Aircraft inspectors reveal cause that forced 1930s plane to emergency land on Sidmouth beach

PUBLISHED: 16:48 14 September 2018

The light aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on Jacobs Ladder beach at Sidmouth. Picture: Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

The light aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on Jacobs Ladder beach at Sidmouth. Picture: Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

A 1930s plane was forced to carry out an emergency landing on Sidmouth beach due to a shortage of fuel, a report has revealed.

The Beer Coastguard Rescue Team with the light aircraft that was forced to make an emergency landing on Sidmouth beach. Picture: Beer Coastguard Rescue TeamThe Beer Coastguard Rescue Team with the light aircraft that was forced to make an emergency landing on Sidmouth beach. Picture: Beer Coastguard Rescue Team

Investigators from the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) concluded that there had been ‘no useable fuel’ in the Morane Saulnier M5 315 aircraft which resulted in it losing power on May 5.

Pilot Zac Rockey and passenger Trudi Spiller had taken the aircraft to Bodmin Airfield for an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

As they were flying back to Branscombe Airfield, Zac was forced to land on the shingle of Sidmouth beach avoiding beachgoers and onlookers.

Both pilot and passenger were uninjured in the incident.

The plane at Jacob's Ladder beach, Sidmouth, being dismantled. Picture: Danny WhittleThe plane at Jacob's Ladder beach, Sidmouth, being dismantled. Picture: Danny Whittle

The aircraft, which had an estimated valued of £90,000, was fully refuelled before setting off from Branscombe and should have been sufficient for a return flight according to the pilot.

The AAIB report showed a spring in the plane’s fuel primer operating system had become disconnected.

An AAIB inspector said: “When inspected afterwards the aircraft’s fuel tank contained approximately two litres of fuel.

“The engine lost power when no useable fuel remained in the tank. Fuel consumption was significantly greater than expected because the primer return spring was not connected, allowing the primer to continue operating.

The plane at Jacob's Ladder beach, Sidmouth, being dismantled. Picture: Danny WhittleThe plane at Jacob's Ladder beach, Sidmouth, being dismantled. Picture: Danny Whittle

“The pilot completed a successful forced landing because his training and practice enabled him to indentify a suitable landing site within the gliding capability of the aircraft.”

Following the emergency landing, Trudi and Zac slept underneath the wing before it was dismantled by engineers and taken back to Branscombe Airfield.

Emergency services including Beer Coastguard and Sidmouth Lifeboat attended the incident.

Zac, a pilot of 15 years, from Exeter, told the Herald at the time: “No-one was hurt, injured or killed and nothing was damaged - which is amazing. Although it was very difficult, especially getting the plane off the beach.”

Read more:

VIDEO AND PHOTOS: Teen captures plane’s emergency Sidmouth stop on camera

Pilot and passenger recall moment plane engine cuts out over Sidmouth

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