Northern Ireland

Ards plane crash: 'Pilot crash landed to avoid children'

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Media captionThe aircraft crash landed on a playing field in Newtownards

A quick thinking pilot made a deliberate decision to crash land his light plane away from open fields in County Down where children were playing.

"He could easily have landed that aircraft undamaged but he avoided all the children," said John Hughes, chairman of the Ulster Flying Club.

The plane made an emergency landing into trees at Dairy Hall playing fields, Newtownards, on Thursday at about 17:00 BST.

The pilot - Michael McGrady who is the chief flying instructor for the Ulster Flying Club - and his passenger were not seriously injured.

They were able to walk away from the plane. They were taken to hospital where the pilot was reportedly treated for shock and his passenger suffered a sprained wrist.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun an investigation.

Mr Hughes said the plane's engine cut out on the approach to the club landing strip.

Image caption John Hughes paid tribute to the pilot's skills

"The pilot was our chief flying instructor and he is also a commercial pilot. This was about the skills of the man. If you saw the short length of field he put that aircraft down in, you would appreciate the skills he demonstrated yesterday afternoon," he told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster.

"Without the gentleman's ability, we could have been in a spot of bother.

"It was about the skill of the pilot and the strength of the aircraft. Some would call it luck but you make your own luck. Fortunately, our chief flying instructor was flying the aircraft and that is the level of skill that we had," he said.

The aircraft was dismantled on Thursday evening and its wreckage will be examined by certified engineers later on Friday.

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