Plane had been flying low to take photographs before fatal crash in Co Antrim

19/4/2018: 'The scene of light aircraft crash which resulted in the death of two men in Co Antrim. Photo by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
19/4/2018: 'The scene of light aircraft crash which resulted in the death of two men in Co Antrim. Photo by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

A plane which crashed resulting in two fatalities in Co Antrim had been flying at a low level to facilitate aerial photographs, an investigation has found.

Retired commercial pilot Bob Farmbrough, a father-of-four from Carrickfergus, was piloting the two-seater light aircraft which crashed on April 19 last year.

His passenger was Bryan Greenwood from Larne, a father-of-two who ran his own aerial photography business.

Both men died when the Cessna 152, which had been rented from the Ulster Flying Club in Newtownards, came down and caught fire in a wooded area near Ballyhill Lane outside Crumlin.

The report into the accident published this month by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said: “During a manoeuvre at low level the aircraft stalled and descended rapidly, passing through some trees, before striking the ground.

“There was a post-crash fire and neither occupant survived.”

It stated: “The aircraft was flying at low level and low airspeed when, for an undetermined reason, there was a critical reduction in airspeed and a loss of control.

“There is an increased level of risk associated with flying close to the stalling speed without sufficient height to recover from a stall, particularly when focussed on a task such as taking aerial photographs.”

According to the report witnesses on the ground in the area of the accident saw the aircraft circling.

Several reported seeing it flying apparently normally before suddenly “nose-diving” towards the ground.

Two witnesses close to the accident site also reported hearing the engine “spluttering” as the aircraft passed overhead at a low height.

After the aircraft struck the ground these witnesses heard a “popping” noise and then a larger explosion.

There was an intense fire in the cockpit area and bystanders who arrived on the scene were not able to assist the occupants of the aircraft.

At the time of the accident the aircraft had accumulated a total of 3,021 airframe hours and 598 engine hours.

The last check was carried out on March 27, just over 20 days before the accident, and the records showed no significant defects recorded.

Since the accident the flying club has issued instructions to their pilot members to remind them of their responsibility to understand and comply with the privileges of their licences and ratings.