Skydivers told to jump as plane ran out of fuel
SURVIVAL: Pilot ordered out parachutists before crash landing
A PILOT ordered skydivers to jump from his aircraft minutes before it crashed when it ran out of fuel.
All five parachutists landed safely and the 68-year-old pilot sustained only minor injuries when the Cessna 206G Stationair overturned in a ploughed field.
However, the 29-year-old aircraft, which had recently started operations with the parachute club, suffered substantial damage.
The plane was on its sixth flight of the day when it took off from Clonbullogue Airfield in Co Offaly, with one single parachutist and two tandem pairs aboard on March 15, 2009, a just released Air Accident Investigation Unit report said.
The aircraft climbed on its normal drop route towards 10,000ft over the airfield, but on passing 9,000ft the plane's power dropped.
"The pilot lowered the nose and ordered the parachutists to jump.
"They exited the aircraft and landed near the village of Clonbullogue," the report said.
The engine recovered power and the pilot made a circling descent towards the airfield.
During the approach, the engine stopped and the aircraft landed short of the runway in a ploughed field.
The nose wheel dug into the soft soil and the aircraft flipped over. The pilot was taken to hospital for observation but later released.
The investigation found that the plane's engine stopped "due to fuel exhaustion, which was caused by an inappropriate method of monitoring the fuel consumption and fuel quantity on board the aircraft".
A contributory factor was lack of operational experience with a new aircraft type, it said.
The low fuel warning system on board was "probably inoperative" and the pilot was unaware of the impending fuel exhaustion, the investigators said.
The probable cause of the accident was "engine stoppage due to fuel exhaustion resulting from inadequate fuel uplift".
Contributory factors included inadequate fuel recording procedures; uncalibrated fuel tank indicators and unapproved and uncalibrated fuel flow indicator.
The report made two safety recommendations, including that the Irish Parachute Club "review its fuel monitoring, recording and usage tracking system so as to monitor the consumption of fuel and accurately indicate the quantity of fuel on board its aircraft prior to flight."