Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Weather studied after fatal crash

A plane crashed at Cork Airport, killing six people and injuring six others
A plane crashed at Cork Airport, killing six people and injuring six others

Thick fog at Cork Airport cleared about half an hour after the deadly plane crash, it has been reported.

Weather summaries for aviation authorities showed visibility on the ground was down to 300m around the time when the plane first tried to land.

Broken cloud cover was down as low as 100ft above ground, official reports said.

According to Meteorological Aviation Reports, known as METARs and recorded every half hour, there was very little wind, five to eight knots, but the fog was lifting slightly. At 9.30am the METARs stated surface visibility was down to 300m but by 10am it had shifted to 400m. By 10.30am visibility was up as far as 1,800m.

Fergal Tierney, a private pilot and contributor to Irish Weather Online, said: "There is no confirmation that the actual crash was weather related, but we can say that conditions were near published minima at the time, and the pilots were having problems landing."

Aviation rules for Cork Airport state that a pilot in a plane of this type, the Fairchild Metroliner turboprop, should abandon landing if there is no visual contact with the runway at between 59 and 69 feet above ground.

The pilot tried to land on runway 17 in what the Irish Aviation Authority described as low visibility but aborted and attempted to touch down on the same landing strip in the opposite direction, only to have to abandon again. The accident happened on landing on the third attempt.

Aviation experts said that it was most unusual for pilots to make more than two attempts and that they might have been better off diverting to Dublin where the weather was better.

"There was no emergency call and it's not thought there was anything wrong with the aircraft so it's clear that the weather was just not good enough," said David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight Global magazine. "Fog can be such a problem. One minute you can see the runway and the next you run into a fog bank and you are in trouble."

Manx2 is a "virtual" airline in that it did not actually operate any aircraft itself but sells flights which are operated by a number of different carriers. The Metroliner was operated by Flightline BCN which is based in Barcelona.

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