A former British champion glider pilot who died in a crash near Basingstoke had told a friend she thought she was “having a heart attack” during a sleepless night a couple of weeks earlier, writes Matthew Brown.
Kay Draper, from Marlborough in Wiltshire, was at the controls of the ASG 29E aircraft when it spiralled nose-first into a cornfield in Southwood Farm Lane, near Bradley, at around midday on July 21 last year.
The glider hit the ground at more than 100mph.
An Air Accident Investigation Branch Report (AAIB) described the 60-year-old as an “experienced glider pilot” who “seemed fit and well before the flight”.
However, the report made it clear she may have been “incapacitated during the latter stages of the flight”.
A pathologist refused to rule out that she may have “lost consciousness, as a result of a cardiac problem owing to a family history and reports of heart palpitations about two weeks prior to the flight”.
Ms Draper, who was wearing a parachute, was taking part in a gliding task that involved flying in and out of Lasham Airfield.
A friend said that before takeoff, she was having difficulty syncing her tablet with the glider’s fight computer but seemed to be her usual “energetic and bubbly self”. No one else – including Ms Draper’s husband who was due to be gliding too – noticed that anything was untoward.
Ms Draper’s glider was towed up in good conditions but at around 500ft up, the tug pilot noticed the glider unusually moving around.
However there was no indication of a problem.
At 1,500 feet, there was an opportunity to release the tow but this was not taken up and it was at 2,000ft when Ms Draper released the tow.
She exchanged two radio calls with her husband who was now airborne, with everyone commenting there was no indication anything was wrong. However there was no further communication from her.
Witnesses on the ground reported seeing the nose of the glider pointing sharply down and “spiralling downwards” with a “whooshing” sound as it passed by followed by a loud “bang”.
Emergency services raced to the scene but Ms Draper was pronounced dead.
Investigators found “no evidence of a technical malfunction” and instruments were too badly damaged to recover any data from the flight.
Ms Draper had chalked up 1,800 flying hours during her gliding career.