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Bond-style mini-jet pilot's final words are revealed

The final words of a pilot who died in Co Waterford when his James Bond-style mini-jet crashed reveal he was trying to find a field to land in after an engine fire.

Howard Cox, 67, from Devon, was on his way to an air show in the west of Ireland last month in his unique Bede aircraft when it crashed on farmland in Garranbaun and burst into flames.

Accident investigators revealed the final two minutes of the flight were recorded by air traffic control at Shannon Airport after the experienced and talented pilot and engineer made a mayday call.

Mr Cox, a father of one who spent 30 years perfecting the plane's performance and jet engine, was only eight minutes into his flight from Waterford to Shannon when it suffered engine trouble.

One minute after the first report, air traffic controllers recorded the pilot's mayday: " I have engine failure. I have an engine on fire."

"Roger, are you going back to Waterford," the radio crew in Shannon said.

Mr Cox replied: "Negative - I'm just going to have to find a field."

The preliminary report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said Mr Cox's voice was composed and professional during the mayday calls and his final communications.

The last words he is heard saying were "ending up in a field".

Gerry Humphreys, director of the Foynes Air Show, to where Mr Cox was flying, was travelling behind his friend in another aircraft when the engine fire occurred.

He flew over the crash site.

Mr Cox was flying a BD5 plane, a type of homebuilt mini-jet immortalised in the opening sequences of the James Bond film Octopussy.

In the crash landing the jet's left wing clipped a tree on the boundary of a field before the entire wing broke off and the plane then hit a hedgerow and the ground. It burst into flames on impact.

Wreckage examination is continuing at the AAIU hangar, the report said.

"The investigation is working to identify, in so far as possible, what fire damage occurred whilst airborne, what fire damage occurred on the ground and the reasons for both the reported engine fire and the loss of elevator authority," the AAIU said.

Mr Cox had been in Ireland for several days before his death preparing to display his unusual plane at the air show over the Shannon Estuary.

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