World

Red Arrow jet pilot dies in U.K. crash

A pilot with the British military's Red Arrows aerobatics display team has died after his jet crashed Saturday while taking part in an air show in southern England, the U.K. Ministry of Defence confirms.
Britain's Red Arrows are famous for their highly specialized aerobatic manoeuvres. Image Photo Services/Associated Press

A pilot with the British military's Red Arrows aerobatics display team has died after his jet crashed Saturday while taking part in an air show in southern England, the U.K. Ministry of Defence confirms.

Flight Lt. Jon Egging, 33, is believed to have tried to eject after driving the jet towards a field. Egging, the son of an airline pilot, is the first Red Arrows pilot to die in a crash in 33 years.

Lt. Jon Egging is the first Red Arrows pilot to die in a crash in 33 years. (PA/Associated Press)

"He was a gifted aviator who was selected for one of the most demanding flying jobs in the [Royal Air Force]," said British Defence Secretary, Dr. Liam Fox, in a statement late on Saturday.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Emma and his family and friends at this terrible time."

The U.K. Ministry of Defence said it is investigating the crash.

The BBC and Sky News said the Royal Air Force jet came down near Bournemouth, where an air show is being held Saturday.

Witnesses said nine planes took off from Bournemouth Airport to perform a display, but only eight landed.

Shaun Spencer-Perkins told BBC News he saw the plane rushing by at about 15 metres above ground, smashing just 100 metres from where he was standing.

"I didn't see any flames, just debris flying into the air," said Spencer-Perkins." I looked in the sky to see if there was an ejector seat or parachute and there was nothing."

'We followed the debris'

He said he ran into the direction of the crash and could see debris over a 100-metre spread.

"Two guys jumped into water to look for the pilot," he said. "We followed the debris." 

Canadian Incidents

  • March 1, 2011: A Snowbird pilot was forced to land the plane on its belly at the team's base in Moose Jaw, Sask., after the jet's landing gear failed to deploy properly. The pilot walks away.
  • July 23, 2010: Canadian Forces pilot Capt. Brian Bews ejected from a fighter jet just moments before it crashed and exploded at the Alberta International Airshow. Bews spent six months recovering from back injuries before he could return to the cockpit. 
  • Oct. 9, 2008: A Snowbird jet carrying pilot Capt. Bryan Mitchell and photographer Sgt. Charles Senecal crashed in a farmer's field in southwest Saskatchewan. Both men were killed.
  • May 18, 2007: Capt. Shawn McCaughey of Quebec was killed when his CT-114 Tutor jet crashed while he practiced for an air show at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in northern Montana.
  • Dec. 10, 2004: Two Snowbirds jets crashed in mid-air during a practice near Mossbank, Sask. One pilot, Capt. Miles Selby, 31, was killed, and the other, Capt. Chuck Mallett, sustained minor injuries.

But Spencer-Perkins said he didn't find anything.

The Bournemouth Air Festival said events were continuing as scheduled.

The Red Arrows are famous for their highly specialized aerobatic manoeuvres, multicolored vapour trails, dramatic flypasts and trademark diamond formation.

Formed in 1965, the Arrows have flown more than 4,000 displays in 53 countries. Their red single-engine jet trainers are a familiar sight at air shows and military events.

The nine-pilot stunt team last had an accident in March 2010, when two jets crashed in training in Crete. Neither pilot was seriously injured in that incident. 

Meanwhile, in the U.S., two small planes performing aerobatic maneuvers over a southern New Jersey airport have collided in mid-air, killing one of the pilots.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said the two general aviation planes hit each other over Hammonton Municipal Airport shortly after 1 p.m. local time Saturday.

Salac said one pilot was killed but the other pilot was able to safely eject from the plane. There were no passengers in the planes. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. No other details were given.

Canadian accidents

Canada's aerobatic flying team has also had its share of bad accidents. Most recently, in March, one of the Snowbird's jets was forced to do a belly landing after its landing gear failed. Both team members walked away from the rough landing with no injuries.

In October 2008, A Snowbird jet carrying pilot Capt. Bryan Mitchell and the photographer Sgt. Charles Senecal crashed, killing the two men, in a farmer's field near Moose Jaw, Sask. A year earlier, Capt. Shawn McCaughey of Quebec was killed when his jet crashed while he was practicing for an air show at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in northern Montana.

One of the worst accidents occurred in 2004 when two Snowbirds jets crashed in mid-air during a practice near Mossbank, Sask. One pilot, Capt. Miles Selby, 31, was killed, and the other, Capt. Chuck Mallett, survived.

Just last year, Canadian Forces pilot Capt. Brian Bews ejected from a fighter jet just moments before it crashed at the Alberta International Airshow in Lethbridge and exploded. Images of the spectacular crash were beamed around the world.

"I was fortunate that the winds were fairly strong. It pulled the parachute away from the ring of fire," said Bews in his first news conference after the accident.

The pilot spent six months recovering from back injuries before he could return to the cockpit and he says he no longer has any back or muscle pain.