Aircraft which took off by itself narrowly avoided house

Pilot watched as the prop plane travelled towards electric fence before exploding

A vintage propeller-driven aircraft took off by itself and crashed into an electric fence just metres from a house.

The 54-year-old pilot of the aircraft, who was due to fly from a private airfield in Mullinahone, Co Tipperary to Sligo on the morning of July 5th this year, told an investigation into the accident he was in a hurry when he hand-started the engine by swinging the propeller. He set the throttle to a higher than usual setting and the ignition switch to on.

The main wheels were not chocked and there was no impediment to the 59-year-old Piel CP301A light aircraft moving off of its own accord.

The plane travelled approximately 70 metres and crashed into the fence before overturning.


The impact caused fuel to leak from the fuselage. The pilot believed a current from the electric fence ignited the fuel and set the plane on fire. It blew up and was destroyed.

The pilot, who has a British flying licence, reported the incident to the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU).

He said that because he had been in a hurry, he had not chocked the aircraft’s wheels and had set the throttle too high.

In its accident report the AAIU said a number of similar incidents happened in the past and that hand swinging a propeller was a “hazardous procedure”.

An investigation into an accident in Australia concluded the procedure should only happen when no other alternative exists to start the aircraft engine "and all necessary precautions have been taken to mitigate the hazard".

This included the presence of chocks of an appropriate size applied to both main wheels and that the aircraft should be tied down adequately using an appropriate restraint.

The accident investigators in Australia further recommended that the brakes should be set to on and the fuel system and engine controls set for a normal start.

The AAIU noted that the US Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) had recommended nobody should attempt to hand-start such an aircraft on their own.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times