Dead Sunderland pilot’s girlfriend slams airline

Andrew Cantle with his girlfriend Beth Webster

Andrew Cantle with his girlfriend Beth Webster

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THE grieving partner of a pilot killed in a crash says she is still awaiting a message of condolence from his bosses - more than a month after the tragedy.

Andrew Cantle, from Moorside, in Sunderland, was making a third attempt to land the turboprop aircraft in thick fog when it hit the runway and burst into flames.

The wreckage of the Manx2 plane in which six people where killed in a crash yesterday is removed from the runway at Cork Airport.

The wreckage of the Manx2 plane in which six people where killed in a crash yesterday is removed from the runway at Cork Airport.

The 27-year-old co-pilot, Spanish pilot Jordi Lopez, 31, and four passengers were killed in the tragedy.

Today, his partner Beth Webster, who is taking legal action against airline Manx2.com over alleged operational and staffing mistakes, said his employers should “hang their heads in shame.”

“I feel that Manx 2’s conduct in all of this has been unacceptable,” said the airstewardess. “Andy’s parents and myself have yet to hear a word of condolence from any of the senior executives of the company, and they should hang their heads in shame.”

A preliminary report by the Republic of Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) confirmed that Mr Cantle was at the controls of the 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner, which was travelling from Belfast to Cork, when it crashed on February 10.

Mr Lopez did not take over from Mr Cantle, who had only 17 hours’ experience flying that type of plane, even after two failed landing attempts.

Ms Webster, who lived in York with Mr Cantle, said her partner, a former volunteer with Sunderland RNLI, would have done all he could to avert the tragedy.

“He was such a caring ‘people’ person and a natural lifesaver, proved through his past service and commitment to the RNLI” she said.

“He would have thought nothing about putting his own life on the line to save others.”

Experts examining the cause of the crash have found no mechanical problems with the plane or systems during the flight.

Flight authorisation sheets show that Mr Cantle had been designated by Captain Lopez as “flying pilot” of the aircraft, a decision criticised by an ex-Royal Air Force pilot who is now a lawyer representing Ms Webster.

Jim Morris, a partner in the Irwin Mitchell Aviation Law team, said: “Following our initial analysis of the crash report, we have very serious concerns over the decision taken to roster Andrew, a newly qualified co-pilot, alongside a captain who had only recently qualified as a captain on the Metroliner aircraft.  “The evidence highlighted in the report suggests that there were several points when it would have been best practice for the captain, who for some reason had decided not to pilot the aircraft, to take control from his less experienced colleague.

“The captain had ultimate responsibility for the safety of the aircraft and everyone on board, and it is he who has the responsibility for making key decisions about safety.”

A Manx2.com spokeswoman said: “As the air accident investigation continues, it would be inappropriate for Manx2.com to comment at this preliminary stage.”