Bike ace 'flew very, very well' inquiry told

A HELICOPTER instructor giving evidence at an inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court this week has said that motorbike star Steve Hislop had an "affinity" for flying.

The fatal accident probe into the death of Steve Hislop, below, heard from the instructor who taught him how to use the controls of the Robinson R44 helicopter – just six months before he died – that he had taken to it "very naturally".

William Wilds also told the court that the British Superbike champion, 41, "was very conscientious", and "had a very nice touch with the controls and he flew very, very well."

He added: "I find that most people involved with motorsports have an affinity with the machines."

Mr Wild's evidence was part of a five-day fatal accident investigation into the death of eleven-time TT winner Steve Hislop, who was killed in July 2003 when his helicopter crashed at Carlenrigg, just outside Hawick.

Local eye witnesses, family friends, an RAF Chinook pilot and an air accident investigator have all contributed to the inquiry this week, which heard claims that two low-flying military jets passed nearby just before the helicopter crash.

School auxiliary Maureen Briggs, 63, told the hearing she was in her garden when she heard a helicopter noise overhead, followed "seconds" later by the sound of jets and then a bang.

"Suddenly there was a terrific noise of two jets", she said. "They were on their sides going up each side of the valley, very low. It was immediately after the helicopter."

However, a senior Air Accident Investigation Branch inspector said two Harrier jets had passed through the area more than half-an-hour after the crash. Other witnesses spoke of a Chinook helicopter in the area around the same time, but an RAF pilot told how he changed his route on July 30, 2003, to avoid cloud cover and arrived in the Teviothead area 10 minutes after the crash.

Squadron leader John Rigby said he had told his crew to move away from the A7 valley during an exercise from RAF Lossiemouth, to avoid cloud which can cause pilots to become disorientated.

The inquiry also heard evidence that Mr Hislop had sent a text message to family friend Wendy Stevenson just hours before the crash complaining about the rain. Yet family friend Andrew Brodie, 48, whom Hislop had been spent three days staying with near Hawick, told the court he had been "absolutely meticulous" in the planning of his flight.

According to an air accident investigator, the "probable cause" of the crash was the motorbike champion losing control in clouds, as data from the global positioning system unit (GPS) recovered from the wreckage, shows that two minutes before the crash he began a dramatic climb of 1,000ft and turned back.

The inquiry is the result of years of campaigning by the bike ace's mum Margaret, who refused to accept an AAIB report which blamed pilot error.

The hearing continues.