The loss of an Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-9 trainer on 12 October appears to have resulted from a controlled flight into terrain event, according to a preliminary accident report.
Both crew members of the turboprop trainer died when it crashed into a hillside during a navigation exercise flown between the air corps' main base at Casement aerodrome in Baldonnel, near Dublin, and Galway airport.
In its preliminary report published on 17 November, the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) says the PC-9 was flying along a valley enclosed on three sides and in worsening weather conditions under visual flight rules when the crash happened.
"Witnesses in the valley reported seeing the aircraft travelling east down the valley, making a steep turn to the north and then climbing," the report says. "They also reported rapidly changing cloud height and visibility."
The aircraft hit the ground at a height of about 800ft (245m), striking the lower crest of a hillside reaching up to around 1,500ft. "The debris trail was distributed along a 300ft down slope, and was characteristic of a high-speed impact," the report says. The trainer's ejection seats were armed but not activated, and its student pilot and instructor were both killed instantly.
The investigation has so far found no technical defects were affecting the Swiss-built aircraft, which had entered service in 2004, and concluded that its crew "were attempting to navigate to their next planned reporting point". Data from the trainer's cockpit voice and flight data recorder is being examined by the AAIU, which says it will publish its final report "in due course".
© Irish Air Corps
Aircraft 265 was one of eight PC-9s delivered to the Irish Air Corps in 2004. The type replaced the service's previous fleet of Fouga Magister jet trainers.