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Disaster probe examines plane's fuel reserves

AIR accident investigators are trying to determine how much fuel the Manx2 aircraft had left in its tanks in the minutes before the Cork airport disaster in which six people died.

The 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner crashed on its third attempted landing in dense fog at 9.52am last Thursday.

Investigators now want to rule out fuel reserve concerns as a reason for why the young Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31) decided to make his third landing attempt at Cork instead of diverting to Waterford, Shannon or Kerry airports.

Visibility at Cork was reported to be between 300 metres and 350 metres, but fog had not seriously affected either Waterford or Kerry airport, both of which were 15-20 minutes' flying time from Cork.

The flight left Belfast City Airport at 8.12am last Thursday but was forced to circle Cork Airport for about 30 minutes after dense fog resulted in two landing attempts being aborted.

The airline has said it is normal practice for such planes to carry at least one hour of reserve fuel. However, Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) inspectors have so far been unable to determine precisely the plane's remaining fuel because a wing fuel tank had been ruptured in the crash.

The AAIU now hopes to calculate how much fuel the pilot had available to him via fuel status and refuelling records.

The AAIU yesterday held its first meeting at Gormanstown, Co Meath, where the aircraft wreckage is now located.

The fuselage and debris will be reassembled to see whether any mechanical, electrical or structural factors contributed to the tragedy. A preliminary probe has already indicated that there was no major structural failing or onboard fire before the Fairchild made its doomed landing.

While data has been successfully recovered from the cockpit voice recorder, it will be over a week before it will be fully analysed.

AAIU chief inspector Jurgen White said the probe would be painstaking and methodical.

The Irish Independent understands that there were no communication difficulties between the aircraft and Cork Airport control tower.

Irish Independent