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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 16:16 GMT
Pilot describes Cessna crash
The crash site
The plane came down near Glasgow Airport
An airline pilot has told a fatal accident inquiry of the moment he realised the aircraft he was travelling in was going to crash.

Captain Hugh O'Brien was one of three surviving passengers on board a Cessna 404 which crashed near Paisley in 1999 killing eight people.

He told the inquiry at Paisley Sheriff Court that there was nothing unusual when the plane, bound for Aberdeen from Glasgow, started up.

A pilot with more than 15 years experience, he was one of nine Airtours staff who were passengers on board.


After the bang the plane continued to rise but as it banked to the right the left wing got higher. It felt wrong and unsafe

Kevan MacKenzie
Survivor

He told the inquiry that as the plane reached about 700 feet he heard something abnormal like a dull thud, coming from the right engine.

He said he looked out and saw the pilot look out, but that the engine appeared to be operating normally.

Capt O'Brien then said one of the engine gauges in the cockpit caught his attention because it was not in the correct position.

The inquiry heard him describe remembering the plane turning and looking at the hills west of the nearby town of Dumbarton.

He said he felt at this point that the aircraft was sinking, consistent with the plane stalling, but that he could not recall the moment of impact when the plane crashed into a field.

'Wrong and unsafe'

Capt O'Brien was helped from the wreckage by a farm worker.

He was seriously injured in the crash and has only recently returned to work.

Fellow survivors Derek Morrison, 25, of Renfrew, and Kevan MacKenzie, 34, of Glasgow, said they also heard a bang on the right side of the aircraft.

Mr MacKenzie, who entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, said he watched the right propeller slow down and began to feel "unsafe" at that moment.

Captain Easson
The pilot, Captain John Easson, was among the dead

"After the bang the plane continued to rise but as it banked to the right the left wing got higher. It felt wrong and unsafe."

The flight steward said he had been on the Cessna 404 a number of times previously but said "something didn't feel right" on the day of the crash.

Survivor Mr Morrison said it was not unusual to hear noises when travelling on the Cessna, but he also became concerned after the bang.

He said: "Everything was normal before that noise and I can't really recall what happened afterwards. I have very little recollection of the crash."

Mr Morisson said he had been interviewed several times by police and investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Branch while recovering in the spinal unit of Glasgow's Southern General hospital.

The flight steward, who has since returned to work for Airtours, said he spent a year recovering from his injuries.

'Ball of flames'

The inquiry also heard evidence from tractor driver John Connell who was working in a field at Middleton Farm in Linwood when he saw the Cessna fall from the sky.

The 24-year-old had been eating lunch in the fields when he heard and saw the plane get into difficulty.

He said he saw the Cessna explode and he rang a friend to ask him to contact the emergency services.

Mr Connell then ran to his tractor and raced to the scene of the crash to see if he could help.

He told the inquiry: "I saw an explosion, a big ball of flames and smoke. That's when I ran to my tractor to get to the plane."

The inquiry continues.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Scotland
Officer recalls plane crash scene
31 Jul 01 | Scotland
Crash pilot 'took wrong action'
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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