Belfast Telegraph

Jury: Improve flight technology

Inflight technology systems should be updated to improve safety, a jury at the inquest into a helicopter crash which killed a friend of the Prince of Wales said.

The mapping databases display the height of terrain like mountains and whether certain areas are available to fly through, but the four-day inquest in Belfast highlighted flaws.

In October 2010, the aircraft flew into the side of a cloud-shrouded mountain in the Mourne range, Co Down, as it carried a shooting party back to England.

The probe into the death of three people, including the Prince's friend Charles Stisted, heard how land above a certain height was not displayed and a prohibition on flying through South Armagh still showed although it was lifted several years earlier.

The jury of seven women and four men said: "We feel that as data storage technology advances a high priority should be given by the manufacturers to extend the range of terrain altitude displayed." The jurors recommended that the database be regularly updated to reflect information on the latest aviation charts.

There was also an out of date chart on display at St Angelo airport, Enniskillen, from where the pilot left.

The jury added: "We feel that the relevant authorities should consider whether there is a need to ensure that all aviation charts displayed where they may be reviewed, however inadvertently, by pilots, should be the current issue." They said objections should not be solely based on economic grounds.

Mr Stisted, 47, chief executive of the Guards Polo Club at Windsor, was a passenger on the flight returning to England after attending an exclusive shooting party at an estate in Co Tyrone. Construction company businessman and fellow polo player Ian Wooldridge, 52, and experienced pilot Anthony Smith, 63, formerly of the RAF and Army with service in Northern Ireland, also died.

The jury said in the absence of any conclusive medical evidence, while flying at an altitude 100ft below the summit of Mt Shanlieve the pilot had encountered "unpredictable and rapidly changing" weather conditions which led to the tragedy. They added that the crash may have been avoided had the enhanced ground proximity warning system been in operation.

Senior coroner John Leckey said he would write to the Civil Aviation Authority or a US body expressing the concerns.

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