On Wednesday 2 Oct 2017, a Cessna on a training flight lost power in its single engine forcing it to glide to make an emergency landing. The crew consisted of an experienced instructor and a student learning to fly. Instead of ditching the aircraft in the sea, a decision was made to land on a beach. Bear in mind this is the holiday season, and temperatures are in the mid-30s. Accordingly the beach was packed, and as the aircraft engine was silent, there was limited warning for the holidaymakers.
The plane survived nearly intact, and the two pilots were unhurt. However two people on the beach were killed when struck by the Cessna, and a third was injured. Police authorities and medical help were quickly on the scene.
Details are emerging very rapidly as all the major Portuguese media outlets are covering this.
The incident is being investigated by the police authorities as a potential crime, and by the air transport authorities, as an aviation incident.
The first person killed was an 8-year old girl, named as Sofia by her father in an interview for TVI. Her family group was on the beach when the father realised the plane was heading their way. He shepherded most of his family to safety and Sofia was told to run with them. When he turned to check on her, he saw her being struck on the head by the Cessna. She was killed instantly.
Just a few yards further along the beach, a 56-year old man was killed on the spot as the Cessna struck him in his legs. This man has now been identified as José Lima, a sergeant in the air force.
It does not take a genius to work out that the damage to the left wing strut (RHS in the photo) is due to this collision. The authorities were seen inspecting this strut in great detail, and it looks like some kind of sample was taken from the impact area.
The incident took place on the beach of Caparica, which is on the east coast of Portugal, not far south of Lisbon.
Tribunal proceedings have already started in Almada with both pilots in attendance. A representative of the air transport authority told the court of a similar incident that happened nearby in August 2015. This was also in a Cessna, but this time with 3 pilots on board. Or 2 depending on the source. Again the sole engine of the plane failed, forcing the plane to attempt a glide landing, this time trying for a deserted strip of land beside the sea at Cova do Vapor.
Due to a combination of wind direction and tall buildings, the 2015 pilot could not land on the first pass. After turning round, he did not have enough altitude for a second attempt at a landing on the strip of earth, so he chose to ditch the Cessna in the sea.
The aircraft was a write-off. Fishermen rescued the 3 (or 2) pilots from the water. The inquest advised that future flights near water should carry inflatable life-jackets to make ditching a safer option.
The two pilots in the current case have been allowed to walk free from the tribunal, but apparently are facing charges of homicide by negligence.