The last transmission by a pilot killed in a light aircraft crash last month contained the words “going to end up in a field,” investigators have established.
Former marine engineer Howard Cox, 67, was on his way from Waterford to Shannon on July 25 but, minutes after take-off, he told air traffic control his craft had an engine fire and was going to have to land just moments before he crashed into a field in Co Waterford.
A preliminary report published by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) reveals the pilot’s voice was “composed and professional” even while transmitting details of the problem which would result in his plane crashing in a field in Garranbaun, near Dungarvan, on July 25.
Mr Cox, from Devon in England, was due to take part in the Foynes Air Show the following day.
Air show organiser Gerry Humphreys was flying solo shortly behind him at the time and reported seeing smoke in the field. The two pilots were friends and Mr Cox had taken part in many air events in Ireland.
Mr Humphreys had described Mr Cox as “a wonderful aviator and engineer”.
Mr Cox had left Waterford Airport at 5.33pm on July 25 in his BD5 mini-jet and advised air traffic control, locally, he would be travelling towards Ardmore before heading for Shannon.
However, eight minutes later he transmitted that he had “engine failure or an engine problem,” with the rest of that transmission drowned out by noise from another aircraft.
A minute later, the pilot said: “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday I’m going to have to land,” and then “I have engine failure, I have an engine on fire”.
Air traffic control asked if he was returning to Waterford but the reply was: “Negative, I’m just going to have to find a field.”
The AAIU’s preliminary report states: “A final transmission was then heard… which was very difficult to understand but did contain the phrase ‘ending up in a field’. The investigation notes that the pilot’s voice was composed and professional during these transmissions.”
The report found the left wing tip initially came in contact with a tree and, after the entire left wing came off, the rest of the aircraft crashed into a boundary hedgerow.
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