Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to pilot and aerial photographer who died in Co Antrim light plane crash

By Victoria Leonard

An experienced pilot who died in a light aircraft crash has been described as "the best friend and colleague anyone could wish for".

Bob Farmbrough was at the controls of the small plane that came down in Co Antrim on Thursday.

Bryan Greenwood from Larne, who ran his own aerial photography business, was also killed.

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The Cessna 152, which is understood to have been rented from the Ulster Flying Club in Newtownards, crashed between Nutts Corner and Loanends.

Mr Farmbrough (77), who lived in Carrickfergus, was a retired commercial pilot with more than 40 years' experience.

He was a father-of-two and a grandfather.

Shocked friend John Ward, a retired pilot who had worked with Mr Farmbrough for 11 years, said that "from an ability point of view, he was the very last person you would have thought this would happen to".

The crash occurred shortly after noon on Thursday, near rural Ballyhill Lane outside Crumlin.

Neighbours who witnessed the tragedy told the Belfast Telegraph that the light plane had "circled for 10 to 15 minutes", and they believed the pilot was trying to avoid striking houses in the area before the aircraft came down.

Mr Ward said his friend was originally from England, and was an experienced pilot when he moved to Northern Ireland to begin working for Inter European Airways in 1988.

He stayed with the company when it was taken over by Airtours International Airways, and left in 2000 to join British Regional Airlines.

He retired in 2002.

"Bob was already an accomplished pilot who had flown all over the world by the time I met him when we joined Inter European," the Armoy man said.

"He was one of the first pilots on the first-ever jet aircraft to be based in Northern Ireland.

"He was well-respected, with a great sense of humour, lovely to work with and loved by the cabin crew.

"A day out working with Bob was a day of fun and enjoyment.

"He was calm under pressure. He liked flying from Newtownards, and I think he flew quite regularly.

"I know that he did fly for pleasure.

"It was absolutely such a shock to hear about the accident - we were made aware almost immediately.

"From an ability point of view, he was the very last person you would have thought something like this would happen to.

"The pilot community in Northern Ireland is stunned by the news.

"We have had over 100 messages of condolence on Facebook from people he worked with, which shows how well-respected he was.

"He was a very experienced and accomplished pilot.

"He had an amazing sense of humour, he was a very, very funny chap, and one of the best friends and colleagues you could ask for."

Mr Ward expressed his sympathies to Mr Farmbrough's family.

"Bob had met his wife Pamela here and settled down," he explained.

"He had a son, Andrew, and also a daughter, and he was a grandfather.

"His wife must be incredibly shocked.

"The last thing you would expect is for him to go out for a bit of pleasure flying and never to return home.

"You could spend forever trying to work out just what happened.

"There's reasonable protection in a light aircraft, but you're not sure how big an impact there was or how quickly it has descended.

"I will remember Bob as a great friend and colleague, somebody that was always fun to be with."

Mr Greenwood was also understood to have been a grandfather.

A neighbour who had lived beside him for several years said she was "horrified" to hear of the tragedy.

"He was quiet, he kept himself to himself," she said.

"I heard about it on the news and I just knew it was him.

"I'm just horrified, this was a horrific incident.

"He has been running that photography business since he was here, and he went up regularly in the planes.

"He was a well-known Larne man, he socialised quite a bit.

"The community is very shocked at what has happened."

A post on Mr Greenwood's website states that "Cessna aircraft are used for all aerial photographic work".

An investigation into the crash is continuing.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it would be moving the wreckage so it could carry out a more detailed examination.

It added: "The AAIB was notified of the accident at around lunchtime on Thursday.

"Accident investigators were on site later the same day to examine the wreckage of the aircraft and to start a field investigation looking at all aspects of the aircraft's operation.

"This weekend we expect to recover the aircraft wreckage to our facility at Farnborough (in England) for more detailed examination.

"The AAIB investigation will take some time and an accident report will be released in due course."

The Ulster Flying Club referred all enquiries to the PSNI Press office.

The Coroners Service said it "cannot provide any information at this stage".

Belfast Telegraph

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