Herne Bay air show pilot praised for avoiding beach spectators
An air show pilot who ditched his plane into the sea in order to steer clear of crowds has been praised.
The light aircraft came down in shallow water off Herne Bay during a display in the town on Sunday.
Onlooker Mike Cox, who waded out to the plane, said the pilot had done "an absolutely perfect job of making a controlled ditch in the water".
A spokesman for the pilot's display team said he had been treated for minor injuries and was now back home.
'Couldn't have done better'
Mr Cox, who had been watching the air show from the beach, said he had been paddling at the water's edge when he first noticed the plane flying close to the sea.
"I started running towards it as it hit the water," he said.
Mr Cox said he arrived at the plane to find the unresponsive pilot "hanging in the harness upside down".
"I think he was very briefly knocked unconscious," he said.
After the man came round, Mr Cox said he was able to unclip himself from the plane before a group of rescuers helped him to shore.
"It was about 20 seconds between the wheels hitting the water, and flipping the plane back up, and about a minute before he was back on shore," Mr Cox said.
The emergency services arrived about 10 minutes later, Mr Cox said.
Praising the pilot, he said: "He could not have done a better job of piloting the plane... and deserves all the credit."
"He chose really shallow water, out of harms of way of spectators," Mr Cox said.
The plane was part of the Turbulent Display Team which had been performing at the town's air show.
In a statement it said the man, who did not wish to be named, had taken the decision to ditch in the sea due to a problem.
Spokeswoman Sam Williams said the pilot, who has flown more than 120 displays over a decade, had made a Mayday call to say he had an engine problem.
"He made a conscious decision to bring the aircraft down following standard procedure.
"Everyone on the team, as well as our colleagues in the air show industry, can't wait to shake his hand to say well done on a calm and collected manner in bringing the aircraft safely down," she said.
Investigations into the cause of the crash are continuing, and the the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been informed.