotation of the aircraft) properly. He advised the pilot to get lessons prior to conducting aerobatic manoeuvres, but Mr Hillick felt that he did not need them.

Mr Hillick had fitted two GoPro cameras to the Laser Z200 aircraft and was carrying out aerobatic manoeuvres when his plane went into a spin. He tried to pull out of the dive, but the plane stalled and crashed into a field killing him immediately.

Last moments

The pilot spent just 13 minutes and 48 seconds in the air. His last moments were captured on a mobile phone. The unit was able to use the footage to determine why he died.

He had taken delivery of the aircraft just seven days prior to the fatal accident and it was only his second outing on it.

He had inputted the wrong controls while conducting aileron rolls resulting in a significant loss of altitude after each one.

The video footage revealed that Mr Hillick was doing aerobatic manoeuvres at 800 feet (244 metres) “an insufficient height to permit a safe recovery to stable flight”.

He had also not used the elevator and rudder inputs properly. Consequently, the nose on his aircraft was down leading to a “substantial” loss of altitude.

Mr Hillick had travelled with his flying club from Inishmore Aerodrome on the Aran Islands to Abbeyshrule for the day.

His friends from the flying club were so concerned about his previous outing three days prior to the accident that they manned the airport fire tender as a precaution. They later concluded he had got the hang of the aircraft.

Two other eyewitnesses told the AAIU that during his last flight, they saw Mr Hillick “do some flips” and were “worried for him as hadn’t had the airplane for long”.

Mr Hillick had previously flown a Slingsby T67 Firefly, but three months before the accident which killed him expressed a desire to move “onto something else, you know, maybe of a bit more competitive nature”.