THE engine on a light aircraft cut out before it crashed killing two friends, air accident investigators have revealed.
Flight instructor Niall Doherty and advanced learner Damien Deegan, both 31, died when the Cessna 150H came down in scrubland a short distance from Birr airfield, Co Offaly.
No technical defect that might have caused the crash has been found, but witnesses told investigators the engine stopped before it plummeted to the ground some 350 metres from the runway.
The friends had been flying circuits with the grass landing strip in sight when the crash happened on the afternoon of November 11.
In a preliminary report, the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said its on-going probe would include further examination of the aircraft and engine, as well as operational aspects and conduct of the flight.
“However, at this time, no technical defect that might have contributed to the accident has been found,” it added.
There was no evidence of substantial fuel deposits at the accident site, except for a small amount which leaked when the wreckage was lifted, it added.
The Reims-Cessna 150H was used by the Ormand club as a training plane, and affectionately nicknamed The Crow.
The aircraft conducted six flights on the day of the accident and refilled with fuel shortly after 2pm.
Witnesses told investigators that after a touch-and-go landing and take-off, the aircraft climbed away.
"At 16.44hrs during the climb out, witnesses heard the engine stop and observed the aircraft make a steep descending turn to the left before disappearing from view," it added.
The Cessna, which first registered in 1968, was eventually located by a Garda helicopter shortly after 6pm overturned in an overgrown, boggy field.
Both men were dead.
Mr Deegan, from the village of Crinkle near the airfield, was almost at the end of his pilot training and was understood to be planning to get a commercial licence.
He worked at Tesco in Birr, and is survived by his parents Michael and Brenda, brother Diarmuid, and sisters Davnet, Aine and Mhuire
Instructor Mr Doherty had worked as a commercial pilot in the past and taught at the Ormand Flying Club.
He also worked in the family hardware store in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, which was run by his parents Michael and Eileen.
He is survived by his sister Eadaoin and brothers Gearoid and Antoin.