Helicopter carrying Sir Paul McCartney came within seconds of crashing at his Sussex estate
by Siobhan Ryan
Monday 19 January 2015
A HELICOPTER carrying Sir Paul McCartney and his wife came within seconds of crashing as it tried to land at his Sussex home.
The star, 72, and his wife Nancy Shevell were making their way to Peasemarsh, near Rye, from an event in London when the drama unfolded.
A report published by the Department of Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch found The Beatles star’s pilot missed two urgent warnings the aircraft was too close to the ground and missed hitting treetops near the home by about 2ft.
The helipad on the estate has trees all around it and the weather conditions were poor.
The first attempt to land was abandoned after rain forced the pilot to turn off the landing lights and it became unsafe.
With the second attempt, the helicopter came too close to the trees and the pilot was forced to sharply pull the Sikorsky S-76C around to safety.
The landing was aborted and the helicopter went on to nearby Lydd Airport instead.
The report said that during the second attempt: “The co-pilot, who was monitoring the instruments, saw that the helicopter was descending and began to speak to highlight this to the commander when he saw the radio altimeter winding down towards zero extremely quickly.
“The co-pilot found himself momentarily unable to continue speaking, expecting the helicopter to crash.”
The investigation concluded: “The descent from above the minimum safe altitude was conducted in reduced visibility and low cloud conditions into an area with limited visual references.
“The helicopter was therefore brought close to terrain in an environment in which situational awareness could become degraded easily.
“In the course of the orbit, the commander became spatially disorientated and the helicopter descended towards the tops of trees.”
The report said although two warnings were given that the helicopter was approaching contact with the ground, the flight crew were not aware of them.
The incident happened in May 2012.
Sir Paul McCartney