A loose pen in the cockpit of a veteran aircraft has been blamed for a near disaster close to White Waltham Airfield in Berkshire.

The 1953 built Chipmunk – reg G BCPU – owned by Paul Green of Temple, near Marlow, was reaching the end of an aerobatic display when disaster struck.

The 49-year-old pilot, who had over 1,000 hours flying experience, had carried out an aileron roll at 600ft when the controls stopped working properly and threw the aircraft into a nose dive.

The pilot reduced the power and made a mayday call on his radio but the aircraft had plummeted to just 50ft above the ground before the controls began working properly again and he was able to resume normal flying and return to make an uneventful emergency landing at White Waltham.

Now a newly published Air Accident Investigation Branch report has blamed a loose pen which had got caught up in the controls for what could have been a disaster.

The report says that during an inspection of the aircraft immediately after the incident the flying controls appeared to operate normally and were undamaged.

It continues: “A detailed inspection of the aircraft completed a few days after the event confirmed that there were no defects with the flying controls. However, a partially crushed pen was found within the fuselage.

“The damage to the pen indicated that it was the probable cause of the control restriction.

“The pilot reported that, prior to the incident flight, a pen top had been recovered from the rear cockpit of the aircraft during the pre-flight loose article check but no other articles had been seen.”

The report says that the aircraft had “failed to respond to the pilot’s control inputs due to a restriction in the rudder control circuit caused by a loose article.”

It adds that the pilot has now “introduced more rigorous pre- and post-flight inspections of the aircraft for loose articles and only allows pens to be carried if they are securely tied to the pilot’s or student’s flying suit.”