Pilot flew as captain on a few occasions


BACKGROUND:THE SPANISH pilot who died in the crash was on one of his first flights captaining an aircraft, his family said yesterday. Jordi Sola Lopez (31) was an experienced co-pilot, but had taken charge of an aircraft on only a few occasions, they said.

Family members in the pilot’s home town of Manresa, 40 miles from Barcelona, described his experience and flying history to local newspaper Regio7.

Mr Sola Lopez, an only son, studied at the Top Fly aviation school in nearby Sabadell, where he later worked as an instructor.

He went on to fly in the Canary Islands before taking his job with Air Lada, the company that owns the aircraft that crashed on Thursday.

The newspaper report said he had earned his captain’s licence some time ago, but added: “He has only been exercising this rank for a few days and yesterday’s flight was one of the first in which he had acted as captain.”

Air Lada was unavailable to comment on the claims.The pilot lived between Belfast and Barcelona and flew all around Europe. The Spanish embassy in Dublin called his parents in Manresa to inform them of his death. They were expected to fly to Ireland yesterday to identify the body.

A spokesman for Sepla, the Spanish pilots’ union, said Mr Sola Lopez was not a member of the organisation.

The spokeswoman said: “Co-pilots or first officers are fully qualified to fly a plane, but it is the captain who is ultimately in charge and has ultimate responsibility for passengers’ safety.

“More than 90 per cent of Spanish pilots are members of Sepla, but it is not out of the ordinary that he was not a member.”

Mr Sola Lopez was well known in his hometown, having competed in many international dance competitions. In 2002, he was a semi-finalist in the World 10 Dance Championship in Portugal, along with his dance partner Monica Crocceta.

He was also a semi-finalist in the Dance World Cup. His former dance partner Meritxell Gomez described him as “a really lovely guy, an exceptional person”.

They had danced together from 2005 and won the Spanish professional dance championship that year. Mr Sola Lopez had also competed in Denmark, England, Korea and the Czech Republic.