Pilot did 'stunts' for friends before crash death

A pilot plunged to his death after telling friends he would do a few last aerobatic tricks in his home-built plane as he took off for home to his family, it emerged today.

A pilot plunged to his death after telling friends he would do a few last aerobatic tricks in his home-built plane as he took off for home to his family, it emerged today.

John Keane, Clonlara, Co Clare, was doing his trademark departure stunt from Ardfert Airfield in Co Kerry when witnesses heard a bang and the aircraft disappeared.

The 57-year-old experienced pilot crashed into a hedge-covered wall just moments after having a cup of tea with his flying friends.

The fully licensed and certified aerobat had earlier finished an air stunts display for the Ardfert Festival last month.

He was among a small number of pilots from the Coonagh Airfield in Co Limerick who had flown their planes to the Co Kerry village for the annual show on July 29.

Friends and eyewitnesses told air accident investigators he agreed to do a few tricks in his homebuilt Steen Skybolt biplane as he was leaving for home.

Fellow pilots gathered at around 4.30pm to see him fly upside down along the axis of the Ardfert runway before carrying out his signature move of a ’climbing roll’ off into the sky.

Onlookers heard a bang or a splutter from the engine before the small aircraft went out of view behind a hangar in its final seconds before crashing into a wall in a nearby field.

Witnesses ran to the scene, while a doctor and emergency services were called, but the sole occupant of the plane Mr Keane was dead when they arrived.

The Department of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Unit removed the wreckage to their test facility at Gormanston, Co Meath where their inquiries are ongoing.

Mr Keane, survived by his wife, Ann, and their three children, Paul, Aishling and Suzanne, had recently completed a flight from Naples to Limerick to mark the 60th anniversary of the Limerick Flying Club.

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