Highlands & Islands

Tornado jet crew eject before aircraft crashes

An RAF Tornado jet has crashed into the sea off the west coast of Scotland after reports of a fire on board.

The two crew members from RAF Lossiemouth are believed to have ejected from the jet before it went into the sea north west of Gairloch.

Coastguard and lifeboat teams said they were alerted at about 1445 GMT.

The crew were airlifted by a Stornoway Coastguard helicopter and were taken to hospital in Inverness. They are not thought to be seriously injured.

The helicopter's pilot Iain Campbell described the rescue as a textbook recovery in perfect conditions.

He said the crew told him that they were forced to ditch after the plane caught fire at 6,000 feet.

The jet's pilot had attempted to reach Stornoway Airport on Lewis, in the Western Isles, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has confirmed.

A full emergency was declared at the airport but was later stood down.

Stornoway Coastguard said its helicopter located the two crew and their life rafts. It flew the pilot and navigator to hospital, reaching Inverness at about 1545 GMT.

Image caption A Coastguard helicopter airlifted the crew from the water

Witnesses said a second Tornado circled the crash scene moments after the jet went down.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency tug, Anglian Earl, also went to the site of the crash, as did the Royal Navy minehunter, HMS Blyth.

It is understood to be carrying out sonar scans to try and locate the remains of the aircraft which are now on the seabed.

The crews of the Stornoway and Portree lifeboats earlier recovered some small pieces of wreckage from the sea.

RAF Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth coast is home to three squadrons of Tornado GR4s.

Tornado crews usually train in pairs over the Highlands and the Minch, the area of sea where the jet came down.

The crash happened during a visit to the station by Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey.

The incident has come amid political and local campaigns calling for the future of Stornoway coastguard station and coastguard tugs to be saved from cuts.

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