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Report into Birr plane crash finds no technical defect

Story by Laura Ryder

Thursday, 13th December, 2012 2:30pm

Report into Birr plane crash finds no technical defect

A preliminary investigation into the plane crash in Birr last month that claimed the lives of two men has found no technical defect that might have contributed to the accident.

Niall Doherty of Ballinakill, Roscrea and Damien Deegan of Military Road, Crinkle both lost their lives after the Reims-Cessna F150 plane they were in crashed shortly after take-off from Birr Airfield on Sunday, November 11. After a search the wrecked plane was found at Clonkelly Upper, Birr and the two men on board were pronounced dead.

A preliminary investigation into the accident was published today (Thursday) by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU). The investigation into the accident was headed up by Paddy Judge. While a final report has yet to be compiled, this week's preliminary report says no technical defect that might have contributed to the November accident has been found.

The report states that an examination of the accident site, some 350 metres southeast of the end of runway 18 at the airfield, showed that the aircraft impacted heavily nose down in a northerly direction first.

"The nose landing gear detached and the aircraft came to rest inverted a short distance from the point of initial impact," the report says. "The cabin had been crushed and the fuselage was fractured behind the cabin, remaining attached only by cables. Several fractures were found in the engine bearer arm structure and one blade of the propeller, which showed no evidence of rotation at impact, was bent backwards from mid span."

The report also says no evidence of any substantial fuel deposit was found at the accident site, although a small amount leaked from the inverted wreckage when raised during the recovery operation.

The plane involved in the accident was manufactured in 1968. On the day of the tragic accident it conducted six flights from Birr Airfield, each with an instructor and another pilot on board. The plane was refuelled after three flights, just past 2pm. The accident flight entailed circuit training with the student pilot on board.

This week's report says a "touch-and-go" landing on runway 18 was followed by the aircraft climbing away. At approximately 4.44pm witnesses heard the engine stop and observed the aircraft make a steep descending turn to the left before disappearing from view.

Finding the crashed aircraft on the day proved difficult it's reported, due to approaching darkness and the black colour of the aircraft. A Garda helicopter located it some minutes past 6pm however, using a thermal imaging camera. The AAIU was notified of the accident at 6.25pm that evening, and a team left Dublin for Birr just past 7pm. After a briefing at Birr garda station the team got to the accident site at 10pm to commence an initial examination of the wreckage.

A further examination was carried out at the scene the following morning, before the wreckage was recovered and transported to the AAUI facility at Gormanstown, Co Meath.

On-going investigations by the AAIU will include further examination of the aircraft and engine, as well as operational aspects and conduct of the flight. A final report has yet to be published.

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