Millionaire’s son thanks pilot for saving his life

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THE son of multi-millionaire businessman Jimi Heselden has told of how he cheated death when the plane in which he was a passenger suffered engine failure.

The light aircraft, carrying four passengers including Jason Heselden, was forced to make an emergency landing in a ploughed farmer’s field near Bramham.

wet  Pictured from left are Jason Heselden, Graham Appleyard and Matthew Adamson who were in the plane and Gina Townsley who organised the trip.  (120208M4)

wet Pictured from left are Jason Heselden, Graham Appleyard and Matthew Adamson who were in the plane and Gina Townsley who organised the trip. (120208M4)

Jimi Heselden, who gave millions of pounds to Yorkshire charities, died in a tragic accident in September 2010 when the Segway scooter he was riding plunged over the edge of a cliff into the River Wharfe at Boston Spa.

Jason, who is a director of his late father’s company Hesco Bastion, which developed the blast wall basket to protect soldiers, has never told the story of his own narrow escape until now.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Oulton and is one of four children, was on board the Piper Warrior aircraft for a sightseeing trip given to him by girlfriend Gina Townsley, 43, as a Christmas present.

Pilot Gordon Elliott, 64, was 15 minutes into the trip when the plane’s engine cut out on December 27 last year.

Jason said he felt his life was saved by both his late father Jimi and pilot Gordon Elliott.

The plane, which took off from Sherburn Aero Club was actually over Jimi Heselden’s former home, Flint Mill in Boston Spa, so that Jason could take aerial photographs when the drama happened.

Mr Elliott said: “I tried to restart the engine and there was no power.

“My internal verbal vocabulary at the time was saying ‘I do not believe this’, but I remained calm on the outside.

“As a pilot the training kicks in, people talk about a mind freeze and you wonder what might happen but all the training comes in and it was a bit of an adrenaline rush.

“Jason turned round to me and said, ‘you are kidding’, when I said we had no engine.”

Mr Elliott, a married father-of-two who has had his pilot’s licence for 38 years, went on to perform a controlled emergency landing into the field at just after 2pm.

“My passengers, once they realised the gravity of the situation, were superb. They never uttered one word, from the start of the emergency, to the full stop of the aircraft, for which I was truly grateful, as it allowed me to totally focus my thoughts on the landing of the plane.

“I never deviated from the thought of I am going to get us in that field,” he said.

“In all my 38 years of flying I have never ever had anything like this happen.

Jason told of his fear when the engine cut out. He said: “I just thought ‘is this really happening?’

“I honestly believe that my dad was watching over me and saved me. I felt really emotional after.

“I have relived it thousands of times since Christmas in my mind.”

Other passengers on board included Jason’s best friend, businessman Matthew Adamson, and Gina’s father, Graham Appleyard.

Jason said: “I know Gordon has commended us for not panicking but I feel he has honestly saved my life. A lesser experienced pilot might have panicked and we wouldn’t be here now.”

The Piper Warrior aircraft, which belonged to Sherburn Aero Club, was recovered the next day, it is believed to have been badly damaged and is unlikely to be used again.

An investigation into what caused the accident was launched by The Department of Transport Investigation Bureau and is believed to be ongoing.

Jimi Heselden, 62, left £340m to his family.