Monitoring of flight in which Cookstown man died ‘inadequate’

Wreckage of the Cork air crash wreckage.
Wreckage of the Cork air crash wreckage.

Aviation chiefs in Spain failed to adequately monitor the operators of a plane which crashed in Ireland three years ago killing Cookstown businessman Brendan McAleese and five other people, investigators have found.

Mr McAleese (39) was a managing director of Central Laundries in Cookstown and was heading to Cork for a business meeting.

The married father-of-two lived in Tanaghmore, near Antrim, was a cousin of the former Irish President’s husband.

Air accident inspectors identified nine significant issues which contributed to the service from Belfast to Cork crashing in dense fog, including tiredness and fatigue of the flight crew - both of whom died.

A wing of the turboprop Fairchild Metroliner clipped the ground as the pilots tried to abort a third landing attempt and it crashed in soft ground next to the runway.

The service was operated by Flightline, the tickets for the flight were sold by an Isle of Man-based company Manx2 and the aircraft and flight crew was supplied by a Spanish company.

In its final report, Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said there was inadequate oversight of the remote service by Flightline and by the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea (AESA), the Spanish civil aviation authority.

It found inappropriate pairing of flight crew members and inadequate command training and checking.

On the flight itself it said the approach continued in conditions of poor visibility, below required limits, that the descent continued below the decision height without adequate visual reference and that there was uncoordinated operation of the flight and engine controls when a go-around was attempted.

It also found the engine power-levers were retarded below the normal in-flight operational range, an action banned in-flight, and power difference between the engines became significant when levers were retarded below the normal in-flight range.

The six people killed in the tragedy were Spanish pilot Jordi Gola Lopez, 31; co-pilot Andrew Cantle, 27, from Sunderland; Brendan McAleese, 39, from Co Tyrone; Pat Cullinan, 45, a partner in accountancy firm KPMG in Belfast; Captain Michael Evans, 51, deputy harbour master in Belfast; and Richard Noble, a 49-year-old businessman who was originally from Yorkshire but lived in Northern Ireland.