England

Red Arrows grounded after pilot Jon Egging killed

  • 21 August 2011
  • From the section England

The RAF's Red Arrows display team has been grounded while investigators try to establish the cause of a crash in Dorset which killed one of its pilots.

Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, from Rutland, died when his Hawk T1 aircraft crashed near Bournemouth Airport after a display on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses described seeing his plane hit the ground in a field by the River Stour near the village of Throop.

Organisers of the Bournemouth Air Festival are planning a tribute later.

A spokesman said there would be a one minute's silence ahead of Sunday's air displays and a special tribute to Flt Lt Egging at 13:00 BST.

Books of condolence have also been opened in Bournemouth for public tributes.

Dorset Police said Flt Lt Egging, known as 'Eggman', was thrown from the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging
Flt Lt Egging flew on the right hand outside of the Diamond Nine formation

Shortly before the crash, his wife, Dr Emma Egging, had watched him take part in a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival.

She said later: "Watching him today, I was the proudest I've ever been. I loved everything about him, and he will be missed."

Gp Capt Simon Blake, the commandant of the RAF Central Flying School, said the Ministry of Defence had begun an investigation into the cause of the crash and all Red Arrows Hawk T1 aircraft had been grounded as a standard safety measure.

He said: "At this juncture it is too early to speculate as to the cause of the accident.

"In accordance with normal policy the Ministry of Defence has appointed a service inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and... have grounded the Hawk T1 temporarily until its safety can be assured.

"As for the rest of the season it is too early to speculate as to when the Red Arrows will be back on the public circuit but suffice to say for the short term they will not be able to perform in public."

The Red Arrows are based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, and the rest of the Hawk T1 fleet is based at RAF Valley in Anglesey. The entire Hawk T1 fleet, which stands at more than 170 aircraft, has been grounded.

'Heard a crack'

The crash site was cordoned off by police soon after the incident and only people living inside the zone were being allowed access.

The Military Air Accident Investigation Branch has started an inquiry.

Flt Lt Egging's aircraft was one of nine Red Arrows planes to take part in the display over the seafront.

The wreckage of the Red Arrow
The plane plunged into a field near the River Stour

The RAF said Flt Lt Egging, who grew up in Southam, Warwickshire, joined the team in the autumn of 2010 and flew on the right hand outside of the famous Diamond Nine formation.

Nicholas Gore, 22, was walking with a friend close to the river when he saw all nine Red Arrows overhead.

"There were quite a few people watching and we saw them go over but one seemed quite low," he said.

"They then disappeared behind trees and I heard a crack, not an explosion, just a crack and we got further down and I saw the plane with its red tail in the air and its nose in the river."

Another witness, who did not want to be named, said the plane had skidded for several hundred metres along the riverbank after it crashed.

Books of condolence

Bournemouth Borough Council leader, Peter Charon, said he had arranged for the authority to open two books of condolence on Sunday "for people to express their sympathy and record memories".

Mr Charon and the mayor of Bournemouth, councillor Chris Rochester, opened the books at the Town Hall at 10:00 BST and people can sign them up until 20:00. They will also be available for signing throughout the week.

The council said it would hand the books to Flt Lt Egging's family, along with any donations given by members of the public for the family's chosen charity.

In a statement, the borough council asked anyone wishing to leave floral tributes to place them on the grass banks around the Town Hall.

Bournemouth Air Festival organisers said the event would go ahead on Sunday, with other RAF displays among the attractions.

All nine Red Arrows display pilots are fast jet pilots from frontline Royal Air Force squadrons.

Flt Lt Egging joined the RAF in 2000 and served with IV(AC) Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore, flying the Harrier GR9 in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Red Arrows have used the dual control BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft since 1979.

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