A PAIR of experienced gliding pilots died after their aircraft crashed into a tree in during a routine training exercise.

Martin Bishop, of Abergavenny, and Roderick Weaver, of Cyncoed, were practising a forced landing on June 10, 2018, when their motor glider’s wing struck a tree and flipped the aircraft upside down, killing them both in Tregare, Raglan.

In a statement read out in Newport’s Coroner's Court, witness Peter Gardiner said he heard “an almighty crash” after initially spotting the glider pass over his house.

A practice field landing involves an aircraft being flown manually to a height, usually of 1,500 feet; the pilot then begins the aircraft’s descent without using the engine, with the glider pilot, sat to the pilot’s left, then taking over.

The light aircraft is not supposed to land and when it reaches a height of around 300 feet, the accelerator is engaged and the pilot begins an ascent.

Mr Bishop had originally asked Mr Weaver’s wife Maureen if she could oversee the practice landing, but Mrs Weaver was busy so her husband, who owned a motor glider, supervised instead.

Mr Weaver, who had been a gliding instructor since the 1990s, and Mr Bishop, who had been flying solo for the last 10 years, took off at 10.47am from South Wales Gliding club in Usk, where they were both members.

“What happened during the flight is not entirely clear to me,” said head coroner for Gwent Caroline Saunders.

But at around 11am, witness Janice Cook recalled seeing a “small aircraft circulating” around her house.

“The engine noise was idling and sounded as if it was deprived of fuel.”

Another witness, Mr Gwyn Melvin-Evans, said he had “never seen one (a glider) that low before”.

“Its engine noise sounded almost sluggish.”

He then described how he heard a “crumpling sound”.

Air accidents investigators Andrew Cox and Nicholas Dann said the aircraft, including the engine, was in good condition.

A post-mortem examination by Dr Stephen Leabeatter also found that there were no “underlying issues or diseases” that could have contributed to the crash.

Ms Saunders said the aircraft could’ve crashed either because of carburettor icing – which freezes the supply of fuel to the engine – or that the pair may not have seen the tree during the descent.

However, she said: “I cannot say whether the engine didn’t work, or whether they did not see the tree.”

“Mr Dann could not come to a conclusion either way, and he is an air accident investigator.”

The motor glider’s limited onboard computer did not reveal anything conclusive about why the plane crashed, and Ms Saunders said she would be writing to the Civil Aviation Authority, asking whether they would consider making “data recording equipment mandatory” for all aircraft.

The jury returned a conclusion of an accident.

A tribute from the family of Martin Bishop at the time of the crash, read: “Martin was a loving son, brother, husband and uncle who was well-loved by this family and friends.

“He was an active member of adventure sports, he loved his job as the national manager for Wales at Confor (Confederation of Forest Industries) and he was an active member of the community.

“Martin died doing something he loved and will be sorely missed by all.”