Belfast Telegraph

Belfast to Cork plane crash: 'Loss of control' probable cause of tragedy which killed six people

By John Mulgrew

A plane which crashed at Cork airport killing six people - including four from Northern Ireland - may have lost control during an aborted landing.

An official report released on Tuesday morning also showed nine major areas which it said led to the tragedy, including crew tiredness and fatigue.

It also cited "inadequate command training and checking" as one possible reason for the crash.

The official report from the Republic's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has also outlined 11 safety recommendations as a result of the report's findings.

Six people died in the Manx2.com flight from Belfast to Cork on February 10, 2011.

The aircraft crashed on its third attempt to land in dense fog at the airport.

A total of 12 people - 10 passengers and two crew members - were on board the US-built Fairchild/Metroliner from Belfast City Airport on the morning of February 10, 2011.

Bound for Cork, the aircraft got into difficulties during its third approach shortly before 10am.

It then crashed into the runway surface, inverted, before coming to a rest.

Six people in total were killed in the accident.

That included Brendan McAleese (39) from Co Tyrone; Pat Cullinan (45) a partner in leading accountancy firm KPMG in Belfast; Captain Michael Evans (51) deputy harbour master in Belfast; and Richard Noble, a 49-year-old businessman who was originally from Derbyshire but lived in Northern Ireland.

Spanish pilot Jordi Gola Lopez (31) and co-pilot Andrew Cantle (27) from Sunderland were also killed in the tragedy.

Six others survived the crash though four sustained serious injuries.

Tuesday's report from AAIU warned that there were:

"Systemic deficiencies at the operational, organisational and regulatory levels…such deficiencies included pilot training, scheduling of flight crews, maintenance and inadequate oversight of the operation by the Operator and the State of Registration."

The report's nine major factors causing the tragedy include:

- The approach was continued in conditions of poor visibility below those required.

- The descent was continued below the decision height without adequate visual reference.

- Uncoordinated operation of the flight and engine controls when go-around was attempted.

- The engine power-levers were retarded below the normal in-flight operational range - an action prohibited in flight.

- A power difference between the engines became significant when the engine power levers were retarded below the normal in-flight range.

- Crew tiredness and fatigue.

- Inadequate command training and checking.

- Inappropriate pairing of flight crew members.

- Inadequate operator and State oversight body involved.

The US-built Fairchild/Swearingen Metroliner which crashed, has had a good safety record in the past decades.

But the aircraft was involved in a number of high-profile fatal accidents, including the 2005 Lockhart River disaster, Australia’s worst air accident in 36 years, where a total of 15 people were killed.

Metroliners have been involved in two fatal accidents since the Cork tragedy.

Air crash survivors recall final moments, writes Ed Carty

Aviation accident investigators included some details of interviews with the survivors of the Cork plane crash in their report,

The witness statements from five of the six people who lived to give recollections of the final moments of flight FLT400C have been reported anonymously.

Some of the survivors - Heather Elliot, Peter Cowley, Brendan Mallon, Mark Dickens, Donal Walsh and Laurence Wilson - said they could see how bad the weather was and how close the plane was to the ground.

One passenger said: "I do remember looking out and the ground was just feet from below us and it was grass, it was definitely not tarmac. And the pilot then gave the plane thrust, to come up out of the cloud. And at that stage the cloud was right to the ground.

"I feel that the plane... immediately after the thrust, veered to the right and tilted... the right hand of the wing caught the ground first and after that it was just mayhem. I couldn't breathe because all the mud had come up into the fuselage. I do remember pushing the mud away and then being able to breathe."

A second passenger said: "We came through the cloud or fog. We were probably no more than about 30ft off the ground. We seemed to be coming in at a bit of an obtuse angle.

"I was looking out the window, I sensed that we pulled up and banked hard to the right. As we banked, the wing I was sitting next to, the tip of the wing hit."

A third passenger recalled: "There was a big turn, I think to the right. I just remember feeling this huge shift to the right."

A fourth said: "It felt like the plane had gone at a ninety degree angle and was facing towards the ground."

A fifth passenger said as far as they could remember it felt like a normal landing before everything crumpled while a sixth survivor had no memory of the approach or the crash.

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