Horror Red Arrows jet crash that killed RAF engineer ‘could have been avoided’

A pilot has spoken on his "eternal regret" of not being able to save his engineer after he couldn't eject his seat before a horror plane crash took place.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, tragically died after the Hawk T1 jet plunged into the runway at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales in March 2018.

Acting senior coroner for North Wales (West) Katie Sutherland said the devastating crash was caused by the aircraft stalling, the court heard on Friday.

The pilot, Flight Lieutenant David Stark, survived with injuries after ejecting moments earlier, a three-day inquest in Caernarfon heard in November.

The inquest heard how the systems in the aircraft prevented Stark from controlling the ejection of the rear seat passenger.

During the hearing, the pilot said he did not give the usual command of “eject, eject, eject” but recalled swearing and then saying “eject” in the moments leading up to the catastrophic crash.

He said: “It is obviously my eternal regret that the command ejection system is not operated the other way round, in that if I had pulled the handle I could have taken Jon out as well.”

Ms Sutherland said the pilot tried to fly out of a practice engine failure manoeuvre but said this does not conclude unlawful killing despite pleas from the engineers family.

The senior coroner said she was making a report for the prevention of future deaths which would be sent to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recommending action was taken to install stall warnings into the aircraft and to develop better simulator training.

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It was reported that Stark had not been able to anticipate the crash until the final moment because a buffet, a type of aerodynamic vibration which acted as a stall warning, did not always happen to the aircraft when a smoke pod was fitted.

Ms Sutherland said the pilot did not breach his duty of care.

“The stall probably occurred without warning to the pilot and at a height which did now allow the aircraft to be recovered from the stall and fly away," she said.

"The evidence shows the crash could have been avoided."

The coroner highlighted that the MoD had considered installing a stall warning system on the jets following a crash in 2007, but the matter had been closed.

More analysis was being done on fitting the stall warnings following Cpl Bayliss’s death but a final decision had yet to be made, the coroner’s court at Gwynedd Council chamber heard.

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Ms Sutherland said: “This does give rise to concern that future deaths will occur and action should be taken to reduce the risk of death.”

She went on to say that the MoD did breach its duty and fall below the standards required, but not so far below that a conclusion of corporate manslaughter could be reached.

Ms Sutherland said: “There was a breach of duty but it cannot be said to be so bad, so gross, to warrant a criminal sanction.”

She recorded Cpl Bayliss’s cause of death as smoke inhalation and low-grade head injury.

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