McRae air crash manoeuvres 'unsafe'
Former world rally champion Colin McRae engaged in "unnecessary and unsafe" low-level flying before an avoidable helicopter crash which killed him, two children and another man, a sheriff has ruled.
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) found McRae had been "imprudent" in embarking on demanding manoeuvres in difficult terrain, "contrary to the principles of good airmanship".
Sheriff Nikola Stewart, who ruled the fatal crash could have been avoided, confirmed that the sportsman did not hold a valid flying licence and should not have been flying the aircraft at the time.
McRae, 39, his five-year-old son Johnny, the boy's six-year-old friend Ben Porcelli and Graeme Duncan, 36, all died when the aircraft came down near McRae's Jerviswood House home in Lanark on September 15 2007 as he flew home from a trip to see a friend.
The Eurocopter Squirrel helicopter crashed into trees in steep ground on the south bank of the Mouse Valley water before bursting into flames. Ben's parents had no knowledge that their son was on the flight and had not been asked for their consent.
The inquiry, which sat over 16 days this year at Lanark Sheriff Court, concluded the deaths could have been avoided if McRae had not engaged in unsafe low-level flying.
"It would have been a reasonable precaution to refrain from flying helicopter G-CBHL into Mouse Valley wherein the pilot engaged in low-level flying when it was unnecessary and unsafe for him to do so, and whilst carrying passengers on board," she stated.
The sheriff found there was "no operational or logistical reason" for McRae to have descended into the valley at speed.
In her written determination, the sheriff concluded: "The deaths and the accident resulting in the deaths might have been avoided had Mr McRae not flown his helicopter into the Mouse Valley. Such a precaution would have been entirely reasonable. There was no necessity to enter the Mouse Valley. There were no operational or logistical reasons to enter the Mouse Valley.
"Mr McRae chose to fly the helicopter into the valley. For a private pilot such as Mr McRae, lacking the necessary training, experience or requirement to do so, embarking upon such demanding, low-level flying in such difficult terrain, was imprudent, unreasonable and contrary to the principles of good airmanship."