Top aerobatics pilot had passed medical hours before Old Buckenham crash

David Jenkins.

David Jenkins. - Credit: Archant

The jury in an inquest of a aerobatic pilot who crashed at a Norfolk airfield have returned a verdict of accidental death contributed to natural disease.

The Wildcats Aerobatics Team: l-r: Willie Cruikshank, Al Coutts, David Jenkins

The Wildcats Aerobatics Team: l-r: Willie Cruikshank, Al Coutts, David Jenkins - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

A top aerobatics pilot killed when his plane crashed during a display had been judged fit to fly in a medical assessment just hours earlier, an inquest has heard.

Father-of-three David Jenkins, 61, was flying his Edge 360 plane as part of a display by the Wildcats Aerobatics Team during a media event to launch the Old Buckenham air show in Norfolk on April 22 last year when he experienced problems.

Mr Jenkins, who lived in Stanton near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was a two-time British advanced aerobatics champion.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that he crashed after losing control during a tumbling manoeuvre.

Video footage of the Edge 360 aircraft just as it begins to spiral out of control, before crashing a

Video footage of the Edge 360 aircraft just as it begins to spiral out of control, before crashing at Old Buckenham Airfield on April 22, 2015. Image: Mustard TV - Credit: PA

A post-mortem examination found he had a serious and undiagnosed heart condition which may have contributed to the accident.

A jury at Norwich Coroner's Court on Thursday returned a conclusion of accidental death contributed to by a natural disease.

The inquest heard Mr Jenkins had been invited to fly as a passenger in a Tornado bomber at RAF Marham on the morning of his death.

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In order to take part in that flight he had undergone a routine medical and was passed as fit.

The AAIB report said that, unless Mr Jenkins had been displaying physical symptoms, his condition could not have been picked up in such an examination.

Even hospital-style scans would be unlikely to diagnose the narrowing of the arteries which had caused a blood clot.

Kenneth Fairbank, from the AAIB, told the inquest that cockpit footage showed Mr Jenkins did not suffer any kind of collapse.

However, he may have been experiencing 'incapacitating symptoms' which affected his decision making and performance.

His widow, Elaine Jenkins, said he was a healthy man who did not smoke or drink, ate healthily and exercised regularly.

Mrs Jenkins, who broke down in tears during the inquest, said: 'He was my best friend and we have such amazing memories.

'We were a team and he is irreplaceable.'

His Wildcats team-mate Al Coutts said he had met Mr Jenkins through aerobatics in 1997.

He said: 'David soon surpassed me in ability, professionalism and dedication.

'He was a very gifted and very, very capable aerobatics pilot who approached everything very methodically.

'He was amongst the best in the world and a name known across the globe.'

The crash was caught on video by a Mustard television crew.

Witnesses at first thought the manoeuvre was part of the daredevil display until smoke began billowing from the ground.

A post-mortem showed the father-of-three, who married his wife in 1985, died from multiple injuries due to the crash and in part to acute coronary artery thrombosis.

In a statement by Mrs Jenkins read out at the inquest, she said her husband would find any excuse for a chance to fly.

She said: 'David flew whenever the weather allowed him too. He was very passionate about flying.

'David was an incredibly caring and thoughtful man. He was an incredibly devoted family man. David's children were everything to him.'

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