HERO pilot Robert Mansell, who died when he was forced to ditch his plane into the Caribbean sea, but whose brave actions saved all nine of his passengers, had warned flight company bosses about overweight aircraft just days before the tragedy – an inquest has heard.
The tourist plane Rob was piloting was travelling from Curacao to Bonaire when the accident happened on October 22, 2009.
Rob, 32 and from Knowle, managed to safely land his twin-engined aircraft in the ocean after sending out a mayday message when an engine failed.
His expert flying enabled his nine Dutch passengers to escape the aircraft.
They desperately tried to save Rob, who had been knocked unconscious, but his safety harness was damaged and they couldn’t release him from the cockpit.
The plane sank 600ft to the bottom of the ocean minutes after hitting the water – tragically claiming the life of the hugely popular former Arden School and Solihull Sixth Form pupil.
An inquest at Birmingham Coroner’s Court on Monday (September 22) heard that Rob died from drowning after suffering a head injury.
The inquest revealed Rob had expressed concerns about the overloading of the 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, telling him he had spoken to his employers about the issue, but that nothing was ever done about it.
Air Accident Investigator Timothy Atkinson told the inquest that Rob’s plane had been 961lbs overweight – weighing in at 7,211lbs instead of the maximum weight limit of 6,250lbs.
He added that an investigation revealed the company was regularly sending planes into the skies dangerously overweight.
Rob studied aeronautical engineering at Bristol University before obtaining his pilot licence in 2006.
He had moved to the Solomon Islands in 2007 where he worked as a pilot before moving to the Netherlands Antilles in 2008.
Speaking after the inquest Robert’s father Roger, a retired civil aviation engineer, paid tribute to his son the ‘hero’.
He 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.”
Mr Mansell added that many other pilots wouldn’t have known what to do and that if Rob hadn’t ditched the plane properly it could easily have somersaulted over and most likely killed everyone on board.
The plane Rob was piloting on the fateful day.