PC-21 crash pilot was unfit to fly

ACCIDENT Pilot error caused the fatal crash of a prototype Pilatus PC-21 trainer in January 2005, the Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has concluded, while also revealing that he was unfit to fly. Eliminating any technical malfunction, the document says the aircraft's right wingtip struck the ground at around 300kt (550km/h) during an aerobatic display practice with another PC-21. "The pilot was very probably concentrating on the closing manoeuvre with the other aircraft [and] did not pay attention to his height above the terrain," it says. The pilot had meanwhile failed to disclose two corrective laser eye surgery operations to the Federal Office for Civil Aviation, and "would not have been fit to fly because of the refraction defect in his vision," it adds.

BMI pilots back industrial action

VOTE UK carrier BMI's mainline and regional pilots have voted in favour of strike action, joining their counterparts at budget unit BMIbaby, who have already backed a stoppage. The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA), which represents cockpit crew across the three divisions, says it is deciding when to stage the strikes. "Although there are separate and specific issues of dispute in each division, the overarching concern is that the company is bulldozing through change," says BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan. BMI declines to comment.

GE appoints new infrastructure unit head

PEOPLE General Electric has appointed John Rice as president and chief executive of its infrastructure division, which includes the company's aircraft engines and aviation financial services business units. Rice, a GE vice-chairman for the past year, previously served as president and chief executive of the company's industrial division. Lloyd Trotter will succeed him as head of the industrial division.

Zimbabwe to expand K-8 fleet

PROCUREMENT The Zimbabwean defence ministry says it is to increase the size of its air force's fleet of Hongdu K-8 trainers, following the signature of a $140 million deal with China for an additional six aircraft. Deliveries of the trainers - which will double Zimbabwe's K-8 inventory - are expected late this year.

Unknown signal caused Eagle Eye crash

INVESTIGATION Bell Helicopter's TR918 Eagle Eye tiltrotor unmanned air vehicle demonstrator crashed on 5 April when a signal of unknown origin triggered a system intended to cut off fuel to the engine in the event of a problem. "A signal was sent to the system - we don't know how or from where - and it worked as it was supposed to and cut off the fuel," says Bell, adding that the Eagle Eye was being flown "in the middle of nowhere", west of Fort Worth in Texas, when the event occurred. A Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV crashed during flight tests in March 1999 when the vehicle also inadvertently responded to a termination signal that had been sent from another location and was intended for a different vehicle.

First female space tourist set to travel

TOURISM X-Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari is to become the first female space tourist when she travels to the International Space Station (ISS) on board Soyuz TMA-9, to be launched on 4 September from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Ansari, an American, had been on stand-by and she will replace Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke Enomoto, who is not flying for undisclosed reasons. US space tourism company Space Adventures, which organises the ISS trips, has previously sent three space tourists and announced last week that Ecuadorian Ronnie Nader Bello is the latest ISS trip candidate. Ansari is chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, which is investing in the development of Space Adventures' proposed Explorer suborbital vehicle.

Source: Flight International