A plane which crashed killing a Chester couple, was not carrying enough fuel to safely complete their flight, an official report has revealed.
Gary Vickers, 58, died instantly when the twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed nose-down at Hawarden Airport on November 15 last year.
His passenger Kaye Clarke, 42, was rushed to the Countess of Chester Hospital where she later died.
Witnesses watched in disbelief as the aircraft crashed near the runway at the airport next to the Airbus factory, which manages business and private flights.
Father-of-two Mr Vickers was an experienced pilot who co-owned the Mill Hotel in Chester with his father Gordon. He and Miss Clarke, who lived together in Dingle Bank, Curzon Park, had been on their way back from a shopping trip in Paris when tragedy struck.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch report, published this week, revealed Mr Vickers had been flying the plane from Lognes-Emerainville Airport, near Paris, to Hawarden.
The plane crashed when the left engine lost power at a late stage of the approach to Hawarden’s south-westerly runway due to fuel starvation.
The report added: “The majority of usable fuel at the time of the accident was in the auxiliary tanks, which were not selected for engine feed.
“From the available evidence it is probable that the pilot originally intended to complete the flight using fuel from the main tanks only and loaded them with what he considered to be a sufficient quantity. However, the main fuel tank quantity was insufficient for safe completion of the flight.”
The report also stated that Mr Vickers was known to always use a dipstick to measure fuel quantities before flight rather than rely on fuel gauges, and would have been aware of the exact quantity of fuel required for the flight.
“The pilot was also described as being very sensitive to fuel economy and aware of fuel prices at different airfields,” said the report.
“It was established the pilot telephoned Hawarden before the accident flight to enquire whether he could purchase fuel at a favourable rate.
“He established that he could, which would make the fuel available at Hawarden 9p a litre cheaper than that at Lognes-Emerainville,” it adds.
A post-mortem found Mr Vickers died from head and chest injuries while Miss Clarke died from shock and haemorrhage.
Tests for alcohol and drugs were negative.
Speaking soon after the crash, Miss Clarke’s mother Angela told The Chronicle: “Kaye and Gary absolutely idolised each other. He was a fantastic pilot and very experienced.
“We never had any doubts about our daughter going up there with him because he was so professional.”
Hundreds of people, including Pauline Prescott, wife of former deputy prime minister John Prescott and ex-Chester City footballer Gary Talbot, packed out Blacon Crematorium at the couple's joint funeral last year .
Gordon paid a fond tribute to his son at the service, describing him as a ‘meticulous flyer’ who planned every journey precisely. He also spoke fondly of Miss Clarke, who had been Gary’s partner for six years, calling her ‘a lovely, lovely lady’ who loved handbags and shoes.
She was known affectionately in the family as ‘Sweet Little Cupcake Kaye’ and was ‘devoted’ to Gary, he said.