Inquest Into Air Cadet Crash Deaths

The jury at the inquest into the deaths of a teenage air cadet and his instructor has returned its verdict.

The jury at Oxford Coroner's Court found that Flight Lieutenant Mike Blee was "dead before the aircraft hit the ground'' following a mid-air crash with a glider.

Nicholas "Nik" Langley-Rice, from The Chase, Calcot, who was on board an RAF training aircraft when it collided in mid-air above Abingdon with a glider, was also killed in the crash.

Their craft took 24 seconds to plummet to the ground near after the collision on June 14th 2009.

The jury said its verdict was one of accidental death with a number of contributory factors. They included Flt Lt Blee's serious spinal condition, which meant his ability to look out was compromised and left his back vulnerable to breaks.

The jury foreman told the court: "The majority of the jury, nine to one, agree that the pilot was dead before the aircraft hit the ground.''

She told the coroner that both deaths were contributed to by the pilot's medical condition and subsequent incapacitation after the crash, adding that a lack of abandonment training contributed to Nicholas's death.

The two-seater Tutor plane had taken off from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire on an air experience flight with the pilot and the Combined Cadet Force cadet on board when the incident occurred.

The pilot of the glider, Henry Freeborn, from Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire, managed to parachute from his stricken aircraft and landed safely in fields in Sutton Courtenay, near Abingdon.

Eye witnesses said the single-engined trainer hit the ground nose first with a violent impact after spiralling out of control.

According to the Ministry of Defence website, the Tutor T Mk 1 "is used for elementary flying training by the 14 University Air Squadrons and 12 Air Experience Flights throughout the UK''.

Nicholas was a cadet with the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at Elvian School, in Bath Road, Reading, Berkshire.

Following his death, his parents Julia and John Langley-Rice said in a statement: "He was very creative, single-minded, charming, engaging and gentle.

"He had a lovely sense of humour and had a passion for flying and skiing. He also loved his music, living for his electric guitar and regularly took piano lessons.

"When he left school he wanted to become an aeronautical engineer - he was in the CCF (Combined Cadet Force) and was very accomplished.

"He had lots of friends and got on well with everyone; he was very popular and had good morals. This is a great shock to us and he will be missed by everyone.''

Fl Lt Blee was a retired Wing Commander with 38 years of service prior to becoming a Volunteer Reserve Officer on No 6 Air Experience Flight (AEF) in 2005, where he assumed the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

During his time as an AEF pilot, he flew hundreds of cadets on air experience flights and latterly taught University Air Squadron students to pilot the Grob 115E Tutor.