An investigation into a plane crash in Cork in which six people died has found that Spain’s aviation regulator contributed to the crash through inadequate oversight of the Spanish company which operated the fatal flight.
The final report into Ireland’s worst aviation crash in almost 50 years also found deficiencies on the part of the operating company, Flightline.
The Manx2 flight from Belfast to Cork crashed in dense fog at Cork Airport in February 2011.
The flight’s captain, co-pilot and four passengers died. Six other passengers survived.
A preliminary report and two interim statements from the Department of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Unit told how bad decisions by the crew led directly to the crash.
The report states the crew did not give adequate consideration to the weather conditions in Cork. They breached minimum weather standards during each of three attempts to land the plane and the captain performed a manoeuvre reversing engine thrust which is prohibited in flight.
The report found that both the captain and the co-pilot had insufficient rest before starting duty on the day of the accident, and were likely to have been suffering from tiredness and fatigue at the time of the accident.
The captain of the flight, 31-year-old Jordi Sola Lopez from Barcelona, had only been promoted four days prior to the crash.
His co-pilot, Andrew Cantle, from Sunderland in England, joined the airline only three weeks before the crash.
The report finds their pairing together on the flight was ‘inappropriate’.
The report also examines the relationship between the Spanish company which owned the Metroliner plane, Air Lada, the operator, Flightline, and the ticket seller, Manx2.com.
It describes as inadequate Flightline’s supervision of the service as well as the oversight of Flightline by Spanish aviation regulator AESA. It says both of these were a contributory cause of the crash.
The report says the flight captain was inadequately trained in the command role, and was ill-prepared for the situation he found himself in on the day of the accident.
The co-pilot’s training was not completed; some of Fleetline’s operational responsibilities were being inappropriately exercised by Air Lada and Manx2.com.
In relation to AESA, the report says there was no oversight of Flightline’s service in Ireland and that AESA said it was ‘unaware’ that Flightline was operating in Ireland, in spite of having regulatory responsibility for the company.
The report recommends that AESA reviews its policy regarding oversight of the carriers for which it has regulatory responsibility, particularly those conducting “remote” operations in other countries.
The report addresses four of its 11 safety regulations to the European Commission directorate responsible for commercial air transport. It is believed to be the first time an air accident investigating team has done this.
The report was sent to the six survivors and to the families of those who died over a week ago.
Manx2.com is now in liquidation.
Most of its operations have since been taken over by CityWing.
A statement from Manx2.com reads: ‘We welcome the final report published today by the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Irish Department of Transport (AAIU) which conducted a full and very detailed investigation into the crash in February 2011 of flight NM 7100 from Belfast to Cork, which was operated by Flightline BCN.
‘The devastating impact of the tragic accident at Cork three years ago is not something that the passing of time has diminished and the thoughts and sympathies of all those involved are first and foremost with the families of those who lost their lives and those who were injured.
‘Manx2 ceased trading in December 2012 but the former directors and employees of Manx2 continued to give the AAIB and the AAIU their fullest co-operation throughout the three years of the investigation to ensure that the full facts could be determined and any lessons learned to improve future air safety.
‘Manx2 contracted all the flying to EU airlines licensed and required, as was the operator [Flightline BCN], to operate in compliance with the stringent standards and controls of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), recognised to be among the most stringent in the world, under the oversight of their national aviation safety authorities.
‘Unfortunately, the report is clear that the prime causes of the accident were decisions made by the Flightline crew in adverse weather conditions, compounded by inappropriate crew rostering by the operator and a significant lack of oversight by the Spanish air safety authority.’