Fatal accident involving an Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen (G-ENVV) at Newtownards Airfield, County Down on 19 July 2022
On the evening of 19 July 2022, two pilots were flying circuits around Newtownards Airport. Two pilots were in the aircraft but it was not clear who was at the controls. After approximately 20 minutes of circuits, the pilots then flew a low pass parallel to Runway 03, followed by a steep right turn passing over several people while steeply banked and at 72 ft above the ground. During this turn, the aircraft was seen to descend and hit the ground – both pilots were fatally injured.
The investigation could not determine exactly why the aircraft descended in the turn, but no defects could be found with the aircraft or its engine. There was evidence that the aircraft’s electronic displays lost power before the accident and this could have caused a distraction for the pilots. However, the aircraft was being flown in a manner that exposed the aircraft, the occupants and the people on the ground to a high risk of an accident.
While not contributing to the outcome, the investigation identified several shortcomings in the build process of the aircraft and the registration of its ballistic parachute recovery system. The Light Aircraft Association (LAA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have taken action to address these, with the LAA exploring ways to improve oversight of the build process within the 51% amateur building rules. In addition, during an inspection carried out immediately before the accident, the CAA identified shortcomings in the aerodrome’s safety management system, which the CAA has stated have now been addressed.