A PILOT who performed a crash landing in a field panicked after losing his bearings in a ' carpet of haze' and fading light, an accident investigation report has revealed.

The 62-year-old pilot struck power lines before crashing his Pegasus Quasar microlight craft in a field near Sandy Lane in Brindle, Lancashire at 7.50pm on August 27, last year.

The pilot, who was the only person onboard the aircraft, was taken to Royal Preston Hospital but suffered only minor injuries. Nobody else was injured in the incident in which the plane was destroyed.

An air accident investigation branch report stated that the plane departed Kenyon Hall Farm airstrip near Croft at 5.30pm and arrived at Rossall Field Airfield at 6pm. At that time the conditions were hazy, but the pilot could see the ground and navigate using a chart. After a brief visit, the pilot departed Rossall Field shortly before 7pm.

An AAIB spokesman said: “During the return flight, the pilot reported that the haze was worse and he realised he was significantly off track to the east. He turned west towards Winter Hill which was a significant feature that he could still see. He reported that as he flew over the hill, the ground was covered in a carpet of haze that obscured most ground features. He tried to find the track back to Kenyon Hall Farm but was unsuccessful. He attempted to descend below the haze, but it seemed to extend to the ground with visibility ranging from several hundred metres up to approximately 4 km. The light levels were also reducing.

“The aircraft was not equipped with a radio that would have been capable of contacting anyone for assistance. Flying low, he passed a radio mast that he had not seen and began to panic. He decided his only option was to land in a field but in his emotional state he struggled to choose one. Eventually he settled on a field but, due to the low light levels, did not see power lines across the approach.

“According to the electricity provider, the aircraft struck the power lines at 1950 hrs. The aircraft struck the ground and was destroyed. The pilot was injured but he was able to escape from the aircraft.”

The report stated that the pilot’s method for checking the visibility prior to flying was to judge whether he could see the horizon from the ground and he used a proprietary internet resource for wind and cloud base forecasts prior to the flight. He had reported there was nothing to concern him and had expected the return flight to take approximately the same time as the outbound flight.

In its analysis the AAIB said the pilot departed with little contingency time before night fell and in difficult conditions for navigation. Although there was nothing in the weather forecast to cause concern, his experience on the outbound flight was an indication that navigation might be difficult on the return flight.

Investigators said the pilot had the option to change his plans and postpone the return flight but decided to continue.

They said that if the flight had gone to plan, he would have landed at Kenyon Hall Farm before the end of civil twilight but the problems with navigation delayed him to the point where it was dark.

The spokesman said: “In this circumstance he had no safe option remaining and decided to perform an emergency landing rather than continue. It is likely that this decision gave the greatest chance of avoiding an accident, but he was unable to see the power lines and could not prevent the collision.”

They added: “The accident occurred because the pilot departed too late in the day and was delayed by navigational difficulty until it was dark. He decided to perform an emergency landing, but it was too dark to see and avoid power lines on the approach to his chosen field.”