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25 August 2011, 12:57
The Red Arrows have been cleared to resume flying after the air show crash that killed one of their pilots.
Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, from Rutland, died when his aircraft plunged to the ground near Bournemouth Airport in on Saturday 20th August after completing a formation display over the town's seafront.
The RAF grounded all 126 of its Hawk T1 training jets while preliminary investigations were carried out into the cause of the tragedy.
But now the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that there were no wider safety concerns about the aircraft, meaning the Red Arrows can begin flying again.
A spokeswoman said: "Having been assured of the airworthiness of the Hawk T1 fleet, the precautionary suspension of flying activity has been lifted and flying operations have been resumed.''
It is not known when the Red Arrows will begin performing at air shows again. The aerobatics team's aircraft, which have undergone routine maintenance at Bournemouth Airport while they were grounded, will return to their base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire in the coming days.
An inquest into Flt Lt Egging's death at the Bournemouth Air Festival has been opened at East Dorset Coroner's Court in Bournemouth and adjourned until a later date for a full hearing, a coroner's officer said.
Thousands of people queued in Bournemouth to sign one of six books of condolence set up following the crash.
The Mayor of Bournemouth Chris Rochester opened the tributes saying the whole town is "shocked and devastated" by the accident. He paid tribute to the Red 4 pilot's "skill and bravery".
Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging had just taken part in the Bournemouth Air Festival, where the 33-year-old's wife was among the thousands of spectators. The Hawk T1 aircraft had completed the display and were heading back to Bournemouth Airport when Flt Lt Egging's plane split off from the group and smashed into a field.
It came to a standstill with its nose in the River Stour, near the village of Throop. Witnesses said he had guided the plane away from houses and people. Tributes to Flt Lt Egging - known to colleagues as Eggman - were led by his wife, Emma.
"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."
It is the first death of a Red Arrows pilot since 1988, when Flt Lt Neil MacLachlan was killed during a practice manoeuvre at RAF Scampton. Dorset Police said Flt Lt Egging had been thrown from the aircraft. It is not clear whether he had been able to eject. The MoD said an investigation had been launched and refused to speculate on the cause.
Group Captain Simon Blake, the Commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, said Flight Lieutenant Egging was a "gifted aviator" who flew in the "most demanding position" of the formation - on the right hand outside of the diamond.
Statement regarding loss of Red Four Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging
Issued on behalf of Bournemouth Borough Council and the
Bournemouth Air Festival
Mayor of Bournemouth Councillor Chris Rochester said, "I cannot express strongly enough the immense sympathy I have, both personally and on behalf of the people of Bournemouth, for the family of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging. In particular I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife Emma, following this dreadful accident. Every account I have heard of Flight Lieutenant Egging, describes him as a man of extreme bravery, integrity and honour, held in the highest regard by all those who knew him. The RAF has clearly lost an exceptional pilot and his family a man who was loved and cherished. My sincere condolences are extended to his family, friends and colleagues."
Council Leader Councillor Peter Charon said, “I was privileged enough to see Flight Lieutenant Egging display as Red Four both today and yesterday.
"I have arranged for Bournemouth Council to open Books of Condolence for people to express their sympathy and record memories. The Mayor of Bournemouth and myself will be opening these books on Sunday morning at 10am at Bournemouth Town Hall, recording our sympathies on behalf the Town and the Council respectively."
The Books will be available for signing at Bournemouth Town Hall from every day this week (22nd–26th August), from 8.30am until 5.15pm. A collection box for donations will also be available. The Books will be passed to Flight Lieutenant Egging’s family and collected donations will be given to their chosen charity.
People wishing to leave floral tributes are invited to place these on the grass banks surrounding the Town Hall
The latest celebrity tribute to Jon has come from Queen legend, Brian May. On his website he said:
I want to say a few words about Red Arrows pilot Flt Lt Jon Egging - a hero in anybody's book.
It's plain that Jon sacrificed his life yesterday to save civilians below, as he piloted his stricken Hawk jet away from housing, finally ejecting only when it was too late to save his own life.
Only a few weeks ago, just before we played our gig at RAF Cranwell, Kerry and I had the rare privilege of spending a day in the company of this amazing aerobatic team - world famous for their incredible skill, offering a very special kind of uplifting entertainment which they make look easy, but requires a pinnacle of skill and dedication which perhaps is not fully realised by those who watch them painting those awesome pictures in the sky. It's impossible to describe the feeling of being inside one of those red Hawks, as it rolls and loops and batters your body with a crushing forces up to 4 and a half G. It was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. But in the time I was hurled around the sky by 'Planky' - my personal sky rocker - it never occurred to me to feel fear ... and indeed I was not in any danger ... these guys do not make mistakes. What people often don't hear about is exactly what membership of this elite team entails. All these pilots have seen active service overseas, in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc ... and nobody is even considered for inclusion in the team if they don't have literally thousands of hours experience under their belt. They then train intensively and launch into a schedule, all year round, which hardly allows them a single day off. They reach an almost unimaginable level of consistency, utterly dedicated to their performance in the air, on which the lives of their team mates depend, literally every second they are in formation. Then, after three years, no pilot is allowed to stay. They all go back out into active service, defending their country and our way of life. These men and women are the hardest of nails. But their humanity and wickedly humorous team spirit was a joy to be around.
This is a heart-breaking time for the whole team, a time which will test their courage in even more ways than usual. We send them our heartfelt condolences to them and to "Eggman"s wife and family. We salute you Jon. God Speed.