An investigation into a fatal plane crash which claimed the lives of a seven-year-old boy and a male pilot almost two years ago, found that a loss of control in a steeply banked turn lead to a rapid loss of altitude, and inevitably their deaths.
The Air Accident Investigation Report (AAIU) has issued four safety recommendations as a result of its lengthy probe.
The Cessna 208B aircraft took off from Runway 27 at Clonbullogue Airfield, Co Offaly at approximately 1.14pm on May 13, 2018.
On board were British pilot Niall Bowditch, who was in his 40s and from the UK, and his passenger Kacper Kacprzak, who were seated in the cockpit, and 16 skydivers, who occupied the main cabin.
The skydivers jumped from the aircraft, as planned, when the aircraft was overhead the airfield at an altitude of approximately 13,000 feet.
When the aircraft was returning to the airfield, the pilot advised by radio that he was on ‘left base’, the flight leg which precedes the approach leg and which is normally approximately perpendicular to the extended centreline of the runway.
No further radio transmissions were received. A short while later, it was established that the aircraft had impacted nose-down into a forested peat bog at Ballaghassan, Co Offaly, approximately 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometres) to the north-west of the airfield.
The report findings showed that the aircraft was destroyed. There was no fire. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured and died at the scene.
The contributory causes of the fatal crash involved the steeply banked nature of the turn being performed by the plane, the propeller torque reaction following a rapid and large increase in engine torque, the aircraft’s speed while manoeuvring during the steeply banked turn and insufficient height above ground to effect a successful recovery.
The probe also found that the aircraft, engine, and propeller were operating normally prior to the accident, it contained a significant quantity of fuel at impact. The aircraft was owned by a UK-based parachute-aircraft leasing company and was being operated by a Club based in Ireland. The aircraft and Pilot first arrived at the Club on 21 April 2018.
During the final 3.5 seconds of the accident sequence, the aircraft descended in a near- vertical nose-down attitude. The height of the aircraft above ground at this stage was insufficient to effect a recovery.
Video evidence indicated that the aircraft was being operated on the day before the accident with the amber left fuel low caution light and the red fuel select warning light illuminated.
The operations manual of the Parachute Club based in Ireland did not contain any procedures regarding the carriage of passengers. The aircraft owner did not have a policy regarding the carriage of passengers in aircraft that it leased out.
The report recommendations include that the Irish Parachute Club should revise its operations manual to include specific procedures regarding the leasing of aircraft for operations at the Club and the use of pilots associated with such aircraft operations.
Parachuting Caravan Leasing Pty Ltd should revise its aircraft leasing arrangements to specifically prohibit the carriage of persons other than those indispensable to the mission on aircraft
it owns being used for parachute/skydiving operations, unless such carriage is permitted by the state of operation.
The IAA should revise its Operations Advisory Memorandums regarding parachute operations to highlight that the carriage of persons other than those indispensable to the mission on aircraft being used for such operations is prohibited.
Postmortems were carried out on Mr Bowditch's remains and those of Kacper Kacprzak at the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore.
The boy’s father, who is from Poland but living in Dublin, was a regular parachutist with the club and had jumped from the plane on the same day.
The aircraft had carried out five flights from the airfield on the day of the fatal crash and the boy’s father had participated in an earlier jump.
It took the emergency services several hours to recover the bodies of the boy and the pilot from the plane.