A French board of inquiry has failed to find any obvious cause for the dramatic Luqa plunge which killed all five people on board in October 2016.
The CAE Aviation plane was on maritime surveillance on behalf of the French government and took off normally at 7.19am but then pulled sharply right just seconds after it started its ascent, and then veered left as it descended, crashing some 130 metres from the runway just 10 seconds after take-off.
Debris was scattered around 30m from the main carcass, with hardly anything left of the fuselage.
Three fire engines were on the scene less than three minutes later, and the fire was put out within 45 seconds, the report said.
Even though there was no accident recorder – black box – on board, the accident was captured on the airport’s video surveillance cameras.
The inquiry team carried out its investigations on the aircraft remains in a hangar in Mosta one week after the accident.
The Merlin IV C SA227 plane was being flown by a 30-year-old CAE Aviation employee who got his licence in 2014. The weather was fine, with just 11 knots of wind, the report says, and 7km visibility. At least one of the propellers was working normally at the point of impact.
The board ruled out any problem with the pilot’s seat, but noted that his field of vision would have been restricted as the plane rose sharply. Some of the 48 alarm lights were also missing. The stall avoidance system showed a fault but none of the instrument alarms would explain the accident.
There was no turbulence of any sort, or any sign of birds or objects that may have hit the aircraft. The only factor that could have contributed to the accident was that the pilot may have been blinded by the rising sun, but the board said that this would not on its own have caused the accident.
Further investigations are still underway on the documents retrieved from on board, and at possible mechanical failure and human error that may have been involved.
The report makes it clear that the subject of the inquiry was to establish the causes of the accident and to formulate any safety recommendations, and not to identify blame.
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