Inquests into Cork Airport crash deaths to open today

By Eoin English

Inquests into the deaths of the six people who died in the Manx2 plane crash disaster at Cork Airport are due to open in the city this morning.

Several survivors of the 2011 crash — one of Ireland’s worst aviation accidents — are expected to attend.

The six victims — four passengers and the two pilots — died on February 10, 2011 when a Fairchild SA227-BC Metro III aircraft on route from Belfast to Cork crashed on its third landing attempt in heavy fog at Cork Airport.

The doomed flight’s pilot and captain, Jordi Sola Lopez, 31, from Manresa, Barcelona; his co-pilot Andrew John Cantle, 27, from Sunderland; Patrick Gerard Cullinan, 45, from the Malone Road, Belfast; Brendan McAleese, 39, from Kells, Co Antrim; Richard Kenneth Noble, 48, from Jordanstown, Belfast; and Joseph Michael Evans, 51, from Belfast, were all pronounced dead at the scene.

Frank O’Connell will formally open the inquests into their deaths this morning.

Six passengers survived the crash — Mark Dickens, Heather Elliot, Donal Walsh, Peter Crowley, Laurence Wilson and Brendan Mallon.

A jury will be sworn in before their statements are read in to the record.

Air traffic control staff, airport fire fighters, gardaí, emergency service workers and officials from Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) will be called to give evidence over the next two days.

The doomed flight was operated under the terms of an arrangement involving Spanish company Flightline BCN, which held a Spanish Air Operator Certificate, ticket seller, Manx2, based in the Isle of Man, and another Spanish firm, AirLada, which supplied the aircraft and flight crew under an agreement with Manx2.

Following the most comprehensive investigation in its history, the AAIU published its final report into the accident last January.

It found that poor regulatory oversight by Spanish authorities contributed to two tired, inexperienced pilots running the aviation equivalent of three red lights in bad weather.

The 240-page report identified a series of poor operational decisions by the pilots in the moments before the crash, and said the probable cause was “loss of control during an attempted go-around initiated below decision height [200 feet] in Instrument Meteorological Conditions”.

But it also identified a catalogue of systemic deficiencies at operational, organisational, and regulatory levels which oversaw the operation of the flight, including pilot training, the scheduling of flight crews, and maintenance.

These deficiencies led to tiredness and fatigue on the part of the crew, inadequate command training and checking, inappropriate pairing of flight crew members, and inadequate oversight.

It issued 11 safety recommendations.

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