City plane overturns in field after landing

A LONDONDERRY aeroplane swerved to avoid power lines and buildings during a botched landing in County Tyrone last September and ended up upside down in a ploughed field, the Sentinel can reveal.

Neither of the two people on board the aircraft were injured in the crash but the plane suffered damage to its propeller, engine mounting and bulkhead, left wing and nosewheel.

A report on the incident suggeste the Cessna 152 (G-BSZI) may have been overweight at the time and that this may have been partly to blame for the accident.

The 50-year-old pilot who had over 160 hours flying experience flew from City of Derry Airport to Carrickmore around noon on September 22. There was one passenger on board.

The pilot decided to abort the landing soon after touchdown at around 12.30pm, it’s emerged.

The 28-year-old Cessna had touched down about a third of the way up the runway but one wheel briefly left the narrow paved surface.

The pilot corrected the deviation, but was generally dissatisfied with the landing and decided to abort.

It was here the problems started, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s (AAIB) report into the incident.

The pilot, upon trying to climb again, discovered he was in danger of crashing into power lines and buildings if he did so.

“It soon became apparent to the pilot that the aircraft was hardly climbing and would not clear a building and nearby power lines which lay on rising ground ahead and slightly to the left of the extended centreline (the ground fell away after the runway end before rising again),” the report explains.

“He turned the aircraft to the right but saw another building, also on elevated ground, ahead. He decided that the best course of action was to land the aircraft in the field immediately below, and warned his passenger.

“The field had been ploughed, and the aircraft’s nosewheel dug into the ground on landing, causing the aircraft to pitch nose-down and invert,” the report adds.

Although the pilot thought that the aircraft may have experienced carburettor icing the report also suggests the plane was overweight.

“The aircraft was only some five kilogrammes below its maximum allowable weight at the time of the accident, which would have placed it above the maximum weight at takeoff, 45 minutes earlier,” states the report.

The pilot knew about this and had offloaded fuel but then his plans changed and “it was decided that a passenger would accompany him on the flight.”

He estimated that the aircraft had departed City of Derry with about 11 or 12 US gallons (about 45 per cent of maximum fuel).

But the report also says the accident may have been the result of a number of factors combined.

“Another possibility is that the aircraft may have been unable to climb as a result of a combination of weight, configuration and airspeed,” it states.

“The decision to abort the landing was made quickly, and the actions taken by the pilot were those appropriate to a touch-and-go landing, with which he was very familiar, including selection of flaps zero degrees.”