Airline chairman says emergency service's swift action saved lives


TRIBUTE TO RESCUE CREW:THE CHAIRMAN of, Noel Hayes, yesterday paid tribute to the fire crews at Cork Airport for rescuing six passengers from the company’s Belfast to Cork flight, but refused to be drawn on the factors which may have contributed to the fatal crash.

Mr Hayes, who met the survivors of the crash at Cork University Hospital, said the crash could have claimed more lives were it not for the swift action of the fire crews at Cork Airport and other emergency personnel.

“I would like to personally thank the emergency services at Cork Airport, who did a fantastic job. I know they did their job and it’s a job they are trained to do, but their fantastic response did, I hope, stop the tragedy being worse. My thanks to them for their swift and prompt action,” he said.

“The last 24 hours have been very long and dark for me, but I know they have probably been even longer and darker for the families of the bereaved and my heart goes out to them and I offer them my sincere condolences for yesterday’s tragic accident.”

Speaking at Cork Airport, Mr Hayes said would work closely with the Department of Transport air accident investigation team to examine the crash, but he said it would be wrong for him to say anything that could prejudice that investigation.

He refused to be drawn on whether the Fairchild Metroliner was equipped with Category II equipment, which would allow it to land in heavy fog with poorer visibility and said such matters would form part of the investigation.

He said the department’s team was “looking at precise weather circumstances at the time. I have not that full information yet. I’m sorry, I can’t comment on areas that the investigation bureau is looking at.” operates a number of scheduled services through designated carriers and it emerged yesterday that co-pilot Andrew Cantle had joined the company operating the Belfast-Cork service, Spanish firm Flightline BCN, just two weeks previously.

But Mr Hayes said Mr Cantle from Sunderland and Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31) were fully trained and their training qualifications would be handed over to the investigation team. Both men died in the crash.

Mr Hayes also said the aircraft, which was built in 1992, had undergone a routine maintenance check last week in Spain. “It was fully airworthy and I have no reason to believe that there were any issues at all with the mechanical condition of the plane,” he said.

Mr Hayes said all flights operated by the company did so on the basis of having diversion airports where the aircraft could fly to if it was unable to land at its destination airport.

He also said it was not unprecedented for a pilot to make three attempts to land an aircraft as such decisions were governed by a number of factors.