herald

Saturday 15 December 2018

Pilots were qualified for fog flight, airline insists

accident: Airport back open as probe team begins wreckage tests

FLIGHTS at Cork Airport were returning to normal today following the fatal plane crash as crash investigators began to probe the possible causes of the accident.

The plane was removed from the scene yesterday evening and transported to the Air Accident Investigation Unit's (AAIU) hangar in Gormanston, Co Meat,h where it will be subjected to a number of tests by investigators tasked with finding out what went wrong.

Meanwhile, the airline has insisted that both men were fully qualified and experienced.

But Spanish pilot Jordi Lopez (31) only infrequently operated as captain while his British co-pilot, Andrew Cantle (27), only joined the airline three weeks ago.

Mr Lopez was with the airline for 10 months and had 1,800 hours of flight time on that type of aircraft.

Mr Cantle had been with the firm for three weeks and had 720 hours flight time.

Manx2.com chairman Noel Hayes insisted to the Herald that both men were "absolutely" qualified to handle the plane in the weather conditions at Cork Airport on Thursday morning.

"All their training records, their full records, their qualifications have been passed to the Air Accident Investigation Bureau," he said.

However, the families of the two pilots indicated that they were relatively inexperienced.

Mr Lopez was a very experienced co-pilot -- but had only been promoted to captain over recent months.

One Spanish newspaper, Regio7, quoted family members as saying that while he had obtained the rank of captain some time ago, he had "only been exercising this rank for a few days and (Thursday's) flight was one of the first in which he had acted as captain".

Mr Cantle had only joined the airline three weeks before the fatal crash after he had previously been on a temporary contract with AeroNova.

Up until 2008 he had worked with the RNLI in Sunderland.

His parents, John and Ann, initially didn't think he was on the stricken plane -- believing he was operating a Royal Mail flight on Thursday.

It has now emerged the right wing tip of the Manx2 aircraft disastrously clipped the runway at Cork Airport as it attempted to land for the third time in dense fog.

The 19-year old Fairchild Metroliner then skidded for 190 metres on its back along the concrete runway before catching fire as it came to a stop on the grass verge in front of the airport terminal.

Two senior inspectors of the AAIU, Paddy Judge and Graham Liddy, said they are building up an outline of the tragic final moments of Flight NM 7100.

Mr Judge -- an experienced former pilot -- said it was "unusual" for a pilot to attempt a third landing in fog.

"It is unusual all right -- but it is not, in fact, prohibited.



interviewed

"Most operators would say that if you shoot two approaches then in fact you have a particular amount of improvement in the weather before you should shoot a third.

"But it is far too early for us to go speculating as to whether he should or whether he shouldn't or what a pilot did or what a pilot didn't," he said.

Mr Judge confirmed he has interviewed five of the six survivors of the crash at Cork University Hospital.

"Five of the six have spoken to us. The other person is in intensive care -- we would hope to see that person when they recover sufficiently," he said.

Cork Airport reopened at 7.14pm last night with a total of 83 flights diverted, operated from Shannon or cancelled since the crash.

hnews@herald.ie

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