Show crash pilot killed

A SOUTH Yorkshire man flying a wartime fighter plane has been killed in a sickening accident at an air show in southern England.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 17th September 2007, 8:05 am
Updated Monday, 17th September 2007, 12:29 pm

Moving tributes have been paid to Brian Brown, the pilot of a World War Two Hawker Hurricane who died instantly when his historic aircraft nose-dived into a field at Shoreham Airshow in Sussex.

Brian, aged 49, of Mallard Avenue, Barnby Dun, Doncaster, was an experienced airman who had been flying wartime planes for more than 15 years with The Real Aeroplane Company at Breighton, near Selby.

The single-seat Hurricane, which was taking part in a Battle of Britain dogfight display, crashed at 3.20pm on Saturday.

A wreath was yesterday laid at Shoreham Airport as thousands of spectators joined with pilots for two-minutes of silence before Mr Brown's fellow flyers re-enacted the same dramatic display that preceded his death.

Although flying was suspended for 30 minutes after the crash, organisers believed most people in the 20,000-strong crowd wanted the show to continue.

Five Spitfires, two Hurricanes and two German Messerschmitts were taking part in the mock German attack on a Second World War airfield defended by the RAF when Mr Brown's plane went down.

Many people initially thought the black plume of smoke rising from a farmland was part of the display until commentator Peter Eager, his voice choking with emotion, announced the tragedy.

Onlookers fought back tears as Mr Brown's colleagues flew over the airport in the poignant 'pilot missing' formation.

Spitfire pilot David Ratcliffe, who took part in the dogfight prior to the crash, said: "Brian was a good pilot, a great friend and he will be dearly missed.

"Like any job you have to be pragmatic about these things. It does happen from time to time but then statistically the biggest danger to me is driving to the airfield. It is all very dramatic in front of a crowd but a crash can happen anywhere. It will not put us off flying, that is what we do."

Mr Brown, who leaves a partner, Eileen Evans, was described as "an exceptional pilot" by Taff Scott, chief pilot at The Real Aeroplane Company.

"He was the most experienced Hurricane pilot in the country and flying was something he was passionate about - it was his life."

Mr Brown had more than 400 hours in the Hurricane.

While air accident investigators sifted through the burnt out wreckage of the Hurricane, which came down on farmland near Lancing College, witnesses spoke of their horror as the plane plunged into the ground.

Gary Mann 40, from Worthing, said the Hurricane "dropped like a stone" just a few hundred feet from where he was standing.

The Air Accidents Investigation Board has also been informed and Sussex Police are asking anybody with any video footage of the incident to hand a copy in to their nearest police station.