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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Crash pilot 'took wrong action'
The crash site
The plane came down near Glasgow Airport
The experienced pilot of a plane in which eight people were killed may have been misled into taking the wrong emergency action, a report has revealed.

Captain John Easson, 49, appeared to react initially to what he believed was a loss of power in the right-hand engine of the Cessna 404 Titan.

But it was the engine on the left side which had suffered failure in the accident near Glasgow Airport, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

The victims
Captain John Easson, 49
Stewardess Pauline MacIver, 31
Stewardess Pauline Moyes, 38
Stewardess Linda Taylor, 29
Stewardess Helen Steven, 28
Stewardess Lynn McCulloch, 23
Pilot Colin Finnie, 32
Pilot Bill Henderson, 54
The plane had just taken off from the runway of the city's airport on 2 September, 1999 and was carrying crew from holiday company Airtours.

Out of the 11 on board, eight died and three, including Captain Hugh O'Brien, 39, Kevan MacKenzie, 32, and steward Derek Morrison survived.

The survivors told the Air Accident Investigation Branch that they heard a bang or a thud shortly after take-off in the Cessna 404 Titan.

They thought this had come from the right-hand side, but the AAIB report added: "It is possible that the bang came from the left engine but sounded as if it came from the right engine".

The AAIB said the right-hand propeller was put into the "feather" position - a manoeuvre in which the blade's pitch is changed to reduce drag.

But this left the propeller of the failed, left, engine unfeathered and so the aircraft was incapable of climbing on one engine alone.

Captain Easson
Captain Easson was among those who died
When Capt Easson, of Bryde, Isle of Man, who was taking the Airtours' crew to Aberdeen, feathered the right-hand engine's propeller there was a total loss of thrust.

He tried to return to Glasgow, but the plane went down in a field, crashing through a hedge and bursting into flames.

Capt Easson had been confronted with "an unenviable emergency at a critical stage of his flight", the investigators said.

The report said: "Time for him to make the correct diagnosis and to take the correct action was short.

"He seems to have reacted initially to a perceived power loss from the right engine and then had to deal with a progressive loss of power from the left engine."

A post-accident inspection "did not reveal any mechanical evidence of a problem with the right engine".

Extreme conditions

Investigators also concluded that if Capt Easson had tried to carry out a forced landing in a field rather than deciding to return to Glasgow Airport, "the outcome might have been different".

The end of the flight might have been "far more survivable for all on board", added the AAIB.

At least two of the survivors also thought something was wrong with the right engine

Jim Ferguson, aviation journalist
However, the report said that, under extreme conditions the captain had "maintained the only option that occurred to him - returning to the airport".

The AAIB added that all of the passenger seats had come loose from the floor of the aircraft.

The passengers that perished in the fire "would have had improved survival prospects if the strengths of their seats had been to the latest airworthiness requirements".

The aircraft was operated by the Edinburgh Air Charter company and was taking staff from Lancashire-based Airtours to Aberdeen to connect with a holiday flight to Majorca.

The plane did not have, nor was required to have, flight recorders.

The AAIB recommended that such aircraft should at least have a cockpit voice recorder and that the Civil Aviation Authority should look at the seats issue.

Jim Ferguson, Aberdeen-based aviation journalist, said: "Two important recommendations have been made, one of which is that seats should be attached to the cabin floor, and the more important one is that a voice cockpit recorder be fitted on planes of this size.

"Currently they are only put in airliners and public transport helicopters. Hopefully someone will keep the pressure up to have this done. They are complex machines but there is not a lot of weight involved.

"We don't know why the wrong engine was shut down, maybe it hiccupped a little after it took off. But at least two of the survivors also thought something was wrong with the right engine."

Aileen Clarke reports
"The report said the pilot should have attempted an emergency landing"
Jim Ferguson, avaition journalist
"We don't know why the wrong engine was shut down, maybe it hiccupped a little after it took off"
See also:

10 Sep 99 | Scotland
Funeral held for air crash pilot
06 Sep 99 | Scotland
Internet tributes to air crash dead
06 Sep 99 | Scotland
Dental records identify crash dead
06 Sep 99 | Scotland
FAA acts over Cessna safety concerns
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