A HOUSEMAID on the Balmoral estate told a fatal accident inquiry

yesterday how she heard a loud bang shortly before a light aircraft is

known to have crashed into Loch Muick, about six miles away.

Mrs Ruth Thomson, 57, told Stonehaven Sheriff Court she had been

working at the Queen Mother's residence at Birkhall on April 3 last year

when she heard the noise of an aircraft passing in front of the house.

''There was a loud bang and then lots of a grinding noise after

that,'' said Mrs Thomson.

Immediately after the bang, she looked outside but did not see the

aircraft. Just then a snowstorm began in the direction of the loch and

lasted about ten minutes.

She was giving evidence at the inquiry into the deaths of Mr Kenneth

Ramsay, 21, a geology technician, of Great Western Road, Aberdeen, and

Mr Mark Ives, 34, New Croft, Hill of Ord, Aberchirder.

Mr Ramsay, a trainee pilot and Mr Ives, chief flying instructor with

Aberdeen Flying Club, were in a Grob 115 aircraft when it crashed into

the loch near Ballater.

It was more than three weeks before the aircraft was found and the

bodies recovered. They were still strapped in.

Mr John Brodie, 76, of Royal Warrant Cottages, Ballater, said he

looked out of the window of his house between 11.30 and noon after

hearing the noise of an aircraft. It was heading up the glen towards

Loch Muick and it was not very high.

Mr Brodie said the engine did not sound quite right to him. He heard

''a bit of a crackling noise'' coming from it, but then it improved.

The aircraft was flying towards a snowstorm coming down from the

direction of the loch.

Mr Brian Crookshanks, fiscal, suggested to Mr George Lawrence, 23, now

a part-time instructor at the Aberdeen club, that if the aircraft had

flown down Loch Muick to avoid a shower it would, to some extent, have

been flying down a blind alley towards a sheer wall and that it would

have been more reasonable to turn back to Aboyne and then Aberdeen. Mr

Lawrence said this was possible.

Mr David Bell, 47, a computing adviser with Aberdeen University, said

he and his wife were walking round the loch about noon when he saw

something floating in the water. He retrieved the object, a piece of

white glass fibre about 3ft long and 9in wide, and put it down at the

side of the loch.

On their way back to the car park he twice saw a helicopter but it was

not until the following day when he read about the missing aircraft that

he realised there might be some connection between the helicopter and

what he had found.

Constable John Tulloch, of the Grampian police underwater search unit,

said the aircraft eventually had been found after using sophisticated

sonar devices in about 50ft of water.

When he and a colleague went down they found both pilots still

strapped in their seats. The aircraft was lying at an angle of 45

degrees and the engine and cockpit were twisted back under the fuselage.

Mr John Ramsay, 54, a plumber, said his son, Kenneth, had qualified as

a gliding instructor and it was his ambition to obtain his private

pilot's licence and go on to a career in flying.

''Flying was something he loved doing but he was well aware of the

risks involved,'' said Mr Ramsay.

Mrs Kirsty Ives, 25, the mother of two children, one of whom was born

after the death of her husband, said they had first met when he was the

part owner of a nightclub in Margate.

When it got into financial trouble they moved to Scotland and her

husband became a flying instructor with the Aberdeen club. Two months

before the crash he became the chief instructor.

The inquiry continues.