Updated: 28/09/17 : 04:54:41
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Unmanned Sligo bound plane destroyed on ground by crash and fire

An unpiloted airplane crashed and burst into flames before take off for Sligo when its engine was started on a runway in Co Tipperary last July.

Details of the accident, which occurred just metres from a house at Mullinahone Airfield on July 5, were published in an Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report yesterday.

The 54-year-old pilot had intended on flying the single engined plane to Sligo Airport on the day in question.

However, the report notes the throttle was highly set and the unmanned 1958 Coopavia Piel plane had no chocks (blocks at the wheels which act as brakes) when the engine was hand-started by swinging the propellor.

“When the Pilot swung the propeller the engine started and the aircraft commenced moving across the airfield for 70 metres, where it impacted a boundary hedge and overturned,” the report states.

A fire then completely destroyed the airplane, the report further noted.

The pilot, who has 405 hours of flying experience, followed the aircraft on foot, while remaining a safe distance behind.

'Hand swinging'

The AAIU said it was aware of a number of similar incidents which had been investigated in other jurisdictions. “Hand swinging an aircraft propeller is recognised across the aviation industry as a hazardous procedure,” the reports stated.

“Although hand swinging is permitted under the civil aviation regulations, it should only be undertaken when no other alternatives exist to start the aircraft engine and all necessary precautions have been taken to mitigate the hazards,” the report adds.

The pilot, a member of the UK High Aircraft Association, passed on details of the incident to the AAIU. “He also agreed for the report to be circulated for safety awareness purposes in Ireland by the General Aviation Safety Council of Ireland (GASCI),” the report noted.

The AAIU said it “welcomes the assistance provided by the Pilot following this accident and his willingness to have the occurrence highlighted for safety purposes.”

The reports states that generic guidance on hand swinging a propeller has been published by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and various pilot forums.