‘Inadequate’ flight monitoring in plane crash which killed Sunderland pilot, investigators find

Manx2 Co-pilot Andrew Cantle
Manx2 Co-pilot Andrew Cantle
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AVIATION chiefs in Spain failed to adequately monitor the operators of a plane which crashed in Ireland three years ago killing Sunderland co-pilot Andrew Cantle and five other people, investigators have found.

Air accident inspectors identified nine significant issues which contributed to the Manx2.com service from Belfast to Cork crashing in dense fog, including tiredness and fatigue of the flight crew – both of whom died.

The six people killed in the tragedy were Spanish pilot Jordi Gola Lopez, 31, co-pilot Mr Cantle, 27, Brendan McAleese, 39, from Co Tyrone, Pat Cullinan, 45, a partner in accountancy firm KPMG in Belfast, Captain Michael Evans, 51, deputy harbour master in Belfast, and Richard Noble, a 49-year-old businessman who was originally from Yorkshire but lived in Northern Ireland.

A wing of the turboprop Fairchild Metroliner clipped the ground as the pilots tried to abort a third landing attempt and it crashed in soft ground next to the runway.

The service was operated by Flightline, the tickets for the flight were sold by an Isle of Man-based company Manx2 and the aircraft and flight crew was supplied by a Spanish company.

In its final report, Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said there was inadequate oversight of the remote service by Flightline and by the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea (AESA), the Spanish civil aviation authority.

It found inappropriate pairing of flight crew members and inadequate command training and checking.

On the flight itself it said the approach continued in conditions of poor visibility, below required limits, that the descent continued below the decision height without adequate visual reference and that there was uncoordinated operation of the flight and engine controls when a go-around was attempted.

It also found the engine power-levers were retarded below the normal in-flight operational range, an action banned in-flight, and power difference between the engines became significant when levers were retarded below the normal in-flight range.

Mr Cantle’s family are taking legal action against FlightlineBCN, based out of Barcelona, which was granted the Air Operator Certificate to run the service, and Airlada, which leased the plane and crew.

A number of other lawsuits are expected to be launched now the final report has been published including from relatives of passengers who died, the injured, and relatives of the flight crew.

In a statement investigators said: “The AAIU recognises that this is a difficult time for those families who lost loved ones and the surviving passengers who suffered injuries in this tragic accident. Our deepest sympathies to all concerned.”

The AAIU said there were systemic deficiencies at the operational, organisational and regulatory levels including pilot training, scheduling of crews, maintenance and inadequate oversight.

The Manx2.com flight crashed on its third attempt to land on February 10 2011. It flipped over after hitting the grass and both engines caught fire.

Eleven safety recommendations have been made by the AAIU.

The European Commission has been asked to review rules on flight time limitations, the role of ticket sellers and the oversight of safety and operating licences.

Recommendations have been made to the European Aviation Safety Agency on the number of successive instrument approaches that can be made in certain weather, how pilots can be appointed commander and how Air Operator Certificate (AOC) variations are granted.

Flightline has been asked to review its operational policy and training and also its rules for pilots on diversions following a missed landing approach.

Spanish aviation authorities have been asked to review oversight of carriers.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has also been asked to look at regulations around the inclusion of the approach capability of aircraft/flight crew on flight plans.