FINAL MOMENTS

SURVIVORS of doomed flight NM7100 gave graphic details last night of the terrifying final moments on board the plane, which crashed in dense fog at Cork Airport.

They told air accident investigators they could see the ground as the Manx2 flight made its second and final approaches to the runway.

The investigators have established that the Fairchild Metroliner’s right wing-tip hit the runway on landing, flipping the aircraft onto its roof, before it slid 190 metres along the runway, veering off to a muddy verge.

Its right wing ruptured, spilling fuel onto the hot engine and sparking a fire.

The cockpit suffered extensive damage, was compressed and distorted. The dead pilots had to be removed through a hole in the bottom of the aircraft cut by emergency services.

Investigators said it would appear at this stage that the aircraft was operating normally until it hit the ground.

“The wing touch was early on in the sequence,” Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) deputy chief inspector Graham Liddy said.

But he stressed that while the team has a lot of the jigsaw, there is still a long way to go.

“We think we have a clear picture of the final moments,” he said.

The details emerged as Manx2 chairman Noel Hayes arrived at Cork Airport to meet the AAIU team.

He defended his pilots but said he could not confirm whether the aircraft was equipped to land in dense fog.

And he said he was not aware of claims from the mother of co-pilot Andrew Cantle, that he had been called in at the last minute to work on the flight.

The airline confirmed that Captain Jordi Lopez had been flying with aircraft owners Flightline BCN for 10 months and had served 1800 hours on the Fairchild Metroliner aircraft, while Mr Cantle had been flying with Flightline BCN for three weeks and had worked 720 hours on the aircraft type.

Paddy Judge, an inspector of accidents with the AAIU, spoke to five of the six survivors in Cork University Hospital (CUH) yesterday, and to the air traffic controllers who were on duty at the time of the crash.

He said he could not go into the detail of the statements because they are confidential.

But he did say that while three landing attempts are unusual, this is not prohibited.

“Most operators say that if you shoot two approaches you should have a particular amount of improvement in the weather before you are entitled to shoot a third,” he said.

Six men, including the pilot and co-pilot, were killed in Thursday’s crash. Five men and a woman survived.

Dónal Walsh, 22, a student from Waterford, and Laurence Wilson, in his early 50s and from Larne, Co Antrim, were discharged from CUH yesterday. Four people remain in hospital.

The airport reopened last night and a Ryanair flight from London Gatwick touched down on runway 17 at 7.14pm.

Mass for the crash victims will be celebrated at midday tomorrow at the Church of the Assumption in Ballyphehane.

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