Belfast Telegraph

Co Down crash pilot should have requested fuller airfield brief

'The Air Accident Investigation Branch report says that the pilot was landing to the left of the runway centreline to avoid rutted ground to the right' (stock photo)
'The Air Accident Investigation Branch report says that the pilot was landing to the left of the runway centreline to avoid rutted ground to the right' (stock photo)

By Staff Reporter

A pilot and his passenger walked away unhurt from a disastrous landing in which their aircraft veered off the runway at a private airstrip at Aughrim, Co Down, crashed into a wall and ended up in a ditch.

The 63-year-old pilot who had 545 hours of flying experience, has told crash investigators that he feels if he had asked for a fuller briefing about the airfield beforehand he would have been better informed about it and would not have underestimated the ground conditions on the day.

The crash happened on the afternoon of February 2 this year, as the tiny two-seater 2006 built Skyranger Swift - reg G UPHI - owned by Charles Edward Walsh, of Ballylough Road in Castlewellan, and Mark Bingham Harper, from Brompton Court, Dromara, Dromore, was returning to the field from its second flight of the day.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch report says that the pilot was landing to the left of the runway centreline to avoid rutted ground to the right.

However, it continues: "The aircraft veered off the runway during the landing due to wet, sloping ground.

"Despite applying corrective control inputs, he (the pilot) could not prevent the aircraft colliding with a boundary wall and coming to rest in a ditch."

Thankfully both pilot and passenger were uninjured, but the plane was left with damage to the propeller, wings, engine and engine mounts, nosewheel.

The crash report points out that at the time of the incident the surface of the runway was soft and wet from melted overnight frost.

It continues: "As the aircraft touched down the pilot maintained some power to compensate for the upslope and to keep the nosewheel lightly loaded and prevent it from digging in.

"As the landing roll continued, the ground to the left side of the runway started to slope away. The pilot noticed the aircraft veering to the left and responded by lowering the nose to increase steering authority and applying full right rudder.

"It was at this point that the left main landing gear wheel may have caught a rut or depression, which caused the aircraft to swing rapidly to the left.

"This motion caused the pilot to inadvertently increase the engine power, increasing the rate of turn.

"By now the aircraft was fully off the runway where it struck a wall and sank into a ditch."

The report says: "It is the opinion of the pilot that he should have requested a thorough briefing from the airstrip owner and walked the strip to assess its topography and features as he was relatively new to the airstrip.

"He would then have been aware of the downslope to the runway's side and not underestimated the soft ground conditions and that most landings take place to the right of the centreline, hence the rutted surface."

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