A deadly midair collision between a light plane and a helicopter over Mie Prefecture last year was due to the failure of both pilots to maintain proper vigilance, the transport ministry concluded Thursday.

The conclusion came in a report by the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.

The accident claimed the lives of the instructor and student pilot aboard the Nakanihon Air Service Co. Aerospatiale AS332 helicopter, and the instructor, student pilot and two passengers aboard the Cessna 172, owned by the same firm.

The collision occurred at an altitude of about 610 meters above the town of Kuwana at around 11:30 a.m. May 19, 2001. All six aboard the two aircraft were killed and one resident on the ground was injured.

The pilots at the controls of both aircraft apparently took no evasive action before the collision, even though they had about a minute to visually realize they were on a collision course, suggesting they never saw their traffic, according to the report.

The accident occurred in flight-training airspace.

The report notes that the Cessna’s high wing and restricted view from its windows caused a blind spot. Other factors that may have contributed to the collision included that student pilots were apparently manipulating the controls of both aircraft while their instructors monitored their operations.

Student pilot Minoru Morita, 39, was apparently at the helicopter’s controls seated next to his instructor, Takashi Sakate, 54, while student Yukio Omori, 52, was controlling the Cessna as instructor Shizuaki Aoki, 51, gauged his progress. Two of Omori’s friends were seated behind them.

Investigators laid ultimate responsibility for the safety of the aircraft on the instructors, who were the only licensed pilots aboard.

Although the individuals held liable for the collision were all killed, Mie Prefectural Police plan to turn the paperwork over to prosecutors, treating it as a case of injury resulting in death.

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