RAF pilots died after engine failure

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:04 22 October 2010

Two “outstanding” RAF pilots were killed after their aircraft malfunctioned during a routine training sortie over Norfolk.

Two "outstanding" RAF pilots were killed after their aircraft malfunctioned during a routine training sortie over Norfolk, it emerged last night.

Flt Lts Lawrence Coulton and Paul Morris died two years ago while practising emergency landings at RAF Marham.

At an inquest into their deaths yesterday, witnesses described how the pair had tried to eject to safety from their Canberra as it swerved out of control.

Flt Lt Stephen Gregory, a crewman on the plane, described the final moments leading up to the tragedy.

"The aircraft yawed violently to the left and there were a few invectives," he said.

"Then there was a surge of power and the aircraft got airborne. I was expecting the power to go off and was very surprised. I could see the aircraft was not going to stay airborne for very long.

"In my position at the back, I had very little information. I didn't know what the aircraft was doing and pulled the ejection handle.

"I hit the ground almost immediately, it was quite a violent thump."

A 12-month RAF investigation into the accident found the Canberra's left engine had failed to respond to throttle inputs.

And speaking after the inquest, Sqn Ldr Rem Merrick stressed the force's Board of Inquiry had not apportioned blame to either man.

He said: "It was routine training to practise landing with one engine. They were both outstanding pilots in their own right and they had both done operational duties."

The Canberra, which is one of the oldest aircraft in the force, is used for survey and reconnaissance work.

The two pilots were practising night-landings when they got into trouble as they taxied down the runway to take off.

Witnesses at the inquest reported hearing the sound of ejector seats as the aircraft got into difficulties and crashed back to earth.

Flt Lt Coulton, 40, of Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich, and Flt Lt Morris, 38, of Shelley Close, Downham Market, were attached to Mar-ham's 39 (1PRU) Squadron.

Rescuers told the inquest, at St Margaret's House, that one of the men's parachutes had become entangled in the engine after they ejected.

Coroner Bill Knowles was told the plane had been flying sorties during the day without any problems and that both men were experienced pilots.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said: "There has been a year-long Board of Inquiry into this incident and I don't think there is anything further I have heard that I can add to their findings."

Flt Lt Coulton was married with two children and Flt Lt Morris was single with a teenage son.

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