AN ERROR by air traffic controllers could have led to a mid-air crash which killed five people, including a pilot from Marlow, an inquest was told this week.

James Beagley, 34, was among those who died near Coventry Airport in August 2008.

Mr Beagley, who had a house in Marlow with his brother Neal, was a passenger in a Cessna 402 aircraft which collided with a small solo-piloted plane.

His family have been fighting for answers ever since and an inquest finally started on Monday in Leamington, Warwickshire.

Seventy year-old Leamington resident Brian Normington, who was at the controls of a kit-built Rand KR-2, was killed in the crash, along with four people in Mr Beagley's aircraft.

During the hearing, a jury heard how lone pilot Mr Normington's kit-built one-seater Rand KR-2 was 'notoriously difficult' to see because of its small size.

Geraint Herbert, senior inspector of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch outlined possible reasons for the crash, including 'ambiguous' information handed to the Cessna pilots by air traffic control.

Wrong details had also been put in by air traffic control when the crew had informed them of their training intentions the previous night, the inquest heard.

The Cessna was taking part in an exercise to show pilots how to land in bad weather. It involved approaching the runway at high speed before pulling up at 50ft and flying away.

When air traffic control realised the planes were on a collision course, Mr Normington was told to alter his course.

But the planes crashed just seconds after the Cessna had been told about Mr Normington's change of course.

Other factors included the Cessna not seeing the other plane or having enough time to avoid a collision.

His report pointed out Mr Normington's plane could have been in a blindspot from the cockpit of the Cessna 402, which had been involved in routine training for aerial survey firm Reconnaissance Ventures Ltd (RVL).

Statements from the families of the victims have been read to the court, including from Alan Beagley, who spoke of the devastation his son's death had caused.

The retired helicopter pilot, of Strathcona Close, Flackwell Heath, said: "His death has been a huge loss, not only to myself and the family, but to many people who knew him."

The inquest, for which a jury will return a verdict, is expected to be concluded by Monday and continues today.