March 30th, 2006
Plane lands at airbase by mistake info
A passenger jet which was destined for City of Derry Airport has landed at an Army base six miles away by mistake.
The Liverpool to Londonderry service, operated by Eirjet on behalf of Ryanair, landed at Ballykelly airstrip at 1440 BST.
Ryanair said in a statement it was due to an "error by the Eirjet pilot who mistakenly believed he was on a visual approach to City of Derry airport".
The 39 passengers were taken by coach from Ballykelly to the airport.
One of the passengers said everyone was completely surprised when they realised what had happened.
He said: "The pilot apologised and said, 'We may have arrived at the wrong airport'.
"Everyone started laughing and thought it was a joke, then I saw for myself when I looked out and saw Army officers everywhere.
City of Derry Airport
The plane had been destined for City of Derry Airport
"It was just unbelievable, I think the Army officers were shocked themselves (as) they were taking photographs. It was surreal."
Another passenger said they had to wait on the plane while stairs were brought from the airport.
"Unfortunately they didn't let us go down the slide," he added.
In its statement, Ryanair said it had notified the civil aviation authorities in the UK and Ireland of the incident.
"We have also asked Eirjet, the operator of the aircraft to carry out a full investigation into this matter, as in over seven years of Ryanair flights into City of Derry airport, and over 20 years of Ryanair-operated flights, such a mistake has never occurred before," it added.
The aircraft is estimated to be a 200-seater jet. The scheduled return flight to Liverpool was cancelled.
The airstrip at Ballykelly is primarily used by Army helicopters and light aircraft. It was built for huge military planes, making it one of the longest on the island.
It is not yet clear how the plane will be removed from the Army base.
In a statement, Eirjet said it would carry out a full investigation.
"Eirjet wish to stress that passenger safety was not compromised and the incident involved the aircraft landing at a runway which is exactly in line with the main runway at City of Derry Airport," it said.