AN "ALMIGHTY bang" was heard moments before a helicopter crashed and rolled in a Herefordshire field, an investigation has found.

Eyewitnesses on the ground said they heard an "explosion" before the Rotorway Executive 162F homebuilt helicopter, with the registration G-JDHN, crashed near Ledbury on Good Friday in 2021.

More than 15 months later, the Air Accident Investigation Branch report into the crash found unburnt fuel igniting in the exhaust could have been the cause.


The report said that the helicopter, piloted by a 54-year-old man and travelling at around 80mph at 1,500ft, was in a stable cruise when he heard a very loud noise, which he said was an "almighty bang".

This resulted in the helicopter reacting in a way that he "could not rationalise in the short time available", so he successfully autorotated to land in a field.

The helicopter wreckage pictured in the field near Ledbury. Picture: Air Accident Investigation Branch

The helicopter wreckage pictured in the field near Ledbury. Picture: Air Accident Investigation Branch

An autorotation landing is where a helicopter uses the upward flow of air to turn the rotors, rather than an engine.

During the descent, the pilot recognised that he was heading towards some polytunnels so he turned away from them onto a southerly heading.

He noted there were power cables in the new approach path but was confident that his glide angle would clear them as he tried to land in a field north of Ledbury, off the Bromyard road.


At the end of the ground run, which was "at walking pace", the left skid caught on uneven ground and the helicopter rolled over onto its left side. Both the pilot and passenger managed to escape with minor injuries and were taken to hospital.

The report said that the helicopter, built in 1998 and had flown 674 hours, the second highest of all the 162F helicopters on the UK register, was damaged beyond repair.

The AAIB said it suspected defects in the cylinder three exhaust valve sealing may have been the cause of unburnt fuel in the exhaust system.

During inspections, no pre-existing defects were found with the main rotor drive train, flight controls or external engine accessories, but the cylinder two inlet valve and cylinder three exhaust valve were in poor condition.