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Father pays emotional tribute to Red Arrows pilot

The father of a Red Arrows pilot killed after he ejected from his aircraft while on the ground has paid an emotional tribute to him as an inquest into his death drew to a close.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed after he was ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton and propelled 220ft in the air in November 2011.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died in November 2011. Credit: PA Wire

Speaking after the narrative verdict was delivered, Jim Cunningham said: "Our son Sean died aged 35 doing what he loved, which was flying with the Red Arrows.

"From the age of 17, he had wanted nothing more than to join the Royal Air Force and serve his country, which he did with utmost pride and sense of duty. He served a number of tours in Iraq flying Tornados in close air support of coalition forces.

"Sean's death was a tragedy which we hope the evidence revealed in this inquest will help to avoid in the future. We welcome the conclusions of the coroner, which confirm what we knew all along, which is that Sean was blameless and his tragic death was preventable.

Read: Red Arrows pilot's seat was 'entirely useless'

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Ejector seat handle left in unsafe position

The inquest heard that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position, meaning it could accidentally activate the seat.

Mr Fisher described a safety pin that goes through the firing handle as "entirely useless" and said its presence was "likely to mislead".

The inquest heard that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position. Credit: PA Wire

There were 19 checks carried out on the Hawk T1 between the final flight on November 4 and the incident.

The coroner said there was a repeated failure not to notice that the pin had been incorrectly housed and that the seat firing handle was in an unsafe position.

However, he said tests had showed that the pin could be inserted into the MK 10 seat even when it was in an unsafe position, giving the impression to RAF personnel that the seat was safe.

The coroner also said that Martin Baker was aware of issues with the over-tightening of crucial nuts and bolts in the mechanism of the seat which would cause the main parachute not to deploy properly.

However despite being aware of these issues since 1990, Martin Baker failed to pass on the warnings to the Ministry of Defence, the coroner said.

Mr Fisher said that, on the day of the incident, a shackle jammed and stopped the main parachute from opening and Flt Lt Cunningham being separated from the seat.

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Coroner: Red Arrows pilot's seat was 'entirely useless'

The coroner investigating the death of a Red Arrows pilot has branded part of the ejection seat on Sean Cunningham's plane as "entirely useless".

Sean Cunningham

Cunningham was 35-years-old when he died in November 2011 from multiple injuries when he was catapulted nearly 300 feet into the air from his Hawk T1 aircraft, and then fell to the ground still strapped to his ejector seat.

Coroner Stuart Fisher said seven RAF personnel had 19 opportunities to check the ejection seat firing handle, but did not notice it was in the unsafe position.

He said "repeated failure to notice this" could only be due to the checks "not being done at all or not done sufficiently carefully by each individual".

Belated funeral lined up for WW2 bomber crewman

An airman whose bomber crashed into a swamp in Nazi Germany may finally receive a proper funeral, more than 70 years after his death.

Halifax bombers on a bombing raid during World War 2
Halifax bombers on a bombing raid during World War 2 Credit: Topham/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

Sergeant Roland Hill, 32, was a flight engineer on a Halifax bomber which was brought down over Germany in August 1943.

The airman, of 158 Squadron, died in the crash along with the rest of the seven-man crew. His body may now finally be removed from the murky waters north of Berlin allowing his funeral to take place.

An RAF Halifax bomber pictured during an attack on an oil plant in Germany's Ruhr
An RAF Halifax bomber pictured during an attack on an oil plant in Germany's Ruhr Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The crash site was discovered in 2002 but German archaeologists have only just been given permission from authorities to excavate the site.

Until now, the only memorial to Sgt Hill has been an inscription of his name on the RAF's Runnymede Memorial in Surrey.

Royal Navy's new HMS Duncan destroyer enters service

The last of the Royal Navy's six new powerful air defence destroyers has entered service four months ahead of schedule.

HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, has now joined the fleet alongside its sister ships and will now embark on a programme of trials to prepare the ship and crew for operational deployment.

