A pilot who was the Queen’s personal representative in North Yorkshire probably became disorientated in cloud before a fatal helicopter crash, an investigation has found.
Barry Dodd, the county’s Lord-Lieutenant, was the only person on board when the accident happened near Aldborough, Boroughbridge, on May 30 last year.
The 70-year-old was flying the Bell 206B helicopter from Husthwaite for its annual maintenance check at Walton Wood Airfield, around 45 miles away.
Weather conditions during the flight were “challenging with low cloud and reduced visibility”, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
The helicopter was seen by several witnesses to be flying normally before climbing steeply into cloud.
When the aircraft emerged from the cloud it was rotating and descending rapidly. Fifteen seconds later it struck the ground, killing Mr Dodd. The helicopter caught fire following the crash.
The AAIB said: “It could not be determined why the helicopter entered cloud but it is probable that the pilot was distracted or became disorientated in the poor weather conditions.
“Having entered cloud it is likely that the pilot became spatially disorientated and was unable to maintain control of the helicopter.”
No evidence of a pre-existing defect with the helicopter was found.
Investigators were told by several people who had flown with Mr Dodd that he was a “good pilot”.
Some commented that they were very surprised he went ahead with the flight given the weather conditions.
North Yorkshire County Council said Mr Dodd was a successful entrepreneur, who had a passion for helping others in business and took up the role as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for North Yorkshire in September 2014.
The Lord-Lieutenant is the Queen’s representative in the county, responsible for the promotion of civic, commercial, voluntary and social activities.
The council said Mr Dodd owned and ran a number of companies and created a multinational global services and manufacturing group, which has four plants in the UK. In 2014, he was awarded a CBE for his services to the UK economy.