Flight Lieutenants Geraint Roberts and Alan Scott

Afghanistan Helicopter Crash Inquest: Players On Pitch Stopped Puma From Landing

An inquest has heard that a helicopter which crashed in Afghanistan killing two Royal Air Force officers was unable to land on a football...

Flight Lieutenants Geraint Roberts and Alan Scott

Flt Lt Geraint Roberts (left) and Flt Lt Alan Scott (right) were both members of the Puma helicopter force at RAF Benson

A helicopter which crashed in Afghanistan killing two British Air Force officers was unable to land on a football pitch because there were players on it, an inquest has heard.

Flight Lieutenants Alan Scott and Geraint "Roly" Roberts died after a Puma Mk 2 helicopter crashed while landing at Nato's Resolute Support mission headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul on October 11 2015.

They were among five people killed, who included 44-year-old security worker Gordon Emin and two US personnel, while five others were injured, an inquest in to their deaths at Oxford Coroner's Court heard.

A service inquiry report into the incident, published in December last year, said the helicopter they were travelling in struck the tether of a nearby surveillance balloon after being forced to re-circle the pitch.

Op Toral: Pumas In The Skies Over Kabul
RAF Puma in Afghanistan

Sergeant Simon Craig, who was flying as a crewman in the second Puma helicopter, in formation with the other, as they neared the landing site, said he expected the players on the pitch to move, but that they did not.

"On the approach I realised at the late stage there were a number of players on the pitch. We had to overshoot to the east as we were unable to land on the field until it had been cleared," he said in a statement read in court."

During his evidence, he told the inquest that they had landed on the field 30-40 times before, and that "overshooting is standard practice if the landing site is unsuitable".

Sgt Craig said they had been told about the balloon, also called a persistent threat detection system (PTDS), and to "look out for it", but stressed that the cable it was attached to was "difficult to see".

He said he did not see the other helicopter strike the tether, but heard "throttles" sounded over the radio, and that he saw it "pitching and rolling", adding that "it was clear something had gone wrong".

A friend of Flt Lt Scott for more than six years, Sgt Craig said he was "aware of his own limitations", was a "good pilot" who "never made a dangerous approach into anywhere".

During his evidence, he also highlighted how he completed another tour in Afghanistan from January to April this year, saying that the field is still being used by Afghan footballers to train on and as a landing site.

He added that the balloon is "still in the same position" but that "procedures have changed", and said he did not see the pitch being used by players on any subsequent landing approaches during his latest deployment.