Aviation News

December 10, 2010

Helicopter Crash in Southern France Kills Two British Pilots

Two British pilots were killed on Thursday when the helicopter they were flying came down in Tourrettes-sur-Loup valley in southern France, the UK government confirmed on Friday.

The two pilots were identified as Martin Rutty and Simon Lichtenstein and represented the United kingdom in several flying competitions. The pair have previously won five British Championships in over ten years of participating as a team.

”We were notified of the death of two British nationals in a helicopter crash in Tourrettes-sur-Loup in southern France on December 9,” a spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said. “Next of kin have been informed and consular assistance is being provided.”

Rutty, 50, and Lichtenstein, 49, were flying a Robinson R22 helicopter back to Britain after the aircraft had been on display in an Italian showroom. The two Herefordshire natives took off from the French town of Sospel near the Italian border at about 9 a.m. local time.

The morning was bright and clear and the Robinson R22 was heading towards Avignon but crashed shortly after departing, local media reported. Preliminary reports indicate that the helicopter suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure.

Strong winds are also believed to have played a part in the accident. Rescue crews and law enforcement agents are recovering evidence to determine the causes of the fatal crash.

”Martin and Simon have been long-term pilots, flying together since 1999. They were highly experienced pilots, having held four British championship titles and represented the British Helicopter Team in the past four World Championships, most recently in Belarus,” said helicopter company Fly-Q, which was founded by the two pilots.