Three die in flying club collision at Luton airport

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AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after three men were killed at Luton airport when their light aircraft crashed into a parked cargo plane during a training exercise.

Two victims were pronounced dead at the scene after emergency crews spent about 30 minutes cutting them out of the wreckage.

A third man was freed and taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital with serious injuries but later died. The men, who all suffered head and chest injuries, were aviation enthusiasts from a Luton-based flying club.

The four-seater Grumman AA5 light aircraft hit a 330 Shorts small cargo plane, which was unmanned and had been parked on a stand at the airport yesterday morning.

Air accident investigators were last night trying to establish whether the sharp crosswinds that plagued the airport all day might have blown the tiny aircraft off course. It is thought the small aircraft had been trying to land or was taxiing, heading west to east, when for some reason it veered more than 100 metres off course.

Firefighters at the airport quickly laid a huge carpet of foam around the two aircraft to prevent any spilt fuel from catching fire. Steve Jones, of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Ambulance Service, said the aircraft that the three men had been flying had appeared "very badly damaged". He said: "There was a lot of metal to cut away. It took quite a long time.

"We arrived at the scene 12 minutes after we were alerted, and two of the victims were declared dead. Paramedics performed resuscitation on the third man, who had life-threatening chest and head injuries, and he was taken to hospital. Sadly he died after he arrived at the hospital."

The mangled wreckage of the Grumman plane was embedded beneath the fuselage of the much larger cargo aircraft, which was parked on an area of the airport called the South Apron when the accident occurred.

Both wings of the Grumman had been sheared off as it apparently struck the side of the cargo plane with enormous force. The only section of the Grumman plane still intact was a small part of the tail end approximately four feet long. The small cockpit was completely exposed to the elements, and sections of the four seats lay in pieces on the ground.

In contrast, the Shorts cargo plane, an old-fashioned twin-engine model, appeared barely damaged, except for a dent in its side.

The crash caused the runway to be closed, disrupting departures and arrivals at the airport for two hours. Around 20 inbound and outbound planes were affected.