THE Red Arrows pilot killed when his plane crashed near Bournemouth Airport probably ‘almost blacked out’ during a |routine pre-landing manoeuvre, an inquest found yesterday.

The hearing in Bournemouth recorded a verdict of accidental death on Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, whose Hawk jet came down near Throop following a display at Bournemouth Air Festival on August 20, 2011.

Read all the evidence from yesterday's inquest in our live coverage

The findings of a Military Aviation Authority report, revealed for the first time yesterday, said that it was most likely that Flt Lt Egging suffered ALOC – Almost Loss of Consciousness – as his jet pulled out of formation in order to land at the airport.

The inquest was told that his plane over-banked with its nose down, losing height when it should have been climbing.

The plane did level out and pull its nose up seconds before impact, indicating that Flt Lt Egging regained full consciousness, but it was too late to avoid a crash or eject. Had he been 70ft higher he might have been able to pull up in time.

Flt Lt Egging would have been killed on impact, a pathologist's report said.

The inquest was told that, having ruled out possibilities such as mechanical problems with the aircraft or weather factors, it was most likely that Flt Lt Egging succumbed to the effects of more than six-G during the pre-landing break of formation, which was carried out at around 380 knots.

The G-Force was the highest and longest that the pilots sustained that day.

Pilots are trained to carry out an ‘anti-G straining manoeuvre’, which increases blood flow to the brain and decreases the chance of a blackout, before high-G moves.

The inquest found that it could never be known whether Flt Lt Egging performed this correctly before the fateful break.

President of the Service Inquiry, conducted by the Military Aviation Authority, Wing Commander Mark Rodden, said: “The most likely factor of the accident was ALOC, leading to reduced cognitive ability of the pilot.”

He said there was a raft of other factors that could have contributed, including whether Flt Lt Egging’s anti-G trousers worked correctly. Also, the zips on his trousers were found partially undone, but it could not be known whether they were unzipped prior to the accident.

Eyewitness Denise Charles, of Throop Road, described seeing the plane hit the ground.

She said: “Because of the angle I thought it was part of the display, it looked as if it was under control. It belly-flopped, then wobbled and it skidded away out of my sight. It didn’t tumble or nose-dive. There were no flames or anything.”

Flt Lt Chris Lyndon-Smith, who joined the Red Arrows in 2010 with Flt Lt Egging and was Red Two at the time of the crash, said: “It became clear to me that XX179 (Flt Lt Egging’s plane) was going down very quickly. I got on the radio to tell him to check height. I radioed again and shouted it out to try to get Jon to react and get his aircraft away from the ground.”

But Flt Lt Egging didn’t respond, he said.

Sqn Ldr Ben Murphy, who was Red One – the team’s leader – at the time, said: “The first indication I had that something was wrong was Red Two calling ‘check height’ and it was the urgent nature of the second one where it was shouted down the radio when I realised something was amiss.”

The court earlier heard from Flt Lt Egging’s widow, Emma, that he had been in high spirits that morning, as had the rest of the team, as their wives and partners were in town.

The schedule that day was not demanding and Flt Lt Egging and Emma had time for a run along the seafront and breakfast. Flt Lt Egging had suffered some back pain, but took an ibuprofen given to him by Emma.

A report from pathologist Dr Graham Maidment, an expert in aviation medicine, said Flt Lt Egging would have died on impact.

AFTER the hearing, Group Capt Adrian Hill, station commander at RAF Valley, said: “The sad loss of Flt Lt Jon Egging – Eggman to his friends and colleagues – in this tragic incident was a bitter blow to the Red Arrows and to the entire Royal Air Force.

“But at this very difficult time, our sympathies remain with Jon’s widow, Dr Emma Egging, his family and loved ones. They remain very much in our thoughts and prayers.”

He paid tribute to Flt Lt Egging’s “immense professionalism” and “zest for life and willingness to help others”.

Grp Cpt Hill said Jon was a “truly gifted aviator”.

SPEAKING after the hearing, Dr Emma Egging said: “Today marks the end of a hard and emotional 16 months for me and Jon’s family, as well as for Jon’s colleagues and friends.

“Jon’s death, due to the effects of G-Force induced impairment, was a tragic accident.

“I am confident that a full enquiry has taken place by the RAF and that actions will be taken to help prevent such an accident from happening again and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the MOD and the coroner and his staff for all their support during this difficult process.

“Jon was a talented and dedicated pilot who absolutely loved flying. He loved representing the country as part of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows and he rose to every challenge with an indomitable spirit and an enthusiasm that was infectious. Most of all, he loved his family, being part of a team and having the opportunity to bring out the best in people.”

Emma said her focus now was on the Jon Egging Trust, set up in his memory to provide opportunities to help young people.

She said the JET’s Blue Skies programme would begin next spring in Bournemouth.

She added: “I’d like to thank the people of Bournemouth again for the kindness they have shown me and Jon’s family over the last 16 months.”

Changes made since accident

  • Using most appropriate G protection systems.
  • Improving maintenance to anti-G systems.
  • Better reporting of failures and of incidents of blackouts.
  • Crash-resistant voice recording devices in all Hawk T1 aircraft – Flt Lt Egging’s aircraft did not have one fitted inside.
  • Improved high-G training.
  • Red Arrows’ workload decreased – in 2012 their schedule was reduced by 20 per cent compared to 2011.
  • Revised command structure so Red One focuses more on being team leader.
  • The pre-landing break manoeuvre is now carried out at a higher altitude and slower speed

All our stories about Jon Egging are in our special section