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Newtownards Airfield plane crash victim was 'highly experienced pilot'

Published 07/04/2015

The man was in a two-seater light aircraft that crashed just off the runway at Newtownards Airfield. Pic Justin Kernoghan
The man was in a two-seater light aircraft that crashed just off the runway at Newtownards Airfield. Pic Justin Kernoghan

A man in his sixties who died after his microlight aircraft crashed in Northern Ireland was a highly experienced pilot, the former MP for the area said.

The crash happened at Newtownards airfield near Belfast at 11.25am, shortly after take off.

Jim Shannon said the married victim was catching up on his flying hours but already had significant experience.

He said members of the Ulster Flying Club who run the site were shocked. "They are greatly perturbed at what has happened. This is a guy that they know, it is a very close club. He had many years of flying experience."

Air Accidents Investigation Branch experts are expected to arrive at the airfield this evening.

Mr Shannon said: "It seems that the aircraft very shortly after take-off, almost immediately, lost control whatever the reasons for that would be.

"He was catching up on his flying hours and he was a pilot with some significant flying experience and that would be reflected in his years of age."

He visited the airfield today and said club members looked blank as they tried to cope with what had happened.

Mr Shannon said: "Life continues but unfortunately for this gentleman's family life will never be the same."

A helicopter flew overhead and a police car was parked near the crash site.

AAIB has been informed and will be the lead agency in the investigation. An AAIB spokesman said: "The AAIB have deployed a team to the site to investigate."

PSNI Inspector Glenn Campbell said: "Police can confirm that a man has died following an incident involving a light aircraft at Newtownards Airfield shortly before 11.30am this morning."

He was taken to the Ulster Hospital by paramedics badly injured, and died there.

Alliance Strangford MLA, Kieran McCarthy, said: "This was a tragic accident which has shocked many people in the area.I would like to express my condolences to the family and friends of this man.

"This was a very serious incident and the family deserve to know what happened. The investigation will be difficult but I hope that the authorities will be able to provide some answers."

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