Safety buckle failed in glider crash

A REPORT into a glider crash which nearly killed a 20-year-old member of an Essex and Suffolk club has found that his safety harness buckle gaveway.Pilot Tom Branton was left in a coma after his glider crashed on Wormingford Airfield, in north Essex.

A REPORT into a glider crash which nearly killed a 20-year-old member of an Essex and Suffolk club has found that his safety harness buckle gaveway.

Pilot Tom Branton was left in a coma after his glider crashed on Wormingford Airfield, in north Essex.

A report into the crash, by the British Gliding Association (BGA), has just been published by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the Department of Transport

It concludes that Mr Branton, would have escaped such serious injuries if the buckle holding his safety harness together had not failed at the crucial moment.


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The report recommends that The British Gliding Association should now review its safety manuals which cover seat harnesses.

Mr Branton, a qualified solo glider pilot, and a member of the Essex and Suffolk Gliding Club, crashed in the Slingsby Sport Vega glider on June 23, 2002.

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The report states: "There was no evidence of any technical defect in the aircraft which would have contributed to the accident."

But goes on: "It is likely that the severity of the injuries to the pilot, who has since recovered, were increased by the failure of the buckle."

Mr Branton had taken off from Wormingford to fly to Cambridge but turned around near Newmarket and returned to Essex.

When the glider came down, below the level of the tree tops, Mr Branton tried to climb again but did not have enough speed.

The glider crashed through the upper branches of the trees, the wings were ripped off the the fuselage plummetted into the ground.

During the crash Mr Branton, of Great Horkesley, near Colchester, came free from his harness and sustained serious injuries.

The BGA investigation said the cause of the accident was the pilot's "failing to notice that he did not have sufficient energy" to perform the manouevre.

But adds: "This may be attributable to the tailwind, which gave an increased ground speed and perhaps a false sense of security."

A separate investigation into how the harness buckle failed to protect him on impact found that it had been changed over time and contained different parts from those it would have had when it was originally manufactured.

However, the club said the glider had been supplied in 1997 with the same fittings as it had at the time of the accident and no modifications or replacements had been carried out.

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