Unlicensed pilot crashed light plane


A man with no pilot’s licence endangered members of the public when he flew an unregistered light aircraft over a farm machinery show in Galway and then crashed it into power lines.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Transport today published its report on the crash - which the pilot escaped unscathed - on August 5th last year.

The 63-year-old had conducted a low ‘fly by’ over a field where a vintage farm equipment rally was being held. But the Powerchute Kestrel Microlight struck and damaged a low-voltage electricity power line. Investigators said the crash caused a local electricity blackout until repairs were made later that day.

The aircraft had been de-registered in the UK in 2011 and had never been re-registered in Ireland, where microlight activity is regulated by the Irish Aviation Authority. Such aircraft must be flown by properly qualified pilots.

The pilot told investigators that the field in Dunmore, Co Galway, where the annual vintage tractor and farm equipment rally was taking place was unsuitable for take-off because of expected crowds. A more suitable and safer site was selected about 1km from the town of Dunmore and about 2km from the rally field.

The landowner gave permission for the use of the field and the pilot took off from there.

The investigation said the take-off was witnessed by some local people who photographed a number of the ‘fly bys’ before the unlicensed pilot departed towards the rally at 400-500 ft.

He had previously been informed that a helicopter would be operating pleasure flights from the rally field. Investigators said the pilot recalled seeing a helicopter flying towards him as he approached the field and that he had concentrated on its flight path as he needed to know where its landing area and take-off point were.

“He stated that he had not previously been to the field and did not want any problems with the helicopter crew or the pilot,” the report said.

“He said that he kept to his left well out of the helicopter’s way and watched where it was going to land. After observing the helicopter for a short period he saw it landing and then looked forward to fly around the edge of the field.”

The man told the inquiry that at this point he hit the cables and was on the ground before he knew what had happened. He suffered only minor injuries and did not require medical attention.

Outlining the regulations concerning the operation of flights in Ireland, the investigators noted that aircraft should not be flown over congested areas, including over an assembly of persons, at less than a height of 450 metres (1,500 ft).

The report concluded that while the pilot showed the investigation evidence of recent engine maintenance work, the aircraft itself was unregistered and did not have a permit to fly.

“Furthermore the pilot did not possess a valid pilot licence and the aircraft was flown contrary to the Rules of the Air, at a low height close to and thereby endangering members of the public.”