Tuskar Rock crash caused by collision - RAF man


A retired British air force flying instructor claims that the 1968 Tuskar Rock Aer Lingus Viscount plane crash was caused by a collision with a French-built military aircraft which was training with the Air Corps.

The aircraft struck each other accidentally while the Fouga Magister trainer was responding to a request to check the Viscount's undercarriage, RAF Squadron Leader Eric Evers maintains.

All 61 people, including the four crew, on board the Aer Lingus Viscount Cork-London Heathrow flight died in the subsequent crash off Tuskar Rock, but the two pilots in the trainer survived by ejecting and parachuting to safety, he claims. Both the French and Irish authorities colluded in a subsequent cover-up, he says, and the Fouga Magister wreckage may still be on the seabed off Co Wexford.

Squadron Leader Evers, who was chief flying instructor with the British military in Little Rissington, intends to present his evidence at a conference held by relatives of those who died in the air crash in Cobh, Co Cork, tomorrow. His claims will be disputed by Capt Mike Reynolds, retired sea captain and aviator and author of Tragedy at Tuskar Rock, published in 2003.

Capt Reynolds upholds the findings of the 2002 official report by French and Australian experts which ruled out the possibility that the Viscount was hit by another aircraft or missile. The international study, on which he worked as Irish assistant, concluded that the cause may have been as a result of structural failure of the aircraft, corrosion, metal fatigue, "flutter" or bird strike.

The study paid tribute to the two pilots, Capt Bernard O'Beirne and First Officer Paul Heffernan, for keeping the aircraft flying for 30 minutes after the "initial triggering factor".

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Squadron Leader Evers said the captain of the Viscount was faced with a minor and common problem - three red lights on his control panel indicating that the plane's undercarriage was unlocked.

In the military, the problem was solved by slowing down, lowering the undercarriage and fully locking it again.

Another option used in the military, which applied only if flying in formation, was to ask a pilot of an accompanying aircraft to drop down and check.

Capt O'Beirne would have been aware that the Air Corps would have been flying on a Sunday morning from Baldonnel in west Dublin. A Fouga Magister model equipped with ejection seats - the only such model - was being used to train pilots at Baldonnel at the time, Squadron Leader Evers says.

A Defence Forces spokesman described the claims as "spurious" and said there was no evidence that an Air Corps plane was in the vicinity at the time.

The spokesman said that Fouga Magisters did not "come into service" with the Air Corps until 1976. He could not comment on why a Fouga Magister was listed as one of the Air Corps aircraft in service in 1968, as stated in appendix 5.2.g of the 2002 report.