Pilot overcomes engine failure to prevent second microlight tragedy in year at Ards airfield
Engine failure forced a microlight aircraft into an emergency landing in a Co Down barley field yesterday.
It came down close to Moate Road, between Newtownards and Comber.
Emergency services who arrived at the scene found the two men on board unharmed.
The PSNI said that both the pilot and passenger were "safe and well".
The aircraft involved is a British-built Thruster T600N, manufactured in 2009.
The fixed-wing machine is owned by experienced microlight flying instructor Ken Crompton.
It is understood that the single-engine aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing following sudden engine failure after it took off from Newtownards Airport.
The vehicle sustained some damage during the landing, and last night was reported to have been taken back to its hangar for repairs following the incident, which comes little more than a year after a fatal microlight crash at the same Co Down airfield.
In the latest crash, the microlight was beginning a training flight when it got into difficulties a short time after taking off.
Owner Ken Crompton was at the controls during the emergency landing.
The experienced flying trainer has logged more than 5,000 hours' flying time, and is a Civil Aviation Authority-registered flight instructor and flight test examiner, and a certified check pilot of the British Microlight Aircraft Association.
Mr Crompton could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
However, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, John Hughes, the chairman of the Ulster Flying Club, said: "Microlights are, as the name implies, very light and they fly slowly.
"When something like engine failure on take-off happens - and it's very unusual - it's best practice not to try to turn back to the airfield.
"Instead, pilots should try and glide the aircraft to a controlled emergency landing, keeping the plane flying under control for as long as possible.
"Ken is a very experienced pilot, and he was in full control of the aircraft as it made the emergency landing in a barley field close to the airfield."
It is just slightly more than a year since tragedy struck at the small airfield, which is home to the Ulster Flying Club, with one man losing his life in a terrible accident.
Stephen McKnight (55) from Hillsborough, died after the C-12 microlight he was flying crashed during take-off at Newtownards Airport.
The PSNI officer turned driving instructor was rushed to the Ulster Hospital, where doctors tried to save him, but he later died of his injuries.
Mr McKnight's death was the first fatal accident at the Co Down airfield.
- A video of the Thruster microlight can be found by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7D0LMrHaSs