Inquest jury calls for ‘serious review’ of flight safety measures

An inquest jury has called for a “serious review” of safety measures during private flights, for the position of the emergency locator transmitters (ELTs ) to be clearly shown, and for the Irish Aviation Authority to ensure all light aircraft operating in Irish airspace comply with regulations.

The recommendations were made at the end of a three-day inquest into a plane crash at Connemara Airport in Inverin on July 5 2007, which resulted in the death of the pilot Matt Masterson (59 ) from Terenure, Dublin, and passenger Paul McNamee (57 ), an accountant from Loughrea, as well as seriously injuring seven other passengers.

The ill-fated flight had been organised to demonstrate the capabilities of the Cessna Caravan to potential investors and interested parties associated with a proposed airport in Clifden and had been returning from Inis Meáin before it crashed at Connemara Airport.

After deliberating for nearly an hour the jury found that both Mr Masterson and Mr McNamee had died from fractures to the skull and from deceleration injuries consistant with an air accident. The jury agreed with recommendations included in a report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU ) which called for the location of the emergency locator transmitter to be clearly displayed on the outside of all planes and in the flight manuals.

The Irish Aviation Authority were urged to ensure that all light aircraft operating in Irish air space comply with Irish rules. A “serious review” of safety precautions is also being called for to ensure that pilots carry out a demonstration of all safety features and record passenger names, seating arrangements, and compliance with weight requirements on the load sheet before submitting it to airport personnel prior to departure.

Businessman David Courtney, Director of Lancton Taverns, told the inquest last Friday he had been contacted on the evening of July 4, 2007, by Hennessy Aviation Services Ltd who sought his permission to loan his $1.7 million plane to members of the Clifden Aiport Development Company who “had come into some money” and were interested in purchasing a similar aircraft. He stressed that he had not loaned the plane “for reward” and that the plane was insured to carry passengers as long as consent had been given and that Mr Masterson was the pilot.

Owner of Hennessy Aviation Services Ltd, Michael Hennessy gave evidence that his company did not “organise, control, or operate the flight”. He said that he had been contacted by Clifden hotelier Brian Hughes asking him if Mr Courtney would agree to make his plane available. He said that the businessmen also required someone to make a presentation about the plane and he arranged for freelance maintenance engineer Alan Smith to conduct this in his stead.

“My only involvement was to faciltate contact between Mr Hughes and Mr Courtney,” he said before adding that his company did not receive any reward for services, that there was a valid certificate of airworthiness, and that the pilot was fully licensed.

Under questioning Mr Hennessy confirmed that “the flight was entirely legal and in compliance with insurance for that flight”.

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