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Teamwork wins safety award

PUBLISHED: 19:30 02 May 2007 | UPDATED: 13:48 10 October 2012

A terrific example of working together to help a pilot in trouble has resulted in joint winners being announced for the CAA's Safety Awards for 2006.

In a break from tradition, joint winners have been announced for the CAA's General Aviation Safety Awards.


The winners were the ‘B Watch’ air traffic control team at Newcastle Airport (Allan Davison, Mike Charlton, Keith Rodgers, Keith Briggs and Andrew Graham) and Aerodrome Manager Steve Clarehugh from Felton, Northumberland, who were nominated separately for their part in an incident in March 2006 when a Cessna 182 flying from Dundee to Barton experienced engine problems.


The pilot radioed Newcastle for assistance, but was unable to reach the airfield. Faced with failing light and an overcast cloud base of 700ft, Air Traffic Controller Allan Davison guided the aircraft to Eshott Airfield in Northumberland; also on duty was Mike Charlton the Air Traffic Control Watch Manager and Keith Rodgers the Senior Watch Supervisor. Keith made contact with Steve Clarehugh, the Eshott Airfield Manager, who said that there was no lighting available at the airfield but agreed to go there and provide guidance. When he arrived, he positioned his vehicle at the end of the runway and illuminated the landing strip to provide a focal point for the C182.

Once Mr Clarehugh saw the aircraft lights breaking cloud five miles north of the airfield he relayed instructions over his mobile phone to Newcastle Air Traffic Control, who in turn instructed the pilot where to turn to line up with the runway and pick up the lights. The aircraft landed successfully and neither the pilot nor the passenger was hurt in the incident.


Although B 'Watch' and Mr Clarehugh were nominated separately, it was felt by the judges, who included Pilot Publishing Editor Nick Wall, that because it was such an excellent example of teamwork in aviation the award should be made jointly.

Dominic Underdown, a helicopter instructor from Lancing in West Sussex, was runner-up. In December 2006, the pilot of a Pitts Special Biplane suffered engine problems and put out a Mayday call. The aircraft was damaged during the subsequent forced landing, trapping the pilot. Radio calls were then heard from the distressed pilot who believed fuel was leaking. Mr Underdown was instructing in an R44 helicopter on a navigational exercise from Sandown on the Isle of Wight to Redhill in Surrey. He landed the helicopter adjacent to the crash site in Goodwood, West Sussex and, together with his student and a passenger, managed to free the pilot from the wreckage. Using his medical skills from a previous career as a nurse, he offered medical support until the emergency services were able to attend.

The CAA’s Group Director, Safety Regulation, Mike Bell, said: "Once again the standard of the entries we received was of a very high level. Both sets of finalists showed a very professional attitude and excellent airmanship in dealing with the scenarios they found themselves involved in. The decision of the judges was not an easy one and I would like to offer my congratulations to all the finalists and wish them well for the future."

The awards were presented on Tuesday (May 1) by Group Captain Roger Gault, Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators at the RAF Club in London.

The judging panel comprised David Ogilvy, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Peter Godwin of Bonus Aviation; John Romain of the Aircraft Restoration Company; and Nick Wall.

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