Hero pilot warned airline bosses his plane was being dangerously overloaded days before fatal crash-landing in Caribbean
- British pilot Robert Mansell forced to crash-land, saving all passengers' lives
- He had been flying across the Caribbean in 2009 when an engine failed
- But he died when he was knocked unconscious during the crash-landing
- Inquest heard he voiced concerns to employers about overweight planes
- It was revealed the flight in which he died was overloaded by 961 pounds
A hero pilot had voiced concerns about flying overweight planes just days before he died in a crash landing he was forced to undertake that saved the lives of his nine passengers.
Robert Mansell, 32, managed to safely land his twin-engined aircraft near land in the Caribbean Ocean after sending out a mayday message when an engine failed.
His expert flying enabled his nine Dutch passengers to escape the aircraft and they were picked up by rescue boats, off the island of Curacao.
Tragically, Mr Mansell, from Knowle, Solihull, died after being knocked out when the aircraft hit the ocean.
Passengers on the October 22, 2009, flight tried to save him but his safety harness was damaged and they couldn’t release him from the cockpit.
A postmortem revealed the 32-year-old died from drowning, after suffering a head injury in the crash landing
But the pilot's skillful crash landing ensured he had saved the lives of his nine Dutch passengers
Mr Mansell pictured with his Dutch girlfriend Myrte. He died at the age of 32
Pictured left is Mr Mansell prior to takeoff on one of his flights, and right centre, as a teenager with friends
The plane was travelling from Curacao to Bonaire (pictured inset) in the Caribbean when the accident happened
The plane sank 600ft to the bottom of the ocean minutes after hitting the water.
An inquest into his death was held at Birmingham Coroner’s Court yesterday. A postmortem revealed Robert died from drowning, after suffering a head injury.
The inquest revealed that he had expressed concerns about the overloading of the British-made Britten-Norman plane to his bosses at Divi Divi Air on a number of occasions.
He had also spoken to his father Roger about safety fears in the days before his death.
The inquest heard from Air Accident Investigator Timothy Atkinson, who said the maximum weight limit for the plane was 6,250lbs but the crashed plane had weighed in at 7,211lbs.
An investigation revealed the company was regularly sending planes into the skies dangerously overweight, he claimed.
Passengers were also not weighed but an average weight taken for each person getting on the plane.
Mr Atkinson said an aeroplane could cope with being overweight with two working engines but not when one fails.
The Dutch Safety Board carried out its own investigation and made recommendations to the Curacao Aviation Authority to address the issues of flying overweight aircraft and to tighten controls.
Mr Atkinson told the inquest: 'The overloading of the planes was a systemic habit with the airline.'
After the inquest, his father Roger Mansell (pictured) said his son was renowned for his 'infectious courage'
Mr Mansell was known for his skills at playing guitar and singing, and his love of motorcycles and cars
Mr Mansell pictured as an 8-year-old with his family. Mr Mansell was born into a family of pilots
Mr Mansell, left, relaxing in the Caribbean where he worked as a pilot, and on the right, as a child aged 10
Mr Mansell, pictured right with a friend, had been living in the Netherlands Antilles since 2008
The inquest revealed the plane’s right engine cut out shortly after taking off from Hato airport to Flamingo, some 40 miles away from the crash scene.
Mr Atkinson said Mr Mansell could have turned around and headed back to Hato Airport but made the decision to carry on to Flamingo after alerting air traffic control to the situation.
But only seconds away from land he was forced to ditch his plane into the sea. The force of impact smashed his cabin windscreen and water started pouring into the cabin.
He was knocked out and despite the efforts of fellow passengers they weren’t able to free him and he sank to the bottom of the ocean with the plane.
The jury recorded a narrative verdict which said the 'aircraft was significantly overweight.'
Mr Mansell was a former pupil at Arden School and Solihull Sixth Form College and had studied aeronautical engineering at Bristol University before obtaining his pilot licence in 2006.
He became a captain shortly after.
He had moved to the Solomon Islands in 2007 where he worked as a pilot before moving to the Netherlands Antilles in 2008 and he had a Dutch girlfriend called Myrte.
Mr Mansell, pictured, obtained his pilot licence in 2006 and became a captain shortly after
He had moved to the Solomon Islands in 2007 where he worked as a pilot before moving to the Netherlands Antilles in 2008. Mr Mansell is pictured in the background giving a thumbs-up
Robert Mansell's plane pictured once it had been pulled from the ocean after the crash
'ROBERT, I AM GRATEFUL AND PROUD THAT YOU WERE OUR PILOT'
Speaking after the inquest, his father Roger, a retired civil aviation engineer, paid tribute to his son who he labelled a 'hero.'
The 77-year-old said: 'Robert had spoken to me about his concerns with regards to the plane regularly being overloaded on several occasions and had made his concerns known to his employers. Nothing was ever done to address the issue.'
He said his son was renowned for his 'infectious' character and courage, doing bungee jumps and cage diving with sharks on his travels.
The dad said: 'I am so proud of him in every way. He was a wonderful son who lived live to the full. He loved his motorcycles and his cars and was a tremendous guitarist and singer. He was a man of many talents.
'As a pilot myself I know the difficulty of landing these planes in the situation he found himself in. If he wasn’t a good pilot, he couldn’t have ditched it so everyone could be saved. Other pilots wouldn’t have known what to do - but he landed the aircraft so that everyone could get out safely. If he hadn’t ditched the aircraft properly it could have somersaulted over and would have most likely killed everyone on board.
'I am so proud of him - he really is a hero.'