Stunt pilot plummeted to ground at Silverstone display

Image caption, Vicki Cruse was performing in front of judges on a training day when the crash happened

An aerobatic pilot who was killed when her light aircraft plummeted 2,300ft to the ground, was conscious at the time of impact, an inquest has heard.

American Vicki Cruse, 41, died at the World Aerobatic Championships at the Silverstone racing circuit.

Jurors at the inquest at High Wycombe Magistrates' Court were shown footage of the crash in August 2009.

Miss Cruse, 41, died on impact from multiple injuries when her single-seater plane nosedived and crashed.

Plunged to ground

Miss Cruse, a former US aerobatic champion, was competing with 61 pilots from around the world at the event in Northamptonshire.

Buckinghamshire coroner Richard Hulett told the jury that Miss Cruse, from Santa Paula, California, had been a member of the US team attending the event.

The 11 jurors were shown footage of Miss Cruse's scheduled 10-minute flight, which took place just before 1200 BST on day two of the contest on 22 August.

Images showed the Zivko Edge 540 start to perform the required series of nine manoeuvres, including quick turns, spins and dives.

The aircraft was seen failing to recover from a downward snap roll, the fifth manoeuvre in the sequence, and plunge to the ground.

'Hugely competent flyer'

Wing Cdr Graeme Maidment, head of the aviation pathology department at the RAF's Centre of Aviation Medicine, told the inquest that Miss Cruse suffered severe multiple injuries.

He noted two lacerations to her left hand which he said suggested that she was grasping something on impact.

He said: "I do not believe that she was unconscious at the time the aircraft hit the ground and was grasping something with the hand."

Miss Cruse's US team engineer Leonard Rulason recalled she experienced some problems starting the plane on 19 August and ignition checks were carried out before it was transferred to the Silverstone hangar.

He said Miss Cruse was "a hugely competent flyer".

The inquest continues.

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