THE pilot of a plane which crashed into a hill on Jura last August

flew in spite of bad weather warnings, a fatal accident inquiry at

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

Mr Robert Watts, 53, had been advised not to try to fly to Mull from

Blackpool if he could avoid it. A few hours later his single-engined

aircraft crashed near the 1500ft summit of Glas Bheinn on Jura, killing

him and his three passengers.

Mr Watts had phoned Mull shopkeeper David Howitt, 55, minutes before

setting out from Blackpool Airport. Mr Howitt told the court he is

retained by Strathclyde Regional Council to give weather advice to

pilots on the island.

He said: ''I told him, 'Don't come until this weather clears, unless

you have to'.''

Mr Howitt said he had checked with the weather centre on neighbouring

Tiree and told Mr Watts that the weather was marginal. He said: ''It was

getting worse and there were dangerous cross winds on the Mull


He heard nothing more of the plane until a newspaper phoned him the

following day.

The weather adviser on Tiree, Mr Alexander MacArthur, told the court

how he had spoken to Mr Watts who had phoned Tiree Airport.

Mr MacArthur said: ''The pilot said he had been told the weather was

bad on Mull and that he might fly on to Tiree. I told him that the

weather was horrendous on Tiree also, with cloud and heavy rain and

getting worse.

''I was trying to discourage him from coming, but he seemed determined

to make the flight.''

Sheriff Principal Robert Hay was told that Mr Watts, of Knowle Green,

Preston, owned the plane and had 300 hours flying experience.

The three passengers were: company director Mr Trevor Balmforth, 60,

of Primrose; Mr John Greenwood, 46, a builder, of Slaidburn; and Mr Iain

Shaw, 53, a fishmonger, of Waddington, all Clitheroe, Lancashire.

The dead pilot's son, Simon Watts, 32, told the inquiry how he had

listened by radio to his father's conversation with the Blackpool air

traffic controller as the plane headed for Scotland. He said: ''Suddenly

the air went dead, but I thought the plane was out of range.''

Later he had taken the flight plan from his father's home computer to

help in the search for the missing plane.

The hearing was told that two Government air accident investigators,

who had been expected to give evidence yesterday, were at a crash scene

in Cambodia.

Sheriff Principal Hay returned a formal verdict that all four men died

as a result of a plane crash.