Poignant pictures of doomed Red Arrow at Norwich airport
PUBLISHED: 00:53 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 00:53 22 August 2011
A Norwich man who was given a tour of a Red Arrows plane after it had landed at Norwich airport just days ago, has spoken of his shock after discovering it was the aircraft that crashed at Bournemouth yesterday, killing its pilot.
Ft Lt Jon Egging died when his plane came down near Bournemouth airport shortly after a perfomance at the town’s air festival.
The Red Arrows used Norwich airport as their base during the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival earlier this month and Steve Maddams, 28, was honoured to be given a close-up look at the planes.
Mr Maddams, of north Norwich, who works in the advertising department of Archant, said: “My wife, young son and I were lucky enough to be introduced to the Red Arrows and their team at Norwich Airport last Thursday night. By a cruel coincidence it was Red 4 we were shown up close and were allowed to take pictures of, even the helmet and cockpit. It seems awful that plane I was centimetres away from only last week has now perished alongside the pilot.”
Meanwhile, members of Cromer’s carnival committee have expressed their sorrow at the news of Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging’s death in yesterday’s crash tragedy during a display by the crack RAF team in Dorset.
Ft Lt Egging was among the Red Arrows team flying above Cromer last Wednesday, only three days earlier, as part of the town’s carnival celebrations.
The Reds were also in the region the week before, displaying on both days of the Lowestoft Airshow, on August 11 and 12.
The team used Norwich International Airport as their base during the two-day Lowestoft show and many fans met and collected the autographs of Red Arrows pilots who walked to the perimeter to meet them after their arrival in Norwich.
The team are regular visitors, and highlights, at the Lowestoft and Cromer events and this year, as before, many thousands of residents and holidaymakers lined beaches and cliffs to watch their hugely-popular aerial acrobatics.
Ft Lt Egging’s Hawk T1 aircraft plunged to the ground near Bournemouth Airport after completing a display over the town’s seafront yesterday which was watched by his wife, Emma.
A Cromer carnival committee spokesman said they all expressed their very sincere condolences to Ft Lt Egging’s family and colleagues, adding: “On Wednesday morning he was in the blue skies above our town with his friends in the Red Arrows, provoking admiration and amazement for his flying skills.
“We have come to regard the Red Arrows as friends, visiting the town regularly over the years. Sq Ldr Graeme Bagnall, their commentator on the ground, is very well known personally to the committee.”
Dr Emma Egging, said she was “the proudest I’ve ever been” after his performance in the skies above Bournemouth.
“Jon was everything to those that knew him, and he was the best friend and husband I could ever have wished for.
“I know that he would have wanted me to say something from the heart at this time.
“There was nothing bad about Jon. He loved his job and was an exemplary pilot.
“Watching him today, I was the proudest I’ve ever been. I loved everything about him, and he will be missed,” she said.
Eyewitnesses saw the plane flying low before smashing into a field and coming to a standstill with its nose in the River Stour near the village of Throop.
Dorset Police said the pilot had been thrown from the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.
An MoD spokesman said: “A full service inquiry into the details of the crash has been initiated. It would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident at this time.”
Nicholas Gore, 22, was walking with a friend close to the river when he saw all nine Red Arrows overhead following the display at the Bournemouth Air Festival.
“There were quite a few people watching and we saw them go over but one seemed quite low,” he said.
“They then disappeared behind trees and I heard a crack - not an explosion - just a crack and we got further down and I saw the plane with its red tail in the air and its nose in the river.
“Shortly afterwards there were emergency services everywhere.”
One eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said the plane had skidded for several hundred metres along the riverbank after it crashed.
Mark Grogan, who was playing a round of golf nearby at the time of the crash, said: “I heard a sound like a car backfiring.”
He added: “Within five minutes the helicopters arrived, there were at least five helicopters including the police and two from the coastguard.
“One of the local farmers said they’d seen rescue teams pulling the pilot out of the river.”
Chief Inspector Steve White, of Dorset Police, said: “On approach to the airport one aircraft crashed into a field near Throop Mill, Bournemouth.
“The aircraft came to rest on the banks of the River Stour, and the emergency services including police, fire, ambulance, coastguard search and rescue and a Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance attended.
“Sadly the pilot, who had been thrown from the aircraft, was pronounced dead at the scene.”
He said the emergency services responded as soon as they were alerted, and added that he did not know whether the pilot ejected from the aircraft.
Group Captain Simon Blake, the Commandant of the RAF’s Central Flying School, described the 33-year-old pilot from Rutland as “a true team player”.
He said: “Flt Lt Jon Egging, known as Eggman, joined the team as Red 4 in the autumn of 2010.
“A gifted aviator, he was chosen to fly in the Red 4 slot, on the right hand outside of the famous diamond nine formation - an accolade in itself being the most demanding position allocated to a first year pilot.
“Throughout his winter training and the display season to date, his professionalism, skill and humility have shone through.
“A true team player, his good nature and constant smile will be sorely missed by all. In such a close knit team, this tragedy will be keenly felt by his fellow team members, the Reds, and all of the engineering and support staff, the Blues.”
Flt Lt Egging was inspired to fly by his airline pilot father, who used to let him into the cockpit for takeoff and landing.
He joined the RAF in 2000 and served with IV(AC) Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore, flying the Harrier GR9 in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Since 1979 the Red Arrows have used the dual control BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft.
According to the aerobatic team’s website, the planes’ Rolls-Royce engines produce 5,200lbs of thrust and give a top speed of Mach 1.2.
They have been based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire since 2001.