A PILOT and his passenger were killed in a Tiger Moth crash near the Compton Abbas Airfield when the plane's engine failed, investigators say.

A report has been published by the Air Accident Investigation Branch says a witness heard and then saw the aircraft climbing slowly at low airspeed, with the engine “sounding awful and misfiring” before it descended “corkscrewing down”.

Passenger Peter Geoffrey Stacey, 67 and from Shaftesbury, and pilot Christopher Harvey Nicholls, 64 and from Farnham, were fatally injured in the accident, which happened shortly before 9.30am on August 26 2017.

Mr Stacey was in the plane as part of an 'air experience flight'.

Horrified witnesses said the plane "pulled up sharply before making a right turn and descending steeply towards the ground".

A flying instructor at the airfield heard a transmission indicating engine trouble.

He looked out of the window and saw the aircraft heading north around one or two miles from the airfield at about 500 feet.

The instructor said he saw the plane make a gentle, descending left turn for Runway 26.

When above some tall trees at the eastern end of the field, at about twice their height and some 200m beyond them, the nose pitched sharply down and the aircraft rolled to the left in a steep descending turn.

Shortly afterwards a column of smoke was seen.

Two people at a farm near the accident site heard the aircraft take-off.

One saw it briefly above trees before losing sight of it behind a barn, after which they heard the engine stop.

Driving towards the scene they could see smoke. They were unable to help Mr Stacey and Mr Nicholls.

The aircraft had struck the surface of a crop field in a steep nose-down attitude and caught fire.

The airfield fire and rescue service attended the scene and extinguished the fire using foam and dry powder.

Despite their efforts, Mr Stacey and Mr Nicholls could not be saved.

More to follow