Hislop inquest: ‘Steve was a natural pilot’

Instructor tells fatal accident hearing how ex-BSB champ was a conscientious flyer

STEVE HISLOP was hailed as a ‘natural’ helicopter pilot during yesterday’s
hearing as part of the ongoing inquiry into the cause of the helicopter crash
that killed him.

The claim was made by the instructor who taught the double British Superbike
Champion how to use the controls of the Robinson R44 helicopter.
William Wilds told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that Hizzy showed an "affinity"
with aircraft controls when he started lessons in January 2003.
Hislop had passed his tests for the R44 in May. He was killed when the
helicopter crashed near his home town of Hawick in the borders on July 31, 2003.

Wilds said: "Mr Hislop took to it very naturally. It is not teaching someone
how to fly – just the different systems. He was very conscientious, he had a
very nice touch with the controls and he flew very well. I find most people
involved in motor sports have an affinity with the machines."
According to further reports in The Scotsman newspaper, Wilds added that the
R44 is not a particularly difficult craft to pilot. Wilds added that he had
covered emergency landings with Hizzy during his training. He confirmed that
Steve was trained only to fly by sight rather than relying on instruments.
The court also heard from inspectors at the Air Accident Investigation
Branch who visited the field where the wreckage of the helicopter was found.

Paul Hannant, 56, a former RAF helicopter pilot, said adverse weather
conditions of cloud and drizzle on the day were the probable cause of the accident.
He said that a Chinook helicopter on exercises in Teviothead the same day
had changed its course to avoid cloud cover near to where Hizzy had crashed.
However, Wilds said that flying into a cloud should not have caused Steve
much problem. He said: "Mr Hislop was good at navigation. Students are taught
that if they enter a cloud they should take up a 180-degree bearing to come
back on themselves."

Hannant disagreed, saying that Steve’s five hours of basic training would
not prepare him for this.
The court also heard that Hizzy had attempted an emergency climb just before
the crash. Evidence from investigators who examined his global positioning
system on board the aircraft showed that two minutes before the crash at
11:04am, the aircraft began a steep climb of more than 1,000ft.
Asked if he thought it was an emergency climb, Mr Hannant replied: "I think
it was."

The hearing is expected to last until the end of the week.