A flying instructor was “firmly convinced” that he was going to die when a microlight plane crashed during a training exercise in 2011.
According to a final report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), the Pegasus Quantum microlight started to tumble during a practice stall, causing part of the right wing spar to break.
The aircraft spiralled to the ground, injuring both the instructor and his student, a qualified pilot. Instructor Vincent Vaughan, 48, from Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, suffered a broken leg, while Gerard Murphy, 46, from Ballincollig, Co Cork had more serious injuries. The aircraft was destroyed.
The accident happened near Ballyduggan in Co Tipperary during a “refresher training flight”. Murphy said that, due to the severity of his injuries, he had only a “hazy recollection” of driving to Kilkenny aerodrome that day, but could not remember the accident.
Vaughan said he had gone through a series of exercises when he asked Murphy to put the aircraft into a maximum climb and then to simulate an engine failure by closing the throttle. The microlight then went into a steep dive before pitching rapidly upwards. The control bar moved forwards, breaking through the front strut and causing the aircraft to turn upside down. Due to the “extreme violence and G forces involved”, the instructor could not reach the controls to recover the plane.
“The instructor’s helmet, which was properly strapped and secure, was whipped from his head,” said the AAIU report. “The instructor was firmly convinced that the impending impact would be fatal. To his surprise, both he and the pilot survived the impact”, though they both were trapped in the wreckage.
Vaughan, who was in “unbearable” pain from his injuries, used his mobile phone to contact the emergency services and tried to comfort the pilot, who was unconscious. Gardaí, ambulance and the fire brigade arrived soon afterwards, as did the Coast Guard helicopter. Both men were taken to hospital.
The AAIU report said that the autorotation of the microlight “reduced the rate of vertical descent sufficiently to make the accident survivable”. It made no safety recommendations.