Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Plane ditched after engine failure

British Orchid charity rowers Oliver Dudley, Rob Pickering and Nick Bevan after helping rescue a pilot whose aircraft crashed into the Irish Sea

A light aircraft pilot rescued after ocean rowers watched him safely ditch his new plane in the Irish Sea was forced down by engine failure, it has emerged.

John O'Shaughnessy executed a "belly-land" in waters off Tuskar Rock while flying his two-seater from Wales to an airstrip in Wexford.

After the near textbook sea landing, the 53-year-old clambered out of the cockpit on to a wing of the Avid Speedwing and waited to be airlifted to safety.

Air accident investigators found the engine had stopped without warning.

A four-man crew on the British Orchid rowing boat were trying to set a new round Britain record when one of them saw the dramatic ditching. They rowed to Mr O'Shaughnessy, who had put on a survival suit before getting into the plane in Haverfordwest, and waited near him until a Coast Guard helicopter arrived on scene.

The aircraft had been flown for 243 hours before the accident and the pilot had 152 hours flying time and was fully licensed.

Mr O'Shaughnessy had only flown the plane once - six months earlier - before attempting the trip across the Irish Sea to an airfield run by the Society of Amateur Aircraft Constructors near Taghmon village.

Air accident investigators said: "The actual ditching was successfully carried out by the pilot, despite the fact that he was not particularly familiar with the aircraft."

Their report found the engine stopped after 55 minutes in the air, probably due to fuel starvation relating to a fuel-vapour related problem

Mr O'Shaughnessy's initiative and flying skill was praised by investigators after he sent out a Mayday message as soon as the engine cut out and landed safely in difficult and demanding conditions. However, the report did warn that pre-flight checks carried out on the aircraft were not sufficiently thorough.

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