HMS Duncan is a Type 45 destroyer Credit: Stu Hill/MOD/PA Wire

The 7,500-tonne vessel is armed with the Sea Viper missile defence system which can target threats up to 70 miles away.

The onboard power plant on a Type 45 can supply enough electricity to light a town of 80,000 people.

Type 45s are 499ft (152m) in length, longer than 16 double-decker buses, and they are as tall as an electricity pylon. Credit: Stu Hill/MOD/PA Wire

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RAF plane drama in South Sudan evacuation

Details have emerged of dramatic scenes surrounding the evacuation of Britons from South Sudan in which an RAF plane was forced to perform a "daring, precision landing".

An RAF C17 Globemaster transport plane, which had completed a nine-hour, 3,500-mile journey from Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire, arrived yesterday to find the runway at Juba airport blocked by a stricken Sudanese jet.

Locals and foreign nationals gather at Juba International Airport waiting for flights leaving the country. Credit: Reuters

Briton Dave Stanley, who was waiting for evacuation, said the nose undercarriage of the Boeing 737 appeared to have collapsed with the sound of an explosion as it landed shortly before the RAF aircraft's arrival.

UK nationals, who had gathered at the airport after days of escalating gunfire in the South Sudanese capital, saw the plane which was supposed to take them to safety circling above them, and were told at one point that it would have to call its mission off and return the following day.

But Mr Stanley explained a crane was found at the last minute, which was used to tow the stranded jet off the runway.

Wing Commander Stuart Lindsell, said:"We practise short landings in training but getting down on a runway with a crashed aircraft taking up a large part of it would really concentrate the mind and is way outside what we would normally expect.

"I think it's fair to say that this C17 captain and his crew have had one of the toughest days anyone on this squadron has had since we were stood up 12 years ago."

RAF crew in Philippines 'the envy of the squadron'

The pilot who flew the RAF C-17 cargo plane from where it was refuelled in Singapore to the Philippines said the crew were "the envy of the squadron" being selected to bring the first aircraft in.

RAF ground crew unload emergency supplies of JCB diggers and Land Rovers from a C-17 transporter plane at Cebu airport in the Philippines
RAF ground crew unload emergency supplies of JCB diggers and Land Rovers from a C-17 transporter plane at Cebu airport in the Philippines. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Squadron Leader David Blakemore said, "Hopefully there will be a few more missions and we'll be able to support the Philippine people over the coming weeks with the aid effort".

A pilot during the approach of the C-17 transporter plane carrying aid into Cebu airport in the Philippines.
A pilot during the approach of the C-17 transporter plane carrying aid into Cebu airport in the Philippines. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

"The RAF and MoD [Ministry of Defence] are extremely proud to be taking part in the aid effort", he continued.

The RAF C-17 plane two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck.
The RAF C-17 plane two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

"The rapid response capability that the C-17 brings is the heavy lift. This is really our bread and butter to be able to help out a nation in need".

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RAF Chinook rescues stranded Sea King

The Chinook transferred the Sea King to a waiting low loader.
The Chinook transferred the Sea King to a waiting low loader. Credit: MoD

A Chinook helicopter stepped in to rescue a stranded Sea King after crew identified a potential defect and landed the aircraft in Glen Coe during a training exercise.

Because of the remote location the crew were forced to down the aircraft a Chinook was dispatched to lift the stranded helicopter on to a low loader just over a mile away which transported it on for repairs.

The Chinook transferred the Sea King to a waiting low loader.
The Chinook transferred the Sea King to a waiting low loader. Credit: MoD

The Ministry of Defence said the incident had a "happy ending resulting from rapid professional and extensive inter-service co-operation between the RN, the RAF and supporting civilian engineering contractors."

Passenger's emergency landing caught on camera

Footage of the moment a passenger was forced to land a light aircraft after his pilot fell ill has been released.

John Wildey, who had never flown a plane before, successfully landed the aircraft at Humberside airport on his fourth attempt after being guided through the process by a flight instructor on the ground.

The moment was captured by a camera mounted on an RAF helicopter.

Read: Passenger was 'terrified' as he landed plane

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