Sir Paul McCartney and his wife were just two feet away from disaster when the pilot of their helicopter became ‘disorientated’ in bad weather and plunged towards trees.
They avoided a potentially fatal crash with just a split second to spare when the pilot dramatically lifted the chartered Sikorsky S-76C away from the rain-lashed tree tops.
The drama happened as the aircraft, with the couple on board, attempted to land at night on a helipad at their East Sussex estate.
The helicopter eventually touched down safely after diverting to a nearby airport.
It is understood that Sir Paul, 70, and his 52-year-old wife, Nancy Shevell – who have declined to comment about the incident – were unaware how close they came to crashing.
The near miss is being investigated by the Department of Transport. The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has categorised the episode as a ‘serious incident’, which it defines as ‘involving circumstances indicating that an accident nearly occurred’.
According to the report, the minimum reading from the helicopter’s altimeter – which measures height by focusing on a fixed point – was ‘two feet’. It is understood the fixed point was the tree tops rather than the ground.
In pulling hard away, the 55-year-old pilot was forced to put immense pressure on the engine, which can itself be dangerous.
The report also reveals flying conditions that night included ‘low cloud base, poor visibility and rain’.
Despite this, the pilot pressed ahead and prepared to land on the former Beatle’s helipad, which is in the corner of a field encircled by woodland.
It adds: The commander became disorientated and the helicopter descended towards tops of trees in the forested area to the south and west of the landing site.’ The pilot then ‘executed a go-around’ or aborted landing.
This was still in May