Saturday 3 December 2016

Survivors want to know why plane did not divert

Ralph Riegel and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 14/02/2011 | 05:00

Cork crash survivor Lawrence Wilson in his living room yesterday with his wife May
Cork crash survivor Lawrence Wilson in his living room yesterday with his wife May

SURVIVORS of the air disaster in which six people died are now querying why the turboprop aircraft didn't divert to another airport after two aborted landings.

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Air crash investigators have been asked why the 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner wasn't diverted from Cork Airport to Shannon, Kerry or Waterford after its second failed landing attempt last Thursday morning due to dense fog.

Young Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31) decided to make a third landing attempt, but the right wing tip of the plane clipped the runway, sending it skidding upside down along the concrete. The aircraft was shattered by the impact and burst into flames when it finally skidded to a halt.

Six on board were killed, and six injured, four of whom remain in hospital today.

Mr Lopez's landing attempt came contrary to a general aviation tradition whereby pilots divert to an alternative airport if a second landing attempt has to be abandoned due to poor visibility.

Visibility at Cork Airport last Thursday morning was less than 350m due to fog.

The six dead were Brendan McAleese, Pat Cullinan, Michael Evans, Andrew Cantle, Richard Noble and the pilot, Jordi Sola Lopez. The four passengers still in Cork University Hospital include Heather Elliot, Peter Cowley, Brendan Mallon and Mark Dickens, while two others -- Donal Walsh (22) and Laurence Wilson (53) -- were discharged last Friday.

Inspectors from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) have now interviewed five of the six survivors.

They expect to receive the preliminary analysis of the cockpit voice recorder from the UK within the next week.

The AAIU are also co-ordinating with Manx2.com and Belfast City Airport in a bid to clarify precisely how much fuel the Fairchild aircraft had on board.

Manx2.com chairman Noel Hayes said their flights would normally have one hour's worth of reserve fuel.

Determined

The brother of Heather Elliot revealed she had already asked why the plane didn't divert.

The father of a second survivor, Peter Cowley, said the flight crew appeared determined to get the plane on the ground in Cork.

Another survivor, Laurence Wilson, said he feels lucky just to be alive and uninjured. He escaped from the wreckage with only a small cut to the forehead.

"I am the luckiest man in the world. I just cannot believe I survived the crash. It feels so good to be alive, it is so good that words just cannot really describe it," he said.

The first two victims' funerals will take place in Northern Ireland today.

Brendan McAleese (39), a cousin of Dr Martin McAleese, the husband of President Mary McAleese, will be buried after Requiem Mass at St MacNissus Church in Tannaghmore, Co Antrim, at 1pm today. The President and her husband are expected to attend.

The funeral of Pat Cullinan, a senior partner with the accountancy firm KPMG, takes place at noon at St Patrick's Church in Crannagh, Plumbridge, Co Tyrone.

Irish Independent

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