THE operator of the mail flight that crashed into the Firth of Forth two years ago yesterday claimed it should have been told about a similar previous accident.

Air accident investigators yesterday confirmed that a build-up of snow led to engine failure, causing Loganair's Shorts 360 aircraft to crash minutes after leaving Edinburgh for Belfast. Their report gave details of a similar incident eight years earlier involving the same make of aircraft.

Loganair said it should have been notified through the Civil Aviation Authority and made aware of dangers of snow build-up.

The company, which said the loss of its crew was still deeply felt, added: ''As the report states, unfortunately, at the time of the accident, information about the possibility of such an event was not widely known.''

Captain Carl Mason, 58, the pilot, from Ayr, and 29-year-old Russell Dixon, the first officer, from Oxfordshire, died when the plane ditched in the Forth.

Minutes earlier an emergency message was received from the twin-engined turboprop aircraft saying: ''Mayday, mayday, mayday this is Logan 670 alpha we've had a double engine failure ''

The Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch said during its investigation a report had been received of a previous occurrence on an SD360 aircraft of ''a double engine anomaly as a result of accumulated ice or snow arising from pre-flight conditions''. Indicating that power interruption had occurred on the take-off run, it said the event had not been reported at the time.

''Both crew members and the station engineer concerned were located and spoken to, but the intervening period had resulted in considerable differences of recollection of the precise circumstances,'' it said.

The 90-page report into the Forth crash said a significant amount of snow had entered the unprotected engine air intakes 12ft above the ground while the mail flight was parked for some 17 hours in near freezing conditions on February 27, 2001.

The AAIB recommended the CAA required the manufacturer to advise all operators of the danger of snow accumulation causing engine failures.