Crash pilot plays down his heroism
A hero pilot who had just seconds to act when a light airplane fell from the sky has played down his role in ensuring a potential disaster was averted.
An investigation is under way into what caused the small two-year-old plane to lose power at 300ft as a trainee pilot prepared to land.
Flying instructor Michael McGrady, who is also a commercial pilot, immediately took control of the stricken plane as it hurtled towards the ground.
Rather than land it in open fields, Mr McGrady guided it into trees to avoid hitting nearby children in a park.
Despite being widely hailed for his heroics, Mr McGrady was yesterday playing down his actions.
However, Ulster Flying Club chairman John Hughes hailed his friend's quick-thinking and expertise.
Having spoken to Mr McGrady yesterday morning, Mr Hughes said while shaken he was just relieved nobody had been hurt.
"Michael should have done the Lottery this week," Mr Hughes told the Belfast Telegraph.
"You are talking roughly the same odds of winning that as doing what he did.
"I spoke to him earlier and he's taking it in his stride. He was obviously a bit shaken up."
Amazingly, thanks to the skill of Mr McGrady, both he and his pupil walked away from the crumpled wreck largely unscathed.
The incident happened on Thursday afternoon as the plane prepared to return to a landing strip at Newtownards at around 5pm.
Mr McGrady is the Ulster Flying Club's chief instructor.
There had been no indications of the drama that lay ahead as the plane approached the strip and prepared to land.
A statement issued by the Ulster Flying Club said: "Best wishes to Michael and his student for a speedy recovery. Thanks must also go to the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade, Ambulance Service and the PSNI for their assistance in the aftermath of the incident and recovery of the aircraft."
"Michael should have done the lottery this week. You are talking roughly the same odds of winning that as doing what he did. I spoke to him earlier and he's taking it in his stride."
John Hughes, Ulster Flying Club