A Red Arrows pilot was seen slung out of his plane a moment before it erupted into a “flame bullet” that killed his engineering colleague, an investigation has heard.
Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, an engineer sitting in the back seat of the jet, died in the crash at RAF Valley on Anglesey on March 20, 2018.
An investigation by the Service Inquiry Panel (SIP) showed that the pilot – Lieutenant David Stark, who survived after being thrown from the plane – was almost certainly tired and distracted during the incident.
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On Tuesday, squadron leader Steve Morris told an investigation in Caernarfon that he had instructed a student in a plane on the runway when he saw Hawk T1.
He said: “The angle of the heel was significant, but the biggest thing that caught my attention was the descent speed, especially around the second half of the last turn.”
He described seeing the glimpse of an ejector seat leaving the plane. He said, “The next picture your eye could see is a ball of flames. I will never see the seat again. The flames will be so high that I can never see the parachute.”
He said he had thought the plane had an engine failure.
The SIP investigation found that a training maneuver designed to simulate an engine failure was performed when the plane stopped and crashed because it was flying too low to recover.
The report also said that Flt Lieutenant Stark’s routine did not include “sufficient time for rest,” which was a contributing factor to the crash.
Sir. Morris, who appeared with the Red Arrows for seven seasons, said there was “intense” pressure during a pilot’s first year with the squadron.
He said: “The pressure you feel under, you put yourself under, can certainly be intense, especially in the spring months when you start developing formations.
“It’s a job that you go into wholeheartedly and with 100% commitment, otherwise you just would not be able to keep the pace and the commitment required to take on the role.”
He confirmed that he had instructed flt. Lieutenant Stark before joining the Red Arrows in 2017, and when asked if he was concerned about his abilities as a pilot, he said, “None.”
He said there was no way for the pilot in the front seat of the plane to push the rear seat passenger out.
An autopsy showed that Cpl Bayliss’ cause of death was inhalation of smoke and a low-grade head injury.
The aircraft technician, born in Dartford, Kent, joined the RAF in 2001 and in early 2018 was promoted to the Circus team, a small group of highly trained engineers who travel with the Red Arrows and provide technical support away from its base.
Forensic pathologist Katie Sutherland said the investigation, which is expected to last four days, would look at the pilot’s knowledge, the aircraft’s behavior under certain circumstances, and what recommendations were given after other plane crashes involving the 2011 Red Arrows.
The hearing continues.
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