Northern Ireland

Search resumes for missing light aircraft bound for Scotland

Five coastguard rescue teams and two rescue helicopters have been involved in the search Image copyright Iain McLean
Image caption Five coastguard rescue teams and two rescue helicopters have been involved in the search

A major search operation for a light aircraft that went missing after leaving City of Derry Airport has resumed.

Two microlights left the airport, in Eglinton, County Londonderry, at about 11:46 BST on Thursday bound for Scotland. One is now missing.

RNLI crew member Paddy McLaughlin said they are "very concerned" for the two people on board.

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Media captionSean McCarry, from the Community Rescue Service, gives Sara Girvin an update on the missing aircraft search

"Weather conditions have been calm but [it was] very cold through the night".

Image caption Paddy McLaughlin said the searches had so far been "very intensive"

He added: "The difficulty we have, because of tides in the area, is that if there are people, wreckage or aircraft the tides will bring them north and south so we have to search a very, very large area."

Ian Guy is involved in the search at the National Maritime Operation Centre.

"We had information from another aircraft that was making the passage with them, so we had a reasonably good picture of where the last contact was. What we don't know is where they went after that," he said.

"The fog, which has hampered, could have been a contributory factor in that."

Fog on Thursday evening eventually hampered the search efforts, at one point the RNLI said visibility was down to about 10 metres.

'No stone left unturned'

Five lifeboats were launched from Larne and Red Bay in Northern Ireland and Portpatrick in Scotland.

They were later joined by coastguard helicopters from Prestwick and the Irish coastguard helicopter from Dublin.

Community Rescue Service are also assisting using thermal imaging technology.

Overnight they searched near Ballycastle and along the coastline toward Portballintrae.

"I have to say no stone has been left unturned all night," Mr McLaughlin added.

"There's been many coastguard teams out along the coast here, we've had mountain rescue out, we've had five lifeboats and two rescue helicopters so it's a very large and intensive search."

A spokesperson from City of Derry Airport confirmed that two Microlight aircraft departed at 11:46 BST on route to Scotland.

It is understood that the second plane arrived safely.

The search off the North Channel was suspended due to fog at about 04:00 BST on Friday, after lasting about eight hours.

The UK Coastguard said teams and rescue units had been waiting for "visibility to improve" before the search was resumed.

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The RNLI have been involved in the search

Ryan Gray of the UK Coastguard said: "UK Coastguard has also issued a Mayday relay broadcast in the area and several merchant shipping vessels have responded and are keeping a lookout for this aircraft.

"We may send further resources as the search widens."

The coastguard said the aircraft was "tracking east towards Castle Kennedy, near Stranraer".

Six coastguard rescue teams and two rescue helicopters were involved in the search.

Police in Northern Ireland and Scotland were also informed.

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