Plans to extend an airport runway are under scrutiny again after residents claimed a low-flying aircraft sucked up to 20 tiles off their roofs.
Authorities at George Best Belfast City Airport have launched an investigation after multiple sclerosis sufferer Jean Wright (55) said she heard a crash at her Oval Court home on Saturday and found tiles ripped off the roof.
An airport spokeswoman said it was too early to be conclusive about the cause of the damage.
Ms Wright's daughter-in-law Karen Sanders said local people were alarmed by the “danger to their homes”. She claimed the roof was shaken and damaged as a low-flying plane passed overhead on its way to land at the airport.
“It has been sucked out by the force of the aeroplane,” she said.
She said another neighbour was left cowering with fear.
“She was under the blankets terrified about what the aeroplane could do,” she added.
Residents have been involved in a vociferous campaign aimed at limiting certain flights at the airport. They are also strongly against controversial plans to extend the airport’s runway to allow bigger aircraft to land and take off.
It is thought Saturday afternoon's plane was landing.
An airport spokeswoman said: “Belfast City Airport are currently undertaking an investigation with their Air Traffic Control department and will be taking the necessary steps to measure the plots of the aircraft at the time of the incident.
“We can therefore not be conclusive to the cause of the damage until we receive the outcome of this investigation. Regardless, Belfast City Airport take incidents such as these extremely seriously and are happy to continue to engage with both households with regards to further support and repairs of the roof damage as a measure of goodwill.”
Liz Fawcett, chairwoman of Belfast City Airport Watch residents' group, said it was fortunate nobody was seriously injured.
“This is the second such incident in just nine months in east Belfast,” she said, referring to an incident in September when residents claimed a low-flying plane smashed 30 roof tiles on homes in Parkgate Crescent. “It raises serious questions about the safety of the current flight trajectories of aircraft flying into and out of the City Airport, and the current scale of operations at the airport. It certainly underlines the fact that there should be no further expansion of City Airport's activities.”
Environment Minister Edwin Poots said he was minded to allow further airport expansion by lifting limits on passenger numbers.
Ms Fawcett added: “We call on the minister to reject the airport's request for the removal of this crucial limit — and to start putting the needs of ordinary residents in east Belfast and other areas first.”