Light Aircraft Crashes At Old Buckenham Airfield

23 April 2015, 06:55 | Updated: 26 April 2015, 21:33

A champion aerobatic pilot has died during a display to showcase his skills in Norfolk.

The pilot, named locally as David Jenkins, was flying an Edge 360 plane during a media event to launch the Old Buckenham Airshow in Norfolk when he experienced problems.

Mr Jenkins, in his 50s, was a two-time British Advanced Aerobatics champion and was described by friends as ``one of the best'' and ``highly skilled''.

He was a member of the Wildcat Aerobatic Team based at Old Buckenham Airfield, near Attleborough, where the event was taking place.

A large crowd had gathered to watch the display at about 2.40pm. But police were called after onlookers saw the aircraft falling suddenly to the ground.

Lauren Cope, a journalist for the Eastern Daily Press, was at the airfield at the time.

She said on Twitter: ``Very emotional scenes at the airfield today. One man I spoke to described the pilot as a 'true professional'.''

One of Mr Jenkins' close friends, who did not wish to be named, said at the airfield gate: ``He was the best bloke I knew. He was highly skilled and knew exactly what he was doing.''

Mr Jenkins was named British Advanced Champion in 2012 and 2013 and had won more than 40 medals in aerobatic competitions.

He was a member of the UK team at the 2012 aerobatic world championships.

According to his profile on the Wildcat's wesbite, he began flying as a teenager living near Panshangar airfield near Welwyn Garden City.

After a career in fibre optics, the University of Oxford graduate obtained his private pilot's licence and flew conventionally for 15 years before beginning aerobatics ten years ago.

He bought the Edge aircraft which he was flying at the time of his death in 2009.

Mr Jenkins joined the Wildcat team in 2013, providing ``an exciting dynamic solo display'', the website said.

Simon Garrett, a pilot who flew out of the airfield this morning, said he only found out about the tragedy when he returned this evening after being diverted elsewhere.

He said: ``We were due to land back here but were sent elsewhere because of this emergency.

``We didn't know anybody had died until now.

``It is a terrible tragedy and very unusual because the teams involved are highly skilled.

``I knew the gentleman involved and he was very experienced.''

A Norfolk Police spokesman said: ``Officers attended along with colleagues from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and the East of England Ambulance Service to find wreckage near to the airfield. Sadly the pilot of the aircraft died at the scene.''

It is understood Mr Jenkins' next of kin has been informed.

An area of the airfield has been cordoned off and the seal is expected to remain in place overnight.

The investigation will be handed over to the Air Accident Investigation Branch and a file prepared for the coroner.

Local television channel Mustard TV caught the incident on camera.

It did not broadcast footage of the crash but showed the aircraft flying just moments earlier and then friends and colleagues of Mr Jenkins rushing to the crash site with fire extinguishers.

Reporter Mark Summers said: ``I saw the plane go down.

``I saw it bank to its right and then correct to its left and then what I assumed was a stunt of spinning which must have been the pilot losing control.''

The US-made Edge aircraft is one of only four in Europe.

It has a maximum speed of 240mph and is made from carbon fibre, meaning it is very light.

A spokesman for the Wildcats said Mr Jenkins - known as Wildcat 3 - was one of the leading aerobatic pilots in the UK.

He added: ``David joined Wildcat Aerobatics in 2013, to bring a new dynamic to our existing two ship display by flying his Edge alongside our two Pitts Specials. We were honoured to fly alongside him.

``David was highly respected on the ground and in the air and will be greatly missed.

``His family and friends are very much in our thoughts.''