A Scottish pilot has died in a helicopter crash in South Africa while spraying crops and “living the dream” in his new country where he had become engaged to his girlfriend four months before.
Stewart Graham, 25, from Edinburgh, was killed in the early hours of 19th January while spraying pesticide on Koos Moller’s pear orchards in the town of Wolseley in the South African province of Western Cape.
He was in the air by 4am and had refuelled nearly two hours later when tragedy struck.
His Bell Jet Ranger, loaded with 295 kilogrammes of pesticide and a spraying rig underneath the helicopter, reportedly clipped the earth cable of an electricity pylon and plummeted nose-first into the ground after breaking apart in midair. The Scottish pilot was killed instantly.
Following a four-month investigation published on 4th June, the Civil Aviation Authority said there were no signs of a mechanical failure in the moments leading up to the crash while the weather conditions were very good.
The report added: “It is possible that at the time of collision with the earth conductor, the helicopter might have been in a nose-down attitude.
“This might have prompted the pilot to attempt an evasive manoeuvre which may have resulted in one of the main rotor blades severing the left-front and midsection of the helicopter, as well as the tail boom section.
“The distribution of the wreckage is indicative of an in-flight break-up, which resulted in the helicopter’s debris being scattered at a diameter of about 80 metres around the main wreckage.”
Graham worked as operations manager for Heli X Charters and had flown over 1,360 hours since getting his commercial licence in 2017.
According to the news site TimesLIVE, he had 500 hours flight experience in the single-engine Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, commonly used for crop spraying in southern Africa.
He had also become engaged four months prior to his death and called it a “privilege to live and fly in such a beautiful country”.